girl-388652_1920 If we believe ourselves to be life-long learners, then Khan Academy (KA) would be a resource that any autodidact might want to have in their arsenal to learn and grow a little (or a lot) every day. My role as an instructional technologist is to help teachers find resources that help them teach more effectively and efficiently. However, KA could be equally useful for teachers in their out-of-school lives. If you’re a learn-by-doing kind of person (“that’s me!” says the author), this would be a good parallel as it helps fill in the gaps that the sometimes non-linear path that learning in real time misses.

If you’re asked to take on the role as church treasurer or your children’s school parent blog, you might consider “going back to school” and use KA to brush up on the skills you’d need to do these tasks effectively. Once using KA in this ways, my bet is you’d quickly see how it fits into your classroom instruction.exclamation-48283_1280

Let’s get things straight first – if you teach French, Spanish (ixl.com now has a Spanish module), Music Theory or Religion, KA won’t be of much use in the classroom, as they haven’t added those subject areas in their vast library of resources. They’ve come a long way though! KA started out as solely math-focused, with science and engineering following closely behind. Over the years, KA now includes World, US History and Government, Language Arts/Grammar, Comp Sci, as well as a comprehensive set of lessons regarding test prep. There are even more modules that deal with careers, growth mindset, personal finance, entrepreneurship, and so much more.

Perhaps, most amazingly, Khan Academy is FREE! As in free free free free free free! However, it has the feel of a well-oiled, well-funded organization which it is because Microsoft and other companies have a large stake in their desire to provide quality educational resources for all!

Here are a couple of resources on how to get up and running with Khan Academy:

IMG_0408As a middle school, we use ixl.com extensively and over the years ixl.com has also expanded from its initial math-only roots. If you haven’t looked lately, please view the added subject areas that they’ve added over the years. If you’d like to try subject areas other than Math, English, and Science such as Social Studies and Spanish, let me know so we can upgrade the ixl accounts to allow you to utilize those subject areas.

  • Here’s a nice primer on using KA as a newbie – link
  • How to use KA in class practice – link
  • How to use KA for homework – link
  • How KA supports personalized learning –  link

Although it’s getting later in the school year, you might consider implementing this into your classroom instruction in the fall! Remember, your EdTech Team is here throughout much of the summer to work within a more relaxed and non-stressful setting. As one of the video states, computers/technology can replace teachers, but it can help teachers be better at what they do! Khan Academy might be just the thing you need to help your students help themselves!

IMG_7269A couple of weeks ago, the SR EdTech Team was able to attend a relatively new education conference of nine years, SXSW Edu  – link. It was an amazing trip and I got a chance to listen to amazing keynote speeches, attend interesting and new-to-me edtech workshops and discussions, as well as meet an energetic and vibrant community of educators. I won’t forget this trip for a long time and I hope that I’m able to share the resources and great ideas I gathered over this four-day gathering in Austin, TX. I will dedicate another blog post on SXSWedu in the coming weeks, but I wanted to get you a list of great websites that can help pull you out of a funk, find a good lesson, think out of the box, organize yourself, and connect you to a community of folks that are only looking to help you whenever you feel stranded. Jennifer Gonzales and her blog cultofpedagogy can be an inspiring place to go when you need inspiration and her keynote rang a familiar bell in many people’s minds that were in the audience.

As the title of this blog post suggests, I wanted to share some of the blogs, websites, and resources the tech team accrued while we were there.

That said, here are the websites that I hope you can find some use for as you continue your journey as a passionate educator here at Stone Ridge.

I need to give props to Stone Ridge’s own series of Lunch Duty Podcasts. Ken Woodard, Urvi Shah, and several other Stone Ridge educators continue to create a series (16 so far) of podcasts for teachers by teachers. It’s the first link in the list below.

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  • Lunch Duty Podcasts (Soundcloud link) or Lunch Duty Podcasts internal (curated by Stone Ridge faculty) – The mission of this team is to podcast compelling audio interviews that elicit teaching wisdom and commentary from working teachers for the edification and amusement of working teachers.
  • SXSWedu.com – Ignore the header that looks like you’re only there to register for next year’s conference in Austin, TX. Just scroll down some and you’ll see a myriad of resources that are available to anyone, even if you didn’t attend. Watch the keynotes if you have the time. They are informative and inspirational. Jennifer Gonzales’ keynote could be a great place to start
  • Cultofpedagogy – J Gonzalez’ incredible, inspiration-rich blog is worth going to every day for ideas and ways to get unstuck! If you sign up for her newsletter, you’ll immediately get a free e-book on how to cut your grading time in half!!! We had the fortune of attending her keynote – link. She’s one of those special educators that after perusing her blog or listening to her just makes you want to be a better, and harder working, teacher!
  • Innovators Compass – I met these folks the night before the conference started. There are many graphical representations on how to push through things and make them happen, but you might like their metaphor on how to get unstuck. Ela Ben-Ur – profile, is a firebrand of a person. Her two-hour workshop on how to use the Innovators Compass to get unstuck packed in at least three hours of information and strategies. She came to education after years as a successful designer at IDEO and brings years of energy and brilliance to the change education space.
  • readwritethink – An incredible resource supported by NCTE. Just click in and start searching! Although the title suggests it’s just for language arts/English teachers, there’s much more than that – give it a click!
  • ck-12 – Incredible STEAM resources for teachers to peruse and use!
  • kathyschrocksguidetoeverything – Great resource for everything edtech. If you’ve ever wanted to find an activity or project that is STEAM-related, take a look here!
  • Cool Cat Teacher Blog – This educator recently moved from the blog format to a more graphically pleasing website (although still technically a blog), you’ll get great ideas, as well as some inspiration from what so many teachers post about their experiences, failures, successes, and more.
  • freetechforteachers blog – Richard Byrne, the creator and aggregator of this blog has been doing this for a long time. He piloted the 1:1 Maine Laptop program before it went live. Lots of collected knowledge over the years as a social studies teacher and more!

IMG_7234Bookmark this blog post as I will continue to update this as I find more and more resources. Email links that you find useful and I’ll add them!

button-1015632_1920This may seem as backward and antiquated as you can imagine, but the Stone Ridge MS asks students to NOT use google to search for homework or activities and projects for school. Before anyone starts a campaign against our Neanderthal-like thinking, let’s start with some background.

  • Stone Ridge has one of he most comprehensive and well thought out collections of resources accessible on the internal side of our website. It would be nice if this came free, but we believe that the companies and people who put these resources together and vet them, should be paid for their hard work.
  • We believe that all students should give credit to the authors and owners of website or resources where we get our information from. We should also work had to use proper citations when using various resources – many of these resources make it easier to cite and reference their material.
  • Even when safe search is turned on in student browsers (by default), there is still a possibility that inappropriate content, be it in words or maybe even worse, images or video, can still make it’s way onto a student’s screen.
  • Both the Library and the Ed Tech team do ongoing work and present activities regarding online safety, citizenship and using online resources in an effective way.
  • In the summer, SR requires an hour-and-a-half MS student/Parent Orientation session that introduces MS students and families to the technology program. Students also receive their 2 in 1 devices at that time and are instructed on how to use these devices, as well as discuss the Responsible Use Policy that goes over the dos and don’ts when using school-owned laptops and using the school network. In this orientation, we let families know that we ask them not to use google search at school, but they can decide if they will allow their girls to use google (or other open ended search engines) when at home or in their care.

So, with all of that information, does it make sense to try to enforce this rule, even though everyone and their grandmother use google outside of the classroom setting? We at Stone Ridge still say yes. Let us explain our thinking on this. It’s complicated.

First, the art or skill of deciphering whether or not a website you find using google search is unbiased, without agenda, and accurate takes a long time and even adults have a problem with this  – There are stories that teachers actually have listed this website  – https://www.allaboutexplorers.com/explorers/ as an actual resource that their students used for their research. Take a look at the link. It looks good and the explorers names are spelled correctly. Take a gander  at Christopher Columbus bio and you’ll immediately see that it’s a hoax. In actuality, it’s a website that was made for teachers to TEACH students how to spot fake or inaccurate websites. It even has lessons or activities that show you how to use allabouteplorers.com the right way!

Secondly, during student’s middle school years, they work hard to follow rules and do what their teachers ask of them, but it’s also a time when they begin to exert their independence and sometimes do the opposite of what’s asked of them in the classroom. Outside the classroom, families, siblings, friends type things to find in google all the time. For the most part, this process is useful and mostly harmless. We’re certain that as a parent you and your child(ren) have come across google search queries that are not exactly what you had in mind and on a  regular basis, you’ll see things that okay for your eyes to see, but maybe something that would be hard to explain to  your younger ones. In the worst cases, images or words or even videos might pop up that would take a long long time for you “unexplain.”

Finally, a google search that brings up a youtube video can be even more problematic. It’s not necessarily the video that google points you to (it CAN also be the video), but it’s the comments or suggested videos thatpool show up all around the edges of a youtube video that can cause scars for life! Some of the most offensive comment threads happen in these areas of the web. It’s generally a good idea to keep our middle schoolers eyes away from these spaces.

During their time in the middle school, students learn how to evaluate websites and how to use key words to have more effective web searches. Between our MS Librarian and the ed tech team we  work to expose them to accurate and usable websites, as well as coach them to use our amazing virtual resources. By the time they reach the 8th grade, we begin to loosen the “no google search” reigns a bit and even allow them to use google towards the end of the school year because once in high school, their teachers will expect them to make smart choices when researching online AND their grades will be impacted if they make bad reference and resource choices.

Whew! That was a lot of words used to explain something that we think makes a lot of age and developmentally-appropriate sense. We hope it makes sense to you, as well.

Google Doodle

Greetings! You probably see a Google Doodle once or twice a day, but don’t realize what it is. Google Doodle is the graphic that goes above the Google search box when you type google.com. For the most part, it’s just an image of the word Google that has interesting artwork or stylings that honor a specific birthday or discovery or landmark occasion. The Google Doodle above was shown on October 31, 2010 honoring a 17th century woodcut piece of art. Here’s a link to 23 memorable Google Doodles – link from wallpaper.com.

Today, however, like many Google Doodles, it’s more than artwork. To honor what would have been Maya Angelou’s 90th birthday. You can either just type in google.om or go to this link, It’s the reading of her iconic poem, Still I Rise heading up the page on this 4th day of April. I think it is poignant that it is also the Google Doodle on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jrs. assassination.

If you have an five extra minutes and want your girls to listen quietly to a beautiful poem, I recommend, turning down the lights and clicking on this Google Doodle and let the words speak for themselves!

Enjoy at your own peaceful risk!

smiley-163510_1280In my ed tech classes this rotation, I’ve started using the “Ask a question” section on my google class pages to work with our girls on how to post comments or reply to other people’s comments when online. I’ve come to the conclusion that whenever we leave a texting conversation or email back-and-forth, the people on both ends should leave that conversation skipping and whistling, happy with the “conversation” they just had and ready to go out in the world, be it to dinner or heading out to with friends spreading their joy and sunshine with the rest of the world.

Yes, that is a bit overblown, but think about it, in a world that seems to be brimming with negativity and disrespect, wouldn’t it be nice if this little corner of the world did their best to not allow a single text message or comment thread to end in a cloud of negativity? My hope is that our 7th, and 8th graders will get something out of this activity and even recall instances in their short texting life, where they wish they hadn’t posted something or wondered why someone was offended or hurt by their innocent text.

For the second activity, I had our girls post their favorite dessert along with a description of why it was their favorite. After they posted, one person from the class had to comment on a classmate’s to respectfully explain that, although the person’s choice was a good one, they thought there dessert was better. The tricky part was that they had to try to respond in a way that didn’t make them feel bad or like they were being mean or disrespectful. Below is an example of how our girls posted. I’ve blanked out names to protect the innocent.

Wilma Flintstone
Nov 14
My favorite dessert is a banana split because of the whipped cream and different flavors in one. Thank You!
2 replies

Betty Rubble Nov 14
Bananas are my least favorite fruit, but we can have different opinions!

Wilma Flintstone Nov 14
Thank You for your opinion and I appreciate your positivity.
Reply

Jane Doe
Nov 14
I love ice cream and I love brownies, so my dad and I combined them, so we go get a big bowl and chocolate ice cream and a brownie and whipped cream plus a cherry on top and BOOM!! Best Dessert ever!!
2 replies

Elsa Flan Nov 14
Jane, brownies and ice cream are excellent separately, but if you want to combine them to make one dessert and enjoy it, there should be no reason why you can’t. I just prefer them on their own.

Jane Doe Nov 14
Thank you for you opinion :) :)
Reply

Joan of Arc Nov 14
in Potomac, we go to this restaurant called the Pony Express. For dessert, they have this really yummy warm cookie sundaes with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream! It is so delicious!
2 replies

Betsy Ross Nov 14
Sound good, but I thing that a restaurant in upstate New York has the best ice cream and brownies.

Joan of Arc Nov 14
It probably does. Thanks!
Reply
You can see that the girls tried their best to be respectful of one another while find a way to disagree. I think it was a great first attempt and will continue to work with our girls to help them leave themselves and their texting mates skipping and spreading rose petals whenever they finish texting one another!pretty-woman-1509956_1920

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Being a human being, and I’m assuming that you are because you’re reading this, you and I are prone to view things subjectively, as we are shaped and formed by our own diverse experiences. I know for a fact that the highway sign said the speed limit was 65 mph. That’s why the officer pulled me over and ticketed me for going 67 in a 55 mph zone. A bit of advice – always say thank you, regardless of whatever an officer does or doesn’t hand you. I digress.brain-605603_1280

It has ALWAYS been important to make sure you find and state facts, as accurately as you can. It is also equally important to be ready to state why you believe something is a fact – either as a first-hand witness to the fact (there was only one sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints, not two, before I finished off the box) or share where you got your information. Saying “some” have said or “they”  or “I’ve heard” doesn’t make it a fact. There is still so much work to be done with my middle school students in getting them to properly and accurately cite the resources they use for their various reports and projects. I’d like to say that they have mastered this important skill, but they still think it’s okay to use and restate most things so long as they paste the url somewhere in their report/project. I know, I know. That’s not quite enough.

mistake-1966448_1920If you do find yourself on the short end of information regarding a current topic, theory or statement, and you don’t have time to develop a 15 page Google Slides presentation on your findings, there are a few websites that do the best they can in confirming or dismantling facts or statements put out there for people to chew on. Thanks to Connie Mitchell for sending along this link – https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-spot-fake-news-and-teach-kids-to-be-media-savvy# Commonsensemedia.org lays out how to check for fake news. If you you’ve never been to commonsensemedia.org take a look as soon as you can as it’s a great website that helps teachers, families, and students navigate through the never-ending assault of video, movies, music, and social media on our children in the 21st century.

Along with the video link above, here are some websites that do a pretty good job of staying down the middle regarding theories, facts, information that is at times ambiguous. I hope they will be good resources for you as you try to navigate what is real and what is UN-real.

An aside  – I actually pulled the following list from mediabiasfactcheck.com, which was an adventure in itself. The website is about a year-and-a-half old and has the look of a sketchy website. The owner of the website uses anonymous information regarding website information, but it’s based in Scottsdale, Arizona and has a specific address associated with the company. Not knowing if it was reputable forced me to look at the links that it supplied to validate their accuracy and lack of agenda or slant.  Each website seems neutral once you get to facts that they research. One might give pause by the inclusion of  thefact checker link by the Washington Post. It is widely held that the Post leans left, but the facts they seek to prove or disprove seem objective in the research. Take a look for yourself and decide which of the sites work best for you. I’ve always felt that snopes.com was down the middle. Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 11.51.25 AM

The 10 Best Fact Checking Sites (from the mediabiasfactcheck.com website)

7/20/16

The purpose of this website is not only to deliver news, but to also be a resource on media bias and fact checking.  When checking facts these are the 10 sites we find to be most valuable.  In most cases, one of these sites has already covered the fact check we are seeking, making the job easy.  Listed below you will find our favorite (most trusted) fact checking websites.  Bookmark them or just visit MBFC News and we will filter them for you.

Politifact– PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida. Politifact is simply the best source for political fact checking.  Won the Pulitzer Prize.

Fact CheckFactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.  They are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. They monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.  Fact Check is similar to Politifact in their coverage and they provide excellent details.  The only drawback is they lack the simplicity of Politifact.

Open Secrets– Open Secrets is a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, which is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.  Open Secrets are by far the best source for discovering how much and where candidates get their money.  They also track lobbying groups and whom they are funding.

Snopes– Snopes has been the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation for a long time.  Snopes is also usually the first to report the facts.

The Sunlight Foundation– The Sunlight Foundation is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses the tools of civic tech, open data, policy analysis and journalism to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent to all.  Sunlight primarily focuses on money’s role in politics.

Poynter Institute– The Poynter Institute is not a true fact checking service.  They are however a leader in distinguished journalism and produce nothing but credible and evidence based content.  If Poynter reports it, you can count on it being true.

Flack Check– Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FlackCheck.org is the political literacy companion site to the award-winning FactCheck.org. The site provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular.

Truth or Fiction– Very similar to Snopes.  They tend to focus more on political rumors and hoaxes.

Hoax Slayer– Another service that debunks or validates internet rumors and hoaxes.

Fact Checker by the Washington Post– The Washington Post has a very clear left-center bias and this is reflected in their fact checks.  Their fact checks are excellent and sourced; however their bias is reflected in the fact that they fact check right wing claims more than left.   Otherwise the Washington Post is a good resource.

I hope these links are useful to you. Please, comment if you think some of the sites listed are too slanted, one way or another.

All images from pixabay.com, except the screengrab of the mediabiasfactcheck.com website.

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 4.19.14 PMYes, that makes very little sense and is redundant is redundant. Today, I posted a video to the ed tech team’s EdTech Tools website. It’s probably not going to take the ed tech community by storm, but I decided to post it because it’s interesting and unique AND it doesn’t necessarily have an academic, educational or ed-techie purpose. Almost all of the videos that we’ve posted before this had some academic purpose. We encourage you to click through these if you’re looking to try something different in your classroom.

Over the past three years, each of our divisional ed tech teachers and Urvi Shah, have lead  ed tech PD sessions on many of the ed tech tools found on the website. But, what I found was that smaller numbers of teachers were trying them out and them for classroom instruction. What I have been doing for the past three weeks is teach my classes using goformative.com, socrative.com, ed.ted.com, to get a sense of why these tools aren’t catching fire in teachers classrooms. What I’ve found that they are all amazing and are exactly the right tool to use in the classroom, but each of them has idiosyncrasies,  little problems, and issues that might keep teachers away from them. So, I’ll update you on my deeper experiences with these tools and see if I’m able to understand how to push through these little roadblocks so that teachers can use them effortlessly and seamlessly in their classroom instruction.UrviBlogBanner

 

 

Greetings all,

brain-605603_1280It’s been a while since I’ve used this space, but I want to remind you of all of the great resources that you can find by browsing my blog. Along with resources, insights, classroom experiences, tech bargains, you’ll also have access to the ed tech tools blog/link that has more than 50+ videos of ed tech tools that might be useful to you and your classroom – you’ll find that link right here – edtech tools.

I’ve also put together a video for anyone that needs a quick refresher on using google drive and google apps for education link. As always, feel free to find me or even schedule me for a one-to-one. Here’s the link to the video for our MS divisional meeting today on google docs – link

Finally, for our faculty ed tech sessions, I think you might find you can use a website named noisli.com. Noisli kind of of sounds like the opposite of what it does – it’s a soothing sound generator that lets you choose from apple-304470_1280various soothings sounds like forest, wind, ocean, and more. Use your google log in to sign up (click on log in, then click the red button “sign in with google”). You can set up timers and make playlists of the various soothing sounds you’d like to hear. I played it for one of my classes earlier and they couldn’t figure out why it sounded like we were in a crowded restaurant!!!Enjoy, and welcome back to my ms edtech blog!

Stone_Ridge_logoWelcome back all! It feels so good to be back! The summer was great, but I was ready to to see our girls! It was nice meeting new teachers and checking in with returning teachers during the first part of August, but nothing beats the excitement and energy of students coming back after a long hot summer.

We’re into our fourth year of ed tech teacher blog postings and this year I hope to make this blog a much more useful and interesting place to visit. Whether you are a returning teacher or new to our incredible teaching community, I think you’ll find my blog to be a useful place to het a sense of what is happening in the world of ed tech integration, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll find this space to be a great resource for tools or strategies to more fully integrate your girls’ ThinkPads into your activities and lessons.

The absolute first place  you should go is to our very expansive EdTech Tools link. This link is organized and categorized so you can more easily find a website, app or program that will help you use technology to enhance your classroom activities.

Because we are always trying to make things more useful, please feel free to email me at ralfonso@stoneridgeschool.org if you have any suggestions about website organization or any ed tech tools you’d like for us to research and share with our teaching apple-304470_1280community.

Please, remember to click on the EdTech Tools link to see all of the great ed tech tools we’ve gathered for you to learn about and use.

Finally, have an incredible year!!!

PW-Wheel_only_V4.1This is clearly not my idea and my brain doesn’t organize this way (if at all). Allan Carrington, TeachThought PD Workshop Specialist, created this Apps and Pedagogy chart that is clearly not meant for teachers to utilize within the first two weeks of school, but it is a great tool to help you when you want to try something, but don’t know what app to use for your lesson or activity. Our ed tech tools page has dozens of these apps explained in video. I really don’t expect any educator to look at this as the year draws to a close, but I wanted to find a good place to put it lest I lose it. We’ll talk about this in August!!!!

Anyway, here’s a link on how to use this pedagogy wheel, in case you have a smidgen of time – link.