Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just in Time for the Holidays...Critter Carols

I saw Critter Carols by petcentric and thought I would share it with you prior to the Thanksgiving weekend (Just in case the kids get a little stir crazy over the long weekend!). My kids played around with it last weekend and I have to admit that I thought it was funny as well.

You can choose a dog or cat to deliver your holiday message or upload a picture of your favorite pet. You can then pick from a selection of holiday clothes, choose a favorite song, and personalize your message. You can then send your holiday greeting by email, Facebook, or embed the video.

I also enjoyed some of the other options from this page, such as Friendfetcher, which is a breed selector from a dog's point of view.

Try this classic if you would rather ElfYourself!

I hope you will take a look and have a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful Holiday season! J.T.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Pushcart Educator" Named CNN Hero of the Year

The paragraphs below were copied and pasted from CNN and links are included to each of the articles and videos.

(CNN) -- A teacher and the organization he began has just been recognized by the Cable News Network.

Efren PeƱaflorida, who started a "pushcart classroom" in the Philippines to bring education to poor children as an alternative to gang membership, has been named the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year. The show was taped last Saturday, but premieres on Thanksgiving, November 26, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.

Efren gives Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education. His Dynamic Teen Company's 10,000 members have taught basic reading, writing, arithmetic, and English to 1,500 kids living in the slums. Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, they recreate a school setting in unconventional locations such as the cemetery and municipal trash dump. The group also runs a hygiene clinic, where children can get a bath and learn how to brush their teeth.

"Our planet is filled with heroes, young and old, rich and poor, man, woman of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry," PeƱaflorida said upon accepting the honor. "Each person has a hidden hero within, you just have to look inside you and search it in your heart, and be the hero to the next one in need.

So to each and every person inside this theater and for those who are watching at home, the hero in you is waiting to be unleashed. Serve, serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve. As I always tell to my co-volunteers ... you are the change that you dream, as I am the change that I dream, and collectively we are the change that this world needs to be."

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, remember all of the blessings you have received...no matter how big or small, and make a difference in someone's life! Unleash that hero inside of yourself!!! J.T.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Study Tips and Skills

I found a resource for study tips and skills on the Edu-tastic blog. The post is interesting because it offers suggestions for not only study tips and skills, but also learning, memory and brain training, productivity, focus, and relaxation.  I have to admit that I'm not much of one for mediatation, etc. as a part of relaxation, but it was interesting that the author included six areas that will assist an individual in the learning process.

There is one important area that the author omitted and that is exercise and diet. Exercise and diet are key factors in relieving stress and staying focused during the learning process. Like I said, there are some things I don't agree with in the post, but it does make you stop and think which is a good thing!

According to the post, "Part of succeeding in school is knowing how to study properly. Indeed, knowing how to study and focus on your tasks is important. Understanding how to learn something, and knowing how to retain what you have learned in your memory are vital skills. You can go to school all you want, but if you don’t know how to learn, it will be more difficult. Here are 50 bloggers who can help you study and learn better:

Study Tips and Skills
First of all, it is helpful to have an idea of how to study most effectively and efficiently. Brushing up on your study skills can help you learn much better and quicker.
1. Study Skills Blog: Offers resources for studying, and helpful tips on improving your study.
2. Study Hacks: Learn study skills from Cal Newport, a postdoc at MIT.
3. Study Prof: Offers tips on how to study smarter from test prep coordinator Cody Blair. Also includes helpful hints and clues for studying for standardized tests.
4. Grace’s Homework: This study tips blog from About.com features tips from education guru Grace Fleming.
5. How to Study Bootcamp Blog: This blog features information and tips on studying, as well as sharing common study mistakes.
6. How to Study Blog: Learning how to study better with tips and hints.
7. HackCollege: Get plenty of useful study help and ideas, as well as general hints on other aspects of student life.
8. College and University Blog: This blog includes study skills ideas, as well as general information on succeeding in college.

Sometimes, it helps to learn about…learning. There are a number of great blogs on learning that can help you figure out your learning style, and utilize to increase your abilities.

9. Special Needs Learning Blog: If you have a learning disability, you can still succeed. This blog helps you learn how to learn — even if you have special difficulty.
10. Creative Learning Systems: Learning Styles Blog: This blog focuses on learning styles, and how you can adapt your learning to your style to make it more effective.
11. The eduFire Blog: Light a fire under your learning abilities with help from this insightful blog.
12. The Rapid eLearning Blog: Want to be a better distance learner? This blog can help you learn more effectively online.
13. Nik’s Learning Technology Blog: Get an idea of how to be a better learner, and how technology can help.
14. TechTicker: Another tech learning blog that addresses learning with technology. Also includes excellent insight on learning styles.
15. The Learning Circuits Blog: Get an idea of how to learn better and the state of learning in general.
16. Learning Blog: This blog helps you learn how to learn. Helpful tips on discovering your learning style so you can succeed.

Memory and Brain Training
Understanding how memory works, and knowing how to train your brain can be very helpful as a student. There are many blogs that can help you give your brain a good workout.

17. Grey Matters: Train your brain with exercises, games and techniques to help you learn and retain all sorts of information much better.
18. Mind Hacks: Learn how to unlock the power of your mind and use it more effectively.
19. Improve Your Learning and Memory: Bill Klemm offers ideas on learning, as well as a number of different systems you can use to improve memory and recall.
20. Improve Your Memory and Better Your Brain Performance: This blog is focused on helping you improve your memory and exercise your brain for better performance.
21. Judy Marcus — Memory Improvement Tips: The “Memory Lady” helps you learn different techniques to improve your memory.
22. Brain Health Blog: This blog offers information and helpful exercises and tips on improving your brain performance.
23. SharpBrains: A blog about improving your brain fitness and training your mind.
24. Mind360: Games, tips and techniques to help your memory stay sharp.
25. The Online Brain Games Blog: A fun blog that helps you find games online to help you train your brain for better memory.

Learn how to better manage your time and boost your productivity. You’ll get more done in less time, and become a more efficient student.

26. Productive Scholar: Ph.D. student Vincent discusses how you, too, can be productive while roaming the halls of academia.
27. Student Hacks: Learn a number of tricks and tips to improve your productivity as you gain knowledge.
28. Zen Habits: This is a great blog that offers simple productivity tips and hacks.
29. Productivity 501: Learn how to better manage your time and do more.
30. Lifehack.org: Get a better idea of how to enjoy life more — and have more time.
31. Ririan Project: Get helpful productivity tips and guides to developing your own productivity style.
32. Neat and Simple Living: Reduce your life clutter and increase your productivity with organization expert Ariane Benefit.
33. Instigator Blog: Helpful tips on turning your ideas into actionable efforts from Ben Yoskovitz.
34. The Lazy Way to Success: It’s not really about being totally lazy. Instead you learn about how to do things more efficiently so you do less while actually accomplishing more.
35. Laura Stack – The Productivity Pro: Idea for increasing your productivity from guru Laura Stack.

Understanding how to focus, and what to focus on, can be very helpful. These blog posts offer insight into how you can improve the way you focus on information, studying and other pursuits.

36. Heart of Things: This blog post on on five tips for better concentration can aid you as you study.
37. Chetan Bhawani: Provides a helpful post on improving your concentration as you study your school materials.
38. Mary Gardner: A blog post on increasing focus and balancing mood can help you clear the “brain fog” that might affect you.
39. Law School Academic Support Blog: While aimed at law students, the advice in this post on concentration is helpful for anyone who has a difficult time staying focused while studying.
40. Frontline Focus: There is a great blog post on increasing insight and creativity.
41. Sri Chinmoy Inspiration: Offers great tips on improving concentration, including how you can choose surroundings that help you concentrate better.
42. Consistent Parenting Advice: An interesting post on the benefits of concentration, and how to promote better focus.

It may seem odd that relaxation is a study tip, but it is. You will be able to study better, and feel less stress in general if you know how to relax and meditate.

43. Inner Health Studio: Great relaxation tips, techniques and coping skills ideas.
44. Marita’s Daily Relaxation Blog: Helpful hints on how you can relax and learn to rejuvenate yourself.
45. Meditation DNA: Helpful hints for meditation, including visualization meditation.
46. Meditation Zeitgeist: Get help with meditation and relaxation that can help you better focus your energies.
47. Relaxation at Home: Posts that provide you with ideas for more refreshing relaxation at home.
48. Water Fountains and Relaxation: While this blog focuses a great deal on how you can use the soothing sounds of water to relax, it also contains other practical tips on relaxing.
49. DailyOM: This blog focuses on meditation techniques, as well as helping you live a more balanced life.
50. 1,000 Petals: This blog provides insight into meditation and how it can work for you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 1st Anniversary - The CareerTech Testing Center Blog

I want to thank each reader of the CareerTech Testing Center Blog for an incredible first year!

I would have never believed in the beginning that we would reach 49 states and the District of Columbia (where are you Wyoming???) and 103 countries!

I also want to thank everyone for the links (609 inbound links at last count) and for the help in sharing our news about testing issues and educational technology.

As for the 1,400+ subscribers...UNBELIEVABLE!

Again, I hope you will continue to use our blog as a resource and visit often for posts you may have missed in the past.

One last thing...PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE share the blog with anyone that could benefit from the information. We want to reach as many people as possible and I hope you will continue to let us know your thoughts on posts and please share any of your great teaching methods/resources with us. The only way to make this a better blog is to have your input!

Thank you again!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Tinkering Makes Comeback Amid Crisis

The CareerTech Update lead me to an article in the Wall Street Journal (11/12, A1, Lahart) which reported that tinkering is making a comeback in the US. New technology such as contemporary milling machines and other computer numerical controlled (CNC) tools, more widely available because of decreased costs, has contributed to this trend, as have increased interest among students for mechanical engineering, and for hands-on work. MIT engineering professor Michael Cima said that the current financial crisis has also fostered a desire for creativity and innovation with tangible results. Whatever the causes, workshops called hackerspaces have been turning up across the US at a rapid pace in the past year, as has interest in do-it-yourself technology. While declines in R&D spending has prompted some concern from experts about the state of innovation in the US, the Journal notes that this tinkering among students and enthusiasts represents R&D that is outside of official figures.

I am intrigued by the idea of "Hackerspaces." These are workshops for people to share tools and ideas and they are popping up all over the country (there are 124 hackerspaces in the U.S., according to a member-run group that keeps track, up from a handful at the start of last year). I wonder if "Hackerspaces" could be another form of economic innovation/development that Oklahoma's CareerTech system could offer in their districts? It seems like a great fit: hackerspace to incubator to technology park or local business district.

Honestly, there aren't a lot of good things about difficult economic times, except every downturn seems to spur creativity and a state of excitement will always ensue. I'm amazed by young entrepreneurs and their level of creativity. The CareerTech system in Oklahoma has been supporting entrepreneurs and small business since its inception and it is my belief that this partnership will continue to grow over the course of time. What do you all think of hackerspaces???

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Digital Kids and the Digital Generation Project

Please check out the Digital Generation Project (on Edutopia's site) which is produced with support from the McArthur Foundation.

According to the site:

"Today's kids are born digital -- born into a media-rich, networked world of infinite possibilities. But their digital lifestyle is about more than just cool gadgets; it's about engagement, self-directed learning, creativity, and empowerment. The Digital Generation Project tells their stories so that educators and parents can understand how kids learn, communicate, and socialize in very different ways than any previous generation."

Also take a look at some of the youth profiles like Cameron or Jalen. I think you'll be amazed!

This video from Frontline on PBS with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan describes what The Class of the Future looks like.

I think this shows that we are in the midst of the digital generation and we, as educators, must develop these skills and prepare our students for the demands of the marketplace. I fear that if we don't develop these skills, we risk losing credibility with our students. J.T.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NoNotes.com: A Special Education Resource?

NoNotes.com is something that I'm really excited about, especially for Special Education purposes!!!

Have you ever been so busy taking notes during a lecture that you felt "lost" after the lecture? You took great notes, but you really weren't able to analyze what was being said or had a chance to ask follow-up questions? NoNotes.com could be your answer!

NoNotes.com is a student founded company who’s goal is to improve the way students throughout the world learn. Using NoNotes will allow you to focus on learning while in class rather than having to focus your attention on taking notes. The service allows you to sit back, learn, ask questions and make the most of your class time. Simply record the lecture, upload the recording to their site and they will provide a written transcript  (turnaround time is typically 1-3 business days). Prices start as low as $9.57/hr class.

I know I could have used this service when I was in college. To not only help with my own note taking ability, but to rely on someone more reliable than my "friends." Were you ever sick and asked a friend to take notes and you basically received nothing in return, except for a response like, "Dude, we really didn't talk about anything new." You later find out that you had a test review on the day you missed, because the next lecture you attended was actually a test! That's right, the instructor moved the test up in the schedule to the next class period instead of two class periods from my abscence (which made the syllabus...WRONG!). I know...I know... I should have chosen my friends more carefully and I didn't do so well on that test, but I'm still not over it!  Where was NoNotes.com when I needed it?

Now for what I think could be the BEST part of this site that NoNotes doesn't really even highlight....Special Education! Now what is there about special education that NoNotes could influence???  Two things: Specific Learning Disabilities and Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Immigrant Students.

Student's with a Specific Learning Disability typically have average to above average cognitive ability, but a discrepancy exists between expected and actual ability in reading, written expression, or mathematical calculations. Wouldn't NoNotes.com make a great resource for these students? Instead of taking notes, these students could spend their lecture time trying to process the information and asking questions of instructors to clarify their understanding of the material.

Now what about Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Immigrant Students? NoNotes can translate notes into several languages and wouldn't it be a great way for these students to learn if notes were provided in both English and the student's native language?

I hope you will take a look at NoNotes.com and let us know how you used the service and what your thoughts are!

Monday, November 2, 2009

100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom

I know a lot of you have access issues for Facebook at your school or place of employment, but I found an interesting source for you: 100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom. The article includes a lot of great ideas even if you can only have access at home.

Take a look because I really think we are just beginning to understand a few uses for social media!
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