Monday, 30 November 2009

15 Slide Show Tools for Teachers

Slide shows are a great way to present information and engage students inside and outside the classroom. This article contains of list of 15 free slide show tools that would be useful to almost any educator.

Empressr - Empressr is a free multimedia tool that is virtually effortless to use. The tool creates, manages, and shares slide shows without limitations.

VoiceThread - With VoiceThread, teachers can create dynamic multimedia slide shows for students or colleagues to comment on. Comments can be made through microphone, telephone, audio file, text, or video.

SlideShare - SlideShare is the world's largest community for sharing and managing presentations. The site allows you to upload presentations to the public or a private group of people.

Slideroll - This site offers free software for creating smooth slide shows that can be viewed by anyone with Internet access. Created slides can be published on the site or embedded in web pages, blogs, or emails.

PhotoPeach - PhotoPeach is a slide show creator that uses photos, text, and audio. This is a great tool for teachers who want to create entertaining slide shows within minutes.

Joggle - This free beta site allows users to manage and share photos, music, and video. Joggle provides the tools for quickly embedding slide shows into websites, blogs, and more without the use of complex coding.

Yugma - Teachers can use Yugma to upload and share presentations, collaborate in real-time, or host a web conference. This site makes it incredibly simple to make educational presentations for students.

Animoto - Animoto is an easy-to-use slide creator that offers unlimited videos to teachers. Within minutes of signing up, teachers can start creating custom slide shows of images, audio, and text. This site can also rearrange your photos to create a new slide or custom video.

Slide - This interactive presentation site features tools for creating slide shows, posting video, and creating an online group.

One True Media - One True Media offers a free subscription for teachers who want to upload and share images, music, and videos. This site also features special effects for a dynamic, personalized touch.

Vyew - This free web conferencing site provides tools for hosting presentations, webinars, or online meetings. Vyew also allows teachers to upload and create real-time courses and collaborative learning.

Vcasmo - Vcasmo is a rich media presentation solution designed for personal use and academic teaching. As soon as you sign up for a free account, you can start uploading images, audio, and video to create a personalized presentation or simply publish a pre-created PowerPoint presentation.

LectureTools - LectureTools is a free lecture and slide tool that can be used to engage students in lectures. The site provides tools to upload and organize slides, make notes directly on them, and post questions.

iWebPhoto - This site is a free image hosting site that allows you to create slide shows for embedding and sharing with colleagues and students. The free membership includes five free slide shows with 50 photos each that can be linked to websites and blogs.

Sliderocket - Sliderocket offers 250MB of free storage for slide show presentation and creation. This site also allows you to import, organize, synchronize, and share your presentations.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degree programs for

Monday, 23 November 2009

My Proposal 2.0

This is my proposal. This is my initial pitch for technology reform in my school. Our students have laptops and our classrooms have smart boards, however, at this point we just have aesthetically pleasing tools. How we use these tools, how we integrate these tools, will define how our students learn in a 21st century context.

A lot of schools wear the badge of technology proudly on their sleeve, however, how are they really incorporating these new tools? How far do students travel beyond Microsoft Word and Powerpoint? In short, could we run the same class if we were using word processors or typewriters? If you answered yes, then you are not integrating technology.

"We never use our laptops."

This comment was all it took for me. I began by engaging my PLN and looking back through the previous work I had done with technology integration (most examples are found on my blog archive). I found standards for the 21st century student via the NCTE framework for 21st Century Learning skills and assessment. I wrote the following proposal and presented the idea to my administration. This was only step one. Step two will take place on January 13 when I will present a PD to our faculty. This presentation will run roughly 30-40 minutes and include time for "playing around" with new technology "toys". Teachers will work on writing their technology integration plans and select one, maybe two, new learning tools to incorporate into their curriculum maps.

This is exactly what I had hoped for when I addressed my administration about this idea. They were receptive and excited about getting our technology plan in order. The other end of this is the possibility of a new position for next fall. I would still teach a few ELA classes, but my other focus would be working within classrooms to help teachers incorporate, utilize and effectively monitor technology use in their content area. I would work hand in hand with teachers to design and implement tech-driven lesson plans.

Like riding a bike for the first time, it is good to have someone guiding you. Eventually they will let go and we will be off on our own, riding without assistance. The same can be said for implementing technology into our curriculum. We need to guide our teachers, give them the initial assistance they need and eventually let them ride on their own. My school is giving me this opportunity, and I plan on making our school "cutting edge" "21st century" "2.0" and every other neo-buzzword you can think up.

As with any post I write, I look forward to hearing your feedback, comments and suggestions. If you have traveled this road before, please feel free to contact me with comments about your experience.

Curriculum & Instructional Technology Specialist
Job Proposal by: Andrew P. Marcinek

Please consider the following job proposal for a new position for Boys’ Latin Charter School of Philadelphia. The title I am requesting is "Curriculum & Instructional Technology Specialist." If awarded this position, I believe I can use my experience, talents and abilities to help our school be on the cutting edge of Virtual Learning and 21st Century Skills.

Job Description:

The Curriculum & Instructional Technology specialist will collaborate with administration, teachers, students and parents in the area of instructional technology synthesis. This position will work in creating a school wide educational technology curriculum, synthesize all content standards and technology standards and work with teachers to incorporate technology into all content areas to meet the needs of 21st century skills.

21st century skills

  • Information and communications skills Examples:
    • Using communication, information processing, and research tools (such as word processing, e-mail, groupware, presentation software, and the Internet) to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create, and communicate information). These skills include information and media literacy skills.

  • Thinking and problem-solving skills Examples:
    • Using problem-solving tools (such as spreadsheets, decision support, and design tools) to manage complexity, solve problems, and think critically, creatively, and systematically.

  • Interpersonal and self-directional skills Examples:
    • Using personal development and productivity tools (such as e-learning, time managers, and collaboration tools) to enhance productivity and personal development. These skills include accountability and adaptability skills.

  • Use digital technology and communication tools to access, manage, integrate and evaluate information; Construct new knowledge; Communicate with others effectively. Examples:
    • Using 21st Century tools (such as word processing, e-mail, presentation software, the Internet, spreadsheets, decision support programs, design tools, e-learning, time management programs, and collaboration tools) combined with learning skills in core subjects equals 21st Century Skills (ICT Literacy) Teach and learn in a 21st century context.

  • Learn academic content through real-world examples;
    • Learning must expand beyond the four classroom walls. Teach and learn 21st century content (3 emerging content areas) Global awareness, Financial, economic and business literacy, and Civic literacy. Use 21st Century Assessments that measure 21st Century Skills High quality standardized tests Classroom assessments for teaching and learning.

21st Century Assessment

· Supports a balance of assessments, including high-quality standardized testing along with effective classroom formative and summative assessments.

· Emphasizes useful feedback on student performance that is embedded into everyday learning.

· Requires a balance of technology-enhanced, formative and summative assessments that measure student mastery of 21st century skills.

· Enables development of portfolios of student work that demonstrate mastery of 21st century skills to educators and prospective employers.

· Enables a balanced portfolio of measures to assess the educational system’s effectiveness at reaching high levels of student competency in 21st century skills

Suggested List of Performance Responsibilities

Curriculum and Instructional Support

1. Monitor the use of instructional technology to ensure that resources and activities enhance rigorous academic content and the school’s mission.

2. Assist teachers in the classroom to provide training on the integration of technology and curriculum. Offer support hours in tech lab.

3. Maintain blog for teachers, parents, and staff; to share inspiration, assistance, engagement, and resources.

4. Make continuous improvements in key processes, techniques, and procedures.

5. Promote a positive, caring climate for learning. Deal sensitively and fairly with all staff ranging in diverse levels of technology proficiencies.

6. Participate in training and conferences for 21st Century Skills and Web 2.0.

7. Establish technology proficiencies for teachers and students and provide support training model to help them achieve success.

8. Participate in collaboration teams to develop a school-wide technology plan.

9. Develop list of project ideas, to be submitted in August, which would be centered on teacher support and professional development.

10. Seek out professional development opportunities for administration, faculty and staff.

This is an updated version of what I am using to present my idea to our Administration and Faculty. I encourage you to steal this and make it your own! Show your faculty, your friends your tweeps! Enjoy the lack of bullet points and minimalistic approach. If you would like to see what I have done with my wikispaces in the classroom or any other learning tool presented, please feel free to get in touch with me.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Presenting Your PLN

In my last post, I talked about three easy steps to setting up and implementing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) in your school. In this post, I am catering to the visual learner and have created a Power Point that will surely engage your audience at your next PD. It involves four simple slides, four prominent words and four familiar images. There are no bullet points and no spiraling text. It is clean, crisp and allows you to vocalize your ideas on creating and implementing a PLN.

Use this Power Point! In fact, STEAL THIS POWERPOINT! Take it, impress your colleagues! Be the first to show what Power Point 2.0 looks like. Leave the bullets and spiraling text at home. Put it away and your colleagues will thank you. They will high-five you and smile in your general direction! You may even be carried out of the PD on the shoulders of your administrators.

Keep the presentation short and sweet. Show them how creating a PLN within your school will stimulate collaboration and enhance content. In the end, creating a PLN and accepting this is as simple as this Power Point. You will be resistance, but stay the course and don’t back down from an opportunity to enhance, stimulate and save your colleagues lots of time. All the while, helping students achieve 21st century learning skills.

If you use this simple presentation, please let me know the reaction you receive. Or if you have your own PD presentation created, I would love for you to share your ideas.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Creating A Grassroots PLN at your School

Recently I have been providing some of my colleagues with web 2.0 resources for their classrooms. They ask, “this is great, where did you find it?” I casually say, “well in my free time (meaning all day) I am quite the avid twit.” A light laugh ensues.

In a new charter school that is struggling with performance standards and catching up students who have been left behind by urban public school systems, it is hard to thread technology into the conversation. However, in the next few weeks I am going to propose several new initiatives to our administration. These new initiatives will include the following items…

1. Creating a learning network within our building

This learning network will include several key ingredients. First, I plan to inspire my colleagues to obtain a twitter account. I really feel like twitter has become the stepping stone for jumping off into a world of endless resources and collaboration. Since joining twitter two years ago, I have met so many great minds and educators. They have all helped to provoke and motivate my thinking in ways that make teaching an exciting venture. Now, I am sure I will encounter the questions

“what value will this have in my classroom?”

“we have enough to do, I cannot add anything more to my plate”

“this will just distract from teaching, no?”

These are some of the questions that I expect and I am sure there will be more. My answers will flow something like this. Twitter is what you make of it. It is not required to teach and is certainly not a distraction from my own teaching. Our kids are behind because most of them received a 20th century education that included copious amounts of “busy work”. Having a twitter account will allow you to find other teachers, principals and administrators who are encountering the same hurdles. You can begin by posing a question and segue into a discussion in which you are solving problems through twitter. At that’s it, twitter is simply a forum that allows us to engage in a rapid exchange of ideas. Twitter is what you make of it. It can be a distracter from lessons and work if you let it be, but for the most part, it is an integral part of my own teaching and has provided me with more insight into becoming a dynamic teacher than any other forum in my career.

There will always be those who are afraid of trying something new, however, if you want to start a PLN at your school, like I plan on, start with twitter. Show your colleagues the value of the rapid exchange of ideas and resources and they will never look back.

2. Wiki or Ning

Once you have your colleagues tweeting up a storm and delivering new teaching methods because of twitter, introduce them to a place where you can house all of your plans, units, ideas, calendars, meetings, etc. I am not partial to either of the aforementioned platforms, and have had great success with both in my experience.

I find a wiki space would work best for creating a forum to house lesson plans and school documents that parents, guardians and other teachers can access universally. I have used wikispaces with many of my classes and the kids find it easy and the parents adapt to the accessibility of information. The wikispace also allows everyone to be an active participant in taking ownership of the site.

However, if you simply want a forum to exchange ideas and resources links, then I feel a Ning would be best for you. A ning has less manipulability than a wiki and works best as a way for faculty, parents and administration to communicate and spread announcements rapidly in one place. In the Ning, you can also create groups for your departments. These groups can have remote PD’s through the chat forum and create and respond to discussion threads.

Again, both have their merits, but find out what you want your PLN forum to look like and choose which works best for you entire district.

3. Start organizing resources through Diigo

Diigo is the third part of the trifecta of creating a PLN within your school. I have really benefited from the Diigo groups that I have become a part of. I have found and promoted many blogs via Diigo and I cannot say enough about the ease of use. Diigo is a very easy to use site that allows users to bookmark a site, define the site and then categorically organize your sites. The web interface allows you to tag all of your websites you save and access them easily by each tag. You can also create groups and add friends to share in all of your bookmarks. When you add a colleague you both will be able to share and exchange bookmarks.

Creating a Diigo group is a great way to organize your department this fall. E-mail your department colleagues a link to a Diigo group. Tell them that you want to create an online resource library for links and blogs that fit your discipline. For those who say, “Now what? Something else to sign up for and receive junk mail” bribe them with candy. I usually go with Butterfinger, but also provide moist towelets, because no one wants a sticky keyboard!

Once you have them hooked, branch out and look into creating cross-curricular groups! Create a digital bridge with language arts and history; math and science. With Diigo, users have the ability to create wonderful learning communities and collaborate with each other. Building an online resource library should be on the “To Do” list of ever teacher this summer!

So that’s all. These three steps, along with standards and edu-tech curriculum examples, will serve as my platform for creating a PLN and a culture of education technology in my school.

I am tired of hearing my students complain that they do not get to use their laptops enough and I plan on changing that. Students need 21st century skills to compete globally. These skills are just as essential as reading, writing and math. If we keep pushing it off, it will only fade into wasted resources within our schools. We cannot let this happen. And we need to lead by example. Get your PLN started and give all of your colleagues a high-five for trying something completely different!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Independent Reading 1.0

This was a discussion prompt that introduced my independent reading unit. We just finished a unit on the fundamental literary elements: plot structure, conflict, point of view, characterization, etc. Students will now be applying these skills to their independent reading. I’m sending them out into the literary seas in search of adventure and intrigue. NOTE: This lesson is very 1.0 but I will apply how one can make it a 2.0 activity.

The question: Why do we read fiction?

Eager hands abound!

Some of the responses:

“For Fun”

“To learn”

“To expand our imagination”

“To be taken somewhere”

“To learn about another place or culture”

Yes! It’s working; they understand the purpose of fiction!

I decide to challenge their thinking further.

The question: Those are all good answers, but why should we waste time reading books that are not true?

Students pause momentarily; I can see the critical thinking wheel spinning feverishly.


“We read fiction to travel somewhere we have never been and to experience something new. Like I have never been to China, but I can go there through the author’s perspective.”

I pick myself up since I just fell over from this brilliant response. This question ignites another burning mind.

“We read fiction, like to be taken, say to the past, when we wasn’t around and find out about different historical events through fiction.”

Eureka! I am loving these responses (save for the use of proper English).

This was my class today. I started with a simple question and challenged students with critical thinking. Mind you, these students are all below reading level and were anxious about reading a book outside of our required text. Maybe, it was the aesthetically appealing covers of many new books, or maybe it was the new found ownership they all half over their novel, but what ever the case, they were thinking critically before cracking the page and by god, THEY WERE ENGAGED!

This project is intended for 1.0 instruction. I am not utilizing any form of technology until I first get my kids to read. Their responses are all done…get ready…in a packet. I know, this term is a sacrilege and completely against everything iTeach stands for. However, in one of my previous posts I mentioned using and to foster summer reading. Both of these sites would serve as wonderful forums for housing your responses and tracking the progress of your students. Although these sites work well for the summer reading project, I would definitely transition my packet into a wikispace. This allows for students to post responses, collaborate in a discussion and track their progress. For my students, I would recommend having some form of tracking method that would reward efficient, not fast, readers.

Please let me know if you are doing independent reading through 1.0 or 2.0 methods. My colleagues in the 9th grade are all setting the course in this independent reading project and so far we have had great success with our 1.0 project. I look forward to hearing about different independent reading projects and what your experience has been whether you are a packet or a PC.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Going Off The Grid

The last blog post I composed was August 20, 2009. That was the day I fell off the grid. I fell far; I fell fast. And soon I was trying to find my personal learning network and wondering where everyone went. The party was over and I was back at work, teaching, grading, designing, engaging and performing several other topical buzzwords used in current edu-speak. I was no longer mentioned in Tweets and my direct messages were simply tumbleweeds drifting by in the wind. My comments and blog readership began to fade and I was no longer engaging in a community that had given me so much and inspired me to transform the way I teach in the 21st century.

Since I have last posted a lot has happened. William Safire passed away. He enjoyed buzzwords and was a columnist I looked forward to reading every Sunday in the Times. I grew half a beard a few times; thinking the exotic look of a beard would inspire me to write again. The Phillies lost the word series and all the while I was an inactive member of the personal learning network (PLN) I tried to promote so strongly in my previous posts.

I created the one comment a day project ning only to fall behind in my duties as chief executive commentator. I wrote the introduction to my book that I am attempting to write, only to stuff my edits in a drawer for that rainy day off that never came. I’ve continued to read blogs and visit TweetDeck occasionally to see what all my Tweeps are up to. It seems like they are having fun; it seems like they are really engaged in stimulating discussions about Web 2.0 in the classroom and redesigning 21st curriculum to meet the needs of the 21st century student.

So what happened? How does one fall off the grid so quickly?

I’m a teacher.

I teach, therefore my time is limited. My time is precious. I teach high school English by day and English composition by night at a local college. In between I browse hundreds of essays and paragraphs for run-ons, fragments and my all time favorite, dangling modifiers.

My free time is spent coming down from the day and relaxing with a cup of tea and some light harmonies. Going to bed at 9 pm seems practical, my DVR is overloaded and my Netflix canceled. I know! This is how I came to fall off the grid.

These are my challenges and this is where I came to fall off the grid.

So now what?

I’m using this blog post as my springboard back on to the grid. I want to tweet again! I want to get excited about 2.0 or maybe 3.0 learning. I want to revive the one comment a day project and make t-shirts! I want to write my book on web 2.0 curriculum and I want to collaborate with my Personal learning network! I want to transform my school into an environment where technology and education skip hand in hand down the hall. I want my students to read on level and I want to rediscover the power of my personal learning community!

This is me coming back to the party, head slightly down, but ready for acceptance back into the great collaborative environment of learners, educators and thinkers that became more than a tiny square icon, but inspiring voices in the world of education and beyond. I want to be there again, I want to collaborate and I want to plug back in to my Personal Learning Network.