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Sunday, October 12, 2008


I have never been one to miss deadlines, but it often takes a deadline to get me going. When I had three children and worked as well as going to school, I would begin working on projects as soon as I got the specifications for them. Who could know when one or all of us would be sick or have a surprise school function? So it should be no surprise to me that the best of plans include back-up provisions, such as working on a grant proposal before it is due. That way, when, say Best Buy, has a glitch on their web site, you can find out about it before proposals are due. Another proposal due today was so important that I copied it into Pages to make sure the spelling was correct. Unfortunately, I copied a paragraph twice. Hope they don't hold it against me. This has spurred me to see what is out there and keep trying. I am working with low income students now and they rely on me to provide what the school cannot. If you hear of any grants for video or Lego-Mindstorms, please let me know. I am certain my students will develop good problem-solving skills if they have these advantages.

Friday, September 26, 2008


September is winding down and some of the trees are turning red. There are so many things I want to teach my students, but I am restricted for the first time by curriculum. I have loved being in special ed because the curriculum always stemmed from the IEPs. Looking at what children should know by the ages of three, four, five and six, I was free to notice what was going on around me and point it out to the children. Language, math, science and social skills were reflective of the season, although taught at a level appropriate to each child. Now I find myself teaching a curriculum without textbooks and the first thing I do is look for worksheets. I have always said I don't like textbooks or worksheets, but students who are "busy" really settle down when they have something to do with their hands. Thank goodness I have access to technology and technology skills. To the best of our ability, we have done a Webquest on ancient civilizations, made graphs in Numbers, written letters in Pages, inserted pictures into Keynote and attempted animations of a life cycle and food chain in Scratch. Today we visited Tumblebooks and read How I Became a Pirate. Next week, I hope to show a video on Mesopotamia from United Streaming and edit a video of the kids showing What We Do in School. We have started Reader's Theater and I hope to show the kids how to videotape themselves and edit the tape so they can take a DVD home and show their family. We also videotaped each other reading at the beginning of the year.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Start of the School Year

I have changed from Early Childhood to Intermediate Elementary students and the learning curve is steep. To all those who think teaching is easy and anyone can do it, I challenge you to teach the first month of the year. Assessments begin immediately so you know what to teach. Schedules must be created and established. Students must begin to trust that you are trying to help them. Curriculum changes require new training. Grades must be entered, data collected and inspiration to learn instilled throughout. No wonder I'm exhausted. My thoughts go out to the people dealing with a hurricane on top of everything else. My work in New Orleans taught me to be grateful for all that I have, even in difficult times. I have discovered another age group that I love - 8, 9 and 10-year olds. They get so excited about technology, it seems a shame to use anything else. Yet their keyboard skills are a serious impediment to their pace.

I have committed to a presentation at the ICE Conference on Assistive Technology, a class at National-Louis University this fall, and a birthday party for my mom. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

I said to my daughter, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." She hadn't heard that before. So I told her next, "Hot enough for ya?" These are phrases everyone should know before their tenth birthday. Our air-conditioned existence is pushing us further and further away from Mother Nature. I am as guilty as anyone, sitting in my a/c house working on the computer instead of swimming at the pool. Tsk, tsk. Just a generation ago, my family of five would load up into our Buick, roll down and windows and proceed to sweat through Illinois and Iowa to get to Grandma Wallin's house in Omaha. As a parent, I could always tell when the temperature hit ninety degrees by the nature of the arguments. (How do you get the degree sign in HTML?) As we become a more urban population worldwide, will we forget why we need nature?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Teaching Gifted Children

What an amazing summer I am having. For the first time in my life, I am teaching gifted students. I have felt for a decade that this is an area of mission for me, but I had no idea it would bring me such joy. I have taught two weeks of computer animation and will teach four weeks of Lego/Logo. My students have shown such a capacity for learning that they have exceeded all of my expectations. I know that NCLB has done some good things, like highlighting the difference between achievement in different racial and socio-economic groups, but gifted children have been almost ignored by the federal government. Joan Franklin Smutny has dedicated her life to the gifted, and her incredible staff works intensely to meet the needs of the students. The Center for Gifted link is in my easy reading list.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The End of School

I am always a bit flummoxed at the end of the school year. The pace for the last month of school builds to a crescendo of paperwork, packing, and seeing old friends one last time. This year is especially poignant because I really won't see the staff at Hawthorn again, except maybe when I'm shopping. It's hard to say good-bye to people who are amazing in their capacity to care. It's also hard to face an uncertain future with a new age group far from most of what I have done in my career. Summer school poses a new challenge as well, as I will leave delayed preschoolers and move to gifted kids, grades 2-6. I hope to inspire and challenge all of them in classes about animation and Lego-Logo. Stay tuned for further adventures.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


It is interesting to me that I always feel like I don't have time to write, when what I really need is the correct frame of mind. What happens in my brain to clear the debris of blockage? I wish I knew. I think it has more to do with the amount of sleep I get at night than anything else. When I run short on sleep all week, all I can think of are the myriad tasks that remain undone. Even if I make a list, the list keeps changing in my mind, with the items popping up unorganized. Setting priorities has become my task for the remainder of the school year, lest I finish my short story and case study for the university, but forget to copy legal paperwork for school and send it to the appropriate personnel. Getting enough sleep, on the other hand, changes my perception of the world from a stressful, hostile environment to a calm, pleasant one.

Knowing that my work will get done frees my mind up to let ideas flow from me onto the paper without the need to be perfect the first time. I will have time to improve on them as long as I get something down to improve upon. My new set of writing tools: attention to detail, variation in sentences, quotations about writing from gifted writers, the use of active verbs, and attention to rhythm make it easier to write something worthwhile. Thanks to Tom Brennan, gifted teacher, for his powerful instruction.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Exploding Brain

I love being a student, if only it paid better. I am presently taking an intro class about English Language Learners and also a Short Story class. As my middle child, Colin, once said, "If my brain doesn't explode, I'm going to be really smart." Part of my assignment in ELL is to find a good web page. Since I have just recently entered the blogosphere, I thought I would check out some blogs. I am very impressed with Mary Ann Zehr, Learning the Language . Even better is Larry Ferlazzo's blog, so I put an RSS feed in the column to the right. That's all for tonight. I have to go check out the new poetry at the Illinois State Poets Society.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Crossing the Skunk River

I've spent the day crisscrossing the Skunk River in Iowa on my quest to discover my great-grandfather's (Rev. Joseph Sanderson) origins. Wednesday in Galesburg was a bit frustrating. I could find my mother's grandfather in the census records, but no birth or marriage announcements in the papers. It was hard to pass up the stories in the papers, since my mother's aunt (Emma Louisa) was born a year before the Civil War began. Her uncle (Edward) was born two years later, when Missouri was struggling with secession. Three hours of scanning microfiche gave me some census data that showed my great-grandfather in Knox County (probably Galesburg), Illinois in 1860 and 1870, then moving to Iowa. In 1850, he was unmarried and living in Sangamon County, Illinois.

On Thursday, I spent the morning in the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. A wonderful researcher named Jill spent almost three hours with me. We were unable to locate immigration on my great-grandfather, but I learned that my mother's father (John Albert Edward Axelson) was born in Falkoping, Sweden and his birth name was actually Johan. I had gotten information that he immigrated at age 16, but Swedish parish records put him at 17. Jill said they sometimes lied about their age to get a cheaper rate on the steamships. He departed from Goteborg, but passed through Liverpool, England and Queenstown, Ireland. I also printed off minutes from the Fremont Evangelical Mission Covenant Church meetings from 1905-1910, when he was minister there, but they are in Swedish and handwritten.

Tomorrow I head to Stratford, Iowa to visit my great-grandparents' graves. I am meeting my mother's aunt's grandson, Weldon Swedelund and his wife Audrienne. They have corresponded with me about our mutual relatives, but I haven't been able to meet them yet. Let's hope the rain and snow have ended for the week!

Monday, March 3, 2008

IL-TCE 2008 Day Two

Il-TCE 2008 Day Two

Some of this writing is sketchy, since I haven't had time to edit it yet.

Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society, Mitchel Resnick

Growing recognition that success in the future will be based on ability to think and act creatively. He recommended The Rise of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida. At the same time, the education system hasn’t kept up. Our present model is of a teacher pouring information into the student. Using the kindergarten classroom as a model of an effective cycle, he related the activities as: Imagine – create – play – share – reflect – imagine. He referred to Jean Piaget, who emphasized that knowledge is constructed. Students are actively creating knowledge structures. Seymour Papert used his ideas to create Logo, a programming language for children. At first, children moved a robot using this language, but early microcomputers allowed children to draw pictures using a turtle icon. With Lego-Logo, children could build a concrete object and also create on the screen 30 years ago. Ten years ago, Mindstorms put the computer in the Lego structure. To get these ideas out more broadly to have a bigger impact, he recommended creating a product that has a low floor and a high ceiling. In other words, it should be easy to learn, but not limited in abilities. His peers added that it should have wide walls, or should be able to be used in a variety of experiences. Make sure technology is open to all kids. The MIT people created a small computer called a cricket, which allowed one student to create a cat that meows when you pet it. Most electronic toys do not allow students to determine what the toy does because they are pre-programmed. They interact, but do not create. New kits have Legos but also arts and crafts materials, different kinds of sensors, motor, sounds, displays, etc. Child sees electronic parts as part of their creative materials. Vocabulary becomes natural. Another toy was programmed to move more quickly when the user spoke loudly. A young girl made boots that changed colors the faster she walked. Another made a juke box that played different music depending on the coin that was used. A young girl made a home security system. An Icelandic boy made an alarm clock that ruffled his hair and played music when the sun hit it, then had to adjust because of the low angle of the sun in Iceland. PicoCricket is the playful invention company. To maniplate rich media forms, a new language was needed. Students who want to create interactive games and activities can use Scratch. They can create and share on the Web. Graphic objects shaped like Legos can be fit together to program a graphic to move or make sounds. It also allows image manipulation like PhotoShop, in addition to tying manipulation to the movement of the mouse. Incidental learning is coordinate systems. He showed a student’s project, which included boom box, a photo of the student dancing, a singer, inverting the dancer and adding a drum as separate buttons that allowed the user to interact. Another created an aquarium where the big fish ate the little fish. Using variables, the student was able to add a counter into a structured program (using easy graphics) to see how many fish had been eaten. A Scratch website posts projects much like YouTube or Flickr. One of the galleries is of Tetris games created with Scratch, with a rudimentary game improved by each user. Future projects include interactivity with phones or Multi-User Environments like Second Life. The hope is that all students will be full participants in the digital society. The research group can be found online.

Scratch, Mitchel Resnick

Designed for 8-15 year olds. This session was mostly a question & answer session. On the About Scratch page there is a link to educators. When user types in text, it is not automatically translated to other languages, but features are available in many other languages. Scratch also provides prototype of a scratchboard that has sensors for motion, sound, light, etc. Using this tool, sound can change with the amount of light or height or with the resistance of a circuit.

Making the Schoolhouse Rock, Tricia Fugelstad

Tricia enjoys creating videos to teach concepts, utilizes all of the different types of intelligence. She related it to 21st Century learning skills, which she defined by using the ISTE NETS standards. The example of the Alphabet Song was familiar to us. She then used a video from School House Rocks to teach the multiplication of eight. Using Keynote, she used Instant Alpha to erase the background of a photo and create a layer. Snaps Pro makes screen movies. She showed a movie she used to teach idioms. Students can draw, scan, record, add a Garageband loop for movie, drop them into a slide in Keynote. Students could each make a slide to be combined into a movie. Her movie called the Pencil Exchange showed how to manage pencil sharpening in the classroom. She mentioned VJ loop. Keynote can be exported as a movie. It becomes a QuickTime, which can be edited in iMovie. To make the illusion of three-dimensional space on two-dimensional surface. To record a track in Garageband, you can just use built-in microphone to record a track. There are also built-in jingles. This would be good for front, back, etc. positional words. She created a TV background using clip art and inserted movie into the TV. When the movie is finished, compress it into MP4 format to put it on a web site. Zamzar is an online compressor that is free. TeacherTube is like YouTube that is accessible online. She also recommended Joe Brennan’s site on Digital Storytelling for contests. Apple also has school nights at local stores. She showed a movie on TeacherTube that used Godzilla to teach relative size. You can run your video from TeacherTube on your blog or web site. Her students’ movie about sloppy brushes won several international awards. Apple stores also have a premiere night for students videos. The video “All I Want is Technology” is on TeacherTube.

Emerging Technologies That Make Your Online Life Easier, Jenny Levine

Jenny recommends RSS (Common and YouTube are resources for this)and showed a site that aggregated online news articles on a single topic. She uses Instant Messaging at her library as a question/answer tool for students. In Flickr, community people created posters encouraging reading and the community could access them. Also, the Library of Congress has posted 1200 photos in Flickr and relying on the community to add tags (key words). Facebook is another social networking site and Jenny suggests that we put library catalogs into Facebook as an application. UIUC is putting up subject guides in Facebook. Microblogging is a new trend initiated by Twitter. Users are allowed only 140 characters, so the next generation has learned to telescope its writing. Can now download onto phone. Her library is posting library events on Twitter, where it can be distributed easily. Jott is a site that can take phone messages and send them back to you later so you don’t forget them. A best practices library for wikis is An intranet that is easy to do is a wiki. On escondido, the library routed around city regulations to create an intranet. Another wiki is Foley Center Library, where they post their handbook, so it is easily updated. YouTube has made video easy. It is also a good place to store videos for training and orientation. Unfortunately, many school districts block these sites. An audience member recommended Creative Commons. A site with photos from Normandy was mentioned (
These new tools are changing the purpose of the Web to that of an operating system. In other words, web sites are becoming the desktop. Meebo allows instant messaging through a web page. Google application suite includes Google docs (online storage of documents), which allows collaboration and can be exported as a PDF document. At GE, you can draw a picture. At Gliffy you can create a drawing as well. Google spreadsheet does formulas, not a fancy as Excel. At Picnik you can edit photos and link to Flickr. Jumcut allows you to edit video. Blogs allow links, pictures, Flickr, Slideshows, audio, video, PowerPoint, slideshare, surveys, instant messaging. There is a screencast at Casa Grande Library. Mashups are content from one site combined with another as in Google Maps. Web Mashups Directory showed a map of Wii owners in Chicago area. Thirty boxes desktop will allow you to embed different web sites together. She showed an ancestor map on Flickr. Then he traced how his ancestors moved around. Google news is syndication of all news about a particular web site. Pictures from Flickr about the same topic and video from YouTube , text from Twitter and Mashups maps can all be posted on the same page with RSS feeds. Nateritter suggested a web site that covers emergencies and one of his readers had already done so. Library 411 allows you to find local library on Google Map. Community Walk shows where a library was receiving books. Widgets are ….hmm. I seem to have been on overload at this point. The LaGrange Park Public Library put, Flickr, blog, calendar,, and local newspaper all into suprglu. Changes are posted in any of these sources automatically.

Friday, February 29, 2008

IL-TCE 2008 Thursday

IL-TCE 2008

This is my first blog since 2000, so bear with me. Hopefully the learning curves is less steep these days. I hope to return to activate the links for you.

Conference Coverage was moved to Ning this year. You can find hand-outs as well as a wealth of resources at Ning.

The keynote speaker, (Dan Buettner, Quest Network, Inc.) demonstrated what he has learned by studying “Blue Zones,” which are areas in the world where longevity of the residents is the highest in the world. He discussed their social and dietary habits, which he felt contributed to their living past the age of 100. Most amazing was a 95-year old who was still performing open heart surgery after landscaping his yard. Contributing factors include a plant-based diet, exercise by moving naturally, put loved-ones first, belonging to a religious community, having a sense of purpose and a way to de-stress every day, caloric restriction, a glass or two of wine every day, and creating a personal longevity culture. Why this keynote? He mentioned selling Classroom Connect (which was a great resource!) to Harcourt Brace. Then he formed a group that led to MayaQuest (another great resource!) as well as 16 others. Creating interactive environments like Quest that was led by students and led to exciting worldwide projects, Buettner hopes that emotionally involved students will discover the secrets to healthy living. The resulting curriculum, available free to teachers, is linked to standards. University of Minnesota created a successful program of nutrition to go with the Live Quest, with a weekly data entry. Improvement was noted within four weeks showing decrease in soda consumption and TV viewing and increase in fruits and vegetable and exercise. His book The Blue Zone will be available soon.

Second Life: Craig Cunningham, Meg Ormiston, and Lisa Perez
Second Life is a multi-user environment (MUVE) used for education, as well as other purposes. Its three-dimensional format allows you to create objects. Although it is designed for adults, there is a section for teens that has restrictions to protect them. A school district can create an “island” for their school. Its importance for education is communication and collaboration, representation and stimulation, creativity and artistic expression, scaffolding and professional development. ELVEN is a community for educators and librarians. If you would like to learn more about three-dimensional online communities, you can take one of their workshops. Meg Ormiston described her work in Second Life, including a virtual monthly meeting of librarians. She is also active with Chicago Public Schools and a Second Life project there. Lisa Perez described. There will be a playground at 11:15 and 2:45. Free workshops available from Discovery Education Network, Wed. nights 7-7:30. Lori Abramson will also be doing demos.Real Life is also known as First Life. It seems to be hard to get off of Orientation Island. Once there, do orientation and teleport into mainland. Meet someone who knows you online, they can teleport you in. Search for ISTE, then teleport. Twitter, bloglines also report low rates of participation after registration.

FREE Resources for Educators, Beth Pollock

All information on her Wiki.
1. allows you to collaborate on a document from anywhere.
2. Animoto is a screen capture program that allows you to upload pictures and music to create a video. Free for up to 30-second videos. She made a video of jing. Saves it as a Flash animation.
3. Voicethread is a web site that allows students to record an audio comment related to a picture. Teacher can also go in and comment. Can make it public without browse so grandparents can see it. Must create account. Teacher can create 30 identities.
4. is a web site that also requires a download of client software as well. Also a good collaboration tool.
5. is a filtered email program.
6. Streamcast-o-matic will record video and save as a QuickTime movie.
7. Flickr is an online photo site.
8. Weebly helps students create web sites.

Math Matters, Erin Llewellyn

Three easy ways to add technology to math curriculum: web sites, digital cameras, and software:
1. Web sites: Funbrain, Math Playground, Aunty Math.
2. Digital Cameras: Shapes, Counting/numbers, Time/Elapsed Time, Word Problems, Flash Cards, Picture Graphs (teachers' cars), Fact Families (kids hold numbers and move around in equation), Number Sentences using manipulatives, Ordinal Numbers with a picture of a line of kids, Fractions, Symmetry, the power of one picture: use one picture for many different concepts
3. Software: patterning, number sentences, shapes, fractions
4. Open Source software: Tux Paint is like KidPix without as many features. Type open source tool into search engine.

Best Buy Grants: July 1st, go to web page, small button at bottom, community relations, answer 4 questions ($2000), make learning fun. (She recommends Ed Gorney & GPS systems, Friday morning at conference).

Tagging, Dr. Hank Thiele

Tagging is putting a label on a bookmark or file to describe it so other users may access it. It is used on, Flickr, Technorati, Quintura (which has a child-centered section, named Quintura Kids), Furl, and blogs. Tag clouds group tags that can be used to encourage students to analyze. Presidential Speeches Tag Clouds was examined to show the difference between the two inaugural addresses of George Bush. Students could be asked to analyze why they are different. Tag Cloud analyzed the content of the IL-TCE web site. Another web site, Many Eyes, combined text and data to show visually larger print for large countries. In addition to a visual representation of a word, it allows you to make a hierarchical chart from a search. You can post student work for analysis if you are careful not to put any identifiers in or with it. Jonathan Harris created a site called Universe that is looking for words that are the same, even if they are not formatted. Set up artistically as a universe, one constellation for Bush was President.