Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lesson Plan Syndication Online

As I was faced with the task of syndicating the second season of Annick LIVEbrary lesson plans on World History, I've learned that moderated content-sharing sites that allow submissions are few and far between. Many will only accept lesson plans submitted by school teachers, or will only use standardized content generated in-house or by the educational partner sites affiliated with the particular institutions. In other words, while the online teaching tools for educators are abundant, I found that it was rather difficult to syndicate lesson plans unless you are a teacher. If you're a homeschooler or a librarian you will also have a hard time finding quality sites that would accept your content.

Such tight quality control is not only understandable when the safety of our children is concerned, but is also desirable. What you end up with are spam-free sites that are worth pitching and posting to. After you identify the potential sites for your target market, you will need to register on most of them. Some will notify you via e-mail if your membership was approved and will then ask you to verify your email address. Some sites allow you to submit via email only, but many have submission forms. All require approval by the moderator, be it a Webmaster or Editor. The most accepted formats are Word, Text and PDF.

Here are some resources that were high on my lesson-plan syndication list:

Apple Learning Interchange
Graphics heavy, content-sharing site powered by Apple. Contains educator-created lessons, podcasts, videos and such social network trappings as groups, searchable member directory, and forums. JPG thumbnail cover images are required for member-uploaded content.

Teacher-contributed lesson plans and online classrooms powered by a learning management system that make a teacher's life easier by automating such time-consuming tasks as planning and grading.

Forums, live chats, interest-group discussions, an online magazine, and a lesson-plan library.

For Lesson Plans
Free lesson plans for K-12 teachers.

Lesson plans, forums, editorials; and product, service and website reviews.

A to Z Teacher Stuff
Lesson plans, discussion forums, downloadable teaching materials.

YouTube-like media-sharing site. Videos and images only. Student submissions are also accepted but heavily moderated.

Teacher Lingo
Teacher blogs and message boards.

Learn NC
Lesson plans, multimedia resources, and online courses for K-12 teachers and students.

Teachers First
Classroom-ready content generated in-house along with the reviewed web resources.

USA Teachers
Lesson plans, a message board, plus a directory of the school-district sites by state.

Lesson Corner
Educational technology company with online teacher resources.

We The Teachers
Forums, lesson plans and discussion groups.

Lesson Plans Page
Powered by HotChalk.

Homeschooling Library
Lesson plans and resources tailored to the needs of the homeschooling families.

Online library of original content organized by topic; moderated but not limited to teacher resources.

photo courtesy of dc John, used under its Creative Commons license

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

FreeConferenceCall Tutorials for Teachers, Authors, Librarians

Continuing with our back-to-school preparation here at the LIVEbrary, I have located and reviewed a variety of resources for using to deliver online classrooms visits.

FreeConferenceCall is a free conference call service that allows you to stage and record group phone calls. The only charges are whatever your phone carrier charges for long-distance calls to FreeConferenceCall. You can open a FreeConferenceCall account (no credit card required) and begin using it today. It's that simple.

At last check, FreeConferenceCall does not include the ability to text chat or instant message during a call (as Skype does), nor do they offer free videoconferencing at this time (as ooVoo does). But the phone connection through FreeConferenceCall is easier to use and more stable than VOIP, and no software installation is required.

Teachers and librarians -- please email me if you have questions about using FreeConferenceCall for online classroom visits from our LIVEbrary authors.

Producer of The Annick LIVEbrary


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Skype Tutorials for Teachers, Authors, Librarians

The Annick LIVEbrary received a nod from high school librarian and author, Carolyn Foote, in an article about "Skype in the Classroom" in School Library Journal. Thanks, Carolyn!

As part of our continuing summer cleaning, I've been reviewing online tutorials on how to use Skype. All LIVEbrary authors have been trained to use Skype to deliver online classroom visits.

To use Skype well, you have to know at the minimum how to set your preferences -- particularly your privacy preferences. Skype comes with security issues that are important for school systems and library systems to understand before they go wild installing Skype.

My sister is a branch librarian for a large public library system. She Skyped me one day to inform me she had gotten all the library staff on Skype to facilitate branch-to-branch communications. I asked her if she was aware of the security issues related to Skype and whether she had toggled her privacy preferences to prevent communications from people who are not in her address book.

My sister reevaluated the library's teleconferencing solution and ended up going with ooVoo. ooVoo, discussed in several other posts here at the LIVEbrary, has the same security issues as Skype. But ooVoo also has the ability to handle up to five video connections simultaneously. This time, my sister tweaked her privacy settings in ooVoo and assisted the other librarians in tightening their privacy settings, too. The tutorials, below, will help you do the same in Skype.

Skype offers the promise of closed-access conferencing that is secure for students, schools, and libraries -- but you have to be savvy about how you set it up. If children or library patrons are using the system, you need to investigate ways to lock strangers out of teleconferences. Teachers and librarians -- please email me if you have questions about your Skype privacy settings.

Producer of The Annick LIVEbrary

Last Revised: July 14, 2008

Video Tutorials:

Skype for PC Tutorials:
Skype tutorials are free. 10 total, 5-10 min. each

* Digital Landing
Skype on a PC Tutorial

Text-Based Tutorials:

* North Canton City School
Technology Tutorials (free text tutorials in Word and Adobe Acrobat)

* Vitamin: A Web Developer Magazine
How to Podcast with Skype (article)
Description: Good (if dated -- June 2006) article by Josh Owens on how to make podcasts with Skype. Involves installing third-party software for recording. Not an introductory piece.

From Skype:

* Guides to Using Skype

* FAQs

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

LIVEbrary Lesson Plans: Index for Season Two, World History

As we get ready for the coming program on "LIVEbrary Science" this fall, we've been grooming the lesson plans from Season Two. Below is a list of the lesson plans with links to each plan in a variety of formats.

We offer the plans on the blog (without the answers to the quiz) and in the following formats (all of which have the quiz answers embedded): Microsoft Word, Text-Only, and Colorful Printable PDF! Whether you want to read our LIVEbrary Lesson Plans here on site, or download them, print them, and share them with colleagues and students, we have the format you need.

Please let us know if you have any trouble accessing the LIVEbrary Lesson Plans -- or any suggestions for improvement. Thanks for your help.

Producer, The Annick LIVEbrary
Coming Fall 2008: LIVEbrary Science!

Season Two: World History

Lesson Plan #6
Word Text PDF Blog
Topic: Henry Puyi -- Last Emperor of China
Book: Kids Who Rule

Lesson Plan #7
Word Text PDF Blog
Topic: Children at Work in the 19th Century
Book: Cowboys and Coffin Makers

Lesson Plan #8
Word Text PDF Blog
Topic: Under Attack in Renaissance Europe
Book: The Seige

Lesson Plan #9
Word Text PDF Blog
Topic: Egyptian History
Book: Rise of the Golden Cobra

Lesson Plan #10
Word Text PDF Blog
Topic: The Jeans Scene
Book: The Blue Jean Book

Lesson Plan #11
Word Text PDF Blog
Topic: Teen Life in the Inquisition
Book: The Apprentice's Masterpiece

photo courtesy of intenteffect, used under this Creative Commons license

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Using "Cover It Live"

"Cover It Live" is a new tool for broadcasting a live blog into your own blog. It is most often used to blog from live events. The host's commentary appears in real time in a single blog post rather than in dozens of sequential blog posts. Blog readers are not forced to use a different application to get your live commentary. They can read your comments -- and add their own -- right at your blog.

I'm testing Cover It Live today here on the LIVEbrary Blog. I created a live blog in this post, above. I'm going to use that live blog to create a tutorial on how to get started with Cover It Live. The tutorial is a series of screen captures made while configuring Cover It Live today. Since Cover It Live keeps a transcript of your live blog, the transcript should be a quick tutorial in using Cover It Live.

Here are some of the main features of Cover It Live you should know about when considering this interface for your classroom or school:
  • You don't have to install any software -- yay!
  • It shouldn't have any problems with school or library firewalls -- yay!
  • The host controls whether reader contributions appear or not -- yay!
  • You can embed images into the live blog -- have them ready in advance.
  • You cannot embed video into the live blog -- but you can add video in a separate pop up.
  • You can put hotlinks to related resources into the live blog.
I want to stress that -- as far as I know -- Cover It Live cannot be used for live audio or live video blogging -- only live text blogging. You can link to prerecorded audio or video, but you can't stream live audio or video -- only live text.

Let us know if you would like to try an online classroom visit using Cover It Live. We're always interested in test driving new technology with school teachers and librarians. If you've used Cover It Live, please share your comments here. Thanks!

Producer, The Annick LIVEbrary
Coming Fall 2008: LIVEbrary Science!

Monday, July 21, 2008

JOMB: Just One More Book for Great Podcasts

Just One More Book (JOMB) offers a breathtaking collection of audio podcasts recorded by two children's book enthusiasts in a cafe in Ottawa. Andrea and Mark Blevis, along with their two daughters, head to the corner cafe three mornings a week and review a book that has become a read-aloud favourite in their home.

These reviews are recorded and podcast online at The podcast is available from iTunes and other podcast portals. You can download episodes to your MP3 player or stream them from the web site. The episodes last from 5 to 30 minutes, and sometimes include interviews with authors, illustrators, and other children's book industry professionals.

On July 15, 2008, JOMB celebrated two years producing their show -- and their 400th podcast! -- with a special birthday podcast that should not be missed. It includes birthday wishes from many well known authors and illustrators.

You should also get an earful of Mark Blevis interviewing Annick Press co-founder Rick Wilks, recorded a year ago during JOMB's "Publishers Showcase."

JOMB accepts reader-submitted audio reviews and considers books for review. Their age range is 4 to 10 years old. As near as I can tell, JOMB is a labor of love for children's literature; the web site and podcasts are free of advertising.

Producer, The Annick LIVEbrary

photo courtesy of Mark Blevis, used under this Creative Commons license

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Annick LIVEbrary on Summer Vacation

We here at the Annick LIVEbrary are on summer vacation through July and August. During our vacation, I'll be maintaining the blog lightly -- one or two posts per week. Our LIVEbrary Letter newsletter will be published just once each month.

In the background, your LIVEbrarians are gathering up all the documentation from the first two seasons, putting the LIVEbrary Lesson Plans in order, and freshening web pages to keep up with the output of LIVEbrary support materials.

Speaking of support, your participation is very important to us. We need to document that we are helping teachers use technology in the classroom through this blog. Your comments on this blog, your subscription to our newsletter, and your downloads of our lesson plans all help demonstrate that teachers, librarians, and homeschooling parents alike consider this program valuable and want it to continue.

Please don't hesitate to ask questions about the Annick LIVEbrary program. We'll be back next season with five more LIVEbrary Lesson Plans, five more books, five more authors, all on the subject of Science. Stay tuned and thanks for participating!

Producer, The Annick LIVEbrary

photo courtesy of merfam, used under this Creative Commons license

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Introducing Ray Conlogue

Ray was born in Toronto, Ontario, where he spent an excellent childhood. At the time, Toronto was much smaller than it is now. From his home, he could walk with his friends into the countryside and visit abandoned barns, which they believed were populated by witches.

Ray's mother was a widow who worked full-time as a nurse. He and his brother, Michael, did not have many children's books in the house, but he remembers a little picture book called Bongo the Circus Bear. Bongo escaped from the circus train, which pleased Ray. Later on, he found a copy of Treasure Island at the back of a bookshelf. But mostly, he and his friends read comic books, especially Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern. When Ray ran out of these, he sometimes looked at the books his father had left behind. One of them was Rabelais's Gargantua, a satirical book full of rude jokes, which he had trouble understanding since it was written 500 years ago. But he would laugh loudly to impress his mother with his precocious intelligence.

He began writing at the age of 11 after teaching himself to touch type on an old Underwood typewriter. Ray's first novel was a science fiction story, which a publisher rejected. His mother said his luck would have been better if he had told them he was 12. But he gave up on publishers after that, and kept his second novel, The Martian Revolt, at home.

Writing fiction daunted Ray. So there followed an interval of about 40 years. During most of it, he was a theater critic and arts journalist, though the dream of writing fiction never left him.
At college, he was much inspired by Shakespeare, and wrote an entire play in iambic pentameter. This was good, even though the play was bad, because every writer needs models. Why not imitate the best?

Later on, he wrote short stories in a contemporary style and even showed one of them to a well-known novelist, who told Ray to give up. What would Ray's advice be to an aspiring author? Do not be discouraged by rejection. Even if the person who rejects your work is correct, there is one sure cure for the problem: keep writing and never give up.

Ray has lived all of his life in Toronto, except for six months in Oran, Algeria (where he taught English), and seven years in Montreal (where he learned French). Ray and his wife have three children, Jonathan, and twins Clare and Christopher.

Messing around with tools has been a preoccupying hobby for Ray. He also enjoys canoe tripping. When he was younger, he liked to travel rough into remote places and find out how the world works. His plan is to continue writing fiction for both adults and children.

Ray is the author of Shen and the Treasure Fleet.

Monday, June 30, 2008

General Excellence Award: Chuck Estep

Meris Stansbury, assistant editor of eSchool News, reports on the ten educators and three policy makers who were honored by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and Cable in the Classroom (CIC). The 13 were honored for advancing 21st century teaching and learning. One of the honorees, Chuck Estep, was featured for his work with Virtual Field Trips (VFTs).

Estep is the curriculum resource consultant for the Monroe County Intermediate School District in Michigan. He won the General Excellence Award for his Virtual Field Trips. Estep and fellow teachers worked closely with local historians and the Monroe County Historical Museum to craft lesson plans that adhered to state curricula. He started with a VFT of the battlefields of the War of 1812. So far, 70 classes and 2,300 students have toured these battle sites "through cable TV for a lesson in the region's history through movie trailers, film footage, music, animated presentations, short video vignettes, and a dynamic presenter."

Estep feels strongly about the value of integrating technology into teaching: "When we make technology a part of our methodology, our students are engaged in ways that otherwise would nearly be impossible. We have a responsibility to provide students with the opportunities to access, utilize, create, and learn using technology. It's malpractice to do otherwise."

In the future, VFTs could include a visit to an operating room. Estep also wants to create "on demand" VFTs so teachers outside the school network can use the trips anytime. The school's spelling bee and Quiz Bowl will also be streamed out through the Web.

Estep's cash prize will go toward more equipment to improve the Virtual Field Trips and other work being done by him and his colleagues to use technology to stimulate and teach. Congratulations, Chuck!

SOURCE: "Cable industry honors visionary educators" 06/23/08
photo courtesy of emilywjones, used under this Creative Commons license

Friday, June 27, 2008

The American Revolution Online

Looking for some sites to enrich your teaching of the American Revolution or celebration of Independence Day? Walter McKenzie at Education World highlights 5 top sites for teaching students about the Revolution. And just in time for the Fourth of July!

The first site McKenzie highlights is The Federalist Papers. All 85 essays are at the website. These essays are often used to help us understand what the Founders meant when they created the Constitution. The site has a great search engine that lets you hunt for exact phrases or words.

The Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention is sponsored by the Library of Congress. Here, students can see the primary documents of the Congress and Convention. It is listed as great for secondary school and even college-level research but it can also be useful in middle school or with gifted students in social studies.

America Rock has all those great Schoolhouse Rock songs that some of us remember seeing on Saturday mornings. Some of the Schoolhouse Rock songs related to the Revolution included at the site are "No More Kings," "Fireworks," "The Shot Heard Round the World," and "The Preamble." McKenzie says adults might find them "silly" but I bet they are too catchy and useful to dismiss. I know that I remember a lot of Schoolhouse Rock almost 30 years later.

Liberty! The American Revolution is a companion website for the PBS special about the American Revolution. It has a lot of great resources for the classroom, including the game The Road to Revolution. This game uses interactive quizzes and fictionalized news articles to engage and teach students.

Independence Day on the Net is a "comprehensive celebration of the history, legends, and traditions of this most American of holidays." The site has music, fireworks, and tons of information on the origins of the Fourth of July and the customs surrounding that day. This site seems suited more for elementary school or the beginning of middle school but can be fun anytime. It's a great idea for your own kids sitting at home who may want to get revved up for this year's holiday.

Little Known Facts about the American Revolutionary War is also a fascinating site with answers that are off the beaten path, like the fact that women fought in the Continental Army and there were actually two Boston Tea Parties. This collection of little-known facts will appeal to kids and adults alike. The host of the site is the state of Delaware.

Happy Fourth of July 2008!

SOURCE: "The American Revolution" 06/03/08
photo courtesy of babasteve, used under this Creative Commons license