Posts in Category "Cross Curricular Integration"

May 9, 2010

AIR- Tight! The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Continue reading…

4:47 PM Permalink
February 28, 2010

Digital Learning Environments Events Series Update-Las Vegas

The second DLE was held February 25 at beautiful Lake Las Vegas, 7 miles off the famous Las Vegas strip. The keynote speaker for the event was Leslie Wilson, President and founding member of the non profit One-to-One Institute.
The mission of the One-to-One Institute is to “increase student achievement through the development of learner-centered 1:1 programs that to serve as an international information clearinghouse for those interested or engaged in technology rich education programs. engage personal, portable technology. Our goals are to facilitate the personalization of learned and
Leslie began her message by stressing that 1:1 programs are NOT just laptops for kids but are about teaching and learning-transforming the learning environment from teacher centered to student centered. She shared pictures from classrooms that covered the decades of the 50s until the present that showed how teaching and learning have changed little over that time. Much of the instructional time in classrooms in spent like the decades of the past in what she terms, “Instructional approach 1” where the teacher is the master and students are organized, usually in rows, to perform tasks assigned and directed by the teacher.
In “Instructional Approach 2” a more personalized and student-centered educational experience is offered to students. Teachers facilitate and provide “just in time” instruction that support the standards and objectives of the lessons. Technology tools are used when appropriate and are also used for feedback and assessment. Class environments are flexible and can appear chaotic to outsiders as students collaborate and are engaged in a variety of tasks.
The ultimate goal to provide students the ideal environment for developing 21st century skills is “Instructional Approach 3”-an approach that finds student in complete control of their learning. In this environment individualized long term projects are the norm. Students find themselves immersed in virtual realities such as Second Life and other augmented realities. Teachers act as advisors and provide personalized direction. This is a true mobile environment that projects outside the 4 walls of the classroom via the power of technological connections and environments.
Instructional Approach 2 and 3 are major paradigm shifts that empower students to take responsibility for their own learning. They are encouraged to take risks. Practioners of this method note that students are motivated learners when they have choices in HOW they learn.
Leslie concluded her address by outlining the keys to successful 1:1 teaching and learning programs including a reference to “Project Red” a national research and advocacy plan that promotes the need to “revolutionize the way the U.S. looks at technology as part of teaching and learning. We believe that technology can help us re-engineer our educational system. Through the efforts of Project Red and our partners we believe that technology will transform learning, just as it has transformed homes and offices in almost every other segment of our society.”
Following Leslie’s keynote the participants broke into groups and cycled through classrooms. One group was treated to presentations in several disciplines that highlighted how technology can be integrated into the curriculum in powerful ways that propel students toward learning 21st century skills with Instructional 2 and 3 techniques and another group of IT decision makers looked at solutions and ideas for cloud computing, wired and wireless networking, as well as network security.
I’m looking forward to my next Digital Learning Environment adventure in San Diego on March 11, 2010. If you are in that area, or if you live near Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, Indianapolis, Denver, Minneapolis, or Raleigh, please think about joining us at the DLE event in your city. These are amazing, FREE event. Find out more and to register for the events, visit:

8:12 PM Permalink
January 2, 2010

Teachers in Europe believe that creativity is fundamentally important at school and that ICT can help enhance it

The European Commission has presented the results of the first-ever survey on creativity and innovation in schools. The results show that 94% of European teachers believe creativity is a fundamental competence to be developed at school, and 88% are convinced that everyone can be creative. In order to achieve that, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are considered very important among teachers (80%): computers, educational software, videos, online collaborative tools, virtual learning environments, interactive whiteboards, and free online material and courses. These results were presented at the Closing Conference of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation in Stockholm, 16 – 17 December.
An overwhelming majority of teachers believe that creativity can be applied to every domain of knowledge and to every school subject (95.5%). They do not see creativity as being only relevant for intrinsically creative subjects such as the arts, music or drama. According to this research, this is of paramount importance for the development of creative thinking as a transversal skill. Creative learning entails a component of curiosity, analysis, and imagination, accompanied by critical and strategic thinking. However, even when the majority of teachers believe everyone can be creative (88%), and that creativity is not solely a characteristic of ’eminent’ people (80%), the conditions for favouring creativity are not always available in schools in Europe.
On average, half of European teachers believe that creativity plays an important role in their curriculum, and about a quarter consider that it does not. The perception of the role and relevance of creativity in the curriculum varies considerably between countries: 3 in 4 teachers in Italy, Latvia, and the United Kingdom are particularly convinced of the central role that creativity has in their national curricula. In contrast, less than 50% of teachers from Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Slovakia, Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, France and Estonia consider that creativity plays an important role in their national education system.
Training in innovative pedagogies or methods seems to be widespread in Europe. Six out of ten teachers declare that they have received training in innovative pedagogies, compared to a lower number of 4 out of 10 teachers who claim to have received training in creativity. Those who state that they received training in ICT in the classroom are only 36%. At a national level, the highest percentages are found in Romania (67%) and Latvia (66%), while he lowest were found in Germany (20%) and Belgium (21%).
The first aim of the survey has been to understand how teachers in Europe frame and conceptualise creativity. The second has been to collect information on the support they receive and need to foster students’ creativity. This is the first time that a survey has collected such a high number of teachers’ opinions from 32 European countries. For the purposes of the closing conference on the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, only responses from the 27 Member States of the European Union have been analysed, amounting to a total of 9 460 responses. More in-depth analysis will follow in the course of 2010 but the preliminary results presented already provide an excellent starting point to feed into future educational policy that develops learning and teaching processes in more creative and innovative ways.
The survey was launched by European Schoolnet (EUN), a network of 31 Ministries of Education in Europe and beyond, together with the Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) with the support of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture.
More information

1:23 PM Permalink
September 20, 2009

Open House Night Video- Made With Adobe Visual Communicator

This year we wanted to do something a bit different for our 10 minute “speech” to the parents attending the annual Open House Night at our school. So using Adobe Visual Communicator, we decided to create a “video tour” of the units we teach in Technology Education at Amherst Middle School.


Sure we could have pre-recorded these segments, and had the benefit of starting over if we flubbed our lines, but hey what fun would that be? We decided to perform LIVE so parents could see Visual Communicator in all it’s simplicity.  Simply put, there is NO other comparable software out there that has greenscreen capability, live output, a built in teleprompter, and so many templates and wizards making video production a snap!  All made possible with software costing less than $150 edu retail.

Suffice to say, this will now be an annual event for us as it went over extrememly well and was highly effective showing what we teach in our classrooms.  We had a lot of positive feedback from administration and parents, and the video was featured on SchoolTube for all to view as well.

Production Note– nearly all of what you see was created exclusively with Visual Communicator, except for the classroom footage which we used our handy Flip Video cameras for, worked great!

5:40 PM Permalink
August 21, 2009

Integrate with Stop Motion

Stop motion animation is one of the best ways to build digital communication skills and team work into any curriculum. You don’t need fancy equipment or temperamental actors, just some craft materials and the digital cameras from your friendly librarian.
The really great thing about stop motion animation is that it can be used effectively with any subject and at most age levels. I have worked with students that successfully animated subjects from science (life cycle of a butterfly), social studies (scenes from Lewis and Clark), math (slope), and of course language arts with any dramatic or comedic narrative. Check out some examples at:
Pre-Production (planning)
Stop motion is a great way to integrate writing and decision making into your curriculum. Planning is a critical step in the process of creating any story. I start my students out with a simple treatment that helps them focus their story by making some simple decisions about the target audience, objectives and other basic parameters of the project. ( Then we plan each scene out with a storyboard, but first we talk about shot variety and do a quick exercise with our digital cameras. ( Storyboarding is an communication skill that is useful in most disciplines so the time spent creating and reviewing storyboards is very valuable. ( ) I keep a handful of three ring binders in my room so each group can keep all this planning materials together and the group will always have it even if a member is absent.
Team work
One of my favorite things about stop motion animation is that it brings students together in such a natural way that you will see amazing results. Throughout the process there are multiple jobs that take different skills and abilities. During the planning process you will have those that prefer to write the script while others prefer to draw the storyboards. Next, some of the students will naturally gravitate to building the sets and creating the characters while others prefer to set up the cameras, lights and computer. During the actual animation process we usually have one student run the computer, one on the camera, one handling the lighting, and two animating the characters. Then once we have shot all the scenes and move into the post production process we usually have a couple students work on editing the rough cut while the rest work on sound and graphic design. No other activities I do brings students closer together than stop motion animation.
Digital storytelling
Stop motion animation is a powerful communication tool that students can control better than any other digital medium. They can use a either a digital still camera or digital video to express their stories through unique camera angle and composition. I prefer to hook up a cheap digital video camera to a computer and use Adobe Premiere Elements to capture our images. The reason I like this method is that the software provides us with a couple invaluable tools:
• Onion skinning – this is the ability to see a ghost images of the last couple moves you make when shooting your scene. This makes your shots smoother and easier to shoot.
• Preview and delete – this is the ability to watch a sequence of shots as a video clip to judge the pacing and smoothness of your shots. If you accidentally got your hand in one of the shots you can easily delete just that one frame.
• Save as video clip – this is the ability to save a sequence of shots as a video clip that you can then apply effects and adjust the speed to easily.
• Editing environment – once you finish shooting you have a powerful video editing environment that allows you to work with up to 99 video tracks and 99 audio tracks!
I just have one twelve foot firewire cable for each pod of four computers in my room. This gives the students enough room to setup their camera and set, but is close enough to work with the computer operator easily.
One of the cool things about stop motion animation is that your students have complete control over the small world they will be shooting within and it will cost you very little! We usually use three sides of an old card board box as our set and either legos, clay or pipe cleaners for our characters. For lights we simple purchased the 8 inch clamp light for around $10. This really makes your colors and images pop and allows the students some creativity with shadows.
Post Production
This is where those digital communication skills come into play. I usually break up the group into three parts. One group is the editor(s) that will put the scenes into the right order, adjust the speed of some clips and usually adds titles. Another group is the sound designer(s) that will create the voice overs, sound effects and find copyright free music or create their own if it is called for. The final group is the graphic designers that will create the movie posters, DVD labels/covers or invitations to the movie premiere.
Once you and your students have made your stop motion animation master pieces make sure to share them with your community. Ask your local theater if they will have a special showing, make DVD’s for the families of your students or post them online at web sites like School Tube. Last year a few of my students earned an award of excellence at the Northwest High School Film Festival for their stop motion film “Kichinjo”. Enjoy.
Getting Started
Now it is your turn to get out there and have some fun with stop motion animation. I have posted a bunch of video tutorials that will walk you and your students through the process at:

9:59 PM Permalink
May 29, 2009

The Long Climb of Technology Infusion

There’s always gonna be another mountain…we’re always gonna want make it move.”
Mylie Cyrus’ new tune (that’s right…..I’m quoting Hannah Montana….have I been working in elementary schools too long?) may have been targeted at tweens, but it could become our official Educator’s Anthem. After all, relevant education must keep in tandem with the times and culture. It’s no news that today’s teachers continually face new challenges. In the 21st century, that often means committing to the long upward climb of technology competency—acquiring skills, keeping abreast of new resources, and figuring how to apply them in the classroom to power up student learning.
One of the Everests looming on our horizon is the technology requirement that is being added to the national cocktail of standardized testing. Technology competency testing is on its way down the pike. NAEP is set to release a trial run this fall, targeted to be finalized by 2012. The goal is student demonstration of problem solving in technology rich environments. Wow. That sounds exciting. Rigorous academics combined with rigorous creativity and rigorous thinking skills. That’s substantial education! The directive is clear: infusion, not inclusion. (That’s edutalk for shaken, not stirred.) But, what, exactly, is the difference?
Most of today’s classroom teachers are comfortable with technology inclusion. It’s been around since Bank Street Writer introduced us all to the magic typewriter. Walk in most classrooms today, and you will see students using software programs to supplement or extend learning in some way. That’s inclusion. But try to place these activities on the New Bloom’s Taxonomy and you may find that they fall squarely on the bottom every time. Too often, the fingers may be moving, but the mind remains at rest.
Infusion is another paradigm altogether. It uses technology as a tool for critical and creative problem solving and communication. The word may conjure up images of students physically immersed in the Cone of Learning, Vulcan style (you had to See the new Star Trek movie to pick up on this visual), but it really means bringing technology into partnership with traditional programs. Learning is still curriculum based, but creative technology applications are woven through the curriculum. The students become active shapers of this form of learning. The teacher acts as a frameworker and manager, using multiple literacies to weave together standards and disciplines, identifying and applying appropriate tools to ensure relevant information literacy, integrating information and research skills to solve problems, and designing rubrics collaboratively with students so that all learners can effectively access the learning process. That’s the kind of stuff you find at the pinnacle of Bloom’s pyramid.
It sounds great, and it is. But it leads us to our next question: How the heck do we teach teachers how to do this? We are coming up on thirty years of technology instruction for teachers and technology resources for the classroom. The inclusion piece is firmly in place. The idea of infusion is still a long way away. Technology coaches Melanie Holtsman and Dayle Timmons have a few suggestions.
Melanie and Dayle are leading the climb at Chets Creek Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida. Together, they share the role of campus technology coach. Dayle works with K-2 teachers and Melanie focuses on the intermediate grades. Their mission: to infuse technology into the elementary classroom.
I’ve been following Melanie’s blog for a while, and decided to visit the campus a few weeks ago. Evidence of technology infusion is everywhere—from the Principal’s Book Club project to the second grade weekly news show. “We’re making strides with students,” explained Melanie, “but we are most excited about the changes we are making with teachers, because that’s where the real change happens.” Melanie was interested in the possibilities of technology in the classroom, and began following a blog by a classroom teacher in New Zealand. “She just talked like a teacher: here’s what I did, here’s how I did it, and this is what I learned. It encouraged me to think that I could do these things, too. Things turned around for me when I made the transition from thinking of technology as a “cute” add on to the curriculum to a way to make learning more purposeful,” she explained. “And the big surprise was that these activities weren’t necessarily harder. It takes as much time—maybe even more—to find and print a black line activity on Native Americans as it does to find a You Tube Interview with a Native American chief, describing his life and culture in today’s context. I made the connection with working smarter, not harder.”
At this point, relates Melanie, she decided to become a risk taker. “I began to make what I was doing transparent. I wanted other teachers to see that using technology—rethinking the role of technology in learning—actually made things easier for the teacher.”
“Teachers have so much on their plates,” added Dayle. “They work on a ‘need to know’ basis. So, we invite them to join us in learning projects. We don’t say ‘Here’s something you have to learn.’ We show them what’s in it for them—we spell out how it grabs students and engages them, how it addresses critical and creative thinking skills, and how it meets multiple standards.”
The technology coaches use a range of 2.0 technologies to introduce their teachers and their classrooms to learning through technology. “We introduce an idea, and say ‘This is an opportunity’. Everyone who participates moves forward a little bit—some teachers make leaps. We have a core group of teachers who’ve kept with it, and they are growing into team leaders for technology infusion. Teachers at Chets Creek are very open about sharing what they know with their colleagues,” Melanie says. “Teaching and learning are always about collaboration—you rise and fall with your team. We are always trying to encourage each other to think bigger about what we are doing in the classroom. Collective wisdom causes you to think deeper.”
Chets Creek accomplishes a great deal with a modest array of hardware. Every classroom is equipped with two desktop computers, a document camera, an LCD projector, and a DVD player. Each teacher has a laptop computer. The media center has the standard rounds of desktop computers for student research and the electronic catalog system. “We do a lot with free applications,” explains Melanie. “We want teachers to have a feeling for the range of resources out there.” For example, the faculty keeps a free blog site. Teachers attending state, national, and international conferences are asked to take along their laptops, and use them to share ideas, lessons, and reflections with teachers back home. Melanie and Dayle showed teachers to use Voice Thread to collaborate on a digital story to share with the student body. They used Vimeo to host classroom videos on a wide range of subjects (Our teachers love flip cameras,” says Melanie. They are so easy to use. And so inexpensive!”). Glogster becomes the tool of choice to communicate through imagery and text.
The greatest change brought about by technology infusion? “Teachers get excited about learning,” says Melanie. “When that happens, it rejuvenates the whole system.”

4:20 PM Permalink
April 30, 2009

Summer 2009 Workshops for Adobe Visual Communicator

Learn how to create green screen student TV newscasts, classroom video projects and more this summer as Adobe Education Leader Rob Zdrojewski teaches the basic and advanced features of Adobe Visual Communicator 3. New this summer are workshops for existing users, where we will examine features like live flash web streaming and sharing your productions online.
Summer 2009 Workshop offerings:
-School TV Made Easy with Adobe Visual Communicator 3 (Beginners)
-Perfecting Your Adobe Visual Communicator Shows (Advanced Users)
-Using SchoolTube to Safely Share Videos Online
-Create Teacher Websites
Join us as hundreds of teachers, media specialists, and administrators have for an exciting look at using Adobe Visual Communicator for green screened school TV newscasts and more!
Learn more here:

9:57 AM Permalink
April 28, 2009

Encouraging Student Success

I supervised a state SkillsUSA web design contest on April 24, 2009 (both secondary and post-secondary divisions) and thought it appropriate to summarize some of my observations. These comments are divided into two separate areas (business professionalism and knowledge of web design and development). Although I see the cup as “half full,” there is definitely room for improvement in both areas. I believe it is up to us as educators to encourage our students to improve in these areas.

On the business side, I must stress the importance of arriving on time for the contest and staying until the end of the contest. As a practicing professional, I am always hoping for a little extra time to polish a site for a client. Those that left early should have used the extra time to improve upon their work. Less than 25% stayed for the optional briefing after the conclusion of the contest where we shared a significant amount of information. One of the main differentiators many employers look for is passion and dedication in their employees. Staying for the debriefing confirms a desire to learn and improve.

It is also important to verify that your work has been properly copied. In many instances, although given the opportunity to check their work on the USB drive used to collect the final entries, very few opened more than the initial folder. Attention to detail is an issue of major importance as several sites had inadvertently pointed to a folder on their desktop (which will not work when the challenges are judged). This leads to broken links to images and CSS (and lost points).

Part of the competition also included an interview. As an aspiring professional, it is permissible to state that you do not know the answer to a given question but would like to find out more about it. Less than 10% of those presented with such a question took that approach (the remainder tried to guess their way through without success).

On the technical side, there was a heavy reliance upon tools (which is fine – provided one understands how to use those tools effectively). Of the tools used, Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 captured the major share (being used by over 85% of all participants). However, it is clearly evident that there is only a superficial knowledge of how to use the selected tool (resulting in errors such as pointing to an absolute location [on the desktop] for an image or CSS document). Likewise, reliance on templates (such as the Spry framework for the JavaScript challenge) is permissible, but one should definitely test prior to submitting (to make certain regions are properly defined in the HTML). Similarly, if there is a challenge to create a two column layout using only CSS, one should not use a Dreamweaver layout table to accomplish that challenge.

The quality of code is important (for example, there is no p2 element; there should not be HTML body elements placed above the DOCTYPE declaration). With the majority of contestants using Dreamweaver, one can easily test for valid code (and the tool actually helps one write such code). Unfortunately, it would appear that this feature was not employed on most challenges.

In my work with numerous business and industry professionals, it is clear they are looking for individuals who have a solid understanding of web standards and can use tools to effectively accomplish tasks. This is why the individual challenges were selected for this contest.

I implore those educating the next generation of web professionals to focus on the following areas to better prepare students for the workforce.

  • Develop a good understanding of web standards (and why they are important – for maintainability of the code, for improved search engine ranking, for increased accessibility and all the other reasons). Tools are important, but students need to know the fundamentals before they can effectively employ those tools.
  • Increase the emphasis on web accessibility and usability in the curriculum.
    Increase the emphasis on professional behaviors (arrive on time, test your work before turning it in, admit when you don’t know something and so forth).
  • Help students develop a solid understanding of the use of the appropriate tool and when one must go beyond a given tool.

It is up to us as educators to raise the bar to help our students succeed in the workplace.

6:14 AM Permalink
February 21, 2009

February School TV Workshops A Success!

Participants enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at how Amherst Middle students deliver live school newscasts using Adobe software at the Amherst Tech TV studio in Amherst, NY. Although it was a snowy and cold two days, participants made the drive from as far as North Carolina, Pennslyvania and Ohio. One even flew in from Belgium to take our unique workshop!
We began with a tour of the studio facility, and then discussed the basic hardware items needed to get started. Participants were surprised to learn that for only around $500 you can begin school newscasts using any classroom or office for a recording studio. School newscasts no longer require expensive hardware like years ago. Now any classroom can serve as a professional newsroom! A basic camcorder, microphone, and green sheet is all you really need to begin creating newscasts, classroom video projects, slideshows, and more using Adobe’s Visual Communicator software.
Everyone was impressed at how easy and simple the software is to learn. Below are the links to watch some of their first video projects made during our workshops. Thanks to them for allowing us to share with the world!
Visit our Workshops Calendar to see when the next workshops for Adobe Visual Communicator are offered. We’d love to have you join us, and learn just how simple and affordable Adobe Visual Communicator is for TV production, newscasts, projects, web videos and more.
If interested in Summer 2009 Adobe Visual Communicator Training and Workshops, please complete this survey.

11:21 AM Permalink
February 2, 2009

Student Video Messages to President Obama made with Adobe Visual Communicator

To tie into 2009 inauguration events, my students created green screened video messages to President Obama using Adobe Visual Communicator 3 software. The concept was simple– if you had 30 seconds to talk directly to the President, what would you say? Since we couldn’t afford to travel to Washington D.C. we took a “virtual trip” and using our greenscreen studio made it look like we actually were recording our segments around town.
We were lucky enough to be featured nationally on and our local CBS and ABC affiliates in Buffalo, NY came into our school to cover this unique project.
Watch the introductory video segment below from our local CBS affiliate and visit our blog to view all student videos at

Interested in getting started with Adobe Visual Communicator in your classroom or school?
Visit for advice and resources.

11:25 AM Permalink