Twitter, the Ultimate PLN and Global Connection


Twitter. People either love it, or they hate it. Those who hate it, tend to hate it vehemently. Those who love it, swear by it. You will find a few that fall somewhere in between.

Twitter has the ability to be incredibly powerful. Using Twitter, you have the ability to reach tens of thousands of people extremely quickly. That reach can be compounded through retweets. So your potential audience is HUGE!

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An 11 year old girl learning to solder, mount components, and a bit of how things work…

So, yesterday, I posted about ARRL Field Day. We went to the W5UMS field day operation, and had a great time.

Ben, WF5N, held a how-to session on how to solder. While my soldering skill existed before going, I would not say it was great, by any stretch of the imagination. My daughter had never soldered anything before.

Upon arrival at the Lafayette County Central Fire Station, we were greeted by numerous amateur radio operators, or “hams”, who were anxious for field day to begin. We made our way inside to the area Ben intended to lead his session.

Ben stepped us through the process of mounting electrical components to a printed circuit board. He took the time to show my daughter how to solder correctly, and we were off and running. Following a combination of the schematic, and Ben’s input, my daughter managed to construct a home made “home brew” Morse code oscillator.


I was extremely impressed with how quickly my daughter picked up soldering. She had nice, neat work, and was a stickler to making sure everything was neat on the board. Ben did an excellent job of teaching, and a great time was had by all.

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When we finished the oscillator, we moved over to the antenna station. We intended to construct “Tape Measure Yagi” antennas. Several of the members of the W5UMS club were assembling them while we were working on code oscillators, so by the time we got there, we had the benefit of their experience. I had my daughter do the bulk of the measuring, while I did the cutting. Everything came out as expected, and we got it assembled and tested relatively quickly.


As if the building of some cool home made tech wasn’t cool enough, my 11 year old daughter got to get on the radio. She made several contacts all over the country.


We would like to thank the folks of the W5UMS Amateur Radio Club, the Lafayette County Fire Dept., and all of the hams who made yesterday a great experience for everyone. I would especially like to thank Ben, who took the time to lug all his equipment and components to the site and set up, willing to work with us on our building projects.

All in all, this was project based learning at it’s best. Amateur radio offers many opportunities for students and adults alike to be involved. Take the time to do a little searching, and see who is around you who is a ham. Odds are, they are more than willing to help you and your students experience ham radio. Another fine resource is, a site full of great information. Ham radio gives students not only the technical side of the hobby, but hams are big into public service as well, something we tend to miss out on in school all to often.

So, as we say on the radio,

73 (look that one up if you are curious ūüôā )

ARRL Field Day, a different kind of EdTech

Today, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), begins their annual field day. Field day was initially designed as a way to allow Amateur Radio Operators (hams) to practice operations under less than ideal conditions for emergency preparedness.

Today, with the availability of technology such as generators, solar panels, etc., the exercise is less about emergency communications, and more of a contest and learning opportunity.

I will be spending a large portion of my day at the W5UMS Field Day, here in Oxford, MS. I will use a portion of my day to operate (talk to people around the world), and another portion to learn to build some things I am not so familiar with.

One such item I will be building with my daughter is a “Tape Measure Yagi”. This is a directional antenna that allows one to focus their radio signal in a single direction. I want to build one so I can show my students how at school, and my daughter will learn to solder, practice measuring, and so forth in the process as well.

Additionally, I will teach my daughter to operate the radio herself. She is studying for her Technician Class license, and this will help keep her motivated. I am currently an Amateur Extra operator (K5ATA) and Cyndi is a Technician (KD5YGK). We hope to have several kids come by so we can teach them a little “old school tech”.

The term “Old School Tech” is actually a bit of a misnomer. Radios have progressed over time, and now fully interface with computers. We have full digital modes where hams can operate and type messages using radio waves. These have the added advantage over voice communications in that they require less output power to travel great distances.

Each year, I try to get at least a few kids licensed. This is a way for students to have real world interaction with some rather complicated math, electrical theory, and communications skills. Not to mention, kids really enjoy getting to connect with others around the world.

If you have a few spare minutes today, visit the website and look for a field day operation near you. You never know, you might just learn something new.

Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller

I recently finished reading a great book, by Matt Miller, called Ditch That Textbook. For those of you out there who are at least considering the move to being more paperless, I highly recommend this book.


Miller describes his transition to getting rid of the traditional textbook in his foreign language class, a journey similar to what we have experienced doing the same in our English classes.  I rather like that Miller does not just paint it as a happy go lucky experience, where everything went perfectly. He kept it real, which is what educators need. (though not always what educators want)

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Does Student Collaboration Really Matter?

You can go to just about any venue where educators come together, and hear umpteen (yes, that really is a word) strategies to use in the classroom. You will hear catchphrase after catchphrase, all claiming to be the be all end all fountain of knowledge, the bringer of prosperity to all students. Ok, that may be a wee bit extreme, but you know what I am talking about.

Teacher conventions are filled with people like those described above. People who say this ONE thing, be it strategy, app, program, or whatever, will do more for kids than any other. The fact of the matter is that no one thing does that, it is how one implements that one thing that makes a difference.

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Using Movie Clips in the Classroom

Many teachers struggle to find ways to engage their students. They often struggle to get them under control so they can get their lesson started. Too often, a great deal of valuable time is lost in doing this.

When asked, many say it is ‘just a rowdy bunch’ or “a rough group of kids’. This may rub some of you the wrong way, but the fact is, if you struggle for that long to get them involved, it’s the way you are trying to engage them that is the problem.

This is not to say you are at fault, just that you haven’t found the magic bullet yet for each class. Obviously, groups of kids can be very different, and no one thing works for everyone. However, one thing I have found that consistently works to get kids involved and on task immediately is using movie clips.

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Making Life Easier with Google Chrome Extensions

The internet is a virtual wonderland of resources. Today, it seems that there are websites and tools for just about anything, you just need to know where to find them.

Youtube is a great resource for the classroom. Everyone loves to use a clip to spur discussion, right? However, sometimes, the ads that come up before the clip can make for an uncomfortable situation in the classroom.  Certainly, there is a way to skip that thing and not have to wait 15 seconds for the students to see who knows what, right?

Let’s here it for Google Chrome extensions. If you don’t know what an extension is, it is a sort of add on to your Chrome web browser that helps it do certain tasks.

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Using Games for Assessment | Edutopia

Great read here!

Using games for assessment is about more than tracking points. The past five years have seen a lot of growth in the digital games and assessment field, developing data collection engines that use sophisticated tools to measure student learning and provide teachers with targeted feedback (seeGlassLab, for example).

But one of the most common misconceptions we have run across is that all good learning games must assess learners within the game. The truth is that assessment happens around a game more often than it happens inside the game, and teachers must still design and provide authentic, useful assessment tasks for students.

For the rest, read it at Edutopia!

Using Games for Assessment | Edutopia.

App Smashing and Sandwiches

Ok, I know you read the title of today’s blog and asked yourself, “What?” No worries, I am about to explain.

First, let’s take care of a little lunch business. Sandwiches. Now, there aren’t too many people in the world who don’t love a good sandwich. If you happen to be one of the few who don’t, bear with me, there is hope for you yet.

The thing I love about sandwiches, Panini sandwiches in particular is the way you can put together EXACTLY what you want. Get some cheese, some tasty meat (if meat is your thing), some vegetables, whatever other goodies you want on a sandwich (mayo, olive oil, whatever), throw it in a Panini press, and VIOLA, you have the perfect sandwich, for this time. Now, you may not feel like the same sandwich tomorrow. Problem? Absolutely not, it’s the beauty of customization. You smashed your sandwich together to suit what you wanted, and can always smash it together a different way, should you desire.

Now, APP SMASHING, works in much the same way. You see, there are literally more apps than I care to try to count out there. Each does their own thing. Some do their thing really well, and well, some just pretend to do their thing. The fact is, that one thing is something we often settle for, because, well, it’s close to what we want.

Enter the app smash. App smashing is just like making that sandwich. You take all of your favorites, and put them together to get a desired result. With the ease of access to cloud based storage and sharing (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc) we can now collaborate with others more easily than ever to smash things together.¬†Perhaps your class is reading,¬†A Night to Remember,¬†the story of the sinking of the Titanic. You could easily take a picture of the titanic, put your image in front of it,green screen perhaps? Maybe an animated version of a student in front of the Titanic using Tellagami? You can share that via drive to several people. Maybe some students rewrote a song and make it into a summary of the text, and sing it to the animated guy? Publish that on Youtube, share it on drive, you get the idea. The possibilities are endless! The point is, you can make it much better than our first attempt was when we did a singing summary to that very text to the tune of Katy Perry’s Firework. Yes, it’s still out there on Youtube… and it is horrible! I was never meant to sing!

Or, maybe it’s books that are you seek. No worries, the same sandwich making skills apply. Smash together your favorite scene creator app with your favorite book creator app, next thing you know, you have an ebook!

There are TONS of resources out there to find examples of app smashes that work, with directions and everything.  Do a quick Google search, and see for yourself. Here is a site to get you started, from Greg Kuloweic, a master of the App Smash.

However, I ask one thing of you. After you look at all the examples out there you can handle, try to smash something new… something different. That is the best part about this, the creativity. Most importantly, if you come up with some really cool app smash project, SHARE it! The power of EdTech is in collaboration.

Wattpad, a way for everyone to get out there

For years, teachers have been telling students to get out there, write something. The problem for many was having an audience. When an author has an audience, they are much more inclined to write, and write well.

Teens, as many of us know, tend to be a different breed altogether. They are discovering who they are, or, more accurately, molding themselves into who they want to be. They write for school, and maybe even for friends. The problem is, when they write for teachers at school, they feel limited.

Yes, I know, many of us tell students they should feel free to write what they think, what they feel, etc. At the same time, many teens want to write things they are not so willing to just hand over to their teacher, more for fear of school imposed consequences. This is not to say that what they are writing is inappropriate, just that it may push limits of school rules.

Teens will be teens, and, as such, they will find an avenue to express themselves. If you have students who are aspiring authors, may be a tool you want to show them.

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Wattpad allows the student (or anyone, for that matter) to set up an account, free of charge. They can build in a certain level of anonymity, using nick names, etc. They are then able to search out stories to read. The best part about wattpad is it provides an audience for writing.

Wattpad becomes infectious. A few students start writing and sharing, then more want to write and share. Eventually, you end up with students who finish classwork, and ask if they can work on their wattpad writing. Hmm… let’s think about that one. Kids, begging to write? It doesn’t take long to figure out the obvious answer to that one. Students end up thinking, formulating story ideas, plot twists, character motivations, etc. doing something they choose to do, on their own, for fun. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems to be a pretty good deal.

To make life even easier for students, yes, there is an app for that. Wattpad is accessible via the web, or their mobile app.

So, if you are looking for a way to provide your students with a meaningful audience, a place to read other stories, and critique and comment on them, wattpad is the place for you.