Summer PD: Join Google’s MOOC!

Google recently announced an opportunity you may be interested in.  Become your school’s expert on Power Searching in Google by joining their MOOC (massive, open, online course).  The class will consist of six 50 minute sessions, some of which are interactive. The  course is free and if you complete it all Google will issue you a certificate.

Registration is open now, and the first class will be rolled out on July 10.

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Getting more out of Google

Kristin Fontichiaro shared these excellent Google Tips and Tricks for online research over at the School Library Monthly blog.  Share with your faculty and especially your upper elementary, middle, and high school students.

There’s Nothing like a Puffin!

This book arrived from Junior Library Guild recently and I think it will make a great read followed by practice with some flexible thinking.  The premise is that nothing else is quite like a puffin.  On each page, though, something else is introduced (a newspaper, a pair of blue jeans, a shovel) and lo and behold, some similarities emerge!  (A newspaper is black and white, jeans have two legs, a shovel is used for digging and a puffin digs with its feet, etc.  You get the idea.)

For a follow-up, why not assemble a set of seemingly unrelated objects and challenge your students to choose two and tell how they’re alike?  Have volunteers orally fill in the same sentence:  “The _____ and the ____ are similar/alike because ________.”    or  

To stimulate this kind of thinking, create a bulletin board with real objects (if possible) or clip art.  Display the cover of the book and a brief explanation.  Cut- out letters for a title like: “How are these objects alike?  Put your brain to work!”  As students pass your bulletin board in the hallway it just might give them something else to think about on their way to their destination!

Be sure, too, to have other books about puffins and penguins handy as companions.

First 6 weeks: Dare to differentiate

Last year in this post I told you about a goldmine of a wiki I came across through someone in my PLN.  While perusing it again this summer  I found a link to another goldmine–daretodifferentiate.wikispaces.com.

This wiki has a ton of resources that teachers and teacher librarians can use in their daily practice.  Big topics such as Supportive Learning Environments and Continuous Assessment are explored, and many links to relevant strategies such as scaffolding, flexible grouping, Webquests and centers are included.

Templates and rubrics in PDF form are available including tools for formative assessment (like exit slips).  There is A LOT to explore on this wiki;  I was lost in it for quite a while!

Try some of these out for yourself, then share with people in your building who would be interested.

If this was helpful, please consider subscribing.  It’s free!

Image above: ‘<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/40645538@N00/5734284170&quot;

First 6 weeks: Dare to inspire!

As a group we teacher librarians model lifelong learning and continually share what we’ve learned, provide professional development, etc.  This can be challenging in an already hectic schedule and overloaded curriculum.  But this year, if you can entice your teachers to let you show them just ONE new thing, maybe it could be Ideas to Inspire.  

I learned about this site from this post by Kelly Tenkely at her blog I Learn Technology.  According to Kelly’s post, the creator of the site–Mark Warner–“invites teachers from around the world to share their inspiring ideas for using technology in the classroom.  These are pulled together as a presentation that teachers everywhere can benefit from.  Ideas to Inspire has a handy new filter tool that let’s you find the exact resources and ideas you are looking for easily.” 

The home page is a collection of well-labeled thumbnails with a ton of topics of interest to teachers.  Clicking on these brings you to a presentation that Mark put together with ideas from teacher contributors.  (Double click on the presentation to expand the image once you open it up.)

I took a look at quite a few of the embedded presentations and found some useful ideas.  Here’s a list of some I’m planning to share with my staff:

Techy Tips for Non-Techy Teachers

Ideas for Class Blog Posts

(Ways to) Encourage Pupils and Families to visit your Blog

Make your class a Sparkly Place to Learn

Interesting Images to use in the Classroom (visual literacy)

Google Earth and Google Maps

Ways to present (Internet) Research  (end-products ideas!)

Show this to your teachers during this first six weeks.  You’ll be a hero!

Snow Day Ketchup and Mustard

Ketchup and Mustardphoto © 2009 Shane Adams | more info (via: Wylio)
Years ago when I was a classroom teacher we’d occasionally need a day where we suspended the regular schedule in order to tie up loose ends–final edits on pieces of writing  for a publishing circle,  lingering math portfolio problems, etc. We called these days “Ketchup and Mustard” Days, and they were a nice break from the routine. I don’t know if my students had the same feeling of satisfaction as I did when the day was through, but I’m someone who likes to cross things off lists!   So today’s SNOW DAY (our first in a number of years) was a great day for me to “catch up” on some of my to-do items.

A big part of that was stumbling around WordPress trying to learn more about widgets and tags.  Thanks to Sue Waters over at Edublogs I have a better understanding of how to embed some new features in my sidebar.  (Before I read Sue’s tutorial and found out about the Text widget, I thought WordPress was just being stingy with the widget options they supported!)

After some trial-and-error I was able to add a ClustrMap, an email subscription widget, and a tag cloud (though I don’t know if I’ll keep that one).  I went back and added tags and checked categories for about half my posts, and rearranged the order on a number of things.  Not a bad afternoon’s work.  Now if I could just get those dishes done…

Web 2.0 and Creativity

I mentioned in a recent post that I’d participated in a webinar about dimensions of creativity.  In this post I’d like to share some of what I walked away with.  (Not surprisingly, it involves the use of some web 2.0 tools to foster creativity.)
Close up of The Thinkerphoto © 2007 Brian Hillegas | more info (via: Wylio)

J.P. Guilford in the late ’50’s created a model for divergent thinking and  the webinar trainer drew upon this work for our session.  In particular we were introduced to the following terms :  fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.  Fluency in this context refers to the first step in creative problem-solving, the generation of lots of ideas.  Flexibility involved the ability to look at a task from different points of view, to try different approaches.  Originality means creating something unique, unusual, or unexpected, and elaboration refers to the ability to embellish and add details to a very general task.  Our trainer suggested using this vocabulary with our students, especially around projects.  She recommended tuning into kids’ strengths early on and using the rubrics to differentiate and encourage growth in particular dimensions when appropriate.

Take aways for me:

1.  Brainstorm everything!  Activate prior knowledge whenever possible and generate lots of ideas to build fluency.  Web 2.0 tools well suited to this include:  wordle, scribblar, and bubbl.us.

2. Look at assignments flexibly.  Consider shifting the time period used, or the persona involved, or the point of view.  Allow for different modalities to show evidence of learning.  Tools to aid with flexibility include Voicethread, Glogster, and the Guess-the-Google game.

3. Students often lose their originality early on in an attempt to be teacher pleasers.  Cheer and applaud their original ideas whenever possible.

4. Prompt originality with juxtapositions. (e.g.  What did the Boston Tea Party sound like?)  Web tools that foster originality include: bookemon, Google Search stories, bookr,  Glosgster, and Voicethread.

Of course the challenge for me will be to propose some different sorts of assignments to my teachers when approached about research or tech integration.  But that is our responsibility to our students if we want them to become active, creative  producers of information and ideas, not just consumers.

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