woman trekkerTechnology Trekking :
Exhausting, Exhilarating, Energizing

Annette Lamb

Is it possible to be overwhelmed, baffled, and perplexed as well as eager, enthusiastic, and energized? How will you apply what you’ve learned to empower yourself and impact student learning? Now that you know how to use your laptop, GPS, and videophone to build multi-sensory learning environments filled with websites, Wikis, and WebQuests… what’s realistic, relevant, and practical? Follow a group of educators as they decide whether blogging and podcasting will lead to improved test scores or early retirement.


Marc Prensky likes to ask, are you a digital native or a digital immigrant? Go to the website for the An Inconvenient Truth documentary. Would you rather read a book, watch a video, or explore an interactive website?

Examine Snapshots of 21st Century Learners.

baffledAs you think about all the ways that technology can be integrated into your work and personal life, are you baffled, overwhelmed, and perplexed? Or, are you eager, enthusiastic, and energized?

Consider ways that technology can be used to empower yourself and impact students learning. Think about those applications that are realistic, relevant, and practical.

After exploring the possibilities, you may decide that early retirement is the best option. On the other hand, I hope you'll choose professional renewal instead.

Try Thinkature!

Ten Tech Treks

mug shotLet's follow a group of educators as they consider how to apply some of the "big ideas" in the educational technology news... the names and stories have been changed in some cases for obvious reasons...

Tech Trek 1: The Google Game

google logoFrom Google New and Images to Google Labs and Earth, the Google game is on... so any options and so little time to explore. It's easy to stay up all night googling yourself, friends, and family. Exploring maps, e-shopping, and just having fun.

bloomabilityHowever the key to effective use of Google is finding practical applications. For example, let's say you're working on materials for a literature circle related to moving or travel. With younger children you might be reading Bud, Not Buddy while high school students might read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or Whirligig.

Let's use Bloomability by Sharon Creech as an example. It's the story of a teenager who moves to Switzerland to live with her aunt and uncle. Using Google tools you will find many ideas to enhance the teaching and learning experience.

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Select a unit you want to explore. Seek out virtual adventures. Use Google to add life to your unit.

Tech Trek 2: Blog Blitz

Ron Hirschi Swimming with HumuhumuWhether you're using Blogger, ClassBlogmeister, or your own blogging software on a school web server, everyone seems to have a blog. Rather than viewing blogging as just another fad, seek out projects that are relevant for your classroom. Look for small-scale, short-term project that are focused on specific, standards-based activities.

Consider projects such as book discussions, real-world math activities, collaborative projects and expert interaction.

Go to Rob Hirschi Visits Eastview Elementary blog. Also, check out the Sea Creatures Resource page. This teacher attended a workshop and immediately went back to her classroom and created a blog.

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Explore the pros and cons on blogging with your class. Consider school policies and access issues. Then, developed a focused activity to try.

Tech Trek 3: Camera Capers

Think about how your digital camera will be used to address a performance gap. For example, if students are having trouble making inferences in a reading or science class, use photos to build student skills. Inference is the reasoning involved in drawing conclusions based on evidence and prior knowledge rather than observation. While some students may be able to practice this critical skill with abstract examples, others may need concrete examples.

cattails cattailscattails

Consider the following questions based on the photos above:

  • How do cattails disperse their seeds? Why?
  • What conditions are needed? Dry weather, wind, & water

Focus on a standard and differentiation. Go to Steve Spangler Science Experiments. Follow the directions to conduct the experiment. Use photographs to log the experiment and write about the steps in the scientific method. Ask students to write high level questions related to their projects.

Go one step further:

  • Create a blog to share your experiments.
  • Create short videos with your still camera
  • Create "what happens next" PowerPoint Presentations

ell phones are everywhere. Rather than just focusing on strict student guidelines, consider unique, useful applications of the cell phone you know your student love. With their enhanced audio and video recording functions, they can be used to create podcasts, conduct interviews, document construction sites, and create public service announcements.

Go to the CellFlix Festival from Ithaca College to see some examples of audio and video work down by high school and college students using a cell phone.

Go one step further:

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Use your digital camera to promote critical and creative thinking.

Tech Trek 4: Super Starters

viewsWhen you think of PowerPoint, you probably think of bullet lists and presentations. However there are lots of other uses!

Example: Photo Starters that provide starters on two viewpoints (see right)
Example: PowerPoint Sidekicks


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What can you use existing software in new ways?

Tech Trek 5: Podcasting Party

Podcasting is a popular new way to incorporate audio into a wide range of assignments.

  • Explore podcasts.
  • Design a project.
  • Download Audacity.
  • Create and upload your MP3
  • Enjoy!

Create your own personal podcasts for your family. I call mine an Alexcast. Use them to keep in touch with friends and family.

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Try a personal project or expand a school activity.

Tech Trek 6: Wiki Wandering

Along with blogs, wikis are the hot topic.

  • Go to Wikibooks.
  • Join a project that involves wiki building to help students understand how wikis are built. For example, you might join the Wikijunior Dinosaur project.
  • As you participate in a wiki project, discuss with students how website are created and edited. Talk about the need to know the authors of a website and their perspectives.
  • If you have Moodle Software, check out the wiki function. Go to Escrapbooking Moodle for an example that will be functioning this spring.

Build your own wiki in an area of need. Consider science and history topics. What's unique in your state or provincial history?

Try it at PBWiki.

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Start by evaluating wikis. Then, add to existing wikis. Finally, create a wiki based on a unique topic.

Tech Trek 7: Flash Fun

Flash projects make web applications come alive. As you explore Flash-rich websites ask yourself : What's the purpose? Springboard, Information Exploration, Active Participation, Closure and/or Transfer?

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Explore what's available in your subject and grade level. How could these resources be integrated into your curriculum?

Tech Trek 8: RSS Rally

Are you overwhelmed by RSS (Really Simple Syndication)? RSS simply involves automatically receiving updated web content. It comes directly to your RSS Reader.

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Organize your news using an RSS. Consider ways to bring the world into your classroom with current events and timely information.

Tech Trek 9: Fact, Fiction, & In-Between

millionFrom calls of plagiarism by popular authors to questions about the authenticity of nonfiction literature, where's the line between fact and fiction? Even Oprah was drawn into the story of James Frey in A Million Little Pieces until inaccuracies in the facts began the surface. What's perspective, opinion, viewpoint, and lie?

The world of information is full of different perspectives. Rather than trying to protect students, dive into the controversy and help students become critical thinkers. Ask students to examine the credibility of bloggers, face the hazards of social networks such as MySpace, and help students evaluate online information.

wormwoodWhen examining world events and news reports, look at all the perspectives. For each events there are books, videos, and websites available.

For example, when tracing the events related to the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl there are well-researched books such as Wormwood Forest by Mary Mycio , award-winning, documentary films like Chernobyl Heart, and websites such as Pripyat and the 30K Zone. There are even websites that provide guidance in how to take an ecological, extreme tourism experience to the site.

However there are also resources that stretch the true or provide a single perspective. For example, the authenticity of the Kiddofspeed - Elena's Motorcycle Ride through Chernobyl website has been questioned. What's fact, what's fiction, and what's in-between? Wikipedia has a page on the controversy of this website by Elena Filatova.

Check out some of the other websites on this topic. Compare the information and statistics. Who do you believe and why?

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Face controversy. Ask big questions. Explore and evaluate. Reflect and discuss.

Tech Trek 10: Authentic Adventures

Design your own adventure. Document service projects and apply school to real-world activities. For example, rather than reading biographies about heroes from a text book, consider today's young heroes. Read about The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.

Think about topics that could involve a community that has had a shared experience such as a local event. For example, I recently visited Heart Mountain (photo below), the site of a WWII era Japanese Internment Camp. This visit made me wonder about the people who lived here and I began reading the many primary resources such as books and videos available on the topic.

Heart Mountain

Dear Miss BreedIn Dear Miss Breed, Joanne Oppenheim uses interviews and primary source documents to tell the story of a children's librarian who made a difference in the lives of many children living in Japanese Internment Camps in World War II. The author got the idea for the book while exploring for information at the Japanese American National Museum website. Go to Dear Miss Breed: Letters from Camp to explore the website.

For more ideas on using Dear Miss Breed, go to Scholastic.

Today it's possible to build these types of collections of memories using a collaborative writing environment with wiki software. What unique stories can be found in your community that could be shared? How could you get members of your community involved?

You can also tell these stories through creating electronic scrapbooks. Go to escrapbooking.com for ideas. It's time to combine fun with authentic learning!


  • Ordinary People, Extra Ordinary Experiences
  • All Kinds of Heroes
  • Through their Eyes
  • Walking in their Shoes

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Ask students to use technology to tell the stories of people who make a difference in your community.


What about you? How will you use technology? We need to take the bad with the good. If we're chained to our computer, think small. Think different. If we're frustrated by batteries, think solar like Solio for your iPod.


What technology adventures will you take? How will you enrich your own learning experiences? Be a technology trekker!


Travel Brains - Travel adventures that leave your smarter. Battlefield guides include Gettysburg, Fredricksburg, Vicksburg, Manassas, and Antietam.

History through Film includes lesson materials to go with popular films.


Developed by Annette Lamb, 3/06.