My first college history professor was a very weird man. He was easily 6 ft tall, 280 pounds, lacked social skills in the classroom and he sweat profusely while lecturing. And it was a lecture class that started out the same way, every day, no matter what. By the second semester, students would be able to say his first 5 minutes word for word right along with him. Except, that is, on ‘mooooovie’ days. On the rare day where he had a film to share, he would announce in his rhythmic way, “Today, we are going to see … a mooooovie,” with everyone in class holding out the ‘ooo’ for what seemed an eternity. Then, following some light-hearted laughter, we’d go see a movie.

We all have some memory of the role of video/film media during our school career. It once was the place of the substitute teacher or the coach in health class. The media club was often tasked with bringing the filmstrip projector, setting it up, and hanging out until they hit the magic lever on the side when the film slipped out of it’s track.  As a teacher, I had some big changes to make in my thinking about video use in the classroom.

I will ask teachers during in-service training, “What is the most important button on the DVD remote?” I rarely hear my answer, the pause button.  I worked to make video in my class the media manipulative and not the babysitter. Pausing the video helps jar my students out of the deep hypnotic slumber that TV promotes, but it also gives us time to take notes or discuss important points that were presented.  I think educators are grasping that type of video use much more today than we had in our educational history.

But the change in video media use is not just how teachers use it, but how students use it and how the perceive it’s importance in their lives. We, as educators, must take the continued steps forward to provide a place for student-centered technology in the same way that they are devouring it up outside of class. Online videos are not just a film projector in your computer display. They are platforms for student thought, primary source research information, scientific sharing of concepts, and much more.

Most blog providers also allow for video embedding. Why? Because it is a powerful way to share the media that is important to us along with the words and ideas that were provoked inside of us because of the media. In the classroom, you show a powerful video that illicits powerful discussion that could evaporate at the sound of the bell. Online, the video and discussion remain, can be pulled into class discussion, and can persist for the continuation of learning.

Consult your blog provider’s help pages on how to embed your own videos. Be prepared to hit school firewalls if you pull from YouTube or other video-sharing sources. Find TeacherTube or SchoolTube as possible alternatives. I just ask that we all consider the media technology that our students already have access to and include it within the walls of their confinement.

Thanks to Wesley Fryer for sharing this video on his blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, and for provoking these thoughts inside my own head.

If YouTube is blocked, TeacherTube has this video also.


We are looking at the iTouch as an educationally valid tool. Could the teacher check student blog posts while walking around the school? Short post today.

I seriously would like the input of my education colleagues. I considered setting up a Google form or wiki to collect these ideas, but today’s blog will allow the comments of the reader to be collected and use as a threaded discussion.

Now, my Linda Richman-esq topic, “Powerpoint- A visual distractant to the audial delivery of content or a organized standalone textual-delivery vehicle. Discuss.”

A great co-worker of mine was using a number of great resources to support his workshop about how to make Powerpoint presentations better by effectively telling the story through graphic images and taking out many of the bulleted lists and long paragraphs associated with many of the presentations we see. Many of the entertaining (while still very much making their points) technology speakers use many full-screen graphics that make us laugh. The point behind the full-screen graphic is made by the speaker, not the slide.

Underscoring John Medina’s Brain Rules, people are more often turning to the visual to help impact the oral delivery– and that does make sense to me.  We watch, we imprint the visual and hopefully retain the oral. Multimodal learning has proven to help provide significant gains over traditional learning.

With all of that on the table, why do I have a problem with it? I have two problems. 1) Teaching students to create these visually heavy presentations can lead to weaker presentation products. 2) Sharing these pretty presentations can often leave the recipient holding fluff and no meat.  (Please remember the word ‘can’ in both sentences.)

Students learning Powerpoint often cram too much information into their slides. But, that information is evidence of their research or explanation of their topic.  To teach students to strip away text for the proven graphic delivery technique may make their presentation more ‘effective’, but as a student knowledge delivery product, it will be weakened.  This would be a non-issue for me if students were required to leave in the text, but place it in the ‘presenter notes’ section or if the presentation was accompanied by text reference document.

My other problem is that we (adults) are making our presentations more ‘entertaining/graphic-heavy/text-lite’ and then state to our audience, “You can download my presentation afterwards”.  So, I end up downloading some nice graphics, but where’s the beef? How is my ADD (truly) brain supposed to relay the wonderful presentation with other teachers who didn’t hear the author’s oral presentation?  It would be wonderful if it were more of the standard that we adults actually start using the ‘presenter notes’ section so that I can be wow’ed visually and auditorally, and read the notes later to be more richly educated.

What my co-worker and I ended up with was the redefinition of ‘Powerpoint presentation’. There’s the graphical-backup-for-oral preso and the this-is-the-information-I-want-you-to-have preso.  Both have their place and thus users may have to plan their presentation accordingly. Or, one could always create two different presentation files, one to show live and one to post online.  I just think that it becomes more important with online posting that if we post a preso online, we must include the notes, concepts, or textual understanding also so that it’s not just a pretty set of graphics.

Okay Ms. Richman, “Discuss”.

I’ve tried to present blogging as that teacher’s tool for getting the kids writing or discussing meaningful events. So, I’d better throw in more of the tools that enhance the blogging experience if I’m to keep this blog meaningful as well.

One of the tools that I’ve introduced to my teachers is Voicethread. This mostly-free resource is an excellent way to get students connecting visual learning to written or spoken feedback. Voicethreads are picture sets to which users can add their voice/text to, creating a community dialog. Take for instance the following Voicethread made by a Kindergarten class. This is VT that has young students creating a script for an ABC book and recording it. What a nice product to follow-up the usual ABC book created in early childhood classes

I really like this Fourth Grade VT that has students giving book study reports. Notice that there are different opinions being expressed about the same book sometimes.

One great thing about Voicethreads is that other people can leave comments. I’ve seen students posting short reports as a Voicethread with other students asking questions or elaborating on the topic. With the visual nature of these media shows, students often generate lots of ideas through their sharing. Reluctant writers can then take the collection of ideas and more easily create a written response.

One of my favorite collections of Voicethreads comes from the Mathcasts 500 Project. The site is a collection of math concepts being explained by students K-7 organized by math skill. Another math VT is one of my favorites, not just because the teacher is an acclaimed Discovery Education Network member, or because they used my math problem, but because they did a great job of using Voicethread to capture their problem-solving skills. Check out Martha Thornburg’s Mathlincs.

Again, your blog may just be the place where you embed your Voicethread, but what a great audio/visual writing prompting tool! I’m really not one who likes recreating the wheel so, visit Mr. Jarrett’s Voicethread training wiki. It will get your account setup and you off and running. Thanks Mr. Jarrett!

Now, wouldn’t this post have been just super cool if it embedded the Voicethreads?  Well, yeah!  Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow it. is now allowing Flash code within the post, which means Edublogs allows Voicethreads.

I’ll leave you with an enormous collection of Voicethreads. This wiki is even bigger than what appears on the page. Everything from Flat Stanley to Fifth Grade Number Sense is collected here. Browse through and find your own inspiration.

Good afternoon! I’m taking this post to welcome visitors from the Texas Computer Educators Association Conference in Austin. I am lucky to have fellow teacher Kathleen Wotring presenting with me today in a session called, “Driving it Home With Your Classroom Blog”. I was running on the “Discover Your Destination” conference theme and probably got carried away with the driving and car metaphors. Kathleen was forgiving. J

To save trees and rely more on digital sourcing, the handout used today can be found here: TCEA Handout. The guide to building your own blog can be found in the reference pages under ‘Creating Your Own Blog’ in the right hand menu of this blog.

We actually have several goals for our presentation today. First, we want to present reasons for supporting blogging in the classroom environment. Secondly, we want to continue the discussion about the different ways a classroom blog can have a positive impact on the classroom. Thirdly, we will spend the last 25 minutes of the session walking through the blog setup procedure. This will be a mountain peek experience since blog setup can take much longer than 25 minutes. We want to provide the basic experience so the extremely cautious new blogger will feel more comfortable getting started when they get home.

The last goal is that we accomplish all of this in an easy, relaxed environment. Sit back and enjoy your stay and ask questions if you have them.

I’m looking forward to a week at the Texas Computer Educators Association in Austin. I was given the opportunity to give a presentation about blogging at the conference and asked a classroom teacher to present with me. There are over 20 workshops or sessions that deal with blogging in some way, which tells me there is still great interest in it.

I’ve been thinking about the things I hope to walk away with from the conference this year and what my experiences have been in the past. It does often seem that there are so many, “Here’s a hammer. Now go build something,” workshops. Yes it is important to learn how to use the new tools, but teachers often fall back on “But we have testing,” “I don’t have time for that,”  or “How will that really impact my students?”

Why should a test-centered principal really care about Web 2.0 or blogging specifically? A blog won’t teach Bobby how to multiply. A blog won’t teach anything.

To borrow from a bumper sticker, Blogs don’t teach kids. Teachers do. Differentiating today’s curriculum and providing a technology foundation is getting more difficult for the teacher every year. Teachers use many different tools to meet the needs of all their children, and blogs very possibly could help.

In our presentation this week, I will refer to the ISTE NETS for students because I think that they really answer many of the ‘why’ questions for using blogs in the classroom with students.  I admit I’m not Plato, I don’t quote the high and mighty, and don’t always think of Standards before lessons, but the NETS-S are great guidelines for planning and incorporating technology into your curriculum.  And, maybe you will also find a home for blogs as well.

If you are at TCEA 08, drop by 16B Thursday at 1pm and say “Hi!”

Blogs are intended to be chronologically organized posts that allow for feedback.  There have been several universities that have maintained a website that assumes the identity of a particular historical figure. For instance, students could write Thomas Jefferson, ask him a question, and get a response.  A classroom blog could do the same thing in a couple of different ways.

One project a class could undertake would be to have the whole class assume the identity of one historical person. The class would write introductions and post some support background. Each week or two, they could post a new story about their person.  Readers could reply to the blog with questions about the historical person and the class could continue that dialogue.

Another way of impersonating people would be to have a shorter-term blog where the teacher gets to be James Lipton (Actor’s Studio guy) and pose broad questions to be answered by students.  Students can be in small groups and assume the identity of a person.  Mr Lipton could ask, “What was the defining moment in your life?” One group could respond as Abe Lincoln while another responds as Harriet Tubman. After answering the initial question, the historical person could also respond to something someone else said in that series of replies.  I wonder how well Dolly Madison and Susan B Anthony would get along in the same blog. J

For the younger students, a class blog could be just weekly posts without the need for responses.  The class could invent a character to write about together. The blog would be his own ‘Day in the Life’ blog as seen through the eyes of the students. The students would collaboratively write about the character’s day, about his likes and dislikes, and even create a family for him. By the end of the year/project timeline/, the class would have a substantial story created that would undoubtedly reflect the attitude and opinions of the class without giving any personal identifications of the students.  After the character has been ‘alive’ for a while, have your own Flat Stanley project by inviting family and friends from across the country to write a response on a blog entry.   Creating that opportunity for communication with others would benefit the students in ways that seeing Flat Stanley come through the door would do.

Impersonating fictional characters, famous historical figures, and creating a story character are great purposes for a classroom blog. Maybe some of these ideas will help you find a new purposed for a writer’s blog.