Thursday, September 27, 2012

E-Portfolios: Celebrating Student Success in the 21st Century

“The age-old practice of displaying a student’s work is alive and well.”

It is no secret that children love to share their accomplishments with others.  Whether you are a family member, friend, coach or teacher, there is at least one time when you have been asked to display a child’s masterpiece on the refrigerator, office desk or classroom pin board.   The reason behind this long standing practice is simple.  Children need continuous feedback to reaffirm that they are valued and accepted and that their efforts are appreciated.  Consequently, the more positive feedback children can garner from encouraging role models will more than likely ensure the successful and ongoing development of the child.

Enhancing the Learning Experience with e-Portfolios

For educators, it is imperative that student success is celebrated.  One method of displaying student success is the use of e-Portfolios.  E-Portfolios are the ongoing collection of digital evidence and artifacts for the purpose of demonstrating a student’s ownership and personal reflection of his/her learning.  The benefits of using e-Portfolios are immense.  In a nutshell, e-Portfolios enhance the student learning experience by greatly expanding the audience who can not only view the e-Portfolio, but also provide valuable feedback.  By expanding the walls of the classroom, the learning process becomes more personal and authentic which encourages students to play a more active role in their own learning, an important component for future success.  The second key benefit of e-portfolios is the introduction of digital citizenship.  The importance of creating and managing a positive digital footprint cannot be underestimated as much of the content we share on-line is often permanent.  In this digital age, it is imperative that students actively engage in representing themselves on the internet in a positive manner. 

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Digital Medium

Before suggesting possible web tools for e-Portfolio use, it is important to consider the following factors:

1.  Purpose: Educators must consider the purpose for implementing e-Portfolios into their pedagogical practice as the reason(s) may be the determining factor(s) when selecting the most appropriate web tool for your needs.  For example, if the purpose of the e-Portfolio is to encourage students to reflect upon their learning or to assess and report student progress, the utilization of a web tool that incorporates a text editing feature would be necessary.  Or, if the goal is to showcase student work, a web tool with a variety of graphic options would be needed.  No matter what the educational goals are, it is vital to select the right web tool for the task. 

2.  IT Support and Infrastructure: The main concern one must investigate is whether or not the selected web tool matches the technological resources available to you and your students.  To minimize technological issues, it is recommended to select web based tools as they are more likely to be compatible with multiple operating systems.    

Recommended Web Tools for Displaying Student Work

These are the three web tools I highly recommend for creating student e-Portfolios. 

1.  Weebly for Education is a web based tool that allows users to easily create an attractive website - blogging option available as well - by using the simple drag and drop interface. Users have a wide range of multimedia features to choose from such as video, audio, images, etc. The true power of Weebly, however, is demonstrated with its HTML feature as anything with an embed code can be added to the website. Lastly, another key element of the Weebly for Education site is the teacher account feature as teachers are able to create and manage student accounts from a central location.

2. Evernote is a powerful cloud based web tool that works on multiple computing and mobile platforms. Not only can the user create text, photo and audio notes, but your favorite web pages can also be clipped and stored using “Web Clipper” – an Evernote compatible app. Organizing your data is also very easy with Evernote as a search can be conducted by keyword, tag or printed and handwritten text inside images. As well, annotation, shapes and sketches can be added to your data using “Skitch” - another Evernote companion app. By far the best feature of Evernote, however, is the synchronization of data across all devices. For instance, when a photo is taken from your phone and saved in Evernote, it can be accessed within minutes from your computer or for that matter any other device with an Evernote application.

3. Pinterest is an interactive social media web tool which is best described as the present-day version of the scrapbook. Images are ‘pinned’ from the internet or uploaded from the computer and organized in categorized collections, or boards. These boards can also be shared by requesting an invite to someone else’s site. Pinterest is by far the most visually pleasing web tool of the three which definitely makes it a favourable choice for e-Portfolios for the visual arts.

E-Portfolios are a great way for students to take ownership of their learning.  In turn, the displaying of student work to a global audience has a powerful and motivating influence wherein positive feedback can have a tremendous impact on continued student success.  It is for these reasons that e-Portfolios are considered a pedagogical treasure.

This post originally appeared on The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Celebration of Connected Educators

In this third and final post of the "Staying Connected with TeacherCast" series, our focus will turn to the wealth of information, knowledge and expertise offered by our very own industrious and innovative teaching colleagues from around the world.  Many of these colleagues are educators just like you and I whose passion for teaching is demonstrated by the sound pedagogical practices that occur in our classrooms on a daily basis.  Teachers, such as these, strongly believe that sharing their educational know-how with a wider audience is not only important but a necessity in order for future generations of teachers, and subsequently students, to gain the most benefit.  As a result, it is safe to assume the next step in our "staying connected" journey requires us to not only utilize new found resources but to also share our educational materials, insights and skills with the global teaching community.  Many educators will resist this request not because of a lack of teaching skill but rather of confidence.  I can personally attest to this view because it was only a few, short months ago that I, too, did not think I had anything important to contribute.  But with a good heart to heart chat with a fellow colleague (Thank you, Anna), I gained the necessary confidence to break out of my shell.  So for those educators out there who are in the same position I was, I strongly encourage you to rid yourself of those confining shackles and embrace the connected educators community by sharing your expertise with us!  We are eager to learn from you too!

The TeacherCast Educational Magazine offers educators a relaxing and engaging coffee-shop atmosphere to share their pedagogical expertise.  In essence, the TeacherCast Educational Magazine is a collection of articles written by every day educators on a wide range of topics such as technology integration, software tutorials, leadership, personal reflection and much, much more.  Currently, with a family of more than 50 writers which include teachers, principals and superintendents, the TeacherCast Educational Magazine provides educators with an excellent opportunity to learn, share and collaborate with our peers.  In fact, many of these writers appear regularly on the TeacherCast Podcast as well to further elaborate on their teaching practices and ideas.  With a viewing audience from more than 120 countries each month, the TeacherCast Educational Magazine is truly an inspiring educational resource teachers can not do without.   

Below is just a sampling of the great content one will find in the TeacherCast Educational Magazine:

"Promoting Student Engagement ~ Make Your Mark" by Angela Maiers

"Your Leadership "Home Button"" by Joe Mazza

"Student Standardization" by Tom Whitby

"Use Google Voice to Call Parents" by Melissa Seideman

"Making the Right Digital Decisions" by Steve Anderson

"Teaching Communication is the Key" by Catlin Tucker

If you are interested in becoming a TeacherCast contributing writer, please fill out the contact form located at the bottom of the TeacherCast Educational Magazine web page and Jeff Bradbury will be more than happy to support you in your "staying connected" journey.  

There is no doubt that TeacherCast lives up to its motto of "a place for teachers to help other teachers".  Jeff has put his heart and soul into offering a central location or "meeting place" for a wide array of educational resources in various formats so that there is a little of something for everyone.  On behalf of the thousands of educators out there, I would like to thank Jeff for all his efforts as we appreciate it very much.  Also, we would like to thank Jeff's wife and fellow teaching colleague, Jennifer (@bassjen1) as without her love and support, Jeff would not be able to live out his dream of making TeacherCast an educator's go to resource.  The goal is and will always be to do the best for our students and TeacherCast certainly makes that goal a reality for many, many educators worldwide.  So please do not hesitate any longer, get involved and be vocal about the great things that are currently happening in education today.  Get connected!  Stay connected!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

TeacherCast Podcast with Jeffrey Bradbury

Staying connected with one's Professional Learning Network (PLN) is a critical component in the ongoing pursuit of improving personal teaching practices.  To take full advantage of your PLN however, it is important to maintain a consistent pattern of engagement.  For some educators, establishing that habitual routine can be difficult unless an universal resource is available.  In the first post of the "Staying Connected with TeacherCast" series, it was explained how TeacherCast fulfills the needs of educators by offering a plethora of educational resources in a variety of formats.  Resources such as TeacherCast University, LiveBinder Gallery, TeacherCast TV and much more offer educators a wide range of information to expand their pedagogical practice.  The key attribute of these fantastic resources is that they are all offered in one, easy to use location.  As a result, educators can easily connect with the global teaching community by utilizing the numerous resources TeacherCast offers!

In Part Two of this three part series, we now turn our attention to the merits of the TeacherCast Podcasting Network, a vibrant library of audio presentations hosted by Jeff Bradbury for the purpose of offering yet another medium for educators to access professional development resources.  Essentially, TeacherCast podcasts are lively discussions with the most respected educators from around the globe who share their knowledge and expertise about some of the hottest topics affecting education today.  TeacherCast podcasts are organized into three main formats.  

1.  TeacherCast Podcast is a round table type show featuring teachers and administrators who discuss educational topics they specialize in such as EdCamps, curriculum development and leadership.  Jeff welcomes all interested teachers who want to share their expertise to contact him and invite themselves on the show.  In the past, the show has featured great guests such as Steve Anderson, Tom Whitby, Jerry Blumengarten, Angela Maiers, and over 200 other leading educators from around the world.  Below are three sample round table discussions you will want to listen in on: 
2.  App Spotlight is an interview style podcast where Jeff  invites web businesses, app developers and other educational vendors to discuss how their apps work and how teachers can best use them in the classroom.  Past guests include  "KidBlog",  "Socrative",  "EasyBib",  "My Big Campus", and  "Poll Everywhere".  Please check out some more excellent app reviews below: 

"EduTecher & EduClipper"

3.  TeacherCast University is a show that focuses on the pressing questions and concerns of today's busy educators.  Teachers can email or call into Jeff and he will offer support and direct teachers to the resources that will best suit their needs.  The TeacherCast University podcast also features @GrogtheZombie or "Grog's World" as well as ASKITT with Jeff Herb  (@InstTechTalk) who will also assist colleagues from around the world with pedagogical issues.  Below are a few sample TeacherCast University podcasts you will want to listen in on:

"Taking Control of Your Professional Development"
"Podcasting in the Classroom"
"Taking Your PowerPoint Presentations with you"

The TeacherCast Podcasting Network is an incredible educational resource for teachers as the breadth and depth of the topics covered is truly exceptional.  However, the best part of the TeacherCast podcasts is the convenience as the podcasts can be listened to anywhere, at anytime.  The TeacherCast Podcasting Network can also be found on iTunes and Stitcher and is also available for download on every Apple and Android mobile device.

The final post of the "Staying Connected with TeacherCast" series will focus on the TeacherCast Educational Magazine, a collection of blog posts written by notable educators who share their wealth of knowledge and teaching experience in their specialized field of expertise.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Staying Connected with TeacherCast

With the month of August in the rear view mirror, so too is Connected Educator Month.  Over the past several weeks, countless educators have expressed great appreciation and enthusiasm for the new teaching connections they have made as well as the new learning resources they have acquired.  With the new school year now upon us, the goal is to incorporate those innovative pedagogical ideas into our current teaching practice.  

To continue to grow as an educator however, it is important to stay connected.  Not only is it essential to nurture current teaching contacts but it is also important to continue to build your PLN (Personal Learning Network).  Doing so can be difficult for some educators however.  To aid in this process, a wide selection of resources in various formats in a central location is needed.  Consequently, a website educators must try that offers these services and much more is TeacherCast.  TeacherCast is the brainchild of Jeffrey Bradbury, a music teacher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Jeff's passion for connecting educators and sharing educational resources is clearly evident through his ongoing work with TeacherCast.  In fact, the underlying principle of TeacherCast is to build 'a place for teachers to help other teachers'.  With a reach of over 400,000 followers and growing, the collaborative nature of TeacherCast is truly motivating and engaging. 

Jeff's enthusiastic support for his teaching colleagues does not end with just the TeacherCast website, however.  Jeff has recently added TeacherCast University, an educational consulting service for teachers who are looking to expand their teaching practice with a more hands-on approach.  Jeff is a frequent workshop presenter at Edcamps, TeachMeets and other educational conferences with the workshop topics ranging from technology integration to learning about Web 2.0 tools.  Virtual workshops are also available for those looking for a more cost-efficient way of benefiting from Jeff's expertise.  The goal for each workshop is to provide engaging and relevant material whereby each attending colleague leaves with something new to add to their teaching methodology.  TeacherCast University provides additional professional development opportunities as well such as conference keynote presentations and technology integration consults.  For those teachers who are unable to attend a TeacherCast University workshop, Jeff also shares his expertise through highly engaging webinars.  Below is the first TeacherCast webinar on Sandvox, an easy to use website creation tool for Mac.

TeacherCast offers a wealth of information on various educational topics.  Below is a brief summary of some of the excellent features TeacherCast provides: 

1.  TeacherCast Mobile App - Simply put, the TeacherCast iPhone/iPad app is "education at your fingertips"!  This free, time-saving app easily allows educators to stay informed about the most current pedagogical practices, technologies, educational trends and much more.  In fact, students can benefit from the TeacherCast Mobile App too by accessing a myriad of popular web tools and applications such as KidBlog.  It is evident that this app is designed to be "the one app educators can use everyday."  Click here to download the TeacherCast mobile app.   

2.  App Reviews - These very popular teacher-tested app reviews are a definite educational treasure for teachers!  TeacherCast's dedicated app reviewers, current classroom teachers themselves, recommend the best educational apps and suggest possible classroom activities for each.  Click here to sample one of dozens of app reviews TeacherCast offers.

3.  LiveBinder Gallery - A wide array of educational resources are shared by educators from around the world in this nicely organized LiveBinder Gallery.  Click here to view the more than 15,000 LiveBinder resources!

4.  TeacherCast TV - A library of educational videos are available ranging from tutorials on the latest technologies to keynote presentations.  To sample one of the many screencast tutorials, refer to the video below.

5.  Career Center - Looking for a job?  The TeacherCast Career Center offers a central meeting place for both employers and employees to connect.  To further assist prospective teachers, a search engine is available to help narrow down your choices.

6.  TeacherCast Pinboard - A collection of educational links organized by topic that every educator will find very helpful.  Links range from information about upcoming professional development opportunities to blogging tips.

Without a doubt, TeacherCast makes the task of staying connected very easy!  

This is the first in a 3 part series about the benefits of staying connected with TeacherCast.  Next week's post will focus on the TeacherCast Podcasting Network - a network of very informative and highly engaging presentations featuring respected educators who share their knowledge and expertise on the most pertinent topics affecting education today.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Most Popular Posts for the Month of August

Ariel view of Kamloops
Greetings from sunny Kamloops, BC Canada!  

We have enjoyed a fabulous summer so far with the average temperature being 30 C (86 F).  As August winds down, I am enjoying the last little bit of summer as well as preparing for back to school which starts on September 4th.  I will be starting off with a bang as I am planning a joint project with my collaborative teaching partner from Layton, Utah, Jared Fawson.  We are both very excited about it and we are planning to use all sorts of web tools from Skype to Animoto to anything else we can think of.  I am absolutely positive the students are going to love it!

My school - South Kamloops Secondary
I will also be starting my Master's degree in Educational Technology & Design from the University of Saskatchewan as well as trying to keep up with writing posts.  Busy, busy.  Is there any teacher out there that isn't?  LOL.  I hope that all my colleagues from Canada and around the world enjoy a strong start-up to the school year!  :)  Below are the most popular posts from "The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers" blog.

The Most Popular Posts for the Month of August

1. Remind101: The Perfect Forget-Me-Not

Create Your Own Myth with Story Creator2

3.  Create Striking Videos with Animoto

4.  19Pencils: The Ideal Classroom

InstaGrok: The Perfect Search Engine for Students