Thursday, October 28, 2010

The 10 Blogs I Read First

I wanted to share my favorite blogs with you. Athough the list of blogs that I subscribe to seems endless at times, I find that these 10 are the ones that I visit most frequently. There are a lot of other great blogs out there as well and many truly resourceful and intelligent people from around the world that create blogs, but for one reason or another, I seem to return to the following sites as resources.

I hope you will take the time to visit them as well because they offer great resources with topics ranging from educational technology to assessments. (I alphabetized the list so they appear in no order of preference.)

Dangerously ! Irrelevant - Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Educational Administration program at Iowa State University, discusses technology, leadership, and the future of schools.

Free Technology for Teachers - this Richard Byrne creation provides free resources and lesson plans for teaching with technology. Richard is also a Google Certified Teacher and he offers many tutorials on Google products that you can download for free.

GO2WEB20 - This is a great index of a plethora of web applications.

The Edublogger - offers tips, tricks, ideas and help with using web 2.0 technologies and edublogs. This blog is created by Sue Waters and I would also recommend taking a look at her personal blog as well (catch her talking about elearning, Web 2.0 and technology while helping others.).

Instructify - This blog is a creation of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education. LEARN NC's goal is to find the most innovative and successful practices in K-12 education and makes them available to all teachers and students.

Jane's E-earning Pick of the Day - just like the title states, Jane Hart features a daily item of interest. for learning and/or working (and sometimes more that one). Jane is also founder of the  Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, which is also another great site to check out. See Jane's Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010 List.

Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day - Don't be fooled by his statement that this is for "Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL" because there is much, much, more! Be sure you check out Larry's "Best of" series.

Mashable - this is a top source for news in social and digital media, technology and web culture with more than 30 million monthly pageviews. They report breaking web news, provide analysis of trends, review new websites and services, and offer social media resources and guides.

Never Ending Search - Joyce Valenza is a teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School, a technology writer, and the maker of a great blog. This blog is found on the School Library Journal site, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Joyce only reports on issues that pertain to school libraries.

Questionmark - Although Questionmark’s mission is to provide (sell) the testing and assessment software and support services, their blog provides some excellent resources on testing theory and practices. I especially enjoy the posts made by Greg Pope, Analytics and Psychometrics Manager, and Eric Shepherd, CEO of Questionmark (His personal blog). They also offer free white papers that are excellent resources for assessment.

Remember, the best way to follow a number of different sites/blogs is to subscribe in an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Reader. RSS notifies readers of any new content created by sites and you don't have to worry about having your email inbox stuffed full of blog posts. RSS allows you to be notified of the updates and then to read the posts or go to the sites when you have time.

Are there any sites that you can recommend to me?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"If Children Have Interest, Education Happens"

Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education -- the best teachers and schools don't exist where they're needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

These "Hole in the Wall" experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they're motivated by curiosity.

I’ve watched this TED talk by Sugata Mitra a couple of times now and it makes me think, in a way, of the Suzuki Method, which is the educational philosophy that strives to create "high ability" in its students through a nurturing environment. "The 'nurture' involved in the movement is modeled on a concept of early childhood education that focuses on factors which Shinichi Suzuki observed in native language acquisition, such as immersion, encouragement, small steps, and an unforced timetable for learning material based on each person's developmental readiness to imitate examples, internalize principles, and contribute novel ideas."

Mitra truly drives home the idea that we MUST get technology in the hands of our students. our children, at the earliest age possible.  I like his idea that students should use use technology in small groups in order to reinforce learning. The interaction among students is a terrific way to move knowledge from short-term to long-term memory.

I sincerely HOPE you will take the time to watch this video and give thought to how he used technology to educate children. I think it will change the way you look at technology and possibly the way that you teach.  Mitra has certainly changed my thoughts.

As Mitra stated, "If children have interest, EDUCATION HAPPENS!"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010

Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day has announced her 2010 list of "The Top 100 Tools for Learning." The list was comprised from 545 people who shared their Top 10 Tools for Learning during 2010.

The top 10 learning tools in Jane's list are:
  1. Twitter
  2. YouTube
  3. Google Docs
  4. Delicious
  5. Slideshare
  6. Skype
  7. Google Reader
  8. WordPress
  9. Facebook
  10. Moodle
Most of these are familiar to all of us, but you can always find interesting learning tools in the rest of the list (links are provided in the list to each learning tool).

Jane identified four key trends for the 2010 list:
  1. The increasing consumerization of IT
  2. Learning, working and personal tools are merging
  3. Social tools predominate
  4. Personal (informal) learning is under the control of the learner
As Jane states:
I think these trends are making a significant impact on the how we define learning, how learning is supported and "managed".

In a recent article Top Tools for Learning: Emerging Trends I looked at these four trends in more detail, and asked what this means for the future of workplace learning and also the Learning and Development profession, which I then address in a second article, The New Era of Workplace Learning,
The Winners & Losers 2010 page shows the tools that have gone up and down the list or fallen off it completely or are new entrants this year. So for instance here you can find out:

Which was the highest ranked new tool this year?
Which tool climbest the most places on the list this year?
Which tool descended the most on the list this year?
Which was the highest ranking tool on the 2009 list that lost its place this year?

The Best in Breed 2010 page displays the tools list in tools categories, so for instance you can find the top blogging tools or top wiki tools or top screencasting tools.

A further page provides a list of all the tools that have appeared in the Top 100 Tools list between 2007 and 2010, which makes for interesting reading and analysis of trends. For example, which of the 172 tools listed have consistently appeared on each of the 4 year's lists? You can find out HERE.
Which of these tools do you currently use? Which new tool (or tools) would you like to try?
I strongly recommend that you take a look at this list and at Jane's blog (Jane Hart is a Social Business Consultant and founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies)!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Online Assessments? Here are 10 Reasons for Making the Change from Paper and Pencil-Based Exams

The CareerTech Testing Center has been creating skills standards and assessments for over thirty years, but approximately a decade ago, we decided to make the switch to online assessments. So why did we make the switch? Here are our TOP 10 Reasons.
1. Reduction in Costs - Development and delivery of online exams is more efficient and cost effective when compared to the distribution of paper and pencil-based exams, especially when distribution occurs over a large geographical area. Distribution of paper and pencil tests is no longer needed and there is no longer a need for costly scanners and the costs associated with distributing the test results (packaging and postage). Another advantage is the reduced costs associated with storing the enormous volume of data.
2. Reduces Logistical Challenges – Conducting paper and pencil exams is logistically complicated as you try and arrange test times around location and staffing issues. There are plenty of things that could wrong, most importantly test security.
3. Improves Test Security and Reduces Cheating – An article in EducationNext states, “One such study asked 3rd, 6th, 8th, and 10th grade teachers in North Carolina to report how frequently they had witnessed certain inappropriate practices. Of those polled, 35 percent said they had engaged personally in such practices or were aware of others’ unethical actions.” The article also mentions, “In California, 36 percent of teachers thought it appropriate to practice with current test forms.” According to Caveon’s website, “according to surveys in U.S. News and World Report, 80% of "high-achieving" high school students admit to cheating.”

Sadly enough, there are HUGE opportunities for cheating to occur. An online test minimizes the risks associated with cheating. It is much more difficult to lose physical control of the test without a coordinated effort among several people. Also, computers do not know the candidates and the scores cannot be skewed because of that fact.

Online testing also allows you to randomize the order of test questions within an assessment. This allows you to give “multiple forms” of a test without the arduous task of creating numerous paper and pencil versions of the same test. This is just one more example of how online tests can minimize cheating.

4. Increases the “Timing” of Tests – Tests are usually administered in group settings and online tests will allow you to vary the “timing” of tests. What this means is online testing allows for more individualized self-paced learning. If some students are achieving at a faster rate, then they can be administered a test and upon receiving a passing score, can proceed to their next educational objective.

5. Allows for the Development of Item Banks – Creating questions and organizing them into assessments -- tests, quizzes, exams, and surveys allows the test developer several options for delivery, analysis, and revision.

6. Time Savings - Since online tests are automatically scored, staff is relieved of the burdensome chore of scoring exams (also the task of receiving the tests and shipping the results). Students and instructors will also receive immediate feedback of results. There will be no “lag” time between test administration, scoring, and remediation. What a great way to enhance learning!

7. Opportunities for Multimedia Uses - Online tests can be embedded with graphics and multimedia (i.e. Adobe Flash animations and videos). This can create a more interesting, interactive, and challenging assessment for examinees. There are testing software options that provide auto-sensing and auto-sizing for flexible delivery options and some even allow for translations into different languages.

8. Analyze Feedback from Test Administrations – Online tests provide many more ways to analyze testing data. Testing software can provide each examinee with a coaching (scoring) report that provides not only the overall result, but scores can be broken down by duty area. Results should then be analyzed according to individual students (relative strengths and weaknesses), individual instructors, and for the overall program. In other words, did an instructor adequately cover the standards? Did the curriculum align to the standards? Did the program meet requirements at the local or state level?

9. Item Analysis – Online testing allows you the ability to introduce classical test theory to your assessments, i.e. item analysis. This involves the use of many statistics that can provide useful information for improving the quality and accuracy of individual multiple-choice or true/false items (questions). Some of these statistics are: item difficulty (p-value), item discrimination (Point Biserial correlation), reliability coefficient, item-total statistics, and distractor evaluation (see Instructional Assessment Resources).

10.Accessibility – Much of today’s technology allows you to meet your accessibility needs by providing the examinee with text-sizing and contrast controls. For example, delivery software can render HTML that is optimized to work with assistive technologies such as screen readers and the aforementioned text-sizing and contrast controls within assessments can aid participants with low/partial vision. There has also been improvement in the navigation of assessments via keyboards and/or alternate devices to accommodate participants who are unable to use a mouse.
Now the question you must ask yourself is…”If I’m embracing technology in the classroom, then shouldn’t I embrace technology within my assessments?”

I hope you will contact us at the CareerTech Testing Center if you have any questions about assessments of if you would like to discuss how we might assist you with your testing needs.

I would also like to mention that I read a guest post on the Teacher Reboot Camp blog by Shankar Ganesh that gave me the idea for this post. I wanted to expound upon his original ideas and provide our outlook on why you should make the change from paper and pencil-based assessments.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mapeas...Placing World News on a World Map

Those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis know that I'm a news and current events junkie. I previously made a post about Newseum, which is a site that displays daily newspaper front pages in their original, unedited form from around the world. Just double click and the page gets can read the entire paper on some if you click on the right place (Some front pages may contain material that is objectionable to some visitors. Viewer discretion is advised.).

I would like to introduce you to a new news site called Mapeas. This is a service that allows you to search for news briefs and videos from around the world. Think of it as a way to combine the teaching of current events with geography. Mapeas places world news, i.e business, entertainment, general news, science, and sports, on a world map. Click any circle on the map to zoom-in on a location and select a video news story. The news reports are provided by AFP, ABC, the Associated Press, Fox, and NBC. Another interested feature to Mapeas is that you can display the map in alternative formats such as terrain, satellite, and hybrid.
Take a look and I think you will enjoy it, especially if you like news stories as much as I do.  J.T. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Are You a Change Agent for Education?

I was sent a link to an article entitled "Change Agent" yesterday that was published in Education Week.

The article, written by Will Richardson, provides some provoking thoughts on how education should change. I can't say that I agree with everything the author is stating, but I do think he has made some valid arguments. I agree that problem solving skills should be taught at a higher level and more inquiry-based learning should be taught. Educators should also be more willing to embrace technology, share their resources and best practices, and establish an online presence as a "model" for our students.

I am in disagreement with the author when he believes that "facts" are somewhat irrelevant if a student can access the needed information in a couple of seconds on a smart phone. Richardson's example of “What was the third ship that Columbus sailed?” as being irrelevant is flawed in my opinion. The purpose of teaching history is to learn the trials and tribulations of individuals, groups, or nations. In order to understand their successes and failures, a student must understand the historical setting in which certain events took place. The goal of history isn't just learning "facts," but it is learning from the critical thinking skills that these historical figures possessed. It's really the same thing that the author is proposing that we do in the future as educators. Possibly, the facts aren't being taught in what I would consider the correct manner or assessed in the correct manner, but that is an entirely different topic.

I would also disagree with the author on his feeling toward testing. Assessments can also be used, as not only measures of knowledge, but as a teaching tool. As I have stated numerous times on this blog, just looking at a test "score" is never in the best interest of a student and more should be done with the information that you receive from testing.  A test is a "point-in-time" measure of a students's ability and many factors help comprise that score. The "score" is simply one factor of many. This "one" factor is something that must be interpreted with caution. 

There are also certain knowledge facts that an individual should possess prior to any type of certification. Would you want a crane operator or your surgeon accessing their smart phone while conducting business? I certainly don't think that would be in anyone's best interest.

I believe education builds upon itself and many facts must be taught as a foundation for lifelong learning to occur. Critical thinking skills and inquiry-based instruction are absolute musts for education! As is the infusion of technology! We need to improve our efficiencies in our instructional methods, do more with what we have, and continue to raise expecations for everyone involved in education.

The article, written by Anthony Rebora, states:
Will Richardson, a former teacher-turned-tech expert, says schools need to revolutionize teaching and learning to keep pace with societal changes.
Will Richardson was a high school English and journalism teacher in New Jersey for nearly 20 years. During the early part of this decade, he began experimenting with the use of interactive Web tools in the classroom and was soon transfixed by their potential for increasing students’ engagement and exposing them to new resources and outlets for expression. His experiences led him to write Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (Corwin). Now in its third edition, the book has sold more than 60,000 copies and become one of the most influential books available on integrating Web 2.0 technology in the K-12 classroom.
Richardson is now an educational-technology consultant and co-founder of Powerful Learning Practice, a professional development provider devoted to fostering online community for teachers. Both in his speaking engagements and on his blog, Weblogg-ed, Richardson argues that schools need to transform their models of teaching and learning to reflect broad changes in information technology and new intellectual demands and opportunities presented by global online networks.
Click HERE to read the entire article and let us know your thoughts. It's a great read!!

Thanks to Claire for sending the great article! J.T.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Nation's Best Kept Secret...Career and Technology Education

Despite its enormous impact on the nation’s labor market, its direct tie to economic stability and recovery, and its proven success addressing the nation’s high school dropout issue, career technical education (CTE) remains the nation’s best-kept educational secret.

The Association for Career Technical Education (ACTE) has taken action to share that secret by asking friends of CTE to join ACTE as they launch a promotional campaign to promote CTE. ACTE applied for a grant to the Pepsi Refresh Project, which is giving monetary awards to deserving individuals and organizations who want to make a positive impact on their local communities. In this project, voting determines which ideas get funded. If ACTE wins, the proceeds will go directly to an image campaign aimed at benefiting all those in the CTE community. Everyone can vote daily throughout the entire month of October by visiting AND Texting 103403 to Pepsi (73774). For more information about the Pepsi Refresh project, visit

CTE friends, we encourage you to get behind this effort and show your support. We urge you to vote twice daily by text and online. Pass this message on to your colleagues and friends!

Please vote on a daily basis and turn this situation from the best kept secret to:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are You Too Attached to Technology?

I just came across a recent (6/6/2010) New York Times article entitled “Your Brain on Computers: Attached to Technology and Paying a Price” written by Matt Richtel.

The article looks into our ability to focus when multitasking and the basic conclusion is that we really can't focus intensely on one thing when we have other things going on simultaneously, i.e. , doing homework while listening to music, texting your friends, and chatting on Facebook.

The article, which I recommend that you read, details the lives of a family from Oklahoma and their stuggles between an "online" life and having time for family.

The article also includes two "tests" that determine your level of attention and your ability to focus.

The first assessment is called “Test Your Focus” and you have to determine whether the red rectangles, which are mixed in with blue rectangles, have rotated. The second assessment is called “Test How Fast You Juggle” and you are presented with a number and a letter and have to determine whether there are vowels or consonants and even or odd numbers. (The juggling is information, not objects). Both of these tests sound simple, but they aren't (at least not for me). They do a good job of demonstrating that our brain really does try to focus acutely on a single task.

Would the article and the tests make good examples for your students?  J.T.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Are you thinking that I can't spell "Google?"

Actually, is the URL Shortening Web Tool from Google. Like and, this allows teachers and students to take really long URLs and make them smaller and therefore, more manageable. Google takes the concept one step further and adds analytics to this idea. You can see how many people are using the link and when as well as keep a stored history of all your links.

I hope you like this new tool from Google. Give it a try and let us know what you think???  J.T.

Friday, October 1, 2010

School Cheaters Often Have Personality Disorders, Study Finds

I found a very interesting article written by Janet Steffenhagen in the Vancouver Sun (September 9, 2010). So why do some students cheat and others don't? Have you ever thought that the cheaters in your classroom are suffering from one or more of three personality disorders known as the "dark triad": psychopathy, Machiavellianism (manipulativeness) and narcissism?

The article states,
"Students who cheat in school often have personality disorders that make them manipulative, callous, arrogant and difficult to handle, according to a University of B.C. study.

The study, which examined the behaviour of university students over 10 years, concluded that high schools and post-secondary institutions have to find creative ways of discouraging cheaters because many aren't afraid of punishment, are amoral and have a strong sense of entitlement.

"They aren't the ones who are in prisons, at least not yet," said lead researcher psychology Prof. Delroy Paulhus. "They haven't committed serial murders, but they're operating with the same kind of behavioural patterns. They are talented people who are taking advantage of wherever they are -- be it the stock market or be it a competitive school.""

Click HERE to read the entire article.
So what are some creative ways that you discourage cheating? I hope you will share your ideas and also you thoughts on this interesting article!  J.T.
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