Edutech for Teachers

Cool Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

PETE&C Recap: Day 3


PETE&C 2012 concluded with two excellent sessions – both focusing on taking learning to the next level by creating authentic projects, student engagement and 21st Century skills.  Even though it was the shortest day of the conference, it was definitely packed with many useful ideas and resources nevertheless.

» Project-Based Websites:  Any word that is synonymous with impressive would appropriately describe Ross Cooper’s demonstration of how he utilizes a classroom web site as a one stop shop to engage his students in an interactive, paperless manner.  Any teacher that is interested in the inquiry based learning process, addressing higher order thinking skills, collaboration and cross-curricular activities must take a look at Ross’s extremely cool virtual classroom located at  Click on the “Projects” link folder to view a variety of assignments based on themes students already enjoy and/or are familiar with – “Pinball Wizard” and “Science for Dummies” to name a few.  Besides the “Angry Animals” activity – which is based on the popular Angry Birds game – my personal favorite was “Artist Research”.

Although Ross utilizes Flash, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create the dynamic web pages featured on his site, a less experienced designer can create similar content using Wix, a free flash-based web page generator.

While participating in this session, I almost wished I was a fourth grader again!

» The Walls Come Tumbling Down – Learning Portals:  “Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.  Today’s students need to develop information skills that will enable them to use technology as an important tool for learning, both now and in the future.”

Using this quote from the American Library Association as the premise for their presentation, instructional coaches Laura Cipriano and Andrew Halter explained the importance and benefits of utilizing learning portals to promote “every” Century skill sets.  So, what is a learning portal?  In the educational arena, it’s a web site or wikispace that offers students consolidated anytime, anywhere access to information, resources, materials and/or assignments pertaining to a particular course.  Instead of teaching content in isolation, learning portals can be integrated to create powerful instruction and authentic learning opportunities for students.  In addition to addressing the four lens of learning, this blended approach provides a hub to foster skills in the following areas:  innovation, communication, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking while simultaneously teaching the use of technology in an effective and productive manner.

The cool thing about this presentation was Laura and Andrew actually modeled how to integrate a learning portal into classroom activities by having participants in the session complete tasks they embedded into a wiki.  Two particular tools they used that are worth mentioning included Edistorm, a brainstorming and organizing tool (similar to Wallwisher or CorkboardMe) and Crocodoc, a collaborative literacy tool that allows users to view, highlight and/or comment on any document.  What a great digital text rendering resource this is!

To learn more about learning portals and the advantages of using them in the classroom, be sure so check out Laura and Andrews’s wikispace located at  It contains tons of  information, instructional features, samples and research about learning portals as well as a links to Andrew’s Digital Tools for Digital Learners and The Digital Shift wikis that are packed with technology integration tools and ideas.  Laura also maintains a very resourceful library wiki for Riverside High School in Western PA.

As you can see, it was another fabulous PETE&C Conference.  I still cannot wrap my mind around how quickly technology changes and how much of an impact Web 2.0 can have in the educational setting.  Now if I could just figure out how to utilize all of the new ideas, strategies and tools I learned about over the last four days, but I guess that’s a good problem to have! 🙂

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Hey, edu-tech gurus!

Looking for some technology integration ideas to enhance your classroom lessons? Then be sure to check out my "Tech Tips" for the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools, applications and web sites that can be incorporated into activities and/or projects. Although some posts may not be applicable to your content area or grade level, be sure to check back often as I will be varying ideas in order to provide resources across the K-12 curriculum.

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