Thursday, February 26, 2009

Brainstorming with

So lately my posts have been more along the lines of a true "web log" chronicling what I've been doing and the thoughts I've had. So with this post, I'm back to using the blog to highlight what I think is a cool web-based tool for brainstorming. is a site used to create mindmaps. Creating an account is free and allows you access to all the features, and you can even try it out without signing up. It's nice because once you have created a map, you can share your maps or brainstorm with others, and there is no download or software to install. When the brainstorming is done you can export as an image or print it out. It is easy to use and the final product looks pretty sleek. Check out an example I created below:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Challenge of Sustainable Staff Development

Lately, I've been in discussions with schools throughout the district on how to best support the technology training we've already had this year, rather than adding new workshops. And I've been out to schools to do follow-up sessions on blogs, smart and activboards and schoolcenter teacherpages workshops done earlier this year. The format has been group meetings that are focused more on reviewing and asking questions rather than delivering new information.

There are several schools I serve that understand that many teachers need more than a one hour "sit and get" if they are going to really use the technology in their instruction. Many teachers have follow-up questions and need time to reflect and brainstorm when they acquire a new tool, and I commend those willing to do this because the "carrot" of tech credit is gone for these sessions. These are teachers who are showing up because they want to better understand how to use the technology.

Yesterday at Jefferson Elementary three teachers came in after school to the lab for a help session on their teacher webpages. We answered group questions and reviewed some steps, but much of the time was spent working on their pages with Joan (their tech facilitator) and I assisting them. We started around 2:45 and finished around 4:10, and at the end of the day I thought each of them made real strides with their pages.

Too often I think staff development workshops (technology or otherwise) plant a seed but don't do enough to nurture its growth early on. Follow-up is key if we want teachers to use the skills and resources we are sharing.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I'm starting to get excited about attending the NCTIES (formerly NCAECT) Technology Conference next month in Raleigh. I've been fortunate to attend the conference many times, and last year I got to present there. Every year the sessions offer something new, and the nationally known speakers bring their knowledge and interesting perspectives in instructional technology.
This year I get the benefit of being part of what should be a great preconference session at the N.C. Museum of History. I was in Raleigh Monday for a planning meeting with copresenters Marlo Gaddis and Matt Barfield and really look forward to seeing how the whole day will come together with teachers from around the state. The session, sponsored by CSI, should be a good blend of technology and social studies and will be a subject for future blogging.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Activexpressions Make an Impression

Today I visited Forest Park Elementary to assist in setting up their Activexpressions. Activexpressions are learner response systems for the Promethean Activboards. And although they are similar to the Activotes, which preceded them and Senteos, which is the Smarttech version, expressions are awesome because these devices allow the user to text answers in the same way a cell phone is used.

So along with the kinds of "True or False" and multiple choice quizzes you're used to with activotes, with CPS units or senteos you can set up questions that allow for short answer texting with the expression. Although the expressions currently require an additional software install, I was impressed with how easy it was to set them up and get started. I'm anxious to see how the teachers and students at Forest Park will respond to this technology.

Although these are currently being updated on our district technology price list, the price tag might be a deterrent. However, Promethean is currently running a contest where they are giving sets away to lucky classrooms. Check out the contest.
Additional thanks to April, who is now exploring a "hand modeling" career.