Amazon has some big announcements today - looks good for education

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Amazon is having a major press event right now and they have announced some pretty cool things. I rarely cover things that aren't free, but these products are going to be really good for education.

A new Kindle for only $79 - this is an amazing price for an e-reader. It isn't touchscreen, but is smaller, lighter, and faster than previous Kindle's. It works with Amazon's cloud network. It is cheaper than any single textbook I had in college 20 years ago and is the same price or cheaper than the science textbooks we use at school. This is a great device for students and schools to use instead of regular textbooks.

Kindle Touch - $99 for a touchscreen Kindle that has a new interface and display, extra long battery life, and free cloud storage. There is also a 3G version for $149.

Kindle Fire - a $199 tablet. 7" screen, Gorilla Glass, 16 million colors, dual core CPU, 14 oz, a fast browser, and has access to millions of books, magazines, TV shows, movies, music, and Android apps. This is an amazing price for a tablet! A smartphone costs this amount on contract! This is a full featured tablet that is an amazing deal. I would recommend this for students, teachers, schools, and my friends. I already have an HP TouchPad, but I'm really tempted to buy one of these for myself as a birthday present in November. I would have loved to have had one of these in college. It's available for pre-order now and ships in November.

These devices are a great price and full featured and are a great option for schools looking for e-devices or for students and teachers looking for something great. Your data is backed up and stored on Amazon's cloud service, you can access your books form any Kindle reader and the cloud reader and they are less expensive than any other devices.

Note: I am not compensated in any way by Amazon for this article.

Converticious - online unit converter

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Converticious is a simple online unit converter. Select the converter, enter your value, choose the units to convert to, and bingo!

Temperature, Volume, Distance, Data Bytes, Weight, Area, Speed and Time are the categories available. It also has a list of all units and their symbols and a regular calculator.

It's another great tool for students and teachers to have.

Animoto - create awesome video slideshows

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Animoto is one of those sites that I have heard about and used for a while, but never wrote about. So here goes.

Animoto is a very cool site that allows you to create video slideshows. The free version does have a limit of 30 second videos but the Plus plan is only $5 per month and has full length videos. There are more expensive plans that include more functionality also.

You select images and musics and video clips and then Animoto organizes them into a video slideshow. You can also share your slideshows through a variety of social media sites and there are some nice design backgrounds to choose from.

UPDATE: there is a free Animoto Plus account for educators. It removes the 30 second limit you get on a normal free account and allows you to create student accounts. See it at 

19Pencils - Discover, Manage, and Share Content for Learning

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19Pencils is a free site that lets you discover and share educational websites, quizzes and other resources, as well as put all of that content on a website that students can access.

It is extremely easy to use, has some great features, and is free. You can also search the site to find content that is already there from other teachers.

There is a nice dashboard page that has all of your menu options available. You can add content, set up class sites, add assignments for students, and much more. As you search for content already on the site, you can add it to your content to make it easier to find later.

This is a really nice site for teachers to use. Check it out.

I Want To Paint My Bathroom Blue

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I Want to Paint My Bathroom Blue by Ruth Krauss (illustrations by Maurice Sendak) tells the story of a young boy who dreams of painting his bathroom blue, kitchen yellow, ceilings green, etc. He imagines what his ideal home would look like, all in the context of being informed by his father that he can't paint his bathroom blue.

The story provokes thinking about the relationship between color and our perceptions and moods, and the role color can play in imagination. What do certain colors allow us to imagine that we couldn't imagine otherwise? Why are colors so important to us? We often identify things by their colors, but are the colors really in the objects, or just in us? Do different colors have different emotional effects on us?

In the story the boy comments that he will "make a house the kind I dream about not the kind I see." He uses colors to construct the world in which he would like to live, noting that he'd have a "house like a rainbow" and someday make an ocean. How does color help him to dream about things he had not actually perceived?

Leadership - from Boy Scout Leader Woodbadge Training

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I am an Eagle Scout, member of the Order of the Arrow, and have been an assistant scoutmaster and merit badge counselor. I've learned a lot from Boy Scouts that I have been able to use in school, college, career, and life.

One of the training for leaders that the Boy Scouts do is called Woodbadge. I thoroughly enjoyed this training and learned things that helped me as an engineering manager and help me now as an educational leader. This is an excellent program that has even been used by corporations for managers. The basic ideas are good for any leader in any area, including education.

Here are the main topics from when I took the course:

- Knowing and using resources - Know the resources you have and use them to benefit your organization. Educational leaders should know what resources they have in their own staff.

- Communications - communication is a must-have skill for every leader. You must be able to communicate verbally, as well as written, and communicate effectively.

- Characteristics and needs of the group - knowing the group you lead, and what their needs are, is the only way to support them and give them the resources they need to be successful. Knowing their characteristics also helps you manage conflicts and help organize them.

- Representing the group - as a leader, you represent your group. You need to do this professionally and ethically.

- Setting an example - what all leaders must do - set an example for your team.

- Planning - the leader must create a plan and then help the team follow the plan

- Controlling the group - this is one that most teachers are good at (classroom management) but some leaders are not good at it.

- Evaluating - evaluate your self, your team, your efforts and actions, their actions, goals, etc.

- Effective teaching - as a leader, you must teach others so that they can be successful

- Sharing leadership - this is paramount. No leader can do everything on their own. It also works with using resources.

- Counseling - counsel your team to help them improve, to let them know when they are doing well, to help them deal with issues and problems.

The newer courses have changed some of the categories, but the basics are all still there.

Values, Mission & Vision 
Stages of Team Development and Leadership Styles 
Project Management 
Effective Communicating 
Problem Solving 
Coaching and Mentoring 
Listening to Learn 
Valuing People and Leveraging Diversity

These are leadership skills needed by any leader, no matter what profession or area they are in. Many of them are not taught, not taught effectively, or not learned or utilized by many leaders and that usually leads to failure. 

Another nice tip for education from Sir Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts:

"The secret of sound education is to get each pupil to learn for himself, instead of instructing him by driving knowledge into him on a stereotyped system" - Robert Baden-Powell, January 1912


Head Rush - fun science show from Discovery with great website

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Head Rush is a one-hour, commercial-free TV show on the Science Channel using a mash-up of resources from Mythbusters. It is aimed at middle-school students, but is great for any age. It explores science and technology and how it impacts us in everyday life. They also touch on math, engineering, natural history and space through hands-on experiments, video clips, questions and answers, games and more. There are also visits from other celebrities from Discovery TV, including Mythbusters.

The show is hosted by Kari Byron, who is also on Mythbusters. The show airs Monday-Friday at 4pm and Saturday mornings from 7am-9am.

The website has video clips from the show, games, science news, science information, and much more.

The show, and the website, are great for students and teachers and can be used to help students better understand and appreciate science.

Taking the Mystery out of Copyright - from Library of Congress

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Taking the Mystery out of Copyright is a site from the US Library of Congress that uses animations to teach about copyrights and copyright laws. It's fun and educational and easy to understand.

The Library of Congress also has a lot of other great resources for educators.

Encyclomedia - free online collection of videos

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Encyclomedia is a free site that contains a huge variety of videos on history, science, nature, people, travel, entertainment and much more. 

They have designed it as an online video encyclopedia with descriptions and information about each video. You can browse by category or search for different videos. 

There are a bunch of popup/linked ads, but they have to keep the site running somehow. 

Take a look and see if there are any videos you can use in your classroom.

Free Math Resources - Tutorials, Formulas, Calculators, Directories

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Free Math Resources - Tutorials, Formulas, Calculators, Directories is a great site I found that has a huge number of resources in math. 

These resources can be used by teachers, students, or both. 

There are math standards and benchmarks, tutorial videos, interactive activities and puzzles, how-to's, calculators and converters, how to use different measuring tools, metric system, formulas, and topics in each area of math. 

This is a great resource for teachers and students. Please share!

Splashtop Remote - not free, but very useful (and awesome)

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I usually discuss free resources on this site, but occasionally mention some things that cost money. Today is one of those days.

In July, I purchased an HP TouchPad as my first tablet (mainly because I have had a webOS smartphone for a while). It's a great tablet and does some great things. However, I just got a new app that changes everything. (I also installed it on my Android smartphone - very cool to control and use a computer on your smartphone).

Splashtop Remote is an app that allows you to connect your device to another computer through the internet. I was able to see my laptop's desktop, access all of my files and all of the software on it. I was even able to watch a DVD that was in the laptop's DVD player on my tablet. I was even using Chrome to browse the web. It is a really useful app. Your device truly becomes a new device. You can use it to access Flash based websites on your iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad also.

It is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, and webOS. You can access any Windows or Mac computer that has the free Streamer application installed. The computer you are accessing has to be turned on, or have a wake-on-LAN feature.

This means that you can access any of your files or software from your mobile device which is extremely useful for teachers and students. It also means that you could use your mobile device to control your computer. Your mobile device now became a remote control for your computer, presentation, etc.

The apps vary in price ($2 - $5) based on what device you are purchasing them for.

Splashtop also has some other great products, including the two listed below.

Splashtop OS - quick loading, web browser OS that works great on Netbooks. It's free and I use it on my netbook and love it. It basically turns your laptop or netbook into a Chromium book.

Splashtop TouchPad - remote control your computer using your iPhone or iPod touch.

Note - I did not receive any compensation for this article. I just really like the app and wanted to share it.

Standardized tests - why we still need to prepare students for them

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Like most educators, I do not agree with using standardized tests as the main measure of student achievement and teacher "performance" - hate that term also. However, standardized tests are something many of our students will need to do well on in the future to be able to get certified or licensed in different professions. Our Advanced Placement students have standardized tests to take.

EMT's, Firefighters, Police Officers, Nurses, Doctors, Lawyers, Information Technology, trades and so many more professions require standardized testing to get into programs and to get certified or licensed. This includes teachers! Many also require standardized tests to get promoted or advance in your career. In EMS, the students have to pass a written exam and a practical skills test. They need to be able to apply their knowledge to these situations. Many EMS instructors have had issues with the validity of the written test, just like in K-12 education, but the test is still a reality that these students must pass if they want to be an EMT or Paramedic.

As an EMS Instructor, I often have to help students with test taking tips and strategies, study tips, and how to not let nerves get the better of them. These are the same things I share with my high school students. Make sure that they learn, but also make sure that they can apply that learning to the test.

We need to prepare our students for the real world, which has standardized, high stakes testing as a part of many professions.

However, we should not have to have an invalid, high stakes test as the only way to evaluate students and teachers and to determine the future of a teacher. We certainly don't need to take 2 weeks, every morning, of learning time away to take a test (like in Connecticut) that really doesn't measure student learning. A standardized test in schools, that is designed properly and is not high stakes could be used as one of many assessments and measurements of what our students have learned and can apply. It is also a way to prepare them for the many standardized tests that many will have to take later in life.

We need to provide our students with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to be able to learn and then apply that learning to a testing situation so that they can be successful.

NASA Sounds - sound clips for school, computer, or ringtone

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NASA Sounds is another great resource from NASA. It is a collection of sounds from spaceflights and missions, including the sounds of a shuttle launch and memorable words such as "Houston, we've had a problem" and "One small step for (a) man...).

The files are in both MP3 and M4R (iPhone) formats for download.

This could be a fun way to use these sound clips in your classroom as a way to get students interested in the topics. I like NASA's idea of using "Houston, we've had a problem" as an error message on your computer.

It's fun and educational.


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Wondering - why is it that education is suddenly "Failing"?

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I keep wondering about this. Supposedly, public education in America is "failing". I don't understand how. We have changed how we do things in our classrooms and have all these online resources. Students can access information and help resources from their phones. So why are we "failing?"

When I was in high school, we sat in a chair and took notes. We talked about books in English, studied historical events, did labs in science, and did tons of problems in math. We learned and we went off to college and did well. We had almost no support programs in the building.

Now, as teachers, we differentiate, do projects, have students doing online enrichment work, have social workers, psychologists, tutoring and mentoring programs. Yet, students are apparently failing.

We have "improved" education, yet we are "failing". I don't get it. We do all this "reform" yet nothing is changing.

Of course, it could have something to do with the method of evaluating education being a mostly invalid, standardized test where even students who don't speak English have to take it. It could have something to do with more and more students having less parenting at home due to single parents, absentee parents, or parents working multiple jobs. It could have something to do with students not getting read to and starting to read later in life. It could have to do with the test being completely useless. It could have to do with professional educators being left out of decisions and planning for educational issues.

It just boggles my mind how we have some many support systems, great teachers, incredible lessons and resources, and yet we are "failing."

Can anyone explain it?

SimpleK12 - great resource for all educators and free online PD tomorrow

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SimpleK12 is a great site that has a tremendous amount of resources for educators. They offer online professional development, curriculum resources, assessment ideas, free downloads and resource kits and resources through their blog, I Love EdTech.

SimpleK12 is also know for their bunny slippers! They promote their online offerings as a way to learn while in your pajamas and the bunny slippers have become their symbol. I was chatting with some of the SimpleK12 staff at ISTE2011 and they were all wearing their bunny slippers.

Tomorrow, Saturday September 24th, they are offering a free "Day of Learning". It is online professional development and includes 7 different sessions. It starts at 9am (EST) and the sessions are each 30 minutes long and start on the hour. Lunch break from 11:30-1:00. Just go to the site and register.  And while you're there, check out all the other great resources they have to offer!


Contests and Awards for Educators - great resources for all

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Adobe Education Exchange is a great resource for educators, with resources, lesson ideas, lesson plans, and a place to collaborate with other educators. They are sponsoring a contest for educators - The 2011 Educator's Choice Awards that I've been blogging about lately, showcasing some of the projects educators have submitted.

The 2011 Educators├ó€™ Choice Awards

What I like about these contests is that while they are a way for a company to get exposure for itself and it's products, it also allows teachers to get exposure for the kind of great work they do.

Teachers work very hard to come up with creative and engaging lessons for their classes and they should be recognized for this. There is no reason for them to work in isolation any more. In this day of Web 2.0 and Social Networking, sharing your lessons and projects is easier than ever. Your efforts can help another teacher who has been struggling to come up with a lesson on that same topic. I'm all for sharing materials and lesson ideas across education.

However, I do believe that educators who want to use someone else's ideas should ask for permission or at the very least give credit. I have many labs and activities that I've either used directly or modified somewhat that I have gotten from another teacher. I've asked permission for any that I can contact the owner of and give credit for all of them. "Modified from a lab by ________ " will be on the page.

Many other companies have educator forums and sites like Adobe does and the whole point of these is to bring educators together and help them learn from and support each other.

Take a look at some of the great projects in the Adobe Educator's Choice Awards and submit your own ideas.

Other Educational Sites sponsored by companies:

Microsoft Education
HP - Teacher Experience Exchange

Even more great educator projects in the Adobe Educators Choice Awards

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There are only a few weeks left in the Adobe The 2011 Educator's Choice Awards awards program for educators. Any educator can enter.

Submissions are excepted until October 14th so get yours in today. Don't forget to check out the projects that have been submitted and vote for your favorite ones!

Here are some more of the great projects that have been submitted. These projects are all by educators and show how creative educators can be in finding great projects for their students. These projects can also be used by other educators in their classroom.

Creature Creation - Photoshop - Pretend you were on a hike deep in the rain forest and a mysterious creature came up to you, what would this creature look like? How would they act? What features do they have? Are they tall, short, plump, skinny, etc…. Nothing about this creature is predetermined. In this lesson students will be asked to sketch out anoriginal creature and scan their images into Photoshop to apply the finishing touches.

Movie Poster Parody Project - Photoshop - A fun project for students who have little to moderate experience using Photoshop. Students search the web to find a movie poster (or DVD cover) to make a parody of.
The important part of this project as a teacher is to stress that "students must create a new document from scratch and emulate the movie to the best of their ability to make it recognizable".

The Zoo Website - Dreamweaver, Photoshop - In this project, students use Dreamweaver to create and advertise their own zoo website. Apart from the design aspect, students must use critical thinking skills in planning the location, operating hours, price, and attractions/animals that they will have in their zoo.
Students will create a custom CSS template with divs and create rollover menu buttons using Photoshop.

Intermediate knowledge of Dreamweaver and Photoshop needed.

Look around the site and check out all of the projects and vote for your favorite.

Some more great projects from the Adobe Educators' Choice Awards

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There are only a few weeks left in the Adobe The 2011 Educator's Choice Awards awards program for educators. Any educator can enter. You submit your innovative teaching and learning materials and you could win some really nice prizes. Submit  your projects, lesson plans, curricula, tutorials, and more. Educators will rate the work submitted. There are four categories: Primary/Secondary Cross-Curricular, Primary/Secondary Digital Arts and Media, Higher Education Cross-Curricular, Higher Education Digital Arts and Media.

Submissions are excepted until October 14th so get yours in today. Don't forget to check out the projects that have been submitted and vote for your favorite ones!

Here are some more of the great projects that have been submitted:

Photoshop for Kids: Digital Tangrams - Photoshop, Photoshop Elements - Here's a tutorial explaining how to use "digital tangrams" to copy or create beautiful shapes with 7 geometric pieces. With a little imagination, the newly created shapes can then be used for storyboarding to put together a digital storytelling project, which can also be animated.
Note: Tangram shapes were created with Photsohop, and animated in Photoshop CS5Extended.

Making a book with InDesign - PART1 - PLANNING - InDesign - How to make a book -step 1 planning.
Plan making your book- file management- flatplan- making a dummy

Dividing Fractions Visually (II) - Flash Professional - I created this Flash animated tutorial to help my students understand operations on fractions by seeing them done visually.

Adobe Education Exchange is a great resource for educators, with resources, lesson ideas, lesson plans, and a place to collaborate with other educators.

New Teacher Survival Central - great free resource for all teachers

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Discovery Education has a great site for new teachers. The New Teacher Survival Central has lots of great resources for new teachers (and veteran teachers) on technology, parent communication, classroom management, lesson plan resources, and much more.

There are tutorials and training resources that will help new teachers adapt to their new career. The Survival Tool Kit has a best of the web section with links to great web sites for educators.

The site is easy to navigate with great resources. I check in every once and while to see what's new that can help me in my classroom. The site is great for any educator. Don't forget to check out the rest of Discovery Education's site also, where you can find over 30 free resources for educators to use in their classrooms.

thinklinkr - collaborative, online outlines.

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Thinklinkr is a site that allows you to create collaborative online outlines. It's a freemium site, meaning that there is a free version and there are fee-based versions that add more functionality. The free version offers unlimited outlines, but they are all public. You can not make any private. For most educational uses, this is probably ok.

It is very easy and simple to use. Use it to create outlines for projects, run meetings, do brainstorming, organize your thoughts and much more. Students, teachers, and administrators can all use it for different activities. Students can work on a project or paper together. Staff can work on meetings together. It is a very useful site.

ReadPrint - Free online books for students, teachers, and readers

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ReadPrint is a site that has thousands of free online books to read. You can search the entire collection, or search categories such as essays, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and more.

The site has many of the classics, inclduding "The Ugly Duckling", "Jane Eyre", "Pride and Prejudice", and "The Canterbury Tales."

This is a great resource for educators and students to save money by reading the books online for free.

WPI Plan - a great educational model for all schools

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There has been a lot of talk about education reform and what models will help our students learn the best. I submit that Worcester Polytechnic Institute's undergraduate program plan is a great model to follow. It stresses learning, critical thinking, functional literacy in a topic, project based learning, and student creativity. 
College was a great experience for me and I learned much more than just content. In fact, I feel that my undergraduate degree at WPI prepared me for anything I want to do in the future. Let me explain.

I went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, MA. WPI is an excellent school, highly ranked, and offers an excellent educational experience. The school is small, with only 3,400 undergraduate students. But, the school is well equipped and well run. 

The secret behind the school's success is the unique curriculum, called the WPI Plan, consisting of 4 quarters instead of 2 semesters, 3 large projects, and course curriculum that are mainly project based. Each undergraduate has to complete a Humanities Sufficiency Project, an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) and a Major Qualifying Project (MQP)

The Sufficiency is a 3 credit project and course sequence in the humanities which ensures that all WPI graduates are well rounded. Instead of students having to take meaningless core courses, they develop their own plan and sequence. I took a writing course to help improve my writing skills and then took a sequence of courses in US Government and Foreign Policy before doing my project on the political use of air power in the Vietnam war.

The IQP is a 9 credit project done in the junior year which relates science and technology to society. My group did a project on the Quality of Technical Education in the United States. As part of it, we did research on different programs, school systems, number of students taking technical majors (engineering, science, etc.) and then surveyed current engineers and scientists about their college education and what they thought was good and bad about it. We also looked at how well high school's were preparing students for these types of college majors and made recommendations for high school programs. (which started my interest in education).

The MQP is a 9 credit project done in the senior year similar to a Master's thesis. My group designed a Two-Stage-To-Orbit space craft. We had to do everything from project planning, to engineering design and analysis, to working with NASA (who sponsored the project) to get information and feedback. The project then had to be presented and defended in our department. 

The project based curriculum helps students learn content and develop problem solving, communications, and teamwork skills. It also helps develop ethics and responsibility in the students. I found that my WPI education has prepared me for my career as an engineer, as well as an educator, and served me well in many capacities.

This plan stresses project based learning. Why? Because back when they developed the Plan (over 30 years ago) they knew that the only way to truly master subject area content is to apply it. They also knew that students needed to develop teamwork, communication skills, problem solving skills, creativity, critical thinking, and research skills (sounds like "21st Century skills" doesn't it?). WPI's symbol is the two towers of the first two buildings on campus. Lehr und Kunst. German for Theory and Practice, it's WPI's founding motto and the principle that still underlies the academic programs today. In class, in projects, and in research, students and faculty put knowledge into action to make the world better.

The projects are an integral part of the Plan. All classes are expected to use projects in their curriculum and the school has the three projects that all students must complete. The classes are taught by professors who are very dedicated to education, not just research. Each class is project based and emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving, along with a functional literacy of the topic, over memorizing data and facts.

I think that WPI was ahead of the game with their plan, considering this is the route that high schools and even middle schools are going. K-12 education is starting to realize how important these skills are and that project based learning is a great way to engage students while teaching them content and other needed skills.

I think that we can make more schools like WPI and do a better job of teaching our students the skills they need to know: teamwork, communications, problem solving, critical thinking, self-education and lifelong learning.

The students at WPI are given more control over their education by having the freedom to choose what they want to learn and how they are going to learn it. There are not a huge number of unneeded and useless "core" classes for students to take. Students create their own humanities program and their own educational plan. There is space in their schedule for them to take elective classes to explore new areas and topics. Students learn the basics and develop a fundamental literacy in each subject. Students do not memorize formulas and facts. They learn how to apply their knowledge to real-world problems and situations. For example, in Thermodynamics, we were taught the three laws of thermodynamics in depth. Then we were able to apply these to any situation instead of learning 10-15 different equations for different situations. This is in contrast to many schools who teach students every little equation for specific situations instead of teaching them the basics and how to apply the basics to any situation.

All of the learning, research and projects all have a purpose beyond just for class. Projects are all real-world applications or really are real-world projects. Student projects have included working to shore up the canals of Venice, design water systems for villages in Africa, developing medical equipment for disabled or sick patients, designing safety features for cars, and much more. This learning with a purpose gives meaning to what everyone is doing. This is very important in education.

WPI stresses teaching over research also and is very committed to the quality of the professors. Professors who have issues with their teaching or have poor reviews by students (each class has a evaluation form done by every student and these are taken very seriously) are given support and help in changing and improving their teaching. They are not vilified. They are supported and helped and that means that they become better educators. This is what we need to do with K-12 educators - help them when they struggle, not demonize them as the reason for the failure of society.

The WPI Plan is an excellent model for schools to use as a way to make education more personalized, engaging, relevant, and effective in preparing students for the future. The education there goes beyond preparing them just for the major they are in. The education prepares students for life. They are prepared to continue their education, adapt to new situations, and even change careers from engineering to education. It is truly a unique and effective way to teach and learn.

Related Posts:

Exploriments - interactive animations for science and math

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Exploriments is a site that has interactive simulations that help students learn and understand math and science. Students are active and engaged, rather than passive. They get to explore different topics and ask, and answer, questions like "what-if" and find the cause and effect of things. There are learning objectives for each Exploriment and everything works together and builds on previous knowledge.

The Exploriments are organized by Physics, Chemistry and Math and then further organized by topic. The physics ones are well done and I've used a few with my students already.

The free access does not give you full access or function, but there are some great things to use. You can upgrade to the premium access if you want to.

My Botanic Planet - fun way to learn about plants

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My Botanic Planet is a neat site that is designed to help K-5 students learn about plants. It has national standardized lesson plans and interactive games to help students explore basic botany.

The teacher's resource page has lesson plans and other resources.

I found it to be fun and I learned a few things myself.

Discovery Educator Network Fall Virtual Conference - Oct 22, 2011 - FREE

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Discovery Education is an excellent resource for all educators. They have over 30 free resources available, have a thriving educator community in the Discovery Educator Network (DEN), and have some of the best educational products. Every year, they also run virtual conferences.

This year's fall Virtual Conference is "Tech or Treat" and will have some great presentations from some very talented and knowledgeable educators. Discovery Educator Network also has some in-person events where people can go and participate in the online conference with a group of educators. In some cases, the in-person event also includes other presentations and activities in addition to having access to the virtual conference.

From the Discovery Educator Network Blog:

Get your crazy costumes ready, and mark your calendars! The fall virtual conference Tech or Treat has been scheduled for Saturday, October 22, 2011 from 9am to 3pm ET. Join us for an hour or stay all day.
We have a spooktackular day of professional development (and PRIZES!)  planned for you. Join us online, or join one of the local events our Leadership Council members are planning.
In-Person Events (MORE coming soon!)
Meridian, CT (Register here)
Palatka, FL (Register here)
Atlanta, GA (Register here)
Mandeville, LA (Register here)
Branson, MO (Register here)
Port Chester, NY (Register here)
Poundmaker Cree Nation, SK Canada (Register here)
Knoxville, TN (Register here)
Pasadena, TX (Register here)
McKinney, TX (Register here)
Muskego, WI (Register here)
Schedule (all times are eastern)9:00 am The Monster Mash-Up with Traci Blazosky, DEN Guru
10:00 am No Tricks, Just Treats with Nancy Sharoff, DEN Guru
11:00 am Digital Storytelling: Get it Write! with Joe Brennan
12:00 pm The Collective Brain with the DEN Team
1:00 pm Spotlight Session with Wes Fryer
2:00 pm Treat Yourself to A Story with Dean Mantz, DEN Guru

Register here to attend online. Keep an eye on the blogs for more information about the in-person events and the session descriptions.

This is a great opportunity to learn some great things while home in your pajamas, or join a group of educators for a fun day of learning.

Free PD and Curriculum Kit about Science and Food

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Science And Our Food Supply Investigating Food Safety from Farm to Table

The FDA and NSTA (National Science Teacher's Assoc.) has created a professional development series and free curriculum kit about the Science of Food based on the National Science Education Standards. The site has information on the training for teachers as well as how to order the curriculum kit. The materials are for Science and Family and Consumer Science teachers in Middle and High School. It includes the science and technology of food production, transportation, storage and preparation.

The curriculum kit includes teacher guides, videos and references.  The site also has a lot of the references on it.

Select educators will be selected for a multi-dimensional professional development program, but any teacher can order the curriculum kit and use the materials on the web site.

This is a great way to apply science concepts to something all students know about: food.

Only a few weeks left in Adobe Educator's Choice Awards

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There are only a few weeks left in the Adobe The 2011 Educator's Choice Awards awards program for educators. Any educator can enter. You submit your innovative teaching and learning materials and you could win some really nice prizes. Submit  your projects, lesson plans, curricula, tutorials, and more. Educators will rate the work submitted. There are four categories: Primary/Secondary Cross-Curricular, Primary/Secondary Digital Arts and Media, Higher Education Cross-Curricular, Higher Education Digital Arts and Media.

Submissions are excepted until October 14th so get yours in today. Don't forget to check out the projects that have been submitted and vote for your favorite ones!

Adobe Education Exchange is a great resource for educators, with resources, lesson ideas, lesson plans, and a place to collaborate with other educators.

A new school year

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So far it's been a beautiful September here in the Pacific Northwest. School has started, and I'll be back in both an elementary school and a university classroom next week.

I've been working away on my book this summer, and hope to have it finished this year and published in 2012. The past few weeks I've been writing chapter 6, which is about talking about art and beauty with children. At the PLATO Institute in June, there were several provocative presentations on aesthetics with children about which I've been thinking since. In particular, the presentations reminded me of the wide range of questions included in aesthetics and the ways in which many of those questions are profoundly important to human experience.

Aesthetics is often seen as a marginal field in philosophy, both by philosophers and those outside philosophy. (Arthur Danto, prominent philosopher of art, once noted that aesthetics is "about as low on the scale of philosophical undertakings as bugs are in the chain of being.") Questions of aesthetics are often seen as not among the central questions of philosophy (ethics, epistemology, etc.). And it's not just philosophers who hold that attitude. Often when I'm asked to speak about my experiences introducing philosophy to children and I mention aesthetics, people will say things like, "Doesn't that really just come down to personal taste?"

Yet in the classroom, I find that discussions about art and beauty elicit great enthusiasm and interest. Many children express themselves through art - drawing, dance, playing an instrument - and thinking about what makes something art and what makes someone an artist means something to them. Moreover, aesthetic questions go beyond an inquiry about the various art forms, to encompass all of the forms of human experience that involve awareness of beauty, ugliness, elegance, garishness, etc. A walk in the woods, eating a well-prepared meal, `nd shopping for clothes can all be aesthetic experiences. Reflecting about questions such as the nature of beauty and ugliness and the relationship between our aesthetic experiences and our emotions, can bring to light facets of our everyday lives in a way that deepens our experiences and heightens our awareness of their richness.

NASA Kid's Club - great resource!

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NASA Kid's Club is another great resource from NASA for educators. It has educational games, pictures, animations, activities and much more. Many of the resources are based on well known children's characters like Elmo and Buzz Lightyear and can be applied to many different subject areas. 

It is one more great resource for teachers from NASA.

Related Articles:

NASA at Home and City - Space developments related to life on earth

NASA Rocketry Site - great resources for all classes

NASA - Solar System Exploration

Space Out Sports competition from NASA

NASA Aerodynamics resources - good for all classes!

NASA Careers web site

NASA Educators Resources

New Teacher Orientation ideas and questions

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I'm working on my Master's Degree in Educational Leadership (I already have one in Educational Technology) and my current course is "Developing Teachers." In this course we are looking at recruiting, training, and retaining teachers and this week we are looking at new teacher orientation programs.

When I started, the new teacher orientation program was three days before the rest of the teachers came in. We had talks from each department, received the curriculum for our class, and had some various presentations on different topics. The current new teacher orientation program is similar, but also has the new teachers meeting together once a month throughout the year for more training and support.

Some of the things that I felt were lacking and some of the new teachers from last year also thought were missing:

1. Orientation to computer systems - making sure every teacher has a login for the computers, email, and student information system and then having training on how to use them all. It is very minimal right now.

2. More information about special education services and how the process works.

3. A list of "people to go to" for different issues, such as computer problems, supply needs, and so forth.

4. List of services available to students - special education, social work, health and medical, etc.

5. More on classroom management that specifically addresses the policies of the district rather than being general.

6. Instead of just handing out the curriculum, provide time to look over the curriculum and then have someone from that department to help you with any issues, especially with the material for the first month of school.

7. They currently get an afternoon to go to their building and start setting up their rooms, but it would be nice to have time with the department chair, to look over your classroom, get a tour of the building and get shown where resources and offices are. Currently, it is up to each school to try to fit in a tour when time permits and I think it should be a formal part of the orientation program.

8. A new teacher orientation booklet with allresources, expectations, schedule, rules and procedures. Some of this is handed out now, but it is not combined into a comprehensive book. It probably wouldn't hurt to have this available for all teachers, especially when there have been changes made to policies and procedures from the previous year.

9. The realities of the school system - budget issues, student behavior, buildings, etc. It can be a shock to many new teachers coming out of college with their idealistic views to suddenly run head on into the reality of run down schools, no supplies or resources, student discipline issues, lack of parental support, and other realities of teaching. 

What does your district's new teacher orientation program look like? What do you think should be in a new teacher orientation program?

Related Articles:

New Teacher Advice and Tips - repost

Back to School resources for all educators

Welcome back to School!

New Teacher Survival Central