Monthly Archives: July 2009

Erin Gruwell of Freedom Writers Foundation – Closing Keynote of NECC 2009

erin gruwell necc 09

Erin Gruwell at NECC 2009

Erin Gruwell is a phenomenal speaker. I first heard her speak at the TCEA conference in Austin, Texas in February 2007. Since then I have been devout fan of her efforts. I admire her passion for teaching, her dedication to her students and making a difference in the lives of those she encounters every day. If you weren’t able to attend NECC 2009 or missed her presentation, you won’t want to miss watching this video. You won’t be disappointed!

Erin Gruwell

Erin Gruwell speaking at TCEA 2007

Recently as I was rewatching the video of the closing keynote of NECC 2009 by Erin Gruwell, founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation and realized there was an embed code on the page with the video. I tried to embed the video using vodpod but never was successful in getting the player to work properly so I embedded the video on a wiki page and linked it to this post.

(Note: In case the vodpod player ever starts to work, I left the player embedded in this post with a copy of the embed code at the bottom of this post. If anyone knows how to successfully embed the video in a blog post using vodpod or the ‘press this’ feature of the dashboard please let me know!)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Erin Gruwell Closing Keynote“, posted with vodpod
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Free Web Conferencing Tools for Teachers – Guest Blog Post

Free Web Conferencing Tools for Teachers

Awhile back Karen Schweitzer contacted me about an opportunity to guest post on my blog.  The topic of web conferencing is one that is near and dear to my heart and I have a wiki devoted to the topic of web conferencing/video conferencing in the classroom. Here is Karen’s post on web conferencing tools – thanks Karen!

MWSnap01069Web conferencing is a great way for teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms and their daily lives. There are many free web conferencing tools that can be used to schedule meetings, host parent-teacher conferences and webinars, broadcast videos, collaborate, and share computer screens online. Here are a few free web conferencing tools that work well particularly well for teachers:

Phonevite – Phonevite is a free broadcasting service that can be used to invite people to a web conference via telephone. Teachers can record a message for attendees and have the message sent to a specific group of telephone numbers.

SAM – SAM is a free online meeting scheduler. The tool eliminates the need for multiple phone calls and notes by setting a meeting date and inviting attendees to join via email.

Yugma – This free web conferencing service can be used to conduct online meetings and share your computer screen with other people. Yugma works with up to 20 attendees and supports Windows, Mac, and Linux users.

Dimdim – Dimdim is an easy-to-use web conferencing tool that requires no download. It can be used to deliver live presentations, whiteboards, and to share video and voice over the Internet.

Vyew – This free platform provides real-time interaction and live web conferencing. Teachers can use it to give live presentations, host webinars, or conduct parent-teacher meetings.

Mikogo – Mikogo is a free cross-platform tool for desktop sharing. It can be used for online meetings, web conferencing, and much more.

TokBox – TokBox is a free video chat and messaging service that works well for parent-teacher conferences. It is simple to use and works with email and instant messaging systems.

Palbee – This free online meeting tool connects up to 10 people online. Palbee users can talk face-to-face and collaborate on a web-based whiteboard.

USTREAM – USTREAM is a free video broadcast platform that can be used to broadcast live streaming video to an unlimited number of people. Video broadcasts are interactive so that viewers can interact with the broadcaster and other viewers.

Edmodo – Edmodo is designed specifically for teachers who want to be able to privately communicate with parents and students. This free site has many different features, including the ability to send alerts, files, and events.

Skype – This free software has become very popular among teachers and other people who want to make free video and voice calls. Skype also offers instant messaging capabilities and file sharing.

ooVoo – ooVoo is a free video chat service that connects up to six people at once. Two-way chat is always free and perfect for online parent-teacher conferences.

Meebo – This free online service can be used to instant message other people no matter which IM provider they use. Meebo works with AIM, Facebook, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpace, and many other popular services.

SpeakLike – SpeakLike is a free instant messaging service that can be used to communicate with parents who speak other languages. The service instantly translates any text that is typed. SpeakLike is available for communication in English, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Turkish.

GroupTweet – GroupTweet is a free Twitter app that works well for teachers who want to be able to send private messages via Twitter. The app only sends message to people who have been invited to join the group.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen also writes about online colleges for

Videoconference Opportunities with the Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell

erin and me 2

Erin and Me at TCEA 2007

I am a huge fan of the Freedom Writers Foundation started by Erin Gruwell. I loved the movie and was so enamored and moved when I first met Erin Gruwell at the TCEA conference in February 2007. Since then, Erin Gruwell has been my ‘she-ro‘ as she champions for scholarships for her students and makes such a wonderful, positive difference in the lives of young adults every day. I admire her passion for teaching, her strength in life and her joy in helping those around her.

On August 18, Erin’s new book, Teaching Hope, will be released for sale. The new book is described as,

Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers went on to establish the Freedom Writersteaching hope Foundation to replicate the success of Room 203 and provide all students with hope and opportunities to realize their academic potential. Since then, the foundation has trained more than 150 teachers in the United States and Canada. Teaching Hope unites the voices of these Freedom Writer teachers, who share uplifting, devastating, and poignant stories from their classrooms, stories that provide insight into the struggles and triumphs of education in all of its forms.

The email announcement describes the new opportunity as follows,

000019The Freedom Writers Foundation is excited to announce a new program, Between the Lines:  Online Videochat With the Real Freedom Writers.  The program is designed to bring the original Freedom Writers right into your classroom or organization, using online tools, such as Skype to answer questions, serve as inspirational role models, and provide general encouragement.  Freedom Writers share their personal stories and interact directly with the audience, answering questions that may come up after reading The Freedom Writers Diary or watching the movie Freedom Writers.

Videochat pic large web file

Freedom Writers Foundation Videoconference

The videochat is like a Q&A session during which the Freedom Writer will answer your questions in detail, and in doing so, share their own personal stories.   The Freedom Writers share stories of overcoming childhoods affected by poverty, gang violence, substance abuse, physical and mental abuse, learning disabilities, racial discrimination, and many other challenges.  Their uplifting talks focus on the power of the pen, and how reading and journaling began a long process of introspection for them, which ultimately re-charted their lives.  The Freedom Writers speak of their incredible transformation, and sessions can be tailored to focus on topics such as:


For more information, visit or

Click here to give the gift of education.

Donations can also be mailed to:
Freedom Writers Foundation
P.O. Box 41505
Long Beach, CA 90853


Recently I read a fantastic blog post from one of my great online buddies, Donelle O’Brien – author of her Lifelong Learner 2.0, that I met through my affiliation with the Classroom 2.0 LIVE! show that I co-host. She wrote about this innovative and unique site that is historically based but with a twist! I know it appears to be a long post but it is well worth the read and is rather humorous – I don’t think you will be disappointed!

000016The blog post featured the website All About Explorers and is designed to help students evaluate information and results when searching on the Internet. The webquests, or treasure hunts, can be differentiated for reading and/or achievement levels that are more challenging for advanced students. According to the website,

All About Explorers was developed by a group of teachers as a means of teaching students about the Internet. Although the Internet can be a tremendous resource for gathering information about a topic, we found that students often did not have the skills to discern useful information from worthless data.

So we set out to develop a series of lessons for elementary age students in which we would demonstrate that just because it is out there for the searching does not mean it is worthwhile.

Because we wanted to make a point about finding useless information even in a site which looked at first to be fairly well put together, all of the Explorer biographies here are fictional. While many of the facts are true or based on truth, many inaccuracies, lies, and even downright absurdity are mixed in indiscriminately. As such, it is important that you do not use this site as a source of reference for your own research!

Any references to outside source materials, however, are quite accurate to the best of our knowledge. Books and other print materials are listed throughout. In most cases these are the references we give to our students when they are looking for reliable information about these explorers. Links to other web sites have also been evaluated for accuracy and usefulness.

Our lesson plans have also been incorporated into this site along with an Explorer WebQuest which we use with our own students to do valid research about these same explorers after showing them the pitfalls of poor planning and searching. In both cases, again, the information we include will be as accurate as possible. All of our lessons have been tested with students in the upper elementary grades.

The two site authors, Gerald Aungst and Lauren Zucker have done an outstanding with this website. I particularly enjoyed this except about John Cabot.

In 1484, John Cabot moved back to England with his wife and eleven sons. This was a great career move for John. He developed his own website and became quite famous for his charts and maps depicting a new route to the Far East. At this time he also introduced his half-brother Richard (whom the family always called “Ringo”) to his best friends, John, Paul, and George. They, too, tried their hands at exploration, but discovered that it was actually a lot of work. They soon gave up this dream and spent the rest of their lives as a troupe of traveling minstrels.

My favorite excepts come from the synopsis of Christopher Columbus.

Columbus knew he had to make this idea of sailing, using a western route, more popular. So, he produced and appeared on infomercials which aired four times daily. Finally, the King and Queen of Spain called his toll-free number and agreed to help Columbus.

He named the native people of the island Indians. The Indians were excited by the newcomers and their gadgets. They especially enjoyed using their cell phones and desktop computers.

Columbus returned to Spain in 1939 and was hailed as a hero. He was known as the first person to walk on American soil. A huge parade was held in his honor. He appeared on Larry King Live and became quite famous around the world.

As you can see the humor element is rampant throughout each of the ‘biographies’ of the explorers. Once students realize that the gadgets of today, television shows and other items evident of today’s society are present in the paragraph they will start to evaluate the information they find on the Internet and begin to ask themselves if the information presented is accurate. There are many great learning opportunities to teach students to be wary of information found on the Internet and to make certain that when researching topics, websites and sources are credible and authentic.

The Explorers website contains templates for conducting the treasure hunts on the explorers, how to evaluate websites, links to factual references about explorers, and the references the authors used to develop the content and website material.  The site also lists web articles such as this one in at that mention their website and it use in classrooms.

I always found this concept difficult to teach to young students and this website makes it very easy to demonstrate these types of research fundamentals in a clear, concise way. Students can compare the content presented on this website to one that is factually accurate and a wealth of learning activities abound to drive home to students the importance of critically thinking about information presented on the Internet as authentic and factual

Thanks Donelle for sharing this website! I had heard about the website but had not explored the Explorers website or the interesting ‘biographical’ account of the explorers until Donelle described it in her blog post.

I was so impressed, and thoroughly entertained, that I sent a request to the website creators and000017 invited them to be our special guest on our show. They accepted and will be joining us on Classroom 2.0 LIVE! on August 8 at 12pm Eastern. Mark your calendar and join us for another exceptional hour of learning, laughing and leading the way into classrooms everywhere.