Posted by: tpierson | November 16, 2009

Winnowing the Internet Chaff

iLearn TechnologyHow can a teacher who only has a few minutes here and there in a busy day ever find and evaluate the best internet resources for teaching and learning in her classroom?   Unless she is motivated to search for internet content sources outside her busy school day, she clearly has to rely on others to do this for her.

There are educational technologists out there on the blogosphere who create networks of educators to help identify those really salient online resources that will bring a classroom activity to life.

One such educational technologist is Kelly Tenkeley, a technology integration specialist from the Denver area and blogger.  A week doesn’t pass that I don’t find a nugget worth exploring on her blog, iLearn Technology, An Edublog about Integrating Technology into the Classroom.

Each blog entry on iLearn Technology links to one online tool or website, describes what it’s about, and offers ideas for integrating it into the classroom.   Kelly generally post 3-5 websites a week.  Although she is an elementary educational technologist, many of her links are useful for teachers across all grades and content areas.
How to track postings
The best way to track additions to her website is via an RSS feed reader. I use iGoogle and Google Reader (see my post on this subject).  Don’t forget to bookmark good websites she leads you to in your Delicious account!

Posted by: tpierson | October 16, 2009

21st Century Media Specialists

Final Reg-2.pdf (page 1 of 3)Provocateur Scott McLeod (otherwise known as Scott McLeod, Iowa State University associate professor and head of the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education) came to the Minnesota Education media Organization fall conference to shake up the status quo.  His provocative keynote challenged media specialist and librarians to examine the core of their work.  Scott believes that change is happening so readily throughout the world (see the video Did You Know?)– changing jobs, exponential growth of information, ubiquitous computing–that it is essential that media specialist take the lead in transforming teaching and learning in schools.  If they don’t take the lead, Scott says,  “Get out of the way!”

It is clear that media specialist are caught in a system of information gathering, housing, organizing and sharing that is slow to change.

Take for instance the very nature of books.  With the advent of eReaders and low cost netbooks, students have access to multiple texts, all searchable, easily indexed, rich with multimedia and easily highlighted and noted electronically.  It’s possible, through an internet connection, for students to have access to a vast array of reference materials and electronic databases.  So, Scott argues, what print reference materials are still needed in media centers?  What does the media center of the 21st century look like?

McLeod argues that factual knowledge and low-level skills are much of what teaching and learning are all about these days.  He asks media specialists, “How can you help students work more effectively with knowledge, particularly knowledge that is stored electronically?  What core knowledge do our students need for them to be good creative knowledge users?”

Students are no longer just consumers of knowledge; they have become creators—through blogs, video, wikis, and other interactive media.  Media specialists need to help students become responsible creators and publishers and, in tandem with teachers, open pathways for students to engage and interact with the world.

It seems to be me that the challenge for media specialist now becomes how can they lead their teachers and administrators to a new vision of teaching and learning where 21st century information literacy skills are central to the mission of the school.  The time is ripe for insightful leadership—do media specialists have the skills and background, and are they ready to step up to the challenge?

Posted by: tpierson | October 4, 2009

Getting Started with Blogs

Do you have something to say?  Want to share it with a larger audience? Blogging may just be your ticket.  But how do you start?  This is a question I recently faced as I started Cultivating the Educational Technologist blog.  It’s a little bit finding your voice, identifying the tool you want to use, and promoting your blog (because, whats the point, if no one is going to read it!).

I would like to argue that part of finding your voice is reading what others’ are writing in blogs.  What’s being talked about and how are people expressing themselves with blogs.  How provocative are they?  How are people navigating the sticky wicket of offering criticism without losing their jobs!

Finding good blogs can be time consuming.  If you find a good blog, it might lead you to other blogs, but this circuitous process can be painstaking.  Scott McLeod, a professor at Iowa State University, and accomplished blogger himself, launched a valuable project this summer in which readers add their favorite blogs, by discipline, to a wikispace.  It is a great starting point to find blogs that might tie to your interest or content area.

movingforward - Education Blogs by Discipline-1

There are lots of online blogging sites you can use to create your own blog.  Two of the most popular free blog services are Blogger (now a part of Google) and WordPress.  I decided to use WordPress purely on aesthetics—Wordpress allowed me to manipulate the look and the feel of the page more, giving me a cleaner, simpler look.  Setup literally takes just minutes!

Promoting your blog—that’s a topic for me to develop more in the future, since upon this writing, I think my blog has been visited less than 35 times.  Clearly, I need to blow my horn more!

Posted by: tpierson | October 4, 2009

Getting Started with Web 2.0

Have you been thinking about doing something new and different with technology this year in your classroom or professional life?  Are you daunted by the overwhelming choices of Web 2.0 tools out there?  Should you start blogging—or using a wiki (whatever that is) or a Ning (now there’s a name for you)—or what about this Moodle thing everyone is talking about?  What if you make the wrong choice and invest hours and hours only to discover this is taking way too much time for what you’re getting out of it? You decide to search the internet for ideas and land on Cool Tools for Schools and it just reinforces how overwhelming making a choice is going to be!

I’d like to think that you might start with this blog to get some ideas! A colleague recently sent me a fascinating Edutopia article entitled Ten Top Tips for Teaching with New Media loaded with some of the best tools and wonderful ideas for implementing them in the classroom.
Edutopia-10-top-tips-for-teaching-with-new-media.pdf (page 1 of 13)
Now, I consider myself somewhat savvy when it comes to Web 2.0 tools—my job as an instructional technology specialist demands that—but I was excited as I read Ten Top Tips to discover several tools that were new to me combined with creative ideas for using them with teachers and students.  Yes, the article did confirm many that I have already been using, like Voicethread, but then it went on to describe ways to use Voicethread that I had never even dreamed of!

If a Web 2.0 tool is new to you, Ten Top Tips helps you understand what it is and how it might be used.  For example, social bookmarking is popular, but what is it?  And why should you care? How can you use “delicious” or “diigo” professionally or instructionally? (See Tip #10, Use the Buddy System).

Or maybe you have wanted to start a collaborative project with another school but didn’t have any idea where to start?  Tip #4 Think Globally will get you thinking outside the box.

Are you still intimidated by the idea of  trying something new!   In the end,  you just might want to corral that tech-savvy friend over lunch and see what they are using.  After all, the buddy system isn’t a bad way to start!

Posted by: tpierson | September 13, 2009

Vision for 21st Century Learning Environment

In 2005, my then superintendent, asked me to come up with a vision for technology integration, and, “oh,by the way, present it in one month!”  I was just 3 months into my current job as instructional technology specialist in Curriculum and Instruction, and, needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed.  I came up with an idea to create short descriptions of different aspects of technology integration, and to call them “Picture this” scenarios.  At the time, much of what I wrote seemed like so much wishful thinking.  Our classrooms had very little technology and our teachers felt very little commitment to using the technology they had.  But as I look back over the last four years, and review how far we have come down the path of technology integration, I’m amazed at our progress.  We are well on our way to realizing many of the “Picture this!” scenarios I described.   I encourage you to read what I wrote then–and to help my district now envision what direction to head during the next four years. Vision for Technology Integration-2005

There are things that I didn’t anticipate four years ago.  I didn’t realize the significance that learning management systems like Moodle would play in the classroom.  I didn’t envision the blossoming of Web 2.0 tools, and how much impact they would have on the very nature of learning and teaching.  I didn’t anticipate how inexpensive laptop computers would become nor the growth of handheld devices like iPods.

Help me envision 21st century learning environments.  Does every classroom have an interactive whiteboard?  Are the walls of the classroom dissolving as students use more online learning environments that connect them to the world?  Are students being provided inexpensive netbooks, or moderately priced laptops? Or have we leapfrogged over laptops entirely and students are using handheld devices?  Are textbooks a thing of the past with all books online and being read with eReaders or handhelds?

Welcome to Route 21

Posted by: tpierson | September 12, 2009

Beyond PowerPoint–Prezi

Prezi - About perspective...

This is a Prezi presenation.  Check it out by clicking on the above image. I think Prezi offers a nice change of pace from PowerPoint that will definitely capture our students attention?

It also allows us to be more free flowing in our presentations.  We can jump from one idea to another–show relationships and details–and at the same time set a sequence to follow, and return to if we deiviate.

Prezi is web-based, but presentations can be downloaded so that it isn’t dependent on a good internet connection.  Your presentations reside in the “cloud,” meaning you can work on them from any interent connected computer.  If you want to download them, you can.

Have you used Prezi before?  Are their other alternatives to PowerPoint that you use?  Share your ideas in a comment below.

Chris Lehmann. School 2.0_ Progressive Pedagogy and 21st-Century Tools - ISTEvision

(View the above video from the 10 minute mark to about 20 minutes to see how Chris Lehmann thinks technology is contributing to 21st century learning)

21st century learning is about so much more than just the hardware in the classroom.  We can install the latest internet wired multimedia computer, connect it to a video data projector and document camera, and display everything on the latest interactive whiteboard—and the teaching and learning in the classroom may still remain largely unchanged from what it was in the year 2000.

So how can 21st technology tools change the very foundation of our teaching and learning?  Chris Lehmann, principal at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, presented how his teachers are making this transformation. (see August 23 for my first post about Chris Lehman’s NECC presentation: School 2.0).  Chris believes that technology needs to be ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible—that technology tools don’t teach—rather they should be changing the way we teach..

What does 21st century learning look like?  Chris and his teachers focus on research, collaboration, creation, networking, and presentation and employ evolving Web2.0 tools in the process.  Here are some of the tools Chris identified—but you can bet these will change as new technologies emerge every day.

A Convenient and Reasonably False Taxonomy
What tools are you using in your classroom that you could add to this taxonomy?

Posted by: tpierson | August 26, 2009

iPod Touch Grows up with 3.0 and Evernote

Remember Everything. | Evernote Corporation

iPod Touches are amazing devices—wireless connectivity to the internet, free educational applications that are expanding daily, the functionality to view video and sound podcasts—Apple has educators thinking this is the computing device of the 21st century.  Last spring, I took the lead in showing teachers how these handhelds could be used in their classrooms as our district piloted a cart of 40 iPod Touches in each of our district high schools.  For as much fun as I had exploring all that the Touch could do, I was skeptical of how it might be used in the classroom because it really felt like, at most, a receiving device that teachers could deliver content but not much more.  Students couldn’t easily create using the iPod and they couldn’t record sound.  They couldn’t cut and paste information that they found.  For all the applications that were available, none really did a good job stream-lining the exchange of documents between teacher and student.

Touch 3.0 and Evernote dramatically change the school equation!

With the release of 3.0 operating system for the iPod Touch this summer, I have now been converted.  iPod Touch 3.0 now enables students to copy and paste text and images and record sound (with the addition of a third party mike).  Add to this functionality the Evernote application, and suddenly the iPod Touch has become an interactive tool for capturing and sharing information—whether it be text, pictures, or sound!

Evernote is a free application that resides on the iPod—but is also resides on a website created by the  teacher for sharing and exchanging content.  Teachers can copy text and images into “notes” that then is synched to each student iPod.  Text that is shared is reformatted for viewing on the iPod, thereby eliminating constant resizing and zooming.  Students can also create “notes” that can be tagged by the student so that teachers can sort by assignment and class as students turn in assignments.

Imagine students now researching using a Touch, uploading content that they cut and paste (and that includes a citation of the source!).   Imagine an English Language Learner student “copying” vocabulary that is new and pasting it into a note for further exploration.  Imagine a world language student doing a voice recording of a lesson and turning it into the teacher by posting it as a “note” in Evernote.

I can’t wait to demonstrate the possibilities with high school teachers!  Do you use Evernote in the classroom?  Post comments that demonstrate ways you use this application.

Posted by: tpierson | August 23, 2009

School 2.0: Progressive Pedagogy and 21st-Century Tools

Cultivating the Educational Technologist

As I start a new school year, and I have a more laid back week before the students arrive, I often think about the big picture of what this “school” enterprise is all about.  This summer, I had the opportunity to connect with a school leader who helped clarify my thinking.   Chris Lehmann, principal at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, presented at the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Washington in July.  His talk about progressive pedagogy and 21st century tools really rang true for me–particularly when thinking about technology is transforming teaching and learning.

Chris states that at the center of our work with students is the goal of cultivating thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind students.  What does a school look like if it has these goals in mind for its students?  The first 13 minutes of this video (linked above) explores  his vision for school 2.0.  And although he talks about his high school, and high school students in general, in my mind, his ideas transfer easily to K-5, 6-8, and K-8 settings.

I think we want schools that are inquiry driven, that are student centered, and that approach learning and subjects in an integrated way.  Learning needs to be authentic, and when it is it will lead to passionate and engaged students. Technology needs to be ubiquitous–technology should be a tool for learning, not what learning is about.

Chris Lehmann brings all these ideas forward–and more.  In a future post I will discuss how, in this video, he also helps make the connection of  how technology’s new Web 2.0 tools deepen student inquiry as students research, collaborate, create, present, and network.

Posted by: tpierson | August 15, 2009

iGoogle Homepage and Google Reader


You heard it here first–yes, someone from the central office wants you to set your homepage for your browser to something other than the district homepage.

iGoogle is the perfect homepage for you to track the world around you. With iGoogle as a starting point, you can follow blogs, check out the latest news, and track all things Google. To get a Google homepage like above, go to and click on sign in in the upper right corner. You can then choose to get an account which will have you provide an email and password. You willthen be sent an email confirmaton. Follow the steps to setting up an iGoogle homepage.

To have your browser open to your personalized (another blog will talk about options for personalizing), go to “preferences” under your browser name in the menu bar. Go to main and set your homepage to

What is really cool is that you can have your Google Reader appear on this home page. Then, as you click on listings, a pop up of the blog posting will appear to let you preview the content. If you decide you want to read the whole blog, click in and your browser will navigate to that blog posting so you can see all the content.

How to use:
I will check postings in my Google Reader section of iGoogle homepage whenever I open my browser. I often will find something of interest from the blogs I am following. Check out my Aug. 9 posting about two blogs that you can follow in your Google Reader.

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