Get a Cup of Coffee and Peruse Thinkfinity

//www.thinkfinity.org/home.aspx
Confused? This is a website that has free online resources for teachers.

OK–there are hundreds of these, so what’s new? This is what makes this site stand out:
~It’s FREE
~Locating information is simple and fast.
~Lessons are fun an cover a lot of information.
~Resources can be used by students, small groups, whole classes, or teachers.

Categories include:
~Arts Edge/EdSitement/Illuminations/Read-Write-Think/Thinkfinity Literacy Network/Science NetLinks/National Georgraphic Xpeditions/and soon-to-come Smithsonian American History.

Click here to explore this great website: Go.

A Good Monkey for Survey Conducting/VSTE idea #2

Do you want some feedback on an idea or some way to assess your audience’s needs? Can you say free?

Check out http://surveymonkey.com/, a free website where you can type up to ten questions. Your staff, or whomever your audience is, can respond as simply as with their email. Results are fast and your stress is lowered.

Questions? Feel free to comment and I’ll get back ASAP!

VSTE 2008: Follow-Up and Sharing

Sharing–one of the pillars of the teaching profession, describes precisely what the VSTE 2008 conference in Roanoke was. I love those “A Ha” moments when the light bulbs suddenly start glowing over everyone’s heads, or those face splitting smiles when we get excited about how we can take things back to the classroom. One of the TRT Kings of Sharing, Obe Hostetter, spoke at one of the sessions I attended with Deloris. The conversation between us went something like this when I realized it was HIM as he approached the podium:

“Look–is that the guy from Rockingham County?”
“It IS! He’s so young looking!”
“I can’t believe we’re looking at a celebrity in the ITRT world!”
“Let’s go up and talk to him!”

After that, we flew up to greet him, as did many others with similar squeals of glee and admiration (OK–a little stretch there, but close). What makes him stand out? Mr. O has developed a technology integration website for Virginia teachers who are looking for SOL resources to enrich the lessons in their classrooms. It must be used by many, for I heard neighbors sitting around me expressing similar gratitudes of awe and astonishment.

Note that when you log on to his site (click here) that at the bottom you can do your own specific resource search. Try it and look at the number of specific items that pop up. I promise–you will gasp from the possibilities of things you can do!

Thanks, Mr. Ohostetter, from teachers/ITRTs from around Virginia!

Happy Chinese New Year

mingzi1.gifHere are some neat websites for the Chinese New Year (these tie in with the SOLs, too!)

==>Write your name in Chinese: Type your name in the blank and see what it would look like in Mandarin: Go
==>Sagwa: Pictures as words: PBS: The Chinese language uses symbols in their writing. Sometimes two are put together to make one word.. Play these games: Go
==>Learn how to pronounce Mandarin: Search by Chinese, Pinyin, or English definition: Go

What If You Were Told You Only had Six Months to Live?

I have a friend who is dying. He was preparing for surgery, but instead, found out that he has stage four malignant melanoma. BOOM! Out of nowhere–he had no clue. The cancer is inoperable and so he has only six months. Now, you’re probably picturing him being in despair, depressed, and down. Yes, he’s had his moments, as can be expected. Today he spoke at our Sunday gathering, and his response is a lesson for us all.

He considers himself blessed beyond means. He can’t comprehend how happy he is. The resulting silence in church said much about the reaction of the congregation. There were four points for us to reflect on, but the first one got me the most.

For, you see, he considers the six months a gift to be able to say goodbye. Wow.

He and his wife went on their long planned cruise anyway. He snorkled. He danced with his best friend of 40 years, his wife. He got to see his brother from Colorado. He is able enjoy life–still.

As I looked around from the balcony while he spoke, eyes were being wiped–even the big burly guys.

What suddenly would be important to you if you were told you had only six months? What suddenly would hold no importance?

We as educators have many blessings in front of us: the students. Is it more important to give of ourselves? Will students remember that act of kindness, or will they instead say, “Wow! I remember how fascinating adjectives were!” Will they remember those awesome lessons on how to better take a standardized test, or will they remember feeling a community in your classroom?

Are we living our lives for others, or ourselves? A teacher can answer that easily: for others.

Thanks, Dan. What a gift you’ve given me.

The 21st Century School Learning Community

With my heart palpitating and breathing shallow, I realized, after working on my presentation for the state conference, nowhere did I push for how to raise test scores. I slapped my palm to my forehead (and screamed since I forgot I had a headache) and couldn’t believe I had overlooked this Holy Grail of Education. “How,” I thought, “could I be so stupid?”

I looked over my thesis statement for the presentation, and let out a yelp of joy since nowhere did I write that this was the emphasis for my talk. This caused me to pause, though, for I was wondering, is this why students seem to each year dread school more and increase the teachers’ stress levels?

I then decided to see what the latest chatter is on Classroom 2.0 and found an interesting post from Liz Davis’ blog: The Power of Educational Technology about 21st Century learning: Some particular highlights that I copied and pasted below:

“Community is Essential – The school should bring learners and teachers together into a supportive community that nurtures both the individual and the group. The community should permeate all possible spaces, in the classroom, in the home and Online.

Critical Thinking – The school should actively encourage learners and teachers to think critically, continually asking the question, “Why do we teach what we teach?”

Risk Taking – The school should actively encourage learners and teachers to risk failure in the pursuit of understanding.

Learner Centered – The school should surround the learner with ideas and information, encouraging the learner to pursue a wide variety of paths to knowledge, and supporting the personal growth for all who inhabit the community.

Diversity – The school should actively encourage and pursue the input of those both inside and outside the community with a diversity of opinions. The school should consistently check that it is inclusive and supportive of learners and teachers from diverse backgrounds.

Nurture all learners – The school should provide opportunities and encouragement for all members of the community including teachers, students and parents to learn and grow.

Pursue Innovation – The school should actively explore, pursue and test new ideas and technologies, while always keeping the learner at the heart of the pursuit.

Good schools graduate good people – The school should actively and explicitly teach learners to think beyond themselves, encouraging students to value kindness and generosity.

Break down the walls – The school should provide access and opportunities for learners and teachers to reach outside the walls of the school to the neighboring, national and global community.”

Now, I wonder how I can bridge in my buildings the importance of this and the familiar phrase that we often hear, “How can this idea raise test scores?” I miss the days when creativity reigned supreme instead of today’s mantra: GET THOSE TEST SCORES UP!

What do you think?

Things I Learned While Out for Surgery

I have a bad habit (well, OK, maybe more than one…) of not learning when to stop. Maybe it’s a guy thing, or maybe it’s the curse of perfectionism, or fear of failure. Whatever the reason, there comes a time when a big stick from Above has to whack you full force across the back of the head to get you to slow down and listen. Now that I’m home recovering from knee surgery (just finished McCullough’s book on the Panama Canal: did you know that the French started the canal and the United States finished it? I had NO clue!), I’ve learned quite a lot from having to relax:

1) Even though I have great technology at my hands, it still doesn’t replace having friends: Although this sounds syrupy, imagine what it’s like to be lying on the couch and your colleagues pull up in the driveway to bring you dinner. Imagine what it’s like to have a colleague carry your materials from a meeting while also lending you crutches.

2) Even though I can get stressed out by all that I have to do in my job, I still have phenomenal colleagues to lean on: Not once have I had to worry about my buildings not having coverage–they took turns taking care of my staffs!

3) Even though I can’t be everywhere and every moment, email can: I avoided my email for three days, and when I opened it, I had 88 messages waiting. How phenomenal to think just ten years ago email was in its infancy–how would I have kept on top of everything going at the office?

4) Even though I stay busy, my beautiful wife of 25 years still never ceases to make me happy
: What a patient, calm, and loving joy! While I was asleep in the hospital bed, she patiently kept vigil and never complained once. While I was adjusting to using a walker, she never laughed once. When I was wearing The Gown and struggling to hold the IV as I walked across the room, she never snickered once. Thankfully she didn’t see into the marriage future and see THAT–ugh!

5) Even though one thinks they can’t live without computer techology, they CAN take a break from it: I read a 600 page book in six days! My daughter in Lex., Ky, surprised me with a handwritten letter. We watched movies and didn’t rush off to finish paper work. I took naps in the afternoons and felt great. I listened to a Beethoven symphony and paid attention to how it was written. I looked at the clouds. And, even though I wasn’t “busy,” I felt GREAT.

6) Even though I still ache from surgery, I remembered to tell my surgeon today that I appreciated him taking good care of me: His smile was all I needed to know that he doesn’t hear this often. Who else, I wonder, never hears a thank you?

Yes, thank goodness for pain. It has made me remember what’s important.