What’s Obvious to You, Is Amazing to Me!

One of the educators I respect immensely is Richard Byrne.  His website FreeTechnologyForTeachers is a virtual treasure trove of fantastic resources and great observations.  If you don’t follow him, then you really should! On Twitter he is: @rmbyrne

One such observation of Richard’s recently has really resonated with me.  That is “What’s Obvious to You, is Amazing to Me!”  Those of you who know me, will know that one of the things I’m most passionate and vocal about in my professional life is collaboration –  this could take the form of a casual conversation in the staffroom over coffee which leads to the meeting of minds, possibly extending to meaningful brainstorming right through to formal planning and delivery of lessons with teaching colleagues and everything that comes in between and beyond!  You gain so much from this approach, but the thing I’ve only recently become more intentional about is the sharing of some of my thoughts and actions through this blog.

Initially I began blogging as a way of reflecting on my own practice, commenting on the things that impacted me and as a record of my own professional journey.  Making the decision to share this publically with “the world” feels a little scary as you don’t know who might be reading it, whether others will agree with you, or indeed think you have anything valid to say at all! It’s scary to think of others reading it, but it’s also scary to think that actually no one wants to read it!  Or maybe what you have to share is so obvious to everyone that what’s the point in even saying it.

But what Richard says in his posting is that what has become obvious to us as part of our everyday practice may in fact be the first time someone else has heard it, seen it, read it in quite this way.  Or maybe it’s something someone else has thought about but wasn’t sure what to do with it.  Or maybe it will be the “right place, right time” scenario, where it’s validation of something you’ve wanted to say or do but just needed a catalyst to make it a reality.

I know in my own journey that this has often been my experience (Richard’s posting as a case in point!) and so, please feel free to ignore anything I blather on about that isn’t relevant to you or is already in your “obvious” basket, but I hope you’ll agree that this shouldn’t negate the opportunities for the sharing of ideas in collaboration with others.  It might just be the right amazing thing at the right amazing time for just one person.  It’s the willingness to share our journey that’s important.

Top 6 picks: Quality Research Resources for Year 1-8

It seems to me, not only as a school librarian but as the mother of an almost-ten year old boy, that finding good research sites for this age group can be a tricky business, but thanks to some of the new ways educators are sharing resources, I’ve come across a number of new ones to add to my tried-and-true favourites.  So here’s my Top 6 list of websites to try:

1. BBC Newsround

This site makes current events a little more accessible. Newsround is like an online magazine for quite young children through to possibly even Y9 & 10 students at a push.  As well as news there’s sport, entertainment, book and movie reviews and games.

2. National Geographic for Kids

A site for approx Y4-Y10 students with lots of interactive information from news-bites to popular geography games and a “weird but true” section.  Try using National Geographic for kids yourself, or check out the Little kids edition for even younger children.

3. Time Magazine for Kids

This site has news from around the world, kid reporters and homework help. Time for Kids also has a section on the environment and great country profiles with a small comprehension quiz to test what they’ve read. (the latest edition is on New Zealand!)

4. Any Questions

Any Questions is an extremely worthwhile online homework help site for our Kiwi kids.  An online librarian on tap to help with research questions and Many Answers will give good links to questions already asked.

5. Britannica Encyclopaedia Online

Another unique opportunity for our kiwi kids, we have access to this quality online encyclopaedia in every New Zealand school through EPIC databases, which is funded by the Ministry of Education.  One of the things I like most about this resource is the ability to search by content level which is useful when working with students who need good information at an appropriate level.

6. Google – Reading level

Lets face it ….. these kids are going to use Google, so here’s one way that you can help them navigate the information they find there.  Try doing an advanced search (you’ll now find the advanced search by clicking on the little cog icon in the top righthand side of the page and this is their page to explain how it works).  It will allow you to filter results based on whether the reading level is basic, intermediate or advanced.

I’m sure there will be others you’ve come across which I’d love you to share with me.  What’s your “go to” favourite?  I’ve begun collating these treasures into a Livebinder, and I’ll add any recommended on my blog into it for everyone to share.

My top 6 website picks from AASL 2011 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning

A big thanks to Janet McFadden from National Library, Services to Schools who blogged yesterday about the top 25 websites for teaching and learning 2011 http://bit.ly/n3jot0.  This is a great list which I spent some time working through yesterday and selected my top 6 to alert my teaching colleagues at school to.  I have added them to my Online Teaching Tools Livebinder folder http://bit.ly/q3CVeu

Here are my 6 in no particular order:

Edistorm: An online brainstorming tool – http://bit.ly/npqyn5   This provides a great way for groups and classes to discuss and organise ideas.

Geo Cube: A fantastic visual design which makes you want to explore the site. It has excellent geography resources. http://bit.ly/puci4a

Dipity: A timeline generator http://bit.ly/rly52G

Myths and Legends: http://bit.ly/rgBFGs This site is all about the art of storytelling, including good examples and how to design your own. 

National Archives Digital Vault: http://bit.ly/nINFKm While this is an American archive it has many excellent digital resources suitable for a number of units taught here at school, particularly in our Social Sciences department.

Exploratorium: The Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception http://bit.ly/oV54ga So much to explore on this site! Sits particularly well with Science and Social Sciences departments.

 If you want to read the full list you can find it here: bit.ly/qGlAQj and it will provide links to the 2009 and 2010 lists.  It’s interesting to look at them and see how many you’ve heard of or are already using.  Last year’s list includes Livebinders, which is my new favourite curation tool at the moment. I love it.  It’s easy to use and has so many uses.  Here’s a link to get you started if you’re not already using it. http://bit.ly/o3h99t

I’d love to know what your top pick is.  Which one you’re already using and which new one is the next one you’re going to try.