Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Power of Blogging - It's Much More Than the New Persuasive Essay

As we head further into the 21st Century, blogging is becoming the "norm" for educators as well as their students.  Blogging is known to many as the "new persuasive essay."  You can read more about this at  As stated in the article written by Shelley Wright, "Blogging has the potential to reach and influence many.  Furthermore, it has greater potential for being a life-long skill.  And isn't that our goal in education?  People from all walks and professions blog for the purpose of teaching, creating, and informing.....If we’re trying to prepare our students to think critically and argue well, they need to be able to blog. It allows for interaction. It allows for ideas to be tested. And the best posts anywhere in cyberspace tend to have a point that can be argued."  For me personally, blogging has been so much more.  

Several years ago, I never would have considered myself a blogger or writer for that matter.  I had no interest.  In fact, being able to sit and express my thoughts on various subjects to others was something I would dread.  I am a social person, don't get me wrong, I just had no desire to do it.  This all changed a year ago.

In November 2011, I participated in an i-Pad Campaign, a contest sponsored by A4CWSN (Apps 4 Children With Special Needs) and The Mobile Education Store, a developer of Speech Therapy Apps and Language Apps for the iPhone and iPad.  The purpose of this campaign was to bring awareness of the high-quality apps that are developed by The Mobile Education Store to help children with speech and language delays, particularly those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Although I did not win the iPad, I did win second place and received an Apple gift card.  What was more important was that I was able to connect with other educators using Education Technology to help children with special needs.  I was asked by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Center for Technology in Education (CTE) to write a blog focusing on technology for children with special needs for the Maryland Learning Links, which is the Special Education website for the Maryland State Department of Education.  The CTE had  previously viewed my previous posts on Facebook and other websites and was impressed with them.  You can visit the blog at  In each blog, I review apps that I have found to be helpful for my son who has high-functioning ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified).  I only blog about apps that I have tested myself, with my son and/or my students.  So far, I have had a great learning experience.  Through my blog, I have connected with so many other parents, educators, and last but not least, App Developers.  I am so appreciative for the many connections that I have made with others through my blog.

A couple of months ago, I created my personal blog entitled, "Climbing the Ladder of Educational Technology," through which I write about anything that is related to my experiences related to integration of educational technology,  Since this is my personal blog,  I am much more at liberty to post what I want.  I have also started making connections to others through my blog.  I look at my experiences with blogging as a learning opportunity;  a chance to grow and collaborate with others, not just to persuade others of my thoughts. As educators, we are going to make changes in education by working together towards common goals.  We can get so much further through collaboration - especially when learning has no boundaries.  I look forward to continued collaboration with others through blogging and definitely welcome others' comments on my blog posts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why the iPad is Bad for Education

This article was written by James McConville and was originally posted on Thursday, April 5, 2012.  Although it is very controversial, I believe the author makes some good points.  You can read the original blog post at
In a nutshell, the question we all need to ask ourselves is WHY are we using iPads in education?  Are they for us, or for our students?  Educators need to have a plan in place (allowing for flexibility)  as to what the goals of the lesson are, and THEN introduce - or seamlessly integrate - the technology.  Don't think of the iPad - or any technology for that matter - as a novelty.  Think of it as a tool.
Why the iPad is bad for education
‘Amazing, revolutionary, a new era in technology’.  The iPad may be all these things but in my humble opinion it is bad for education and schools.  Here are some reasons.

The iPad isn’t designed to be a primary home computer.  Not even a secondary device.  Ask any student, do you want a cell phone?  Of course they do.  So, at best, an iPad is a tertiary technology purchase and won’t have the ubiquity education needed to begin meaningful integration.  The classes will be split between the have and the have not students.  iPads promote social division between students who we are encouraging to work cooperatively in our classes.
The reason that most schools still have computer labs with desktop computers is multifold.  They always have power and have good connectivity as they are wired to the network and internet.  They are also great for having multiple students use them in a given day.  This doesn’t work for the iPad.  Take for example the email app which is designed for one user to check and send messages.
Back to my previous point.  Apple has designed a one user machine for the simple reason that the less it can be shared the more they sell.  Even at the ‘cheap’ price of $499 that would be a whopping $400,000 to get them for all the students at our school.
The small keyboard is difficult and slow to type on.  Voice dictation accuracy is average to poor.  Our ESL and special need students who most need voice input, it would be terrible.  Therefore, writing, blogging and having students create projects would be a worse experience than regular laptops/desktops.
There isn’t clear information on how schools can get discounts for bulk purchase of apps.  Check out the terms of use on the apple site.  Let’s say your class has a mix of school owned and personal iPads.  If you had ‘an awesome’ paid app, how would you get it on all iPads?
Really Apple?  I’ve read Steve Job’s open letter to Adobe and still don’t get it.  There are so many great free educational sites that are built on flash.  One of my favourite websites for having students practice keyboarding flash based Dance Mat Typing.  Why can’t I use this site on my iPad?
Take this as an example.  Let’s say your school uses eBooks on the iPad.  Now the simple statement of ‘open your book and turn to page 123’ is now a lesson in patience as the device loads, student find the app and opens the textbook.  If the book is WiFi dependent there is another challenge to overcome.  When the battery runs out there isn’t only no iPad there is no textbook.
I’m not the only person who feels this way.  Here are some other posts to support this view

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Promoting Creativity in the Classroom

In a recent blog post, I wrote about various apps that inspire creativity.  You can read the entire post at:  In reality, we shouldn't only depend on apps to inspire creativity within our children and our students;  on the contrary, we should be providing instruction day in and day out that inspires creativity and divergent thinking.  Although the purpose of school to many students seems as if it is to memorize a bunch of meaningless facts, it shouldn't be, nor does it have to be.  With that in mind, I wanted to share the following article which was sent my way by Ferina Santos.

Entitled, "30 Things You Can Do To Promote Creativity in Your Classroom," you can find the original post at:

The concept of teaching creativity has been around for quite some time.
Academics such as  E. Paul Torrance, dedicated an entire lifetime to the advancement of creativity in education. Torrance faced much opposition in his day about the nature of creativity.  Creativity was considered to be an immeasurable, natural ability.  Torrance called for explicit teaching of creativity.  He advocated that it was skill-specific, requiring intentional instruction.  His life’s work ultimately led to the development of the Torrance tests and gifted programs throughout the world.
In recent times, there has been a shift towards the increased acceptance of valuing creativity for all learners.  A 2003 TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson discussing this subject reached over 5 million viewers.  It discusses how our current school systems suppress creativity.   He proposes that our current model leaves little room for divergent thinking.
Much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems.  

It relies on teaching to the correct answer.  An innovative thinking model is needed. Robinson recently tweeted an article about a new study that suggested 80% of educators surveyed preferred creativity to be included as part of learning standards. 
In the same way, David Hughes, founder of Decision Labs and professor at UNC Chapel Hill, argues that innovation is an essential skill for our global economy. In talking about creativity in schools he says, much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems.  
Most of the practice of creative methods is being done outside the traditional educational institutions by consulting firms and by persons in companies who have been trained in creative problem solving methods. In universities not much has changed since 1950, when the distinguished psychologist J. P. Guilford in his inaugural address as president of the American Psychological Association stated that education’s neglect of the subject of creativity was appalling.
Adding to this sequence of events is the fact that textbooks are at least three years out of date when they are published and . . . educational systems were the slowest adopters of innovation. Thus, we see that educational institutions need a strong dose of creative problem solving.
What are some ways then as educators that we foster creativity in our classrooms?
  1. Embrace creativity as part of learning.  Create a classroom that recognizes creativity.  You may want to design awards or bulletin boards to showcase different ways of solving a problem, or creative solutions to a real world scenario.
  2. Use the most effective strategies.  Torrance performed an extensive meta-analysis that considered the most effective ways to teach creativity.  He found that the most successful approaches used creative arts, media-oriented programs, or relied on the Osborn-Parnes training program.  Programs that incorporated cognitive and emotional functioning were the most successful. 
  3. Think of creativity as a skill.  Much like resourcefulness and inventiveness it is less a trait and more a proficiency that can be taught.  If we see it this way, our job as educators becomes to find ways to encourage its use and break it down into smaller skill sets.  Psychologists tend to think of creativity as Big-C and Little C.  Big C drives big societal ideas, like the Civil Rights movement or a new literary style.  Little C is more of a working model of creativity that solves everyday problems.  Both concepts can be included in our classrooms.
  4. Participate in or create a program to develop creative skills.  Programs like Odyssey of the Mind and Thinkquest bring together students from around the world to design creative solutions and bring them to competition.
  5. Use emotional connections. Research suggests that the best creativity instruction ties in the emotions of the learner.  In the “Odyssey angels” program students can devise a solution to help their local community, such as helping homeless youth. This topic is worthy of more discussion by itself. A blog post by fellow blogger Julie DeNeen gives some valuable information about this type of teaching.

Research suggests that the best creativity instruction ties in the emotions of the learner.

  • Use a creativity model.  The Osborne-Parnes model is oldest, widely accepted model.  It is often used in education and business improvement. Each step involves a divergent thinking pattern to challenge ideas, and then convergent thinking to narrow down exploration. It has six steps:
    • Mess-finding. Identify a goal or objective.
    • Fact-finding. Gathering data.
    • Problem-finding. Clarifying the problem
    • Idea-finding. Generating ideas
    • Solution-finding. Strengthening & evaluating ideas
    • Acceptance-finding. Plan of action for Implementing ideas
  • Consider how classroom assignments use divergent and convergent thinking.  Standardized tests do a great job of measuring convergent thinking that includes analytical thinking or logical answers with one correct response.  Divergent thinking considers how a learner can use different ways to approach a problem.  It requires using association and multiplicity of thought.  We should design assingments that consider both types of thinking models.
  • Creativity flourishes in a “congenial environment”.  Creative thinking needs to be shared and validated by others in a socially supportive atmosphere.  Researcher Csikszentmihalyi (1996) coined this term, to explain the importance of reception from others.  Others consider how to create communities that foster social creativity to solve problems.
  • Be aware during discussions.  You know that student who often asks the question that goes a bit outside the lecture?  Well, engage him.  Once a week, intentionally address those questions.  Write them down on an assigned space in the board to go back to later.  Validate their creativity. 
  • See creativity in a positive light.  In his blog in Psychology Today, Eric Jaffe talks about research that suggests see creativity in a negative light.  If we are teaching to creativity, we need to embrace it too.  Reward students for thinking of problems in varied ways by recognizing their efforts. 
  • Try the Incubation Model.  E. Paul Torrance designed this model.  It involves 3 stages:
    1. Heightening Anticipation: Make connections between the classroom and student’s real lives.  “Create the desire to know”.
    2. Deepen Expectations: Engage the curriculum in new ways.  Brainstorm and create opportunities to solve a novel problem.
    3. Keep it going: Continue the thinking beyond the lesson or classroom.  Find ways to extend learning opportunities at home or even the community.
  • Use a cultural artifact.  Research from experimental social psychology finds that artifacts can enhance insight problem solving.  Consider using an ordinary object, such as a light bulb used in the study or a historical artifact to have students think about living in a particular time period.
  • Establish expressive freedom.  The classroom environment must be a place where students feel safe to share novel ideas.  Allow for flexibility and create norms that foster creative approaches.
  • Be familiar with standards.  Knowing the standards inside and out helps find creative solutions in approaching a lesson.  Teachers can adapt them and work within the current framework.  Some topics allow for flexibility and use of creative approaches.
  • Gather outside resources.  There are some great resources to read related to creativity.  The University of Georgia, provides an array of amazing resources related to how to foster creativity in practical ways.  It also gives a list of programs and organizations that can help with the process.
  • Allow room for mistakes.  Sir Ken Robinson said it best when he said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” 
  • Allow space for creativity.  Design some classroom space for exploration, such as a thinking table, a drama stage, a drawing table, or a space for groups to discuss ideas.
  • Give students time to ask questions.  Organizations such as CCE (Creativity, Culture, Education) suggest teachers incorporate opportunities for students to ask questions.  Intentionally design lessons that allow for wondering and exploration.
  • Creativity builds confidence.  Students take ownership of their own learning.  Think of ways where students might design a project.  For instance, for the history requirement, I suggested students of both fifth grade classes create an exhibition of their final projects.  The students were so proud of their final work and learned from others presentations. Parents and community members were happy to see students take ownership of their learning.
  • Encourage curiosity.Consider what is important to students. Student interest are a great place to start on what drives their own thinking tank.  Find inspiration from their world.  Creativity is intrinsic in nature.  Try to step into their viewpoint to find what motivates them.
    Student interest are a great place to start on what drives their own thinking tank.  Find inspiration from their world.
  • Structure is essential.  Studies, such as a meta-analysis by Torrance suggest that creativity instruction is best with clear structure.  For instance, consider the guidelines of the standard curriculum objectives and add these to the design.  For example, reading considers communication, comprehension, listening, writing and reading.
  • Observe a working model of creativity.  Visit a creative classroom or watch a video about how a creative classroom works.  The “Case for Creativity in School” is an excellent video that educators can watch to see how creativity might play out in a classroom.  This school adopted a school-wide approach to recognize students.
  • Consider the work of current experts in the field.  Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally renowed creativity and innovation expert.  His work is used to meet global challenges, renovating education, business, and government organizations to implement his strategies.  His books and TED talks are great places to generate teaching ideas.
  • Explore different cultures.  Culture is an excellent vehicle for inspiring creative thinking.  In Thinking Hats & Coloured Turbans Dr. Kirpal Singh discusses how cultural contexts are central to creative endeavors.   You can discuss how collaboration between cultures, such as in the space program, produces unique, novel ideas.
  • Find ways to incorporate and integrate art, music and culture.  A recent report prepared for the European commission considered that creativity is a central force that shapes our culture.  With the changing times we live in, the report suggested that society is enriched by cultural-based creativity.
  • Use a collaborative creative thinking model to solve classroom problems.  For instance, read a paragraph and then have groups discuss a list of questions.  Collaborative problem solving is catching on quickly.  In fact, many business schools have implemented creative thinking models into their curriculum. 
  • Design multidisciplinary lessons when possible.  When teaching geometry, I designed a lesson called, “Geometry through Art”.  It included works of Art to show fifth graders their application to everyday geometric concepts.  The result was astounding.  I never thought that the subject matter would be so successful.  I designed an entire unit that focused on how different concepts rely on geometry.  I even asked the Art teacher to help reinforce those concepts in class.
  • Tapping into multiple intelligences is key.  Creativity requires us to use different parts of our brain.  We often bridge connections between seemingly unrelated areas to make new concepts emerge.  Allow students to use their strengths to find new ways of approaching a topic or solving a problem.  You might be surprised with what they come up with.
  • Understand that creativity is important to students’ future in the job market.  Paul Collard for Creative Partnerships, discusses how 60% of English students will work in jobs that are not yet created.  In today’s market, students must largely be innovative and create their own jobs.  Collard suggests teachers focus on teaching particular skills or set of behaviors, rather than preparing students for specific careers. 
  • Teach creative skills explicitly.  According to Collard, “Creative skills aren’t just about good ideas, they are about having the skills to make good ideas happen.”  He suggests creative skills should include 5 major areas:
    • Imagination
    • Being disciplined or self-motivated.
    • Resiliency
    • Collaboration
    • Giving responsibility to students.  Have them develop their own projects.
  • In a recent article, What Would Dr. E. Paul Torrance Do?:  A Legacy for Creative Education, the author considers what lies in the future of creativity in our schools?
    Retired professor Berenice Bleedorn says we should continue his legacy of sharing information and practice “the art of creative thinking”.  We must continue to advocate for its use and move against the current or as Torrance himself called them, “the powers that be”.  After all, teachers are the real driving force behind the creative thinking in our schools.
    If our schools are lagging behind, we must be the creative minds that urge our students to be curious and seek new answers.  


    Miriam Clifford holds a Masters in Teaching from City University and a Bachelor in Science from Cornell. She loves research and is passionate about education. She is a foodie and on her time off enjoys cooking and gardening.  You can find her @miriamoclifford or Google+.

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    Looking for great SMART Content for Early Childhood?

    Are you looking for great SMART Content for Early Childhood?  Whether you've been using your SMART Board interactive whiteboard for several years or several days, there are thousands of resources for you. 


    The SMART Exchange website has thousands of free resources, created by teachers and publishers.  As of today, just under 50,000 files have been uploaded and shared by teachers in various subjects.  While anyone can preview the files before downloading them, one has to join as a member in order to download files.  You can check out the SMART Exchange at  I recently attended a webinar on using the SMART Board to teach Early Childhood.  Following the webinar, the webinar speakers were asked by SMART to recommend some of their favorite content on the SMART Exchange.  Here are their suggestions:

    My Five Senses - for pre-k to grade 1, this lesson complements the book My Five Senses, by Aliki.  My Five Senses  is listed as an informational text in the Common Core State Standards.

    Alphabetical Flowers - a great lesson for alphabetizing letters a few at a time

    Math Mania - weekly math practice

    Alphabet Skills - practice for skills and sequencing

    Whiteboard Online Resources - tips for the teacher!

    I was happy to see that one of the lessons they recommended (My Five Senses) was actually created by me!  

    Have fun searching on the SMART Exchange.  The SMART Exchange has helped me tremendously.  When searching for content to use with your students, it would be a great idea to search for lessons including the tag SCLD (SMART Certified Lesson Developer).  These lessons have been developed by candidates seeking SMART Lesson Developer Certification.  They are evaluated on the usage of SMART Notebook and how technology has been integrated into the lesson using best practices.  The developers of these lessons (myself included) have put  a lot of time into developing high quality lessons - so you know these lessons are definitely worth taking a look at.   Now that I have become much more comfortable with using my SMART Board and SMART Notebook Software,  I am developing my own lesson activities which I am uploading to the SMART Exchange so other teachers and students will benefit from them.  I encourage you to do the same.  Remember - sharing is caring!

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    The Heart and Soul of Technology Integration

    This was such an awesome video that I watched on technology integration that I just had to share it.  Written by Derek Wenmoth, you can find the original blog post and video at

    Monday, November 26, 2012

    The Black Board in the Primary School: A Manual for Teachers

    I recently came across the following publication entitled: "The Black Board in the Primary School: A Manual for Teachers," which can be found at the following link.
    My initial reaction to this article was that I was shocked.  How in the world could a teacher have a black board or chalk board in his or her classroom and not know what to use it for?  I look at a chalkboard as an "ancient artifact" that belongs in the "Museum of Obsolete Objects."  (By the way, you can actually visit this museum on YouTube at  There are some really interesting videos on there.  Did you know that the fax machine has been considered an "obsolete object" since 1999?) Anyway, when reading through the manual above, I was amazed to find that the publication actually showed the teachers step by step directions as to how the black board should be used in the classroom in order o improve lesson instruction.  It went so far as explaining to the teachers to write strokes on the board to teach arithmetic, and to count each stroke one by one when doing so, so as not to confuse the students. Teachers were confused as to how to properly integrate black boards in their lessons in order to reach their students.  The black board was the ideal Education Technology tool to have in one's classroom in the mid-1800's.  It was designed to be a "luminous object" in the classroom.  The ideal size of black board to have in one's classroom was," the bigger, the better."
              My, oh my, how far we have come today!  When I first stepped foot in my classroom six years ago and saw that there was a black board there, I asked my admin, "Where's the dry erase board?"  There was absolutely no way I was going to use a black board in my classroom.  I personally could not stand using the chalk - it must have been a sensory issue with me.  I was given an overhead projector and a pull down screen.  I was then given a dry erase board later that school year.  A few years later, I was given a SMART Board to use in my classroom.  And believe it or not, I asked myself the same questions that teachers asked themselves back in the 1800's.  How was I going to use a SMART Board in my classroom in order to improve student learning?  I honestly had no idea.  When reflecting on this experience, I myself am no different than the teachers of the "black board era" of the mid-1800's.  What I do know is that technology - any Educational Technology that we are given - is a tool, it's merely just a tool.  It is easy for the technology to become a novelty and then become misused or overused.  It might be "cool" or fun, but is it really improving student learning?  No, it's become a toy instead.  Teachers need continuous professional development in order to keep up with today's technology which is constantly changing, myself included.  I have been working diligently to revamp my lessons in ways that will improve student learning and I am happy to say that I am seeing the fruits of my labor.  If teachers do not want to put in the time and training in order to improve their lessons and integrate Ed Tech effectively, then why bother using Educational Technology at all?  They might as well just read the manual "Black Board in the Primary School."

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Apps That Inspire Creativity

    Inspiring creativity in all children, and especially those with disabilities, is a wonderful goal for all providers and teachers. However, time demands often make this is lofty goal to achieve in the classroom. So I would like to mention several wonderful Apps that anyone can use at home or in school to help children play, think and work more creatively.
    Faces iMake - Right Brain Creativity by iMagine Machine is an App for creating collages from pictures of every-day objects. It teaches kids to look at the world around them in a new way, and to find and use playful visual metaphors as they create playful faces. Imagine using a banana as a nose or a potato as an ear when creating the image of a face. The capacity to understand and apply metaphors to shapes while ignoring their predesigned name and function is a great 'right brain' activity and one that can bolster creativity skills in all children.

    A recent addition to Faces iMake is FACEWORLD - a virtual space where users create together, modify and improve each other’s artwork in a game-like environment. For example, a user can create a face, upload it to FaceWorld and within minutes someone on the other side of the county, can download it to their own iPad, modify it and upload a new version to appear next to the original. While still playful, the App encourages creative collaboration between kids.
    Felt Board by Software Smoothie App has been carefully designed to encourage open-ended creative play. While it's impossible to include every imaginable prop or costume a child might imagine in one place, the developers of this App tried to include a wide variety of character combinations, facial expressions, settings and props to cover themes that will inspire children to build original or modified creations.
    As kids often do in their play, one object can be used to represent another. For instance, the wooden sword in a Felt Board can be used as flagpoles on the pirate ship, or arms for snowmen in a winter scene. The developer’s kept the interface as simple as possible, with limited sound effects and other distractions, so that all of the creative work is done in the mind of the child. This can be ideal for children with autism who often work best in visual environments with fewer distractions and noises.
    The backgrounds, costumes, accessories and characters in Felt Board are kept in separate categories, not only as a way to organize the App, but also to encourage children to explore the different themes by mixing and matching references. What happens when a pirate character and a pig land on the moon together? How different is the princess's story if she is placed in the dark woods as opposed to a sunny meadow? Imaginative play in childhood is a key building block for future innovation and creative problem solving as an adult. A child who can transform a wooden sword into a flagpole might become an adult who can think outside of the box.
    Toca Boca, the leading digital toy developer, recently released Toca Tailor, a mobile App that sparks creativity and imagination in children ages four years and older through the design of outfits. The App offers a seemingly limitless palette of colors, fabrics and patterns with which to work. Wardrobes come together through mixing and matching 24 different fabrics and patterns, playing with color combinations, adjusting hemlines and sleeve lengths and adding personal, signature touches along the way. The App also includes a camera feature that allows users to bring real-world surroundings into the design studio.
    Whether you are a teacher, provider, parent or caregiver of a young child, you will find that all of these Apps can help unlock a child’s creativity and desire to play. They might unlock yours as well!

    Collaborative Learning: A Changing World

    As we head further into the 21st Century, the face of education is changing due to various factors.  A main factor is that Education Technology is constantly evolving.  A huge benefit of this is that our learning can now extend beyond the walls of our classroom.  In fact, there are no boundaries whatsoever.  This can lead to a much greater amount of collaboration.  How are we going to get to that point?  Well, it's not going to happen automatically.  Teachers are going to need to be proactive in order to make it happen.

    Here are three things they can do:

    1) Teachers need to have an strong understanding of 21st Century Skills and must be willing to apply them.  This includes a classroom environment that is rich in Educational Technology.  Knowing how to integrate the Educational Technology properly is crucial to teaching the class effectively.  

    2) Teachers need to put a greater emphasis on Personalized Learning in order to have a greater impact on their students instead of learning according to the curriculum.  This also includes creating lessons that are engaging and interactive.  By personalizing our content and instruction according to the needs and interests of our students, we are enabling our students to connect with our content and skills at much deeper levels.  

    3) After teachers have mastered the above two goals, the final goal is to inspire collaboration. Teachers can implement this goal be encouraging all students in their classes - and even other classes to contribute to something greater – the contributions of many can  ensue in something much greater than those from any individual. As we can take our learning beyond our classroom walls, this is definitely something that can be done.

    See how SMART Technologies classroom technology tools in the future will take learning beyond classroom walls and add exciting new dimensions to student collaboration.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    What Personalized Learning Means to Me

    When starting this blog post, I decided to google the term "Personalized Learning."  The following is what I found and has been taken from Wikipedia.  

    Personalized Learning is the tailoring of pedagogycurriculum and learning environments to meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners, often with extensive use of technology in the process. It is an emerging trend in K-12 education, popular among educators due to the ways in which personalized learning environments can support the shift from curriculum-focused education to learner-focused education.

    The definition above immediately caused a bunch of questions to arise in my head.  First, why wouldn't an educator use Personalized  Learning to guide instruction?  We all have a curriculum to drive our instructions in each of classrooms - and for many students, it works.  But what about those students who need extra support or those who need enrichment and therefore the curriculum does not work for them?  How do we teach those students?  

    Second, the students entering our classrooms nowadays are not the same type of students who were entering the classroom twenty years ago.  So, how can we expect to successfully educate our students the same way that we were educated twenty years ago?  It's just not going to work.  Something has go to change in our instruction.

    Third, our students are surrounded by various types of technology.  Whether it's video games, mobile devices, computers, technology is a part of life and there is no point of denying that.  I do not know any child who has not been motivated by Educational Technology.  Educational Technology allows the user (i.e the student) the ability to control it, to be engaged with it, and to interact with it.  In addition, it is very easy to modify the settings of Educational Technology in order to meet the needs of diverse learners.  So why not use Educational Technology to drive our instruction and personalize the learning for our students?  

    Personalized Learning enables us to create lesson content that suit our students - not our curriculum.  In order for any student to learn and internalize content and/or skill, the student must be able to connect with the content and make meaning out of the content.  When developing lessons for our students, we are going to be more successful in our instruction if the content takes into account the interests and motivations of our students.  There is a much greater chance that our students will enjoy learning the material and will internalize what is being taught.  

    Personalized Learning will definitely benefit our students in the long, what about delivering Personalized Assessments?  

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Effectively Integrate Lesson Content with Educational Technology - SMART's SCLD Course

    The best online course that I took through SMART Technologies was the SCLD (SMART Certified Lesson Developer) certification course.  I would recommend this course to any educator who has a SMART Board and wants to integrate educational technology effectively with pedagogy.  In my opinion, this course is as important (or even more so) than hours of technical training.  I was given very little training by my school when I was given my SMART Board.  The only training that I was given was a couple years before that time, so I was basically on my own.  I was not told what to do with my SMART Board or how to use it.  Before purchasing Educational Technology, it is crucial that a school has a vision or objective as to how it should be implemented.  

    For the first year, I basically used my SMART Board to show videos and for playing pre-created games which I found on the SMART Exchange and modified for the needs of my class.  After having my SMART Board the first year, I went and pursued face to face training using my own funds. I became a Certified SMART Trainer through SMART in Notebook and Response.  During my second year of using my SMART Board, I increase the use of my SMART Board, but I really was not excited about my content.  I applied and was accepted into the SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE) Program.  My goals of fully integrating my SMART Board with my instruction were there - yet I still felt that I could do a better job with creating high quality, effective lesson activities.  A representative from SMART told me about the SCLD certification and I knew that was exactly what I needed in order to become a better teacher. Having great tools and not knowing how to use them effectively is very frustrating.  I decided to participate in this course and I am very glad that I did.

    This past summer, I participated in the SMART Certification Lesson Development coursework.  Although the course was online, my workshops were led by great dynamic trainers.  One thing important to note is that these trainers used to be classroom teachers themselves.  They have the knowledge of the content and pedagogy as well as the technical skills and understand how to put the pieces together in order to make the puzzle fit.  The trainers were also available outside of the session and after the sessions had ended in order to answer my questions about lesson development and content.  They guided me and pushed me to improve my lesson activities not to the point of being adequate, but to the point of being high quality.  The course is also very hands on, which is very important.  The participants must take the knowledge and skills that they have been taught and apply them.  We all know that practice makes perfect.  One of the requirements in this course is that the participants must submit three lesson activities to the SMART Exchange as well as a detailed document on each one explaining how each lesson submitted includes best practices.  A trainer then reviews each lesson submitted as well as its accompanying document.  I now know that when searching the SMART Exchange for lesson activities, search for those submitted by SCLD Candidates as these educators are investing a lot of time into creating high quality lessons.

    The SCLD course really changed my mindset on effective Educational Technology Integration.  Of course, a lot more time and work has to be invested when creating engaging, effective SMART Notebook lesson activities.  When I create my content now, I am really enjoying it - and I wish I had more time in order to do so.  I am already seeing the positive impact that my lessons are having on my students.  Because of the SCLD course, my lesson activities are more interactive, engaging, and more personalized.  I wish every educator would take this course as I now have a much better understanding of what the purpose of the SMART Board is for.  

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Is An Interactive Whiteboard Appropriate for the Early Learning Classroom?

         I have had the privilege to be able to teach with an Interactive White Board over the past couple of years, specifically a SMART Board.  During that period of time, I have worked diligently by seeking out training sessions, mentors, and other forms of PD in order to strengthen my technical skills.  I am now working on developing high quality lessons incorporating best practices.  I love using my SMART Board, my students love using the SMART Board, yet there are still others who do not think highly of its effectiveness in Early Childhood education.  Why, might one ask?  Well, there are many reasons that are given to me, but I am just going to elaborate on a couple of them.  One answer is that because it's not the teacher - and it is taking away from the teacher.  I don't agree.  The SMART Board is not the teacher - I'm the teacher!  The SMART Board - or any other educational technology could never replace the teacher.  It's merely a tool; and how the teacher chooses to use it in his or her classroom is another story.

         A second answer that I have been given is that the children are just too young.  But, are they really too young?  Our younger generation is growing up with technology and they are really expecting to be able to use technology when entering the classroom.  I recently watched a webinar entitled, "Is an Interactive Whiteboard Appropriate for the Early Learning Classroom?" that was offered by SMART Technologies and Hatch. You can access the recorded webinar by visiting the following URL. I found the webinar to be very beneficial.  An Interactive Whiteboard is indeed developmentally appropriate for an Early Learning classroom when it is used appropriately.  I have listed below some helpful information that was given during the course of the webinar.

         When considering Educational Technology for the Early Childhood population the following is a list of things to consider.

    • Touch enabled - Having touch enabled technology in the classroom is a big plus.  Touch is everywhere else in our students' lives.  Children see their parents using these touch technologies for so many different purposes in their lives and they want and expect to be able to use the touch enabled technologies too.  Touch is pretty intuitive and natural.  Children enjoy interacting with their environment through touch.  Touch enabled technology is great for younger children who are still working to develop their fine motor skills.
    • Promotes interactivity - It's important that the students should be doing something because we want them to interact with the content to help them retain what they are learning.  We want them to interact with the content and be actively learning. So with younger students, this interactive approach is also going to be developmentally appropriate.    We know our early learners have a limited attention span and are also very active.  Incorporating technologies that engage younger children that allow them to move around and allow them to interact with the content, it's going to be very beneficial for them.
    • Supports multi-sensory learning - The definition of multi-sensory learning  is active learning in which multiple modes of sensory input are used simultaneously.  This includes: Visual, Auditory, Tactile, Kinesthetic ways of learning.  According to research, every person has a different learning style with one mode usually a strength, but we learn best when information is presented using a combination of all modalities.  Finding a technology that will allow you to teach and that will also incorporate multi-sensory learning is also going to positively impact your students' achievement.
    • Universal Design for Learning - UDL provides a framework for evaluating which products have the potential to work best for all learning environments.  The goal was to focus on ways to use computer technology to improve the education for all students.
              Three Technology Design Principles of UDL:
      1. Technology should provide multiple means of representation - give learners different ways to acquire information and knowledge (interactive text, images, sound, video). 
      2. Technology should provide multiple means of action and expression - give students alternatives to demonstrate what they know.
      3. Technology should provide multiple means of engagement - tap into the learner's interest and what motivates them.
         The webinar continued with comparing the use of an Interactive Whiteboard to the use of an iPad, which is definitely a "hot" topic in today's Early Childhood's classrooms.  Although I was aware of the following beforehand, many teachers were not.

    Comparing an Interactive White Board with an iPad
    Each is best used for a different purpose

    What is an IWB good for in the classroom?  
    • Whole group instruction
    • Direct and explicit teaching
    • Modeling of strategies - think alouds
    • Providing guided practice
    • Promoting group discussion
    • Problem solving
    • Collaboration
    What are iPads good for?
    • Small group practice
    • Individual practice
    • Creation -students can be creative with the apps
    • Assessment
    • Personalized learning
    The bottom line is that each educational technology was designed for a specific use.  It was not designed to replace the teacher.  It is the teacher's responsibility to develop age appropriate lessons for his or her class and integrate the technology when it will enrich the content that is being taught.  It is the the teacher's duty to create a learning environment which will enable the students to be successful learners.

    Sunday, October 7, 2012

    Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying - the Myths and the Facts

    We all know the common phrase, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me".  Yet do we also know that this is a complete myth and it is completely untrue?

    Another common thing that many of us are told is that "bullying is just a part of life, and that we just have to grow up and deal with it".  Well, that is not true either.

    I just watched a webinar on cyberbulling entitled "Preventing and Responding to Cyberbulling" which was developed by SMART Technologies.  The webinar is offered through the SMART Learning Space and you can access the free webinar by clicking this link:  I must say that I really enjoyed watching this webinar and I learned some important things too.

    According to the Canada Safety Council (2010), the term "Cyberbullying" refers to harmful actions that are communicated via electronic media and are intended to embarrass, harm, or slander another individual".  Often, this will include the use of the following technologies: E-mail, mobile phones and devices, online forums, social networking websites, and online games.

    Just how does cyberbullying compare with other forms of bullying? It's actually worse and can be even more detrimental and hurtful than other types of bullying.  Cyberbullying can affect many more people in a much shorter amount of time.

       * Often anonymous
       * High frequency of attacks
       * Home is no longer a safe place
       * Unlimited audience
       * 24/7 occurrences

    All Forms of Bullying:
      * Can be a criminal offense
      * Accessories and bystanders may not realize their impact
      * Often goes unreported

    When thinking about it, I didn't realize how dangerous cyberbullying really is.  I used to think that it was just sending someone a hurtful e-mail or instant message.  Yet I never thought about anything beyond that.  It is so important that we, as educators be proper role models for our students.  I have heard of cases in which employees berated each other through Facebook and have lost their jobs over it.  How can anyone post something like that - and not think about it before hand?

    In this webinar, I learned how to recognize cyberbullying as it can be hard to detect.  In order to prevent it from happening, we must teach our students what it is, how it happens, and how we can protect ourselves from happening again.  If it happens, we should not retaliate yet we should report it.  We don't want it to happen to us - and we need to make sure we don't cause it to happen to someone else either.

    There is a common phrase which I have heard many times when I was younger, "If you don't have something nice to say, then don't say it at all".

    Be a Cyber Hero!

    WordFlex Touch Dictionary App

    Often children on the Autism Spectrum have language delays. As parents and educators, we know that language delays negatively impact skills in the area of reading, specifically in vocabulary and comprehension. As these children grow, reading becomes increasingly difficult for them. And if they do not understand what they are reading, then they might wonder, why bother reading at all? This was my son’s attitude. For over ten years, he has received therapy for language skills, yet he still lags behind in his vocabulary and comprehension skills. Until a few years ago, my son had no interest in reading. I am indebted to J.K. Rowling for “Harry Potter”. It inspired my son to read, as well as the millions of other children across the globe. When reading “Harry Potter,” I noticed that there were many words that were difficult for him - words such as indignant, pernicious, and fraught. One can usually decipher the message of the text by using context clues, but if there is an abundance of difficult words, then what? For my son to keep a pocket dictionary with him was unrealistic.

    Then I discovered the highly rated app WordFlex Touch Dictionary. Developed by Schematix in association with Oxford University Press, this app is beneficial for all students – and even more so for those with language delays. WordFlex Touch Dictionary enables anyone to explore language deeply – but it’s remarkably easy and intuitive to use. Searching a standard dictionary for a word results in the word, its meaning, and part of speech. However, using the WordFlex Touch Dictionary app, the possibilities are endless as the app has an abundance of amazing features. The app uses intuitive “mind-mapping” technology to turn word entries into dynamic trees that can be moved, shaped, rearranged, saved and shared with touch gestures. After a child enters a word to explore, the app opens into a word tree that shows parts of speech (noun, verb, etc.), high-level senses (meanings), and related phrases. Simultaneously, a speaker appears below the main word box and pronounces the word in U.K./U.S. English. In addition, various badges appear providing extra information about the word such as the primary meaning of the word, the word’s origin, example sentences, illustrations, and usage notes. Where available, synonyms and antonyms will be visible. Informal, slang and other equivalents of the word may also appear. These features can benefit a child with delayed language skills as they often have difficulty with slang, sarcasm, and colloquialisms.

    My son had a very easy time using this app. In fact, it was a pleasure for him to use it, as he was fascinated by the truly tactile, interactive references. If you are looking for a great “Back to School” app to help your child with reading and language skills, then I would urge you to look at WordFlex Touch Dictionary.