Tag Archives: ed tech

Exploring AllaboutExplorers.com

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 PhillyBurbs.com 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.

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Teacher Uses Webcam to Deliver Lessons

While reading one of my email feeds, I came across a story that I found fascinating about a teacher who is out on medical leave and is using a webcam to conference online with his students. Frank Wilson, government teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, recently had knee surgery and didn’t want his students to fall behind while recovering. Wilson is a veteran educator of 47 years and teaches his Advanced Placement (AP) government students from the basement of his home.

According to the article in the Columbus, Ohio newspaper titled “Government teacher conducts class from home basement“,

With the support of Watterson administrators, class was in session live from Wilson’s basement.

The Web cam allowed Wilson to see, teach, and carry on discussion with his students from his basement, Winters said. They could see him on the projector screen, and he could see them on his computer.

“My students all have Tablet PCs, and our government classes are almost paperless,” Wilson said.

“We use the computers for everything, including testing online.”

“To be honest, this program has allowed me to continue to teach,” he said, adding the classes went well with minimal disruption.

“I could not have done this without the support of our technology department and individual staff members who were willing to sit in the classroom and take attendance for me.”

For liability purposes Wilson had an adult in the classroom at all times but I can certainly relate to being concerned that your students will not progress or lose direction whenever you out. Twenty years ago when I  first started teaching we were out of the classroom for staff development quite often. It was always difficult to pick up the pieces upon my return and leave meaningful instructional activities while I am out. Several times throughout my career, I have been asked to step in and take over a class while a teacher is ill or on maternity leave. A teacher cannot risk not having students adequately prepared for performance on high stakes tests and trust part of the preparatory work  be done by a substitute teacher. We all know good subs are out there although they are hard to find and keep for an extended period of time. The idea of using webcam to minimize a loss of instruction is a novel idea, although not brand new.

Teachers/trainers have been using webcam/videoconferencing equipment to provide distance education for a number of years. The number of virtual high schools is growing by leaps and bounds and the use of this technology greatly benefits small, rural districts that have limited funding and a lack of teachers specializing in the math/science content areas. I have become a huge fan and proponent of using this medium to enrich instruction and started a wiki to serve as a repository of resources, training and discussions at http://caisefiles.wikispaces.com. I would love the opportunity to teach or facilitate a class online – certification issues and not having a master’s degree have hindered me personally in this area but the opportunities are out there.

While Wilson finishes recuperating at home, his students are benefiting from the interactive technology he is  using to deliver his government lessons online. The success of this venture comes from the support of the administration, network infrastructure to facilitate this endeavor and the dedication of the teacher and students. A deficiency in any one of those areas will severely impact the project but when each piece comes together to provide interactive and quality instruction to students there is no finer instrument to provide distance education.


2008 – A Year in Review

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Starting Saturday, January 10, 2009, my career will take will venture into uncharted waters. As part of Classroom 2.0, founded by Steve Hargadon, I will be co-hosting a weekly show with Peggy George featuring issues, events and leaders of the educational technology field. This past summer I participated in the Webcast Academy with Jeff Lebow and Doug Symington. Jeff and Doug are expert webcasters and host live shows on EdTechTalk. Participating in the academy lit a fire within me to learn as much as possible about webcasting, streaming, online tools and software applications so I created a wiki to serve as a repository of information about webcasting (commonly referred to as videoconferencing) called the ‘Caise Files‘.

Through the academy, I expanded my personal learning network (PLN) and made some great contacts. Steve Hargadon and Dr. Peggy George are two of those contacts. I joined the Classroom 2.0 Ning and collaborated a great deal with Peggy George who has become a mentor, friend and fellow blogger. I am so honored to be asked to co-host with Peggy and appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this collaborative effort to further educational technology  initiatives and learning about tech tools for all levels of users. All ed tech newbies are welcome and encouraged to join us each week!

A brief show introduction and invite is featured on the main page of the Classroom 2.0 Ning and is pasted below:

Friday, January 2nd, at 10:00am Pacific / 1:00pm Eastern (link to other time zones), Peggy George, Kim Caise, and I will host the live Classroom 2.0 year-end webcast meeting and show: “What We Learned in 2008.”

If you’ve never been to a “webmeeting,” they are a lot of fun and this is a good place to come and get your feet wet! We hope you will come and tell us all about the new ideas, techniques, tools, books, and conversations around educational technology that made 2008 special for you. (Send your 2008 top-ten lists to live@classroom20.com–we’ll post all of them, and even ask some of you to present them on air!) We’ll also virtually celebrate the growth of Classroom 2.0 this past year, our great hosts, the winning of the 2008 Edublog Award for “best use of a social networking service in education,” and more. We’ll also get your ideas for what 2009 should bring!

More information and a link to the live show. Hope you’ll join us! (And if you can’t, don’t worry, we’ll be recording it…)

mwsnap01013This Friday after all or your new year celebrations are over and one, please join us as we review and celebrate the extensive list of things we learned in 2008 in a year-end live broadcast in Elluminate.  Bring your top 10 list and be sure to share your list in the Classroom 2.0 wiki. Happy new year and see you Friday!

Read my Reflections Please!

I just finished reading a post by Miguel Guhlin entitled, “Fervent Prayer – Read Me Please“. I can definitely relate as I work hard to start and promote this blog although Miguel has blogged for years. For a short while I worked in his department in his school district and I have great respect for him as my mentor but his superb writings. Shortly before reading Miguel’s post, I was reading a post from Wes Fryer’s blog, he mentioned a post from Jon Becker’s new blog about a similar notion.

Wes Fryer’s post:

“I hear you Jon. It can be lonely to write when no one is listening or seeming to pay attention. (I flashback to April 2001 again.) Our opportunity to have conversations which both change our practice and potentially change the thinking and practices of others, however, is unprecedented TODAY in human history. I am both humbled and electrified by that reality. Yes, I blog for many intrinsic reasons. Blogging helps me process and document my own learning journey, and I frequently benefit from this virtual bread crumb path as I refer back to old posts as well as social bookmarks in tags I’ve used.”

Jon Becker’s post:

“This blog is ONLY just over 3.5 months, but I find myself obsessed with figuring out if I am contributing to any networked learning. Scott McLeod has written about “measuring” the impact of a blog and I commented that I’d like to consider some combination of comments/post/reader and number of pingbacks. In other words, I will feel like my blog is useful/valuable if it is generating discussion. People may come and learn by simply observing, but I don’t feel like that’s enough.”

This appears to be a common notion at present time and I am heartened that I am experiencing similar feelings from the ‘heavy hitters’ in educational blogging. Just as in start up venture, whether it be writing or a new business, an investment of time and reflection is necessary. The creative process can be daunting and taxing and I felt comforted that even the ‘superbloggers’ feel a twinge of uncertainty at times.

Mentioned in these bloggers’ posts throughout their respective blogs was the importance of the reflection process for growth. While the topics of the posts in the superbloggers of ed tech’s blogs seem to come and flow naturally, I struggle with what to write and will anyone care what I have to say or read what I have shared. It is difficult being vulnerable, yet striving to be a prolific writer at the same time, in my humble opinion. But the mention in Miguel’s post about the importance of the reflection process is to affect change and growth struck a chord with me.

When I was working to achieve national board certification, critical questions requiring reflection on the learning process were asked throughout the entries I had to submit. Although I had already taught for 15 years or so, initially I didn’t see how important the reflection process was or how valuable and significant to professional growth that the reflection process played. After achieving national board certification, it has become ingrained that a reflection upon the lesson I just delivered to ensuring success for my students – whether they be K – 12 students or adult students. So I thank Jon Becker, Wes Fryer, and Miguel Guhlin and all of the other ed tech bloggers for making themselves vulnerable, taking a risk and sharing their own personal reflections with the rest of the world.