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