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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

1st Grade Pen Pals Project

Looking to connect to students in another part of the world? 1st graders at BB&N are doing just that using During their study of Mexico 1st graders are doing a pen pal project with two schools in Mexico, one in Tijuana and one in Saltillo. Each BB&N student is paired with a student from one of the schools. The students write letters to each other, take pictures of themselves and important places around their schools and then the teachers send them back and forth. The students are really enjoying learning about their buddies, their schools and daily life in Mexico and with the speed of e-mail the students are getting responses to their letters/questions quickly. has been a great tool in this project. There are thousands of teachers/classes from around the world on We found many in Mexico that fit our criteria. We are doing a simple e-mail exchange but epals also connects classes that want to focus on a particular project. The site also offers curriculum guides for those teachers/classes that help framing their pen pal exchange.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What is a PLN?

Have you ever heard of a PLN? It seems to be quite a buzzword these days. A PLN, or Personal Learning Network, is a network of people from whom one gathers information as well as interacts with, though that does not have to be face-to-face. While the acronym is relatively new, the idea behind a PLN is not. Teachers have always shared with and learned from each other. Some ways you can use a PLN:

1. I belong to a group of Massachusetts educators (MEMSET- Massachusetts Elementary and Middle School Educational Technologists) that just started meeting together and collaborating this past year. We have been gathering every month or so, using an email list for questions and for posting news, and using Google Aps to share our curriculum.

2. You can find a ning related to your interests:

After a technology conference with Tom Daccord of EdTechTeacher, I joined his ning for the National Council for Social Studies.

I am also a member of the Classroom 2.0 ning which often sends out announcements about live and interactive webinars.

Lastly, I am a member of the Independent School Educators Network ning and a couple of its subgroups, including “Schools of the Future.”

3. You can use social networking, such as Diigo:

I am a member of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch Users group to get updates about using handheld devices in the classroom.

BB&N’s technology department members have created a group in Diigo so we can share articles with each other, and all of the pages we bookmark get posted on our technology department blog for the whole school.

4. You can follow members in your field through their blogs and tweets. Though I’m quite busy these days, I try to follow leaders in Educational Technology. I went to a presentation at BLC a few summers ago where Liz Davis and Lisa Thumann presented “25 Ed Tech Leaders to follow.”

How are you using your PLN? Please share your ideas below. Not sure where to start? Take a look at, the personal learning network for educators.

Quick Math Information: iTunes Applications

This may be old news, and the offer will expire quickly, but from now until May 6th the "Everyday Math Apps" sponsored by the McGraw-Hill School Education Group are free to download for teacher appreciation week.

The link to the iTunes page is here:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird Blog

For the past several years, and thanks to the inspiration of Eric Hudson’s idea, my class creates a blog as we read To Kill a Mockingbird. The book is great fun study with eighth graders both because of their eagerness to practice their new skills in literary analysis as well as their passionate responses to the events in the book. The blog provides a perfect venue for them to share insights into the novel and to create a communal, public record of the evolution of their ideas. They post about symbols they identify in the novel. They post about their moral outrage as they read about the verdict. They comment on each other’s posts in order to agree, disagree, or refine their classmates’ ideas.

Students are required to write polished paragraphs and to support their ideas with evidence from the text. Because they know how public and lasting their writing is, and that its purpose is to build a communal resource, they are invested in contributing their best work. Each student writes frequently and receives immediate feedback from their classmates as well as me. This blog has become an exciting and invaluable component of teaching this novel. By the last chapter, the students have worked together to create something for themselves and each other of genuine intellectual achievement.

Besty Canaday, MS English Department Head