I’m pleased to tell you about an exciting new learning opportunity from The Walt Disney Company called Disney’s Planet Challenge, a project-based environmental competition for students in grades 4-6. With collaboration from curricular experts at the K-12 Alliance and the National Science Teachers Association, Disney’s environmental team has crafted a program that gets children to think and act environmentally at school and at home.

Disney Planet Challenge

Until now, Disney’s Planet Challenge was available in the United States only to schools in California and Florida, but the program has been expanded to school districts nationwide this year to address growing demand.

Hailed as an empowering, one-of-a-kind experience by participating educators from previous years, this is one of the most significant initiatives of its kind ever to be offered to K12 schools. My colleagues at District Administration and I are proud to be working with Disney on this project, helping to inform school leaders like yourself about this valuable program. In fact, you may already have seen information about Disney’s Planet Challenge in the pages of our magazine and on our Web site. I encourage you to get involved with this important program. To learn more, visit www.districtadministration.com/disney

Learning to Network & Networking to Learn

Well, it’s almost here- I can already hear the seagulls and detect the faint smell of coconut lotion in the air….That’s right, Summer Break is right around the corner!  That special time of the year that us New Jersey educators try to renew our minds, bodies and our souls.  While I hope that the feel of warm sand between your toes, salty sea air and warm, ocean breezes will help replenish your body and soul, I thought I’d leave you with some inspiration for your mind in this last post for the 2008-2009 school year.

Throughout history, humans have always created our own learning networks. When we needed to know how to do something, we sought out the expert in that field and they shared their knowledge. For example, hunters knew who to talk to about the latest in hunting techniques. Farmers knew who to talk to regarding the latest in agricultural technology practices. (And students could talk to their brilliant teachers!) Now we have the Internet to access more information about whatever we need to know. However, now there is not necessarily a need anymore to find “the” expert in a field of study. Instead, we need to create our own network of experts, our own Personal Learning Network.

What is a Personal Learning Network? It is a collection of resources that you can go to when you want to learn something. This includes family and friends, teachers, and people in the local community. It can also include non-human resources, such as books, journals and other forms of media. In the 21st century, there’s also an extensive electronic network of resources that you can – and should – include in your network. This includes resources on the Internet such as webpages and podcasts. But it also includes human resources that are available to you via the Internet- your own personal collection of “experts” on various topics from all over the world! One way to build that collection of experts is via RSS Feeds, which allows you to subscribe to their content and have it delivered to you in your RSS Aggregator (e.g., Google Reader). Every time they produce new content, it automatically gets delivered to you, allowing you to tap their knowledge and wisdom from afar. It helps you to develop your own understanding of the world, to participate in the conversations that are going on, and to have a say in the world that we live in.

There are approximately 9 weeks of Summer Vacation to relax, recover and recharge our educational batteries.  Here are some suggestions I’ve come up with to help you make sure you do all three! 

I hope you have a wonderfully nourishing summer 🙂

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris Beuller


Summer Week

Relax & Recover



Throw away your alarm clock



Join a Professional Group associated with your teaching specialty (ex. NSTA.org, NCHE.net)


Attend a patriotic barbecue

Gather information that interests you by using RSS feeds (ex. Google.com/reader)


Spend time with the family


Subscribe to a Professional Journal/Magazine, or better yet, offer to write an article for them! (ex. Edutopia.org, NEA.org, NJEA.org)


Re-connect with old friends

Find an Educational Blog you like & COMMENT regularly!  Two great places to find out about blogging in education are: Supportblogging.com & Edubloggerdir.blogspot.com

You can also check out some of the blogs in my “blog roll” (see left) 


Go to a concert, play, or baseball game


Learn more about Professional Learning Communities (Allthingsplc.info)


Enjoy a good book


Join an Online Book Club (ex. Shelfari.com or Goodreads.com)



Take a trip somewhere you’ve never been

(I’m going to China!)


Join a Social Bookmarking Group (ex. Del.icio.us or Diigo.com)


Find a new favorite restaurant


Join Twitter- it’s a Personal Learning Network in your pocket! (Twitter.com)


Go shopping and take advantage of the back to school sales


Buy a new alarm clock 🙂


Join an Online Educator Network

(DEN, Google Teachers, Microsoft Innovative Teachers, NING, Tapped-In)


Digg Your Way to Better Critical Thinking with Diigo!

Recently, I wrote a post about social bookmarking in the classroom, and focused on a tool called Diigo.  This post is a followup. 🙂

After seeing the education community embrace Diigo with so much excitement, the good folks that run it decided to create an educator-specific incantation of the popular tool.  They listened to what teachers had to say- what special features they’d like to see in order to better use Diigo with their students- and recently introduced Diigo Educator Accounts.

What are Diigo Educator Accounts?

These are special, FREE premium accounts provided, specifically to K-12 & higher-ed educators. Once your Diigo Educator application is approved, your regular Diigo account will be upgraded to have additional features.  So, you need to create a basic Diigo account first, then upgrade to the free education account after wards.  The upgraded educational features include:

  • You can create student accounts for an entire class with just a few clicks (and student email addresses are optional for account creation)
  • Students of the same class are automatically set up as a Diigo group so they can start using all the benefits that a Diigo group provides, such as group bookmarks and annotations, and group forums.
  • Privacy settings of student accounts are pre-set so that only teachers and classmates can communicate with them.
  • Ads presented to student account users are limited to education-related sponsors.

Here’s a link to the offical Diigo Educator Account FAQ Sheet.  You’ll find loads of valuable information there to help you set up your educator account, get your students registered, and get started digging with Diigo!

Here’s an example of what I plan on doing with my Diigo Educator account (I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂 )

  • Every week, I have one student choose a current event article & pose a question about it.  It started out great, but after a while, everyone just started reading previous posts & trying to mimic them instead of thinking critically on their own.  I am going to shake things up a bit by using a  Diigo Education account for our current event conversations.
  • Every week, I will choose a current event article and begin marking it up in Diigo with a question (bubble annotation).  My students will have to choose segments of the article to annotate themselves.  They must make a statement AND ask a question in their annotation.
  • I’m just fleshing this out now, so any feedback you can provide is GREATLY appreciated!

Students & Internet Resources: 21st Century Cavemen?

While doing some research for this post, I can across an interesting article by Miguel Guhlin that I think does a really great job of explaining the rationale for this post.  In his article, “Spending that Internet Gold”, Guhlin makes a good argument for effective website searching by quoting Dr. Judi Harris:

1. We all begin on the Web by “telegathering” (surfing) and “telehunting” (searching. This we can do pretty well. What we don’t do very well yet is to take educationally sound steps beyond telegathering and telehunting).
2. We need to help our students and ourselves “teleharvest” (sift through, cogitate, comprehend, etc.) the information that we find, and “telepackage” the knowledge that results from active interaction (application, synthesis, evaluation, etc.) with the information.
3. Then, we need to “teleplant” (telepublish, telecollaborate, etc.) these telepackages by sharing them with others…who use them as information in their…
4. …telegathering & telehunting, and the process cycles back around again.
Most of us are at the tele-gathering and hunting stage, finding and collecting web sites that we believe are useful. How many educational web sites do you visit that have a list of lists, collections of fantastic sites on the web? Impossible to keep track of and maintain, these lists are just more information that each of us has to wade through, each time creating our own links. The pack mules can’t carry all the gold that we’ve found out there. Maybe, now that we’ve accumulated the gold, it’s time to do more than look at it. To do that, we have to know what’s valuable, what’s not. According to Jim McNamara (jmcn@tenet.edu), evaluating something means being able to extract the value out of it.

QUESTION: “How do we help out students determine and extract the value of web resources?” or as Guhlin puts it, “pan for internet gold”.  How do we help our students to think critically in such a fast-paced, multi-tasking culture, when they typically have ten internet tabs open at once, an IM’ing window open as well, a Youtube video streaming AND their iPod playing in the background?

ANSWER: The best way to help our students better evaluate internet resources is to get them (students) to interact with them (websites).  That’s what Web 2.0 is all about-Collaboration, Evaluation & Synthesis


TOOL: A great way to harness the power of Web 2.0  and interact with websites is Social Bookmarking

DIIGO.com is my favorite social bookmarking tool because it has AMAZING educational possibilities. The social aspect of learning is important, especially with our increasing focus on conversations that add value to what we are learning! What sets Diigo apart from other social bookmarkers is that Diigo not only lets you bookmark Web sites but also have online conversations about them… on the actual sites themselves!.

As soon as you start playing around with Diigo, you’ll figure out countless applications for your own personal use & communication with colleagues, so I’ve decided instead, just to share a few really great ways to use Diigo with your students:
  • Create a slideshow of clickable web sites grabbed from your bookmarks (A great way to present awesome resources for children, parents and colleagues)
  • Annotate and add comments to a web page via Diigo, and invite your students to do the same.  You will essentially be hosting online, critical thinking & writing excercises about internet content on the actual webpages themselves!  (All of the comments you & your students make will remain on the webpage for you all to see anytime you are signed in on Diigo & visit the site)

  • If you have students posting their own work online (ex. Literary students writing their own blogs), you can use highlighting & sticky notes (annotations) to leave public feedback of their work with invisible ink.  A wonderful modeling tool for your students to learn how to appropriately & meaningfully comment on each others work.

Clay Burell: 3 Uses of Diigo in the Classroom

Innovative teachers all over the world are constantly discovering new ways to use Diigo with their students.  If your interest is peeked,  check out some of the following videos:

As you begin to use Diigo & develop your own educational uses, join the conversation and share your ideas with the rest of us 🙂

Now that you know about Diigo, you can help your students evolve from Internet Cavemen, hunting & gathering information that can sometimes be harmful and can often be useless, into modern Digital Citizens, harvesting information in a safe & sustainable manner, which includes contributing their own thoughts and ideas to online conversations.  Sure that takes more work, and the results may seem slower to realize, but as any responsible farmer will tell you, it’s the only way to ensure that future generations will also be able to reap the benefits of the seeds we plant now…

A Day at Lincoln Center

This post isn’t really about technology in the classroom, but it’s an interesting opportunity that I wouldn’t have known about without my robust personal learning network.  So, at the very least, it’s a great example of the incredible resources and interesting opportunities you can experience by staying connected with your peers online.

I also have to admit that I’m probably even more excited about this “simple” opportunity because I just spent the entire day/night in the New York City yesterday with my family.  We started the day at the Museum of Natural History, then had hot dogs & pretzels on a bench in the park while listening to a jazz trio play about ten feet away.  A quick trip to FAO Shwartz (my son is six and OBSESSED with Legos…), then back to Central Park for some “rock climbing” and bare-foot strolling through the grass.  Next came a birds-eye view of the entire park from the roof-top of the New York Athletic Club (compliments of a good friend 🙂 ).  We capped off the day with a nice, greek dinner at Kefi , then walked it off with a stroll down Columbus Ave. past, you guessed it, Lincoln Center!

Lincoln Center Address

So now we’ve come full-circle.  I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t find out about the following opportunity in NYC from my online network. Coincidentally, I found out via Twitter when I got home last night from NYC! A wonderful example of how your virtual world & your physical worlds can (and should) exist in perfect harmony- a lesson we need to live ourselves in order to help our students do the same.

I hope you can take advantage of the following opportunity!

You are invited to
Art of Learning at Lincoln Center
Educators Resource Fair



Please join representatives from 12 resident art organizations to learn about the wonderful education programs offered by Lincoln Center.  Be one of the first to view the newly renovated, stunningly beautiful Alice Tully Hall.   Wine and light refreshments to be provided.

Thursday, May 7, 2009
4:00pm – 6:00pm
Alice Tully Hall, Broadway at 65th Street

Brought to you by Chase

Click here for a pdf of the invitation.
If the link does not work, please copy and paste the following text in the navigation bar of your browser: http://www.lincolncenter.org/pdfs/Art_of_Learning_Invite.pdf

NJEA Teaching & Learning Symposium

from NJEA.org

Transforming our schools

NJEA’s annual professional development symposium will provide a vision for the 21st century

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “21st century schools”?

Do you think about globalization and the need to prepare students for a world with fewer boundaries that requires a greater understanding of other cultures? Is it schools that are structured around greater collaboration and shared leadership? Are you concerned that your students will need to be more adept in the use of technology as a tool for communication?

It is often said that we must prepare our students for jobs and careers that do not yet exist. Such a task requires a vision of the 21st century and new ways to think about both curriculum and pedagogy so we can truly prepare our students for the future.

That’s the goal of this year’s NJEA Teaching and Learning Symposium, themed “Transforming New Jersey’s Schools for the 21st Century”: to prepare teachers for the challenges of educating students in a rapidly changing society. The third annual event will be held on Saturday, April 25 at the Wyndham Princeton Forrestal in Plainsboro. Registration starts at 8 am; the symposium concludes at 4 p.m.

Keynoter to look at “The Global Classroom”

The symposium will kick off with a keynote address on “The Global Classroom” from Dr. Shari Albright of the Asia Society. The presentation will inform participants about the world in which today’s students will graduate and how different it is from the world in which we grew up. As never before, American education must prepare students for a world where the opportunities for success require the ability to compete and cooperate on a global scale. The globalization of economies, the rise of China and India, advances in science and communications technology, the acceleration of international migration— and the fact that virtually every major health, environmental, and human security challenge Americans face can be solved only through international collaboration — will require our high school graduates to be far more knowledgeable about world regions, cultures and global issues.

Today’s students will be the citizens and leaders of the 21st century, heirs to a world that grows smaller and more interconnected everyday. For the United States to continue to prosper, all students must have the opportunities to learn about other world regions and languages. The world will demand it of them–we need to demand it of our education system.

Dr. Albright is the chief operating officer for Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network and co-author of Going Global. Before joining the Asia Society, Albright was the the principal of International School of the Americas (ISA), a public, internationally focused magnet school in San Antonio, Texas. During her tenure there, she also served as the director of the North East School of the Arts and as a professor of educational leadership with Trinity University.

The Asia Society is the leading global organization working to strengthen relationships and promote understanding among the people, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States. It seeks to enhance dialogue, encourage creative expression, and generate new ideas across the fields of policy, business, education, arts and culture.

Following the keynote, participants will then have the opportunity to choose two of four workshops. All offerings share the common thread of transforming New Jersey’s schools, with a focus on goal setting, creating a collaborative culture, creating global classrooms and using technology in the 21st century classroom.
The day will conclude with a panel discussion featuring workshop facilitators as well as NJEA president Joyce Powell.

Participants to choose two of four workshops

From Information Literacy to Information Leadership will be presented by Will Richardson. Assessing the relevance and reliability of information is a crucial skill for all educators to master and model. But that type of information literacy is only the beginning. With the explosion of information available online, school leaders need to employ successful strategies for finding, managing and communicating what is significant.

Will Richardson is the author of the highly ranked and read edublog Weblogged and author of the book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Formerly a teacher at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J, Richardson was recognized for his use of blogs in the classroom as a “trendsetter in education” by The New York Times.

Richardson is now an independent presenter and owner of Connective Learning, LLC. He promotes the implementation of Read/Write technologies in K-12 classrooms. He is an advocate for school reform that encourages the integration of technology in learning. Richardson was recently named to the National Advisory Board for the George Lucas Education Foundation. He is co-owner of Powerful Learning Practice, a company that delivers job-embedded, year-long professional development to schools worldwide around the pedagogies of Web 2.0 tools.

Teacher Collaboration and Student Achievement will be presented by Steve Barkley. The constant push for higher student achievement for all students is demanding that teaching be a “team sport.” Attendees will examine:

  • How teacher collegiality impacts teaching, learning and student achievement
  • How schools can promote collegiality\
  • Are teachers acting as team members or franchised individuals?
  • What is your school’s culture and what are possible strategies for change?

Steve Barkley, executive vice-president of Performance Learning Systems, Inc.,began his career in education 30 years ago as an elementary school teacher. For the past 20 years he has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education and colleges throughout the United States and Canada.

Barkley has designed and conducted training for teachers and administrators at all levels. He has extensive experience guiding districts through the process of school restructuring and site-based management, as well as working with both teachers and students to develop School-to-Work programs.

Barkley has been a keynote speaker and presenter at National Staff Development Council Conferences, state school board association meetings and other national conferences. Recently, he has focused on working with several districts in leadership training, coaching skills and teacher growth.

With the publication of his recent books Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching and WOW: Adding Pizzazz to Teaching and Learning, Barkley stands out as an authority on developing and sustaining quality school mentoring and coaching programs. His newest book, Tapping Student Effort: Increasing Student Achievement, has been recently released.

Goal Setting to Transform New Jersey’s Schools will be presented by Ronni Reed. In order to transform schools, teachers need to be collaborative partners in the process of setting SMART goals. This workshop will address the definition of SMART goals as participants explore how they align to district, school and classroom goals, so that all stakeholders are on the same team. Emphasis will be placed on establishing results tied to student learning. Teachers will work in groups to establish SMART goals for themselves. Come prepared with some school initiatives to use for this activity.

A 30-year veteran, Reed holds a B.A. from Temple University in elementary education and an M.A. in counseling from Michigan State University. She is a licensed professional counselor. Presently she works for Monmouth County Vocational School District as the staff development leader. Her responsibilities include coordinating the professional learning of all staff, overseeing the district Professional Development and Mentoring Plans, coaching and training the district’s novice teachers, training the mentors and planning and implementing all the staff training related to the district’s Comprehensive Equity Plan, Perkins funding and NCLB.

Reed is an established workshop presenter, both locally and for the State of New Jersey in education, counseling, professional development and career development areas. She is a past president of the N.J. Staff Development Council. Reed has served on the host committee of National Staff Development Council and the Mentoring Task Force for New Jersey and presently sits on both the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future Task Force and the Alternate Route Advisory Committee. She is also the chair of the Monmouth County Professional Development Board.

Creating the Global Classroom will be presented by Dr. Shari Albright. To transform New Jersey’s schools all grade levels must embrace global education. Learn strategies that will increase your capacity to teach global education in your classroom. Experience the power of “putting the world” into your students’ hands. You will leave this session motivated to infuse international information into your curriculum so you can better prepare youngsters for the 21st century.

Register now

Fill out this registration form and enclose a check for $75 payable to “NJEA.” Student NJEA members pay only $30. Remember to circle your two workshop choices. Or register online now. The registration deadline is April 10.

Lunch will be served. Attendees will earn six hours of professional development credit. Participants must attend all sessions to receive a certificate.

If you have any questions, or any special need that may require assistance to permit or facilitate your participation, contact Liz Murphy at 609-599-4561, ext. 2253.

Hope to see you there 🙂

Engaging Elementary Students

The Professional Development Partnership announces:

An Elementary Experience:
Teaching and Learning in Kindergarten through Grade 5
Spending the Day with Debra Pickering

Apr. 23, 2009, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
at the FEA Conference Center

Student Engagement
Presented by Dr. Debra Pickering

Teachers have always faced the challenges of engaging and motivating students in their classrooms. However, most would agree that the “digital generation” in our classrooms today present even greater challenges. The good news is that research still guides us to understand how to stimulate students’ interests and ignite their inherent desire to learn. This session will provide a variety of approaches —some tried and true but some innovative — to engage students in a way that will enhance their learning of even the most rigorous content. More specifically, participants will increase their understanding of how to:

==>    Use instructional strategies that energize classrooms and stimulate students’ interest.
==>    Develop students’ ownership of their own learning.

==>    Use technology to go beyond the “wow” factor and engage students to increase

both content retention and depth of understanding.

==>    Integrate critical thinking skills in a way that can result in cognitive

For complete registration information, please click here and download the PDF file.

Mail completed form and appropriate payment to:
Foundation for Educational Administration
12 Centre Drive
Monroe Township, NJ  08831-1564
Phone: 609-860-1200
Fax: 609-860-6677
E-Mail: kmarchione@njpsa.org
Web: www.featraining.org

Science Technology Education Workshop with David Thornburg

NEW DATE: APRIL 1, 2009!

8:30 am to 1:00 pm

Liberty Science Center
222 Jersey City Boulevard
Liberty State Park
Jersey City, NJ 07605

This event is for key education executives and decision-makers that are interested in finding innovative ways to address achievement shortfalls in science education. Registration is complimentary.

General Information

Register Now

*All attendees will also receive an Economic Stimulus Kit containing current information about the economic stimulus plan as it relates to STEM and K-12 education.

Contact Us

For questions or to register, please contact:

Kelsey Armstrong
Registration Coordinator
800.940.6039 ext. 1314
or by email:

Presented by:

“It has been known for a long time that to foster an interest in science, we need to energize our students by involving them as scientists in authentic science experiences. This means that they must participate in scientific practices that more accurately characterize scientific communities of practice.”

Dr. Wayne Grant, Chief Education Officer, PASCO scientific

Featured Speakers

Wayne GrantDr. Wayne Grant, Chief Education Officer, PASCO scientific

STEM: A Global Gold Rush
Technology has increased global competitiveness and put in motion a gold rush, with nations scrambling to develop state-of-the-art knowledge-based economies. A growing number of countries position science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as a cornerstone in the foundation of their economic reform movement. Dr. Grant will discuss how to engage students so that they learn to ask scientific questions, collect data and explain their findings.

David ThornburgDavid Thornburg, Futurist and Author

David Thornburg is an award-winning futurist and author, both in the United States and in Brazil. He has a razor-sharp focus on the fast-paced world of modern computing and communication media, project-based learning, 21st century skills and open source software.

His educational philosophy is based on the idea that students learn best when they are constructors of their own knowledge. He also believes that students should be taught in a way that honors their learning styles to retain the enthusiasm with which they first entered school. A central theme of his work is that we must prepare students for their future, not for our past.

The Future Is Now…Is Your School Ready?

Alan November

Featuring Alan November
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NJAET, the Center for Innovative Education at Kean University, and Jackson Township Schools are partnering to present an outstanding workshop that will help you plan how to move your classroom and school into the future.  Nationally prominent presenter Alan November’s keynote will challenge teachers and educational leaders to help students develop the use of collaborative online tools along with research and global communications skills to add value to the learning community.
In follow-up Spotlight sessions, Alan November will show how to build and strengthen learning communities in globally connected classrooms.  Sandra Alberti, Director, Office of Math and Science Education, NJ DOE will focus on the newly revised Core Curriculum Content Standards, which incorporate global education and 21st skills into every strand.  All attendees will be able to attend both Spotlight sessions.
Download the PDF brochure to learn more about this workshop.Hope to see you there 🙂