My Books from GoodReads

Hope Was Here
Copper Sun
The Hunger Games
Hip-Hop High School
A Brief Chapter in My 

Impossible Life
The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, 

The Last Olympian
The Ruins of Gorlan
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp
Breaking Dawn
I'll Be There
The Knife of Never 

Letting Go
Thirteen Reasons Why
The London Eye Mystery

Some of Mr. Padula's Favorite Books

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Technology as a Tool for Collaboration

I wanted this entry to focus less on some 'cool tool' and more on the idea that technology in and of itself can be an instrument for bringing educators together.

I've seen so many posts that have some variant of "Use [some cool tool] to spice up your lessons" - almost suggesting that it is the tool that does the teaching and not the teacher.  Technology - (in its simplest form, just the internet!) - is bringing educators together and linking classrooms in ways that are continuing to evolve daily.

The power and speed with which educators can come together hit home for me recently, while I was in the middle of my unit on Voting and Elections. As a Civics teacher for eighth graders in Boston, I want to leverage the excitement and energy of this year's presidential election. On the other hand, I am dealing with students who aren't really close to voting age. Making all this real and authentic is the order of the day.

In my daily review of Twitter, and more specifically, the outstanding Social Studies educators who drive #sschat, I came across two entries that got my attention. The first was from Dr. Andrea Pleau (@TeachPleau) of Rhode Island. She reminded everyone of the National Mock Student Election. I had heard of this, but never gave it a serious look. This year I did, and I was overwhelmed by what I found. This group does an outstanding and very professional job of 'registering' voters and generating ballots. I signed my class up and let them know what was in store for them. The excitement this generated was immediate and real! I am looking forward to having them login and 'vote' next week as if they were at the polls.

A second, and equally powerful voting idea came from Krissy Venosdale (@ktvee) of Hillsboro, Missouri. Krissy is an elementary teacher who wanted to show her class the power of voting. She sent out a Tweet asking for classes to sign up for her voting project - KIDVOTE. Krissy created ballots that can be printed and distributed to students on election day. A Google Doc she created will hold the 'returns'. Teachers will hand out the ballots and either update the Google Doc with their results or email Krissy the final totals. What started out as a simple request has grown to, by her estimate, over 31,000 students signed up for this amazing event! I can't imagine the excitement that her students will feel, knowing that they have triggered this much activity across the US.

There's something truly inspiring and empowering about coming up with a great idea and watching it grow to something that is global in scope. It makes you feel like you are teaching the world, not just your tiny corner of it.

All you have to do is ask...!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Experimenting with Thinglink

Once again, I got an interesting tech tip from my #sschat Twitter feed. Greg Kulowiec, one of the deans of #sschat and the person who blew me away with his Teaching History with Technology class, recommended a site called Thinglink. Here, you can upload images from a variety of sources, then embed (or 'tag') the image with hyperlinks. The examples from their site looked so interesting, I decided to give it a try.

To make it easy for me, I decided to take an image from one of my favorite lessons, the Boston Massacre. In this lesson, we examine Paul Revere's famous engraving of the Boston Massacre, or as he named it, The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street. Students study the image and note 10 things they noticed - the more interesting the better. Then, we examine a news story written at the time of the event and do a compare-and-contrast between the written account and Revere's image. We find at least three things that don't match and three things that do match. Students have a great time with this, as they have a hard time believing that the written account and the image do NOT match in so many ways. This leads us into an AWESOME conversation about purpose, bias, and the power of images.

I took some of the match/do not match items that students came up with and created FIVE embedded links within this image. Can you find them all?

Once I uploaded my image into Thinglink, I just clicked 'Edit image' and the picture gets placed in a simple to use editor. Clicking anywhere on the image makes a tag appear.

Thinglink made it VERY easy to embed my jazzed up image into this blog post by generating a nice block of embed code that I simply cut-and-paste into this write up. SO easy!

This has great potential!

To start, I kept it simple and used straight text tags - just to see how it looked. Then, my mind really starting thinking about what I could do with the full range of functionality they have to offer. Here's just a FEW:

- Posing questions that students need to answer
   (e.g. 'What is the soldier on the far right doing?')

- Adding a sound clip of the event:

- Adding depth/clarity to confusing/unusual items in an image - and offering extra credit if students dig a little deeper!:

- Turning an image into a jumping off point for a research project:

Thinglink also offers color options for the tags you embed. If these became a standard tool in your bag of multimedia offerings, I could see color-coding tags so that (for example):
- blue = basic information
- green = 'learn more'
- red = extra credit, etc...

I am sure there are so many more ways to use this. Feel free to comment and add your own ideas!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cool tools without exemplars may be like a project without a rubric

This is a long overdue post about some of the basics of using technology in the classroom. A lot of this came about as I was trading thoughts with Amanda Ballard, a middle school social studies teacher in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Amanda was wrapping up a revolutionary war project, where students were asked to create a wiki to show arguments for/against colonial rebellion. She shared some of the successes and struggles with the project.

From our email exchanges, I realized how careful we have to be as educators when we try to introduce a technology piece into a lesson/unit. For many of us, we are subjected to a new textbook, or even revised standards, so we are often in a state of upgrading/modifying/enhancing on a very frequent basis. It might be tempting to see technology as another tool in our bag that we might "slip in". Yes, we hope to jazz up the students, but we truly want them to be using the tools and methodologies of today. Why not a wiki to show colonial rebellion - better than a Pro-Con T-chart...!!!

When we do any project-based activity, it's fair to say that exemplars go a long way toward letting students see what we will be expecting from them. If we budget our time correctly, walking students through exemplars (good, bad and ugly!) gives them a chance to ask questions and gives us a chance to point out some specifics in depth of information, style and presentation. However, I rarely see any mention of exemplars when teachers talk about technology-based projects. We assume students are 'tech-savvy' and can immediately translate our concepts of a wiki, blog posting or facebook page into reality.

It got me thinking that we have so many how-to sites to help us learn HOW to use some new tool, but no way to easily round up samples for students to review. Maybe we should start thinking about putting out the call for student exemplars. We could create an exemplar website and have pages of links that teachers can go to when we start a project......?

We're busy putting together our own PLNs (which is great) - we need to make sure we tap into that and provide students with authentic instances of this technology.