Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thank You NYSCATE 2014 - TransformED

Source: NYSCATE 2014
The annual NYSCATE 2014 conference ended just before the Thanksgiving holiday in Rochester, New York. Thanks to another excellent roster of educators assembled by The New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE), we returned with our toolkits full, ready to share what we’d learned with our colleagues and learners.

Source: NYSCATE 2014
The theme for this year’s conference was TransformED, with a magical overlay to encourage us to wave our magic wands to engage the mind. For the first time, an EdCamp component was added to the roster of sessions, as well as 15-minute lightening sessions on a variety of topics.

We had the privilege of participating in an EdCamp round on visual thinking, and we met a host of impressive educators who emphasized the importance of the learning environment and the ability of teachers to influence it with creative ingenuity, technology know-how, and forward-thinking approaches.

The social media kiosk, a fixture at the conference, added a new twist to attract educators to grow their personal learning networks with a visual display of live tweeting and cameo photo opportunities.


The “iPad App Smackdown” session by three Apple Distinguished Educators, Mike Amante (@MAmante), Richard Colosi (@RichardColosi), and Ryan Orilio (@RyanOrilio), did not disappoint. The friendly rivalry for the session's winner and the shouts of “SLAM” allowed for an engaging banter between presenters and audience. All we could think of was how fun this would be to do with kids or at a faculty meeting.

Source: iPad App Smack Down

Click here see the 12 apps they demonstrated in the session.

Lastly, thank you to the generous crowd who attended our session on Simple Ways To Publish In A Paperless Environment. All of the resources and links highlighted in our workshop are available here.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

Finally, if you're ever at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, stroll three blocks for a delicious, dining experience at Dinosaur BBQ, and if time permits, don’t miss Craft Company No. 6, a unique gallery housed in a Victorian Era firehouse, located in the Neighborhood of the Arts district.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Nominees For The 2014 Edublog Awards

Source: Edublog Awards

If you know an outstanding educator, or if you have benefited this year from the insights of your PLN, consider nominating a teacher-leader for the 2014 Edublog Awards. This 11th-annual recognition pays tribute to the voices who help inspire learning at every level.

Our 2014 nominations are below. Because so many educators make a far-reaching impact every day, be sure to make your own nominations, and tweet out your choices at #eddies14.

Best individual blog - Teach Thought
Terry Heick is a former English teacher who curates a startling array of perspectives. The write-ups range from on-the-ground suggestions for compelling apps to pie-in-the-sky wish lists for education's future.

Best group blog - MindShift
We're not sure how they do it, but the writers at MindShift always seem to be one step ahead of the pack in framing the debate over contemporary learning. Their blog is the first place we go each morning to feel energized for the day.

Source: Edublog Awards
Best ed tech / resource sharing blog - History Tech
Glenn Wiebe (@glennw98) features targeted, detailed, actionable ideas for implementing Social Studies resources in creative, layered ways. We learn a ton from his blending of history and technology.

Best library / librarian blog - The Library Voice, by Shannon McClintock Miller
Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) hosts the terrific #tlchat. As a teacher-librarian and tech integration specialist, she also blogs in a lively, authentic voice about literacy and media.

Most influential blog post of the year - "Dear Time Magazine..."
Nancy Chewning of Leading By Example wrote this blistering broadside in response to Time's overly simplistic cover about teachers as "rotten apples." This passionate and eloquent defense of teaching rallied nationwide educators to her cause and reminded families about true service and sacrifice.  

Best individual tweeter - Lisa Palmieri, Ph.D. (@Learn21Tech)
Lisa is a Director of Technology & Learning Innovation whose tweets embody that sweet spot of sharing, collaboration, and progressive thinking. We recommend following her on Twitter for first-class links and engaging chat banter.

Best twitter hashtag - #dtk12chat
The Design Thinking K12 chat on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. is one of our favorites. It invites expert minds and real-life solutions to daily learning debates.

Best free web tool - Padlet
Padlet is the best publishing platform for teachers and students. This free collaborative whiteboard can be customized in both design and url to feature text, links, videos, projects, embed codes, and just about anything else kids can create.

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast - EdChat Radio
EdChat Radio offers a microphone to teachers across the country to explore the latest learning debates. Podcasts in iTunes and the Bam! Radio Network use each week's #EdChat as a springboard into a more detailed colloquy about the modern classroom.

Best open PD - NYSCATE
The New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education hosts the most eye-opening and relaxing annual gathering for tools and concepts that push the leading edge of learning.

Best educational use of a social network - #ptchat and ParentCamp
The generous folks at #ptchat keep our Wednesday evenings hopping with their own superb chat at 9:00 p.m. They also organize "ParentCamps" to open up the unconference opportunity for parents and teachers to come together to help children most effectively.

Best mobile app - Adobe Voice
Adobe Voice is finally the app we've been waiting for. It combines text, images, icons, music, video, and motion into free, seamless videos that can be created in minutes.

Lifetime achievement - Gina Sipley
As a teacher, writer, and edupreneur, Gina Sipley (@GSipley) is doing it all. She's an educator at all levels, from K12 to college, an instructional designer, a global consultant, a Teacher Of The Future, a columnist, a coder, a mentor, a PhD candidate, and a leader among EdTechWomen.  

We wish we could acknowledge all of the kind educators who have made an impact on our teaching this year. Thank you to all of the dedicated professionals making a difference each day.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

NYSCATE 2014 - Simple Ways To Publish In A Paperless Environment

Source: ASIDE, 2014

The increasing use of technology to deliver information means the traditional bulletin board is going the way of the newspaper. While teachers still display student work in traditional venues, they can also seek alternate, virtual opportunities to share projects with peers and parents. Publishing student work motivates them to see, share, and engage in the collective consumption of ideas. Simple, free digital tools make it easier than ever to display content online. Collaborative whiteboards, digital fliers, and virtual pinboards can exhibit student creations with creative design.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

Embedding content in a paperless environment promotes active and continuous discussions about accountability and digital citizenship. Our students are growing up in a world that is always-engaged, always-on, and always-connected. We need to foster dynamic learning networks that take advantage of these tools to help them navigate, curate, and publish their work.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

The increasing move toward 1:1 and BYOD programs has also pushed the speed and availability of information to mobile environments. It is important to employ app smashing and other interactive ways to engage with student work that builds on the collective feedback of teacher to student, student to student, and student to teacher.

Free publishing platforms:

Source: ASIDE, 2014


Free publishing tools:


Adobe Voice

For examples of student creations in Adobe Voice for different grade levels, click here and here.


Source: ASIDE, 2014



To create a free teacher class in Kidblog, click here


For examples of student publishing via Padlet, check out this, this, this, and this.


For examples of student publishing via Smore, check out this and this.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

For further reading and resources, we recommend:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving: Supermarkets And Fair Food

Source: Food Chains Trailer

With the Thanksgiving holiday less than a week away, many schools around the country enter into conversations with their students about being grateful for what they have, showing gratitude to others, and starting food drives for the less fortunate. The heightened awareness, while noble, should be an ongoing conversation about empathy year round, and not slotted into a month where we overindulge with too much food.

Source: Food Chain$
So this year, we chose to talk to our students about who supplies their food. We did not mean which grocery store. We posed the question: What does it mean "from farm to table"? Kids have mixed messages about farm life from rosy images in picture books, nostalgic views in commercials, or pumpkin picking during October in contrived environments for entertainment. We wanted them to know more about the people who supply fresh food to markets and manufacturers.

We showed our students the movie trailer for the new film Food Chain$, produced by Eva Longoria, that premieres around the country starting today. The full length film hopes to raise awareness about the human cost in supplying food and the plight of the farmworkers who endure the backbreaking labor to get it to us. While we may not be able to see the entire movie with our students, the trailer provides enough information for teachers to open up a discussion about the role of large supermarket chains in determining the price of food.

The power supermarkets have over revenue in the agricultural system is enormous. Supermarkets earn $4 trillion globally. Their drain on the revenue from the food supply chain has left farmworkers in poverty, while retaining huge profits for the corporations. Many farmworkers endure harsh work conditions, and in extreme cases, they have been held in debt bondage, or modern day slavery.

Many schools, including ours, participate in fundraisers for charities and causes, and we applaud all that educators and students do to help, but hopefully by raising awareness about fair food programs, we can collectively help break the chain. It's a fair trade for one of life's necessities.

For more information, please see: Food Chain$: The Revolution In America's Fields.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Role Should Blogs Play In The Life Of An Educator?

Source: ASIDE, 2014

A recent #EdChat Radio show on the Bam! Radio Network discussed the topic of teacher blogging. We were invited to participate in the broadcast with hosts Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) and Nancy Blair (@blairteach). The conversation on "What Role Should Blogs Play In The Life Of An Educator?" broached a range of topics about online writing and publishing for both teachers and students. Check out the podcast, or download the show for free from iTunes.

A few of the insights included:
Source: Jackstreet;
Bam! Radio Network
  • Blogging levels the playing field; expressing one's opinions about education is no longer about status or access
  • Writing a blog is not just about publishing, but it is also about sharing in a community of fellow educators
  • Blogging validates the voice of each teacher and allows niche ideas to rise to the mainstream
  • Blogging is the new normal for student writing, and teachers can model this literacy
  • Commenting is an important skill for young people to master and also an avenue for all teachers to enter the conversation
  • Publishing adds a pleasant pressure to stay relevant and maintain helpful resources
For other information about teacher podcasts and online broadcasts, we recommend the full slate of educational programs on the Bam! Network. Also, take a look at the article, "Add #EdChat Radio To Your PLN."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Veterans Day: What We Don't See

Source: American Psychiatric Association
Veterans Day infographics provide a wide range of data to help us discuss this holiday with our students, and we've written a number of posts to remember the brave men and women who served so valiantly to protect our freedoms. But perhaps the infographic above from the American Psychiatric Association is the most powerful to cross our path. It's not about the numbers of veterans from different wars, or the history of the day; instead, it represents the staggering statistics about the wounds that plague the minds of so many of our veterans.

Source: American Psychiatric Association

It is difficult to get an official count of the number of soldiers with physical injuries who were wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the website, Costs of War, there are over 970,000 disability claims on record to the Veterans Administration as of March 2014, whereas the Department of Defense official count is just over 50,000. The DoD does not make this information easily accessible, and many of the news releases don't have direct links to the data.

Source: Takepart
When we add in the information for suicide and mental health issues for the wounds we can't readily see, the numbers go off the charts. The sad truth is there are far more injuries than what meet the eye. The infographic called Combating Military and Veteran Suicide and Supporting Mental Health Care points to an alarming statistic that one veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes.

While we don't want to dwell on such depressing facts with our students, we do want to educate them to understand that the costs of war are far greater than they may think. Just because someone is not physically hurt does not mean he or she is not hurting.

Thank you to all the veterans who sacrificed so much for us.

For other resources, please see:

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Best Videos Explaining Midterm Elections

Source: Yahoo! News
Many students – and many Americans – have a difficult time understanding why off-year elections are so important. Part of this confusion originates in the muddle of yard signs and Congressional ads during non-presidential years. A larger reason for the uncertainty, however, arises from the uneasy access to helpful information. Even in today's glut of online media, it can be challenging to find simple, effective tools to explain the midterm election process. The videos we collected below are some of the best resources for helping children learn about what's at stake this November and why every election is critical.

Also, check out "Does Voting Matter? Interactive Visualizations To Learn About The Midterm Elections" to find digital tools and infographics to teach students about modern civics.

Senate Midterm Elections Explained - Yahoo! News


Why You Should Care More About Midterm Elections - TestTube


The 2014 Midterms, Explained In 8 Bits - Vox


America's Midterm Elections Explained - CCTV America

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Does Voting Matter? Interactive Visualizations To Learn About The Midterm Elections

Source: Vote Easy from Project Vote Smart
We've long admired the election resources from Project Vote Smart, but some new interactive tools are taking the 2014 midterms to mind-boggling levels. The non-partisan consortium has designed two dynamic interfaces that explore issues and candidates across the country. Students of any level will be mesmerized by the vivid graphics as they accumulate an understanding about individual politicians and their votes.

Source: Political Galaxy from Project Vote Smart
The Vote Easy site uses kid-friendly animations that allow users to choose a state and zip code to hone in on candidates in their neighborhoods. The politicians are rated on "courage" depending on whether or not they agreed to answer Vote Smart's questionnaire about key issues. Students can select areas of interest, such as "Education," "Energy," or "Environment," to align their personal viewpoints with the candidates who agree with them. Each contestant's face hops backward or forward in proportional "fit" as students indicate how important a topic is to them. This clever interaction reinforces the notion that voting is relative, since citizens care about issues in varying degrees.

Source: Share America (click for full graphic)
The Political Galaxy site drills down on every state and national figure across a spinning universe of politicians. By inputting either a name or zip code, students can navigate an impressive array of facts about each official, including votes, speeches, positions, funding, and ratings across a firmament of topics. The Political Galaxy page, by the way, works fine on mobile platforms, while Vote Easy's Flash encoding doesn't work on iOS devices.

The problem in getting students excited about non-presidential elections is the same obstacle keeping actual voters away from the polls: they need a reason to care. Most Americans do not internalize the critical importance of Congressional and local contests. To address this predicament, several high-quality infographics highlight the significance of this year's fights. The "All About The 2014 Midterm Elections" graphic from Share America offers a clean layout of compelling facts to tutor students and citizens in what's at stake this November.

Source: Bloomberg Politics
Bloomberg Politics presents a simple but effective interactive infographic that demonstrates how "A Really Small Slice Of Americans Get To Decide Who Will Rule The Senate." In this relational map, the turquoise states shift in size and location as they pinpoint a handful of voters who will determine the balance of Congressional power.

Two other infographics try to inspire younger voters from opposite directions. The "Why Young People Don't Vote" image from emphasizes the impediments keeping twenty-somethings away from the polls.

On the other hand, the "Vote With Confidence" placard from Bing's Voter Guide attempts to assuage the stress that young citizens feel over their lack of political understanding.

Source: Bing Voter Guide
Other online resources that help teachers and students appreciate the pivotal role that off-year elections play include:
Glenn Wiebe from History Tech, one of our favorite educational blogs, also introduced us to the Voting Information Project, which provides "cutting-edge technology tools that give voters access to the customized information they need to cast a ballot on or before Election Day." One of these tools is an embeddable widget that helps voters unearth essential details, such as polling locations and ballot requirements.

For other lesson ideas about elections and government, we recommend:
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