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January, 2009:

Why Do I Twitter My Time Away?

I’ve asked myself that question several times. At one point, I even said that Twitter is the biggest waste of time and technology I have ever seen. I’ve talked to several other Twitter users that felt the same way when they started using Twitter. My attitude about Twitter has changed. I now like, enjoy and use Twitter every day. More importantly the value of Twitter in my professional life has changed.

Why do I Twitter my time away? Here are my top ten reasons for using Twitter.

  1. Twitter connects me to my face-to-face and virtual friends.
  2. It builds my network of professionals from around the world.
  3. I stay in touch with people who have attended one or more of my workshops using Twitter.
  4. It connects me to well-known gurus and experts in my field that I would never get a chance to talk to or visit with on a regular basis. These are two gurus I follow: Guy Kawasaki, David Weinberger and many others.
  5. I maintain contact with my friends and learn the little things that are going on in their lives through our short comments.
  6. Everyday I have up to two hundred and eighty two people exploring the web and telling me all of the great resources they find. They link to tools, great blog postings, news articles, resources and all types of fine gems.
  7. Also, they make me laugh. This was shared on Twitter yesterday: Always check your child’s Work
  8. My friends/followers answer questions when I ask them.
  9. Twitter allows me to share my thoughts and ideas quickly and without a lot of efforts.
  10. Most importantly, my “friends” on Twitter share what they know and they care about others.

In reality, the last item is why I use Twitter.

My question for  you is: “Why don’t you Twitter your time away?”

Jim

(Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jimwenz)

Maybe I’m the Slow Kid

On the CAST web site they introduce Differentiated Instruction by stating:

Not all students are alike. Based on this knowledge, differentiated instruction applies an approach to teaching and learning so that students have multiple options for taking in information and making sense of ideas.

Teachers some times think they are being asked to “water” down the curriculum and that differentiated instruction is for the special education or slower students in the class. It is really for everyone. The recent cold weather brought me to a great example of differentiated instruction on a personal level. When I want to know the weather forecast for my city I always use the National Weather Service (NOAA) web site (www.weather.gov).

During may last visit to the site, I thought this is a great way to look at differentiated instruction. People like different representations of the weather. You may like one or more of the following four or more ways the weather is represented on the weather.gov site.

Method One:

Images and brief text:

weather-1

This is a pretty typical way the weather is represented in the newspaper and on popular weather websites. It gives you a nice glance at the five day forecast.

Method Two:

More days, but all text.

weather-2

Notice that you get a little more detail. It takes a little longer to read the forecast than to look at the images.

Method Three:

The big picture using radar and Satellite Images.

weather-3A bigger picture and more complicated. You have regional radar and wide satellite images and if you know weather patterns or watch the radar loop, you can see the movement of storms.

Method Four:

This is the forecast I use. It makes the most sense to me. You can find it under “Additional Forecast and Information” the third listing on the left, Hourly Weather Graph.

weather-4

You will get these two graphs and five more. The two graphs shown here show an hour by hour view of the temperature, wind chill, dew point, wind speed, wind direction, and wind gust. The other five graphs show more data. I like it because I can view the change in the forecast over time.

How does this relate to differentiated instruction? If you read through this long-winded (pun intended) post, you most likely thought of the method you like best. You picked the one that gave you the information you needed to know and a way you can grasp what the weather forecast is for the next few days.

I happen to like Method Four. Then again, maybe I am just the slow kid in the class. Wouldn’t it be great if we took the power of technology to help represent information in different ways for different students? Instruction using audio, video, text, animations, pictures, or a combination of all of them. We don’t need to create all the content. Some is created and if we learn to share we can all create part of it.

Jim

PS Special thanks to Brian Montgomery from the National Weather Service for teaching me more about weather than any science teacher I ever had in school.

Transparency and Change

President Obama’s first day in office has been one of change and transparency.
The Whitehouse web site that was completely reformatted the day Obama took office promises communication, transparency, and participation. School administrators should look closely at the new Whitehouse site to see how they could change their districts web presence to include those three elements. The web site is great and holds a lot of promise. President Obama is also posting his weekly talks to YouTube.com. This is a major change from the Saturday radio broadcasts used by other Presidents.

We can use President Obama’s strategies in education to bring about change and to make what we do more transparent to our parents and community. We have the technology. We have the skills. We have all we need to change how we communicate. We need the same sense of urgency that the economic crisis has brought to the White House. It will take leadership by our administrators and a commitment from your staff, but it can be done and it won’t cost money. As they say in the Nike ads “Just do It!”

Where do you start?

  • Set up an administrative blog with all the central administrators as authors. Post all news items and events to the blog. Be informal and avoid jargon. The blog is a place to bring people into your school. Make them feel welcome not ignorant.
  • Use more than text. Include audio, videos and images whenever you can. They are more interesting than plain text. Learn how to create “podcasts” that can be attached to your blog or featured on iTunes.
  • Keep your post short. The Japanese have a philosophy that less is more. That is true with communication also. Tell one story or make one point per post. You can always write about another idea or event the next day. By keeping the post short, it won’t seem like a large task to add something new.
  • Involve students. Parents attend school events that feature their children. Post pictures of students who earn awards, do community service, or participate in great classroom projects. One superintendent featured videos of him being interviewed by students.
  • Use your traditional communication tools to advertise your blog. After a year, decide what “old ways” you can give abandon.
  • Model how you want your principals and teachers to use technology.

Lit2Go: Audio books for the Classroom

Lit2Go is an excellent collection of free audio books for education. The collection is sorted by grades ranging from Kindergarten to twelfth grade. It also has a smaller collection of audio books in Spanish. The books range to simple nursery rhymes to non-fiction recordings on mathematics, history, and other topics. It is a great place to start your school collection of audio books and files. The nice thing is that it is free!

You can access these audio files via the Lit2Go website or using iTunes. There are advantages to both methods.

1. iTunes: Open iTunes and go to the iTunes. Then use the search box in the upper right hand corner and search for Lit2Go. You will get two items as a result of your search. Click on Lit2Go: Audio Files for K-12. The advantage of using iTunes is that you can easily organize your Lit2Go file into Playlist for exporting to CD’s or to iPods that your students can use in school and on iPods that can be checked out from the library. (iTunes is a free download for Windows or Macintosh Computers.

2. Lit2Go website: The website has a very nice search form for finding what you want. You can search using any one or more of the following: Titles, Authors, Keywords or Reading Level. The advantage of the web site is that you can also download a written version of the story if you want your students to follow along as they listen to the story.

I would use iTunes to find the stories I wanted to use with my class and then go to the web site to find the written story if I wanted a copy of the story.

Lit2Go is a great way to provide students with stories and good literature to listen to and read. Most homes have CD players or MP3 players so they can use these files at home. Parents can listen and read with their children to extend reading practice beyond the classroom.

In the upper grades, using MP3 players is a good way to introduce new authors to students. Also, some students say they get teased if they are reading on the bus on the way home. They don’t get teased if they have earphones in their ears.

Sample Kindergarten Nursery Rhyme.

MP3 A Diller a Dollar

PDF A Diller a Dollar

Hope you can find a use for this resource,

Jim

The Networked Student

I really enjoyed this student-created video. I thought I should share it with you. As I watched the video, I couldn’t help thinking that I would love my child to have this teacher. The video illustrates what the outcome might be if we taught students how to use the network as a place to learn. I think it shows some of the possibilities of the tools we all talk about using in class.

Let me know what you thought about this as you watched the video. Are there other videos you think I should watch?

Have your students create “The __________ Student”. You fill in the technology; blogging, podcasting, storytelling, movie making, or your idea.

Jim

Looking for a Job?

I was doing a workshop in the Chicago area and two of the participants asked me how they find people who are aware of new technologies and teaching strategies. I said the best place is online and that I would be wiling to share the application. So I am posting this to my blog and to Twitter to see if it will attract some good people to apply.

From the District:

The vacancy has been posted at: http://www.nssd112.org  (employment, job openings)

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D.
Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Services
North Shore School District 112
1936 Green Bay Road – Highland Park, IL 60035
(847) 681-6700, ext. 204, fax 681-6712
http://www.nssd112.org

JOB GOAL:
The Director of Technology will be primarily responsible for providing leadership and guidance
to the Technology Department, including the development of the overall technology strategy and the implementation of district-wide computing and network infrastructure that supports academic and administrative technology. In addition, he/she will be responsible for the coordination of technological applications in the operations of the district, and for the development,  implementation and evaluation of a long range plan for the application of computers and technology in all district programs, instructional and administrative.

QUALIFICATIONS:
Proven record of dynamic leadership in the fields of instructional and information technology
assessment; excellent interpersonal and communication skills; strong knowledge of instructional materials, both print and electronic; successful experience in education; ability to supervise staff and, be part of an effective management team; ability to work well in a professional community with high expectations for its students and schools.

1.     Minimum of (5) years of leadership and supervisory experience in an information tech.
department &/or school leadership position, K-12 teaching and/or admin. experience preferred
2.     Bachelor’s degree in information systems, computer science or information technology or
related field or equivalent experience, master’s degree preferred
3.     Demonstrated knowledge and experience in managing an information technology organization
including budgeting (operating and capital) and expense control, effective communications,
contracting, human resource management, public relations and outreach
4.    Proven ability to design and implement organization technology initiatives in a broad
range
of services including telecommunications, instructional and administrative systems,
instructional media  services, and distance learning technology
5.    Experience with network capacity planning, network security principles, and general
network administration
6.    Must possess excellent organizational and writing skills and the ability to prioritize and
direct and manage multiple complex, simultaneous tasks and projects
7.    Excellent interpersonal, communication (verbal and written) and collaboration skills
8.    Comprehensive knowledge of computer systems, especially Apple Macintosh OSX and OSX
Server.

JOB RESPONSIBILITIES:
Supervises, plans, directs, trains and evaluates the technology department staff and other staff
as assigned.  These duties include but are not limited to:

1.    Foster a collaborative work environment among technology staff (District and school
levels)
2.    Create energy and momentum within the teams
3.    Manage employee relations within the department effectively and productively
4.    Create metrics to constantly evaluate effectiveness; identify opportunities to elevate
performance and develop strategies, tactics and tools to do so
5.    Ensure that end users receive consistent high quality, reliable and friendly customer
service from technical staff
6.    Advises administration on short and long term technology needs of the District toward the
realization of 21st Century learning environments for every learner and leader.
7.    Implement procedures and assist leadership for innovative educational and administrative
use of technology.
8.    Assist in the design, construction, maintenance and sustainability of a robust information
infrastructure that supports technology-rich learning environments and efficient  administrative
systems.

VISION AND PLANNING:
1.    Provide vision, strategic direction and operational leadership for the Information
Technology Department in support of District 112’s vision, mission, and goals
2.    Coordinate and maintain District 112’s information technology plan
3.    Set annual goals, operational objectives, priorities, strategic approach, and budget
requirements in accordance with the District 112’s information technology and strategic plans
4.    Initiate and direct technical projects in support of District 112’s strategic and
operational goals
5.    Design and implement business continuity planning and disaster/failure recovery procedures
and security  protocols
6.    Develop, monitor, and update information technology policies and procedures to support
the district’s technology needs in support of teaching, learning, and management needs.
7.    Develop and administer a comprehensive security program to protect information integrity
and ensure compliance with federal privacy requirements-the Children’s Internet Protection Act
(CIPA),
the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the Family Educational Rights and
Privacy Act (FERPA)
8.    Develop, manage, and monitor the department’s budget and oversee District 112’s
participation in the E-Rate Program
9.    Consult regularly with senior level administrators to identify where technology can help
meet individual department / committee educational and managerial goals and needs, and consult with district administration and staff in the development of grant proposals.

SALARY:
Regionally competitive, with a minimum of $90,000 year, plus an attractive package that includes
fully paid pension contributions, and other benefits including fully paid medical and dental
insurance in a 12 month administrative or supervisory contract

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION:
January 30, 2009

Application Procedure:
Please apply online at www.nssd12.org An administrative selection team including the
Superintendent of Schools will review applications and a member of the selection team will call
select candidates in for interviews. The Superintendent will make a final recommendation to the
Board of Education for hire.

And What Can I do for You?

If you have browsed through the business books in your local bookstore you have most likely seen one or more of Seth Godin’s books. He is a marketing guru. Seth talks about marketing in new ways since TV commercials don’t work like they used to work. Although he is talking about marketing, I think his message applies to selling your ideas on line and at your school.

If nothing else you’ll love his glasses.

Seth Godin on social networking.

How can you help your principal be successful?

How can you help the teacher next door improve her/his lesson?

How can we help each other be successful?

The more you give the more you get.

Jim

Just One Click

Help Kiva and Save the Children with just one mouse click. Intel is giving Kiva or Save the Children five cents every time someone clicks a button on their “Small Things Challenge.” They will donate up to $75,000.00 dollars each quarter this year. (A good math exercise for your students to figure out how many clicks it will take.)

From the Kiva Newsletter:

This month Intel launched the Small Things Challenge, a partnership between Intel, Kiva and Save the Children.
You can participate by visiting the Small Things Challenge website today and clicking the “we’ll donate 5 cents for you” button on the Web site. Intel will donate 5 cents for every person who clicks on the button – up to $75,000 per quarter this year to be split equally between Kiva and Save the Children. That’s a lot of clicks so you can get started right away!
The Small Things Challenge is a multi-faceted program appealing directly to individuals worldwide to get involved by providing micro-loans through Kiva as well as donating to Save the Children. Click here to watch video of Intel Chairman Craig Barrett announcing the partnership, with the assistance of Adam Duritz of Counting Crows and Adam Levine of Maroon 5, at the 2009 International CES tradeshow in Las Vegas.

So click once at “Small Things Challenge.” and then spread the word through your blog, Twitter, school, Facebook, Ning or your face-to-face friends.

It is a small thing to do for two great organizatiosn. You can also go to Kiva or Save the Children and make a donation. We have created a Building Learning Communities Team on Kiva and would be happy to have you join our team. November Learning will match the first thousand dollars donated by team members to Kiva. Currently our team has loaned $850.00, so loan $25 and November Learning will loan $25.

Just to add a little humor to giving five cents. You may enjoy this Dilbert Cartoon.

Dilbert.com

So a little at a time can create a big number. Please share the Small Things Challenge with others.

Jim

Screencasting With Jing

Jing Gets Even Better

TechSmith just released a Professional version of Jing. The good news is the Jing software we have all grown to love is still free. Just in case you haven’t used Jing, Jing is a free screen-recording program from TechSmith. It will record anything you do on your computer along with your voice. Besides recording movies it will also capture and allow you to annotate images. Both are excellent ways to create videos or tell stories. It is available for free at the Jing website. This week they introduced Jing Pro*. You can continue using the free version. So what do you get if you upgrade to the $14.98/year pro version. Here are four things I really like. I’m sure there are more.

1. It records in MPEG-4 instead of just flash. This not only decreases file size but allows you to edit the file in iMovie or using other video editing programs.

2. You can export your video from your desktop to YouTube right from Jing Pro.

3. Jing now provides the embed code for you to use to insert video from their storage site,

4. You can create new buttons for controlling the output of what you create.

Those are four things I like and I have only had the program for a few days. I’m sure you will find other great features. If you haven’t used Jing give it a try. Also, if you are using Jing and like it, you should consider upgrading to Jing Pro.

* Disclaimer: TechSmith was nice enough to give me an account to try out the pro version. I’m writing this because I think it is a great program not because of saving a few dollars. Just wanted to be up front about it.

Student Storybooks

Student publishing and writing for an authentic audience has been a theme of many of my blog posts and my presentations. That’s why I was excited when I discovered Tikatok.com. The lead sentence on their web site is “Tikatok™ is where kids channel their imagination into stories – and publish those stories into books for you to share and treasure with friends and family.” I looked at some of the books and they were lovely. They are short stories illustrated with crayon and pencil drawings and some photos. The image below shows two pages of a book from their site. I thought this was a great concept and wanted to learn more.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking to Katie Cowan Porro from Tikatok, Inc. about their website. She is the VP of Marketing and School Programs at Tikatok.com. Tikatok is a web site that helps students create storybooks. They have over 800 elementary teachers registered for their site and the company is only a year old. Their main audience is classes in grades 2-6. However, any level could create a book. You can use their site for free to create stories and publish an online book. Parents or the school can purchase printed copies. Katie indicated they do give discounts if you are ordering multiple books.

As Katie explained the process to me, it sounds fairly simple. The teacher signs up his/her class on the site. Then will get a temporary username and password to share with your students. The students then log in and create an individual username and password. They will use their personal account to create their book. All of the student accounts are linked to the teacher account so the teacher can view their work and decide when the book is ready for publishing. Once the book is published parents, friends, and relatives can view the book online or purchase a print copy of the book. I can imagine the excitement in a classroom on the day all the books are published and students could read each others books online. It would be a fun day.

I fell in love with the drawings and the stories that I read on their site. What a great way to engage students in writing at an early age. Let me know if your students publish books on Tikatok. I would be glad to send them a review.


Jim