Using Cell Phone Friendly Social Networks for Global Benefits! - Wednesday Morning

Start your Wednesday morning with the Global Education Conference
8:00 a.m. EST, 6:00 a.m. MT

Here is the link to the session:

Learn how to set the building blocks for success with cell phones. Empower students to connect globally through the integration of social networks. See how twitter, textnovel, and celly support students with global education networks. The authors of Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning share their experiences and immediately applicable tools for leading students in making global connections with their cell phones, even in schools where they are banned.
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Cell Phones in the Classroom: Distraction or Undervalued Teaching Tool?

picWhile some educators see cell phones and digital devices as distractions and sources of attention deficit, others say these are wonderful, undervalued teaching tools. Do we need to suppress the use of cell phones in classrooms or bring today's teachers up to speed on how to teach with this new tool?

Listen as Rae Pica hosts a conversation on BAM Radio’s Educator’s Channel where "Cell Phones in the Classroom" author Liz Kolb and I take on Greg Graham author of Cell Phones in Classrooms? No! Students Need to Pay Attention to discuss the benefits of cell phones for learning.
play buttontalk
Discover more reasons why I believe cell phones can be effective learning tools by reading Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning.
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The hottest posts that everyone's reading

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Oct 29, 2012, 1 comment
Nov 1, 2012, 4 comments
Jul 8, 2012, 15 comments
Dec 8, 2010, 1 comment
May 10, 2010, 39 comments
Nov 5, 2012
Oct 30, 2012

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5 benefits of learning to play musical instruments

Music lessons offer children many benefits including aiding mental, physical, emotional and social development. Does your child’s school support this?  If not, you may want to share the following benefits of learning to play music.  

  1. Boosting Brain Power - Taking lessons to learn to play an instrument significantly improves brain power.  Research from the University of Kansas suggests that learning at a young age will have an impact on a child’s cognitive skills as they grow older.
  2. Improving Memory - Young people that learn to play a musical instrument have been shown in studies to have an improvement in behavior, memory and intelligence. All types of lessons for music stimulate multiple patterns of brain development, which is what helps to increase memory.
  3. Social Skill Development - Learning to play an instrument helps young people develop the skills necessary to join a musical group, band, or ensemble where they learn to work with others and to appreciate the value of teamwork. This is a fun way to support their social development.
  4. Creating Confidence - Every time a young musician learns a new piece, plays well, or finishes a lesson, they are achieving an accomplishment that will raise their levels of confidence and self-esteem.
  5. Learning Patience - Learning to play an instrument is not easy.  As a result, children learn how to deal with frustration, the rewards of being patient and the joy of working hard to achieve goals. This is an important step in their development as successful human beings.
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Verizon Innovative App Challenge for Secondary Students

app cloud
Created to ignite interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), The Verizon Innovative App Challenge opens student's eyes to exciting new possibilities for their futures, opening doors they may never have known were there. The Challenge is a collaborative competition that offers $10,000 grants and Samsung Galaxy Tabs for winning secondary schools and students.

Here's how it works:
  • Working with a faculty advisor in teams of 5-10, students will develop an original concept for a mobile app that incorporates STEM and addresses a real need or problem in their school or community. While designing their apps, students will consider marketplace need, usefulness, audience and viability. Teams will submit their design concepts online through a visual presentation accompanied by an essay.
  • One middle school and one high school team from each state will be judged “Best in State” and team members will be invited to participate in a live webinar hosted by Verizon Foundation featuring industry experts who will share how they use STEM skills in their own careers.
  • A distinguished panel of STEM educators and corporate innovators will then judge the top Best in State teams and provide feedback on their design concepts to each team via a live webinar. The 10 overall winning teams will then be selected and announced.
  • Each of the 10 winning schools (5 middle school and 5 high school teams) will receive $10,000 cash grants plus professional support and training to help them bring their designs to life by building their apps and bringing them to the marketplace. Students on each winning team will receive a Samsung Galaxy Tab and be invited to present their developed apps in person – on their new tablets – at the 2013 National Technology Student Association Conference in Orlando, Florida in June.
The Verizon Innovative App Challenge offers a rich, project-based learning experience that fosters teamwork among students with a wide variety of academic interests and strengths.

It’s a unique opportunity for students around the country to explore new ideas and potential careers in STEM that will serve them well in the future.

Registration is open. Submissions accepted: December 1, 2012 - January 18, 2013

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7 ways cell phones become a lifeline to staff, students & parents during a disaster #Sandy

During the recent Hurricane Sandy Disaster, many people lost their homes, their power, phone service and internet, but one thing most didn't lose was their cell phones. Cell phones became a lifeline to those affected by the disaster. In fact in New York City, cell phones were delivered to relocation host school sites as well as schools that reported no phone service.

Here are some ways cell phones are being used in recovery efforts.
1) Facebook - 
Though many people didn't know the extent of the disaster or how friends and family fared, the Facebook app on cell phones brought the reality of loved ones to life where words, pictures, and videos could be viewed and shared. Schools with Facebook pages or groups made this resource particularly useful enabling a community to connect in one spot.
2) Twitter - 
Knowing hashtags like #SandyNYC as well as district, school, and educator Twitter accounts enabled parents and their children to stay abreast of and share the latest updates. Schools using a Twitter hashtag enabled the school community to easily check in and share.
3) Robo-calling - 
Schools and districts used Robo-calling services to automate the distribution of information to staff and families with the latest updates on school openings, closures, evacuation sites, warmth shelters, food banks, etc.
4) Donations - 
Organizations like the Red Cross set up text donation services. For example, by simply texting REDCROSS to 90999 you can donate $10 to help those affected by disasters.
5) Cell phone calls - 
When businesses and residents found their phone service was down, many turned to cell phones to communicate.
6) Texting - 
Texting became the go to form of communication to quickly connect with students, parents, and staff.
7) Group Texting - 
Schools and teachers who set up group texting with a service like enabled the school or class community to stay in touch, connect, and help those in need.

One of the many lessons learned during the recent Hurricane Sandy disaster is the importance of having a crank radio, flashlight, cell phone charger like the one below.
Eton Microlink FR160 Self-Powered AM-FM Weather Radio with Flashlight
This enabled people to stay informed and in touch about important issues. After all, having a cell phone does you no good if it's not charged.
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7 ways innovative educators use Twitter during a disaster #Sandy

Innovative educators who experienced Hurricane Sandy this past week turned to Twitter to communicate, connect, and share information.  

Here are some ways Twitter was used as a resource.

  1. Teacher Account - A teacher can have an account to stay in touch with students. If the teacher has a webpage or blog she can embed her Tweets there.
    • ‏@franasaur: Power is back on at the iSchool! Planning to meet staff + students there on Monday morning. The alternate location was Laguardia HS.”
  2. Principal Account - School leaders can keep staff, students, and parents informed via their Twitter account. These Tweets can be embedded on the school website.
    • Example: “@PrincipalBrown: School will reopen for students and staff tomorrow, Monday, November 5th, 2012. Can't wait to see everyone!
  3. School Twitter Account - Use your school Twitter account to share information for your school community.  Embed these Tweets on your website.  
    • Example: “@HudsonHSLT: School will be session Monday, November 5, 2012 @ 8:15 am. See you soon!
  4. Create an Account - Create an account that is dedicated to information related to the disaster.  
    • Example: "@prepare4monday: Good! Developing plan for where to send kids who need supplies, clothing, or support. This is productive as long as it actually happens."
  5. District Account - Ensure your school community is aware of the district Twitter account that can provide instant updates.
  1. Education News account - Know who covers the local education news and see what they’re Tweeting.
    • Example: "@gothamschools: For teachers who are parents: "Individual principals have discretion over whether to allow their staff to bring children to work" on Friday"
  2. Know the hashtag for your area - Not only is it important to know the hashtag being used during a disaster, but it is also important to find out if there is a tag particular to where you are. For example during Hurricane Sandy this was the hashtag used for NYC residents: #SandyNYC .
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Family Learns Together Through App Creation

Guest post by Kevin Scritchfield

My family’s dream of creating apps for the App Store began over 3 years ago when our kids were involved in the National Bible Bee when it first began. The Bible Bee organization would send you all of the materials - mainly specific verses on different sized cards - for you to study and memorize in preparation for the local competition in order to work your way up to the National stage. My son had the idea of creating a specific type of memorization app that would have helped in the process of memorizing the hundreds of required verses. That conversation grew into talking about other apps that we might be able to create and how we could go about doing that.

Even though my son was only 13 at the time, he had already gone through (at home) a couple of the courses that I teach at my school called Web Page Design (where he learned HTML - the programming language that is at least the shell for all web pages) and Introduction to Computer Programming in C (the programming language than many other languages are based on). He had also played around with the iPhone SDK which is what Apple provides to app developers to create iPhone apps in, as well as Corona SDK which is a third party application that is very similar to Apple’s. With all of this knowledge under his belt, we thought he would be able to create the code for these apps that we had been thinking of  developing. We thought we would start with the one that we pictured doing the best in terms of potential sales within the App Store and to the widest possible potential audience. So our goal was to become an app-developing family!

Hired help
As time progressed and other things became higher (or at least more immediate) priorities, the time that my son had to spend on practicing and learning about coding apps grew shorter and shorter. The next year (when he was 14) he started working on College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests to earn college units for some his General Education requirements that would also double for his high school curriculum and he was going to our local community college (a 45-minute drive one-way) three days a week taking Calculus with his sister. After a little over a year of realizing how focused his time needed to be on his studies, we decided that we had better hire a developer before someone ‘stole’ our ideas and we started seeing our apps showing up in the App Store.

Out of all of the apps that each of us thought would be great ideas, we decided to start with my first choice. My idea stemmed from a game that I had played in my classroom for years when I had taught Algebra I and Algebra II. I would type out different algebraic equations and print them onto overhead transparencies and them cut them up as individual equations. I would give each student a Bingo board on paper that they would fill in with specific sets of numbers. Then I would place the equations, one by one, onto the overhead projector until someone would yell “Bingo!” and I would reward them with a blowpop or something similar. From that experience, we ended up creating Alge-Bingo.

From idea to app store
It has been quite the learning curve getting an app developed and into the Store! We started out by using a service called App-Muse ( which provides a place for you to post your idea for an app (without divulging too much information) and three developers will get back to you with a quote of what they would charge to create your app. We ended up hiring the first gentleman that got back to us. He lives in Nova Scotia which made us a little fearful of trying to conduct this type of business from such a long distance (we live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains outside of Fresno, California). But it turned out to be relatively easy with all of the different web services that he used to do everything from creating and signing contracts all online, to showing us examples of different artist’s work that he was considering for us to hire, to creating all of the lists of equations, to sharing art work for our approval once we hired a specific artist, to beta testing different builds of our app as it made its way through the progression of becoming what it is now.

The only downside of the development process was that he told us he could create our app in 6 weeks when it actually took closer to 14 weeks. One of the last things we added at the end was the music that is in the app which was a song written and recorded by my son. We eventually gave the final approval and our app went live in the iTunes App Store on December 21st, 2011! It was absolutely amazing seeing something that I had created actually be live in the App Store for the whole world to see and actually purchase to download and play!!

An unexpected lesson
Perhaps the largest lesson that we are learning is that the work is not in creating the app in the first place. It is getting your app known from among the other 500,000 apps in the App Store! So, we are now in the process of marketing our app everywhere we can think of people possibly being able to hear about it. I have written letters to school districts that I know are running 1:1 iPad programs with either middle school or high school students. I have contacted hundreds of teachers that I follow or that follow me on Twitter. I have emailed hundreds of other teachers that subscribe to the same listservs that I do. I have contacted presentation gurus that go around the country doing presentations on using iPads and iTouches in the classroom and asked them to show Alge-Bingo within their demonstrations. We have printed up postcards as an advertising tool to hand out at workshops and conferences. In fact, I just spent two days this past weekend at a conference in Sacramento where I spoke on Cloud Computing for Educators (one of my courses through Fresno Pacific University) and trying to get the word out about Alge-Bingo at the same time. In a couple of weeks I will be at the CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference in Palm Springs doing the same thing. Our goal is to specifically search out and contact as many schools as we can that have iPad or iTouch programs within their schools to ask their math teachers to check out Alge-Bingo to see if it might be something that they would be willing to add to their list of apps that they include on their school devices or to at least share with their students.

It has truly been an exciting experience to create an app of our own and we very much hope to be able to turn more of our ideas into reality soon. I will be teaching a new course at my school next year - Developing iPhone Apps. I will be taking my students through learning the C language and then through a book on using the Corona SDK. I am hoping this will force me to learn much more about the process along with my son and we will then be able to turn that experience into being able to create our own apps without having to hire someone else to do it!

You can check out Alge-Bingo at

You can find more ideas for using mobile devices for learning by reading Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning. 

I have been a public high school math and computer applications instructor for over 26 years. I have also actively participated with my wife in homeschooling our own two children. I am also an online instructor for Fresno Pacific University in their Continuing Education Department helping other teachers learn about technology. My children are currently working on dual credit for their high school courses while also earning college credit. My daughter is 18 and working toward her B.A. Degree in Anthropology. She will graduate from high school this Spring. My son is 17 and working on his B.A. Degree in Music. We have been very involved in their education all along.
Kevin Scritchfield
A.A. Degree in Bible and Theology, San Jose Bible College
B.A. Degree in Mathematics (Summa Cum Laude), California State University, Stanislaus
M.A. Degree in Teaching, University of the Pacific, Stockton
Currently teaching at Sierra High School, Tollhouse, California and Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, California
You have read this article apps / Cell phones in Education / math education with the title November 2012. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

The hottest posts that everyone's reading!

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Oct 29, 2012, 1 comment
Jul 8, 2012, 14 comments
Oct 30, 2012
Oct 25, 2012, 2 comments
Oct 28, 2012
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Group work doesn't have to suck

Editor's note: Group work can suck because teachers sometimes do a poor job of giving credit where credit is due.  Innovative educator Diana Laufenberg has some thoughts on how to make group work better.  
I will be working with a group of roughly 65 professors at West Chester University.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to the about PBL and the pedagogical foundations that support such learning.  The organizers of the event did a survey and asked if the attendees had any requests or questions.  One consistent theme ran throughout the submissions:  How do we create functioning, collaborative groups?  So I did a little thinking about the pieces of the puzzle the I consider when to facilitate effective collaboration and searched for some reputable sources for more ideas.
My thoughts on group work and collaboration:
  1. Group work is tricky.  For me there are two goals with group work: individually assess student capabilities and fostering more effective collaboration skills.  In order to accomplish this goal I grade a portion of the group work as individual and the other portion as group.  For instance, at SLA we use a common rubric.  There are 5 categories and for most group projects I assess the students individually on Research, Knowledge and Process while assessing the group grade through Design and Presentation.  This allows for students to evidence individual learning while also collaborating on a group endeavor.  I find that this lessens the… I’ll do everything myself syndrome that plagues group work.
  2. Another idea is to contract for the work…  I create a work contract that identifies the different roles/products the group members are responsible for completing.  All members of the group sign the contract.  When there are concerns or questions, the contract is referenced and used to settle confusion or disputes.
  3. Allow students to identify one person in the room they would like to work with and then pair up the partners.  Choosing to work with at least one person they know or trust goes a long way to moving the collaborative process along.
  4. Allow for mid-project reflection.  Ask them how it is going.  Let them tell you when it is going successfully or poorly and you should have some suggestions for course correction.
  5. Let students self-assess work.  This gives you an interesting insight into how the student views their accomplishments while also providing some context to the whole learning endeavor.
  6. Use a project management tool to keep track of the progress.  There are any number of project management tools out there to pick from – or or or… google it, the list goes on.  having the work process out in the open provides a level of transparency between group members and the instructor to communicate what is happening in the day to day working of the group.
  7. Call out the free rider.  It is incumbent upon the instructor to address issues of the ‘free rider’.  I have often severed them from a group and given them an adjusted (and hefty) individual version of the work if they persistently underperformed after multiple conversations about improving the working relationship.
  8. Don’t make every project group work.  It is completely possible to have meaningful collaboration with your class while creating an independent project.  Class time can be used to workshop ideas, assist in thinking, run scenarios, etc.  Just because someone is working independently, doesn’t mean the classmates can’t collaborate on their work.
  9. Try to work on a group project yourself.  Own the fact that it is challenging, and have some compassion for the difficulty that comes from working with others.
  10. Be prepared to keep tweaking your approach, talk to your colleagues, adjust the parameters… tinker.  This is a process much like anything else and there is no list with all the special tricks that if you complete, you will have the perfect groups.  This is learning as much for the instructor as the students.
 What ideas do you have in the way of suggestions for effective collaboration and group work?
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