Monday, May 21, 2012

3 Reasons You Should Be Using QR Codes In Your Classroom

What is black, white and scanned all over?  QR Codes and they are here to stay.
QR code

What are QR Codes?

QR stands for Quick Response Code which allows the scanner to receive information quickly. Denso Wave, a Toyota company based in Japan, created QR Codes to track their automotive parts. Since QR Codes are two dimensional, scanning both vertically and horizontally, they can store more information than the traditional one dimensional bar code. As a result of free QR Code Reader software for smartphones, iPads, and computers, QR Codes have become popular for advertisers, businesses and educators.

Why are QR Codes perfect to motivate digital natives?
  • They are novel.  The  mind LOVES to be curious. Why do you think the newest restaurants and movies are always packed? Because curiosity is a natural motivator to force people to take action.  Don't wait until the novelty of QR Codes wears off. Start creating your own codes and watch students beg for more!
  • They are mysterious.   You get to control where each QR Code takes the students so you can make every QR Code link to something different. One QR Code may take a student to a website to extend the content while another QR Code will take the student to a recorded tutorial to scaffold practice.  What better way to peak a student's curiosity than with a novel black and white square?
  • They are engaging. QR Codes are meaningless black and white squares unless students take action to scan them. They can serve as a reminder that engagement is the key factor in comprehension. Create an environment that forces students to engage in their learning by giving them just the QR Code. It is the students job to scan the code to discover directions, expectations, or links to targeted websites.
How to use QR Codes in the classroom?

Last week I posted a few ideas to get you started. Click here to read the post.  If you already read the post and want more ideas, click here for a quick Google search result of QR Codes for classroom use.  If you still feel uncomfortable creating and using QR Codes, challenge your students to become QR Code Crazy. 
  1. Put students into teams of three. 
  2. Have them search for a website, video, blog or song that represents the current topics you are studying.
  3. Ask them to create a QR Code that links to that online site using .
  4. Have them save the QR Code and then print it out.
  5. Finally have students create three to four clues that describe where their QR Code is linked.
  6. As each team finishes, they share their clues with the rest of the class. The team that correctly guesses where the QR Code leads, gets to scan the code.
QR Codes are novel, mysterious and engaging. Take action and create your own QR Codes today! Next week's blog will focus on how is the perfect site for educational QR Codes. If you like this post, share it with your colleagues and ask them to join my weekly newsletter. Together we can put the cool, back into school.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

3 Ways to Reduce Repeating Directions

Are you tired of repeating literacy station directions? How about students turning in unfinished homework because they couldn't remember what to do? QR Codes will reduce and maybe even prevent you from ever having to repeat directions again.Don't believe me? Watch this quick video about a class that is QR CRAZY! They sound pretty cool don't they? QR stands for Quick Response Codes. They were designed to allow a smartphone quick access to information without typing in a website or phone number. If you don't have a smartphone (you can use a webcam on your computer, an iPod Touch, or an iPad tablet) keep reading because you will want to get one after you hear how a QR Code will make your students sit up and listen to your directions! Here are three ideas to get you started:
1. Classroom Library:Want to get students excited about reading? Create a QR Code that links students to a book trailer or an author's website. Put the QR Codes on the book or bookshelf next to the books by that author. Students scan the code, view the video and decide if the book sounds interesting. You will never have to give directions for how to choose the right book. Check out Dover Town Library's use of QR Codes:
2. Tutorial on Worksheets:Unfortunately many students don't have the extra support they need at home. You can create short tutorials or take pictures of the solution to math problems and turn them into QR codes. If students get stuck, they can scan the QR Code for help. I would suggest using to create the QR Code because the site tracks who and when it was scanned. This way you can tell if a student scanned the code. The days of going over homework in class are over! Watch this video to get some ideas: Click here for step by step directions.
3. Scavenger Hunt:Send students around the school, playground, or classroom by linking each QR code to a clue. After students complete the station, they scan the QR Code to discover where they should go next. You will never have to repeat directions for which station comes next. McGuffey School District in Claysville, PA has implemented many ways to use QR Codes in every subject. This video was created in 2010!

QR Codes are novel, fun, and easy to use. Remember to share the fun with other educators through your social media sites. If you want to learn more about QR codes, continue to follow the next few blogs as I get more detailed about QR Codes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

3 Tech Tools To End Your School Year With A Bang

Have your students become restless and apathetic toward learning?  Are you counting down the last few days of school? Put the pleasure back into learning by taking these three technology tools on a test drive.

During the 1920s, cars weren't used for practical purposes like going to the grocery store or getting to work, they were used to give the driver pleasure. Car owners would take their car on a leisurely test drive Sunday afternoons. This type of recreational driving was created to enjoy the beauty of the landscape. There was no pre-established destination and therefore, no expected time of arrival.

The last few weeks of school is the perfect time to test drive technology. Don't create a project with a due date, just enjoy the beauty of the online landscape.

1. Year in Review: Ask students to pick their favorite topic or the subject in which they learned the most and display their thoughts by making a 30 second video with Animoto offers free accounts to educators (scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on Education). All pictures, videos, and music can be accessed right from the site, no scanning, filming or downloading necessary. Click here to view a past blog about animoto.
2. Curriculum Notetaker: Why not create a classroom blog to keep parents informed of daily activities and hold students accountable for taking notes during class.There are wonderful classroom blogs already established to help you get started. Click here to see Miss McFatridge's 4th grade student led blog created on offers free accounts but may be blocked by some schools. If it is, check out which offers the same services as a blog with a facebook structure. I have two past blogs that will give you more information, just click on the blog type you are interested in using: Blogger or Edmodo
3. Recreate Reports: If you want to take the fear out of giving a report, require students to create their own Avatar. is another free site for educators and offers detailed lesson plans for classroom use. Have fun exploring different voices and famous faces. Students type in their report and then sit back while their Avatar shares the information with the class. Vokis can be embedded into blogs and other online sites. For more information, click here for a past blog about avatars.

In 1903, Michigan Savings Bank said, "The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad." In 1977, Ken Olson said, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. " You can't afford to think like these naysayers. Be an innovative, creative educator by taking these technology tools on a leisurely test drive.

I would love to hear about your results. Pop over to my facebook page and tell me about your discoveries.

Monday, April 23, 2012

3 Steps to Lift the Fog of Finals

Do you feel overwhelmed by your finals?
It's easy to give up if you can't see the finish line.

The beginning of an article by Randy Alcom reminds us of the importance of perseverance.In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away.

At a news conference the next day she said, “All I could see was the fog.…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

1. Create a vision board and look at it often to remind yourself of your finish line.
2. Don't let little things like your cell phone, facebook, and laziness hold you back. Make a decision to remove distractions and stick to your radical schedule.
3. Get energized before you study by listening to upbeat music, jumping up and down, or taking a quick walk outside.

Your finish line is right around the corner. Start studying today and enjoy the joy that comes with your accomplishments.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How To Apply The 5 Steps Of FLIRT To College Reading

As a college student you are regularly assigned to read designated chapters for that particular course. Reading multiple books from different classes can be somewhat difficult and confusing. Applying the FLIRT system before you read can really help you understand the text. Here are the five steps to becoming a successful reader:

Find The Form: Preview the text to determine the genre demands and establish your reading behaviors. (Example: non-fiction, fiction, poetry, etc.)

Look At The Text Features: Skim the text features to create interest and identify essential themes.

Identify Connections: Make connections to determine what you already know about the topic and identify difficult sections.

Reveal The Purpose: Ask questions to set a purpose and to anticipate the author’s point of view.

Transfer To Organizer: Scan for transition words to determine the external structure and establish a system for organizing new information.

In conclusion, FLIRTing with the text is a great way to become familiar with the reading for a better and complete understanding. By following these guidelines you are guaranteed satisfaction in understanding the whole text.

This was a guest blog by colleget student, Adrien Pagan. I would love to hear your secrets for preparing your mind to read. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter for more tips to become a better student.

5 Easy Ways to FLIRT With the Text

There are five methods you use to FLIRT with the text. Flirting with the text is the beginning stage when you start to read a book. FLIRT helps you understand the reading and what you want to know. The five stages of FLIRT are find the form, look at the text features, identify connections, reveal the purpose, and transfer to organizer. If you noticed FLIRT stands for the beginning letter in each of the stages.

The fist stage is Find the Form. What does it mean when it says find the form? Finding the form of the text is when you try and determine the genre of the text. You go through the text and look at the title, headings, and anything else that stands out in bold print. This will help you figure out what kind of reading that you will be doing and what kind of p[ace you need to read at.

The second stage is Look at the Text Features. At this step you look at how the text is structured. You look if it is has paragraphs or if it has one paragraph. You also look for bolded words or different headings to see what the text is like. In this step all you are doing is skimming the text for the different text features. Most of the time you are looking for bolded words for this part of the section.

The third stage is Identify Connections. In this stage you are looking at the headings and bolded words and making connections on them. You are using your past knowledge or experiences and connecting them with the words in the text. You can look at the pictures and other things in the text and connect to them. Usually the pictures in a text are easier to connect to because you can visualize them easier by seeing everything.

The fourth stage is Reveal the Purpose. In this stage you are determining what the author wants you to know. The author always will show you in the reading what he wants you to know and what the purpose of the text. There is always a purpose to the reading and the author puts clues in the reading to show you that. He/she puts questions at the end of the reading sometimes to hint you the purpose.

The final step is to Transfer to Organizer. In this stage you determine what the author's purpose is, and then that will tell you what type of organizer you need to use. There are all kinds of different organizers that you can use. some of them are compare contrast, description, etc. the organizers will show you what you are going to be looking for in the text. All of these will help you better understand the passage and get you set up with the reading.

This was a guest blog by colleget student, Alex Leland. I would love to hear your secrets for preparing your mind to read. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter for more tips to become a better student.

3 Reasons Why You Should Visualize the Author’s Message

Everyone has had to read something for school. One of these reading assignments at one point probably was difficult to read. And now that most of us are in college the reading assignments are just going to get harder and harder. That’s why when you read you should visualize the author’s message. Here are three reasons why you should visualize the message.

1.) Pictures are a Brain’s Best friend – When you are reading your brain favors pictures over text. This engages your brain in what you are learning. The visuals; pictures, charts, maps, graphs, etc.; all help you realize what is important, and your brain will thank you!

2.) Graphic Organizers = Focused! – Using graphic organizers keeps your ideas clear and concise. When you choose the graphic organizers you have to make sure you use the right kind. For example, if you read something that has problems and then a solution for those problems you would want to use a diagram as shown (Fig 1.). When you are organizing your thoughts make sure to place them in a usable, non-confusing way that makes it easier to use.

3.) Visuals Make You Remember! – The visuals help you remember the new information, because you can quickly visual the pictures before you can text. When you are reading and taking notes pictures can make new confusing ideas into easy-to-understand pictures.

The author’s message can be confusing but using the visuals within the text helps to turn confusion into understanding. Pictures, graphic organizers, and other visuals help with your understanding. A picture is worth a thousand words, so why read those thousand words when you can see them in a picture!

This was a guest blog by colleget student, Britteny Smith . I would love to hear your secrets for visualizing the author's message. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter for more tips to become a better student.

3 Reasons a Radical Routine is Essential for Scheduling Your School Work

If you’re constantly stressed over getting all of your school work done on time, a radical routine is a great thing for yourself to create.

By having a structured plan you eliminate procrastination and give your mind time to rest and relax avoiding stress. Having a structured plan is very important when it comes to your success in college.

By having a routine and a structured time do complete the work in every class nothing will ever get left out. Being reminded of your work becomes second nature and really helps take the stress off. A big problem for students is procrastination. Having a radical routine is a great way to avoid this problem. I find that I do my best work when I take my time and do not rush through assignments. Always allowing yourself plenty of time to do so is a great thing that a radical routine does for you. All your work is done good and correctly, on time every day of every week.

Rest and relaxation is also very important in the everyday life of a college student. With this schedule you allow yourself plenty of time to do other activities that don’t involve school work to make sure you are relaxed and well rested. All of these reduce the stress that you have and no stress equals better success in a college environment.

This was a guest blog by colleget student, Eric Sowers. I would love to hear your secrets for creating a radical routine. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter for more tips to become a better student.

3 Quick Guidelines to Review with Note Cards

If you hate to study, try note cards for a quick and easy tool.

1.) Narrow your focus by breaking down what you read so you can get a better understanding of what you just read.

2.) They are easy to practice from and in many ways. You can make flashcards because note cards are two sided. You can take them anywhere and "Practice on the go". You also can make a group game so you don't have to study alone.

3.) They help you memorize what you read. So you're not lost or confused. They can also help you increase your memory. That way you will know the main points.

This was a guest blog by colleget student, Sarah Fields. I would love to hear your secrets for creating note cards. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter for more tips to become a better student.

How To Prepare For Finals with 3 Quick Tips

1.Obtain A Study Guide Try to obtain a study guide of what exactly is going to be on the finals. This will tell you what words, ideas, concepts, diagrams, etc. to study. Instead of reading over all the materials you learned in the class, you can target your main focus on the given topics.

2. Review Previous Tests & Quizzes Be sure to look over your old test and quizzes. Most likely the professor will use the same questions from previously tested material for the final. By looking over your test and quizzes, you’ll have an upper hand and a better idea of what questions will be on the final.

3.Clarify Confusing Ideas and Concepts Now that you know exactly what’s going to be tested on the final, you can look over any ideas or concepts that you may be having trouble with. Look in the textbook, research online, or even ask your professor to help clarify anything that is confusing.

These three tips are quick and efficient. Instead of going through all of your papers and notes, you will know exactly what to study, so it will save you time. Following these three tips will help you successfully prepare for your finals.

This was a guest blog by colleget student, Alex Tran. I would love to hear your secrets for preparing for finals. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter for more tips to become a better student.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

3 Secrets to Speed Up Your Studying

We’ve all been taught that reducing, reusing, and recycling can help us in the long run. We never thought that those same techniques can be used throughout college. By applying reduce, reuse, and the recycle techniques, you will be able to study in a fast and more efficient way.

1. When you reduce, you are condensing the information that you were given. Searching for key points and repeated ideas is an important step in this process. It is important to know the passage’s main ideas, so you can know exactly what it is, you need to take and learn from it. Looking at the passage’s text features can also be of help. Graphs, charts, pictures, and examples throughout the text can show you what is important and show you what you need to know. It will help you focus on the key point so your mind won’t get scattered and can remain organized. Condensing the amount of information that is given can make it easier to understand, and more importantly to remember.

2. When you reuse, you look for anything on the pages of the text that can help you get an understanding of what the key points are. Once again, looking at the pages text features can tell you exactly what you need to know or what to pay attention to while reading. Looking at the titles, headings, and subheadings can help you have an understanding of what it is that you are reading and what you are looking for. Reading the introductory paragraphs, the chapters questions, captions, and conclusion can keep your mind aware of the main idea of why you are reading. Looking at the features can help limit your reading, while you still have the best understanding of what you are reading. This technique will be proven to be more efficient in the long run.

3. When you recycle, you have a clear understanding of the information you need and don’t need, so you can toss out the useless information. Once you have all the information that you were given it is time to link that new knowledge to your already existing knowledge, or your prior knowledge. It is important for you to link these two so you can have a relative understanding of the information you’ve obtained. Once you have a relative understanding of the subject, the information becomes easier to access when it comes to using it. You will have a better understanding of what you have read, and it will not only make it easier for the upcoming test but also the chapters to follow.

The 3R’s aren’t just to help us protect our planet; it is also to help us with studying. These techniques can come in handy no matter what you are studying. The next time you find it challenging to study, give the 3R’s a try. See exactly how useful those tools can be.

This was a guest blog by colleget student, Sabrina Butts. I would love to hear your secrets for speeding up your study time. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter for more tips to become a better student.

Monday, April 2, 2012

4C's for Relevant Teaching

I feel like I am drowning in the letter C. First the message was, "Make sure students can COMPREHEND what they read." Then I was told to, "strengthen CORE instruction through CORE reading programs." Next I heard about teaching 21st CENTURY skills through, "COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION, CRITICAL THINKING, and CREATIVITY." Now, the whole nation seems to be getting involved with the adoption of the, "COMMON CORE state standards". Are there any more C's left? This blog attempts to put all the recent talk into a simple plan.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has built a simple framework of lessons that blend these C's into four main topics:

1. Communication: Sharing thoughts, questions, ideas and solutions
2. Collaboration: Working together to reach a goal - putting talent, expertise, and smarts to work
3. Critical Thinking: Looks at problems in a new way, linking learning across subjects and disciplines. One sample lesson suggests students visit and select a person to support. Each group creates a presentation to persuade classmates to choose that proposal.
4. Creativity: Trying new approaches to get things done equals innovation and invention.Help students bring the text to life by visiting these sites. Google Lit Trips provides a new approach to reading. There is also Google Historical Voyages and Events for history teachers.

For the iPad generation and those who educate them, what does it mean to be literate? Yesterday’s definition is no longer relevant and tomorrow’s definition hasn’t been created. Given the ever-changing definition of literacy, perhaps it is easier to define the set of skills needed to be literate rather than defining literacy itself.

Keep in mind, each C requires a lot of modeling, practice, and facilitation. Without a teaCher, C is just a letter. Let me know how you use these four C's in your classroom.

Monday, March 26, 2012

3 Instructional Models for Using the Internet in UR Classroom

Dr. Donald Leu has written numerous articles and books about new literacies in the classroom. This blog focuses on three different instructional models an educator should use throughout the school year. Each model provides a different Internet experience and provides a continuum of teacher control from most controlled (Internet Workshop) to least controlled (Internet Inquiry).

If you are an auditory or visual learner, click this link to watch a collection of short videos in which Dr. Leu explains each model in detail.

1. Internet Workshop - consists of an independent reading of information on the Internet around a topic and a location initially designated by the teacher; it concludes with a short workshop session where students can share and exchange the ideas and strategies they discovered during their work on the Internet. (reading, navigation, critical literacy)For more information, check out this article.

2. Internet Project - engages students in classrooms at different locations in collaborative work to solve a common problem or explore a common topic. (collaborative skills)There are two different types of projects:
a. Web-site projects which are permanent, ongoing projects for world wide use
b. Temporary projects - created by the teacher for classroom use
For more information reading this article.

3. Internet Inquiry – recursive instructional model in which students use the Internet to gather, evaluate, synthesis and communicate information to others (problem identification and research skills)The Big6 model is for students in grades 3 - 12 and Super3 is for students in grades K - 2. For more information, click on this article about Big6 or watch a power point on Super3

Internet Project - Example

Internet Workshop is an instructional model that consists of an independent reading of information on the Internet around a topic and a location initially designated by the teacher; it concludes with a short workshop session where students can share and exchange the ideas and strategies they discovered during their work on the Internet.

Here is an example of an internet workshop I conducted on the research question: Are Cell Phones Safe?

1. I searched to find a video to begin building background knowledge about the process the United States government uses when deciding on laws and regulations for the country.

2. Next I offered several articles for students to read so they could gather information and make informed decisions on this topic. I use an Inquiry Chart to help organize student's notes.

This first link is directly related to the video:
Kelly Gallagher offers wonderful short articles:
A final article links to several opinions on this topic:

3. Finally, students are directed to to leave a comment about their opinion: and then to choose an opposing view point and leave a comment

When teaching students how to learn from the Internet, the Internet Project model can offer structure and teacher control. For more information on Internet Projects, check out:

Monday, March 19, 2012

3 Ideas to Ponder for Game Based Learning

In 2001, Marc Prensky wrote an article about the difference between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Since then he has gone on to be an activist for the importance of game based learning.

If you don't know much about game based learning (GBL), watch this video for a definition and an explanation of three types of GBL.

Here are three ideas to ponder for GBL:
1. Involvement: One cannot play a game without DOING something. Active participation gets students involved in solving real world problems right from their computer. When students are involved in the learning process they are more motivated, build stronger neuro-pathways and remember more.
2. Interest:Lev Vygotsky's zone of proximal development (ZPD) theory states there is a continuum of learning between what the student can do with help to what the student can do without help. When students are in their ZPD, they are interested, involved and willing to take risks. As a result, educators strive to keep a balance between modeling what the students should do, then guiding them while they do it and finally allowing the students to try the activity independently. Unfortunately, every student has a different ZPD, which makes it very difficult for educators to meet every student's needs. GBL allows the computer to match the appropriate level for each student which keeps them in a consistent balanced state of "just right" tasks.
3.Individual FeedbackSharing ideas during class can be extremely risk taking and giving feedback to every student, every minute of class is virtually impossible. However, GBL creates a low risk state because they are only interacting with a computer. GBL also gives incremental feedback regularly. Students are able to monitor their progress as they try different strategies. If the strategy doesn't work, students just restart the game and start again. Each time students pass a level, they are intrinsically motivated to pass the next level.

One of my favorite author's for understanding the how the brain learns is neurologist and teacher, Judy Willis. I feel this whole video is important, however if you are short for time and only want to watch the information about gaming, scroll forward to the 8:40 time.

How do you feel about game based learning? Do you feel there is a place for it in your classroom? What do you think about the role of technology and our students' ability to sustain attention? Leave your comments below or join the conversation on

For more information on GBL, check out

Monday, March 12, 2012

Avatars Recreate Reports

If you are my age, you remember hand drawn cartoons. You learned that artists would slowly and patiently draw page after page of pictures with a slight change to create movement in the character or scenery. Now the cartoons are made digitally. This blog explains my journey of unpacking how they make current cartoons and how I can use this technology in my classroom.

One of the first cartoon movies was Mars Needs Moms. Here is the movie as the actors created it:

And here is the video as I saw it in the movie theatre:

In computing, an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user's alter ego or character. Creating your own avatar can be fun and allow students to add flare to any boring book report. You can also share avatars and embed them into most social media sites.

Using I quickly created an avatar to introduce my students how to RELAX after reading.

Music Can Inspire Interest

Many educators use an alligator to understand the abstract symbol used in math to represent "greater or less than". However, the more sensory pathways you can engage, the easier the brain has to create a new neuro-pathway.

In this tutorial, Kristin Daddario, a first grade teacher at Lincoln Edison Charter School, uses the visual pathway (video and pictures) and auditory pathway(music) to reinforce the concept. Check out the video

The next time you have a boring, abstract concept, use music to inspire interest.

Screencasts made easy

Do you want to flip your classroom but don't want to make the video? You can find tons of videos already made for any age, subject and length. Here is a wonderful example for a kindergarten classroom made by Megan Anderson, a kindergarten teacher at Red Lion School District. Notice how she introduces the topic, explains how to do it and then offers several opportunities for the students to practice. When you follow this framework, creating screencasts are easy. Even better, offers this service for free!

Make sure to check back to Megan's screenr channel for more great videos.

Figurative Language

Everyone is looking for a fun and creative way to introduce figurative language to their students. Don't recreate the wheel, York Township's elementary teacher, Katie Haun, has done the work for you. Check out the two videos she made for free on

Video One

Video Two

If you are interested in using, check out the blog post that explains how to create your own videos in just 5 easy steps.

Digital Portfolios

Are you looking for ways to teach students how to use digital portfolios? This video by Central York High School art teacher, Katlyn Wolfgang is just what you need. I can't wait to begin applying her suggestions and allow students to share their work with the world.

We would love to hear how you use digital portfolios in your classroom. Make sure to visit Katlyn's youtube channel for more videos.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

3 Ways to Ring in Spring with Twitter!

This is a guest post written by Katherine Haun, a third grade teacher at York Township Elementary School.

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!

By now, you have heard of Twitter. You’ve seen the hashtags, like #edchat, and the @ symbols. You’ve even got your own account and username. But what good are they to you? Here are three reasons to ring in spring with Twitter.

First and foremost, build your Personal Learning Network (PLN). As an educator, the fastest way to learn about new topics in education is to follow other educators. You will feel even more connected if you join in a Twitter chat session with other educators. Scared to join the chat? Start easy, by reading others’ tweets, marking your favorites to reference at a later time. Then, tip-toe a little farther by retweeting something that is interesting to you that your followers might also be interested to read. Once you’re comfortable with that, start tweeting! Share useful websites, your own blog updates, even your animoto videos. To read others’ thoughts and resources on education topics, here are some hashtags to search on Twitter: #edchat, #edtech, #edpolicy, #edreform, and #digitalliteracy. The following are some people I follow on Twitter for ideas about education: @peteandc, @thenerdyteacher, @AngelaMaiers, @edutopia, @ChrisBiffle, @readingrockets, @readingsecrets, @web20classroom, @globalearner, and @kathyschrock. These are just a few to get you started…

Second, get your students involved! Create a class Twitter account and invite student volunteers to tweet a 140-character or less summary of each of your lessons throughout the day. Get your parents involved! Have them follow your class. Make sure that you adjust your privacy settings appropriate for your grade level, send home permission slips, and double-check your school district’s acceptable-use policy.

Third, are you interested in topics aside from education? I don’t know about you, but I basically missed the #GoldenGlobes. Now that football season is over, I’m not up-to-date with the most recent #NFL news, either. How often do you read before bed? Or over your morning coffee? Try searching your favorite topics on Twitter this spring, and I bet you’ll find that you will be reading for pleasure much more often than you did during the winter!

If you like this post, join our mailing list for more digital literacy tips. I would love to hear how you use Twitter for your classroom so take a few minutes to join the conversation on my facebook page.

3 Tips for Locating On-line Information

It's 6:08 am Sunday morning and I silently let my yellow lab, Maggie, outside to do her morning business. Before I know it, she is barking wildly and running across the lawn after a black animal. I am not concerned because our one neighbor has two black labs and our other neighbor has a black this morning run is a common event. I don't want Maggie to wake up my kids so I open the door to quietly bring Maggie back into the house when my sleepy eyes focus on the black SKUNK that is slowly turning around to spray Maggie right in the face.

"MAGGIE get over here right now!" I scream, but she reacted too late. Maggie runs to me sneezing and stinking of major skunk oil! My mind starts asking tons of questions, "Now what am I going to do? I have never had a dog that was sprayed by a skunk before. Should I use tomato juice? Do I need to take Maggie to the vet?"

I decided to do AN INTERNET SEARCH before I drove all the way to the grocery store to buy tomato juice. If you ever smelled skunk, then you know time is a factor for this search. I needed to find the right answers to my questions as fast as I could.

1. Use quotes - I needed to know the best shampoo solution to remove skunk smell so I used quotes to keep the search result focused on certain words in a certain order. I typed in, "how to remove skunk smell from dog" and received 7,000 results but without quotes the search received 64,000 results.
2. Cross check at least 3 sources - I then scanned my results to see if there were any results that had the same answer. Several listed hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. I clicked on the top result to see if the source was credible. Did they have experience removing skunk smell? My first result: 10 tips to remove skunk smell I clicked quickly to a similar result: Get Rid of Things My final result was a youtube video from a dog trainer.
All three results suggested hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap.
3. Use the word "and" or the "+" sign - Now I needed more information about how to get the skunk smell out of my house since I let Maggie into the house to do the Internet search. I kept the quotes around, "how to remove skunk smell from dog" and then used a "+" to link the word "house". This controlled my search results to include information for both my dog and my house.

The Internet can be wonderful if you know how to control your search results. Don't spend all day searching the Internet with nothing to show for your hard work. When you're proactive, you find the answers you need quickly and with little effort.

I would love to hear your secrets for locating on-line information. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter for more tips to become a better student.

PS - The solution worked. Maggie and my house no longer smell like a skunk. Thank you to all those wonderful people who shared their knowledge through the world wide web!

Friday, March 2, 2012

4 Context Clues to Clarify Vocabulary

Psst! Hey! Yeah, you! It’s your brain again. I have a secret tool that will save you a lot of time and stress. It's call Local GPS.

Best of all, this Local GPS tool will prevent you from getting confused while reading. I call these confusing words and ideas,
road blocks, because they block the meaning from entering your working memory. Road blocks are those unknown words and phrases that cause you to stop reading and say, “Oh man, what the heck is the author talking about?” Here is a list of road blocks you need to watch out for as you read:

Revisit a vocabulary word when:
• you can’t pronounce the word
• the word is new or unknown
• you are unsure of author’s meaning

Revisit an idea when:
• you are confused.
• you notice you are thinking about other things.
• you can’t create mental images.
• you can’t make a connection.

Skipping over these road blocks isn’t helpful or a mature decision. We are no longer going to let these road blocks stop our thinking! With the help of my built in Local GPS tool we will be able to navigate these road blocks and find a direct, fast, efficient route to the meaning of these unknown words and phrases.

Local GPS is an acronym for the four different types of context clues the author uses to support a reader’s comprehension. To find the local context clues, zoom in to the sentences surrounding the difficult word. Reread the sentence before, and after the word you are trying to understand. The author often uses commas, parentheses, and hyphens to signal definitions, pronunciations, and examples to help the reader build meaning. This is your local context clue because the author’s clues are located right by the word.

The G stands for global. To find the global context clues, zoom out and look at the whole page. Scan the text features (pictures, captions, charts, and maps) to see if they can give you more information. This is called global context clues because you are taking a wide view of the text.

The P stands for prior knowledge. Sometimes the meaning is implied, which means the author doesn’t come right out and say what he means. In this case, you have to look at the text and add meaning to what the author didn’t include. Your schema will help you determine a meaning or clearer picture of the word. Prior knowledge is the third type of context clue because you can use what you already know about this word to build meaning.

The S is the final context clue. Structural analysis is looking at how the word is built. By breaking the word into smaller parts you will be able to decode the meaning. Search for prefixes, suffixes, or root words. Keep in mind working with words is a complex process. Being able to pronounce the word doesn’t mean you know the meaning. Until you know both, the pronunciation and meaning, you haven’t fixed the road block.

Remember, context clues are located within the sentence, on the page, or within your own mind. If you get lost, turn on my Local GPS to help you navigate through the road blocks, gain a deeper understanding of an abstract concept and save time from looking words up on the computer.

Reality Check

You are in the driver’s seat now. Knowing your destination or purpose to read isn’t good enough. You need to know different ways to build meaning by using the context clues on the page to help you figure out unknown words and ideas.

You are now ready to expand your understanding of how your mind builds meaning. The good news is you are independent and free to drive your mind wherever you want it to go. The bad news is your choices may lead you off the road and into a ditch. You must steer yourself over difficult words and through abstract ideas.

Your world is going so fast. Be a rebel and slow down! Once you identify a confusing word or idea, use your Local GPS to guide you to a deeper conversation and understanding of the author’s message. Beware, the more you apply these strategies, the more information you will retain andthe smarter you will become. Avoid the temptation to skip over the words/ideas due to time constraints or lack of effort. This slip of poor judgment will only result in a loss of meaning and a missed opportunity to sharpen your mind’s ability to maneuver around difficult sections of text.

I would love to hear how the Local GPS tool worked for you. Share your thoughts below or join the conversation on

Vocabulary: Sit back and enjoy the ride!

Have you ever driven to an unknown destination? Were you stressed or worried about getting lost? Did you keep looking at your directions, checking the map or slowing down to read street signs?

When you are reading, sometimes you can get lost with words and ideas you don't understand. Just as you kept rechecking the directions while driving, you have to keep checking your metacognition to decide if you are making meaning.

Mature readers slow down their pace of reading and look for context clues to help steer their mind over difficult words and through abstract ideas. Context clues are phrases left by the author to help you locate more information about a vocabulary term or complex ideas. The next time you find yourself dazed or confused, use context clues to clarify the author’s meaning.

Just as you were required to fulfill a certain amount of hours before you got your driver’s license, your mind needs time to acquire problem solving strategies. Whatever you do, do not pull over to the side of the road and give up. Get behind the wheel and follow the context clues until you reach a clear meaning. Sure, you may need to back up and reread or even take a detour from the page you are reading to investigate the glossary or on-line dictionary. Ask yourself, “Does this make sense? Does this sound right? Does this look right?” When you uncover the meaning of these words and ideas, you will experience a wonderful sense of satisfaction. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

What are your thoughts on using context clues to clarify vocabulary? Join the discussion on

Monday, February 27, 2012

5 Easy Ways to Convert Your Videos for the Classroom

This is a guest blog from Kristin Daddario, a 1st grade teacher at Lincoln Edison Charter School in York. We would love to hear about your newest technology discoveries and how you apply them to your classroom.

As a teacher, I am always looking for fun and engaging ways to introduce new topics and get my students excited about what we are learning. Have you ever found a really cool video at home that would be perfect for your new unit, and couldn’t wait to show your class? You get to your classroom and just as you go to play it, the site is blocked!! UGH!!! Although I continue to “bug” the tech team to unblock my favorite sites, I have found an easy and temporary fix to this problem!!! is a great way to show all your exciting videos, and it is super easy!! Just follow these 5 easy steps, and you will be on your way!!!

1. Go to the video(s) you would like to convert- I prefer YouTube videos, but they can come from any site!
2. Once there, right click and copy the URL - if you want better quality in your video add (&fmt=18) to the end of your URL
3. Go to
4. Once there, click on “Enter a Link”, where you will right click and paste your URL you copied. Click “OK” and this will bring you back to the original screen, where you started. Here you may enter more links by repeating the above steps, or click on “Go to the next step”.
5. Once you click on “Go to the next step”, you will choose your output file as “avi” and then click “OK”. This will bring you to a summary page, where you will click start to begin converting your videos. Once finished, you will get a notification that the conversion is done, where you can click download, next to your video! (If you are converting more than 1 video, it is better to download 1 video at a time)Happy Converting!

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4 Easy E’s: Creating a Student Managed Classroom Blog

This is a guest blog from Kristin McFatridge, a 4th grade teacher at Central York School District. We would love to hear about your newest technology discoveries and how you apply them to your classroom.
Creating a blog doesn’t have to be a hair pulling experience. It’s supposed to be a fun way to engage students on the road to becoming lifelong 21st century learners. By following the 4 Easy E’s you, and your students, will become certified bloggers in no time. PS. If you’re reading this you, you’ve managed to find and identify what a blog looks like and you are already a step ahead!

1) Explore The teacher’s job is to explore and read all types of blogs (during all that free time we have ). Check out educational blogs, fun blogs, anything that may interest you! has a lot of great starter ideas. One of the most popular, FREE blogging sites that I highly suggest is Sign up and create your own classroom blog; navigate throughout the site and play around with all the buttons. Ask yourself questions, “What is that little icon for”? TRY IT OUT! You don’t have to publish anything yet. Trial and error is the key. Attempt to post at least one blog for the students to view when you introduce them to the concept of becoming 21st century Bloggers.

2) Engage “Attention all 4th grade Bloggers!” Don’t be scared by the blank stares, most of them will have no idea what you are talking about. Introduce them to the concept of blogging (if anything, they’ll get a kick out of the word “blog”). Show them how to access your classroom blog and read them your very first post. For 100% student engagement, include a picture of the class and throw some of their names into the first post. Kiddos love seeing themselves advertised on a computer screen and they won’t be able to keep their eyes off of the blog. Here comes the kicker, explain THEY will be taking over and be in complete control of the content of the classroom blog. They will become official Bloggers.

3) Experiment Give students time to play around; a little guided discovery never hurt anyone. The best way for students to learn how to blog is to have them teach themselves and learn from each other in “kid language”. Gather a small group of students and show them different aspects of (how to change the font, upload a picture, etc.) and those students will become the experts, the go-to students when a problem may arise. Give students time to post their own blogs and read and evaluate each other’s progress.

4) Enjoy Sit back and relax. Trust your students. Give them a rubric or check list as a guideline, but don’t take away their voice. You’ll be amazed how quickly your “net-generation” students grasp technology. Add the link somewhere easily accessible, like a classroom website, and advertise your blog to parents and other teachers. Become the facilitator, but leave the blogging for the students.

Join the discussion on

Sunday, February 26, 2012

3 Tips to Improving UR Netiquette

Technology is wonderful. We have instant access to news, videos, and music. I love Christmas shopping with a click of a button. But with all this access comes a lot of responsibility. This blog is a call to action to educators to step up and teach students how to be kind, gentle, and supportive while online. The following video will help activate your schema.

1. Teach students what it means to become digital citizens. A quick youtube search of "digital citizen" will produce over 2,800 videos you can use to begin a discussion. Post the videos on your moodle and put links in parent newsletters to help the conversation continue at home.
2. Establish norms for online responses to blogs, reviews, and other social communities like facebook and twitter. The digital fingerprint students leave could cost them friends and even jobs.
3. Infuse the revolutions that have taken place through social media in your history class. Make sure to include cyberbullying into your school wide acceptance plan. Increase awareness about online societies that support anorexia, suicide, and child abuse during health class.

Let's take back control and teach students positive netiquette. If we won't do it, someone else will. We can't afford to ignore this any more. What are your thoughts on our professional responsibility of creating digital citizens? Join the discussion on

Friday, February 24, 2012

3 Tips to Boost Memory

Did you know you were not born with the ability to read? That’s right, it is not natural for you to read. You had to teach your brain how to make meaning from these squiggly lines on the page. Research suggests human minds differ in their ability to make meaning. The key to remembering what you read is to discover the way your mind likes to learn.


1. If your mind prefers visual input,you must look at the pictures on the page before, during, and after reading. You should also take notes by drawing pictures to represent the concepts you read.
2. If your mind prefers auditory input,you may have to read out loud or record yourself reading and then play it back. You should talk about the concepts you read before you take notes.
3. If your mind prefers kinesthetic input,you may have to read standing up or sitting on an exercise ball. Stop often to walk around the room and take notes by creating movements to represent the concepts you read.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fast reading isn't good reading?

Hey, this is your brain here. I need to talk to you. It really bugs me when you assume I can do all the reading myself. Reading is a two way street. It takes both me (the brain) and you (the reader) to make meaning from these squiggly lines on the page.

You read too fast. What do you think I am, a NASCAR? After awhile, I’m so confused I crash. I take all that new information and throw it into the junkyard. If you expect me to remember, you need to adjust your reading speed and apply strategies to keep me from thinking about other things.

We have a long road ahead of us. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

If you agree with this post, leave your comments below or share how you adjust your reading speed on facebook.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

3 Ways to Improve Your Reading

Your mind is not a responsible adult, it’s more like a two year old child; naturally curious and always asking, “Why?”- If you begin to read without setting a purpose, the child inside your mind throws a temper tantrum. It goes something like this:

Set a purpose and lose the temper tantrum. It’s that simple.
1. If you are reading for entertainment:- you are reading for fun. Since the reading material matches your interests, it’s easy to read. As a result, your mind is able to multi-task (do two things at once) such as; listen to music or watch TV, without effecting comprehension. Entertainment sources include; text messages, magazines, novels and facebook.

2. If you are reading to learn:- you are reading to be informed. Since the reading material is new, it’s harder to read. As a result, you will have to read slower and stop more often. Informational sources include; textbooks, professional journals, technical manuals and blogs.

3. If you are reading to evaluate:- you must read with a critical eye. Not everything written down is true. Pay attention to the author’s word choice. If the author makes a statement about a belief that should be held, a judgment that should be shared, or an action that should be taken, the author is trying to influence your feelings, thoughts and behavior. Persuasive sources include; editorials, movie/book reviews, advertisements, and letters to the editor.

Finally, remember to always respect your inner child. The instant you feel a temper tantrum begin, give your mind a time out. Walk away from the text and allow your mind time to process the new information.

Do you have a different reason for reading? Leave your thoughts and ideas below or on

Thursday, February 16, 2012

3 tips to Eliminate Distractions

A distraction is when someone or something blocks your mind from paying attention to the text you're reading. The best way to pay attention to what you're reading is to avoid being distracted by other stimuli.

Your mind is naturally going to be drawn to three specific stimuli:
1. New or novel thoughts:-Your brain loves to think. Control what your mind thinks by drawing pictures about the text you are reading and writing notes in the margin.
2. Loud sounds:- Sit in a quiet room with the TV off, computer off, cell phone off, and head phones out of your ears. Yes, I said OFF, not low, muted or on vibrate.
3. Fast moving objects:-When choosing a seat in class or the library, sit far way from doors and windows. This way your mind won't pay attention to people walking down the hall or cars driving on the road.

What does this mean to you as a reader? If you want to remember what you read, you must remove the distractions from your environment. By removing distractions, your mind will pay attention longer and remember more.

Remember, multi-tasking while reading is as dangerous as multi-tasking while driving! Be a safe reader and remove all distractions before you read.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Falling in Love with Edmodo- 6 Steps to Get Started

This is a guest blog from Joanna Wallas, a middle school world language teacher at South Eastern York School District. We would love to hear about your newest technology discoveries and how you apply them to your classroom.

I’m obsessed. I admit it; I am completely and unequivocally obsessed and possibly in love. The object of my affection? Edmodo. You may scoff, as many of my colleagues have, however it does not negate the truth- I a former skeptic, have fallen in love with Edmodo.

Why am I so crazed you may ask? I have discovered that it is not just a mere
facebook interface for the classroom, but a class management system that can
make your classroom mobile. It’s secure, and circumvents several problems that other learning platforms have with email requirements, moderation, peer to peer texting, and parent transparency. Here are some tips to get started with Edmodo, try them and maybe you will fall in love too.

1. Build & Organize your library- The first flirtatious feature that drew my eye was the library. Within minutes, I could upload the entire year of class notes onto Edmodo. However, that was only the beginning. Prezi’s, voicethreads, youtube videos, screencasts, pdfs, audio files, and other websites can be uploaded easily and appear as a small preview icon. The key here is to have a collection of materials from a variety of sources. Many of us already have engaging electronic materials; we just never had an easy secure way to share them with students or maybe even not enough time. After you upload material, you can organize it by folders and control whom you share those folders.Material can appear in more than one folder allowing you to refer to it later on in another lesson, or to allow students to review past concepts.
2. Simplify scanning- The part of my relationship with Edmodo that I dreaded committing to was scanning my paper materials. The thought of sitting there and scanning page after page was daunting. Maybe you have already gone paperless, maybe you haven’t. This was the big thing holding me back; however, I discovered one tiny secret that made my life easier. The brand new photo copier at work emailed scans of images straight to my work email. All I had to do was punch in my address. Most of the teachers in my building are unaware of this, check out your photocopier- you may get lucky. If you are not the lucky goose I am, check out other options like your local library, staples, or mail centers. If you can streamline this part, the rest of the relationship will be easy. Electronic copies can easily be added to posts, assignments, quizzes, and the library.
3. Think ahead and give yourself time- I’m looking forward to marriage or at least a committed relationship with Edmodo. However, I am not diving in and shopping for a wedding ring at this very moment. I’m “dating” first and laying the groundwork for future plans. I work on the library,then make a quiz or two, and then try adding a student or two before adding a whole class with assignments and tasks.
4. Test the Waters-Some couples buy a pet together to see how things work out. I created a fake student to how things would work. I put my fake student into class and explored as her. I gave her assignments, checked out my library (her backpack), and posted things to see how students might experience Edmodo. I learned students can message me or the whole class and I can even moderate those comments. They can’t directly communicate with each other which cuts down on many cyberbullying or time wasting concerns.
5. Join a community- Dating’s more fun when you can do it in a group or with other couples. Many teachers are out there having the same problems you are, or they are creating incredibly innovative things and sharing them with others. This is a great way to multi-task and have a PLN as well as a platform for your students.

6.Meet the Parents and Do Your Homework- This goes back to planning your
dates and your future. You can’t just marry someone your parents never met. Edmodo has a help section with FAQ’s and a blog. They even created some resources that you can adapt to your classroom. These helpful items include student guidelines, codes of conduct, parent letters, and guidebooks for everyone involved. Their resources help explain to parents what Edmodo is and will help you explain what purpose it will serve in your classroom.

As with all things electronic, there are many things like access and time constraints to consider before entering into a relationship with Edmodo. I haven’t yet regretted my commitment. If you decide to start flirting with the idea of Edmodo in your classroom, write and tell me how your relationship with Edmodo works out!

3 Simple Ways to Incorporate Technology into your Classroom

This is a guest blog from Megan Anderson, a Kindergarten teacher at Red Lion Area School District. We would love to hear about your newest technology discoveries and how you apply them to your classroom.

If you’re like me, you love technology and anything related to it. But when it comes to applying it in your classroom… You have no idea where to start! Yep, that was me about 4 weeks ago. I had all these great resources at my fingertips and just didn’t know it. It was overwhelming! If you’re looking for three quick and easy resources to use in your classroom, try youtube, twitter and blogs. Let’s take a look at each.

1.Youtube Youtube can be used for so much more than looking at the latest viral video or checking out cool Superbowl commercials that you missed! There are many educational videos out there and also how-to’s. I searched all over the internet looking for a Groundhog Day video and found everything I needed on Youtube. You can tell a child how the groundhog will come out of its hole and might see his shadow or might not. Until they see it for themselves, it won’t make as much sense. This is where Youtube comes in handy! You can show your kiddos what you are talking about and give it real meaning allowing them to make those important connections.

2.Twitter It seems most every young person you meet has a facebook or twitter account. Let’s take what they already use and turn it into something educational. In the past teachers would assign a reading passage and have students write a summary (using paper and pencils!). Instead of writing the answers on paper, you can have your students tweet (that’s the twitter word for writing a message) a response back to you! Let’s face it, they always have their phones attached to their hip and we know most of these phones have Internet capabilities. The neat thing about it, you need to be concise and synthesize information because you only have 140 characters to form your answer. There is some higher-level thinking!

3.Blogs My eyes were opened to blogs last year. I had a student teacher that kept talking about blogs. Finally I said to her, “What are you talking about? What is a blog?” A blog is basically an online journal that is available on the web. It can be updated daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever it suites the “blogger” (the owner of the blog). As an educator, I am always looking for new and creative ideas. There are so many wonderful blogs that are specific to grade levels and content areas. You can find everything you need from math, to science to social skills! And, instead of recreating the wheel, there are many materials created by other teachers for your use. Give it a try. Click here to go to Google’s blog search. It only searches blogs! Happy searching!

See, that wasn’t too bad was it! Now, where’s that easy button?