Turn Your Students into Data-Driven Decision Makers

How is your educational technology being used? Teacher in front of the class lecturing on the smartboard? Or are students using ed tech to analyze, evaluate and create in ways that were not previouslypossible. I’ve written about one example, Wordle, a free Web 2.0 tool that enables students to interpret, qualify and visualizes text in new ways.

Another powerful data visualizer is the Motion Chart. It’s a dynamic flash-based chart that explores multiple indicators and visualizes growth over time. Gapminder World has assembled 600 data indicators in international economy, environment, health, technology and much more. They provide tools that students can use to study real-world issues and discover trends, correlations and solutions. Here’s Gapminders’s Hans Rosling showing how teachers and students can use the free Gapminder Desktop to develop there own motion charts using Gapminder data. 

To download a free version of Gapminder Desktop and access more educational resources go to Gapminder for Teachers. If you would like to build motion charts using your own data visit Google Gadget Motion Chart. (It’s the engine behind Gapminder.)  Motion Chart is a free gadget in Google Spreadsheet. In Motion Chart you can convert your data-series into a Gapminder-like graph and put it on your web-page or blog. All you need is a free Google-account. More info on Motion Chart 

New educational technology does not automatically improve the quality of instruction. We have all sat through dull PowerPoint presentations that were as “mind-numbing” as an overhead. Our return on technology investments may not be tracked in test scores that simply measure lower-order recall of information. A better metric would gauge if an educational technology gave students the tools to analyze, evaluate and create as professionals do. All skills demanded by the new Common Core standards.

Top 100 Tech Tools for Teaching and Learning

The Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies has assembled a useful survey of top tech tools for learning professionals. Jane Hart of the C4LPT compiled input from nearly 300 ed tech experts from around the globe who were asked to rank their "Top 10 Tools for Learning in 2009." 

The Top 100: Full Survey Results

Top100techtoolsTo get you started, here's the top 10 in order:

Google Reader
Google Docs
Google Search
Audacity + Firefox (tied)

The majority of the top 100 are web-based and free – great news for educators in an era of scant educational funding. New the list in 2009 are two of my favorites  - Prezi (presentation software) and Wordle (word cloud generator). For ideas for on how I use these free web resources follow my links to Prezi | Wordle.

Note: The 2010 survey is being in progress All learning professionals are encouraged to share their Top 10 tools to help build it further. Submit here.  Kudos to Jane for conducting the survey.  (And thanks to @russeltarr  for his tweet pointing me to the survey.)

87 Free Web 2.0 Projects For the K-12 Classroom

Web-2.0-projects Web 2.0 sites become more useful as the number of users grow. Fortunately for teachers, there's loads of free educational 2.0 applications that can be utilized in the classroom to help students research, collaborate and share what they've learned.

Hats off to British educator, Terry Freedman, who has solicited lessons from 94 teachers from around the world and edited them into a free downloadable book Download Amazing Web 2 Projects 2 online version  (2 MB pdf) Hint: If you're not following Terry on Twitter (as I do) here's his Twitter link. The book also includes Twitter links to all the creative contributors to the project.

The book is organized by grade level and has curated links to all the web resources utilized. Each project includes a teacher-friendly "how to" with benefits, challenges, management tips, sample screen shots / links and learning outcomes. Terry's project is a great example of how the internet can be harnessed to share and collaborate. Who knows, the projects might even inspire your students to collaborate with their peers on their own book!

BTW – If you are a big fan of Wordle, you might like to see another international teacher collaboration "Build Literacy Skills with Wordle".

The “Simpsons” Debate the Role of Social Media and Cell Phones In the Classroom

The latest episode of “The Simpsons” (Oct 5, 2009) nicely satirizes the debate over the role of social media in the classroom. Watch this episode and you’ll see the debate framed as “Social Media as Classroom Distraction vs. Social Media Instructional Gimmick.”

Bart Gets a Z

Much of the debate over the role of technology in the classroom is clouded by stereotypes of Luddites vs. Techies. What’s often missed is the point that it’s not about the technology, but the level thinking that technology can support. A PowerPoint can easily dumb down information into a series of shallow bullets, while a Wordle can help us to visualize text to support revealing insights.

Schools should be thoughtfully-designed learning environments where students can investigate information and be given a chance to reflect (with their peers) on what they learned and how they see themselves progressing as learners. That can be done with a variety of technologies – even pencil and paper. A social network is already sitting in the classroom that can interact with information and each other without the need to go online. But at the same time, handheld technology can support a level of investigation and teamwork that far exceeds the traditional classroom discussion group. 

I’m always looking for the cheapest, most dependable, and accessible instructional tool to get the job done – depending on the situation – chalk or Twitter may fill the bill.

Motivating Students – A Make and Take Workshop for Teachers

This week I head back to Edison School of Engineering & Manufacturing, to conduct a two day follow up workshop.  Our previous work together identified four target areas: 

  1. Motivating students
  2. Making learning relevant
  3. Student-centered learning strategies
  4. Effective use of technology

We are going to start by modeling a “Brainstorm, Group, Label” activity (See Tool 13).  It will also  set our agenda for the “make and take activities” of the workshop. Day two begins by modeling a “Fishbowl Discussion Group” on the topic of effective next steps. We’ll use the ideas generated in the fishbowl to design a Strategic Planning Grid (below) to prioritize their staff development for the fall.


Most of our time over the two days will be spent assisting teachers in designing specific lessons. I’ve assembled some Literacy Strategies that teachers can use as starting points for modify their existing lessons. 

Non-readers”  for students who lack decoding skills.

Word-callers” for students who can decode, but lack comprehension skills.

Turned-off readers” for students who have the decoding and comprehension skills, but lack motivation or engagement.

I’ll also be showcasing some web tools that are very engaging for students.

Wordle (text analysis) 

Many Eyes (data and text visualizations)

Prezi  (presentation tool) 

Dipity  (timeline builder)

Bubbl.us (brainstorming)

Flickr Tag Related Tag Browser (image tag analysis)

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