Using Technology to Promote YA Literature

Thanks to all my teacher librarian friends who submitted ideas for my ISTE11 poster session – it went great and everyone was impressed with all of YOUR ideas.  First of all I had an excellent location (thanks ISTE) right across from the Blogger’s Cafe.  For two hours straight I shared your fabulous ideas.  I handed out over 175 newsletters with your ideas and made QR codes for the “green” folks who just wanted access to the website at

Download the PDF handout here and view the presentation used to share your fabulous ideas.  Thanks Again!!!

Got books? Promoting YA literature using Technology

Reach your teen audience with creative ways that promote reading and Young Adult literature using free or open-source technology tools.

1.  READ Posters: Following the format of READ posters create by the American Library Association, take photos of staff members and students dressed in costumes holding a companion book.  Add the words READ and a quote. Use free editing software (GIMP, Open office, Picasa, Big Huge Labs, Aviary) to make the posters. You can also use ALA’s READ generator:

2.  Book Trailers: Create short book trailers using free video editing software (iMovie, MovieMaker, Photostory) to promote new books that are being released.  Include images, titles, narration and audio music. Embed the movies on your library home page.

3.  Wall Wisher for Read Alikes! Set up a wallwisher page ( to have students suggest books for read alikes.  For example:  If you liked “The Hunger Games” then read …  Students can add their own suggestions and images of book cover to the wall.

4.  Bathroom Graffiti with QR codes: Entice students to learn about new books in the Library using QR codes.  Create fun posters and place them in the bathroom stalls.  Include a QR code on the poster. When the student scans the QR code with their mobile device, the code reveals information about the new book.  Great for scavenger hunts too!

5.  Teen Book Video Awards: Have students nominate their favorite novels all year long.  Get your book club to be the “Academy” and narrow down the nominations to 3 in different genres.  Create a short videos or large posters for each genre and have students vote on their favorite.  Hold your own Teen Book Award ceremony in the Library (include a red carpet and paparazzi!)

6.  Digital frames for book promotions: Using free photo editing software (or even PowerPoint) make 5×7 photos of book covers and titles that say “recommended by …”.  Select books with a theme (author studies, Graphic Novels, Banned Books, a specific genre) and display the photos of those books in a digital picture frame.  Place on circulation desk for students to watch during check-out.

7.  Genre PSA: Have students create short 15/30 second audio Public Service Announcements (using Audacity, Garageband, etc) to be played over the school PA system during announcements.  Great for Teen Read or Banned Books Week.

8. Blogging with Book Buddies: Set up a blog with another book club to discuss the novels they are reading or recommend new titles.  Use free blog software like Blogger, EduBlogs, or Class Blogmeister.

9.  Guess the book: Display a colorful Wordle that includes words like: character names, locations, words that describe events or characters of a book along with a title “Guess the Book”.  Another idea is to make a Wordle Advertisement for a book.

10.  Author Labels: Use online forums like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, author blogs, and online book groups to help get your students excited about reading. Compile a brief list of links with additional info about an author or topic and print them on an address label. Stick the label in the books in a highly visible place–on the last page, or opposite the first page. Encourage your students to explore reading in their own territory (Thanks to Reading 2.o).

11.  Poetry break: Have students record themselves reading their own poetry or a published poem and save it onto a Mp3 player.  Create listening station with headphones in your Library for students to sit and listen.

Other great technology tools you can use: VoiceTread, Animoto, Toon Doo, Google Presentations, Blabberize, Google Maps and more!


  1. Book Trailers:
  2. Literacy on the Web:
  3. Reading 2.0 – Using Technology to Promote Books – not Replace them:

Directions for the projects will be posted at:

See ya at NECC in DC!

NECC Hands-On Workshop
Using VoiceThread for Interactive Projects – [Formal Session: BYOL]
Tuesday, 6/30/2009, 3:30pm–4:30pm

Prepare for our session by collecting images for practice project. I selected some images from FlickrStorm (Creative Commons licensing) that you can download for our workshop or bring your own.

PC or Mac users should download Audacityfor audio recording and editing. Consider bringing a headset with microphone for recording audio comments.


National Catholic Educational Association Conference session notes

My notes from several of the NCEA sessions I attended:

To “Tech” as Jesus Did
NCEA conference April 15, 2009
By Greg Dhuyvetter –

Greg’s weekly blog for his school:

Our goal:  promoting gospel values and creating life-long learners.  Greg has a vision of Catholic Schools that incorporate these goals along with technology.

Students will have mini-computers with them for the rest of their lives – we need to tap into that.  Don’t remove them – it’s like having your hands tied behind your back.

3 books that should be consulted when planning technology for Catholic Schools:

bible1.  Bible – all decisions need to be grounded in scripture.

2.  Catechism of the Catholic Church

3.  To teach as Jesus did:  a pastoral message on Catholic Education.

“Faithful to the past and open to the future, we must accept the burden and welcome the opportunity of proclaiming the Gospel values.”

Instead of WWJD isn’t it “”  How would Jesus manage with technology?

We are in times of Disruptive Innovation – which means:

  • Fundamental change to the status quo
  • Questions older values and ways of being
  • Resisted and considered dangerous
  • Over time becomes the dominant paradigm

Current example of disruptive innovation:  Web 2.0 revolution.  Everything is in the “cloud”.

Let’s look at scriptures for Catholic School technology planning:

1.  “You are Called” – Matthew 4

The story of when Jesus calls the disciples.

Many people in your environment are “on fire” with technology.  He has chosen you and given you a mission.

2.  “Many Parts One Body”

We expect tech people to do everything.  Let’s celebrate each other’s difference.  We need:

  • Visionaries
  • Planners
  • Technicians
  • Teachers (for PD)
  • Maintain-ers to keep the project going.

3.  “Build Castle on Firm Foundation”

You need to have a vision of technology that is unique to your school

Have documentation – but keep it flexible.  Tech changes fast.

Calculate the real cost of implementation

  • Research – It takes time to locate and choose the correct hardware/software.
  • Purchase – most people only consider the actual price when calculating the cost of new equipment.
  • Installation
  • Training
  • Maintenance
  • Replacement costs

Avoid the planning pitfalls

  • Death by Documentation – don’t drown everyone in paperwork.
  • The Training Trap – training cannot be one size fits all. Set up a mentoring or buddy systems. Remember Jesus sent out the disciples two by two.
  • Don’t “fundraise” for your tech budgets. You don’t fundraise to pay your gas bill – so technology costs needs to be incorporated in the regular budget.

3.  “The Mustard Seed”

Start small – don’t feel like you need to do everything at once.  Have success with small projects first.

4.  “New Wine in Old Wineskins”

Our natural tendency is to stay with the old.  Technology requires a new paradigm shift in how you plan and teach with technology.   Ask yourself:  Can we do things in new ways?

5.  “Render Unto Caesar”

Model and teach about theft of intellectual property.  As teachers we are a bit hypocritical by “borrowing” information all the time and then come down hard on students for copy/paste.

Evaluate your use of music, software, ideas and images (use Creative Commons licensing).

When students copy/paste – make it an assessment issue, not a moral issue.  How will I develop assessments that really show what students are learning?

6.  “Let the Children Come to Me”

Children have an innate interest in technology.  Stop pretending they are like you (the teacher).   They think, process, and create differently.

7.  “Woe Be to You”

There are dangers of technology – but we have to let them run.  Let them use the tools safely.

Don’t buy into the media hysteria – like “sexting”.  Remember, the media’s goal is publicizing these topics to gain viewers and sell advertising.

8.  “Come Away and Rest Awhile”

Take time away from screens.  We need to tell kids “now it’s time to turn it off”.  Model moderation.

Every child has a story
NCEA conference – April 16, 2009
Dennis Grice –

We learn through stories
– As you listen to stories you draw pictures in your head and you store those stories in your head; this creates better recall

Take things that are complex and put them in story so we can relate to our own experience
Stories become powerful when you place students as storytellers
Join StoryCorps in the National Day of Listening
Stories with sound

Radio drama, podcasts

Recording your story

  • Audacity
  • GarageBand
  • StoryCorps – record personal stories from PBS
    Has section called “Great Questions”.
  • The Story, interviews by Dick Gordan

Sharing your story

  • Gcast
  • Podomatic
  • Gabcast


Stories with pictures


Use Digital Kit and provide students with images and sounds to facilitate the process of storytelling

Stories with place

  • Google maps
  • Picasa Web Albums
  • Upload photos into Picasa and add location to map.
  • Save images as KML file. Open in Google Earth and view.

Designing Interactive Learning Environment for the Millennial Student
By Gini Shimabukuro & Nancy Barrett

Grown up digital
Don Tapscott

  • The Baby Boom Generation
  • Generation X
  • The Net Generationfr
  • Generation Next

“A Vision of K-12 Students Today” video

In what ways does learning in your classrooms address the needs of Millennial learns and thus enable them to function in a digital world?

“The Net Generation has been flooded with information learning to access, sort, categorize, and remember it all has enhanced their intelligence.”

Pedagogical Shift:

Shift from teacher focused approach based on Instruction to student focused model on collaboration and innovation.

Practice strategies that focused on the learner.

Backward Design Model – Understanding by Design

  • Outcomes: identify desired results – what is the significant learning to be achieved?
  • Assessment Methods: Determine acceptable evidence – How will students know that they have achieved it?
  • Teaching strategies: Plan learning experiences and instruction – What will teachers do to make this happen?

Creating a Curriculum That Works
Lorraine Ozar

nceaPreparation Techniques

Brainstorming, concept-mapping, chaining, webbing, kindling, do-look-learn, metaphorical learning, inductive learning, KWL, circle of knowledge, interpretation of data, corners, interviewing, case studies, simulation games, learning centers

Presentation Techniques

Storytelling, peer-reading, jigsaw, compare & contrast, new American lectures, advanced organizers, etc.

Process Techniques

Think-pair-share, role playing, sequences, analogies, panel discussions, predicting, “chalk talk”

Practice Techniques

Boggle, Pair check, quizzes, acting out, concept mapping, reading for meaning, Mnemonics, Outlining, team game tournaments

Real life Connections

  • Make subject matter relevant
  • Allow students to connect the material to their lives
  • Involve hands-one activities
  • Get students out of the classroom
  • Connect students with people outside the school community.

Brain-Based Teaching Strategies to Improve Student Achievement
By Lou E. Whitaker and ?

Attention and concentration is centered in the frontal lobes.  The frontal lobes of young males are not as developed as young females.  Boys have less myelin = less mature.  Girls have 15% more circulation in brain.

What can we do? (specifically for boys)

1.       Give outlines, give structure or scaffolding for notetaking

2.       Verbal cues

3.       Many students thrive on pressure.  Create short, frequent quizzes instead of long drawn-out projects.  Create a structure with well defined goals that need to be completed within a certain time frame.  Research shows that kids with ADHD use movement to keep awake

4.       Computers give immediate feedback – that’s why boys do better with technology

5.       Prior knowledge about material helps with learning.  Assists with organizing new information faster.

6.       High Interest and incidental learning.  Give fewer problems on page or more space between problems.

Brain is divided into two hemispheres.  Left side = verbal  right side= spatial

Speech and memory is centered in the temporal lobes  Hippocampus stores and processes memories.  In order to remember students must 1.  attend (pay attention) 2.  Remember  3.  Incorporate  4.  Implement.  Women connect emotions and (learning) memory.

Basis of memory is association – helps make connections.

  • Use repetition:  go over new material and review notes.
  • Encourage multiple modalities.
  • Understand Learning styles, V.A.K.  boys are visual.
  • Use memory techniques.
  • Chunk information together and break smaller information into steps.
  • Write down homework.

Male and female brains grow in different patterns and rates.  Females are better at simultaneous processing.  They have 20%-25% larger coetical.

Technology and the Law/Handbooks
By Sarah Wannemuehler

Facebook, Myspace, Stalking, Bullying: What Catholic High School Educators Need to Know about Cyberspace and the Law
By Sr. Mary Angela Shaughnessy, SCN –

Photo credits:

Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

7I ran across this post about Seven Habits of Highly Connected People on Stephen Downe’s site awhile ago and been saving it in my drafts until I had a chance to write and reflect.  I highlighted ideas from each habit to share but you should read the full article and his explanations at

1. Be Reactive

The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land.

Posting, after all, isn’t about airing your own views. It’s about connecting, and the best way to connect is to clearly draw the link between their content and yours.

2. Go With The Flow

When connecting online, it is more important to find the places to which you can add value rather than pursue a particular goal or objective. The Web is a fast-changing medium, and you need to adapt to fit the needs of the moment, rather than to be driving it forward along a specific agenda.

3. Connection Comes First

In almost all fields, connecting with others online is the work. The papers you write, the memos you read and toss-all have to do with connecting with people.

If you don’t have enough time for reading email, writing blog posts, or posting to discussion lists, ask yourself what other activities you are doing that are cutting in to your time. These are the things that are often less efficient uses of your time.

4. Share

The way to function in a connected world is to share without thinking about what you will get in return.

When you share, people are more willing to share with you. In a networked world, this gives you access to more than you could ever produce or buy by yourself. By sharing, you increase your own capacity, which increases your marketability.

RTFM stands for “Read The Fine Manual” (or some variant thereof) and is one of the primary rules of conduct on the Internet.

What it means, basically, is that people should make the effort to learn for themselves before seeking instruction from others… Taking the time and effort to look at this work is not merely respectful, it demonstrates a certain degree of competence and self-reliance.

6. Cooperate

Online, people cooperate. They network. Each has his or her own goals and objectives, but what joins the whole is a web of protocols and communications. People contribute their own parts, created (as they say in open source programming) to “satisfy their own itch.”

7. Be Yourself
What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being. The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.

This past year I finally feel more comfortable in my “online persona”.  Before that I  considered myself a “lurker”.  I subscribed to quite a few blogs and followed folks on Twitter but it wasn’t until a year ago did I really engage in the conversation.

As Downes states above, we need to be reactive and share.  It’s not enough to just read an interesting post and say – oh, that’s interesting.  Blogging is about being part of a conversation.  I’m guilty of not responding to people who posted comments on my blog or at least said “thank you for taking the time” (sorry).

I respond @yourtwitter name more often this year too.  Last month I made a Wordle of my twitter posts and realized that edtechvision was one of my top tweets.  Maybe I was spending too much time promoting my blog posts instead of saying “hey, check out so-and-so’s blog – there’s an interesting conversation going on there”.

Many of the new face-to-face connections I have made this past year has been because of my online connections.  I hooked up with the out-of-towners before Google Teacher Academy which resulted in many friendships (you know who you are!).  When I showed up to ILC 2008 several people came up to me and said “hey, I follow you on Twitter” and then -bam:  instant connection – and we spent the rest of the conference  sharing and connecting.

On Twitter Alec Couros shared his networked web from  Now this man is highly connected!

With plenty of opportunities this year (NCCE, NCEA, NECC) to connect f2f with my PLN, I hope to not only be inspired by highly connected people but also give something back to the edtech community.  I thank you.  I am learning each and every day and love what you have brought to my life.

7 things Meme

Matt Montagne tagged me for the “Seven things you don’t know about me” meme.

1.  I’m 1/2 French.  My father was born in France and is the only one of his 10 brothers and sisters who lives in the US.  My full name is Colette Marie LeChevallier – sounds like a French movie star, huh?  No.  I don’t speak French – I just know a little.  I never got to spend an extended time there so I never really picked it up – plus we didn’t really speak it at home because my Mom wasn’t French.  I desperately want to go sometime soon.  I have about 50 first cousins (and their kid’s houses) to visit!!!

2.  I originally wanted to be a Kindergarten teacher.  In the past 20+ years I have taught every age (K-16) as a 6th & 3rd grade teacher, Reading Resource teacher, Librarian,  adjunct professor and now a MS/HS Computer teacher.  All of my teaching experience has been in parochial schools even though I never attended one growing up.

3.  My sons (19 & 22) tease me endlessly about being a computer geek.  When I was in class online during my Masters program at Pepperdine they would walk by my computer and say in a funny voice, “there’s Mom .. chatting online with her geeky friends”.  Funny thing is … they both now are on Facebook all the time, have Tumblr blogs and one even is checking out Twitter.

reeses4.  I love peanut butter and chocolate. My favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I always have to check out the peanut butter pie if a restaurant serves it.  Weird fact … high quality dark chocolate makes me sneeze … probably slightly allergic .. but it doesn’t stop me.

5.  I love musicals.  When I was little my sisters and I used to act out every scene from The Sound of Music.  I really wanted to be Maria.  Side note:  When my older sister tried out for a community production of The Sound of Music, she was cast as the snooty nun who didn’t like Maria.  We laughed so hard – perfect type cast.

6.  I have two speeds:  couch potato and maniac.  I love to lay around on a lazy Saturday and read the paper, watch TV or just veg on the computer but watch out when I am in project mode.  I can paint a room, work on a school or craft project for 20 hours straight.

7.   I hate to admit it but I am addicted to diet soda.  I really need to break this bad habit – it started in HS when I worked at a movie theater and could have soda and popcorn for free.  Think of the money I would save!!

So that’s it .. my deepest secrets.  Pretty boring, huh?  Let’s see who can top me.  I tag:

Upcoming Tech Conference presentations

Just a heads up:  I will be presenting a 3 hour hands-on workshop and several one hour sessions at the NCCE conference in Portland on February 19th & 20th

Integrating Google Tools 4 Teachers ($85 extra)
Morning Workshop, Friday, February 20, 2009, from 8:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Come learn how you can use the FREE Google tools to encourage collaboration in your classroom. A Google Certified Teacher will share multiple examples of how MS/HS school teachers are integrating Google shared docs & spreadsheets, Google Maps and the new Google sites into their curriculum. Great for beginners! Windows Computer Lab.…

Other concurrent sessions:

Thursday, February 19th 1pm VoiceThread for sharing and collaboration

Friday February 20th 1:15pm Google Tools vs Google Apps for Education

Btw, I am also presenting a Google Tools for Catholic Schools at the NCEA conference in Anaheim in April.  Anyone else going?

Update:  I will also be at NECC in Washington DC in  June

Title: Using VoiceThread for Interactive Projects
Category/Subcategory*: Formal Session:BYOL (Bring your own laptop)
Theme/Strand*: 21st-Century Teaching & Learning:Web/Internet/Web 2.0
Day: Tuesday, 6/30/2009
Time: 3:30pm–4:30pm

Instructional Technology Strategies Conference (ITSC) – February 17-19, 2008

Engaging Students with Authentic Technology Projects – Sun, 2/17/08, 7:30-8:30 pm

Handouts located at:

Embrace 21st century strategies to create an instructional learning environment that moves away from teaching isolated computer skills towards an integrated thematic approach. Come learn how you can combine everyday productivity tools with Web 2.0 to support curriculum integration and collaboration.

The National Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S) recommends that educators establish new learning environments that provide real world opportunities for students to utilize current information and technology resources (ISTE, 2000).

According to The American Youth Policy Forum (2000) instruction in today’s high schools must change. Disengagement from the learning process is a widespread problem in high schools as students do not perceive how lessons are relevant to their lives.

The American Youth Policy Forum reports that lecture style classes continue to dominate classroom instruction and content is divorced from the real world. Schools need to embrace new strategies for learning based on current research of how students learn, implement effective uses of technology in the classroom, and develop “21st Century Skills” while maintaining a rigorous academic curriculum (Burkhardt et al., 2003

It takes vision and planning to engage students in authentic learning experiences. Teachers must identify which instructional strategies are most effective and understand how to infuse technology into lessons with real world applications.

Instead of asking the question “What technology skills must students have to face the 21st century?” should we not be asking “What thinking and literacy skills must students have to face the 21st century?” These skills are not tied to any particular software or technology-type, but rather aim to provide students with the thinking skill and thus the opportunity to succeed no matter what their futures hold.” Justin Medved, Dennis Harter
Curriculum is designed from the best practice approaches to teaching and learning found in Understanding by Design

The Essential Questions for the 21st Century Learner are:

  • How do you know information is true?
  • How do you communicate effectively?
  • What does it mean to be a global citizen?
  • How do I learn best?
  • How can we be safe?

These questions speak to thinking, critically evaluating, analyzing, and communicating. They emphasize the value in responsible behavior and knowing yourself as a learner.

Career Unit – Based on John Holland’s six personality traits

Goals: critically evaluating, analyzing, communication

Work Samples:


Make a PhotoShow Full Size

Career Resources:

Lunch Nutrition and Recycling Unit

Goals: analyzing, communication, evaluating

Work Samples

Nutrition / Waste Recycling Resources

Other Classroom Activities:


  • Valiant Pride: New student edition – a newspaper that my students designed for new incoming students (samples:
  • Search Engine Extravaganza – PowerPoint presentations to teach our school community about unique search engines
  • BE SAFE ONLINE! Projects made by students to discuss online safety (including chat rooms, cyber bullying, online profiles, photo sharing, etc)
    • Wiki to store document sources used in projects
    • Samples of projects made on blogs, Flickr, and Google presentations (work in progress)
  • Curriculum Review Quizzes – Note: action buttons and hyperlinks do not work on slideshare – you must download the PowerPoint first

Note: Some of the lessons in this session are based on activities that I designed for my Action Research Project for my MA in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University. Three complete thematic units are located at


Works Cited

  1. American Youth Policy Forum
  2. Best Jobs for the 21st Century, 4th Edition by Michael Farr. ©2006 JIST Publishing, Inc.
  3. Curriculum 2.0
  4. enGauge 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age (Burkhardt, G., Monsour M., Valdez, G., Gunn, C., Dawson, M., Lemke, C., et al., 2003) North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group,
  5. National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S)

Teaching for understanding

I am encouraged once again to see the discussion in the blogosphere about making sure we use Web 2.0 tools to support learning and a new pedagogy in the classroom. Chris Lehmann writes about using the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework by Wiggins and McTighe. We need to make sure we are not doing “activities” just for the sake of their newness or cool factor. With such limited time during the day, each of our assignments must be focused on student understanding and our goals and objectives. Lehmann writes:

Understanding by Design… we owe it to ourselves and our kids to step back and ask ourselves questions like:

  • How does the use of this tool contribute to a students’ understanding of the unit / project / class.
  • How does the use of the tool enhance a students’ ability to communicate their ideas / refine their presentation skills?
  • Does the tool change the frame or lens with with students can view their learning process?
  • Does the tool powerfully expand or change students’ learning network?
  • Is the tool more fun than useful? (Not that fun is bad, I like fun, but let’s also acknowledge that, in schools, our learning should be “serious fun.”)

The underlying theme is that we must design our lessons purposefully and thoughfully. I admit it – I am guilty of incorporating a new gadget or tool, or “fun” activity into my lessons just for the sake of the activity – with no real goal or purpose in mind. But after reading UbD, I see now how I could have still used those same tools – but redesigned the lesson in a way that using the tool led to learning and a better understanding of the goal in mind – AND- the students too would know WHY they were doing the activity – a key point that too often we assume they know why (ask them!).

With the school year looming a month away – it’s time for me to pull out my Understanding by Design book and reread sections so my frame of mind is properly set for lesson planning.

You might also want to check out the UbD wiki where you can post your UbD curriculum units.

It’s all about the learning

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach made an important statement about Web 2.0 tools and learning:

It’s All about the Learning

Teachers like tangibles. I think the reason there is so much focus on the tools, rather than how to use the tools to support learning is because when we are learning something new we want something concrete to manipulate. Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis and podcasts give us that concrete fix. Teachers, like their students, need time to explore the tools before getting on with the learning. However, at some point in a PD 2.0 workshop the focus needs to switch from the tool itself to making the tool a seamless medium for mastery of standards-based objectives and 21st Century life skills.

I have been blogging about my favorite tools lately and I don’t want anyone to get the idea that it’s all about the tools – it’s not – it’s about how the tools support learning. I think Sheryl is right when she states that teachers like students want some time to play around with tools. My concern is always if the the learning stops when the tool is mastered -OR- does the ease of the tool now allow the focus to be whether this new tool will actually support or enhance learning or not.

Learning.Learning is social. Web 2.0 tools are social and collaborative in nature. The tools embrace the read/write/reflect nature of learning. It is critical for teachers to utilize blogs, wikis, podcasting, and other mash-up tools themselves before they bring these technologies to their classrooms. Once they have experienced this powerful medium that gives them a voice and an audience who reads, responds and reflects upon what they have said – then they will understand how this can be powerful for their own students.

Because quite frankly, their students are probably already doing it at home and if a teacher doesn’t immerse themselves into this digital world, they will most likely attempt to use Web 2.0 in a instructivist teacher-centered mode. What a shame it will then be when the teacher complains that “these tools” don’t work and throw them out.

It’s not just about the tools. It’s about embracing a student-centered environment where students have choice … are given opportunities to have their voice heard … are encouraged to be creative … and take ownership of their own learning.

Our students want this type of learning. Are we providing it?

(Note: Motivational poster made at fd’s Flickr Toys)

Pay it forward

I spent last week as a Graduate Assistant for the Pepperdine Master’s of Arts in Educational Technology [online] program in Malibu (yes, Malibu!) California. VirtCamp is a chance for the new cadre members to meet face to face and learn the communication tools for their online year ahead. The excitement in the air was contagious and as I sat there and reflected about my 13-month journey through OMET – I was struck about how much I learned this year and how my community taught me most of what I now know.

Pay it forwardI admit – I had to hold myself back from gushing all kinds of advice like: You’ve got to learn about and other social bookmarking sites. If you work on multiple computers like I do you will love having all your bookmarks in one place (plus it’s fun to snoop through other people’s bookmarks!). Wikis? I love wikis. I use them all the time. Whenever my cadremates and I were discussing a situation I was always to first to suggest, “Let’s add a link to our wiki and add our ideas there”. Wikis are so great for collaboration and giving each person a voice. Oh … and you must post all of your pics on flickr and play around with flickr toys! I found myself proclaiming the wonders of blogging – even though before this program I could barely keep a diary for more than a week. Now I find that I have so much swimming around in my head that I have to write it down so I can digest it slowly, let it mull around in my brain for awhile and then come back to the idea later on and discuss the idea some more.

I was so busy during the week that I didn’t have time for much blogging and realized how much I missed it. Now that I am finally reflecting on what happened I am realizing that blogging is so much more about the process of my thinking and actions – and less about “what happened”. I definitely missed a golden opportunity – oh well – next time.

During the course of VirtCamp, class members are thrown into social learning activities where they share how they learned what they know and are asked to complete activities in groups where they are given little direction of how to complete the project. It is basically organized chaos. Some people love the open-endedness and interactions and others crave some written directions. There is no better way to reflect on your preferred learning style than to be thrown into a situation where you are challenged to grow and be a learner again. Most of the people in the program are K-12, Higher Ed or corporate trainers and I am sure they are used to being the experts and “knowing how to do it all”. Being placed back in a position of a learner is good for educators. I think it is critical to experience and remember the feelings of nervousness, fear, frustration, exhilaration, and sense of accomplishment. It will make each of use more sensitive to the learners in our environment.

My main role was to assist the new students when they needed help with communication tools, setting up blogs, designing websites or answering basic questions. The students were eager to learn and there was A LOT to learn in a short amount of time. After teaching someone how to set up a template in Dreamweaver or how to add tags to a blog entry I found myself saying to them, OK now, pay it forward. Teach this skill to at least one other class member”. I am happy to say that after two or three days I observed many new Dreamweaver templates, lots of interesting blogs and many new skills being shared with classmates.

Just think. Individually we know a lot – but what if each of us really takes on the theme of “Pay it forward”. Collectively we know so much more and we can accomplish a great deal together. The OMET program embraces social learning at it’s best. Educators can learn a great deal from each other if we take the time to share best practices and be open to learning.

Pay it forward!

Sharing Web 2.0 tools – wikis

I’ve been sharing some of my favorite Web 2.0 tools lately and I’ve been reflecting how my learning has changed during the past year because of these communication tools. Before I start my list I want to share about the SEOmoz Web 2.0 Awards. The site gives you the best of the best of Web 2.0 tools as voted on by 25 knowledgable users. I have to say that for the tools that I am familiar with – I mostly agree but I also learned a ton of new tools to check out. These posts will discuss the various tools I use and why. Simply put, a wiki is a very simple web page.

Wiki – I like wikispaces. It’s free for teachers and simple to use. It doesn’t have a lot of formatting features but it gets the job done. I heard a presentation given by Adam Frey (the founder of wikispaces) at NECC on EdTechLive. It’s great to hear how wikispaces is trying to meet the needs of teachers and improve their product.You use wikis for any type of document that you want several people to access and edit. I have used them with my students when groups are planning and organizing projects – that way everyone can add their comments or easily participate. Here is a simple video from The Common Craft Show that will explain the basics of how wikis work.

Wikis aren’t just for planning. They can be the platform for classroom projects too. Let’s say that each student has chosen a specific topic in class. An easy way to share information is to place each project on a wiki and have every student’s project linked on the side navigation bar. This will encourage students to view each other’s work and even add comments if the pages are open for editing (peer review). I’ve heard of other teachers using wikis for cross-class collaboration – like the Flat Classroom project.

Wikis are great for staff development. By encouraging teachers to share their knowledge by using a wiki – you are helping to foster a community of practice where sharing is the standard and knowledge management is well organized and expected. Don’t just place a lot of links – document class/school procedures, share tips, collaborate on curriculum planning, plan staff parties, outlinefor staff development and more!

Some other great wiki tools:

“You learn from the company you keep”

The book of learning and forgettingFrank Smith writes in his book “The Book of Learning and Forgetting” that we learn from those around us and those with whom we identify ourselves with. Simply put, you learn from the company you keep. This type of learning is natural and long-term. We learn continuously and without noticeable effort.

Any of us who have observed students learning a new video game or how to upload music to their iPod understand that today’s students are natural learners – and it all seems so effortless. They are interested, motivated, and they know who are the experts – their friends. To watch one teenager teach another how to do something is amazing – they seem to be able to explain it in a way that others understand and without much fuss.

I think that we educators can learn a lot from watching students learn in this “classic view” of learning. Our main job is to create an environment where this type of learning is encouraged and expressed – not repressed. Student-centered learning means that the focus is on the learner – not the teacher and how the material is presented. The emphasis is on how the student is learning, the choices they have for expressing their learning, and how the teacher comes to understand that the student is learning.

Technology has long been an integral component of a learner-centered environment. It’s not the “tool” of the computer that makes it work – it the communication and the authenticity of the work that makes it real. Students who use Web 2.0 tools like social networking sites, IM and video/podcasts can share their original thoughts and ideas with the world and gather real feedback and responses from interested individuals. The conversations that get started are interesting and the students are eager and motivated to respond back – it seems effortless – Smith would call it learning.

When our students look forward to communicating with their peers about what they are learning and are given opportunities to construct meaningful knowledge (that has nothing to do with answers on a standardized test) – we can be assured that this type of learning will be long-term because the learner has identified himself/herself as a learner.

It’s exciting to join the world of edtech bloggers – especially when new sites like EduBloggerWorld was created by Steve Hargadon and friends. I look forward to participating and having conversations with my fellow bloggers.

Welcome to, an international network for educational bloggers and friends. A meeting place, as well as a coordinating location for live face-to-face and virtual events.

If you would like to join go to and invite me to be your friend!