Sunday, May 8, 2011

Podcasting for Educators

In Annette Lamb & Larry Johnson's articles about podcasting--"Podcasting in the School Library, Part 1 & 2" (Teacher Librarian 34:3 February and April 2007), the authors note that pocasting--(a combo of ipod and broadcasting) is a great way to offer multimedia learning for students. In Part 1, the they state, "Podcasts are a way to convey ideas and emotions that are difficult to express in a text format." What I liked most about this article was the incredible resources for educational podcasts which were listed included:
Education Podcast Network
Podcast Directory for Educators
and more!

The authors ask interesting and relevant questions including:
"What is the vaue of the audio medium? How does the Podcast fit with other learning resources? My family and I often listen to podcasts from NPR and Studio 360 ( while traveling in a car and not only is there some topic for everyone--but, it's a great way to get new information while multi-tasking with other things like driving, playing games, knitting, etc.

In Part 2, "Creating Powerful Podcasts with Your Students," the authors state, "...instead of spending time confiscating MP3 players from students, [teachers can] integrate learning by involving students in scripting, recording, editing and sharing Podcasts..." Some tips to consider while creating a podcast are to: work in teams, write a script, check for copyright issues, select a good location for your podcast, choose a microphone, add sound effects and most importantly, select the right software. You can use GarageBand or the opensource software Audacity which is free. Podcasts can aso include pictures, video and animations.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Race to Nowhere--education documentary

Race to Nowhere ( is a new educational documentary by parent Vicki Abeles focusing on the overly competitive educational system which has been created for high schoolers in the US. Many of today's students who are overworked by homework, extracurricular activities, rehearsals, varsity sports and more are suffering from depression, headaches, stomach aches, anorexia and anxiety. As the creator and director of the film states, "We want the best for our kids"--watching kids today and the stress they are under led this parent to document and then challenge current paradigms for education.

There were many distinguished educators and psychologists in the film emphasizing the point that in today's society we are asking students to perform at a much higher level than in the past. Sarah Bennett, author of Stop Homework noted that in her research--homework does not make kids smarter. Apparently, there is no correlation between academic achievement and homework. Dr. Deborah Stipek from the SOE at Stanford University noted that there is no equity in schools and kids in low-income schools do not get the resources that other kids in high-income schools get such as tutoring for ACT/SAT, computers, summer opportunities, etc. Dr Denise Pope, another Stanford education professor and author (Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students) noted that the implication of tutoring says to the student--you can't do it alone, we need to help you. This lends itself to the culture of "perform and then produce" and leaves out the all-important step of processing. Many of the educators noted that "smart" has many different meanings.

Due to the 2002 No Child Left Behind laws, we now have students drowning in content and tests. Unfortunately in the US, success is measured by how much money you make v how happy you are. What does it mean to be successful for kids?

How do we get kids to love learning? Learning is power. We need to raise critical thinkers and problem solvers. The point of education is to learn, not to memorize facts. The documentary asks: What type of individuals are we trying to create for our society? What does it take to produce a happy, motivated and creative human being?

Talking About Technology to Teacher-Candidates in the SOE at Pace

This week I did a 30 minutes presentation in one of my Professor's classes in the SOE at Pace University. Professor Kathryn De Lawter, an Assistant Professor in the SOE at Pace has been using Ipads in her educational pedagogy class via a Verizon grant and I came into her class, at her request, to talk to future teachers about learning and technology. I started with some anecdotal stories from my own family, kids and students I work with and talked about how I have watched technology push individuals to learn in new ways. I introduced some great sites like: comiclife, wordle, glogster, xtranormal, dipity and more to get them to see that students want to be engaged and want to create. I told them to join twitter---only one student out of 30 was on twitter because it is the best Personal Learning Network out there.

There was one student in particular who really despised the idea of using technology. She called me out when I used terms like--"this program is really easy--it's just drag and drop" and said--why is drag and drop important for students to learn? What does it teach them? I love a good challenge and what ensued was a heated discussion around her views as an anti-technology person and mine as a technology educator. In the end, I'm not sure I convinced her to even try using anything technology-related in the classroom. What made me ultimately sad was that she is an example of so many of the teachers out there who basically are not--going with the flow in contemporary society. Change is good--and for an educator to be completed closed off to change is quite unfortunate. How do we get teachers to try using technology in the classroom? I haven't figured this one out yet--but, I know that my own passion for technology will remain and grow.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gaming & Education--Part 2

In James Paul Gee's article, "Good Video Games and Good Learning," (Phi Kappa Phi Forum 85, No. 2, Summer, 2005), he notes that games are "hard, long and complex." He asks, "How do you get someone to learn something long, hard and complex and yet, still enjoy it?" He raises a really good point and says--"Humans actually enjoy learning, though sometimes in school you would not know it." This leads me to a question that I think about a lot--How do you motivate kids to learn? Gee makes an interesting point by saying that the context of schoolwork is mostly made up of facts--biology, world history, even math--and that these facts are basically trivia. Games are also made up of tons of trivia--the better you do in the game, the more facts you know.

Gee then goes on to look at various learning principles around games. Interaction, Risk Taking, Customization ("real intersections between the curriculum and the learner's interests, desires and styles), Well-Ordered Problems, Pleasantly Frustrating and System Thinking ("encourage players to think about relationships, not isolated events, facts and skills) are just some of the fourteen principles Gee talks about in terms of what students can learn from games.

Gee raises significant and excellent points. I enjoy watching my own kids playing games because I know that they are learning as they challenge themselves and their friends to a game. Games can be educational and are a great way to learn 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, cultural awareness and technology.

Gaming & Education--Part 1

The implications for gaming in education are huge. There has been so much research around gaming and education in the last ten years noting how much children can learn through games, that it still baffles me that parents and some educators can't see the value in games. One of the most prominent proponents of games and education is the Arizona State Professor of Literacy studies, James Paul Gee, who wrote the influential book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Literacy and Learning back in 2003. In the 2009 article, "Welcome to Our Virtual World," (Educational Leadership 66, No. 6) written by Gee and Michael Levine, the Executive Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, the authors note that students are bored at school and that we need to motivate them in new and different ways. They state that games involve complex thinking, problem solving and this is even tied to language and understanding vocabulary words and concepts. They note, "Many young people today also design and produce media, often collaboratively, in a popular culture that stresses production and participation, not just consumption and spectatorship." Everyone is an expert, a professional in this digital age on some aspect of content. Gee and Levine state, "Digital media holds out the potential to hone the skills necessary for success in our globalized world."

Gee and Levine encourage teachers to help their students gain the necessary skills needs for 21st century jobs. They suggest doing Webquests with kids as well as allowing students to do podcasts, play good video games and more. The authors state, "To leverage the potential of digital media to transform classrooms and motivate students, teachers must become tech savvy...They merely need to gain a basic level of comfort with technical learning and be open to opportunities to gain expertise in not just using--but also producing with--such technologies as YouTube, blogs, and social networking sites." Lastly, the authors list some excellent resources for teachers--a few of which are listed below:
*Classroom 2.0 Wiki (http//
*Route 21 (
*Edutipia (

More on SB--Designing Lesson Plans

There is an amazing SB podcast at hosted by two amazing technology educators in Canada. You can listen to these pocasts on your smartphone or ipod and I've just recently downloaded a whole bunch of them. I recently listened to a SB lesson from December 9, 2007--yes, almost four years ago, but still relevant to creating SB lessons today. The lesson was called the "Compare & Contrast Episode No 103." Ben Hazzard, one of the hosts, looked at Dr. Robert Marzano's research into instructional strategies that work for children. Dr. Marzano has an interesting website here: The SB lesson included types of comparison/contrast lessons that you can do with kids. I have used this strategy a lot when looking at art history with college-level students and I know that students really enjoy looking at a work and seeing what is the same and what is different--it really makes them think about small details that yield big differences in artworks and the historical, cultural and economic period of the time. In this way, you can discuss the visuals with students and spur them onto a deeper discussion about a particular topic. This is really good for differentiated instruction as well because it helps a child with learning differences look and then think about what is the same/what is different using a multi-modal approach. Another great site mentioned is: This one is great for ideas and suggestions around creating lesson plans on the SB. So much to learn with the SB!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Some thoughts on the SMARTboard

I've seen SMARTboards in action and I even fought for one at my son's school a few years ago. I've seen how young learners love the immediacy and connectedness of it. In my further studies related to SB, I went to Smart Exchange ( and reviewed the following lesson plan called: Pop Art: What Inspires an Artist? The lesson says that it can be used for elementary through high school age students. In this Smartboard lesson, the first slide gives you a magnifying glass and asks students to consider the question--What Inspires an Artist? By guiding the magnifying glass over empty frames, what is revealed are concepts like: love, money, fame, etc. The second slide which shows a Marc Chagall, asks the viewer to consider what inspired Chagall--and I couldn't get the slide to work to show me what inspired him! Kind of frustrating. The next slide on M.C. Escher also didn't work. The next slide on religious artworks had the answer cut off a bit on the bottom part of the screen. The next few slides were not game-like and just stated, in general, what are art movements and what inspires artists in various art periods. I like slide 12 which states on the bottom--"to understand art, it helps to know what is going on when the artwork was made." Art is ultimately about history. Slide 13 asks students to create an artwork about the present day and slide 14 contains a bit of a chart to help students organize various categories of history including--politics, technology, economics, lifestyle, etc. The next few slides gives an intro to various pop artists--there is a lot of text on the slide as well as various images of the artist's works. Slide 21 has an imported crossword puzzle about pop art for review. The students can write in the answers using a SB marker. The last 4-5 slides are slides for a teacher to look at which gives some essential questions as well as a rubric.

I have to confess, that one of the things I've been doing for many years is teaching art history to students. All in all, I found this SB lesson, quite rudimentary--almost trite in its definitions of what inspires artists. The SB lesson was very glossy with all the images and then the text on the top. Why not just show a student an image of an artwork? Why does there have to be a long definition of who the artist is and what he does on the top of the slide? Could there have been a better way to organize the material? I also felt that the SB slides were kind of trivial in a way--almost like silly games to get students to critically think. I briefly looked at another SB lesson about copyright and the example used was JK Rowling and the Harry Potter books. I found that lesson also kind of silly--skipping over major facts and issues about copyright--not even mentioning fair use. And, the whole thing was being "narrated" by a purple wizard.

Prior to looking at these two lessons, I was really into SBs. I know how important they are to multi-modal learners. I know my son couldn't learn half the things he knows without having one in his classroom. I have seen how smart teachers use the SB to review course material, to show videos or to play math or reading games during school breaks or at the end of the day. So, I'm a bit saddened to see two SB lessons which I consider to be just mediocre at best. Perhaps, these new opinions are being clouded by the brilliant podcast with technology educator, Alan November ( that I listened to right before looking at the SB lessons. I really enjoyed this great resource: SMARTboard Lessons Podcast at even though this particular one with November was from July 2007. So much of what he said still rings true for today including stating his belief that "teaching children to add value to the world and teaching children to have self-respect and empathy" are some of the most important things we need to teach students. He also noted that corporations seem to value collaboration, risk--but schools don't and that school is like "the learning police--we block the cool things--podcasts, IM, blogs, etc." I so agree with this idea! Look at NYC public schools which don't even allow students to have cell phones (most put them on silent in their coats and backpacks!) November also stated that the job of a teacher is to understand how students can use lots of technological applications and how we, as educators can demand more rigorous assignments. He doesn't think teachers have to know every bit of technology out there--let the students guide the teacher--that's called collaboration. November noted that to him, "the white board is a $2k blackboard in many classes and that it takes a really gifted teacher to work it well." He stated that he prefers technology where students each have something on their desk--a computer, an ipod, etc. He also states that faculty should be engaged and transformed in SB technology and the principal should use a SB during faculty meetings. Further, he notes that "wikis, blogging, web portals, podcasting--everything should flow together--it should be a continuum of interconnectedness." Lastly he states--technology has to be about equity--that we have to enable access to all students and that the reality is that technology is not an equalizer--it is an enormous polarizer." November gives you a lot to think about--and I agree with his analogy of a SB as a giant expensive blackboard. I do think that a SB is very helpful for K-8, but I hope that by the time a student is in high school, that s/he has his own laptop and that they are using all sorts of educational technologies to learn.