Article: Your Child’s Next Field Trip May be a Virtual One


Your child’s next field trip may not require a permission slip or a brightly-colored t-shirt that matches his classmates. It may not require any traveling at all, and yet he or she might be interacting with people and places on the other side of the world.

Skype in the Classroom uses technology to bring students — some less fortunate — on virtual field trips or to hear lessons from noteworthy people in various career fields. Classrooms in the U.S. have interacted with classrooms in New Zealand; had the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America as a guest speaker; and taken virtual field trip to Biscayne National Park to learn about sea turtles plus hundreds of other experiences.

The number of teachers utilizing the technology in their classrooms is growing. Last year, 25,000 teachers became active members of Skype in the Classroom, a 30 percent increase from the year prior.

For teachers like Gina Felton, it’s the only way her students can “travel.” Based in Mondamin, Iowa, Gina is the only 5th grade teacher at the West Harrison Community School, a school that covers a landmass of 247 square miles with 329 students ranging from preK-12th grade. Almost 85 percent of the students are on the reduced and free lunch program, and some take a 45 minute bus ride to get to school in the morning. There’s no extra funding and Gina’s students’ sole option for a field trip was a nature hike at a local reserve.

Since becoming a Skype in the Classroom member, in one year her students have played “Mystery Skype,” a geography game that links two geographically distant classrooms, with over 100 classes. The students learn by asking questions about culture, climate and customs and ultimately guessing where the other class is located.

“My kids used to think they had nothing special or interesting to offer,” said Felton, “but they have learned through meeting other students that they are unique and they have experiences others are interested in learning about, even from Mondamin, Iowa where the closest grocery store is one hour away. They are proud of our uniqueness and walk a little taller now.”

There are 9,300 lessons offered on Skype in the classroom include teacher to teacher classroom collaboration, guest speakers and virtual field trips. All the programs are free.

Mike Soskil, a teacher from Newfoundland, Pennsylvania who won the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, has used the program to create peer-to-peer math lessons with students in Nairobi, Kenya, collaborate with students in India to put together awareness campaigns to stop child labor in Asia and Africa, and even learn about weather from meteorologists and NASA scientists.

“My 4th grade daughter’s excitement for school went through the roof after using Skype in the classroom to connect with other students in Kenya,” said Brenda Jantzi, a mom from Greentown, Pennsylvania. “She always told me that she wanted to help others when she grows up, and this allowed her to feel like she’s doing it now.”


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Inspirational Video for Teachers


Summer is almost over and many teachers are already starting to get ready for another year.  Here is a little motivational video I found that might give some of you out there some motivation as you get ready.

TechTools for the Classroom: Easy Ideas to Engage Students


TechTools is a free professional learning community (PLC) where educators can discover new resources, free technology, and great ideas for integrating technology into the classroom to engage and inspire students.

The community hosts free monthly webinars and live chats that are highly engaging and interactive.  Online discussions provide an easy way to continue the conversation and share ideas and experiences with other teachers and educators around the country.

Upcoming Webinars

Presented by Shannon Holden, a high school and middle school teacher and administrator who loves technology and helping teachers learn easy ways to use free tools in the classroom.

Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time

Using Smartphones in the Classroom – Part 2

Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time

Using Online Quizzing & Testing Software to Assess Student Learning

Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time

Making Your Online Digital Content More Interactive for Students

Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time

Using Flipagram to Help Students Categorize Knowledge

Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time

Encouraging Student Collaboration Using TodaysMeet and Lino

Pre-registration is not required for TechTools community members.

Join the webinar at the scheduled time with this link: 

You’ll be automatically emailed a CE certificate for attending a live session.

Be sure to join the TechTools community:

  • Receive invites and reminders to free webinars
  • Access the recordings for past webinars
  • CE quizzes (to earn your certificate for viewing a past webinar)
  • Additional resources and discussions

Preview the webinar “Getting Students Organized With Evernote & Dropbox” presented by Shannon Holden, Assistant Principal, Republic Middle School, MO.  After viewing, take the CE quiz to earn a certificate for this session.

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Goodbye, PowerPoint: How Education Conferences Are Branching Out


Read a great article in Edweek on professional development and conferences that resonated with me.

Goodbye, PowerPoint: How Education Conferences Are Branching Out

The essence of the article is the need to move away from the 3 day marathon conference where you pick sessions and sit and get from a speaker who plows through powerpoint slides.  Is this the best way to learn?

Also noted in the article is the way that almost all conferences are using Twitter hastags to make the conference more interactive and extend the learning.

Take some time to read this article.

5 Tips for Back to School Shopping


The video above gives some tips from a high school aged girl.  My daughter really loves this.

For parents:
As the days of summer quickly fade away and the fall approaches all parents and children are grappling with the essentials for back to school.  My daughter got us to start this at the beginning of August which I thought was crazy on one hand but impressed with her enthusiasm.  I think it is just the move to high school and that big worry to fit in that is inspiring her enthusiasm.  Anyway I say an article in the Huffington Post on back to school shopping and I thought I would share this with those of you who follow my blog.

1. Look for durability.

Many of the big department stores will try and sell you on the dime-a-dozen thermal lunchboxes with characters printed on the top. They are usually made of cheap materials that rip easily and are hard to wash. It is also tempting to just throw food inside without other bags or containers. This means the lunchboxes quickly get stained and moldy.

Instead, look for sturdy plastic or stainless steel lunchboxes. These will have a much higher chance of lasting the school year. They will cost a little more, but the features they provide are definitely worth it, and they might even last for a couple years.

2. Easy cleanup is a must.

You’re a busy parent and you don’t have time to hand wash and scrub a lunchbox or bottle every time it comes home. Always make sure what you buy is dishwasher safe. This is especially true if a lunchbox comes with multiple pieces. Double check to make sure every piece can be thrown onto the top rack. You might not think this is a big deal now, but you will thank me later.

3. Compare prices.

Just because the lunch gear is right in front of you at the store doesn’t mean it is the best deal. You need to factor in not only the immediate cost, but also the cost to replace it if the box becomes too stained to use or breaks down (trust me, I’ve had it happen). Should you spend five dollars more for the better box? You need to think of it as an investment rather than something to just check off your list. If you go the dirt-cheap route, you could be rebuying the same cheap gear again and again throughout the year because it didn’t last. When this happens, you will be spending much more.

4. Size matters.

If you have a first grader, he or she should probably use a smaller lunchbox. For older kids, a slightly larger lunch container is a must. Plus, for younger kids you want them to be able to carry their lunch gear in their backpack. It just makes the whole trip to school that much easier. Also, if you give a younger child a big container, it could get heavy in a hurry. Have them carry it around the store for a few minutes before you buy it. This is especially important if you choose stainless steel instead of plastic.

5. Think about the planet.

There are many lunchbox companies now that are making their products with the environment in mind. If it doesn’t put too much strain on your budget, think about our planet when you make your purchase. Choosing gear from one of these companies could be a great chance to talk to your kids about how small choices can have a big impact.


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