How do I get students to read? A great new site for educators!

Any of you that know me knows that I hate to read! I know, I know…I’m an educator and I need to foster that desire to read and to learn in students. We need to encourage students to read the great classics! I agree, but for me this never came easy! Ugh…I’m a math geek and I could never figure out why some people could sit for days and read those hundreds and thousands of pages of text called literature. Reading is hard for me and frankly when I was young my parents had to practically bribe me to read (…or threaten …whichever way one looks at it! 🙂 ) Being mathematically inclined, everything is literal to me. I absolutely cannot read between the lines. Why then should I read something I do not understand?

Well, here comes Miss Havisham! I came across this article in the USA Today ( which explains that a young, very tech-savvy and very smart woman is opening doors for those students like myself to actually understand the reasons behind those long, long novels. This is a huge task to accomplish, but from the samples on her site that I’ve seen so far, this idea is a winner! Hey…she even has tempted someone like me to want to read!

For almost all of the books listed, she has 60 second clips of the overview, plot, cast, theme(s), symbols, motifs and conclusion. Unlike SparkNotes or CliffNotes, these clips do not seem to give enough information for a student to attempt to take a test without reading the book. However, it does explain enough to entice students to read or clarify information. It seems to direct students to the correct train of thought. Of course, don’t listen to this non-reader, watch and listen to Gabby, a student, responding to Great Expectations on this 60second club recap – ( ).

Keep in mind, I’m not an English major and not a huge reader, so I would love to hear thoughts from those of you that are English teachers and/or avid readers. Has Jenny Sawyer (Miss Havisham) created something that can be used in your classroom to entice young readers? Is her information about the books on target? Do you think this is something needed today? Let me know.

Visit the 60 Second Recap at


Window’s Live Writer…a new tool I found today.

A couple of coworkers and myself were working today on a digital imaging presentation.  My part of the presentation will be to talk to the group about resizing images.  Of course to increase my knowledge, I googled it!  One of my finds was “Windows Live Photo Gallery”.  Being a Microsoft product I felt somewhat confident it would be a safe download so off I went to learn more.  While at the site I viewed two short video clips on the product’s ease of use from Alexa age 7 and Kylie age 4 1/2 (which are both worth viewing if for no other reason to verify the fact that it’s okay to ask for help from your four year old grandson or granddaughter!)   I’m sold…so I start the download.  While downloading this product it asked me to check which of the Live products I would like to download.  Besides the Photo Gallery, I also downloaded Window’s Live Writer.  This is a tool to help you with your blog writing.  Since I was reminded that it was 1configure my turn to blog…I thought “why not try it?”  In fact, I am writing this blog through Live Writer right now.

When I first started using the program it asked me to configure the program for use with my blog.

Next, it asked me what blog service I used and if I wanted to create a blog if I did not have one.   I went through the rest of the process of setting up the blog. 


Once finished, a new window appeared so that I could start writing the blog.  It was very user friendly.  I would however recommend that the user check the blog after writing to make sure that it appears the way the writer intended. 

After I’m finished with writing this blog, I am planning to click “Publish” at the top of the screen.   If you are reading this right now…then “it worked!”   This is a good little tool. I would recommend this for those of you that would like to start blogging but need something easy to use.

Some Thoughts …

Peggy Sheehy
Peggy Sheehy
First let me state that I am presently at the Building Learning Communities Conference hosted by Alan November (BLC08).  It is my second year at the conference and it is a wonderful event.  People from all over the world attend and the opportunities for learning and networking are phenomenal.  I have gathered many wonderful ideas from this event and hope to take these ideas back to share in my district.  That being said…I want to share some thoughts that I have each time I attend an educational technology conference like this.


The theme seems to always be “We’ve got to change, change, change”…”We’ve got to prepare for the future!”…We have to change the way we teach!  Students are not the same as they were when we were young!”   Yet…where are the answers?  Where is the “how”?  I feel like I’m in a house on fire with no doors.  I feel the urgency to get out…I know what I need to do…but no one is showing me the exit!  They yell “GET OUT!”  There are no doors or windows.  I know I have to create one…but how?


I keep hearing people state “we want people to start asking questions, to start thinking.”  True…but many educators “do not know what they don’t know”.  I want people to start developing answers and to show educators “how” to start finding their own answers.  Granted there were a few sessions at the conference that did just this.  Sonny Magata’s session  21st Century Learning Communities was absolutely incredible.  Not only was the information he gave relevant in showing a teacher how a student learns, he modeled wonderful techniques using the promethean board.    Peggy Sheehy’s session From Good Intentions to Best Practices:  Ramapo Islands Year 2 was extremely inspiring.   And while most districts are eons from incorporated virtual classrooms with avitars into their school environment, I do strongly believe this will be the classroom of tomorrow.  


I urge today’s ed tech leaders to stop lecturing schools as to what they are doing wrong and start teaching them how to do it right. 



Is Your Life Chaotic? Simplify it With Technology!

This was a concurrent session that I conducted at the Upstate Technology Conference this year.  The session was really directed at simplifing one’s life outside the classroom.  We discussed Google Documents, Google Calendar, Bloglines and Jott.  Jott seemed to be the tool that attracted the most interests and responses.  If you are not familiar with Jott….try it out.  It does quite a few things but what interested teachers the most was the ability to call Jott, leave a message, have it converted to text and then have the text sent to their son or daughter’s cell phone.

Is this of educational value?…maybe not..but it’s my experience that if you can get someone excited about one piece of technology then they are much more approachable about other areas.

Upstate Technology Conference – Audacity Session

Today is the first day of the Upstate Technology Conference with pre-conference sessions starting.  My first session is a hands-on session using Audacity.  Audacity is a great FREE program that one can download to record and edit audio.  This program is easy to use and the site has quite a bit of information.  If this isn’t enough information to get you started then check out their wiki or forum!    At the wiki, there are great tutorials and tips.  If you are one of those (like me!) that need a manual, check out these two…   the reference guide and the user’s manual.

In my session, I also mentioned the Christmas present I had given my husband.  (For those of you who were not in my session…my husband has over 500 record albums which are gathering dust!  I bought him a device that will let him connect his turntable to his iPod or flash drive and record his albums.)  The name of the device is iRecord.  You can find more information about this device by clicking here.  We bought the cheaper one of the two…and it works great!

Oh yeah…one more thing…click here to download my PowerPoint for the audacity session.  Feel free to use it, add to it, or whatever! 

Promethean Board Tip #2

Most people probably know of this tip…but in case you haven’t… Using transitions from page to page is very useful in your flipcharts.  When I don’t use transitions, I sometimes forget “have I turned the page or not?”  The default setting in ActivStudio is “no transition”.  So if you would like to add just a wee bit of flare – do the following:

Right click over your arrows that cause the page to move forward and backward.   


If you then click on the arrow in the transition box, you will see options for page transitions.  My favorite is cube face rotate.  Once set, the setting is kept until you change it. 



Now my flipchart pages change with flare!   ( …and I get less lost!)

Calling a web 2.0 that’s…

Finally a web 2.0 that’s easy.   I ran across this website approximately 6 months ago called Jott, cool site allows you to call a number, leave a message and then Jott translates and sends it to your e-mail. It’s your own personal recorder without the sticker price. listen  (when you get to the site – click on the speaker to the left to hear the original message I called in)

Powered by Jott

What’s really cool is that the paragraph above was a voice message I called into Jott and asked that it be translated into my blog.  I did not have to type it! (.. I did have to correct a few minor errors but after listening to it I understand why it made the mistakes…I did not talk very clearly!).  Jott takes the first few words of your message and uses that as the title of your blog…then you have 30 seconds of recording time to leave a verbal message that will be translated.  Jott allows you to convert voice messages into emails, reminders, blogs, even twitter.  Just call – tell them where you would like to jott and in less than a minute it’s there.

JottWhile I may not use it regularly to blog, I think I will use it alot for reminders.  I’ve never got the hang of texting…but I do know how to speed dial!  Jott gives me a means to have those thoughts and ideas while driving down the road turned into a list or email that reminds me of things I need to do.  This is one web 2.0 tool that even my husband said he could use!