Friday, August 28, 2009

Teacher Training Videos

Teacher Training Videos is a great web site with, yep, you guessed it, teacher training videos. The topics range from PowerPoint, Moodle, Twitter, to Blackboard, Blogger and YouTube. The videos are easy to follow and the site has a huge amount of resources available for teachers.

This is a great way to learn about some new technologies and how to use them from the comfort of your home. And, it's free.

Resources for Students

Here are some great resources for your students. Please share these with them.

Trackclass is a great, free resource for students. The site allows students to track their classes and assignments, and even will send reminders (email or SMS) for upcoming assignment due dates and test dates. There is also a note taking utility so students can take notes on it if they have a computer in school, or transcribe notes later. You can even attach files to each class and assignment to keep things organized. It is a great way for students to stay organized.

There is also a version for mobile phones and the iPhone, so students can stay organized no matter where they are.

I found it very easy to use, with a great help section. I wish they had this when I was in school! I was even thinking that teachers could use this too.

Shoshiku is another free class organizer, similar to Trackclass. It has a calendar, notes, task list, and reminder system like Trackclass. It is not as full featured, in my opinion, as Trackclass, but it is easy to use and some students may like it better than Trackclass.

Dweeber is a homework collaboration site that also has tools to help students learn better. It is described as a homework social network. Students sign up, for free, and can add their friends, known as "dweebs" to their network. Students can work on homework together and help each other out. It even as a virtual whiteboard so that they can work together just as if they were in the same room. There is a message center, study sessions, and even a place to post links to web sites that you find helpful in doing your work.

This is a great resource for students who can't get together physically to work on homework or projects.

Share these with your students and please share any others you know of with us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Free, Virtual Educational Technology Conference

FETC is a great educational technology conference held in Florida. They also run a virtual conference that is very good. The next virtual conference is October 22, 2009, from 10am to 6pm.

The virtual conference is easy to navigate and contains video presentations, discussion forums, vendor sites, and more. It is well worth your time. Everything is also archived for future reference in case you can't do all of it in real time.

There are even drawings for freebies from the vendors.

You can register for it here and get more information. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about educational technology and how it can improve teaching and learning.

New Teacher Survival Central

Discovery Education has a great site for new teachers. The New Teacher Survival Central has lots of great resources for new teachers (and veteran teachers) on technology, parent communication, classroom management, lesson plan resources, and much more.

There are tutorials and training resources that will help new teachers adapt to their new career. The Survival Tool Kit has a best of the web section with links to great web sites for educators.

The site is easy to navigate with great resources. I check in every once and while to see what's new that can help me in my classroom also. The site is great for any educator. Don't forget to check out the rest of Discovery Education's site also.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NSTA Science Teacher Grab Bag

The NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) has a great resource on their web page, called the Science Teacher's Grab Bag. If you filter by cost "free" it comes up with close to 100 free resources for science teachers. You can also filter by different dollar amounts if you have funds to spend on resources. You do not have to be a member to access this site.

In general, NSTA is a great resource for teachers and I always recommend that science teachers join. Your membership gets you access to more resources, discounts on NSTA publications, and includes a subscription to a journal of your choice.

Subscribe to this blog

For new readers of this blog: if you enjoy it, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS or via email. Just scroll down the page until you see the subscribe box on the right side of the page. By subscribing, you will get notification of any new posts. It's a great, easy way, to keep up with what's new.

Google Tutor

A post on another blog reminded me that I wanted to post something about Google Tutor. Google Tutor is not affiliated with Google, but is a great resource about all of Google's products.

The site contains how-to articles, helpful hints and tips, a discussion forum, and more. It is a great resource for people just starting out using Google's tools as well as for Google veterans. You can subscribe to updates via RSS or by email. This is a great way to get notified about new articles and information.

It is not specifically for education, but some of the articles do relate to how to use Google's applications in school. For more specific information about Google for Educators, click HERE.

Google has a lot of great tools and applications and Google Tutor is a great way to learn more about them and expand the usefulness of the applications.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Open Source and Education

There is a great article over at Teach Paperless about using Open Source software and services in schools to save money. It is well worth the read. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Top Three Resources

I was recently asked to list my top three resources / technologies that I use in school. It was very hard to narrow it down, but I came up with the three listed below. To that list, I would also add the internet - this is where I find more resources and how to use them.

1. Google - - Google has internet search, educational search, free blog hosting, Google Docs, free web site hosting, and more. There is a huge amount of tools and resources available from Google for free for educators. There is also email, calendar, and task lists that are all free. These applications can help teachers and students.

2. Evernote - - Evernote has a free account and is a great resource to take notes, clip information from the internet, and stay organized. Keep your lesson plans and other notes on here and have access to them from anywhere.

3. Tech & Learning Magazine - - this magazine has a huge amount of resources, links, and articles about technology and education. There are news articles, how-to articles, blogs from ed tech leaders, and reviews of educational technology, along with other links and resources. It is free to subscribe and you can get either print or electronic copies.

What are your favorite/most useful resources?

New Teacher Advice


As I was realizing that summer was almost up, I also realized that there will be a new batch of teachers to join our distinguished profession. So here it is, my advice to new teachers.

Your best resource as a new teacher is yourself. Use what you learned in school. Seek out more information from colleagues and the Internet. Use your creativity. Remember what it was like to be a student yourself.

Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask other teachers for help. Do not isolate yourself in your classroom. Make connections with other teachers, whether it is in person, by email, Facebook, Ning, Twitter, web sites, or blogs.

Don't reinvent the wheel. Use the resources that are available to you. Most textbooks now come with instructor resource CD-ROMs and companion web sites. Use the resources that they have and then modify them as needed. Search the Internet for lesson plan ideas, activities, classroom management tips, and other tips and tricks.

Stay organized. You need to stay organized. Make sure you have a lesson plan guide and calendar of some sort. You can use a paper based planner and lesson planner or use an electronic or web-based system. Smartphones, such as those from Palm (Centro), RIM (Blackberry), and Apple (iPhone) are great for staying organized. You can also use online resources like Google, Yahoo, Evernote and others to keep your files, calendar, tasks, and lesson plans organized.

Write things down and make sure you have your classroom materials organized and labeled.

Take advantage of professional development opportunities. Your district and school will run professional development sessions, but don't limit yourself to those. Look for free online sessions, webcasts, conferences, and sessions run by your local educational resource agency.

Join a professional society in your area. As a physics teacher, I have joined the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). Find out what organizations are in your area and join them. You will find resources and contacts through these organizations.

Read journals. Subscribe to and read educational journals. Most are free, so you don't have to worry about the money. There are journals on general education, educational technology, pedagogy, assessment, and just about every other area of education.

Be creative with your lessons. Think outside the box. Come up with new, fun ways to teach the students. Use projects and project-based-learning as a way to engage and teach your students. You can find a huge number of resources and ideas for projects on the web.

Read some books on education. My personal favorites to start with are "First Days of School", by Harry Wong, and "Your First Year as a High School Teacher", by Lynne Rominger, et al.

Don't pay for things if you can get them for free. There are tons of free resources, from software to web sites, that can help you in your classroom.

Make connections with the secretaries and custodians in your building. They will be some of your best resources for supplies, ideas, and help.

Make connections with local businesses, especially those that are related to your subject area. They can be a huge resource for guests, supplies and equipment, and funding. Many local businesses, such as Staples, have Teacher Appreciation Days with discounts and free gifts. Find out about these. Remind businesses that instead of throwing out things, they can donate usable items to your school as a tax write-off.

Get to know the publisher's representative for your class's textbook. They can get you a lot of resources.

Be flexible. Remember Murphy's law. Have plans for when your lessons run short or long, to deal with interruptions and fire drills, assemblies, and days when much of your class is absent because of a field trip. Have back up plans for everything and especially have backup plans in case of technology issues.

Know your local and State curriculum. Know what is expected of you. Know what is expected of the students.

Track your personal expenses and save receipts. There is a tax deduction for educators.

Copyright issues - be careful and make sure you know about Educational Copyright issues

Keep up on your certification requirements.

Ask for help, and look for help. Again, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Good luck and welcome to the profession!

Here is a list of my favorite sites and resources (all are free / have free versions)

Google for Educators:



Tech&Learning Magazine:

THE Journal:


Alternatives to Windows, Mac, Linux and online applications | is a great resource for any computer user. The site lists alterantives to popular software applications. Many of the alternatives are free, some are not. The great thing about the site is that it lists things by category so it is easy to find an alternative to what you are using now.

Maybe you want a free version of something, such as replacing Microsoft Office with OpenOffice, or you just want to try some different types of software. Maybe the software you are using now doesn't do everything you need it to do. Whatever the case, can help.

The listings are very comprehensive and include a great description. You can sort results by tag, license, or platform. They have alternatives for Windows, Mac, Linux, and even for mobile applications.

Below is a listing of alternatives to Microsoft Office:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Do you want to know what works in education...ask your students

Research studies, professional development, graduate programs, articles, and more all talk about what works in education. Much of this is written by researchers and others that haven't been in a classroom in years, if ever. I find that much of their advice is good, but I often wondered what the students thought.

I am also an EMS-Instructor and CPR instructor. Both systems require that an evaluation form be filled out at the end of the course so that it can be used to improve the programs. I do this with my students also. I give them the evaluations at midterm's and finals and use the results to modify or change my teaching. The evaluation forms ask about the manner of teaching, how effective lectures, homework, projects, and labs were, how did they like the textbook, and what did they like about the class and what did they not like or want to change. I then look at the results and modify my teaching and the learning experiences based on the feedback I receive from the students.

Another way to get feedback is by using student focus groups. In your class, and in your school, get a group of students together and ask them what works for them in the classroom. Ask them to make a list of what teachers should and shouldn't do, and their best classes and teachers, and why, and their worst classes and why. This feedback can be invaluable to us as educators.

This week, I was a guest lecturer at the Alternate Route to Certification (ARC) program for science teachers. Connecticut uses ARC as a way to get people into teaching as a second career. It runs one program throughout the year on weekends and another one full time during the summer. The program is very successful. I am a graduate of CT's ARC program myself.

The Methods Instructor had some of his former students who just graduated from high school come to the session and talk to the soon-to-be-teachers. The students were very open about how they felt about things in school and what works and doesn't work. Here's a little summary of what they said. Much of what they said are things that teaching programs and good teachers already do, but it was nice to hear if from them.

All the students agreed that they want to be treated with respect and as adults. They all felt bad when a teacher would talk down to them. Along with this, the students stated that the teachers they like the most, and learned the most from, were the ones who got to know the students personally. By knowing the students' interests, home life, and activities outside the classroom, the teachers were able to connect their class to the students' live. The student's all agreed that this makes learning subjects easier and more interesting. They also stated that teachers who make this connection with their students have less discipline issues in their class and the students feel comfortable coming to the teacher for help with school work or other problems.

A point that came up multiple times was that the teacher should know the subject matter and be enthusiastic about it. If the teacher is reading from slides or a textbook, the students feel that the teacher doesn't know the material that well and loses credibility with the students. They also said that when a teacher is enthusiastic and excited about a subject, the students get excited too.

An interesting comment made by one student, and agreed on by the rest of the students, was not to start the first day of class with a list of rules and work to do. The students know the rules, even if they don't always follow them, and giving them a big list of rules the first day overwhelms the students and they tend not to pay attention to them. Their suggestion was to go over the syllabus, a couple of major points on class policies or procedures, and then spend time getting to know the students. I think that this is a great idea and I am changing my first day plan to reflect this idea. I'm thinking of using some kind of ice-breaker with the students so we can get to know each other.

The students all agreed that lecturing for a full class period does not work for them. Break it up a little with other activities. When it comes to PowerPoint, they all agreed that it is a good tool, but needs to be used carefully. They love having pictures, figures, and videos in the presentation, but said that too much text is distracting. No matter what a teacher says, the students will try to copy every word off the presentation. They suggested having the slides available to the students and keeping text to a minimum as good things to do.

Homework was a big issue for them. They all agreed that homework is necessary, but that some teachers really don't think about the homework that they give. The students mentioned that if a teacher gives too much homework, the students won't do it or won't be able to do it because of time constraints. They suggested that homework be given that is meaningful and helps the students learn, but they should have more than one night to work on it. Most high school students have sports, clubs, part time jobs, and 5 or 6 other classes to deal with, so time is tight. They will do the homework if the amount is more reasonable. They also stated that the teacher should go over the material before assigning homework, and then go over some problems when the homework is due. Having students do problems on the board, or help other students with the work is also a positive thing.

Some other topics discussed as positive things: teachers need to be available for extra help before or after school; use games for review - it makes it much more fun; for projects one big a marking period is perfect and let them pick their own partners to make it easier to work on outside of school; use the Internet as a resource - they all agreed that every teacher should have a web site with resources, class handouts, and a schedule on it.

They also want teachers to remember what it's like to be in school and be flexible with students. Allow students enough time to do their work, remember that they have other things outside of class, and that they have other classes.

I found this time with these students to be a great experience. I immediately started to think about my teaching and how their advice can help me be a better teacher and provide my students with a better experience.

Thanks to the Summer 2009 ARC Class, Methods Instructor Glenn Couture, and special thanks for their time and insight, recent high school graduates: Mike Bloom, Courtney Ellis, Liz McLean, Devan Yoder, Michelle Scatamacchia, Despina Sidiropoulos, Eric Heberton, and Rafique Vahora.

Please share your thoughts and ideas too!

Monday, August 3, 2009

MasterMinds of Educational Technology

Masterminds of Educational Technology is a great site with a lot of different resources for teachers. They have articles, blogs, lesson plan downloads, images and more for use in your classroom. Some is free, some you have to pay for, but all of it is good quality and useful in class.

The blog, articles, and links are really good with a lot of great advice and tips.

List of 25 great online resources

Here is a great blog post with 25 online apps for teachers.

Check it out.

Online Stopwatch

Keeping yourself and your class on track timewise can be a challenge. I talked about Harmony Hollow's Cool Timer in this blog post, but I just learned about another one.

Online Stopwatch is exactly that, an online stopwatch. You can count down or count up with it. It is simple to use, free, and easy to read. This is a great way to keep time in your class without having to purchase a stopwatch. You can even use a projector to have this up on the screen so that your students can keep an eye on their time.

How I use a website and blogs with my classes

I use a class web site,, and blogs with my classes to give them resources and to keep things organized. I use Google Sites and Google Blogger.

The main site is mainly static, containing my schedule, a links section, file downloads of class files and resources, and useful information for the students, as well as sections for new teachers and some educational technology resources.

I use blogs, with this as a start page, as a weekly or daily guide to what we are doing in class. I can post assignments, links to web sites, and reminders about tests and upcoming due dates to the blogs. I have my students subscribe to the blogs via email so that they get updates whenever I add something to the blog.

The students love having these resources available to them and it makes my life much easier and much more organized.

How do you use the internet in your classroom?


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