Thursday, March 5, 2009

Free podcast hosting with Gcast!

Just this week, I did an interactive whiteboard training session for high school World Language teachers. I did minor in French in college, but since I don't speak Spanish, I needed to beef up the content for this training. So, I invited a particularly spectacular Spanish teacher from a local magnet school to join me. Her name is Melisa and she is extraordinarily inventive in her use of multimedia technologies (including her interactive whiteboard) to make her lessons engaging, authentic and effective.

She introduced me to Gcast. She and her family are native Spanish speakers, but since they are all from different regions of the world, they have different accents (you can't pay for that kind of resource!). In order to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce her students to the spoken word, she uses Gcast to create "answering machine messages" that her students must listen to as a homework assignment. She phones in her podcast (the site says "it's so easy, your grandma can do it" so give it a try) and posts a link to her website. For homework, the students listen to the "message" that she or one of her family members has recorded and fill out a worksheet with several questions related to the message.

The latest example of one of her "messages" is from a make-believe real-estate customer who describes the qualities of a home that she is looking for.

Talk about innovative use! Brava, Melisa!


Sunday, March 1, 2009

5 minute formative assessments for science classes

This is volume one of a three part series by the current president of the NSTA, Page Keeley, and her cohort of educational researchers. It is a fabulous resource for all content areas, K-12. I use these books in a variety of ways; sometimes to begin a content workshop for elementary teachers (so I know where they are, science-wise) or to instigate a discussion on the importance of classroom-based formative assessment with middle level or high school teachers.

Most recently, I used a few probes in a workshop that I did for eight high-school chemistry and physics teachers. We discussed at length the importance of and differences between summative assessments and formative assessments and how each are vital, but serve different essential functions for teachers and students. Summative assessments are assessments OF learning, formative assessments are assessments FOR learning and can be a powerful instructional tool!

Check out the books at If you are a member, you get a discount. Or, if you buy all three at you can get a discount (and maybe super-saver shipping!).

Having P.E. Twice a Day Would Make Us All Smarter...Really.

Last week, I went to a neuroscience/education conference in San Francisco. Totally blew my mind. I have a degree in neurobiology, but it's been a while since I became acquainted with the current research.

You know, neuroscientists who study how humans learn and educators should really get together on a more permanent basis.

One of my favorite lectures was by Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules. The most compelling research that he presented was how exercise effects cognitive function--exercise makes you smarter...truly! Now I want to install treadmills in all classrooms and have gym twice a day instead of twice a week.

Check out his videos (he is highly entertaining) at this youtube channel: