Category Archives: Cool tools

Active Reading: Using Kindle to Engage Learners


I’ve been a reader my whole life…  I think it goes without saying that I love technology as well.  I got my Kindle in early April of 2009.  I was not one of those people who was afraid of the e-reader because it didn’t “smell like a book”. So,  I immediately fell in love with it and found myself reading more than I ever have.  Why?  Because my entire library was accessible.  Any book that I wanted to read was at my fingertips waiting to be read.  I actually read 28 books last summer…  I wasn’t having a contest with myself, it is just what happened.  I would find myself pulling out my kindle any time I had a free moment.  I know for a fact that I would not have read that many books in print form.  Print books are too bulky and heavy, and don’t just slip into my purse.  For me, the Kindle is the ultimate accessory.

For the past year, I’ve used my Kindle in a passive form, flipping the pages while reading the latest in tech ed, great YA fiction, historical fiction, or an engrossing memoir.  I was actively reading in my head by forming questions, thinking about character development, and making predictions.  It was not until the recent 2.5.2 update that this process changed for me…

I have become an active reader with a real product that can be manipulated and used in the future.  What I have always done in my head is now organized, sequenced, and cited allowing me to design lessons, write papers, create tweets, or do whatever I wish with it.   Below is an example of the highlights and notes that I took while reading Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher this past week:



The process is so simple…I can’t believe I haven’t taken advantage of it until now!

  1. Press down on the 5 way controller and push to the right to highlight.
  2. If you want to tweet your highlight, press alt and back arrow after you highlight.
  3. Begin typing to add a note.
  4. Go to to view your highlights and notes on your laptop or view them on your kindle under “my notes and highlights”.

The beauty of this are the options that you have online.  You can view your books in flashcard view or book view, while accessing your books and highlights.  You can even view popular highlights by other Kindle users!


I do not read the same anymore. I have documented my learning. I have documented my process of reading and learning. I have shared my learning with others.  Imagine the implications for students….

  • Students thinking about reading while they are reading
  • Students accessing their thoughts online
  • Students sharing their thoughts about reading online, in class, anywhere…
  • Students doing  reading “homework” actively
  • Students engaged in reading
  • Students prepared for discussions with digital notes
  • Students using citations in research correctly because the citation is embedded in the highlight or note they took
  • Students learning from other students and teachers about their reading processes
  • Students logging their reading without leaving the book
  • Students creating a digital portfolio of the novels they have read

The possibilities are endless… with Kindle prices dropping quickly, as well as free apps on droid, blackberry, iphone, ipad, itouch, mac, & pc students will be able to access this technology freely and equally. The tag line on the Amazon Kindle site is:  Read, Review, Remember…what a novel idea! I love the notion of bringing an age old process into the 21st century!

A Walk Down Memory Lane With Google Street View


I came across a post by @dougpete entitled “My Childhood Community”.  He used Google Street View to take a virtual walk down memory lane.  My head started spinning because I saw a student assignment in this.  After just finishing an immigration unit as well as a project called “What’s Your Story”, I was thinking that this was the perfect opportunity to tap into some 21st Century skills while connecting with adults.  I imagined my students sitting in front of a laptop with a parent or grandparent and asking them about where they grew up.  The child would then show them using Google Street View the places they were speaking of.  As the conversation developed, the tool would be used as a virtual treasure hunt where the two generations would be exploring, sparking memories, and learning from each other.  They will be able to talk about changes in childhood, buildings, and technology. What a recipe for a meaningful conversation!

I have not started this with my students yet, but have created directions for the project here. Even if  I don’t have time to fit this in for this current year, I have learned how to use Google in a way that I’ve never thought of before. Digital storytelling has become an integral part of my language arts curriculum, and this is just another extension to it.

This past week, I sat with my mom as we talked about my childhood. I showed her what I was doing on Google Street View and she was amazed at the technology!  We spent about an hour reminiscing and exploring our little town and the surrounding areas.  It truly was a great conversation and walk down memory lane.  I see her every day, but don’t always have the opportunity to connect in the way we did this week. Here we are just before my first birthday…I was just beginning to walk…

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Below are the examples that I made from that discussion with my mom:

Thanks to @dougpete for sharing your experience, and a special thanks to my mom that walked with me through my childhood, and continues to walk with me every day.


Educon 2.2: Professional Development in my pj’s! #educon


Sounds too good to be true, huh?  Professional Development in your pajamas?  That is exactly what I did this weekend.  Unfortunately, I did not get tickets on time to go to educon in Philadelphia, so I had to go with plan B.  I had my laptop up and running with my #educon twitter feed running in one window and the Friday night keynote panel discussion:  What is Smart? streaming on in another window.  Here, I heard Loren Brichter, Martha Farah, Happy Fernandez, Eddie Glaude, and David Shenk discuss their thoughts on what they thought smart was.  While the discussion was going on, I was having other discussions about the topic on twitter.  What did I learn from the keynote panel?

  • Howard Gardner was right.
  • Dewey is still awesome.
  • Smart means different things to different people.
  • It is really hard to follow a neuroscience professor.
  • Passion for something is vital for being “smart” in it.
  • Elementary teachers resonate most with “smart” people.
  • My favorite question posed:  How do we make smart?

I woke up Saturday morning to watch the vokle stream of the morning keynote Marilyn Perez.  I found myself more concerned about what conversations I was going to attend than listening to the stream.  It was a good thing, though, because I got into my first choice conversation for session 1:  Teaching Big Ideas to 21st Century Learners with Ben Hazzard and Zoe Branigan-Pipe.  I will have to admit, that the technology of the elluminate session was painful at best to begin with.  So, while they were working on that, I was adding to my PLN (personal learning network) by searching through the #educon twitter feed.  Wow!  I am blown away by the people that I met and what they have to say about education and learning.  So, what did I learn from Zoe and Ben?

Ask yourself these questions when thinking about Big Ideas..

  • What are the relevant topics you can address with your students?
  • How can you make learning meaningful?
  • What are the Big Ideas your students will find relevant?
  • What 3 takeaways do you wish for your students.  Answers from the session can be found here.

During lunch, I followed Will Richardson to a demo by Jeff Han via ustream of the perceptive pixel, a multitouch interface that was amazing.

Next, I decided to multitask and attend two conversations.  The first was by Christian Long with the Alice Project.  The second was by David Warlick about Learning 2.0.  What did I learn here?

  • If you don’t establish boundaries, you can’t release creativity.
  • Ask students great questions and demand they prove it in public.
  • What does great learning look like?
  • Wow… The Alice Project
  • There are cool new tools for Blooms that were introduced here.

My last session of the day was with Chris Lehmann, the principal of the Science and Leadership Academy called, Leadership 2.0:  Who do we need our leaders to be?  Currently, I’m finishing my Master’s in Educational Leadership and working on my principal’s certification, so this one was the one I was really looking forward to.  There are some people that are born to be leaders; Chris Lehmann is one of them.  What did I learn from Chris?

  • Leaders need to use inquiry, technology infusion, and communities of care.
  • In inquiry learning, follow the lead of the students.
  • Technology should be a part of every day and transformative.
  • A caring community is one that is 24/7…in school, out of school, online, and off-line.
  • Character education needs to go deeper than the posters we hang around the school.
  • Teachers need to know the vision/mission of the school in order to incorporate it into their lessons each day.
  • Servant leadership is top down support for bottom up ideas.
  • Leadership is being able to get everyone on the same common ground, then move them forward.
  • You can’t bully teachers into caring for students.
  • Every good teacher knows how to outlive a mandate.

So, my mind was absolutely spinning from the day.  I took the kids out to Target and out to dinner.  When I got home, I went back to the #educon twitter feed to see what I could catch up on.  This community of learners were now synthesizing the information they learned in the other sessions that I couldn’t attend and were sharing it with all of us…now those are some great teachers/learners/leaders/collaborators!  I came across an ebook that was made in Ben Hazzard’s second session here:

Amazing how a group can collaborate so effectively!  Thanks to all who helped create the field guide.

Now it is Sunday morning…unfortunately, I won’t be attending any virtual conversations today because I have to catch up with the real world and everything I ignored yesterday.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  This was an amazing learning experience for me.  I have built a personal learning network that I will be able to learn from every day.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to meet them in person next year!

So….what did you learn this weekend???  ;o)

Flickrpoet: Digital Storytelling Gets Poetic


I’ve been using digital storytelling with my students via photostory, but this takes digital storytelling to another level.  Flickrpoet allows you to enter a sentence, a poem,  lyrics, etc. into the text box, which, in turn, will create a visual representation of your work in pictures pulled from Flickr.  Imagine the possibilities for students!

Cool tool for teachers: Youblisher

Oh, how I LOVE this new site (youblisher)!  It takes your own PDF files and turns them into a publication in a snap!  This is a great way to publish student work!  Here is an example of a project I just finished with my 8th graders TKAMB21 (To Kill a Mockingbird Meets the 21st Century).  My next blog post will detail that project…stay tuned!