Thursday, March 27, 2008

Teacher Leaders Unite

I found a great website where teacher leaders can go to learn about leadership, coaching and mentoring, professional communites, 21st century learning, classroom practice, and other teacher leadership information.

Under the resources link, there is a 21st Century link that takes you to many different articles and websites on why and how teachers can and should integrate technology into their classrooms.

Have fun looking around!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Good Leaders (Teachers) Never Quit

Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Joseph Martin of the New Teacher University located in Florida. Among the topics he addressed were the following: the most common reasons teachers quit the profession; four "Fear Factors" administrators must be aware of when hiring teachers; three P's that administrators must understand about their teachers; and three things administrators must do to retain good teachers. According to Dr. Martin, the three most common reasons why teachers quit the profession are the following: lack of support (isolation); unrealistic expectations (too much to do & not enough time to do it); and, surprisingly, other teachers (experienced, negative teachers). Dr. Martin stated that student behavior was the fourth-most common reason why teachers quit the profession. In order to truly understand their teachers, administrators must understand teachers' "Fear Factors", which are (1) Time; (2) Approval; (3) Consistency; and (4) Quality. By "time", the implication is that teachers are afraid of wasting it. Their personal planning time needs to be respected & valued so that they believe they can complete their responsibilities. Second, some teachers get offended very easily. They need to perceive a "sense of approval" from their peers & supervisors. Third, some teachers don't want to change; they are afraid of doing things differently. These individuals need to be given very clear, simple directions when asked to do something new. Finally, some teachers are concerned with "quality", and need to be given time to do things correctly. The three P's that Dr. Martin refers to are: priorities; purpose; and pressures. Administrators need to understand teachers' individual priorities, preferably each person's top three. Second, administrators should try to understand each teacher's purpose for entering the profession; what drives the individual to teach? Third, an administrator should ascertain what pressures an individual teacher experiences, in order to know how best to help the teacher. In conclusion, all administrators (and leaders) should: serve with their hearts, not with their heads; the responsibilities should cause more heartaches than headaches. Next, administrators should focus on the purpose of their positions, not the payoff. Finally, administrators should be an example to their teachers, not an excuse.

From the Boardroom to the Classroom: Value-Added Leadership

Today I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Dr. Robert Marzano & Dr. Tim Waters from McREL (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning). One of the key ideas in the presentation was the emphasis on the importance of individual reflection. In order to become more effective as teachers & leaders, it is absolutely imperative that we schedule times (at regular intervals) to reflect on the specific strategies, methods, and practices in which we engage. As we work with administrators & teachers, it is part of our responsibility to ask questions that direct those individuals to reflect on what they are doing, so that they may consider new approaches to particular challenges that they face. While this may seem like common sense to some, Marzano & Waters have asserted that it is something that is not valued enough. They have also indicated that, contrary to many beliefs, the strength of leadership at the district level has a strong correlation with the academic achievement at the individual school level. Some people believe that the superintendent's leadership ability does not necessarily have a significant impact on the achievement of students at the school building level. Chief among the responsibilities of the superintendent should be the following: a goal-setting process; non-negotiable goals for achievement & instruction; school board alignment with & support of district goals; monitoring goals for achievement & instruction; and use of resources to support the goals for achievement & instruction. Again, it is not uncommon to observe some leaders who will focus on certain responsibilities, at the expense of others. However, the schools who are committed to doing what's best for students will take no shortcuts in ensuring that all of these responsibilities are met. Only when this occurs will students have the greatest opportunity for increased academic achievement and personal success.

Focusing on a Gradual Release of Responsibility

Doug Fisher, San Diego State University, held an outstanding session on gradual release of responsibility and how he trains districts to make this theory come alive in the classroom. The presentation included discussions on the prupose and modeling of lessons; guided instruction to differentiate, collaborative learning, and independent practice.

Most models include modeling, guided practice and independent practice and skip over the collaborative practice, which is where the student learning and thinking occur.

This session offered many insights on this process and made us truly reflect on our practice as professional development trainers. All too often we jump through the hoops to present our content, and don't include these steps along the way. This might be one reason that we sometimes don't see the changes we would like to see. It is a slow process, but if you follow the steps, you might actually see the understanding occur more quickly. Sounds easy, but remember, it does take time.

ASCD Update - Marzano's new book "Making Standards Work"

Robert Marzano was a featured speaker at ASCD discussing his new book, "Making Standards Work." We've heard Marzano speak before, and we have to say that this was one of his most interesting presentations. One piece of our work this year has been centered on Formative Assessment. Marzano's new book supports the Formative Assessment research by Stiggins.

Marzano's discussion about standards centered on the idea that standards have too much content and that we need to trim state standards by at least 1/3. One way to do this is to mesh all "Like concepts" into one standard. The book states that there should be no more than 15 topics, per content area, per grade level, per year.

Another topic discussed was creating scales or templates for rubric design across the building. The book contains many examples of rubrics.

The last topic covered was the controversial grading issue. If you are going to use a formative assessment scale, it doesn't make sense to use a 100 percent grading system, or when you average scores, you underestimate the knowledge.

With the work that we are engaged in for TIE and ESA, this book is a must!

Florida Merit Pay Plan

Merit Pay is such a hot topic these days. I found Forida's experiences reported in the St. Petersburg Times interesting. Click here to read more.

ASCD Update - Integrating Technology

After attending two technology related sessions here at ASCD, it is a confirmation that technology has to be seamlessly integrated into the curriculum at all levels. iPods: A Catalyst for Learning was a session designed to show participants all the wonderful ways to integrate iPods into the curriculum. The first and most obvious is to use them in foreign language or ESL/ELL courses. Students use the voice recorded add-on feature and record their voice for fluency, pitch, sound level and pronunciation. Another use for the iPod is in the math classroom. Students are recording their investigations and explaining how they solved the problem or describing in their own words the math vocabulary they are studying. The cumulative record for each of these examples can then be made into a digital portfolio. The theme here is to really let your imagination run wild with the potential iPods bring to the classroom.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Alarming Cost to Society of HS Dropouts

Henry “Hank” Levin shared statistics from a study which showed the alarming amount of not only financial resources that are lost when students don’t graduate from high school, but the effect on health, crime and welfare. This special feature session was The Enormous Returns to the Taxpayer of Public Investment in Education.
The US gains $127,000 when a student graduates from high school versus dropping out.
Approximately 3 out of 10 students are dropouts. The rate is higher for males than females. US lags most industrialized countries in graduation rates, and the dropout rate is rising, not falling. The data is truly alarming and goes without saying that as a country we need to refocus our energy on making high school graduation a priority. We are losing billions of dollars a year through lost wages and taxes and higher health and crime rates.
To learn more about the study Levin referenced or to buy the book with the complete results go to

We Need to get Behind Public Education-Frosty Troy

Frosty Troy delivered a keynote presentation that resonated with the audience of public school educators. Public school education is and has been taking a terrible rap and it is time to get behind it and support what educators are doing well. Troy said he no longer supports public education; instead he attacks those who attack it! SAT and ACT scores are at an all time high, at a point in American history when we are experiencing some of the worst parenting skills of our time. Public school teachers are expected to not only teach, but be the child’s spiritual advisor, counselor and substitute parent. Troy criticized the voucher system as well as private schools because of how it would negatively affect public education. He accused private schools of cherry picking the public schools, taking the best and the brightest and leaving public schools with the rest. Troy was an advocate for career and technical education; stating that fifty percent of career and tech. students go on to college and do better than the college prep students. Yet, the president has cut the funding to these programs. Troy reminded the audience that teachers are role models, having the highest credibility next to clergy in America; when teachers speak people believe them. It is time to stand up and be proud of American Public Education.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Alma Powell - ASCD Featured Speaker

It was exciting to attend ASCD's feature presentation of Alma Powell (Colin Powell's wife). If you have heard Colin Powell speak, you would have also enjoyed Alma's message. She spoke about the Whole Child; Whole Community. The one quote that made us truly stop and think today was, "Our kids are not failing, we are failing our kids." When Alma speaks of we, she has a heavy emphasis on not only the school, but also the community as a whole failing our children - we all need to come together to protect our children and our future. Alma has worked with high security issues in regard to our nation, but spoke about how educators are the security of our children and we need to step up and protect them.

Pam and Barb

37 Tips and Tricks to Ignite Learning

Doug McPhee from Coast Consultare offered a highly interactive session giving teachers tips and tricks for their classroom. However, as a leader and a professional development provider, this session had great application and was well worth the time.

Activities fell into three areas: Energizers (building the emotional environment); Processing Content (Building Personal Competence) or Integrating (Building Commitment).

Several of the tips were modeled after Garmston's Adaptive Schools and others were ones we have used. However, most were new to us and involved reflection and dialogue. Some examples include: Note to self, handshake-handshake-handshake; using boomerangs and using music.

Doug McPhee suggested as a resource.

Pam and Barb

Tomlinson and Jacobs-Icons of my time

Being in education for twenty plus years I am thrilled to be able to sit in sessions with the familiar names I have heard and authors I have read. Carol Ann Tomlinson was one of those familiar names that I now have a face to go with the name. Her session was unfortunately plagued with audio problems which she seemed to take in stride and was eventually able to share most of her presentation. I was “jazzed” to see the author she referenced in today’s presentation was our own System’s Change Conference speaker and South Dakota native, Gary Marx. Tomlinson used Marx’s body of research from his book, Ten Trends to emphasize the importance of differentiating instruction to meet the vastly diverse population we see in our classrooms today as well as future trends for what is to come. This session was an affirmation of what Marx had shared in November with Tomlinson putting the case of diversity icing on the cake.
Heidi Hayes Jacobs is another name that goes without saying as an education icon I have wanted to hear in person for some time. I was able to attend her session on Curriculum Mapping Update: Linking School-Based Collaborations to Global Learning Communities. What I was particularly excited about as I listened to the updates she shared about curriculum mapping was the emphasis she put on technology. Up to that point, I had not heard much about technology being present in education which I know is not true, but was starting to question if this group of educators had something against it. She offered some great technology integration suggestions for teachers to start using as they plan curriculum for the 21st century, which she reminded us is almost 10 percent over. She accused educators of using Brady Bunch Curriculum with today’s students.

ASCD preconference session - well worth the time

Robert Marzano’s What Works in Schools-Translating Research into Action is a publication many education leaders and staff development individuals are familiar with as an excellent resource. Tim Westerberg facilitated an engaging two day preconference session at ASCD entitled Leadership for What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. Westerberg combined research done by Marzano, Michael Fullan, Rick and Becky DuFour, Richard Elmore and many others. Over the course of two days participants from Australia, Canada, Iceland, South Africa and locations throughout the US developed a working knowledge of parts of five of the eleven factors Marzano identifies in What Works in Schools-Translating Research into Action.
A guaranteed and viable curriculum deserves the attention of educators if students are to be successful. I was struck by the staggering number of standards and benchmarks teachers are to get through in a limited amount of time. Given so many standards, teachers can’t possibly give justice to all of them. Participants offered insightful dialogue as to what can be done about it and where we go from here.
Another interesting discussion focused on Instructional Strategies and how imperative it is for students to know the direction and outcome of the intended learning. As important as it is for students to know where they are going is for students to know where they have been. “The most powerful single innovation that enhances achievement is feedback. The simplest prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops’ of feedback.” John Hattie.
A topic that I am challenged by that was addressed in this preconference session is grading. Westerberg had one slide that simply said, “Grading at most schools in this country (which he changed to world) is a mess and is unfair to kids.” I had not given the topic too much thought prior to this session, but am inspired to delve into the subject in more detail.
I could go on and on as I found the information relevant and timely. If you have had Marzano’s book on your shelf since shortly after buying it and reading it, I would suggest giving it another look. If you don’t have it on your shelf, go out and buy it.

The Power of Perspective

Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? How do you look at situations & circumstances? From your view, does the proverbial glass more often appear to be "half-empty" or "half-full?" Your answer to these questions may reveal much more than you realize about your leadership style and ultimately your ability to positively influence the lives of others around you. A phrase that has resonated deeply with me recently is the notion that, as educators, our work must become "profoundly personal" to us, if we hope to make a lasting difference in the lives of others within our circle of influence. This begins with our attitude. For instance, one individual has suggested that instead of labeling low-performing students as "at-risk" (which could be construed as a pessimistic view), we may want to consider them as students "at-promise." While this may not seem like a revolutionary concept, it may help to foster a change in the way that we look at the potential of students & other educational leaders with whom we work. When some individuals share stories of difficult or challenging situations in which they are engaged, it is not uncommon to hear them use the cliche "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." This, again, implies that a situation is "hopeless." A teacher that I met recently gave me a clever, thoughtful statement in response to this cliche: "Did you salt the oats?" In other words, have I done everything that is necessary to positively change a situation, or am I just going to choose to believe that there's nothing more I can do? I invite you to read the following: OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE. Does the statement read "Opportunity is nowhere?" or "Opportunity is now here?" Once again, just a small shift in our perspective can allow us to become more confident leaders and result in positive differences in the lives of those around us.

Rethinking Senior Year

My first session this morning was envigorating! Janice Dreis and Larry Rehage presented on "Rethinking Senior Year" a program they co-advised at New Triere High School in Winnetka, IL for twelve years.
The program started with a desire to Banish "senioritis" by creating student engagement through four programs 1)Senior Guidance Plan/Institute, 2)Year-long Senior Sevice Project, 3) Senior Instructional Leadership Corps (SILC) and 4)Senior Project.
The Senior Guidance Plan/Institute begins with a senior survey at the beginning of the year asking "What skills/information have you not received that you need for life?". Many students choose the same skills/information each year and roughly 15 topics are identified ranging from success in college, stress relief, and money management to more serious topics such as AIDS Awareness and STD's. Through out the year topics are addressed in the students advisory periods either by the teacher or by students who wish to present. Speakers are also brought in and special senior assemblies are held. Their goal is to hit the topics in as many ways and as many times as possible through the year. The program concludes with a Senior Institute Day where community members speak on the topics selected by the students.
Senior Instrucation Leadership Corps (SILC) is where seniors serve as teaching assistants in classrooms across the curriculum and across all grade levels 2-5 days week. They don't just make photo copies but act much like a student-teacher would and receive one credit for each semester. In 1998 New Trier had 26 seniors take part in this aspect of the program and in 2007 162 seniors participated.
The Senior Project takes place during the last 5 weeks of the school year. The seniors stop going to school completely and have an internship under a community sponsor. They must write daily logs and reflections, a time sheet, a sponsor evaluation must be turned in and the student presents their work to an evaluation committee. Which is graded on a pass/fail basis.
Lastly is the Year-Long Senior Service Project. The senior senate chooses a service theme each year which most often happens to be Habitat for Humanity. They take part in raising the money for the house, construction 3 days a week and do cross curricular learning about social, political, and economic issues surrounding affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity.
Through the many video's we watched it was evident that the seniors were engaged and loved what they were doing. It allowed for real world experience and I would have to agree that they are better equipped for life outside of high school.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Relationships Matter

After attending a two day in-depth session on High Poverty Learners: Research Based Practices that Work I would sum it up with two words, "relationships matter."
Out of the eight strategies our presenters William Parrett and Kathleen Budge discussed 1)effective leadership, 2)engaging parents and the community, 3)holding high expectations, 4)targeting low performing students (schools), and 5)build and sustaining instructional capacity; these in one way or another deal with relationships.
Relationships between teachers and students, parents and teachers are always stressed. However, there also have to be good working relationships between teachers and the district and parents and the district. I will focus on teachers and parents however through two routes. For many reasons parents stay away from schools but when the reason a parent stays away from a school is a lack of trust we wonder how do we fix that? I say one route is through the student. If we focus on the student by setting high expectations and creating relationships with them those relationships will hopefully be mentioned at home. When a parent realizes that their students teacher truly cares and has high expectations and that the student trusts the teacher I believe the parents will do the same and thus we've accomplished engaging parents and the community.
The second would be meeting the parent where they are at, literally. One of the stories we heard was of a teacher who had every meeting with a particular parent in the school parking lot. That parent had been a drop out of the school and therefore did not trust the school. So meeting the parent where they were at was essential. Another district went door knocking to invite parents to conferences and still another held parent teacher conferences over the phone or at the students home because parents did not have the transportation to get to the school.
Building relationships is not an easy job but building them is the foundation to having an even better school.

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Relational Leadership Skills

Quote: The higher up in the organization one moves, the less likely they are to receive honest and specific feedback about their relational leadership skills.

What has been your personal experience?

Pam and Barb (ASCD Conference)

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Visual Explorer Resource

During today's session at ASCD, Karen Dyer highly recommended this resource and we wanted to share it with you. The resource is expensive, but she stated it was well worth the investment. We've included a little bit of information about the product.

Visual Explorer: Picturing Approaches to Complex Challenges, CCL Press, 2001
Charles J. Palus and David M. Horth

In mission-critical situations many different perspectives are typically present, information and other resources are frequently lacking, and yet the responsible group needs to be coherent in its purpose and clear in its understanding in order to take urgently needed action. How do people find coherence leading to action in such situations? Through dialogue. Visual Explorer facilitates dialogue and helps groups reach a shared understanding about specific challenges. It includes 224 carefully chosen color images that invite examination and explication, and thereby acts as a resource for groups seeking to explore complex topics. Groups using Visual Explorer can collectively explore a complex topic from a variety of perspectives, building a shared understanding in preparation for making choices and taking action.

Pam and Barb

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Creating Effective Results Driven Teams: Making Leadership Work

Today's presenter was Karen Dyer from the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC. The session focused on the role of perception in impacting team effectiveness.

An interesting quote/discussion topic was, "We are measured not by what we are, but by the perception of what we seem to be; not by what we say, but how we are heard; and not by what we do, but how we appear to do it."

Another topic that was interesting to us was the concept of "Why Mangers Derail". Karen discussed how people don't derail because of the event, they derail because of the patterns they follow. The derailing factors include: 1) Difficulty in molding a staff; 2) Difficulty in making strategic transitions; 3) Lack of follow-through; 4) Poor treatment of others; 5) Overdependence; 6) Disagreements with higher management about how the business should be run or about strategies to be used.

Pam and Barb

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School 2.0: Technology and the Future of School

Over the past several years a number of technology trends have emerged that together have transformed our world, economically and socially. Our education system is not immune to these changes. From technologically savvy digital-natives, to the increasingly competitive global economy to the social transformation brought about by the internet, the students attending our schools and the expectations they need to meet have changed considerably. Mr. Magner will examine these trends, explore their implications for our education system, and discuss a collaborative approach to evolving schools to meet the needs of this changing world (Tim Magner).

On March 25th at 2pm, Tim Magner will be leading a webinar on School 2.0: Technology and the Future of School. To sign up for this webinar go to

High Poverty Learners

Dr. William H. Parrett, the Director of the Center for School Improvement & Policy Studies and Professor of Education at Boise State University, has shared some thoughts that have given me a new perspective when working with staff & students in high-poverty schools. He suggests that HPHP (High-Performing High-Poverty) schools have staff who are characterized by the following: (1) Caring Relationships; (2) High Expectations; (3) Courage & Will; and (4) Commitment to Action. I would like to focus specifically on the last three attributes: high expectations, courage & will, and commitment to action. In working with superintendents, principals, and teachers, I have found that most of them understand the importance of caring relationships. However, many of the leaders in our schools are so focused on "maintaining the status quo", that they are clearly inhibited in their ability to make decisions that might ultimately result in higher student achievement. As Dr. Parrett has suggested, many people are too "enamored" with the challenges or obstacles that apparently prevent them from meeting the needs of students. As he has stated, we must remind ourselves to "Stop admiring the problem(s)!" We understand that challenges exist when working with high-poverty students. But then we must ask the next (and most important) question: What are we going to do about it? The final step is to have the courage & will to take action. We must not be satisfied that we "have tried" different options. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the opportunity for success of ALL students. As Richard Elmore has stated, there are three questions school leaders must ask: (1) What do we want students to know?; (2) How will we know when they've learned it?; and (3) What will we DO when they have not learned it? Once again, it is imperative that we encourage our leaders to exhibit the courage and will to commit to action that will ultimately result in the opportunity for success for all students....NO MORE EXCUSES!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Technology in Teaching

While doing some research for 21st Century Teaching and Learning, I found a blog devoted to creating a conversation around "technology in teaching and learning." The blog entitled "The Fischbowl" is created by the Technology Director, Karl Fisch, of the Littleton Public Schools in Littleton Colorado and is intended to be a staff development blog for Arapahoe High School Teacher exploring constructivism and 21st Century Learning Skills. Mr. Fisch uses XPlane to create an awareness presentation that is informational and persuasive. Though not all of the information is new, he does give the reader permission to use the presentation as is which might be a time saver for any of you presenting on 21st Century Skills.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seeking AP teachers for Learning Power Program

We often ask ourselves, "What do we do when kids' don't get it?" But what do we do when kids already know? One answer is to offer kids Advanced Placement courses. That isn't always easy because many South Dakota schools are small, located in remote areas and do not have the staff to teach advanced courses.

In an effort to address the needs of students who already know, through funding from ExxonMobil, the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) has awarded nearly $2 million for a statewide pilot project called Learning Power which will offer high school students online Advanced Placement (AP) courses in math, science, and English.

Students and teachers will be offered financial incentives to participate in the Learning Power program. We are seeking names of teachers who are currently teaching or have successfully taught AP courses to become part of a select cohort and participate in this program. If you know of any AP teachers in the areas of English, math and science, please submit their names to me or Dr. Parry.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Contrast to the US Approach

TechnicallySpeaking@TIE: Contrast to the US Approach
Click on the link directly above to view this blog post on TIE's Technically Speaking blog.

Food for Thought: Parker Palmer on the Democratic Experiment

Parker Palmer on the Democratic Experiment Recorded on February 19, 2008 at the Commonwealth Club of California and presented by Minnesota Public Radio, Parker discusses America's democratic experiment -- how rash decision-making undercuts what the Founding Fathers set out to create, and how important tension is for the practice of democracy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Using Cell Phones in the Classroom? Why not?

Educators, it is time to embrace change again. We learned to incorporate computer technology into our classrooms, why not cell phones. Here are some great ideas on how to use cell phones as teaching tools.

In the article "Cell Phones in the Classroom" , the authors from McGraw Hill discuss how students can use the different functions on a cell phone to supplement learning.

·Calculators. Although most schools have them in math class, other classes that don't have them on hand for students can benefit from number crunching. For example, social studies students studying elections can quickly determine percentages of electoral votes or other scenarios. Science classrooms can use them to perform calculations related to fieldwork.

·Digital cameras. Not all schools or classrooms are outfitted with digital cameras, although many can benefit from them. For example, students can use them to document a variety of things for multimedia presentations or reports. Fieldtrips can be documented and incorporated into digital travelogues.

·Internet access .Many phones have wireless Internet access, thus opening up a world of possibilities for class use. Science students might conduct fieldwork and submit their observations or data to either an internal or external data gathering site. Students can subscribe to podcasts that you produce or offered by a multitude of other sources.

·Dictionaries. Students in literature and language arts classes can benefit from being able to quickly query the definition of a word. Additionally, students who are English learners especially can benefit from translation dictionaries which are becoming available on cell phones.

Another article, "Using Cell Phones as Teaching and Learning Tools", lists these great ideas as well as a video presentation on how to use cell phones in the classroom.

1) Have students type their own cell phone novels. Make sure to okay this with parents in advance! Text messaging can be expensive without a prepaid package!

2) Have students make a photo documentary using the camera function on their cell phones. After they take a sufficient number of photos, they can upload them to sites such as Flickr and type narrative descriptions for each picture to share with classmates, family and friends.

3) Have students create educational podcasts with their cell phones (or home phones) using free services like Gabcast that allow users to record podcasts using their phones. The podcasts can then be uploaded to blogs or other multimedia sites to share. Thanks to Liz Kolb for sharing this idea!

4) Have students text message their parents homework assignments so that after school there is no confusion as to what is due the next day.
For more ideas on how to use cell phones as teaching, learning, technology and literacy building tools, check out this excellent video presentation by Liz Kolb filled with ideas on how to incorporate cell phones into classroom and homework activities