Holland Hall EdTech

Sharing What Works

Teaching Young Kids to Blog = Rewards


From the SmartBlog on Education, a post filled with great information about teaching young kids to blog.


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Online Concept Mapping


For years, I have been a big “believer” in the value of concept mapping for most students. Biology requires students to stop thinking about science as a linear progression, but instead to consider how everything is connected. The power of doing so is that students begin to understand that with a little knowledge, properly connected, they can predict how the living world is organized and functions. For instance, if they understand the molecular structure of phospholipids, the most abundant molecule in biological membranes, they can predict how these molecules arrange to form membranes, and even how the membrane will behave. This is far better than just memorizing “facts”.

The concept map below describes the idea of concept maps, and comes from

One problem with concept mapping is that it is messy. For many students, this is an enormous obstacle. The process of making a map, which forces students to make connections, is far more important than how it looks. However, this is very uncomfortable for many students, who have been trained to put together neat projects for school.

Another problem with concept mapping is that it can be quite cumbersome! Students trying to connect an entire semester’s worth of information have constructed maps for me that were as large as 12 feet by 7 feet. Wow! (Needless to say, that student scored an A on her final. She knew everything and how it all connected.)

This past spring I found a digital tool (Bubble.us) that met my requirements for concept mapping, and my students loved it. Many of my students had been mapping on paper for the year, but some had never really caught on to mapping or found it tedious. Several were skeptical – they were into the rhythm of mapping their own way, but I urged them to try it.  In the end, all but one student chose this web-based program as their favorite way to map.

There are many other programs that might meet your needs.  In fact, I spent at least 6 hours evaluating different tools to find one that met the needs of my classroom.  I chose this one for several reasons.

  1. It allows arrows to be drawn between ideas AND students can modify (explain) the arrow.
  2. It allowed essentially an infinite number of connections in any direction.  Most programs I saw were glorified flow chart programs.
  3. It’s free!  Students just need to sign up with and e-mail address.  There may be paid options, but they weren’t needed for the scope of what I wanted my students to accomplish.
  4. It’s simple to learn.  I didn’t have to provide instruction for anyone.
  5. Students can share their work with me, electronically, without my needing their user name or password to see their account.  It’s so easy, in fact, that you can see their work, too!  Just click on the links below to see the fruits of their labor.



Just click on the link and zoom in or out.  You can grab the map and slide it around, too!

One caution:  students are accustomed to autosave programs, and this one is not.  They need to save their work before logging out of their account, or they risk losing it.


The State of Educational Blogging


Great info from The Edublogger


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World History on Facebook


Parts 1 and 2



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Saturday Humor

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Invitation to all Holland Hall Educators


I would like to extend an invitation to all Holland Hall educators to join me at HASTAC (pronounced “haystack) Please click on the links for further information.

HASTAC is the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. HASTAC was begun in 2002 by  the authors of “A Manifesto For the Humanities In The Technological Age,” Cathy Davidson and David Goldberg.

After joining, you can join and participate in many, many digital humanities-related groups, research academic topics, converse with scholars, take advantage of opportunities (funding, papers and projects), attend events (virtual and real) and enter competitions.

I first delved into HASTAC as I studied the ‘Gamification of Education” and “Badges for Learning.”

Above all, HASTAC is another way to connect and collaborate with colleagues and leaders in education.










why learning to design programs matters


Take note, this is about learning to DESIGN programs.  And, this is NOT about the (too) tiny percentage of the population who will become professional computer scientists…  this is about a mindset and resources for ALL students, so PLEASE READ no matter your subject specialty.  Hmmm….

This first link takes you to the preface of a free online text book (1st edition) that makes some fairly bold statements about the importance of learning to design programs and how that should be a required component in any (and every) good education.  I’ve met these authors, taken summer courses from them, and have taught from their materials for nearly 10 years.  Much of what they say has real value — it is just that the strength of their convictions sometimes shows up in their content as a bit pushy or pretentious.  Nevertheless, it should provoke some thought – and THAT is valuable.  Here’s the link to the preface of “How to Design Programs” by Felleisen, Findler, Flatt and Krishnamurthi:


These authors were the recipients of a National Science Foundation grant awarded to assist in the development of a fundamentally different set of materials and software designed to provide better software and instructional materials for teaching beginning programming and computing.  Since it was a federal grant, their results are free to the public.  That is, there is free software.  There are free texts (2 different books that I know of & 1 of them is well into its 2nd edition).  AND, they have stayed engaged in the on-going online discussion groups that support this effort even though the original grant has expired.

The download site for the software is:  http://www.racket-lang.org/

The 2nd edition of the HtDP “text” is online only, but still free (and has been significantly updated to reflect upgraded features in the language software):   http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/matthias/HtDP2e/

Dr. Stephen Bloch, another computer science professor from Adelphi University (on Long Island, NY) has also made his text 100% available online.  He has worked closely with the original grantees and developed materials that are linked tightly to the same software but are much more oriented to graphics creation, manipulation, and exploration.  This is the text I’ve used for the last 2 years and student have been much more engaged.  His text can be found at:


There’s too much info in all that to absorb in any short duration, but I can answer questions and have become quite convinced that students of all interests and ages can benefit from learning these techniques and from using these free materials to create and/or explore problems not generally suited to other environments.  Enjoy!


PS: The downloadable software is available for Mac, Windows and Linux-based computers.  That makes it compatible with about 99.9% of all desktop & laptop computers.  The texts are either downloadable PDFs or fully-web-accessible (HTML) pages for access from any browser on any internet-connected device.  There are print (hard-copy) versions of the books available too, but why?


Two Links


I wanted to share two links. First there’s a link to a great list of teacher tools via ScoopIt curated by Kristin Swanson — straight from the EdCamp Smackdown Philly last weekend.

Second, here is a link to some thought material from Kathy Cassidy, a first grade teacher in Canada. All of Kathy’s first graders blog (verb) and in her post, she explains the benefits now and for the future.

Saturday Funny #2


From EdTech Digest

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20 iPad Apps for Science Teachers


I ran across this the other day — especially for science educators:


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