Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Top 5 Photos

On the heels of my recent blog post on my "Top 5 Education Related" videos for 2007 and after reading Ewan McIntosh's post today on his "Top 5 Photos" of 2007, I figured I'd create a top 5 photo post of my own. Below you'll find my favorite photos taken in 2007 and posted to my flickr account. My photos on flickr certainly don't have a great following and definitely won't be winning any awards, but reflecting on my favorite photos from 2007 definitely highlights some of the important events in both my professional and personal lives.

Here we go (drum roll please!!!):

Zebra Zap Electric Car-I snapped this photo while I was on a tour of larger scale solar photo-voltaic installations in southern California this past September. With 20 views, this happens to be one of my most popular flickr photos (pretty pathetic, I know!!!) I was actually out at the National Solar Power 2007 Conference in Long Beach, CA on a teacher scholarship from our local energy utility to learn more about the solar power industry. More on the conference at a separate blog I created while I was out there - Solar Power 2007-WE Energies Grant Program.

Devil's Island Sea Cave Column and Arch-My wife and I have kayaked the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior on three different occasions. We are pretty much beginner-intermediate paddlers and we tend to be pretty cautious in our trip itinerary. As a result, we've never been able to get out to the northern most island, Devil's Island. Devil's Island is known to have some of the most spectacular sea cave formations in the Apostles and arguably in the world. So when my wife and I caught the perfect wind on the third day of our trip this past summer and paddled out to Devil's Island from York Island, we were extremely excited. We snapped several photos of the beautiful arches, columns and caves as we circled the northern end of the island. Below is one of my favorites:

NCSS 2007 with Social Studies Department Teachers, Brian Markwald, Chuck Taft, and Will Piper-This was my second year in a row visiting the National Social Studies Teacher Convention. This year it took place in the beautiful city of San Diego, California in late November/early December. The conference itself was loaded with sessions dealing with web2.0 technologies, but what I enjoyed most were the many informal professional and personal conversations we had throughout the weekend. One of the main reasons why I love my work so much is that I'm surrounded with fun, creative and energetic personalities like Will, Chuck and Brian. Pictures from the conference may be surfed at my flickr account and I wrote a more complete summary of the conference in a blog post from a few weeks ago. My favorite picture from our conference is included below:

Michigan High School State Hockey Championship - In March of 2007 I had the good fortune of making it back to the Detroit area to see my nephew, Tim Shield, participate in the championship game of the state hockey tournament. Not only did Tim's team win the game, but Tim scored the game winning goal in overtime to help his high school team, Grosse Pointe South, capture their first ever State Championship title in boys ice hockey. What a great thrill this was! Below you'll see me pictured with Tim who is holding the state title trophy.

I said I would feature my top 5 photos from the year, but I'm going to leave it at four photos. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!!

Top Videos from 2007

I was inspired by a recent Tweet to a blogger's post on her Top 10 Education Related videos for the year. I do apologize for not referencing the blogger and the post, but I can't seem to find the URL and my twitter time line only keeps track of a limited history. I will revise this post if I can dig up the link. Anyhow, here are my top 5 education-related videos from the past year.

#1: Karl Fisch's Did You Know 2.0
We've shared this video in our faculty web 2.0 study group and with a group of middle school parents at a recent parent education meeting. It triggered interesting conversation with both groups. Simply an outstanding piece that really makes you think...

#2: All Things Commoncraft!
These short videos have been extremely helpful in explaining web 2.0 technologies to folks who are new to blogs, wikis and like technologies. Lee Lee Lefever has the ability to break down and explain some relatively tricky concepts in a very simple manner. Below you'll find the Commoncraft video that gives an overview of Google Docs:

#3: One Laptop Per Child Program's Give One Get One Campaign:
I think the One Laptop Per Child program is one of the most revolutionary concepts/ideas of the 21st century. Creating the conduit for children all over the world to connect with information and other people will change things dramatically. Of course this change will not happen over night, but it will happen. I'm also excited because I'm the proud new owner of an XO laptop myself!

#4: Elementary School Student Art Reflections via/ Voicethread:
Voicethread is a very easy to use multimedia publishing application that fosters collaboration and communication. I've seen many interesting student project in voicethread over the past few months, but the one I'm embedding below is from a group of young elementary students at a school in Texas (thanks to Brian Grenier for posting this via twitter). It provides a nice sample of the effective use of voicethread for student publishing and project reflection.

#5: Inside of a Wind Turbine:
Last spring fellow teacher Kip Jacobs and I took a small group of interested students up to Byron, Wisconsin to take a tour Wisconsin Electric's wind turbine facility. We actually were able to go inside of the turbine where one of our students turned the rotors off and on again. Below is a short clip of the inside of the turbine that I took and posted to YouTube. My point of including this clip in my top 5 videos for the year is to show that everyone can participate in contributing and creating content on the web. This short clip has had well over 2300 views! The reason for so many views isn't because this is some great work of art-it is because there are probably very few clips in the world from the inside of an operational wind turbine. This demonstrates that a small guy like myself can create content that is of interest and use to many other individuals out there.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Great Video

GREAT video here...just a good old gut buster! It finally answers the question, "Did Vista rip off Apple OS X?"

EEE PC-Student Reviews

The Asus EEE PC is a low cost, micro laptop computer that is super small, super mobile and runs Linux as the OS. USM purchased one a few weeks ago for evaluating and testing out. We purchased the 4 GB, $399 model. We also purchased an XO unit for evaluation and we'll have students test driving this as soon as it comes in as well.

Over the past two weeks we've had several 8th grade students take the computer for a test drive. I basically handed off the unit to the students with zero instruction - it has been great to watch them play with it and figure it out on their own. Alex B used it for 5 days, taking it home every night and using it on his home WiFi network. He'll eventually be completing a video review of the device from a student's perspective (I'm really looking forward to his review as I value his opinion on these types of things). A couple of other students demoed the unit and will be doing some type of review as well.

Yesterday Colleen W. used the computer throughout the school day and she wrote a very nice review that can be read here. This is the first review from a student and I really enjoyed her perspective and thoughts on the device. I probably learned more from Colleen's review than any I've read on the internet to date! I'll keep publishing these reviews as we receive them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Parent meeting follow-up

We had a nice gathering this afternoon of Middle School parents where we discussed some of the "current events" in the Middle School. One of the agenda items involved a brief little technology update. We started out by firing up ustream and taking a look into Chuck Taft's classroom as his students were giving their presentations on life on the home front during the Civil War. As soon as I texted a little "hello" to Chuck, he had his students all say hello to all of the parents. Parents got a pretty big kick out of this, especially when he grabbed Reed and told him to say hello to his mom who was in attendance at the meeting!

Following the look into Chuck's room we talked a little bit about how we're taking a very close look at the concept of the 21st century classroom. We didn't have a great deal of discussion time, but we did manage to view the entire "Did You Know" video, which is embedded at the end of this blog post. We gave the parents 2-3 minutes to have a little small group discussion following the movie and then we shared some of the highlights with the larger group. I think everyone recognizes that the world is clearly different and will continue to change significantly going forward. I did manage to quote one of Dan Pink's sound bites from his presentation the night before. In his presentation, Pink said, "We need to prepare students for their future, not our past." During our talk we mentioned Daniel Pink's live presentation from Thursday night. His entire presenation was recorded and may be viewed/listened to by clicking here. Be sure to click the "Playback" button when the page loads.

Several parents expressed an interest in learing more about blogs, wikis, podcasts, social media/networking and other tools associated with "Web 2.0." We will try to put together a study group experience for them at some point this year. Stay tuned for more details on this.

Parents: If you have time, try setting up and using one of the following tools:

1. LinkedIn-this is a social networking site targeting the professional community. I haven't used this yet myself, but I do know it is a very popular tool for building and maintaining relationships in the business world.

2. is part of google's suite of applications. It is their blogging tool (it is the blogging tool that I use-several other USM teachers use this as well). There are many other blogging tools out there, but is just about the easiest one to use. Check out this family blog example from a 6th grade social studies teacher that I met a few weeks ago at a conference (be careful, though...he lives in Hawaii and viewing his photos might make you want to move there!)

3. VoiceThread-this is a wonderful tool for sharing pictures and adding voice narration along with the photos. Several of our teachers/students here at USM have used this and it is very, very easy. Check out this voicethread example created by a couple of 5th graders in our media literacy/computer skills class. You might need a voicethread account to view this.

4. Skype-this is a wonderful tool for making calls to other computers and to phone lines. Computer to computer calls are free while computer to cell phones and traditional home phones cost a little money. You can make video calls, have conference calls, and IM with skype. We've used it quite a bit in the middle school this year for connecting with authors and other schools around the country and even around the world (Will Piper's students spoke to a 6th grade class in New Zealand this past week!)

5. flickr! This is an AWESOME photo sharing tool. I like it because it has allowed me to completely organize and backup my entire digital photo collection that I've been maintaining since my wife and I purchased our little digital camera six years ago. flickr has a free service for starters, but for $25/year you get unlimited storage and a host of other features that go along with the "Pro" account. If you are an avid photographer, there are wonderful photography interest groups that you can join. Check out this field guide to the birds of the world group on flickr for a sample of the types of photography groups that you can join. Finally, there are several sites that allow you to do some really fun projects with your photos. Big Huge Labs is one of those sites. Have fun with flickr!

The books that we referenced are in today's talk follow below:
-Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind
-Don Tapscott's Book, Wikimonics.

**photo courtesy of patrick q on flickr (creative commons non-commercial)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Making Connections-Developing Your Own Personal Learning Community

Many of the teachers that I work with in the Middle School at University School of Milwaukee asked about how I 'met' some of the people that we skyped with at Monday's division meeting. With the exception of Gene Yang who Laurie established a connection with earlier this year, I met the other two teachers using several different social networking tools. I'm going to do my best to explain the networking tools that I've been using over the past 2 months to develop my personal learning community (or personal learning network-PLN for short).

Some of the tools I'm using to connect with others:

1. Twitter-twitter is a combination of email, a blog, and IM all rolled into one. The great thing about twitter is that you are limited to 140 characters and you answer the question, "What am I doing right now?." I use it to tell others about interesting projects in the Middle School that we're engaged in, interesting classroom projects that are going on, etc. If you try it, don't be surprised if you don't like it at first. I didn't like it at first, but now it is one of my most useful tools for developing connections with other teachers. I'm 'mjmonty' on twitter-be sure to follow me when you create your account!

A couple of twitter tips to get you started:
  1. Include a link to a blog, wiki, or website that you use for professional purposes. When you choose to follow certain people they receive a notification that you are following them. The are more likely to reciprocate and follow you if you have a link to your blog, wiki, website, etc.
  2. Search for people to follow by using the search feature at the twitter home page or by using TwitDir. The first thing I tend to look for in someone to follow is how often they make updates. If they haven't updated in several months, I don't follow them. Also, check out their blog or web link to make certain this is someone with ties to education. Finally, if you notice a huge disparity between followers and following, stay away (for example, if they are following 2500 people but only have 3 followers themselves, don't add them!) On the flipside, folks when many more followers than they are actually following usually means they have some good ideas that they're sharing.
  3. Sift through some of their updates prior to adding them. What kinds of things are the posting? Don't be afraid of someone who shares some personal information-this is OK as it helps establish rapport (just like it would help establish rapport in face to face relationships). However, if the only thing they are twittering about is personal business, you might want to move on.
  4. Take a look at my twitter home page to get an idea of some of the people I'm following. Most of the folks I follow are in the field of instructional technology, but I'm also following some english teachers, social studies teachers and a few elementary school teachers (I find some of the most interesting projects from my elementary teacher peers).
2. Classroom 2.0 - This is a "ning" social networking tool. It is an awesome place for meeting other educators from all around the world. This is where I met Chrissy, the 6th grade teacher that we skyped with in New Zealand.

3. Independent School Educators Network - This is a social network intended to be utilized by both teachers and students at Independent Schools. I used this tool to refine and improve our idea for our 21st Century Connections workshop the other night at our faculty meeting by posting the initial idea in the forum and asking others to critique it.

4. Skype - Skype typically isn't the place where you establish your first connections with other educators. It is a tool that you use to extend your conversations after you've developed some rapport online with some folks.

I'm certainly not an expert in the area of personal learning networks. I do know that PLNs are incredibly powerful and have changed me as an educator and instructional technology practitioner significantly. A peer of mine down at North Shore Country Day in Chicago, Vinnie Vrotny, did an awesome presentation on personal learning networks this past fall at the K12 Online conference. If you want to learn more about PLNs, I highly recommend that you listen to Vinnie's presentation as it is outstanding.

Best of luck developing your own personal learning network and making connections with other teachers and students around the globe!

*photo courtesy of MR+G on flickr (creative commons non-commercial)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December 10th Division Meeting Summary

Yesterday's professional development experience after school turned out very well (the ustream broadcast from the demo portion is included at the end of this blog post). At University School we typically have a "Division" meeting each month - this time is usually devoted to professional development of some sort, announcements, etc. December's meeting centered around the topic of 21st Century Tools. I appreciate Pam Nosbusch, our Head of Middle School, setting time aside to allow us to take a look at some of these tools and concepts.

Highlights from the PD Experience:

Student Involvement
We had ten students stay after school and join us for this meeting-the kids were great! Students were assigned to work with the different department teams - they really like to teach the teachers. I popped into the math department to see how everything was going and Alex B, an 8th grade student, was busy using the smart board to show the teachers how to add photos and comments to a voicethread project.

Teacher Participation
I'm fortunate to work at a place where teachers are so willing to try new things and take risks. It was so much fun to walk around during the break-out sessions and watch each department team in action. They were working together, talking and engaged in the process. It was great to see-I consider myself quite fortunate to work with such a creative, talented, and professional group of people. See some of their complete projects online at the Middle School professional development wiki.

Skype Call Reflection
At the end of the experience, we did a skype call with all of the departments who were in different locations throughout the Middle School. Each department summarized their experience during this call-at the end of the call, Pam thanked everyone for their work and was sure to thank our special guests and student helpers. Even though this was a little forced, I'm glad we did this because it gave everyone the chance to play with skye a bit more.

Skype calls to St. Louis, Oakland and New Zealand!
The Skype Calls might have been the highlight. Our first conversation was with Elizabeth Helfant, the Instructional Technology Coordinator at Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School. Elizabeth was a wonderful guest and talked about everything from how her school is using Skype to some of the asynchronous tools that the teachers and students at MICDS used for the flat classroom project. We then skyped Gene Yang, author of An American Born Chinese. Our 8th grade English Teacher, Laurie Barth, led us through another very interesting Q/A session with Gene. The third call was to Chrissy in New Zealand, who teaches a year 11 classroom in Hawkes Bay. Chrissy was great-she talked about how they use skype to make connections and bring people in from all over the world. I love how she uses this tool in her classroom-she leaves it on all day long and is regularly receiving calls from all corners of the world. If they are in the middle of Math, they stop what they're doing for 10 minutes and interact with their classroom 'visitor.' What an authentic way to learn.

Break-out sessions
These went well, but we clearly didn't have enough time. I think we did our best to provide the opportunity for people to talk, play, collaborate and create. Even though most groups did not get a product created due to not having nearly enough time, everyone appeared to be talking and engaged in the process. Additionally, the characteristics of these tools allow the projects to be worked on at any time in the future. See our english department's work sample online now!

Things I wish we could've done more of:
Reflection/processing time. This is about the only thing I wish we had more time for (although I did cut out the viewing of the "Did You Know Video" which I really wanted to share with the faculty). While we did have some time in the form of the skype call, I wish we could've done more processing, reflecting and sharing.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A whole new way to go to a conference...

My experience at this year's NCSS conference in San Diego, California was markedly different than any other learning experience I've ever had. This is primarily due to the connectivity that the complimentary WiFi coverage permitted. Armed with a laptop, a cheap digital camera, and a few cheap web based tools like this blog, I've managed to not only process and reflect upon my experience on the fly, but to also report it out to people that aren't even here!

The experience has been amazing! I feel like a learner, field reporter, scribe, teacher, history buff, and a colleague all wrapped up in one. In a matter of 24 hours, I've broadcast two presentations that were each 60 minutes in length. The presentations were broadcast back to the school I teach at and to a few peers in my professional learning network. Both presentations are archived on my blog. While the presentations were in progress, I dialogued with my peers and colleagues via skype and the chat feature in ustream. Over the course of the day I've managed to take many pictures and post them online at my flickr account. I've saved a dozen or so web links to my delicious account.

Some folks might question the manner in which I participated in this experience as being overly connected. In addition to all of the online activity mentioned above, I've also conversed and exchanged ideas for several hours with my colleagues, Will Piper, Brian Markwald, and Chuck Taft. We've discussed conference highs/lows, individual sessions, ideas for projects at USM and we even talked about ideas for having one of us do another presentation in the future at NCSS. Perhaps the highlight was attending the NBC function on Friday night where they debuted the release of their archival media footage through HotChalk. I've also managed to meet and talk to a few teachers and students from other parts of the country-forming at least one take-away connection a pre-conference goals. I met a neat guy this morning who is a teacher at a private school in Hawaii (trying to arrange a school visit for us of course!)

This was an incredibly unique experience for me this year...I'm already looking forward to NCSS 2008 in Houston!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Eric Langhorst-Web2.0 Presentation at NCSS 2007

More reflection to come on this later...very good presentation here on the topic of "Web2.0" in the social studies curriculum. Eric Langhorst was recently selected as the the "Teacher of the Year" in the state of Missouri. If you watch his presentation below, you'll see why-he is creative, articulate, engaging, and clearly has a good understanding of how to apply contemporary technologies in his classroom. I ustreamed this out live and his recorded presentation is below.

Try this puzzle!

Click to Mix and Solve

Brian Markwald-Live from NCSS in San Diego!

More reflection on this to follow, but below you'll see our awesome history/econ teacher, Brian Markwald, presenting on Economics in the Middle School. He really did a great job with his presentation! Way to go, Brian!

Also, just so everyone isn't thinking we're having fun in the sun in San Diego, here is a picture of the view from the concourse area at the convention center!! :(

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Happenings here at USM!

I was reading Susan Carter Morgan's blog a few days ago and she created a post called, "The Good News," in which she highlights some of the cool things going on at her school. This has inspired me to write such a post about some of the neat and innovative classroom projects and other initiatives that are in progress right now here at USM. Sometimes I get buried in the day to day responsibilities of my position and I don't take the time to reflect on all the great happenings. So, here goes...a brief description of the neat things going on right now:

1. Just received an email from our excellent 8th grade US History teacher, Chuck Taft, regarding a voicethread response project that he is starting with his students. The sample here is designed to engage students in discussion and reflection on the Kansas Nebraska act.

2. Will Piper, our excellent 5th grade social studies/world geography teacher, has been working with his homeroom class on the "Voices of the World" project. Students have been listening to the other school projects and are beginning to write a collaborative script using google docs for their class introduction. We're not officially part of the VOTW project, but we're going to do our own and follow along with the other partner schools. Will also regularly shares ideas with me about some of the creative and innovative blog activities that he is doing with students (he has students reflect on questions, classroom discussions, and videos in the form of a comment on his blog).

3. Chuck, Steve Villeneuve (our Middle School computer lab manager and tech support specialist), and I are planning what we think will be an excellent professional development experience for our upcoming Middle School faculty meeting. After a short demo of 2-3 simple tools, faculty members will break up in department teams to create a collaborative multimedia project.

4. Our 5th grade students are in the process of wrapping up their "Virtual Tours" of the school project. This has been a wonderful project with the students that I teach in my computer skills class. Students worked in collaborative teams of 2-3 taking photos around campus, writing a script for the virtual tour, and assembling/narrating their tour using garageband. Listening to the students rehearse and narrate the photos that they took around our campus has been great-their oral fluency is outstanding!

5. I just spoke with Gregg Bach, our Assistant Head of School here at USM, about a really unique mini-conference day that we're planning here at USM for October of 2008. It looks like we're going to get Alan November to keynote the day for us. The day is going to center around 21st century teaching and learning and Alan will be a great guy to kick things off for us! We're also planning on bringing in a few other presenters to run individual workshops and of course we'll have some of our teachers run some workshops as well.

6. We started a web2.0 study group here at USM this year and our first meeting was a success! This group will provide us all with the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn together about the world of easy to use web applications that promote collaboration and communication.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

50 days on the bike!!

Today marks the 50th day that I've traveled by bike to and from work this school year! I set a goal at the beginning of the year of 100 days and I'm pleased because I'm halfway there and we have several more weeks before the halfway point of the school year. With the winter weather approaching shortly, I'm sure there will be stretches where I'm unable to ride as much as I'd like to, so I'm pleased that I'm hitting 50 prior to Thanksgiving. So, what does this mean for me? Here are a few numbers to break it down:

1140 Miles-this is the number of miles that I did not put on my car's odometer. According to Google Maps, my round trip drive amounts to 22.8 total miles. My bike commute is probably slightly longer than this due to a little less direct of a route...we'll call it 24 miles. So I've managed to put 1200 more miles on the bike!

$193.75 Saved at the pump...I estimate that my car probably uses 1.25 gallons of gas per day at $3.10 per gallon. This past summer I bought a really cool Surly Long Haul Trucker frame and had it built up as a commuter bike. Total cost on the bike was about $1400, so I'm on my way to paying off my bike!

62.5 gallons of fuel conserved!

1250 lbs of CO2 not released into the atmosphere (this is based on the's calculations of 20 pounds of CO2 per burned gallon of gasoline).

3 Coyotes-I've seen all kinds of wild life for some reason this year, including coyotes in Estabrook Park! One morning I even saw one balled up sleeping about six feet off the parkway road! On bike ride #49 I saw a red-tailed hawk on the ground. I then saw the hawk take off and fly with a squirrel trapped in its talons - too cool!! Deer, more hawks and cool water birds are a few other animals that I've seen frequently along my route.

1 Car Sold-My wife and I made the decision to sell the Ford Taurus earlier this fall because I rarely drove it. We dropped down to her car and my utility van. I rarely drive the utility van, but this is what I'll take to work on the days that Mother Nature is getting nasty.

The forecast is calling for some snow in the next week, but hopefully not enough to keep me off the bike! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Will Richardson and Gary Stager at NYSCATE

At 12:30 pm CST today, Susan Carter Morgan, whom I follow on Twitter, passed out a link to Will Richardson's live audio and video feed from the NYSCATE conference (the talk was recorded and may be accessed via the first link in this post). This was the conference closing "keynote" and it featured a moderated Q and A session between Will and Gary Stager. The audio and video quality from ustream was excellent. It was almost better than being there! The chat pace in the ustream chat box was furious-so much so that it was difficult to keep up with. It was amazing to hear of the challenges and successes that other schools are experiencing - very similar to the ones we have here with relation to expanding the depth and breadth of web2.0ey kinds of use with our students. The conversation was extremely engaging-many good "sound bytes" and one that I remember best was, "replace training with learning." I couldn't agree with this more.

Over the past 4-5 weeks I've worked very hard at becoming more engaged in online learning communities. This has really helped me develop significantly in my position as a school technology teacher, leader and learner. I owe a great deal to Vinnie Vrotny of North Shore Country Day for both inspiring me and challenging me in stepping up my participation in online learning communities. Today's participation in this spontaneous professional development activity would not have happened if it wasn't for my participation in a dynamic and powerful online learning community. Thanks, Vinnie!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spell w/Flickr

I thought this was pretty cool. I learned this tool as I was watching one of "Utecht's Tips" on YouTube. This is called "Spell with flickr." Flickr is a really cool photo sharing service, and this "spell with flickr" site gathers pictures with letters from a word you type. It is pretty cool. Try it with you own name!


Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

NPR Technology Podcast

This is an episode from NPR's Technology podcast series. The podcast features news on Chicago's abandonment of their municipal WiFi project, a news update from Facebook, and other interesting news items from the world of technology.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Web2.0 Study Group-Meeting 1

Seven middle school teachers 'met' last night via a skype conference call to kick off our "Web 2.0 Study" group. Our group's focus is to explore the world of web2.0 by actually modeling and using these tools to learn more about them. It clearly was a different way for us to conduct a professional development experience - I was certainly new to this medium and most everyone else was as well. Over the course of the meeting we shared individual goals, we started thinking about a group project that we could present at the end of the year, we watched and reflected on a few videos posted on our ning community, we discussed potential books to read as a group, and we talked about our "homework" assignment for the next meeting (still not sure if the next meeting will be f2f or skype). I wish we would've taken five minutes to list out all of the questions that people had as well - however, the great thing about our approach to this study group is that we can still have participants list out their questions via our ning community at their leisure.

I see this model of synchronous professional development via skype as one that has some potential for a variety of reasons. First off, the model lent itself quite well to the wide range of learning styles, learner background knowledge sets, and levels of interest present. We had some members of the conference who were very new to some of these tools while others have been using them quite a bit. Everyone was able to pick and choose what they wanted to do during the experience. For example, a few people who already viewed the "Did You Know" video were able to surf about ning while others were watching the movie.

The shared google doc presentation was a nice way to guide our meeting. Modeling the use of this tool gave participants some background with this application and gave them the opportunity to think of creative ways to apply the tool in their classroom with students.

I think the meeting raised many questions with everyone, which to me is great. How will we maintain all of our user names/passwords for all of these accounts? Will this involve extra work? What are the differences/similarities of these tools and what are the appropriate times to use each? I hope everyone is able to answer their own personal questions that they may have over the course of our experience together.

Here are some of the methods and tools we used to guide our skype conference:
-We used a google presentation to guide the first meeting
-Skype for voice obviously...we used the texting tool in skype for passing out links and resources
-Our ning community was a great tool for the meeting. I was able to upload a bunch of resources ahead of time for people to sift through and comment on over the course of the meeting.
-A shared NetVibes tab was used to pass aggregate blogs of interest. The link to the NetVibes tab is posted at our ning community.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Picture from the iMac Studio Today

Our digital music composition class was in the iMac Studio today mixing up some funky jams for one of their assignments. Students are working in collaborative teams to build up their audio file. I like the photo below of these two guys working together on their project. I like it because it shows two students working together and sharing in the process of creating a digital music composition.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This is a sample of a voki character that I created. I chose the character and the background using the voki website. I then recorded audio on my computer, uploaded it to the voki site to go along with the character, and then embedded the code in my blog.

I could see this as being a fun way for students to create and publish a piece as an element of a class assignment. Foreign language (a monologue/speech), social studies (historical character), and english (poetry readings) are a few logical connections.

Get a Voki now!

Note about vokis to students: Students under 13 years old may not create a voki account. The terms of service for using voki require that 13-17 year olds have the permission of their parents in order to create a voki account. Please do not create a voki account if you are under 13 years old!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Skype Conference Call w/Author Gene Yang-Summary

We had an amazing conversation with Gene Yang, author of American Born Chinese, at the end of the day with our 8th grade students and teaching team. Gene was an incredibly engaging personality and had some wonderful anecdotes to share regarding the process of constructing his book. It was so cool at the beginning of the conference watching him sketch one of his comic characters...that was just so neat to see live.

We used a variety of technologies to make the magic happen today. We used Skype for the voice portion, Gene broadcast a video feed via, and a peer of mine, Alex Ragone, from the Collegiate School in NYC streamed the audio feed out to the Internet via the edtechtalk website. The ustream feed was a great component of our talk-being able to see Gene as he spoke really personalized the experience for the students.

The students were super prepared thanks to the work of their 8th grade English Teacher, Laurie Barth. The questions that they asked Gene showed a great deal of care and they seemed to be engaged in listening to his wonderful responses. It was kind of cool how we physically arranged our meeting. We divided the students up into 5 smaller groups and they participated from 5 different classrooms (vs. having everybody in one large room). I think this made the experience a little more engaging and intimate for everyone involved. It also served the double purpose of hooking up our entire 8th grade teaching team with a Skype account.

What could we do to improve the experience for the next time we do something like this?? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Allow more student users to be engaged in the conversation by simultaneously chatting during the conversations. I believe this will activate the brains of more students in the audience and allow them to become more fully immersed in the conversation.

2. Be sure students are introduced to this forum prior to it happening. We were actually able to do a skype test call with most of the 8th graders in the classrooms the day before the conference. This gave us confidence that the technology would work and it also allowed the students to get their feet wet with this type of experience.

Direct Link to audio file

Recording of our conversation with Gene Luen Yang:

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Author Chat

Laurie Barth and her 8th grade english students will be chatting with Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, at 2:30 pm central time on Wednesday, November 7th.

Listen in and interact by clicking the link below. Follow the live video by using the player in this window.

Monday, October 29, 2007


I'm simply horsing around with different photo sharing tools for my is one that is pretty neat!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

When Night Falls

I had a great time this past Friday night and Saturday morning participating in the When Night Falls K12 Online Conference culminating event. The discussions were lively and I learned a great deal from dialoguing with other educators from literally, across the planet (I spoke with people from Australia, China, Bangkok, England and of course the US). We spent a good deal of time processing the event, sharing specifics about what presentations we enjoyed, discussing some of the challenges to broadening the use of web 2.0, and considering ways to improve the conference for next year.

On Saturday morning we had a great discussion where we all shared our experiences regarding the first computers that we used and owned. Many participants shared photos of old apple computers, commodore computers, etc. The first computer that I ever used in school was a Commodore PET computer. This was one baaaddd computer, let me tell you. It was kind of cool because an educator in England used one of these when he was younger as well. This beast would get wheeled into our classroom for 1-2 weeks at a time, and a group of us would huddle around it playing a football game that was entirely text driven and scenario based. But it was such a blast! Below is a photo of the computer:

The next computer is a Texas Instruments TI-99 that my family purchased circa 1981. The unit had a killer 16K of RAM!! I did a little research on this and saw that it retailed for nearly $600, which is what it costs now for an entry level desktop computer-that's crazy! Of course the initial cost didn't include the cassette deck that we needed to purchase for data storage!

I enjoyed this exchange greatly. I'm already looking forward to the 2008 K12 Online Conference!


Check out this cool tool...these can be emailed, embedded in blogs/wikis, etc...this sketchcast was created by a math teacher out west:

Friday, October 26, 2007

8th Grade Skype Conference

On Wednesday, November 7th, at 2:30 CST Laurie Barth and her 8th grade English students will be chatting with Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese via skype. Three other schools will be joining us and Alex Ragone, Tech Director at a school in NYC, will be streaming the voice chat out to a broader audience via his EdTech streaming media server. The URL for the stream will be posted shortly. Many thanks to Alex for facilitating the audio stream.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why Blog w/Students??

I've heard this question before and my answer has always been long and drawn out. Today I watched Brian Crosby's presentation for the K12 online conference. He makes a good point, in saying that we've been talking for decades about creating authentic audiences for students when they write. Blogging provides a highly authentic and potentially global audience. To me, this reason alone provides a compelling reason to have students blog.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

K12 Online Conference-Sustainable Blogging

I just finished viewing Scott Hossack's presentation on sustainable blogging. It really was full of some excellent ideas on how to start and maintain student blogging in the classroom. He makes a very good point that adding blogging to what you already do in the classroom is not a recipe for success. We need to do something different in order to incorporate blogging with students, otherwise it will fall by the wayside. Scott mentioned that blogs should not be looked at as journals-they should be looked at as an opportunity for students to read, connect, communicate, reflect and comment on the blogs of others.

He had great practical ideas as well. Students should start out with blogging by simply reading the blogs of other students. A teacher can use netvibes or iGoogle to gather some blogs for students to start with and then share these blogs for them to access.

I think the realm of student blogging is an exciting one and hopefully we'll be able to delve into this on a much broader and deeper level at University School.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What does collaborative learning look like??

It probably looks like many different things. Here is how it looks today with my 5th grade students as they collaborate on a podcast script that they are writing for their "USM Virtual Tour" projects.

I like having students work in teams on projects involving you will see them clustered around a mac, sharing and teaming up on their script in google docs. It gets pretty loud in the room, but that is what happens in an environment where all of the kids are teaming up in small little clusters.

Below is an audio clip of what collaborative learning sounded like with this class is a pretty long clip, but I find it to be a great exchange of dialogue between the three girls who were working on a collaborative writing piece:

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Solar Power Conference

I was fortunate enough to attend the 2007 Solar Power Conference in Long Beach, CA on a Wisconsin Electric Teacher Grant. It was a great experience and I thank WE Energies for this opportunity!

I created a blog on my experience at:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Take a look at this awesome resource that is being created by a group of educators. This was started to serve as a place for people to connect and discuss issues centering around teaching and learning in the 21st Century. I participated in a virtual meeting last night and can say that there are some really sharp people involved in this project with some excellent ideas.

The website address is:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

LMAIS Meeting Summary

On Thursday, October 11th, 2007 we hosted the Fall meeting of the LMAIS Tech Coordinator group. We probably had close to 25 people from 20 different schools represented at the meeting.

A couple of things that I'm taking away from this:

1. Vinnie Vrotny's demonstration of back channeling via twitter and google docs presentations really got me thinking about classroom instruction, the role of the teacher, the role of the student, physical room layout, etc. Since our meeting I've created a twitter account and a voicethread account. Both are really interesting applications. Vinnie's use of back channeling via google docs powerpoint was neat as well-this is definitely something we can apply in future collaborative projects with our students.

2. Web 2.0 thoughts-we had a nice discussion on this...everything from barriers to implementation, how to promote the use of these tools with teachers/students, to success stories (Chris Butera's success story with google docs at his school was a good one). I do think that web 2.0 lends itself quite well to learning environments that support constructivism, student inquiry, and student uncovering of knowledge. To me it works well in physical spaces that promote group work and good connectivity for students. The traditional schedule of several periods a day meeting for a short amount of time makes it difficult to use this stuff on a wider scale with students (IMHO)...

3. Classroom of the future-again, another good discussion on this point. I like the points brought up by Gary Stager in his blog that suggest schools learn a lesson about design from Starbucks and Borders, which are two places that young people like to hang out at! Classrooms should be warm, comfortable, promote interaction and collaboration, support easy connectivity; basically, they should be workspaces that support constructivist teaching and learning!

4. We went out to dinner with Curt Leinick from the Lab School on Wednesday night...this proved to be great dialogue and an experience we can hopefully have at future LMAIS meetings (Peter from Latin school mentioned they would be willing to host a dinner the night before the spring meeting).

All-in-all, it was another positive and beneficial meeting with a nice exchange of ideas and stories. I am already looking forward to our spring meeting down at Latin School in Chicago!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Voice Thread #2

This voicethread thing could get addicting! I took the photos from my post from several days ago titled, "Technology use around school," and created this short little voicethread.

This is so, so cool!!!

Voice Thread

I just started experimenting with early impressions are quite positive. This is so, so easy to use. I can imagine this really simplifying student created multi-media projects.

Below is a sample voice thread that I created:

PSA-Think Before You Post!

A former co-worker of mine emailed the following youtube video along to me...I've seen this before-definitely an important message for everyone:

Response to an ISED Post

A participant in the ISED listserv posted a question about how to move her elementary school computer lab away from the "drag and drop" model that does little to encourage teacher involvement and ownership in lab instruction activities.

Below is a response to her inquiry that I posted:


One thing I would suggest right away is to dump the schedule you describe below and implement an "open" lab schedule. This open schedule will be uncomfortable for your teachers at first, but it is extremely important if you are to move your school in a direction that involves more project based activities in the lab. Encourage teachers to sign up for 4-5 days in a row for 60-90 minutes at a crack...then work with them to develop activities that are more project based and meet your organization's goals of teaching information literacy skills within the context of the project. Because the teachers are so accustomed to the traditional schedule, some will most likely try to sign up on the open lab schedule so it reflects what their used to (for example, they might sign up every Tuesday from 1:30-2:00)...encourage them to sign up for consecutive days in a row as described above. This model might mean that they only come in the lab once a month for 4-6 consecutive days, but this scenario IMHO is much better for fostering integration and higher level computer lab projects.

Also, I would examine the type of software that the students have been using under the traditional model...if it is the type of software where students put headphones on and participate in skill/drill activities that isolate them from one another, I would suggest making a change and working more towards developmentally appropriate productivity software that encourages teamwork/collaboration and dialogue amongst students.

Good luck with whatever change you decide will definitely not be popular out of the gate and it will take a few years to implement and be accepted, but it will definitely be worth it in the end. I've been through this change two times...we changed the schedule and the lab's software suite--it wasn't a popular change, but it was definitely one that needed to happen if we were to move to a more effective paradigm where the classroom teachers took more ownership for computer lab activities.

Matt Montagne
Middle School Academic Technology Coordinator
University School of Milwaukee"

Monday, October 08, 2007

Technology use around school

I was walking down the hallway a few weeks ago and noticed that many teachers were doing some pretty nifty things with technology at that exact I quickly grabbed a camera to document these happenings. Here are a few photos with descriptions from that day...

Below is a team of 7th Grade students in Kip Jacobs science class...they're working with capturing images from their microscopes for use in their lab reports...

Here is a photo of Chuck Taft, our 8th grade US History Teacher, doing a test review with the Smart Senteo classroom responders. He used the response devices to poll the students on their understanding of the key components of their test...

This is a photo in the computer lab with the 6th grade students in Dolores Kendall's composition class. They are using Google Docs, which is an online word processing program, to type one of their first writing assignments of the semester.

This final photo shows some students in Brian Markwald's social studies class playing a simulation game that teaches basic economics concepts:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Podcasting in the Middle update

About a year ago we began taking a serious look at podcasting technology and what implications it might have on the classroom here at USM. After a period of time where we did a little investigating, I did a brief overview of podcasting for interested USM teachers after school one day in the spring. About 8 teachers attended this introduction to podcasting session. I wanted to write article about where we're at with podcasting one year after this initial overview.

In the Middle School, we currently have 4 projects that are taking place and ongoing. I will list these projects below along with a brief description and links to the podcast projects.

8th Grade Social Students: The "American History Rules" Podcast on iTunes
This podcast series is created by our 8th grade social studies teacher, Chuck Taft. Each week Chuck writes a class summary that is sent to parents and archived at his blog. This year Chuck added a wrinkle to his weekly summaries for parents; he added an audio version of the summary in the form of a podcast. Chuck is also dabbling a bit with doing audio review guides. You may listen to/subscribe to the "American History Rules" podcast on iTunes by clicking the link above (when you click the link above, iTunes will load and take you directly to the American History Rules podcast series).

Foreign Language-French Class Podcasts
Our Middle School French Teachers, Pam Nosbusch and Neelie Barthenheier, collaborated on a project that they introduced to students in their 8th grade French class. Students took pictures and wrote a simple and basic script using the vocabulary words that they were using in their existing unit. Unfortunately their page isn't working write now, but when it is I'll have a link on this page.

7th Grade English-Parts of Speech Podcasts
This project is being started by Hannah Reimer and her 7th grade students this week. Students are creating a short (2 minute) podcast lesson where they teach the basic parts of speech. Students are working in teams to write a script and enhance their podcast lessons with photos.

Film Class Podcasts and 5th Grade Podcasts:
I am currently doing a couple of small podcasts with students. I am trying to take a few movies from our film class and presenting them in the form of podcasts. You'll see a claymation project at the link above. This was created by five 8th grade students in our film editing class from the first semester. The second project is being completed by 5th grade students in my 5th grade computer skills class. Students are working in teams to write a script for a tour of USM. Students took photos of the campus earlier in the fall that they are using as visuals in their podcasts. The collaborative scripts are being created using, "Google Docs," which easily allows students to collaborate on documents with one another.

Fine Arts Podcasts
Thirty second excerpts from Miriam Altman's Winter Concert were recently posted online in the form of video podcasts. We posted six samples from her winter concert. Last spring we did "docent tours" to go along with the student art exhibits for Fine Arts Night. Those podcasts are posted at this site as well.

Note: The fine arts podcasts and 5th grade podcasts are all password protected. Contact Mr. Montagne for the user name and password that you'll need to access these web pages/podcasts.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Digital Media Class-Semester Summary

As the first semester draws to an end, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on our first semester digital media elective course for 8th grade students. We had 18 students in three sections move through the course material this fall semester. This was the first year that we had three sections in one semester. It also happened to be the first year that we had a section completely made up of girls. This was the first time in five years of teaching this class where we had so many girls involved--they all really seemed to have a great time in this class which was nice.

Students in the class completed the following projects over the semester: software tutorial, silent movie, advanced camera techniques, scavenger hunt, music video, and a video special effects project. One section was able to complete a very short claymation project, which was really cool. The creativity that the students displayed in both the creation of their clay character and the movie itself was exceptional. The fact that the students completed this project in two classes was even more remarkable.

You'll see a few pictures on this page that I took as the students were creating their claymation characters for the project. This project went so well with these students that I'm hoping to be able to incorporate some type of claymation and/or stop action animation in our spring semester class which will be starting up in a week. I hope to have this project posted as a video podcast at iTunes in the next day or so. You may view this podcast as soon as it is posted by visiting Mr. Montagn'e .mac page.

Silent Movie Projects:
Perhaps the best "genre" of projects this semester turned out to be the silent movie project. "B Money" and "G Money" did a hilarious re-enactment of the great duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Murph and Sam created an outstanding dramatic/comedic short about a presidential assassination. Alex and Ronnie created a nice silent movie about a kid who had his favorite hockey puck stolen in mid air. Basir, Will and Michael created a really clever spin on the movie "Click." The silent movie project is a keeper and a good exercise for students as they are required to build a film composition that has a clearly defined beginning, middle and end.

Music Video Projects:
The music video projects that we recently completed were extremely well done. The editing in Lauren and Meredith's video to the "I'm a Barbie Girl" tune was excellent. Kim and Mahin did a fantastic dance video to "Bye, Bye Bye." Camille and Paige also created a dance video, but to the tune of "I like to move it, move it." They took some awesome footage of students and teachers showing off some of their best dance moves. I would have to say, Mr. Piper's dance skills in Camille and Paige's dance video might have been the best!! Finally, Ronnie and Hats did a really fun music video to the song "I want to ride the Zamboni." It was terrific how they built a complete story around this fun song. The music video project is a great way to end the semester as it really gives students the chance to showcase their camera and editing skills that they worked on all semester.

All of these projects will be showcased at a student assembly on Wednesday, February 7th at 9:50.

A special thank you goes out to all 18 of these students for a wonderful semester in our 8th grade film class!!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Digital Ethics-6th grade meeting #2

Dear 6th Grade Parents-

This morning the sixth graders met for the second time this year to discuss issues of digital citizenship and ethics. The focus of the activites and discussion centered around being "Smart" users of email. We played a short game where students had to match terms with email transcripts. In our conversation we defined and discussed flaming, spamming, inappropriate forwarding, hoaxes, and viruses. Near the end of our discussion we talked about what we can do to prevent experiencing problems due to things like spam, viruses, and hoaxes. We talked about the importance of enabling the computer's software firewall, not opening attachments with certain extensions (eg: .exe), not opening emails from people we don't know, and using virus protection.

The students did an excellent job of listening and participating in our session today. Ask them about some of the things we talked about in advising.

As a reminder, we follow the iSafe program when working with students on these topics in the Middle School here at USM. For more information on the iSafe program, visit:

Have a nice weekend!

Matt Montagne
Middle School Technology Coordinator
University School of Milwaukee