Part 1. Collabrative Tools in the classroom Re-addressing an old post

Originally, my focuses in the use of technology in the classroom over the last six years had/has  to do with the collaborative nature of online tools and easy of functionality between the teacher and student using these tools. As far as collaborative tools go for education, Google Docs has proven to be one of the best so far for me. My students and I have made it an indispensable part of the AP World and European History classes. Several of my students are now using it in their other upper level and Dual Enrollment classes. It should be noted that some of my friends also use Google docs collaboratively or allow students to use it in their classes. This has also gone beyond the high school classroom to college as some of the students that we have taught are using it exclusively for collaboration in their classes.

 I have had the opportunity along with my good friend Tara Malecki (she should be writing this post) to present at our county’s technology workshops to share our own experiences with Google Docs in 2011 and 2012. In the fall of 2013, I was given the opportunity to present this idea of Collaboration and Technology at the State Social Studies Conference (FCSS). Sharing  with my fellow social studies teachers was exciting and eye opening because many of them were working toward the same goals involving technology and collaboration. It was a great session and confirmed for me that this is the direction I needed to pursue.

These events encouraged me to do more research on the topic of collaborative tools. What I have now learned is that students must also be engaged (Engagement) with the tools.  I now realized that I was addressing only part of what I wanted to accomplish with Collaborative learning for my students.

Carnegie Mellon’s,  Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation  addresses Collaborative tools and learning . Here is the synopsis from their site  Collborative Tools  based on a White paper literature review (2009) of collaborative learning, assessment, and tools.  Download Collaboration Tools White Paper

Collaborative learning is essentially people working together to solve a problem, create a product, or derive meaning from a body of material. A central question or problem serves to organize and drive activities, and encourage application, analysis, and synthesis of course material. While the landscape of technology that can be used to support central activities of collaborative learning is vast and varied, it is often lumped together under a single label: “collaboration tools.”

Tools that exist to support collaboration can:

  •     facilitate real-time and asynchronous text, voice, and video    communication.
  •     assist in basic project management activities.
  •     support co-creation by enabling groups to modify output in real-time or  asynchronously.
  •     facilitate consensus building through group discussions and polling.
  •     simplify and streamline resource management.
  •     enable local and remote presentation and archiving of completed  projects.


  •     Virtual Meetings
  •     Email
  •     Instant Messaging
  •     Screen Sharing
  •     Blogs
  •     Voice, Video, Web Conferencing
  •     Discussion Boards

  Team Definition & Participant

  •     Social Networking
  •     Presence Management
  •     User Profiles
  •     Contact Management


  Project Management

  •     Task Management
  •     Time Tracking
  •     Workflow Routing
  •     Milestones
  •     Calendaring


  Resource Management

  •     File Storage
  •     Search
  •     Database Management
  •     Version Tracking
  •     Access Management
  •     Social Bookmarking
  •     Commenting
  •     Tagging

  Co-Creation & Ideation

  •     Concept Mapping
  •     Wikis
  •     Virtual Whiteboards
  •     Real-Time Collaborative Editing

  Consensus Building

  •     Polling
  •     Question Management
  •     Process Archiving

  Presentation & Archiving

  •     Webinars
  •     Slide Shows
  •     Hosted Media Sharing

If you are interested in these ideas and bringing Collabrative tools into your classroom I strongly recomment  Carnegie Mellon’s,  White paper literature review (2009) of collaborative learning, assessment, and tools.  Download Collaboration Tools White Paper

Learning about Flipping Bloom’s taxonomy from Jennifer Brokofsky Blog

I love teachers who share their ideas and make me think of ways to address new strategies to help my students learning in and out of the classroom. Jennifer Brokofsky’s  on her blog, Learning out loud  posted  “Turning Bloom’s and My Thinking Upside Down. It is based on her attending a specific session at the Saskatchewan IT Summit. The guest speaker was  Shelly Wright and her session was entitled Rethinking Learning. Shelly was sharing her vision of leaning in an inquiry based, technology enhanced classroom.

During the session Shelly shared her take on the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. At first I was thinking, not someone else kicking my poor Bloom’s Taxonomy in the side, again. However, I was pleasantly please to hear an original idea from a fellow educator that got me  thinking about a new way to look at Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Jennifer explained what caught her attention at the session with Shelly,

During the session Shelly shared her take on the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. She simply stated that it was wrong.  WHAT????…..I have been a big proponent of the taxonomy for a long time and here was a person I respect and admire saying it was wrong.  This powerful and succinct statement gave me pause, made me stop, pay attention and listen for her justification.

Shelly went on to say that our perception has been that we learn by starting with remembering a concept, so that we can understand it.  Then we can apply our learning to new situations, analyze, evaluating and finally at the end use our learning to create.

But what if…What if we started with creating?  What if students could start with creativity and end with the knowledge that emerges from their creations?

I can not help but thank Jennifer for posting her blog on Twitter and sharing Shelly’s session and later my finding Shelly’s actual post.

At the end of Jennifer’s post I shared my thoughts about flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy…and how by flipping Bloom’s it looked a little like the scientific method.

I was just wondering if anyone else notice that if you flip Blooms Taxonomy…you get a rough approach to the scientific method. The first three parts of the scientific method, Ask a Question, Do Background Research and Construct a Hypothesis all follow under Creating. Test Your Hypothesis by doing an experiment would be Evaluating. Analyze your data would be Analyzing, Draw a Conclusion would be Understanding and Communicate Your Results would be new knowledge ergo adding knew data to your memory.

Thanks again Jennifer and Shelly

Google’s Privacy Policy still a problem for some…

I find it interesting how many people are only now concerned about Google’s Privacy Policy. Google for over a month has clearly tried to inform all their customers of this change. On Feb 1st, The Electronic Frontier Foundation addressed this question, one month before the policy was to go into effect. As some of you know Google over the past few years began to buy up companies from all over the internet, one of companies was You Tube. Each company had its own privacy policy. Because of these policies Google could not use data from these sites to assist their search engine. Google a business focused on developing and/or marketing technology relating to finding information explained the situation to Congress.

“Specifically, our policies meant that we couldn’t combine data from YouTube and search history with other Google products and services to make them better. So if a user who likes to cook searches for recipes on Google, we are not able to recommend cooking videos when that user visits YouTube, even though he is signed in to the same Google Account when using both.”

Bianca Bosker of the Huffington Post (Marched 9th in her article linked below) addresses one of the real problems people are facing with this new policy.

“Google has come under fire for its failure to allow users to opt out of its privacy policy change: The terms will go into effect for all Google users come Thursday, whether they’re comfortable with the changes or not. To dodge the new policy, people can use Google products without logging into the services, or create distinct Google accounts for each Google product, though advocates argue these options are insufficient. Users can also minimize the data Google stores about them by erasing their browsing history and blocking Google from collecting information about their search queries.”

One of the problems from all of this is that Google’s competitors may eventually become more aggressive in their desire to gather similar data for the purpose of monetization  of their services (making money)…which is what this is all about in the end.

As for myself, the way I am dealing with this Google issue is by erasing my browser history, avoid logging into Google unless it is for Gmail or Google Docs and keeping multiple emails for different purposes. One email is professional, one is personal, and one is only for school information. As long as I don’t cross the emails the data should be kept separate…until something else changes.

Below are the two articles I used in addressing Google’s Privacy Policy and the reason for the change.  Link to the EFF article, Google’s Privacy Policy    Link to Huffington Post Article, Google Privacy Policy Changing For Everyone: So What’s Really Going To Happen?

Getting it right this time with Google Docs.

We had just finished a series of lessons on the Renaissance in my AP European History class when it became clear that a massive review was needed to cement their understanding of this time period. Learning from a missed opportunity with my AP World History Class we used Google Documents in a Wiki like fashion to create a study guide for their assessment.

Setting up a document in Google Docs was all the input I had on this activity. I wanted the class to create their own guide so I picked a student to type and another to guide the discussion of what should be put in the document.

Student immediately began by creating a list of terms of people, places and things. Then they realized they needed to set it up into categories such as exist in the themes of AP Euro. They created a time line, separated the popes and major families of each city state, political thinkers, and information specific to each city state including Naples. They addressed the painters, writers, clergy and women of the Renaissance as well as the differences between the Italian and Northern Renaissance. Finally, they created questions that might possibly be on the assessment. Sitting in a corner of the room I was impressed with what they had achieved from this activity. They had created a working skeleton for their study guide. All I had to do was share it with them on Google Docs and watch them work together to fill out the study guide that they created.

Thirty one students working together to build an exhaustive study guide was fun to watch. Student’s worked on it from different locations, times and with a variety of devices. Some used their cell phones or iPads to add and edit information. Some would work on it at unusual times such as the time stamp of 2:00 am on a few revisions.

I asked my students how they felt about the process of creating their own study guide. They said they liked it because it helped them “recall things” that they had forgotten and would not have thought to study. I plan to set up a poll to get more direct feedback. The only thing I did was to help with a little crowd control.

The only drawback for this activity was that the information was being entered so fast that the word processing program for Google Docs could not keep up with the typist. It was a small price to pay for such a cool activity. Hopefully, Google will work to incorporate a better or faster word processing program in the future.

Humor in the WEB 2.0 Classroom

When you begin this new school year creating your lessons incorporating Web 2.0 ideas don’t forget to add a little humor.

“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” Mark Twain

“Humor is the affectionate communication of insight. “Leo Rosten

Humor is important to me and I use it often in my classes. I make no apologies about it. There is a fine line between a stand up routine and using humor as a tool to focus on an event or topic, to create transitions in class, moving from one activity to the next or just to draw the class closer together in a common sharing of a story or idea. Okay, so sometimes, I do both but never at the same time and sometimes not even in the same hemisphere (of the brain), but they are always related to my subject…most of the time.

I have given workshops in both Drama and Comedy in the Classroom for teachers. It never amazes me how little humor we have in our profession or how scared we are to be humorous because we are afraid to reveal aspects of ourselves to our students. This is because we confuse laughter with Humor. Notice I am not talking about laughter and humor together. There are good reasons not to do this. Laughter and humor are qualitatively different phenomena. Laughter is an event in the physical world. Humor is a construct. I am speaking solely about the construct. We can control the humor to our benefit and our students.

At the beginning of ever school year we talk about hurricane season and what we are expected to do in our community. During the Hurricanes of 2004 season we were hit by three hurricanes so I share this little anecdote with my students. (You should know this about me before you read this and that is I am a large man 2x to 3x large.)

The Red Cross and the military brought in cases of bottle water for the families that live in my neighbor near Lake Okeechobee, since all the electricity was out in the area, our water pumps didn’t work for weeks at a time. Generally people would use only one bottle of water for bathing per two or three days, however my wife knew the truth…I was a two bottle man.

I paused and waited to see their response. Moments of quiet can be a wonderful tool for thinking. They looked at me for a moment and then I held my hands to my side and the kids realized, that I am a large round man. Some of them began to understand, and then it begins. First with a few snickers or disgusted looks and it works its way around the class with quite laughter or an oh, my gosh expressions until nearly everyone gets it. I am fat. The best and most effective cooperative learn activity that day and they didn’t even realize what they were doing.

Now, I take that cooperative moment and have them either write about their own experiences during those same Hurricanes in a journal or at a class blog or texting their story in 140 character moments on Twitter among friends or go to Google docs and create one document where all 30-35 students can share their experiences.

A fellow teacher friend of mine who attended one of my workshops and who isn’t found of humor in the classroom herself, tried one in her literature classes and she told me the kids were stunned that she “told a joke”. It made her smile and it stayed with her the rest of the day. The students went back to work wondering what had happen to their teacher. I know because they also told me.

Humor is a tool just like a computer is a tool or white book markers are tools or Google is a tool. It is how we use our tools as teachers that help our students grow and develop.

Now if the result from your anecdote is laughter than you have bonded the humor and laughter as one. Hey, here is something most people forget. Kids (students) love to laugh and they will love you for it.

Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Last but not least, humor is also good for one’s mental health. We seem to live in a world of standardized examinations in which many children are overwhelmed with anxiety for fear of being cited as a failure by administration, teachers and parents. I have found it useful to have them read something humorous to cut the tension before taking the exam. Here is an example of a story that I’ve used as the introduction to many of my semester exams over the years and you are welcome to use it as I did.

Something for you to read before you take this Semester Exam. Enjoy.

According to a radio report, a middle school in Oregon was faced with a unique problem. A number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every day.

To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it into the toilet and then cleaned the mirror.

Since then there have been no lip prints on the mirror “True Story”

Introductions and Purpose

I’ve always like beginnings. This blog feels like it needs one. So here it goes… I am a teacher who has engaged in many different activities and jobs in my life. I was an accomplished athlete, a retail buyer, a construction worker, a truck parts manager, a mental health technician,copier salesman, a coach, athletic director, actor, an asst. director. I have acted on stage, on radio, performed and directed improv comedy and regional theatre. I have written articles for publications, scripts for on-stage performances as well as improv skits. I have taught acting and Web Design to students for many years. I have presented numerous workshops on technology and pod casting in the classroom. I have been a technology geek for decades. I am a TWIT and a Twitter.  Recently, I have found a love for illustration and art. Even though I have done all of these things and more teaching has been at the core of almost all of it.

The purpose of this post is to share my passion for teaching, technology and along the way assist  my friends, fellow teachers and students to navigate the world we now call Web 2.0.