Using technology to change the way we think about teaching and learning….

Some Tech Favorites

July 27, 2010 by · 2 Comments · Resources, School 2.0

I’ve been a Skype guest for a couple sessions lately and found myself returning to some useful (and free) tools to show to these groups. I thought I would feature the links in a new post. Most of these are web-based resources, but some are free PDF downloads, or free apps to install and use. Some are well-suited to address the literacy achievement gap –, Freeology. Others help motivate students and extend learning time beyond the classroom – Animoto, Cool Math Games, Slideshare, Jing, Elluminate. While others assist with collaboration and new media literacy skills – Picnik, Create A Graph, Go2Web20, Google Docs.

Enjoy, explore, and let me know how you are using these tools for learning!

Skype – been a favorite of mine for many years.

Picnik – a nice photo editor if you don’t have Photoshop access at your school. Easy to prepare images that will appear on the web, in presentations, or in print. Edit from your online collections, or upload from your local machine. (I did a more in-depth look at Picnik in a previous post, but the site continues to be a reliable resource for web-based photo editing).

Jing – one of my favorite screencast tools – and it’s free. You will find all kinds of ways to support learning with this tool. Works to capture screens in still images, or to grab video while you present/explain (screencasting). Includes a free account to make your screencasts available online.

Google Docs – one of the most powerful resources to literally change the way we work together and learn with technology. If you don’t have an account you need to create one. – can be slow when using with a large group (one editor at a time only) but this free tool allows users to collaborate on a mind map document. I like the use of non-linguistic representation, and this site is an easy way to work and share files.

Elluminate – has been widely used for webinars. They provide a “3 for free” option with their vRoom offer. You can offer online office hours to support learning beyond the classroom. It’s a good environment for online presentation, two-way discussion, chat, or screen sharing – and it’s free.

Animoto – create instant video clips to introduce, reinforce, or celebrate your curricular content/skills. The free account allows 30-second clips, but educators can upgrade for free too. Personally I view the time limit as a positive and suggest the site works best when short, focused clips are used sparingly. Your students will think you’re a video editing expert!

Freeology – free resources for classroom use. I haven’t used much of the site but I like their graphic organizers section – so that’s where the link takes you!

Go2Web20 – find web 2.0 tools by category. A nice, central location for many web 2.o tools. Some will be a good match for your students, and others will be best-suited for personal or business use. Take some time to explore.

Slideshare – an easy solution for posting your presentations (PowerPoint or Keynote), MS Word documents, or PDF files online. I appreciate the inclusion of Keynote files! Here’s the link to the education category

Create A Graph – this site is part of the National Center for Educational Statistics at the federal Department of Education. Their KidZone offers lots of tools, but I like the higher order thinking that can be gained from working with graphs. This is a great, free resource for students who don’t have access to Excel, Numbers, or other spreadsheet software.

Wordle – this is a great resource for presentations, professional development, or student work. I even used Wordle while writing my dissertation. You can paste in text (large blocks of text, I don’t know the character limit) and Wordle produces a result similar to a tag cloud from your input. This is a very visual tool that can help to “analyze” text. The resulting images can be edited at the site. I usually save them as screen shots and include the results in a presentation, or printout. An excellent cross-curricular tool.

FYI – you can find a PDF copy of a Google Presentation doc I use for these topics (title - Applications For Learning) on my Slideshare page at NOTE: several items have been added to this post after the slideshare document was posted and therefore do not appear in the slides.

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EtherPad – Really Realtime Text Collaboration

May 7, 2009 by · 3 Comments · Resources, School 2.0, Uncategorized

EtherPadThe tagline “Really Realtime” implies that we need a solution for collaboration with text that doesn’t require accounts, or prearranged access to shared docs. I agree, and seems to be a great solution. Dr. Kristen Kozloski, a colleague, found the site to meet a need for a professional learning session we’re getting ready to lead together. I don’t see this resources as a competitor to Google Docs, but as a complimentary strategy when quick, universal access to text-sharing is required. It has great possibilities for the classroom.

We plan to use the tool in a web 2.0 session for middle school teachers. EtherPad will allow us to collect a few words of reflection from every staff member in a few minutes near the end of the session. The combined text from the collaboratively written reflection will be transformed into a visual context using Wordle and we’ll display the collective thinking in a very powerful and compelling way.

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A Long Overdue Post

April 15, 2009 by · 4 Comments · Resources, School 2.0, Uncategorized

I’ve been using this clip of Sir Ken Robinson from the TED Annual Conference for years, and there’s no good reason why I haven’t posted it here – so tonight I’m changing that omission! This clip has been a great idea-sparker for teachers, graduate students, and non-educators alike.

Robinson is a masterful presenter, and his content resonates with my thinking about the whole high-stakes testing push here in the US. External pressures shape our course, but it’s great to be reminded of the higher calling we have as a moral imperative. At about twenty minutes it’s not a quick view, but I gauarntee you will watch it more than once – and probably get others to join you… The video is available online -  Do Schools Kill Creativity?

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Tweet Others The Way You Want To Be Tweeted

March 19, 2009 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

I was reminded today of just how broadly and freely digital data flows through our social networks. No, this is not some horror story about a Facebook post gone bad, or identity theft from a nefarious web scheme. Today, while I was working, I was questioned by a colleague about a tweet she read. Tweets are the 140 character text-message-like posting by users of the popular service known as Twitter.

Here’s exactly how the message appeared in Twitter, “final question on GMA for Dave Ramage from twitter…why do folks think i’m nuts then when I talk abt twitter if its SO mainstream these day”.

Of course I had no idea what was going on when I received the email with this quoted message. However, my curiosity was piqued, so I did what any 21st century investigator does – launched my browser and went to Google™. I realized that GMA was not the Gospel Music Association, but the Good Morning America show on ABC. A quick search on the Good Morning America site for the word twitter led me to discover a reporter named Dave Ramsey. We even resemble each other!

Now the confusion was clearing (slightly). The original tweet might be directed toward a Dave Ramsey remark concerning twitter? Instead of identity theft I believe I’m a victim of identity reassignment! For most people the story could end right there. But not me.

Inquiring minds want to know…what factors influenced this identity transfusion? Can it be attributed solely to our stunning foreheads? I didn’t receive the original tweet, so how did it’s creation become known to me so quickly? (Tweet posted 7:49 AM email from a friend 9:08 AM) Why would a professional acquaintance confuse me with someone they’ve never met? Did a spell-checker play a role? How does my newly-assigned comment align with my own beliefs about ubiquitous technology? I still have no idea what Dave’s original comments concerning Twitter contained, but I do know someone else wants me to communicate a response.

I doubt I’ll spend the time to seek further clarification on the matter, but the fact that the original tweet was posted via a mobile device makes me wonder if my contact information (possibly present in the tweet-poster’s mobile device) “corrected” the intended text to become my name. Was it an old-fashioned error that caused the tweet author to substitute my name because of the similarity in sound, or appearance?

The level of connectivity we’ve attained is amazing, but this incident reminds me that the real connection is from person to person. Infrastructure and application create the possibility, but people make the connections.  Maybe someday Dave Ramsey and I can sit down to talk about it…

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Online Tutorials By Woopid

November 19, 2008 by · No Comments · Resources, School 2.0

woopid screen shotI am thankful for the creative team of people I work with, and this post is another example of a resource they brought to my attention. Thanks Rachel. Atomic Learning is a resource I use in K-12 education, and in the graduate courses I teach – but I appreciate the free tutorial that’s well-done.

Woopid is a great resource for Office 2007 and many other applications – both Mac and Windows. Check out their bundles at

I’ve only looked at the PowerPoint section, but it was an easy way to get up-to-speed on some fo the new features available in Office 2007 for Windows. (Not Keynote yet, but some nice improvements)

Tutorials are separated into short sections, most three to five minutes in length, so you can learn about a targeted skill/concept and then try it for yourself. Narration is well done, concise, and reassuring. The audio and visual quality are excellent.

I don’t know if the site will become a fee-based endeavor, but for now it’s a resource that you can recommend broadly. There are topics to help the beginning user, and enough depth to get even the most seasoned user a new skill or tip.


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Online Photo Editing With Picnik

November 19, 2008 by · No Comments · Resources, School 2.0

I got an email today from a colleague with a great web-based resource for editing photos called Picnik. Thanks Brad. You can check out the site at 

The interface couldn’t be easier! I’m anxious to check out the Picnik extension for Firefox too. I appreciate the fact that it will connect with “already online” pics you have in Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, etc – or allow you to upload a local image for editing. Once you’ve made your changes you can save the resulting file locally. I tried Picnik with a photo I had from NASA’s web gallery and I’m already hooked on the Orton-ish effect!

In a time when everyone wants your contact information Picnik allowed a surprising range of functionality without the need for an account. I’m sure I will create an account here (probably after I complete this post) but it’s refreshing to know I don’t need to. Account status allows you to archive your work on site, and purchase products created with your pics. I’m sure every grandparent would love a present wrapped in paper that features their grandchildren! You can even get your mugshots printed on a mug.

Amidst all the options one pressing question about Picnik comes to mind, “Do I show this to my teenage daughter?”. She’ll love it, but the rest of our family will only be able to use our computer when she’s asleep or out of the house :-)

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Pangea Day

May 9, 2008 by · No Comments · Resources, School 2.0, Uncategorized

Pangea DayI read about Pangea Day (5/10/08) in a posting by Karl Fisch, but the concept seems outstanding. Bring together global perspectives for a day of storytelling through film. I don’t know how many films were submitted but the site is going to narrow it down to their top 24. See the Pangea Day site at for more details.

It looks like something worth exploring! I know I’m going to…Dave

Pangea Day

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Creating Digital Stories

April 22, 2008 by · No Comments · Resources, School 2.0, Uncategorized

This post is really a collection of resources that we’ll be using with a group of teachers during a professional learning experience. Maybe I’ll collect some of the stories and add them to a future post?

The guy that started it all, Dana Atchley, had an untimely death. Others have kept his work alive and these “older examples” are still some of the strongest digital stories we have. Visit his Next Exit site and do a little exploring

Here are some other digital story links to help you get a sense of what this process can produce for you and your students:

Music and images are so vital to the production! Here are a few sites to help you find royalty-free media. I can’t list these links without a short soapbox rant – it’s always best to create your own sounds, music, images, and other media!! OK now (without added guilt) feel free to browse through these links:

Music & Sound Effects
Music in Production Library format. Dave’s favorite “canned music” site (if you don;t have Garage Band to create your own)
Sound Dogs used to have free samples, but QT Pro may be needed to capture the samples now

ImageBase at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

 Here’s a PDF file of a Storyboard Template used by Dana Atchley to help others create digital stories. This kind of scaffolding can be considered a pre-production, and production tool.

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Beliefs And Practices

February 25, 2008 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

I’ve been convinced for quite some time that it’s our underlying beliefs that drive our classroom practices. Dennis Sparks, National Staff Development Council, spent the last few years of his tenure promoting just how important reflection on our beliefs is. In addition to many other researchers I know this is true from my own experiences, and my interactions with professional staff and graduate students.

My observed outcomes of “belief transformation” means I’ve been willing to engage in the challenging work of examining and shaping beliefs – even though it tends to move at a pace that is frustrating and maddening for those of us seeking reform. But I’m committed to classrooms, and teachers, that demonstrate a belief in student-centered learning.

A recent article in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education, an ISTE publication, helped me step back and consider the way beliefs are shaped and changed. It presents evidence that raises a sort of “chicken or egg” question. 

Authors Sung Park and Peggy Ertmer conclude that, “Changes in intended teaching practices may be an important first step in changing teachers’ beliefs regarding technology use and future teaching practices” (p. 259). This is an encouraging finding for anyone working with classroom teachers. Their finding aligns with conclusions from my own research that suggest the context (institutional expectation, opportunity for reflection, shared stories, etc) is perhaps the most critical element of technology integration in learning systems.

I know this is a rather “intellectual post”, but maybe that’s the contrast I’m trying to illustrate. We can engage in the intellectual work, examine beliefs and analyze research without waiting to engage in solid classroom practices. And perhaps doing them hand-in-hand will actually result in the faster adoption and authentic use of meaningful integration practices? This dual approach has short-term and long-term implications for the learning environments our teachers design for students.

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What Do You Know?

January 8, 2008 by · 1 Comment · School 2.0, Uncategorized

seymour papertseymour papertseymour papertseymour papertseymour papertseymour papertIt’s been a while between posts (at least here on Tech2Go) for me, but I reached a point today when I just had to write down some of what’s been running through my mind.

Although Willard Daggett advises “evolution, not revolution” I want change to come quickly! I know this will not be the case, so what I really want is to invest time, energy and resources in a manner that produces an authentic difference in what we do.

 That leads me to the notion of how we spend our “curricular energy”. I wonder if we’re putting tremendous effort in the wrong direction. If US students suddenly surged to become the highest math achievers of any nation in the world would they have any better chance of landing a job when competing in a global economy? As professor Young Zhao asked in a conference in July, “what knowledge is most valuable?”. I parapharse the question for the title of this post.

Seymour Papert points to the same issue in The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School In The Age Of The Computer. On page 63 he observes, “Progressive educators do not see themselves as offering an alternative way for students to learn the same list of items of knowledge. They value a different kind of knowledge.”

Before I get a record number of (angry) comments I want to acknowledge the tension between core curriculum and 21st century skills/knowledge. I am not saying we should suddenly abandon our core curriculum (not completely anyway). I’m saying we have tipped the balance heavily in it’s favor – for far too long. Depth, not breadth, is a must!

So what do you know? What kinds of knowledge matter most? How can our outdated, yet deeply entrenched, system of curriculum and schooling respond to students in a relevant way? How can we create schools that will help our students to thrive in the years ahead?

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Question For You…

September 20, 2007 by · No Comments · Resources, Uncategorized

It’s been a little quiet on the blog lately! As a new academic year begins the amount of reflection time (ironically) often diminishes. I am very excited, however, to be part of a move in my own district to examine integration of technology in a way that steps outside the notion of “direct instruction” for tech skills.

We are re-aligning the grades of our middle and high schools, and this provides an opportunity to develop a revised program of study. All this background to pose a question for our conversation…

What should an 8th grader be able to know and do with technology when they exit our middle school?

 ISTE’s National Educational Standards for Students (NETSS) provide a great framework, but I’m interested in the less formal, in-the-trenches answer that you might have in mind. Our digital natives are bringing increased skills to the table, how will we respond?

Google For Educators

September 4, 2007 by · No Comments · Resources, School 2.0, Uncategorized

I really like some of the tools Google has been developing, and I appreciate their recognition that educators have special considerations to take into account as they work with students. Visit the Google For Educators page to get some great ideas.

A new Google tool I recently discovered (and can’t wait to share with our staff) is the custom search engine. You decide which URLs are being searched when your students enter their keywords. This is great for elementary grades, or a secondary class that has a specific project or topic to explore!


April 10, 2007 by · No Comments · Resources, School 2.0, Uncategorized

QuickMuseIf you’re like me the two words quick and muse are not often thought of in the same sentence. Incubation of an idea can take a long time. The resource I have to show you today might change your mind about the creative process.

I found about this site from the Head Of Class section in Edutopia. What I like most is how QuickMuse makes the process so visible to students. I looked at a Poem Playback from Rick Chess. Very cool.

I hope the QuickMuse site will inspire you to get creative with your students’ writing – or your own teaching. As always, I look forward to your thoughts, reactions, and responses.

Handheld Happenings: How To’s and Reviews from Students in the Field

April 4, 2007 by · No Comments · Handheld Computing

Our student authors share their experiences by writing uses and reviews of handheld software that have become mainstays in our classroom. In our articles, hopefully you’ll discover about the handheld app., how to use it, the educational benefits, and a critique by our students through a variety of criteria. If you’ve had some experience with any of the applications shared, we’d welcome your additions to our digital ramblings.

Teach The World

April 3, 2007 by · No Comments · Resources, School 2.0, Uncategorized

TeacherTubeI suspect You Tube, My Space and other Web 2.0 tools will be blocked by most K-12 school systems for the foreseeable future. That statement is worthy of a discussion by itself, but for now I mention it only as a backdrop for the site I recently discovered. I found out about TeacherTube through a posting at the Speed of Creativity site.

TeacherTube appears to keep the best notions of motion video, collaboration, and knowledge sharing and package it in a moderated context for a school audience. TeacherTube certainly holds out a broad challenge in their slogan, Teach the World. I resonate with the notion that we can change our world, but I’d be ecstatic to just change our K-12 system in the United States.

It’s unlikely that our students will abandon You Tube, but at least while we’re in school we can access similar resources for our own learning. I’ll be searching the site for some great examples. Maybe I’ll make my contribution to teach the world and post something on TeacherTube myself?


March 28, 2007 by · No Comments · Resources, School 2.0, Uncategorized

zamzarI found out about a great site from Joyce Valenza today! Although I’ve used some nice applications to convert video, or capture video from web pages, each has been a commercial package or shareware.

Zamzar does the conversion for free and emails the resulting file directly to you as an attachment. The 100MB file limit is more than reasonable, and the conversion options are plentiful – including .mov and .wmv options for video files.

The site will convert all sorts of media files, but the feature that really piqued my interest was the news that Zamzar will convert YouTube movies! I suspect your district is like mine – YouTube, MySpace, Google Images, etc. are all blocked. The tension between safety and teaching students how to use these resources responsibly is a topic for another post.

But for now Zamzar will allow you to login from home, choose the video you need, and email the converted file to your account. I think it will be a popular tool. Don’t forget to cite your sources when you use the videos during your lessons!

School 2.0

March 22, 2007 by · No Comments · School 2.0, Uncategorized

School 2.0Apparently the last post has been rolling around in my thoughts more than I anticipated. What struck me as a good idea has moved into a much more conceptual dialog (in my own head of course!). I know the physical structures of a school need to be redesigned and aligned to current practices, but the broad notion of redesign has gotten me thinking about literacy.

Interaction with several discrete sources is moving me toward a convergence in my own thinking. I’ll list three items in particular, and I hope you will explore them to inform your own thinking about literacy in the 21st century.

First David Warlick asks a group of teachers in Shanghai, China how literacy has changed (or how it remains the same). Portions of the conversation appear in podcast #81 at Connected Learning. Listen to the short podcast, and consider your own answer to the question he poses.

Next Cory Doctorow’s article You Do Like Reading Off A Computer Screen made me realize that soundbytes have a counterpart. The “readbytes” are influencing the way we engage with text. Is our curriculum acknowledging this phenomenon?

Also Donovan, Harley & Strudler reaffirmed, and validated, key aspects of the ACOT (Apple Classroom Of Tomorrow) study findings with their article  in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education(JRTE) this month. A key notion of our integration and change revolves around teachers’ practices moving to a student-centered model. 

Technology has influenced how we name revision and improvement (even school has a version number). So what does School 2.0 mean to you? What are the implications for your school? Easy access to technology is implied, but it must be more than student-to-computer ratios and bandwidth! What are the implications for writing in “digital genres”? Are there strategies specific to reading on-screen text? What are you thinking? 

Redesign Your School

March 6, 2007 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

RedesignHere’s a chance for you and your students to rethink the way we do school. What would you design differently if you could build a school from scratch? How will you beliefs about teaching and learning in the 21st century influence your design? What will your students think of that you haven’t even considered?

Check out the contest at and encourage your students to submit their ideas. I can’t wait to see some of the ideas….

Picture = 1,000 Video = ??

January 25, 2007 by · 1 Comment · Resources, Uncategorized

United Streaming SplashA picture is worth a thousand words, but how much is a motion video clip worth? Since my last posting was somewhat theoretical I’m feeling a need to balance it with a practical resource! So today I want to highlight a service that you may not be familiar with.

United Streaming/Discovery Education has been assembling quite an extensive set of web-based resources to help teachers use video in the classroom. Still images, sound effects, songs, quizzes, standards, teachers’ guides and other resources are available. The Discovery Atlas Interactive Map is a great way to get information about the culture, history, government or natural world of countries around the globe. 

This service has done for teachers what NetFlix, BlockBuster Online, and Comcast On-Demand have done for consumers. Now you can have 24/7 access to streaming video that can also be downloaded. In Pennsylvania this subscription service was negotiated by the state’s Intermediate Units and the savings were passed on to local districts.

Are you using UnitedStreaming? If not try the free trial account and let us know how it’s changing teaching and learning in your classroom.

How Will I Know?

January 8, 2007 by · No Comments · Resources, Uncategorized

John DeweyThe title does not refer to the Whitney Houston hit - instead I want to ask you a question that has been in my thoughts lately. How will we know when technology is being used well in our classrooms?

What criteria pops in your mind? What data are most useful for answering the question. What kind of rich learning are we hoping for regardless of the technology component?

 I’ve been reading books by technology naysayers since Clifford Stoll’s Silicon Snake Oil hits the shelves. It helps to balance my natural tendency to dive full-speed-ahead with tech tools. But the question I pose goes well beyond some checklist of criteria or standardized test result.

In 2007, and beyond, I hope K-12 schools can recognize the growing gap between the way our students use technology in their lives and the way they use technology at school. If you found this blog you know that technology can be a powerful way to know and learn.

Convincing digital immigrant leaders that evidence of accountability in complex systems will be a complex data set is not an easy task. Can we tackle this big question together? Can we raise the level of conversation about educational technology above the student-computer ratio? 

Eisner encourages us to become connoisseurs of learning; Moersch asks what kinds of higher-level thinking is present; Lave and Wenger or Seeley-Brown and Duguid remind us to build communities of practice;  Dwyer notes that teaching will “look different”; Dewey would note that test taking is not the experience he had in mind. So many great educators to inform what our practice could be!

My posting is getting too long – I’d love to hear how you know the technology tools are making a difference….