Archive for category Uncategorized

What I Am Reading: Invent to Learn

I came across this quote on Pinterest a while ago.

If you read an hour a day, one book per week, you will be an expert in your field within three years. Through continuous learning, you will be a national authority in five years, and you will be an international authority in seven years. ~ Brian Tracy

In reality I do not have an hour a day to read as some days the kids are lucky if we have time to eat and read their books before bedtime. So I guess I am becoming an expert on Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Whatever After, but that really doesn’t help me in my career.  I have decided that something is better than nothing and I am not seeking to be an international expert, just to get better at what I do.   I have started by finding books that challenge me to think about education, technology and how kids learn.   Currently the buzz I have been hearing is around MakerSpace.   MakerSpace was a big topic as last year’s SXSW Edu event and I can honestly say I did not “get it” at that time.

I began to watch how my own children learn and play and started to see the allure.  We have gotten away from allowing kids to build and create.  School work needs to have multiple choice questions associated with it.  I see it in their homework and graded papers.  Science is graded on how well they can choose the right answer instead of how they can make predictions, test theories and explore how things work.   I also began thinking back to my own school days and tried to think about what work do I remember from the 1980s that I was graded on.  What came to mind was the replicas I built of the Globe Theater, an Egyptian Tomb, science fair projects that I researched and put together and the one page notes pages my trig teacher would let us bring to class.  All these things I created.

I was starting to “get it.”    The idea still seemed overwhelming in the face of standardizing testing.  I began to research online and ran across the recommendation for this book: Invent to Learn.  I am enjoying reading through the ideas and thoughts in this book.  I have used it as a reference book to find ideas and resources in how I am helping to create a MakerSpace existence on campus.  More to come on that later.    By reading I am conquering my fears and finding solutions.    I am not through with it yet, but wanted to share and find out what other people are reading right now.

What are you reading to become an “expert?”


Tags: , , ,

Back to School: Student Motivation

As we head back to school it is a good time to consider what can I do as a teacher to motivate my students?   I have done a little research and compiled a list for consideration.

Student Motivation Ideas:

  •  Make your subject personal.   Show your own enthusiasm and relate the material to the lives and interests of the students.
  • Ask students to think about the materials and then use their statements as you study the readings.
  • Be able to answer – Why do I need to know this?
  • Get to know your students on a personal level.
  • Measure student’s progress and show interest in helping them be successful.
  • Promote good will!  State what is going well and connections that are being made in class with the materials.
  • Make the classroom a safe place to learn, to participate, and take risks.
  • Role model what a learner looks like and what mastery looks like in what you do.
  • Understand that your class is not the most important thing in your student’s life.

When giving assignments:

  • Give students a purpose and focus for reading, like take a side that you have to defend in the next class period.  Research shows that students do not see a correlation between reading and academic success so only 20% of them will do the reading.  Make them see the connection in your classroom.
  • Assign reading that is essential to the understanding of the course.  The less is more approach.
  • Focus in on what is worth knowing from your content.
  • Make the assignments challenging but attainable for your students and expect success
  • Differentiate whenever possible in what is to be learned, how it is to be learned or how the students can show mastery.



Hobson, E. (2004). The IDEA Paper #40: Getting Students to Read. The IDE.A Center. Retrieved August 18, 2012, from

 Svinicki, M. (2005). IDEA Paper #41: Student Goal Orientation, Motivation, and Learning. IDEA Paper #41. Retrieved August 18, 2012, from

Teaching Resources – Motivating Students. (2011, October 11).Teaching Effectiveness Program. Retrieved August 18, 2012, from

Summarization and Twitter

Summary is a skill that crosses into every subject area.  As a history teacher I wanted to have kids summarize, but I needed some tools to get started with.   As an ITS I am still looking for ways to help kids learn to summarize that is relevant to them, which is what brings me to the topic of this post:

Twitter and Summary


Background on Twitter: Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging site that lets informal communication happen in small snippets…it is like e-mail, but you have followers that you can keep up-to-date with “tweets” of 140 or less characters. 

Over time twitter has been adapted to meet the needs of the user including the “@” symbol to reply to someone else’s tweet or a hashtag “#” to add labels or tags to tweets to allow users to follow topics or to find tweets more easily. #summaryidea

Ask students to compose a tweet to summarize a concept they have learned or a passage they have read in 140 characters or less. Can they do it? Can you do it? I’ve attached a template that contains 140 squares that can be used to compose the summary statement.

 Think about this activity as a ticket out the door activity with a note card you turn in on the way out or a sticky not you place on the door for others to see and review.

Tags: ,

Web Wandering Wednesdays – Videos

60 Second Recaps – provides sixty second clips about various parts of classic literature.  Nice way to give an overview of what is being read, or to inspire students to create their own 60 second overview of a book they are reading.

Life in a Day – View videos of a “life in the day” or people from around the globe.   The day is July 24, 2010 and people were asked to video their lie and submit it to this project on Youtube.   The websitea has a nice global navigation that allows you to watch videos from all over the world.  Here is a video explaining the project far better that I can:

Animoto – Hook Your Class!

How do you get your student’s attention? We used to call this the anticipatory set, the hook or now the popular term is the engagement piece.

Consider showing this video to introduce a unit on Sharecropping and Cotton Production in Texas:

Set the stage by asking students to describe the images and the faces.  How are the the same or different from their lives today?  What assumptions can you make about life during that time?

Images are powerful.  In our digital age students are used to seeing the images to help them identify and connect with the events being talked about.  Think about how fast images can be broadcast about any event that is occuring.

How to Make Videos:

Animoto helps present those images in a way that is easy and interesting to your students.

Animoto is a web tool that allows users to create videos using your own images, video clips (up to 10 seconds) and music.  You can also choose from their collection of music that includes tracks from popular artists.  Animoto then analyzes the media you have chosen to create a custom video.  Transitions and videos are adjusted to fit the music chosen.

Finished videos can be played from the website, embedded into other webpages (think wikis, blogs and teacherWeb),  emailed out or uploaded to YouTube.

The best part is that now Animoto is providing unlimited access to educators. This means you can create unlimited videos with various lengths and your students can too.

To create your own Animoto Account for Educators go to:

How can You Use these Videos in Class:

  • Commercials for upcoming Events
  • Book Trailers
  • Videos of Class Field Trips
  • Summarize a Class Project
  • Interpret a Topic you are studying with images.

Remember these videos could be student created or teacher created.

Other Examples:

Tags: , , ,