Shipwrecks, sunken treasure, lost civilizations – nearly free stuff for classrooms

The Museum of Underwater Archaeology (MUA) is pleased to offer several resources for classroom teachers. This page provides information on our “Holding History in Your Hand” kit which includes a written curriculum presenting the six steps of the archaeological process, replicas of artifacts for examination, videos, a sidescan sonar slideshow, bookmarks, and other activities for further exploration. This opportunity is free to all classroom teachers (there is a small fee to help cover shipping and packaging.

via The Museum of Underwater Archaeology About the MUA.

Fearless Explorer

Guest post by Joe Wood

Believe it or not, I wouldn’t consider myself a very techie person. I can’t set up a server, can barely understand the wireless network in our house, and have enough blackened sockets to know I should never be trusted with any electrical handy work. However, friends, family, and colleagues often call me for computer or cell phone technical support. No longer can I attend a family function without spending some time working on a computer problem. Recently, I purchased an iPad just because so many people were asking for help and yet I had never played with one for longer than five minutes at the Apple Store. Rather than calling myself a “techie,” I tend to think of myself as a “fearless explorer.”

How did this happen? Well, I blame the Federal Government. After all, they’re always the “bad guys,” right? In my case, the techiness started with an Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) Grant. In 2005 I decided to search for a job in a school district closer to home. While perusing EdJoin, I stumbled across a science position at a middle school right in my neighborhood. At the last minute I decided to apply and was offered the job. A few weeks later, after getting my classroom set up and meeting students and colleagues, my principal sent me over to the District Office to pick up my “computer stuff.” I wondered what might this “stuff” be? A laptop? Maybe one of those new LCD projectors? My previous school site had purchased one and since twenty-seven teachers shared it I was able to use it once to show my students a virtual frog dissection website. It was amazing!

When I arrived at the district office I met John, the Director of Technology Services, someone who would quickly become my mentor – whether he wanted to or not. John explained that the school district had been awarded an EETT grant, placing technology in every 7th and 8th grade science and social studies classroom. The goal of the grant was to use this technology to increase academic performance, while at the same time improving both student and teacher technology proficiency. Like a magician with a really deep hat, John started pulling out all of the hardware I would receive as participating teacher. I walked out of his office with a new laptop, a document camera, a LCD projector, and a wireless tablet. He also informed me that the following week fifteen student laptops, a printer, and a wireless access point would appear in my classroom. John tried his best to explain how each of these devices worked, but all I really heard was “flux capacitors” and “1.21 gigawatts.” It was as if Doc Brown from Back to the Future was talking to me himself.

Keep in mind, at this point in my life, I wasn’t totally clueless about technology. I had been using email for almost a decade, was quite adept at shopping on Amazon, and had successfully made it through college with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint as my close, personal friends. However, I decided that the only way I would be successful at using this gear with a bunch of pre-pubescent adolescents was if I took it home and fearlessly explored. I also had an inkling that when those fifteen student laptops appeared that everything in my classroom might change and I would need to be a little more technology proficient.

I remember that first night quite vividly. I laid out all of my digital gifts on our large kitchen table. Once the laptop, projector, document camera, and wireless tablet were all neatly organized in a perfectly symmetrical manner, accompanied by their collection of cables and adaptors, I just stood there and stared. What do I do now? I started with the projector. Surely, hooking it up to the laptop couldn’t be that hard. I looked at the back of the projector and decided to begin with the power cable. That was easy. Digging into the recesses of my mind from the one other time I had used a LCD projector at my former school, I scanned the back of the projector, as well as the back of the laptop. “Hmm, there is a blue outlet on the back of the projector that matches the blue outlet on the back of the laptop,” I thought to myself, “I wonder if there is a cable that will connect these two?” Sure enough I found one that had two blue ends matching the outlets and it seemed to work. I played until midnight that evening piecing things together like a giant puzzle. Around 12:15am, when I finally had all of my technology connected, it dawned on me that I would have to reconstruct this mess in my classroom tomorrow! Doing the only smart thing I could think of, I used masking tape and a sharpie to label all of the ports and their corresponding cords, and gently packed them away.

The next morning I arrived at school just before 6:30 and amazingly it only took me 45 minutes to hook everything back up. Naturally, a couple of the pieces of tape had fallen off, I somehow ended up with an extra cable, and the wireless tablet only wanted to occasionally connect to its Bluetooth adapter. Regardless, I was up and running right around the same time my students started pouring into the room. Since I had spent nearly all night figuring out how to plug everything in, my lesson was a little less than stellar. Honestly, I can’t even remember what I actually taught that day. However, what I do remember was the look on every single kid’s face as they entered the classroom. It was that look of pure imagination and curiosity. In every period there was a palpable vibe of excitement emanating from the students.

“Whoa! Look at that Mr. Wood! We can see your desktop. What are you going to show us today?” “Hey, since you have your computer set up, does this mean we are going to start using the student laptops soon?” “My friends said they started using them last week in science. They sound cool.”

The following week the student computers did arrive and we completed our first technology project – a PowerPoint presentation about cells. Naturally, since this was our first computer project, not everything went as planned. One computer crashed, two refused to connect to the wireless network (I later discovered each computer had a wireless on/off switch), and nearly every PowerPoint presentation demonstrated that one could insert too many animations. However, during this project I witnessed the future of my teaching. As I walked around the room, I observed students who were completely excited, engaged, and enthralled by technology- infused learning. I noticed tables of students working in pairs, debating the best way to display a nucleus or cell wall and engrossed in scientific conversations about the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. I watched students reflect, collaborate, solve problems, and search for information without any prompting from me. At the same time my students saw their teacher as a learner – as someone who didn’t have all the answers, but a person who was willing to be a fearless explorer and discover the solution with them.

PowerPoint was only the beginning. Since that day my students and I have fearlessly explored the use of blogs, wikis, cell phones, and even a virtual electron microscope. Some things worked out flawlessly, while other resources were only used during first period and then quickly abandoned for an alternative by the time second period students appeared. Teaching in an EETT classroom was a transformational experience in my career. Through the integration of technology, my classroom moved from a teacher-centered system to a student-centered learning environment. Along the way, I learned that computer expertise is not the secret to integrating technology – it’s simply a willingness to play, discover, and explore. Also, it never hurts to have some masking tape and a sharpie close by.


This essay was written by Joe Wood, Teacher on Special Assignment in the Department of Professional Learning & Innovation of the San Juan Unified School District in California. Joe wrote this at the National Writing Project Summer Invitational at UC Davis. He shared it with us here at Generation YES and gave us permission to publish it.

This essay is a perfect expression of the kind of jump in and swim around with the students attitude towards technology that works so well in schools. Today, Joe is the district coordinator for San Juan’s GenYES program running in 6 middle schools as a result of this same EETT grant. Now he’s sharing his ‘fearless explorer” attitude with lots of teachers and student tech leaders district-wide.

For more information on the San Juan EETT program, watch this video, it’s great!


Previous posts about the San Juan Schools GenYES programs:

Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009

New data from the U.S. government National Center for Educational Statistics: Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009.

This First Look report presents data from a spring 2009 Fast Response Survey System FRSS survey on the availability and use of educational technology by public elementary/secondary school teachers. The teacher survey includes information on the use of computers and Internet access in the classroom; availability and use of computing devices, software, and school or district networks including remote access by teachers; students’; use of educational technology; teachers’; preparation to use educational technology for instruction; and technology-related professional development activities. (released May 2010)

Some key highlights:

  • Teachers reported that they or their students used computers in the classroom during instructional time often (40 percent) or sometimes (29 percent)
  • Results differed by low and high poverty concentration of the schools for the percentage of teachers that reported their students used educational technology sometimes or often during classes to prepare written text (66 and 56 percent, respectively), learn or practice basic skills (61 and 83 percent, respectively), and develop and present multimedia presentations (47 and 36 percent, respectively)
  • The percentage of teachers that reported that the following activities prepared them (to a moderate or major extent) to make effective use of educational technology for instruction are 61 percent for professional development activities, 61 percent for training provided by school staff responsible for technology support and/or integration, and 78 percent for independent learning
  • Of the teachers who participated in technology-related professional development during the 12 months prior to completing the survey, 81 percent agreed that ―it met my goals and needs,‖ 88 percent agreed that ―it supported the goals and standards of my state, district, and school,‖ 87 percent agreed that ―it applied to technology available in my school,‖ and 83 percent agreed that ―it was available at convenient times and places

The data is broken down by school size and location, teacher experience, and lots of other variables. They asked about blogs, wikis and other social media, both for parent and student communication as well as class assignments. so if you want to know what percentage of teachers have students contribute to blogs or wikis, and how that varies urban to rural, poverty level, or by years of teacher experience, it’s all here. (Overall, 12% rarely, 9% sometimes/often) There are little variations to ponder, like how the biggest response for “rarely” is from big urban schools.

And that carries throughout – high poverty schools do have and use computers, but the students are doing test prep, not creative work.

So – a treasure trove here for data fans out there…

Update – here’s the link to the raw data.


Teacher PLC at the Learning Games Network

Teacher PLC | Learning Games Network

Are you a teacher interested in using games in the classroom? Help design a new Professional Learning Community (PLC) at the Learning Games Network.

The PLC will provide a forum for teachers to share experiences and ideas for using existing games in the classroom, as well as discuss ideas and concepts for where games could fill gaps and niches in curricula. Teachers involved in technology will also have the opportunity for professional development in workshops with developers and producers.

Be sure to fill out the short survey to share your interests and sign up for more information. Pass this on to other educators interested in games!


Constructivism in practice – making lectures work

Posted with permission from The Institute for Learning Centered Education – Don Mesibov

If you must lecture, please don’t do it early in the lesson.
Most teachers begin a lesson with a launcher, anticipatory set, ice breaker, bell ringer or an exploratory activity (which we recommend). Each of these often motivates students to think something good might happen during class; some of the students actually begin to look forward to what might come next.

Unfortunately, just as students are beginning to think they might not mind being in class, the teacher too often launches into a lecture and all momentum is lost. It’s like the dead scene in a play that interrupts the flow of excitement generated earlier.

Why do teachers lecture early in a lesson? It’s because we have new information we want our students to learn and we want to start by telling them what we want them to know. But it isn’t effective. If the content is completely new to students it is hard to follow the words of a speaker. It is like trying to learn the rules and procedures of baseball when you’ve had no previous knowledge that such a game existed. If you want to teach someone baseball, hand them a glove and have a catch. Put a bat in their hands and pitch to them. Then you can start to explain how the game is played – after, not before, you have actively engaged them.

I’ve sat in the back of the room as teachers have tried to explain to students what they want them to learn. I’ve noticed the faces of the disinterested students. They have no hooks to hang their thoughts on – no context for understanding what the teacher is saying. Sometimes what the teacher says early in the lesson would be more effective if said near the end when the students have been engaged with the new information. The lecture might be more effective as a summary. Once you’ve tried hitting a ball with a bat for fifteen minutes, a mini-lecture on how to stand and how to hold the bat has much more meaning.

Here are some examples of how to engage students with new information BEFORE beginning your explanations.

  • BILL OF RIGHTS: Don’t explain or describe them. Distribute a one page summary of the Bill of Rights, pair the students and ask each pair to prioritize them in order of importance. Then ask each pair to justify its prioritization. There is no right or wrong and it doesn’t matter how each pair prioritizes. What is important is that the students have been challenged to think about each article and what it means.
  • TOO, TO, AND TWO: Pair or group students and ask them to design an ad for their favorite TV show or DVD, or food using each of these words correctly at least once.
  • MIXTURES AND SOLUTIONS: Give students different substances to mix and ask them to share conclusions they reach based on the results.
  • PERCENTAGES: Ask students, in pairs or groups, to share their perceptions of what’s good and what’s bad about buying with credit cards. This can lead to a lesson on percentages that students perceive as relevant when you ask them to assess whether the purchase of a sale item, using a credit card, will actually save money when the interest payments are taken into account.

You can probably come up with more and better examples. My only point is that after you grab the students’ attention with a good opening, don’t blow it by losing the momentum with a lecture that the students probably won’t understand anyway.

Please know that your work in the field of education is as meaningful to our society as anything anyone can possibly do. Thank you for caring about the future of our children!!!!

Don Mesibov October 2009

Copyright (c) 2009, Institute for Learning Centered Education. All rights reserved.

The Institute is currently registering teams for the 2010 summer constructivist conference, July 19-23, at St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. Don’t miss the opportunity for this unique conference that models the constructivist behaviors that teachers are using increasingly in the classroom. More information at The Institute for Learning Centered Education.

Deliberate Tinkering

Presentation Zen: 10 Tips on how to think like a designer.

Design in the real world is often a process of deliberate tinkering. Sometimes the goal may be clear, with timelines, budgets, and constraints. Or the goal may be less clear, as you struggle to come up with something “better” even though no one quite knows what that means. Sometimes you work for days or weeks, making small incremental steps, sometimes things come in a flash of brilliance.

Yet in school, there is often a rigid “design process” with stages that imply a linear progression from start to finish. Whether teaching writing, video production, the “scientific method”, or programming, it often seems most efficient to provide students with step-by-step assistance, tools, and tricks to organize their thoughts and get to a finished product.

However, this well-intentioned support may in fact have the effect of stifling creativity and forcing students into creating products that simply mirror the cookbook they have been given. In fact, some students, having been well-trained to follow directions, will simply march through the steps with little thought at all. On the other hand, students need some kind of support and structure, right?

So how do you combine the benefits of tinkering (creative chaos, brainstorming, time to reflect) with getting something done. I believe the answer lies in looking at the design process in the creative world – such as graphic artists and designers.

Presentation Zen is a website devoted to simplicity in design and a recent article provides some great direction for classroom projects: Presentation Zen: 10 Tips on how to think like a designer.

Here are the tips from the article:

(1) Embrace constraints. (2) Practice restraint. (3) Adopt the beginner’s mind. (4) Check your ego at the door. (5) Focus on the experience of the design. (6) Become a master storyteller. (7) Think communication not decoration. (8) Obsess about ideas not tools. (9) Clarify your intention. (10) Sharpen your vision & curiosity and learn from the lessons around you. (11) Learn all the “rules” and know when and why to break them.

I hope you read this article; it provides much food for thought.


Magazines for the (technology) classroom bookshelf

source: stock.xchngSome of the best resources for a technology-using classroom are not found online! Technology projects need support and ideas from outside sources, and books and magazines can be terrific for that. Plus they come in a convenient format that is easy to carry, share, and sits neatly on the desk while doing the real work on the computer.

Magazines can inspire, inform, and offer fresh ideas. And they shouldn’t just be stuck in the back bookshelf, these resources can be used in whole class lessons, be resources for projects, and be part of an always up to date classroom library.

Many Borders and Barnes & Nobles have expanded their magazine sections to include magazines you may never have seen before. Browse these racks with an eye open for articles and visuals that can teach about design, media literacy, art and photography, do it yourself projects, and provide inspiration.

If you find a magazine you really like – consider getting a subscription. And yes, I know, it’s not free, but subscriptions are always a good thing to ask parents to purchase! Look for deals, these magazines are often discounted heavily with special offers for additional books or CDs. And don’t worry about them disappearing, because they will; just think of it as making room for new stuff. So if you find an article that is the basis for a really good project or lesson, be sure to make a high quality copy of it and tuck it away somewhere!

Magazines and their accompanying online resources are a great way to get inexpensive, up-to-date ideas and resources into the classroom. In this case, more is better because you never know where inspiration will come from and which student will resonate with an idea. Of course, with any materials not specifically written for the classroom, it’s up to you to be the ultimate judge about appropriateness!

Here’s a couple of magazines to consider:

Craft and Make – These two magazines are new, but have become instant classics. They celebrate the inventor in all of us, and show you how to do it with a decided techno beat. Every issue is packed with do-able, make-able projects that can be adapted for classroom use. The photos show how real people have constructed these projects, which makes them very real and accessible. The websites are also treasure troves of videos, podcasts, blogs and forums.

Before & After: How to Design Cool Stuff – this is a beautifully designed magazine about design. Some of your secondary students may be enthralled by the notion that every object that humans make is speaking a secret language that can be better understood. Color, placement, symmetry, use of fonts and typeface, and more are all dissected in clear language and beautiful pictures. The magazine is available in print, or even less for individual articles or in PDF form. There is also a blog that dissects design found in everyday objects. This latest post analyzes the new Pepsi logo design from a historical perspective, as a consumer brand, and as design. It’s fascinating!

Photography, Video, Audio magazines – There are quite a few magazines on these subjects, however, you have to be careful that the magazine is not all product reviews of stuff you frustratingly can’t afford – you may want to just pick up an issue on the newsstand now and then when you see a great article. Books are the better bargain here, and I promise to do a book roundup soon.

Computer specific magazines – if you have Macs and/or PCs, why not get magazines that cater to those platforms? They are fun reads, full of reviews, tips and tricks of the hardware that some kids will just soak up like sponges.

I recommend buying a month or two on the newsstand first. Some of these magazines (not the ones below) are simply advertisements disguised as magazines and not worth the money. Here are some of the tried and true:

Mac Life or MacWorld – C’mon, for less than $20 a year you get either of these great magazines with reviews, news, projects and access to a website full of videos and blogs. They are similar, but Mac Life has a bit of “attitude” while MacWorld is a bit more sober — so try them both and pick which works best for you and your students.

ICreate – For Macs, based in the UK. This one is a litter harder to find, but worth it. Gorgeous, with amazing ideas for creative projects.

PC World and PC Magazine – Again, two main choices with slightly different viewpoints.

Tech support and troubleshooting – if you have students helping with tech support, the magazines above are a great addition to the technical library. There is one online magazine that might be a real hit with older tech-savvy students – TechRepublic. Their emailed newsletters are full of tips and resources for network administrators and tech support professionals. This is going to be over the head of most students, but for some of those who are heading for technical professions, it’s a snapshot into the world of an IT career.

Last but not least – Wired magazine. This one is not project oriented, but explores the high tech frontier of all fields from around the world. The articles are well written and dense, but if we want students to learn how to be citizens of the 21st century, we should be sure that they at least get a glimpse of it.

Wired does have a “how to wiki” – and this could be a great source of project ideas. Featured today is an article on recycling e-waste. What a great project for a student or group of students! Does your school recycle computers, printers, and batteries? Could students form a committee to investigate this and propose a plan? All the facts are here to support this cause.


Inauguration Day

Well, the plans are finalized – next Tuesday, January 20, 2009 I will be in Washington DC for Inauguration Day. It’s still unknown if I’ll be able to GET to the actual Inauguration; there are various websites predicting a major traffic and transportation meltdown. But I’ve got a warm jacket and walking shoes so if need be, I can hike it!

All over the country and around the world, people will be watching on television, and I hope a lot of students get to watch too. Kevin Jarrett has pulled together some Inauguration Day Resources for teachers and students to explore for background information and lesson ideas.

Think of me while you are warm and dry!


PS I’ll try to Twitter and send pix, but it’s expected that the text and Internet will be heavily taxed in the area. Follow me on Twitter if you’d like to see me try!