Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Hat tip to Mrs. Powers from Washington Elementary for sharing this great collaborative video:

Nice work and it’s healing well!

This was a wonderful experience spending time with some of the great leaders that inhabit  the fifth grade classrooms around western Nebraska!  The following is a podcast the students created:

Fifth Grade Leadership Day Podcast

I am proud to say my own son, Ronan, was a member of this great group!


An update by Principal Parks on the collaboration between two of our North Platte, Nebraska elementary schools, Lake Maloney and Osgood, and Yesu Afaayo Jubilee Christian School in Uganda, Africa:

When I think back to my beginnings with the web over ten years ago, I remember my growing list of bookmarks that inhabited my browsers. Eventually I created web pages to keep track of links and tried to keep things organized the best I could.  As a classroom teacher I eventually developed subject area web sites that contained links within the content I shared with my students, and my students became the hunters and gatherers of interesting and informative web sites that helped us learn and grow.

Wikis became a good place for me to quickly add developing lists of links over time, but it always seemed that my bookmarks and favorites became scattered on various computers that I used on a regular basis. Exporting these links helped, but it always seemed I had a mess on my hands!  Often, as every teacher knows, time was the issue, and I would find that as time passed when I finally got back to sorting my links, over the summer, many were 404 and no longer found!

As a new educational technology specialist I now had the time to search for and organize web resources as part of my service for teachers; however, the key to valuable resources is working with teachers to find things that they need to embed into their curriculum.  This process has to be streamlined, simple, and manageable, and I have focused my attention on as a possible answer to our challenge.

Now, what is  “ is a collection of favorites – yours and everyone else’s. You can use to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, reviews, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, coworkers, and the community.
  • Discover new things. Everything on is someone’s favorite — they’ve already done the work of finding it. So is full of bookmarks about technology, entertainment, useful information, and more. Explore and enjoy. is a social bookmarking website — the primary use of is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.

You can also use to see the interesting links that your friends and other people bookmark, and share links with them in return. You can even browse and search to discover the cool and useful bookmarks that everyone else has saved — which is made easy with tags.”

I have used personally for awhile now, but as with any list of links, they must be managed, sorted, and updated to be usable.  Over the summer I decided to share as a resource in my “Utilizing the Internet” workshop and it is proving to be a valuable resource.  The teachers I worked with, so far, helped to brainstorm an idea of creating a central repository of online resources based on their lists.  The process has begun.

A big plus with is that you can access your links anywhere you have an internet connection.  If you are on the road and find a great site it can be added via your smart phone, laptop, or any internet device!  A great feature of is tagging and the ability to search for other links based on the tags you create. This enables the social networking part of and makes for effective gathering of related links.  The tags also foster organization of content and help to easily put together a repository of information related to grade levels and subject areas.  You can also subscribe via RSS to various pages to keep up on added resources over time.  As one adds users to their network, a collaborative effort is facilitated as teachers easily can help build a repository of resources shared across the site while simply creating and sharing their personal list of sites.

To get things started I have begun gathering resources I have collected over time and have focused on the elementary grades at this point.  I put together some web pages to serve as the gateways to grade level and subject area information, but the key will be inviting teachers on board to share their personal resources. Teachers are the experts in their fields, and my goal is to facilitate the organization of the resources they find valuable for their students.  With ten elementary schools in our district, I know as teachers share their information it will be beneficial to all staff.

The potential exists to not only collaborate with teachers within our own district but also with educators around the world.  That is the power of such social networking sites, and this resource is there for the taking with only the cost of time.  Time is always an issue, but I believe that through collaboration the time will pay off for teachers and students.

The following link is our initial repository of links:  NPPSD Online Resources.  It is a work in progress, but I am excited about the potential and power that it will have in our district.  If you have a account, please add us to your network!  We are all in this together, and  as we share we can save valuable time that can be spent working with our students.

How have you used in education?  Please let us know!

One of the first tasks I was faced with as a new educational technology specialist was to offer sustained technology professional development to the teaching staff in my district. Time is always an issue in education, and it was not unexpected to find this resource limited. My initial approach to developing training for teachers, in particular, was to deploy a modified levels of technology implementation (LoTi) survey at the beginning of the school year. This data provided me with a snapshot of where particular staff members were in specific buildings concerning technology use.  The survey will be deployed again at the beginning of the new school year to measure growth from what has been implemented from the previous instructional year.

The survey results identified a majority of users at the exploration/infusion stage of the model and, along with information from a recent McREL report, I began the process of gathering resources to provide exposure to various technology tools that exist for educational purposes. With a limited budget, myself as the only instructional technology professional, but with some excellent tools such as a new training lab of 27 Windows XP work stations, I developed a strategy to offer one hour training sessions, immediately after school hours, roughly two days per week. The focus of the training was for certified teachers, but I allowed paraprofessionals to attend the trainings too. Continuing education credits were offered as incentive to attend the trainings, and attendance was voluntary.

Hardware was the driving force of the initial offerings with a focus on the new SMART Board and iPod technology in the district and the use of teacher workstations and the software contained therein as foundational tools. This was expanded to introductions on Web 2.0 technologies such as blogging (WordPress & Blogger), wikis (PBWiki & Wikispaces), and eventually spread to podcasting, digital storytelling, and video production. These trainings were offered multiple times and at varying levels to meet the needs of new, developing, and master users.

Utilizing the internet as a curriculum tool was also a focus as new labs required activities for students to use. In the past, CD software for Macintosh computers had been used, but with a move to a single Windows platform approach the situation required some ingenuity to not accrue additional costs through purchasing software. Several online activities were found to supplement student use of the new computer systems. This approach continues as some teachers utilize the online tool to organize web related resources and with an effort to create a district wide online repository of these online activities.

Over time, it became apparent that teachers required a place to serve staff created content. Our First Class client software allowed the use of its web publishing feature to offer up such creations. A focus on utilizing this software was implemented during the spring semester to enable users to place their content on a server for student use. The podcasting feature of First Class (version 8.3) provided an easy way for staff to record student stories, poems, and reports and to share it online with the school population, parents, the community, and the world. Several teachers started blogs and wikis to also share their curriculum and student generated content and media.

Digital storytelling was a natural step in the progression of initial technology implementation. Photo Story 3, Windows Movie Maker, and Power Point served as ready to use software for the staff and students. Basic training in the use of this software was provided, and teachers and students began the process of using these tools to generate content. The district web site served as a gateway in sharing this content and led to an increased awareness and interest in learning how staff members were implementing these tools in their classrooms.

As staff members attended various trainings, individual support was offered on site and several projects were completed alongside the teachers and students on a daily basis. This approach supplemented the teacher’s attendance and learning during the trainings and led to increased application of the new skills. Many teachers were surprised by the level of competence that students already had in utilizing these tools even at the Kindergarten and first grade levels. Failed attempts were re-evaluated and modified to meet the demands of time, resources, classroom and lab management, and scaling back the expectations of initial implementation generally remedied initial complications. The combination of training, support, and guidance during implementation provided a recipe for success.

An Open Lab was also offered during the spring semester to supplement after school trainings. These were held generally three times per week and allowed staff to come to the central office learning lab and get one on one attention with their various projects. A limited number of students also attended some of these sessions to learn how to implement technology and create content. A combination of after school trainings, individual support, and Open Lab time provided a way to accommodate the use of precious hours that were in limited supply. These trainings were extended by utilizing continuing education days and via professional learning community days where whole district, building, and multiple staff trainings were offered. Some professional training was also brought in specifically through eInstruction and their CPS clicker systems. Over 460 staff members received technology training over the course of the school year with 25% of that number returning for multiple trainings. All staff had multiple opportunities for training via the two continuing education days offered over the school year.

With the end of the school year a summer training program was also implemented and staff voluntarily spent time in extended learning workshops during the summer months. This program is continuing and will be expanded for the next summer. In all 60 staff member have utilized the summer training sessions that provided time to work on blogging, wikis, podcasting, digital storytelling, video, utilizing the internet, and computer basics.

The key component to the success of this technology training implementation was the addition of a full-time educational technology specialist to facilitate and implement such a training program. The knowledge and experience of a former classroom teacher with specialized instructional technology training enabled this program to come to fruition. Instructional technology professionals can make a huge impact in a school district as they work together with a supportive administration, teachers who see a concerted effort to meet their technology integration goals, and via a technology staff that provides superior support for the district’s network, hardware, and software implementation.

This is an interesting idea and site: School of Everything. “The Big Idea” for the site is as follows:


“Our current education system was designed in the industrial revolution to prepare people for factory work. The world has changed a lot since then – and the time has come to rethink education from the bottom to the top.

At School of Everything, we believe that learning is personal, and starts not with what you ‘should’ learn but with what you’re interested in. So we’re building a tool to help anyone in the world learn what they want, when, where and in a way which suits them. Putting people in touch with each other, not with institutions.

This isn’t about e-learning. There are lots of great online tools, but not much beats being in a room with someone who wants to teach you the thing you want to learn.

Millions of people already make a living as self-employed teachers. But that’s just the start: think of all the underused skills that exist in any neighbourhood. From active retired people, to teenage whizz-kids, to hobbyists in their garden sheds, there are people everywhere who could gain satisfaction, confidence – and maybe even a new career – from passing on what they know.

We don’t mind whether you teach for money or simply for the love of a subject – we think the world should be full of people sharing what they’re passionate about.

Our goal is to do for education what YouTube has done for television, or what eBay did for retail: to open up a huge and fertile space between the professional and the amateur. A space where people teach what they know and learn what they don’t.

It’s this vision of a bottom-up learning system that gets us excited. We’re very new, but we’re growing – and we’ve got big plans.”

I am sharing the following list that I gathered at the NETA conference.  Many of these tools I have used, but there are a few I plan to try out and share my thoughts on over the coming days.  For now, I share the raw list in case you are interested in giving them a try along with me.  Let me know your thoughts and experiences so that we can learn together.  Thanks!

Alan November NP Alan November graced us with his presence today in North Platte, Nebraska. It was a pleasure to hear his inspiring words and to enjoy his wonderful wit. I appreciated his approach and the challenges that he gave to us as educators. Some highlights from his presentation include:

Alan shared the idea that when 80% of the population was involved in farming there was a sense of responsibility and children could contribute in a meaningful way in a family or community. Today technology will change 80% of current jobs. Education needs to be about children creating, organizing, and producing, and we should look at technology as learning jobs; essentially, kids need jobs like they used to have on the farm; no, not feeding calves, cleaning stalls, or stacking hay, but meaningful responsibilities – I know you all know this but I’m just addressing the smart alecks. 😉

Alan mentioned some jobs that should exist in our classrooms:

  • Curriculum Review Team
  • Tutorial Creation/Organizing/Design Team
  • Global Communication Team
  • Official Scribes
  • Resource Finders
  • Technical Editors

He recommended teachers, students, and classrooms create custom search engines (See Google Custom Search); that we must connect kids to community; teach web literacy and critical thinking; and use a contributing model that provides for meaningful work, opportunities, products, and learning.

In essence, it is a “return to the farm” – children contributing and collaborating. I grew up on a farm/ranch and I had meaningful work everyday of my life. Our livelihood depended on each person doing his or her job well, and it was vital work indeed. If I was asked to ride a horse through blizzard conditions to pick up a newborn calf it was important that I did so; otherwise, a calf that would eventually be worth as much as $2000 or more dollars would die frozen in the night. Many do not have that kind of responsibility today and that is okay, but without something to be responsible for a child is missing the opportunity to be valued. This should happen at home, but it can be reinforced at school as we help students, young and old, to accept jobs that have value and substance and are meaningful in a young person’s life in today’s busy world. The jobs Alan mentions are simple, but they are important, and we should provide opportunities for students to serve as they learn and learn as they serve.

T+L Conference On Tuesday I will have the opportunity to travel with several colleagues to the T+L Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I plan to report my travels via my usual wiki approach (Probably my PBWiki), but I am hoping to try twittering a bit or joining in on another approach that anyone may be considering.

If you have something in mind please let me know as I would enjoy collaborating and developing a conversation of what is shared at the conference. Also, if you happen to be attending this conference I would love to meet you! I look forward to gaining new knowledge and sharing the great things that are happening in our district.

Whatever it Takes This morning I had the opportunity to join my new professional learning community group made up of some of the administrators in our district. We chose to study the book “Whatever it Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don’t Learn” by Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, Gayle Karhanek, and, Richard Dufour over the course of the school year. We discussed several issues we face in our leadership positions and best of all shared exciting things that are happening in our professional lives. It was a refreshing and uplifting meeting for me, and I appreciated the setting and especially the people that I will continue to share with.

Later in the day I had another iPod mini-class that went very well, and I feel the seeds are growing bit by bit here in my new district. There are so many people to reach, and I know it is important to continue to help build a network of learners that embrace technology and look for ways to integrate it into their curriculum.

As of late, there has been discussion of not merely integrating technology but rather embedding the technology in the learning process. Read Jeff Utecht’s post (see preceding link) and the thoughts of those that have chimed in to discuss this idea. I think it ties into the subheading of my blog: How to seamlessly integrate technology in the classroom. Oops! There’s that word integrate again! 😉

As a side note, here is a humorous video clip from Late Night with Conan O’Brien on BG (Before Google), or has Google always been around!?!

Desks Today I offered a mini-class on SMART Boards and invited a teacher who I have heard high praises on to assist in showcasing the basics of using the board in instruction. Tara is one of many great teachers in my new school district, and I am just in awe of the dedication and willingness to share, learn, and grow here. So many educators are pushing the frontiers of technology in education and even more are taking the steps necessary to take a leap into the innovative approaches that are making their way into classrooms across the globe. I have to admit I have had my doubts the past few years as to whether or not this whole education thing was going to turn around and make some gains in real, meaningful, engaging, and relevant learning for our youth. It is happening here. It is by no means easy, and the challenges that we face as educators at times is disconcerting, but there is hope, initiative, bravery, and desire. These things add up to the beginnings of a network of learners, and as we learn about and use the tools that can continue to link us together we become a learning community that can do, teach, and change anything. I see all of this more and more each day, and I am glad to be a small part of it.

iPod Family Today we had an iPod basic training! The information presented is for the beginner; and yes, there are beginners when it comes to using iPods or any mp3 player. The following are links to various resources we used in the mini class:

A Podcast (w/Mary Derby)!!!


Different types of iPods (Which iPod are you!?!)

How to videos

Downloading Music & Video to Your iPod
Playing Music & Video on Your iPod
Beyond the Basics
iPod shuffle


iPod in Education
iQuiz Maker


iPod Getting Started Guide


iPod Support