Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Good Sites for IWB Resources

Interactive whiteboards (IWB), whether Activ or SMART are great tools for instruction. I've always thought an IWB doesn't make a teacher great, but the addition of an interactive whiteboard in the hands of a great teacher is an amazing tool for learning.
I've been lucky enough to see some of these classes in action where the interactive whiteboard has become an integral part of every day's instruction.

So here are some of the better sites I've seen to look for resources for either the Activboard, SMARTboard or both.
  • Promethean Planet for Activboards and
    SMART Exchange for SMARTboards are still two of the best places for starting. Each site has downloadable lessons and good resources for their software.
  • Kenton Co School's SmartBoard Smartmath (SMART) Kenton County School's has notebook files to download as well as a list of interactive websites.
  • National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (Activ or SMART) good site for interactive math manipulatives and tools to use with IWBs.
  • (Activ or SMART) This site has a nice collection of links to interactive sites for use on an IWB with K-3 students. Although the site specifically mentions the SMARTboard, most of the sites I checked out could be used on either board.
  • WPS's smart-lessons (SMART) Great collection of K-12 notebook files by grade level and subject area.
  • (Activ or SMART) this site has a lot of free educational materials for IWBs and the downloaded files are in swf which can be inserted into either IWB.
So there's a small list I'd recommend to teachers searching for some resources. Do you know of some I need to add?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Top Sites for CopyrightFriendly Pictures for Your Blog

"When you use pictures in your blog please make sure you are observing copyright."
Okay so where can I get pictures to use?

It's a fair question. Sometimes the "copyright" mention in the workshop sessions (any workshop session) turns into a lot of "don't." So where should you get pictures for use in your classroom blog?

Most of the time teachers aren't really interested in hearing me talk about how much I like creative commons, they really just want a few sites to check out and see if they can find the pic they need. So here are a handful of sites I'd recommend, but I'd also need to mention that one of the best ways to use pictures would be to take your own (or even better have students take them). This won't work for all pictures but is a way to avoid any issues in copyright.
I'll also say that while many of the sites are "copyright friendly" and not likely to have any questionable content, it might not be a good idea to pull up pictures with your students. I've used all these sites before and not encountered anything objectionable but enter disclaimer here.

Top Sites for Copyright-Friendly Pictures for Your Blog:
  • Pics4Learning This site grants teachers and students the use of the pictures on its site, many of which were submitted by teachers and students. I love the idea, but there are some areas that there is not a lot of content. As a plus, it is very easy to use the site.
  • Flickr Flickr is a great one for finding pictures uploaded by users who in many cases have some real skills in photography. In most cases you'll find more than enough images to choose from. However not all content should be used. Be sure to check under Additional Information for details on the rights for the image. You may need to become familiar with creative commons licenses.
  • Compfight isn't a part of the Flickr site, but it does provide an easy option for searching. In Compfight you can easily search Flickr for only creative commons images. Just set the search option at the top of the page to Creative Commons Only.
  • Photo8 is maintained by a photographer who has a nice collection of quality photos that are now public domain. Again, this site might not have the volume of pictures other sites offer but should ease any copyright fears.
  • UncleSam'sPhotos The government might seem like an unlikely source of great photos. However, they have a nice directory of free stock photos available for commercial or personal use. There are a few steps to get to the content, but there are many good pictures related to the military, civics and United States.
Finally in many cases "copyright-friendly" still means cite the source. Even if this step is optional, it is still a good to model the process for our students.

So there they are, not a comprehensive list but a good starting place for pictures to use on your blog (voicethreads, webpage, etc...)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WSFCS Online Learning

This month the WSFCS Instructional Technology Dept will offer self-paced online workshops for the teachers in our district. We've talked for some time about the ways we are going to transform the way we offer staff development using Moodle, and this month is a big step in that direction.

Teachers seeking tech credits will be able to login to the WSFCS staff development webpage and register for online courses. These courses will be listed as Other- Online in the location. Once the teacher has registered for the course, directions will be given about setting up a WSFCS Online Learning account and the course's enrollment key. Workshop participants can then complete the course anytime during the month the course is offered.

This month we have teachers enrolled in workshops on Photostory, Learning Village, Schoolcenter, Google Docs, Audacity, PowerPoint, Excel, Learn360 and Moviemaker. We'll continue to offer different technology workshops throughout the year online, hoping to meet the demand from our teachers.

The feedback we received from our pilot teachers was that they very much enjoyed being able to do the workshop on their own time. Teachers' days are very busy, and often the times we can offer face-to-face workshops are at times when teachers are preparing or recovering from a full day with students. Online learning is a vehicle for offering on-demand staff development at times the participant chooses.

If we can better provide WSFCS teachers with technology tools and knowledge, then they can better transform the way they offer instruction to their students. I think this is a very powerful idea whose time has come.