Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Need Digital Resources for Your Classroom?


Tim Wilhelmus
I have seen several compilations of teacher resources around the web.  Some of them are wonderful, but one in particular stands out from all of the rest.  This work just happens to belong to one of my colleagues, Tim Wilhelmus.  I have known and worked with Tim over two years now and I don’t know of another person that is more dedicated to helping educators with digital transformation.  He has spent a tremendous amount of effort putting together resources that are easy to browse through by category.  This is an awesome list and hope you find some useful tools for what you need.  If you find that some of these tools are exemplary, please let Tim or me know how you are using it.

 Here is a link to Tim’s blog post that will tell you about the tools and give you links to each category.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Summer of eLearning

               I am very excited about my state’s Summer of eLearning.  This summer all around the state of Indiana there are great conferences happening where you can learn about all types of free online webtools, the possibilities with technology, and find some great people/educators to get connected with.  The conferences start on June 7 and will be held at different sites around the state through August 2.

            I will be leading some sessions at three or four of these conferences.  My sessions will include webtools that unleash teacher creativity, creation of a teacher website using, and using Google Apps in your classroom.  Many of the conferences have some great keynote speakers such as Adam Bellow, Kevin Honeycutt, Leslie Fisher, and Will Richardson just to name a few.  These speakers will also be leading some fantastic breakout sessions.  You are bound to learn something that you can take with you and apply directly to your classroom.

             All of the conferences are very affordable for all of us on a teacher’s budget.  You really cannot go wrong with any of them, however I would like to plug the conference that my district is putting on in Evansville.  The dates are July 10 and 11.  This will be our 4th EVSC eRevolution conference.  Each year it has gotten bigger and better.  Registration is open right now at  Our keynotes are Yong Zhao, Eric Sheninger, and Adam Bellow.  We also will have the awesome Leslie Fisher that will be sharing her wealth of knowledge.  It is going to be amazing!  The eRevolution focuses on how to achieve excellent teaching and learning for the Digital Age and is open to all educators. Last year the conference served more than 900 educators from more than 90 school corporations, universities and other educational entities from as far away as Texas.

            Don’t let the summer go by without attending one of these tremendous events.  To take a look at what the good old state of Indiana has to offer.  You can check out the full schedule of locations, speakers, and dates at this web site:   Make it a summer of eLearning.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Are You Ready For Common Core?

  This post piggybacks off of my very first blog post where I asked this question, “Are we preparing the future for their future?”  Almost all of standardized testing, at least in my state, is online now.  Our district is preparing for that over the next few weeks.  Our students will be using their netbooks; we are 1:1 in grades 6-12.  As we are getting ready, I have heard some administrators ask, “Why are we doing it like this?”  They followed that comment up with “Pencil and paper is so much easier and you don’t have to worry about any tech issues.” 

            Now, lets get this straight.  I understand why an administrator would say such a thing.  We have a high stakes test that reflects the school that he or she is running and it also affects teacher evaluations and salaries. We sure don’t want any questions being missed because of a technology issue.  However, that is the way we do business now.  We need to be able to deal with technical issues.  When is the last time you took a photo, waited a week to get it developed and sent it through the United States Postal Service to a friend or relative?  Today we share pictures with friends and family just seconds after they are taken via cell phone with Instagram or Facebook.  We pay most of our bills online.  We check bank and credit card statements online.  We communicate by email, text, or instant message online.  We purchase and sell things online.  We look up information about the meds we take online.  We book vacations and check out hotels by looking at pictures online.  We use global positioning systems and Google Maps to get around.  These devices are also online.  Most of corporate America sits at a desk with a computer and works online.  Teachers take attendance, create presentations, make lesson plans, get ideas, communicate with a PLN, enter grades, fill out discipline reports, and email parents……yeah you guessed it, ONLINE!  So, why in the world wouldn’t we take standardized tests online?

            It is time for education and educators to get out of this 1950’s way of doing things.  We don’t live in that time period anymore.  We don’t want to prepare students to be ready for a 1950’s society. We want them to be 21st Century ready.  The common core standards require them to be 21st Century ready.  The questions asked in common core are not about going to your local library and doing research in an encyclopedia.  They asked questions based upon a students experience of using modern day tools and devices.  For example, lets look at a few:

W.1.6 With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

This means students should be using multiple digital tools on a regular basis to produce and publish writing.  They need to be using digital tools that allow them to collaborate with other students.  Students cannot learn how to do this if they are writing with pencil and paper and only use technology once in a while.

W.4.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.

Students will not gain keyboarding skills by using pencil and paper.

RI.8.7. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

Students definitely will not be able to evaluate different digital mediums if they never use them or use them on a regular basis.  They have to be able to determine which tool would be best to use in different situations.

SL.11-12.2. Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.

Students need to be taught how to determine which Internet sources are credible and which ones are not.  They can only do that if they have been using the Internet for research.

SL.11-12.5. Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

Students can only do this if they have been creating digital media for reports and presentations themselves.  For example they should be using Google docs, PowerPoint, Keynote, PhotoStory for Windows, Prezi and other Web 2.0 tools.

The bottom line is that we cannot continue to live/teach in the past to prepare our students for the future.  We cannot continue to do what is easiest and teach 21st Century skills.  We must transform.  I read an article by Fred Sitkins, an elementary school principal in Boyne City, Michigan.  I loved the way he summed the Common Core standards and technology.  I would like to end with a quote from Mr. Sitkins.

“While at a first glance the Common Core can be viewed as one more thing being done to educators, there is a positive side to this change. It allows educators to teach deeper, it allows us to focus on teaching students how to learn as opposed to remembering, and it provides educators the freedom to take advantage of this technological revolution to transform our teaching practices. The fact that this change is occurring at the same time as the introduction of mobile technology like the iPad is just icing on the cake. Schools adjusting their curriculum in response to the Common Core must give serious consideration to the integration of technology into their instructional model. Not only will the integration of technology allow schools to meet the CCSS, but more importantly it will provide for the deep learning required of our students.”

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Disney’s Success Applied to Your Classroom

              Last week my family and I made a trip to Walt Disney World over our Spring Break.  As always, we all enjoyed the time in the parks and were not ready to leave at the end of the week.  This is our 18th trip to Disney in the last 11 years.  You would think it would get old, boring, and the Disney “Magic” would be lost by now.  However, as we drove home we found ourselves talking and thinking about when we could make our next trip.  What makes this place so magical and appealing to families all around the world?  We are not the only family that does this.  I know of at least three families without thinking too hard about it that continue to make return trips year after year.  And as of last week, there isn’t any shortage of people going to Disney World.  Again, what do people feel, see, and love about it? 

            I recently participated in a chat on Twitter with the Disney Institute.  They asked four questions that led to some great discussions throughout the hour.  These questions I believe cover some of the principles that are followed to create such an atmosphere at Disney that keeps families like mine coming back over and over again.  The questions were about leaders, positive attitudes, management, focus and purpose.  Does this sound familiar?  It sounds like topics that I have heard in recent teacher faculty and professional development meetings.  I would like to focus on each question and take a look at some of the responses.  I believe each of these can be applied to your very own leadership as a teacher, classroom management, and purpose of lessons.

            The first question was, “Have I spent enough time today really understanding what is going on with my Cast (employees) and Guests (customers)?”  Have you spent time recently to understand what is happening with your students?  Do you ask of your students’ tasks that you would also ask of yourself?  You can do this by leading by example.  There shouldn't be any tasks below you.  The facilitator of the discussion is a manager and talked about as they walk through the Disney Parks, they pick up trash like the people that work under him.  Encourage your students and help develop a positive environment that is conducive to learning.

            Question two was, “How can I encourage positive attitudes on a traditionally negative team?”  You also have to model positive attitudes.  Spend time in front of your students modeling desired behaviors.  Smile!  Demonstrate to your students by intentionally listening to them one-on-one and in group meetings, such as homeroom.  Connect with them on their terms and interests.  Consistent and immediate feedback to support positive behaviors can motivate your students to adopt good habits.

            Question three was, “What is the difference between leadership and management?  One response was that management is stuffy and leadership puts everyone on the same level.  Another said that you manage things, but lead people.  Guide your students and help manage their situations.  Good leaders take others opinions into account toward a common goal.  A manager does things the right way and a leader does what is right.   Think about management as task and process.  It focuses on efficiency and effectiveness.  Leadership is about authenticity. 

            The last question was, “How can a leader keep employees focused on purpose?  How can we keep our students focused or engaged?  Engaging students is very important.  Define your purpose.  Make sure you communicate it over and over again.  Mission or goal checks with a class are good.  Set checkpoints so students feel comfortable and can see progress is taking place.  Look for teachable moments.  Celebrate victories as a class.  Use challenges as a positive for learning.  Develop strategies that can be implemented and measured often to keep your class members on target. 

            In a way, a Disney World park manager is like a teacher running a classroom.  If they can create an environment that is inviting and what many call magical, perhaps we can take some advice and do this to our classrooms.  We want them to be places that students enjoy coming to, are comfortable in, and want to come back.  Everything you do should have a purpose.  In a world of service, purpose trumps task!