Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lego Starburst Machine

My son wanted to build a candy machine out of legos. He found a way using some videos from YouTube and using some of his own intuition. Here is his Lego Starburst Machine. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Top Five Tech Tools

After reading the recent NETA newsletter, my friend and colleague, Jason Everett (ESU 10), wrote an article about what he calls “The Top Five Tech Tools for Teachers.” As I read his article, I asked myself, “What are my top five tech tools?” What do I use almost daily or often enough to be considered the top five? So, here are my Top Five Tech Tools:

Number One: As I write this article, I am using Google Docs. I cannot begin to share how helpful this application has become in my work. I can put up a document as a draft and invite members to collaborate. I use Google Docs for meetings, for handouts at workshops, and for gathering my thoughts to share with others. For me, it is all about collaboration. The more I can get people to collaborate with me, the better my writing becomes.

Number Two: My blog. I use my blog ( to communicate the things I write and make them available to anyone in the world. It provides a public space for my thoughts. It allows me to get feedback on what people think of my ideas. There are all kinds of blogs out there for people to follow - educational blogs, personal blogs. Blogs for moms and dads, etc.

Number Three: iChat. iChat is a Mac product, but I can use the same type of app on my Windows machine using AIM instant messaging. It is a place where I can help people troubleshoot problems they may be having with their computer or simply to offer advice. The nice thing about this software is that it is instant communication vs. waiting for an email to arrive. With email, I have to respond, then wait for a response. With iChat, I can continuously converse with other people. I can even have more than one conversation at a time. Talk about multi-tasking! Try it out for yourself and iChat with me at

Number Four: My iPod Touch. I am finding that my iPod Touch can do everything I can do on my computer, only the screen is a little smaller. I use it when I go to meetings because it is a more mobile device than my laptop. I can use it to access my email, to iChat, to look up my Google Docs. It is all integrated and synced with the things on my computer. All my calendars and contacts are stored on my iPod Touch as well. I use it to download podcasts to listen to while I am traveling. With the new iPod Touch, I can even use it as a video camera as well as a digital camera.

Number Five: My cell phone. I don’t leave home without it! Few people disagree on the value of their cell phones today. If you have a smart phone, most can do all of the tasks mentioned above for the iPod Touch.  Droids and the iPhone are easily the top two smart phones on the market today. Since I cannot use an iPhone because of service restrictions, I carry a simple cell phone with me and use my iPod Touch for the things an iPhone can do.

If you have not read the latest NETA newsletter, it is full of useful information and you can get it for free at the NETA site ( Click on Resources on the left and it will take to the newsletter section. As you think about my top five tech tools, I’d like to ask what are your top five tech tools?  Do you introduce them to your students? If so, then ask your students what their top five tools would be.  And finally, I’d like to ask if you are using the tools in the classroom that students use outside of school? Do you have a plan to implement any of these tools into your curriculum? Is your school thinking about ways to allow these tools inside your school if they aren’t currently allowed?  These are all questions that schools should be considering. As always, I’d enjoy having this conversation with you, your district, or your technology committee.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You've Got Text

Remember that movie, You’ve Got Mail!, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan who get connected via email? E-mail has become a natural way of communication. We can easily send messages to many people and communicate to them our concerns, questions, or comments on whatever topic interests us. Have you ever thought of how adults use email vs. students? Is email losing its ability to be an avenue for communication? Is it more about using cell phones and text messaging? Or, what about smart phones and the ability to video chat with others through software? I know that my own children would rather text than send an email. They get immediate feedback from a text message vs. an email that may take days to get a response.

There are many positive ways to use cell phones in the classroom. But, as we think about using them for education, we must consider their relevance for the curriculum. In order to be effective, there has to be an outcome. Cell phones can be engaging and fun if used effectively. And, we can use that time to teach appropriate uses of the technology.

There are also ways in which students use cell phones negatively. Students are using cell phones to bully other students. They do this by sending obscene texts or obscene photos to other students they may not like. They also use their social networks to take more “jabs” at each other. As parents, teachers, and administrators, we need to watch out for this kind of behavior. The bully is no longer the big kid on the playground. There have been several recent stories relating to this very issue. Ones that really disturb me are adolescents who end up taking their own lives. One example is the story of a 13-old girl in Florida who committed suicide after an explicit cell phone photo she had texted to a boy was forwarded to several other students. You can read the full version of this story at

Each year, the Nebraska ESU’s sponsor a contest for “Internet Safety.” The contest is sponsored by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office and concludes in April. Our goal is to get the word out and help students understand the “risk” of rude behavior online. There are numerous organizational web sites whose goal is to help students understand these risks. In fact, Anderson Cooper has interviewed students regarding the very issue of Cyberbullying. You can see the episodes on AC360˚. One of his episodes is titled, “In a Wired World, Children Unable to Escape Cyberbullying.”

I believe we (parents, teachers, administrators) have a responsibility to teach appropriate uses of these technologies - cell phones, online social networks, and Internet behavior. It can be effectively integrated into our curriculum if done appropriately. Many futurists predict that every student will have a digital device (a phone) to carry with them to school in five years. Are we prepared for this as educators? Instead of “You’ve got mail”, perhaps we should start saying, “You've Got Text!”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oct 2010 tech news

Interactive Whiteboards
I recently ran across an article by Robert Marzano on the effective use of Interactive boards in the classroom. It was interesting to note that in that article, he states, “using interactive whiteboards was associated with a 16 percentile point gain in student achievement. Using voting devices was associated with a 26 percentile point gain in student achievement (along with interactive whiteboards). A third feature is the interactive whiteboard reinforcer - applications that teachers can use to signal that an answer is correct or to present information in an unusual context. These practices were associated with a 31 percentile point gain in student achievement.”

After reading that, I wondered how many schools in ESU 4 have whiteboards? And, how many of those are effectively used? Interactive whiteboards have been around for many years, but if we as teachers and learners do not take time to use them properly, then you may not see any gain in student achievement at all. In fact, Robert Marzano states, “As is the case with all powerful tools, teachers must use interactive whiteboards thoughtfully, in accordance with what we know about good classroom practice.”

There are lots of ways, fun and exciting, to use whiteboards in the classrooms. Many schools already have them. Some are using MOBI’s and other hand-held devices which are just as engaging as interactive whiteboards. Get the students moving, get them collaborating, get them discussing important concepts. Then, use the interactive board with voting devices to engage them fully. If used appropriately, you will see some dramatic results. It all takes time and training. If you need any help, feel free to call or email.

For the full article, check it out at

Upcoming Workshops
Sept. 27 - Tech Plan Update starting at 9 AM
Sept. 30 - tcadre meeting starting at 9 AM
Oct. 18 - NSSRS work day beginning at 9 AM
Oct. 22 - tcadre meeting starting at 9 AM
Oct. 26 - eInstruction workshop starting at 9 AM with Dustin Frank
Oct. 29 - ANGEL workshop starting at 9 AM
Dec. 10 - Using iPods/iPads in the classroom beginning at 9 AM

Website of the Month
This web site of the month is more for secondary teachers, but has lots of opportunities to enhance your classroom. The Khan Academy features over 1600 free video lessons on math, science, technology, and other subjects. Check it out at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ESU 4 Cadres

Here are links to our wiki cadre sites: - For new teachers - Math cadre - Art cadre - Literacy cadre - Science cadre

Monday, August 30, 2010

August, 2010 News

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ISTE 2010 Notes

Friday, June 4, 2010

Google Workshop

Google Workshop
Day 1

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

May 2010 News

And the winners are....

Every April, Nebraska educators are encouraged to teach Internet Safety.  ESU's across the state have a contest in which students can participate. Even though the only award for winning this contest is having a name printed in a newsletter, we believe the process helps students learn the benefits and risks associated with online profiles. Each year we get a handful of entries at different grade levels. Entries range from elementary posters to high school videos warning others about the dangers of using the Internet inappropriately. While visiting a local school and discussing this with another teacher, I came upon a wall full of posters students created about online safety. The wall was lined with drawings and messages to be safe while online. This teacher told me they used this as an art project. So, not only was there a curriculum tie to this project, but also meaning in the content. What a great story! As I looked over these posters, I could not help asking, "How do you decide on which one to send to the ESU?" They were all so very well done. 

And, the winners from ESU 4 the K-4 poster contest: Elizabeth from Johnson Brock, sponsor Jane Wenzl; in the 5-8 category: for audio public service announcement - Tyler from Pawnee City with sponsor Lori Gyhra, and for the poster contest - Makayla from Johnson-Brock with sponsor Ryan Walker; in the 9-12 video public service announcement - Tyler and Cole from Johnson-Brock with Tera Stutheit as sponsor. Although I am allowed only to pick one winner from each category, I believe every one who participated is a winner.

I would personally like to thank all those that participated. Schools participating this year included Sterling, Johnson-Brock, and Pawnee City. The winning entries from ESU 4 were sent on to the state contest, and the winners from the state contest can be found at:

If you did not choose to participate in the contest this year, I would urge you to do so in the future. The winning entries can be found on my podcast at Click on the "Technology" link, then click on the bottom to check out my podcast.

On another note, the NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology Association) conference should still be fresh in the minds of those who attended that outstanding event. At that conference, many  ideas are shared about how different technologies can be applied in the classroom. I would encourage all of you, even if you were not able to attend NETA, to start thinking about how technology can impact your classroom next fall. There are workshops held at the ESU this summer that you may benefit from attending. If there is something specific you would like to implement, but don't know how, let us know. We would enjoy the opportunity to visit with you.  Don't be afraid to do something different. That is the motto that the Apple Computer Corporation lives by - "Think Differently!"

Have a great summer. I hope to see many of you at our summer workshops.

Website of the month: Readability - Having trouble reading online articles due to ads and clip art? Readability is a simple tool that makes reading on the web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you're reading. Also works well for students who have trouble reading online articles due to visual impairments.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

April 2010 News

April 2010 News

The future of's all in your hands!

Remember the Palm OS devices? These were the coolest little devices in their time. I remember vividly using this device on a regular basis. It stored all my contacts, my calendar, held some of my office documents - all in a handheld device. I graduated from that device and have moved onto an iPod Touch. The Palm OS is still alive, and the company is still developing new devices. What we are seeing is a merger of a palm device with a phone, like the Palm Pre and the Palm Pixi.

I believe that the idea of utilizing handheld devices in the classroom is on the horizon. We see students bringing them into schools and libraries all the time. These devices are integrated quite naturally into their daily lives. You don't have to teach them how to use these devices, they figure it out on their own. Although a handheld device does not necessarily offer the computing power of a desktop or a laptop, they do offer some benefits to teaching and learning. Some advantages include cost, mobility, and size. Handheld devices, like an iPod touch, are very inexpensive compared to desktops and laptops. Because they are light and small enough to fit in a pocket or backpack, they can be easily carried with you most anywhere.

We've seen an increase in the promotion and production of slate technology, which I think could have an even bigger impact on education. The iPad, the first version from Apple, will be shipped and in the hands of some users by April 3rd.  You can already read predictions on countless blogs and forums on how this will impact schools just by googling the name. You may also find some who do not agree it is fit for education - time will tell either way. No matter if you like or dislike the iPad, its technology has set the stage for other devices and applications.  HP has now released some video documentation on its version of slate technology, the HP slate. There is also the Archos tablet that offers a variety of tablet sizes and functions. Gizmodo has done a comparison of these three types of technologies as well as others that are on the market.

Recently, I was asked if these technologies will drive the education market. My response is simply that kids need to be engaged, with or without technology. It is my opinion that technology alone does not necessarily increase student learning or achievement. It is the way the technology is used that can have a tremendous impact. It is a tool that helps students learn a concept or idea, to digest material, to collaborate, to be competitive in a global economy, and to be a 21st Century Learner.

Website of the month:
Lit2go from the University of South Florida - you can find them also on iTunes U, where you can download complete books for your classroom or you can visit their website -

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feb 2010 news

Technology - Out with the Old and In with the New!

Technology has changed the way we do business. It has even changed the way we organize our personal lives. We have avenues like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to stay connected to friends and families. We can go to conferences and learn new things without even having to leave our schools. That being said, trends in technology have also changed. E-mail is slowly becoming an "old" technology while texting and instant messaging are more popular. We see, as individuals and as school districts, outdated equipment being replaced with newer, faster equipment.

For the last several years, ESU 4 has offered schools the opportunity to responsibly recycle electronics. All old equipment is brought to the ESU 4 warehouse where it is stacked, wrapped, and placed on pallets. Once all the equipment is organized and stacked, it is trucked to Luminous Recycling in Denver, CO. There, it is dismantled and all recycled for re-use.

Also, for the last several years, even before I came to work at ESU 4, teachers were offered a free website through a service called Manila. Manila is a server-based web site editor. If a teacher requested an account, I activated that account, and a web-site was created for teacher use in a matter of minutes. For many years, a lot of training has been put into getting teachers to use that service. Every year, ESU 4 would pay to upgrade the license so we could have Manila available for our teachers. Unfortunately, that service will be discontinued on Oct. 1, 2010. The reasons are many, but the the primary reason is the company that sells the licenses for Manila no longer exists. So, our server is running a program that is no longer supported. Without the support of the company, we cannot continue to offer this service to our teachers. If you have a Manila site, I encourage you to be thinking of a way to move your Manila site over to another type of service. Many schools are already using site-building programs, so check with your technology coordinator to see what your school offers. Some schools are getting Google domains, where teachers can have a Google Site for free. Some schools have a district-wide site builder, like SOCS. And some schools are using servers that have web site designs built-in. If your school does not offer a service described above, we will have a solution for you. We will be providing training and ideas for moving your content from Manila to another location. Please look for that training in future newsletters.

Finally, I urge you to begin thinking about how technology can change the way you teach or help reinforce ideas learned in the classroom. I would like for you to consider, even now, changing one thing next year. Take some time the rest of this spring to think about what your curriculum would look like if you integrated technology throughout your lessons. It could be something small like using Hippocampus during the year, or something bigger, like setting up a course online using ANGEL or Moodle. Focus on changing one thing and then make that your goal. Take notes along the way. What worked? What didn't? What would I change? If you need any help with planning or implementing, please let me know. I'd enjoy having that conversation with you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stretch into a New Year

I'd like for you to start thinking about how you can "stretch" yourself in 2010. So often, we get into a routine and sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable when our routine gets jostled. These routines may even vary between school and home. I recently read an article found on the U.S. Department of Education's website entitled, "Harnessing Innovation to Support Student Success - Using Technology to Personalize Education." This article states that "more than half of young adults send or receive text messages daily, three out of four teens between 15 and 17 own cell phones, and eight out of ten teens say they've helped an adult do something online that the adult could not do him or herself." This article was published in 2008. I wonder how those statistics would look in 2010. If you have never sent or received a text message, then I would suggest you need to "stretch yourself." If you've never had a teenager show you how to do something online to help you learn, then why not "stretch yourself" and ask one for help? I don't know how many times I've seen my own children do something with technology that prompts me to ask, "Will you show me how you did that?" 

Just last week my 16 year old nephew stayed up all night using Google to help him build his own FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server. How awesome is that! He enjoys using technology and finds ways for him to learn these techniques on his own. He is "stretching himself" everyday by using Google, online forums, Facebook, and other media to help him figure things out.

Do you have a Facebook account? A twitter account? A blog? An online profile? Do you use ANGEL or some other Learning Management System in your classroom? If not, then I would recommend you continue to "stretch" and start by just using one. Once you start, you can start adding friends and build a place where you can learn, interact, and share information about your classroom. I use Twitter for professional use and I use Facebook for personal use on a daily basis. In fact, at ESU 4, we recently set up a Facebook page for those of you using Facebook. I can tell you I learn something from Twitter and Facebook everyday. 

I recently read an article on JenuineTech's blog in which the author reflected on managing your online presence. Here are a few tips from that blog:

1. Stretch yourself by 10%. Invite more people to be your friend on twitter, join a ning and comment on a forum, participate in a project, try a new option in your classroom.

2. Don’t hesitate to share an idea which you think everyone always knows about. Not everyone is online 365/24/7 and ideas get missed, overlooked, or not seen for a variety of reasons. So go ahead and share….I can promise you that someone will say "wow, I had never seen that before and thank you for sharing.”

The author goes on to list eight other ways in which to control and mange your online content. I highly recommend reading this article in your attempt to "stretch" this year. You can find the blog at:

So, will you make it a New Year's Resolution to "stretch yourself?" Try one new thing in your classroom, in your district, in your professional experience. Try it and see how it goes! If it doesn't work, figure out a way, ask for help, or try something else. Try expanding the classroom beyond the confines of your physical space by inviting a guest speaker via Skype or some other form of distance learning. I know I will be finding ways to "stretch" myself. Will you?

The 2010 Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship contest is underway in each ESU in Nebraska. Entries must be submitted to ESU 4 by March 12, 2010. You can email me for an entry form or you can download it here.

Website of the Month:
Free Educational Resources from the Federal Government