Don’t Let the Board be Boring: Interactive Use of IWBs

Pedagogy of Interactive Whiteboard Use
Designing Effective Notebook Lessons

Flight Plans for Learning: Making Inferences from Online Resources

Activities Well-suited to IWB Use

Engaging Learners the SMART Board Way

10 Ways to Get Smarter with SMART Boards

6 Brainstorming & Mapping Sites

Subject-area Suggestions

The Molecular Workbench Database


-Google Earth

Great General IWB Resources

SMART Boards in the Classroom


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Background Thing on Ning

Sorry, it’s hard to resist coming up with goofy rhymes when you’re talking about Ning. I love Ning. Ning is a free web 2.0 site that allows you to create a custom social network for your own needs. It’s a terrific site, one that can be used to communicate on all levels with colleagues, parents, students, and even to use as a tool for learning. A teacher I know created a Ning to help her students understand the relationships between European countries during World War I. Students broke up into groups and became countries, creating their identities and friending their allies. Another teacher I know created a Ning to demonstrate the Indian caste system.

I’ve created a few social networks, one being the Teachnet Institute Ning from last school year: It’s not currently active, but come check it out to see the work we did, and sample some of our fabu ideas.

This year, the Teachers Network Leadership Institute asked me to prep a Ning tutorial for the teachers in TNLI this year. I’m a tech advisor to the group, which focuses on policy issues in education and how the teacher’s voice can become an essential part of educational decision making. They have a 21st Century initiative this year, and I’m happy to say I’m a part of it. We created a Ning as our main vehicle of communication and therein lies the reason behind the tutorial.  I’m reposting it below, but you should also check out the TNLI Ning at

1) Ning: What is it? How are other educators using Ning?

(NCTE, Classroom 2.0, Ning in Education, NYC Teachers)

2) Our Ning: Getting to know our site and how it works

-Notifications: follow sections of the site or subscribe to RSS

3) Possibilities:

-Create your own group for an advocacy issue

-Create your own Ning for classroom use

-Social networking for policy change/organizing/getting the word out (Howard Dean, Social Media Strategery, The Internet and Civic Engagement from PEW, Obama & Social Networking from the NY Times)


Ning video tutorials

Creating a Social Network

Social Media in Plain English (video)

RSS in Plain English (video)

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Managing Laptops and Carts in the Classroom

Many times I am asked the best ways to manage laptop carts in the classroom.  I do have quite a bit of experience using laptop carts successfully, but have also worked at schools where the carts quickly deteriorated into disarray.

My suggestions follow, but with one disclaimer: each school has its own culture. What works well at one school might be disastrous at another–develop a plan that will function well with your school’s students, teachers, and physical building.

1) Come up with an agreed-upon sign out or pick-up procedure. How does a teacher reserve a cart? Can any teacher use the laptops or do they need to attend a training/PD first? Try to keep the laptops in an easy place that’s accessible to all. Keeping them in a classroom may be disruptive. I’ts a good idea to also have a “check in” policy–teachers review the cart before using to see if it was returned in good order.

2) Create an Acceptable Use Policy for both teachers and students. What responsibility does a teacher have for the carts? What rules should be enforced for students? Come up with these collaboratively and make sure everyone knows about them. Ask teachers who use the carts to review these policies with their students and have consequences for students who do not follow the rules.

3) Communicate and notify admin/tech staff about any problems or tech difficulties. Keep an “incident report” tracker either online or directly on the cart. Many schools keep a binder/folder on the cart that contains policies, sign-up information, student sign out forms, and incident reports. Tech staff should check the carts at least once a week to make sure reported problems are taken care of.

4) Classroom Use/Management of Carts
There are many possibilities depending on class size/number of laptops. In NYC, most carts do not contain enough computers for every student. Teachers mostly work with laptops as stations, in the workshop model, or using them in groups. It’s important to shuffle roles and usage to ensure all students have time on the computer–and they will almost always want to have access. Devise a plan that is fair and transparent, and may include a physical sheet or chart to keep track of access. Design student-centered activities and project-based learning activities to facilitate effective laptop use.

Class Management Tips:
– Have students sign out the laptops each time they use one.
-Arrange the desks so you can see their screens by just walking around.
-Walk around frequently.
-Create a class tech team to for other students who may need help so you can circulate.
-To get students’ attention, have a “lids down” signal. A projection device can also be very helpful.
-Create consequences for improper use; denying access to the technology can be a significant motivator.

Related articles:

Mac Book Cart Info page from Wissahickon School District in PA

1-to-1 Computing and Classroom Management from TechLearning

Classroom Management in the Digital Age (PDF)

Teacher Interviews on Classroom Laptop Use (video)

Scheduling & Rotating Ideas for Classroom Computer Use (PDF)

Managing Computer Use  in the Classroom from Intel

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SMART Board Workshop

Boy, I get asked to do a lot of SMART Board workshops these days.

Today, I spent the morning at the lovely PS124 in Chinatown. My presentation can be found here (it’s a Google Doc).

Here are some links I have found helpful for learning how to use the SMART Board and how to integrate in as a tool in the classroom:

TeqSMART Educators Resource Center:
(NY state area SMART site, teacher-created lesson plans, tutorials, Notebook files)

SMART’s Educator Resource Site:
(tutorials, lesson sharing, community help forum, lesson activities)

“Teachers Love SMART Boards” blog:
(activity ideas, tips, links, podcasts)

Scholastic’s Lessons for Interactive Whiteboards:
(lessons & curriculum resources for SMART Boards on all subject areas)

SMART Board Lessons Podcast:
(ideas, tips, and tutorials delivered via podcast)

SMART Board Revolution Ning:
(a social network for educators sharing ideas with an open forum, resources)

Internet 4 Classrooms’ SMART Board Site:
(ideas and lesson plans, including many from nationwide school districts)

“How to Integrate a SMART Board into Your Teaching”
(a Teachers Network article by a 3rd grade teacher in Brooklyn, NY)

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Bronx Little School Workshops

Today is Chancellor’s PD Day for NYC public schools. I’m conducting 2 workshops for Bronx Little School today on SMART Boards and integrating technology in early childhood.

Here’s the link to my PD page via Google Sites:

The page has links to SMART Board resources, and some early elementary podcasts.

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Google Docs

I really love Google Docs. I’ve used it pretty extensively in my professional life (collaborating with colleagues & sharing information), in the classroom (to facilitate peer editing, receiving work from students, providing digital feedback), and even in my personal life (creating posters for my son’s schoo and sharing them with other parents, sharing a family PPT with cousins across the U.S.). Even when purchasing my new netbook, GoogleDocs was an integral part of that decision. I didn’t need as much of a powerhouse computer since most of my documents are now edited and stored online at

It’s not always an easy sell…convincing others to leave the comfort of their Microsoft Office world and breaking new ground with Google Docs. However, once I’ve worked on a project with someone using Google Docs, the ease of collaboration and sharing usually wins them over. I often collaborate with colleagues on grant documents and proposals–the ease of not having to email around different versions and track everyone’s changes when using Google Docs is just an amazing leap forward.

In the classroom, students can submit work electronically by sharing their work with you. Teachers can share notes and handouts with students. Students can share information with other members of the class, including fellow group members. When students are working in groups, they can collaborate using Google Docs and all contributions are recorded (so no more lazy group members!) so the teacher can see who added what to a finished piece. And having access to your work from any computer with an Internet connection alleviates the “dog ate my homework” issues…or incompatible files, work living only on other computers, documents traveling from class to class, and the like. For students without Internet connections at home, who often use different computers at different locations (classrooms at school, computer lab, libraries, after school programs, etc.) having a central location that is accessible anywhere is invaluable.

Google Docs isn’t only comprised of  “documents”…there’s also a spreadsheet, presentation, and a form generator–so other forms of student collaboration can also be tracked and created cooperatively. (And if you really aren’t ready to give up your Microsoft license, Google Docs works seamlessly with Office.)

As an English teacher, I love how Google Docs enables the writing process. When editing and writing, different drafts are tracked and students see much more easily the benefits and purpose of revision. When I was a HS English teacher exclusively in a pen and paper world, I had the hardest time convincing students to revise their work. Sometimes, they’d rewrite their essays making the revisions I suggested…other times, they’d rewrite their entire essay with the same content, only in neater handwriting.  Under “revision history” the various versions of a single document are always accessible…so a student can receive both peer and teacher feedback and make changes suggested without losing track of who said what. Students can easily compare versions and even return to an earlier version…all without laborious handwriting (which really can be laborious when you’re talking about formal essays or research papers).

Though documents do live on the web, they’re not made public unless you expressly choose to do so. Under the “share” button (on each document), you decide who you share your work with and at what level of collaboration–can others only  view your work, or can they edit/collaborate with you? It’s always your choice. To share with the world or link to a blog/web page, you can make your document totally public as well. Depending on the document, you can also embed it on another web page or blog.

So I know I sound like a total Google advertisement, but I really feel that Google Docs has really changed my life and how I work. To get started, here are some links below:

Getting Started Guide to Google Docs

Google Docs in the Classroom Crib Sheet (PDF file)

Google Docs Tour

Google Docs for Educators (video & resources)

Google Docs in Plain English (video)

Using Google Docs for Notetaking

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A Podcasting Primer

Why Podcasting?

I’ve got to admit that podcasts (or video/visual podcasts) are among my favorite classroom projects to produce. Mostly, it’s the excitement of the students who immediately come to life when media is introduced, but there are other good reasons.

  • In their media-saturated world, it can be very powerful for students to learn the behind-the-scenes craft of making media. It demystifies the process, and empowers students by allowing them to create media rather than just watch the finished product.
  • There are a range of skills that podcasts exercise: brainstorming, planning, scripting, writing, drafting, revising, researching, rehearsing, speaking, time management, and technology skills (if students are old enough to manage the recording & editing process themselves).
  • Some students find themselves when media becomes part of the classroom. Students who are bored or unmotivated by pen-and-paper school become energized and even take on leadership roles if media appeals to them. Most times, even when the media project ends, those students are more invested in the classroom than they had been in the past.  I’ve seen this happen countless of times, and it’s always really exciting.
  • Students create content that can rival professional outlets. Sure, the tools are less sophisticated than what pros use, but most media tools mimic the “real” tools well enough to sound and look good. Sometimes, student-created content is more of a commodity than pro content, especially to other students.
  • It’s fun. Sometimes it can be chaotic to work with media, especially if the tools you have access to aren’t in tip-top shape and it’s your first time out. But the energy that happens with your class is infectious. You’ll feel it as a teacher and hear it in the voices of your students.
  • You have a final project that is shareable, publishable and timeless.

How do you create a podcast?

It’s a combination of equipment and planning. Become familiar with the steps needed to produce a podcast and plan to enact them in your classroom. Be patient with yourself and the kids.

In terms of equipment, it doesn’t take much to produce podcasts. I usually recommend a USB microphone as the only cost factor (I use the Snowflake mic by Blue. Costs $60, it’s portable, and sounds terrific). If you want to record students away from a computer, you’ll need a digital audio recorder. (If you have an iPhone, you can use the iTalk application…it’s free.) You can download audio editing software for free. I use Garage Band as a Mac user, but Audacity is free, cross-platform and very very easy to learn. Want to learn how to use Audacity? Google “audacity tutorials” and just see all the amazing resources that come up.

There’s also, billed as “so easy your Grandma could do it,” which is pretty accurate. You don’t even need a mic…you can record a podcast like a voicemail, using a phone. Even the call-in number is toll-free. And, you can download your recording as an MP3 file to edit and embellish later. Again, it’s all free and a great site to use with students. I’ve used in in real-time with a class–groups called in and listened to each other all within a 40-minute class period.

I wrote an article called “How to Podcast: Some Tips for Starting Out” which may be helpful to newbies.

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