Free E-Books

The E-Books Directory is a great resource for teachers and students. It contains links to thousands of free e-books, including textbooks, that can save schools money. Instead of purchasing textbooks, and then worrying about damage and loss, schools could use e-books instead. I have only reviewed the science books and there are a lot of really good e-textbooks listed here.

Give it a look. Even if you don't use an e-text as your primary book, your students could use them as references and for extra help.

Great Advice from Michael Jai White

Actor, and alumnus of our high school, Michael Jai White, visited us yesterday. He has found success as an actor and screen writer and wanted to share some words of advice for our students. Some of his appearances include "The Dark Knight", "Wonderland" and "Spawn."

He talked about not letting the streets make you angry or hard and how you have to work to be happy, not hardened. He told the students that they should work together, help others, and avoid violence.

Two comments he made are very powerful, poignant and relevant to our students. They are especially powerful because he came from the same neighborhood and school that our students do and with the same background.

"An education is the key to your happiness and success."

"When you combine street smarts with academic knowledge, you can not be stopped."

He repeatedly told them that violence is not the answer, that an education is the only way to achieve success, and that they should not be influenced by the violence in rap and the media. He told them that it was ok to feel rebelous against their parents and school, but that they much over come that, do well in school, and strive for success.

I wish every student in the cities of America could have heard his speech.

Some great resources for students

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation - The Lemelson Center is a great resource that explores invention and innovation in history, the story behind great inventions and the site provides resources and ideas to encourage inventive creativity in young people. I found the site fascinating and fun.

iWrite - iWrite, from, is a great resource for writing for students. It includes tips, ideas, grammar help and more. It is very easy to navigate also. A must for any student who has to write.

Great Source has a huge variety of resources for students, in every subject and topic area, including math, science, reading, writing, test prep, and technology.

Fresh Brain - "At the core of FreshBrain is an open and free web site that provides teens with the opportunity to explore, engage, and create through activities and projects. FreshBrain takes advantage of the latest technologies, such as web conferencing and social networking, to provide a very progressive environment where teens can complete activities and work together on projects. This experience is enhanced with Advisors, available to support and mentor teens who are working on projects, with the intention of increasing the likelihood of success. In addition, FreshBrain provides teens with tools and training in the latest technologies to complete these projects."

Fresh Brain is a great resource and very easy to use. The technology products and resources help students build 21st Century Skills and learn how to use Web 2.0 technologies. These skills will be very important to them in college and in careers.

Google Docs Resources

I love Google Docs - it's free, easy to use, allows collaboration, and, did I mention, it's free?

Google is very supportive of education and runs free training sessions for educators. There is also a lot of great resources for educators online. Here are a few of them.

Google Docs Blog - Beginners Getting Started Guides. - Great getting started guides for using Google Docs. The blog has a lot of great tips and resources.

Google Docs Help - Project Ideas for Teachers - ideas and samples of how to use Google Docs in the classroom. The Docs Help page is another great resource.

20 Interesting Ways to Use Google Docs in the Classroom - a Google Docs presentation for teachers about how to use Google Docs.

In addition to these, there are many more resources for Google Docs on the internet. If you would have a student use Microsoft Office, they can use Google Docs instead. This allows them to not have to purchase software and they can access their work from any internet connected computer.

End of the year fun / madness?

(cross posted at Tech&Learning magazine)

As the end of the school year approaches, we, as teachers, have a lot of things to deal with. I can only speak about high school, but I'm sure the middle and lower grades have similar issues.

At the high schools we first have the issue of AP Exams at the beginning of May. Once the exams are done, many AP Students feel that they are done for the year. As an AP Physics teacher, I keep them engaged and learning for the rest of the year with fun projects. They start with a web quest about rockets and then build and launch their own model rockets. They love it! Then, they do a web quest on aerodynamics and then design, build, and fly their own gliders. They learn some great physics topics while having a lot of fun.

The next issue we run into is prom season. Prom's and Ring Dances equal early dismissals on those days for the students attending (need to do hair, makeup, tux, limo, etc.). On these days, I do fun learning activities with the students that are here. The activities are web based, which they enjoy. But this also means that I can have the absentee students make up the assignment on their own later.

I teach 90% seniors. Senior skip day is another day where I have some students and I do the same thing as the prom day.

Then the inevitable end of the year assemblies, parties, and events start interfering with class time. I have learned to finish the majority of the material by AP Testing time so that I'm not pulling out my hair with all the interruptions to class time at the end of May and beginning of June.

My class plan for May and June is all projects. In this way, class interruptions and absences don't really affect the class. Students can work on the projects on their own when they miss class, and the rest of the students are engaged. They very quickly get senioritis and can not, and will not, sit for very long. Group projects keep them learning and engaged while allowing them the socialization and change in pace that they all want.

Another nice part of projects is the fact that they give the teacher more time to mingle with the students during the day and really get a feel for how the class went and how much the students have learned. It is also easier than correcting problem sets or essays!

I use web quests, videos from Discovery Streaming, and projects to keep my students learning during a time of distraction. Think of projects related to your curriculum that would be great to do at the end of the year and use that instead of lectures, problem sets, or standard labs.

The rockets project is my favorite and my students favorite. The web quest incorporates elements from NASA's web site. The students are applying multiple areas of physics during this project: energy, chemical reactions, fluid dynamics, forces, Newton's Laws, and more. They get to work in a group and do something hands-on and creative (they get to decorate the rockets any way they want and they are also able to do different fin designs). The best part is launch day. The students get to go outside and launch rockets. I handle the actual launching so that I can ensure safety, but the students love the countdown and watching the launch. They also have to chase down rockets that drift in the wind. Who wouldn't want to be outside launching rockets on a beautiful Spring day?

Rockets resources:
NASA's Beginners Guide to Rockets:
Estes Model Rockets - Educator Page:
Apogee Rockets - (click on "Educational")
National Association of Rocketry:

I also use a music video to get them inspired for the rockets project - "Countdown" by Rush. The video is on YouTube and you can find the lyrics on line on a variety of web sites.

The song was written after the band attended a Shuttle launch in the 80's. The song and video are very powerful and really show the excitement and achievement of the space program.

Many of the science teachers in my school also use projects at the end of the school year and do many of them outside. Next year, we are thinking of doing a science field day outside in May, and have a cookout for lunch. I am working on some ideas for projects now. For physics, I was thinking of the rockets, catapults, bridges, mousetrap cars, and boats.

The end of the school year has many distractions for students and teachers need to be creative in how they keep students learning and engaged during this crazy time.


"Booklet Creator is a free online tool that allows you to create a booklet from a PDF document. It reorders pages so that after printing and folding the pages, a small book is created. "

You need to start with a PDF file, so if you don't have Acrobat or PDF export/save as in any of your software packages, you can go HERE to see how go get a free PDF creator (CutePDF). 

It is extremely easy to use. Simply select a PDF file on your computer, choose the number of pages and page size (I selected "ALL" and "AUTO") and then click "create your booklet". In a few seconds it is done and asks you where to save the file to. The file is saved as a PDF file. It did a great job on my test projects and I already have some great ideas on how to use it.

In class, you could use this to have students easily create booklets as a project, or turn some of you own handouts and materials into booklet formats.


Quickmaps is a free website that let's you add comments, notes, and icons to a Google Map. This comes in handy when you use Google maps with directions and want to mark up the map with notes. It can also come in handy in school when having students use maps in their projects.

Check it out HERE.

There is also a help site HERE that gives basic instructions on using the site.

You can create a free account, or just create a quickmap as a guest. As a guest, your map will be deleted when you close your browser. You could print it, or save the graphic file before hand, but I recommend creating an account if you are going to use this more than once.

Resources for Science Review (Middle School)

Expert Voices, has a great page on their site with links and tips on reviewing science with middle school students.

I found the links to be very useful, and many could be used with high school students. They are all based on the National Science Standards and each link has a lot of resources.

Check it out HERE.

Expert Voices uses weblog technology to support collaborative STEM conversations among content experts, scientists, teachers, and students from key NSDL audience groups: K12 teachers, university faculty, librarians, and library builders.

About NSDL:
The National Science Digital Library (NSDL) was created by the National Science Foundation to provide organized access to high quality resources and tools that support innovations in teaching and learning at all levels of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

Media reviews

Common Sense Media is a great web site that has honest reviews of media, such as movies. The reviews are not critic reviews, they are reviews about the content of the media and it's appropriateness for children.  It does give you a rating about the movie's quality and it also lets you know what age group it is appropriate for.

For instance, "Paul Blart, Mall Cop", is listed as 3/5 stars for how good it is, and appropriate for age 12 and up. The reviews include details about violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking, drugs, smoking, messages and role models.

There is a section for parents and one for educators.

The site also has a lot of information on how to educate children about media and the internet to help keep them safe. The educator's section has information and resources about cyber bullying, cell phones, sexting, and internet predators. 

The site is a great resource for parents and teachers.

Dell Netbook for Classrooms

Dell has introduced a new netbook, the Latitude 2100, aimed at the K-12 market. The netbook (smaller, cheaper, less powerful laptop) computer has an anti-microbial keyboard, a status light to let the teacher know if the student is on the internet, and a carry handle.

The anti-microbial keyboard is coated with a naturally occuring silver material. This is a great idea for classroom computers to help prevent the spread of germs among students.

The 2100 also has a rubberized case to help protect it from falls.

The Linux version starts at $369 and comes with Ubuntu Linux 8.1, an 8GB solid state disk drive, three cell battery (3.5 hours), and weighs 2.9 pounds.

There is a Windows Vista Home basic version which starts at $500. It has a 160GB hard drive, touchscreen, and a six cell battery (7 hrs).

They are available in a variety of colors, which Dell suggests can be used to color code by grade or class.

Dell is also offering a cart ($3900) to store and charge the netbooks. 

Netbooks have become more and more popular because of their price and smaller, more portable, form factor. The smaller disk drives and less powerful processors are offset by the fact that most netbooks are used for basic tasks such as word processing, email, and internet use. Many users get around the small disk drives by using cloud based applications and storage, such as Google Apps, or flash drives or memory cards.

The Latitude 2100 appears to be a promising device for schools. For under $400 per unit, a school can get a rugged, very useful device. Ubuntu is the most widely used version of Linux. Students do not have to learn anything new to use Linux. It has a web browser built in and there is free software that does everything students need to do: OpenOffice or Google Docs for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, as well as a variety of software titles for photo editing, video editing, and more. Google Apps for Education also has more applications that students can use for free. And, since the Google files are stored on Google's servers, you don't take up any memory on the computer.

For more information, go to

Medical Animations

The University of Pennsylvania Health System has a great web site with medical animations. The animations show and explain many different medical problems, anatomy and physiology and the human body.

As I viewed different animations I quickly realized how useful this can be in a classroom. Health, Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Emergency Medical Technician, Paramedic, Pre-med and Nursing students will all find this site useful as they learn about the human body and it's systems. 

The site is easy to navigate, with a listing of all of the animations on one page. They are sorted by topic/body system. There are animations about each body system, diseases, pregnancy, surgeries, and medical problems.

You will need to make sure you have Adobe Flash, Adobe Shockwave, and Quicktime installed on your computer to view the animations.

Palm Pre Release Info

Palm will officially release the Pre smart phone on June 6th. It will launch on Sprint and be available at Sprint stores, Palm, Best Buy, Walmart and Radio Shack. Pricing is $199 with a 2 year contract and rebate.

The Pre is Palm's newest smart phone and the first device to run WebOS. WebOS is a dynamic new operating system that is easy to program for and is the first smart phone OS to have multi-tasking. This means you can have an open email that you are editing, have music playing, check your calendar, and go on the internet. The new web browser is also more functional and renders web pages better than most mobile systems. 

The Pre also has a system called Synergy which keeps all of your contacts, from various sources, in sync and combined on the Pre. It also has the ability to sync your data to Palm's network for backup.

The Pre also has a slide out QWERTY keyboard instead of a virtual keyboard like the Blackberry Storm or Apple iPhone. This makes composing emails and work easier.

The Pre has been one of the most anticipated devices of the year and won awards at trade shows this year.

There are already many launch partners and applications available for the Palm including one that allows users to use their old Palm OS applications on it. There are also applications for gaming, data access, and using your Microsoft Office files on the Pre. And of course, any web application is accessible through it's web browser. 

I can see the Pre being a very useful tool in a classroom. Imagine a class of students with instant access to research materials, the ability to send information to the teacher, the ability to interact with each other and other classes, the ability to do their work anywhere, anytime. The classroom just got expanded to outside the building. The challenge - changing many school district's outlook on cell phones in school.

For more information:

Disclaimer - I own Palm stock.

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha is a new web service. It is not a regular search engine like Google, but rather it is a computational knowledge engine. It's makers say it is not meant to be a regular web search engine and is not in competition with search engines like Google and Yahoo.

It doesn't find other web sites for you, it actually will do math computations and aggregate data for you. For example, I entered in New York, New York and it came back with New York City's population, area, location, and more. You can enter dates, towns, math formulas, stock symbols, and more and Wolfram Alpha will calculate the math and gather all kinds of data for you.

I entered my birthdate and got back holiday observances, notable events, time difference from today, daylight information, moon phase, and more.

Entering physics concepts and formulas got me a huge amount of data and allowed me to solve a complex formula. 

It is an interesting concept. I think it will be a very useful educational tool, as it can help students find certain data and information more readily than a standard web search. 

They have example searches, as well as a how-to video on the site to help you use it.

Read more about it at Computerworld

Try it out HERE.

Using TV in school

Many teachers use things from TV in their classes, whether it is an idea, or a show as an example of something. 

But what if you want to actually show the students the scene from the show? You do not have to worry about recording it at home. All you need is a computer in your classroom with an internet connection and a projector.

Almost every network has all of their shows on their websites. Most of them have the full episodes on there too. You can simply go to the site, cue up the show and scene, and then show it to your students. 

You can also check out Hulu and These are two free sites that have TV shows on them for viewing.

If you can't get to these sites because they are blocked by your schools filter, you can go to them at home. Some allow you to download the videos, others you will have to use a screen capture software, such as Camstudio, to capture the video for later viewing at school.

Remember to follow copyright rules for showing TV shows in your classroom. 

Here are the websites for the major networks:

Food Network - - cooking shows. Great for cooking classes and science classes (chemical reactions. 

Discovery Networks

Have some fun with it. Using appropriate parts of popular TV shows in your classroom can help engage your students. 

TV commercials can also be used to teach them about advertising. You can also use them in science classes and have the students test the commercial's claims.

Public Domain Images

Many students, and teachers, don't realize that you can't just use any image from the internet. You need to sight your source, and in some cases, you can't use the image at all.

To avoid copyright issues and Creative Commons License issues, use Public Domain photos.

Making Teachers Nerdy has a great post on this topic.  It has a list of sites where you can find public domain photos and sounds. I encourage all teachers to read this article and share these sites with their students. They should also talk to their students about copyright issues. In K-12 the students may get away with copyright violations, but the consequences are very real and very severe once they get to college or a job.

Photos8 is a great site on her list that I have seen mentioned elsewhere and I have used. It has great quality photos and a large selection to choose from.

Copyright for Educators

Free technology for Teachers has a great post on Copyright for Educators with a video that explains it really well.

This is something all teachers should watch and then share some of it with their students. Too many students, and teachers, don't understand copyright issues and are violating copyright laws.

Intel also has a great resource. You can find a copy of the presentation here on my site

Online Tech Tips

Online Tech Tips is a great resource for anyone who uses computers. The site has great information on tricks, tips, updates, and fixes for your computer.

Today's tip was on how to change the default media player in Windows. The method shown is also used for changing the default software for any type of file.

The site is well designed and easy to use and the tips are written in a way that most computer users can understand. It has a huge variety of information and resources that are very useful.

The site offers RSS feeds and email subscriptions so that you can keep up with any new tips.

Sources of Funding for Teachers

Teachers have always had to scrounge for funding and the current economic situation only makes this more of an issue. Even with the government stimulus package, teachers will not see much money for our individual use. We've all wished we had more money to purchase books, supplies, equipment, and other items for our students and our classrooms. But what do we do when the money just isn't there?

The first place to look is grants. There are a lot of grant sources out there. Not all of them are easy to get though. I always suggest that people ask for help from grant writers or other teachers who have been successful in getting grants. Most grants have tips and advice on their own web site also.

Some schools may qualify for Priority School District grants and other State and Federal grants. These are for low income districts and can be used for supplies and equipment to help with extra programs related to drop out prevention and improving student performance.

A great resource for funding classroom projects is Donors Choose. Donors Choose was actually started by teachers. You sign up for an account, fill out a project proposal, selecting the items you need from a variety of vendors, and then people with money to donate go to Donors Choose and select projects to fund. I have had multiple projects funded through Donors Choose. It is a very simple process and the staff can help you with any problems.

Corporate grants are another source of funding. ToyotaToshibaVerizon,MicrosoftBest Buy, and Target all have grant programs you can apply for.

Some vendors have their own grant programs, special pricing or can help you find grants to buy their products. Smart Technologies, Epson, Mimio andVernier are some of the companies that will work with you to hep you find funding.

Donations are another source. Local Businesses may be looking to donate money, supplies or equipment. Many companies would rather donate old equipment and supplies to a school rather than just throw it out. Your school gets supplies and the company gets a tax write off. I have gotten lab supplies from a DNA company that updated their labs, a computer from a small company that upgraded theirs, and our school has gotten office supplies and furniture from a nearby business that was moving their headquarters. Many teachers have contacts at area businesses through friends or family. Use these contacts to your advantage.

Do more with less. Look for cheaper or free alternatives to the major brands. There are a lot of manufacturers of interactive white boards out there. Shop around and find the best deal. Use free software and web services instead of paying for licensed software.

Partner with local colleges. Sometimes they have older equipment that they can donate to you. They may also have grants that they can get that can also benefit the K-12 system.

Look for grants and funding opportunities on the web. Tech&Learning has a great section on funding tips. There is a Grant Guru column, as well as a data base of grant sources.

Edutopia and Nortel Learn It also have grant and funding resources. And of course, you can always "Google" for more information. Educational conferences are another great way to find funding resources and talk with vendors on different ways of funding purchases.

Please share your funding and money tips with us!

Student Help Sites

I have found a variety of student help websites that I share with my students. These sites have 
study skills, homework tips, and other resources and references for them to use.

InfoPlease Homework Center - This site has subject area help, resources, study skills, homework help, writing tips, and research help.

HowtoStudy - study skills, resources and tips.

EducationAtlas Study Skills - tips and help for: notetaking, studying, writing, solving math word problems, test taking, reading textbooks, reading comprehension, and more. A great resource. The site also has information on schools, financial aid, college selection, pedagogy, and educational technology.

Study Guides and Strategies - this site has a plethora of information for students, including study skills, working in groups, how to learn, time management, getting organized, classroom participation, test taking, research, writing, reading, math, and science help. It is well organized and easy to use. - another great study resource. This one includes articles on studying, test taking, homework, note taking, college planning, test taking (including standardized tests), and more.

Share these with your students. These sites will help them in their education.

Please share any other resources you have with us.

NASA Educators Resources

NASA has a Space Education Web site for educators to use. 

The resources are sorted by type and grade level. 

There are videos, lesson plans, resource links, news and interactive sites on NASA programs and projects. There is also a Student site that students can explore. 

I've used many resources from the site and find them well thought out and easy to use.

The one I have used the most is the Rocketry resources. I do a final project at the end of the year in my Physics classes where they research rockets and the physics of rockets and then build and launch their own model rockets. The students can just go through the Rocketry site and learn about all the different aspects of rocekts. Its a fun, interesting way to end the year.

Science Resource

Science Netlinks is a great resource for teaching science. They have resources for grades K-12. Resources include lesson plans, online resources, lesson tools, and more. It is all free!

The resources are all standards based, internet activities. I have been using a few of them and they are very good.

The lesson plans section is set up by grade level. You can scan the list for the topic and standard benchmark. The tools are links to different web sites that you can use in your own lesson plans. The resources section has a list of resources, sorted by topic and grade level, such as NASA, American Museum of Natural History, and much, much more.

I found the site to be easy to navigate and the lessons and resources were all good quality.

I liked this site so much, that it is bookmarked on my web browser so I can readily access it.

Free Certificate Maker Web Site

MyAwardMaker is a free site with templates for certificates that you can download. They have a lot of different templates and they are organized by topic. 

To create a certificate, you pick your template and then download it to your computer. You need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader (version 8.0 or later) to open the certificate. You can get Acrobat Reader HERE if you don't have it. 

Once you open your certificate, you can then enter text into the open spaces and print it out. You can not save the certificate with the text added to it, but you can keep the template forever. You can also just print out the template and hand write the information.

Microsoft PowerPoint also has some certificate templates that you can use. You click on Design Templates and then go online. The site for the award templates is HERE. You then edit the slide and print it out.

I suggest printing them out on a color printer for best results and best appearance.

Great Animal Pictures for Bio teachers

My wife always finds these great pictures on MSNBC's site.

HERE is a link to some great pictures of animals that you can use in your class.

More pictures can be found HERE

My favorite is the one below of the Black Jaguar and her baby. It's probably because it looks like my black cat on super steroids.

New Google Search Options

This week Google unveiled some new search features. These features add some increased usefulness to your search. 

The first thing you will notice when you do your search is "Search Options." By clicking on this, Google gives you a variety of options to enhance your search.

As you can see in the screenshot above, you can quickly sort results by video, forum, or reviews. You can also sort by posting date, images only. The three new options I like are "Related Searches", "Wonder Wheel",  and "Timeline". 

Related Searches puts a listing of related search terms at the top of the page instead of at the bottom like the old setup.

Wonder Wheel displays a visual respresentation of related search items. Clicking on a term brings up a new wheel with new related search terms. This is a great idea for teachers to use with their students since we already usual visual representations and concept maps with our students.

Timeline will list your search results by publishing date. This can be useful when looking for older information or when trying to ensure that you are looking at timely posts.

Take a look at Google's new search options and try them out. For more information, click HERE.

Blog as a teaching tool

I have started to use blogs in my class as a teaching tool. Since I teach physics, I'm not using it as a writing assignment, but rather a better way to communicate with my students. I'm also trying to eliminate as much as paper as possible. 

I post their assignments to the blog and the students go there to get the assignment. I do this for homework and any classwork that they are doing as a group (I have 8 computers in my classroom). For assignments that include graphics or graphs, the students can email me their work. But, if the assignment is just text, they can post it as a comment to the assignment announcement. I have the comments moderated, so I don't publish them until all groups have submitted them. That way, the first group done is not giving away the answers to the other groups. 

I also put an alternative assignment for any students that were absent from class that day. This way, they can check it from home and do the work on their own.

So far it is working out pretty well. Visit the blogs to check out what I'm doing. I'd appreciate any feedback and advice also.

Homework Social Network Site

Dweeber is a social network site for homework. Students can join for free and then have virtual study groups. They can use the white board to work out problems and collaborate on homework.

It has some nice features that can help students learn about their own learning styles and improve their performance in school.

For more information, see the article at Tech&Learning magazine.


Digital Textbooks

(image from

I just read an interesting post by Ryan Bretag on his Metanoia site. Ryan is a fellow TL Advisor and Blogger and is an Instructional Technology Coordinator in Illinois. 

Ryan has a student advisory group that gives him feedback on educational technology and one of the things they mentioned is that schools need to be more green and stop using so much paper. They also feel that printed textbooks are outdated and a waste. They feel that eTexts are a better idea and that schools should look at laptops for each student with the curriculum loaded on. When Ryan told them that not every textbook is available in e-form, they stated that it didn't matter because "everything they need is on the internet." The students do acknowledge the limitation since not all students have a computer at home.

I have to agree that textbooks are becoming obselete. I have a huge number of physics textbooks in great condition. The problem is that the books are 17 years old and outdated.

I have found many great online resources and share them with my students. They use these resources to help them study and understand concepts. It would be very easy for me to switch to e-texts only. Next year I will be working to limit how many handouts students receive alos and try to do more and more electronically.

Here is the list of Physics e-resources:

1. The Physics Classroom - great online resource with lessons and examples - 

2. Physics Lessons - interactive virtual labs and demos -

3. Free Physics Textbook - downloadable physics text in pdf format -

4. FHSST Physics - online high school physics text -

6. Online Physics Study Guide -

Here are two great resources I use with my EMT-B class:
EMT-B online -

All of the students also have access to my class website. This site has links, study guides, lesson presentation notes, and much more for them. This site is their starting site for their online work.

These are great resources that my students use. I truly feel that they could replace the printed textbook with these resources. And, there are many more resources out there for them.

CPEP Day 2009

CPEP (Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program) Day 2009 was held this past Saturday, May 9th, at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT. 

CPEP's mission is to help under-represented students explore, prepare for, and reach their full potential in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. CPEP is an after school activity that provides students with the opportunity to explore STEM careers and topics and apply STEM knowledge and skills to hands on projects. CPEP day is the culmination of their efforts where they compete against other schools in different events. CPEP is for Middle School and High School students and competitions are separated by category.

Some of the projects students work on are Roller Coasters, Battery Powered Boats, Maglev trains, Mousetrap Cars, Aerodynamics, Egg Drop, Bridges, and Solar Cars. The students learn about the science behind each topic and then design and build models for each topic. At CPEP day, the students compete to see whose project is the best. Points are awarded for many different aspects, including appearance, creativity, and function. 

Central High School is in their first year of CPEP after a hiatus. We had 4 teams compete in two different projects and one team took 3rd place in the Battery Powered Boats competition. In this competition, students are given Styrofoam, a battery, a motor, and a propeller and must design and build a boat. Then, at CPEP day, they race them and the fastest boat wins. The team had some stability issues that were new that day, but they very quickly fixed them and did great.

All 4 teams did a great job, had fun, and learned a lot. 

I recommend programs like this for every middle school and high school. We must emphasize STEM subjects and encourage our students. Programs like this make STEM subjects fun.

How to Get Started with Project Based Learning

(image from

Originally posted on TechLearning magazine.

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a great way to teach students content, 21st century skills, and engage them in something fun and educational. I spoke more about PBL in an earlier blog ( ) and we had some great reader comments (Tech&Learning, May 2009, page 14). Today I'd like to give some tips and ideas on how to get started with PBL in your classroom.

First of all, PBL can be used in any classroom, in any subject, at any grade level. Projects can be one class period, or take weeks to complete. Projects can address one curriculum item, or many. It all depends on how you want to implement it and how comfortable it is for you.

PBL does take planning. You need to look at your curriculum and the objectives you want to accomplish and then plan a project that will lead your students to reach these objectives.

For instance, I teach physics and developed a project for my classes on structures and stress and strain. The project started with a very short lecture on the topics of stress and strain and the physics behind it. Then the students completed a webQuest about stress and strain that lead them to information about bridges and bridge design. From here, they used bridge design software from West Point to design a bridge that would meet certain requirements I set up. The final step was to build a model of their bridge and see if it would hold the weight. Each group was competing to see who's bridge would hold the most weight. During this project, students learned about stress and strain, structures, applications of physics to real life, web searching, team work, communications, design, and model building.

Another example of PBL is having the students research a topic and present it to the rest of the class through a multimedia presentation, website, or poster. Each topic should be an extension of something you just did in class. In this way, the students teach each other. They will also learn their topic more in depth when they have to be able to explain it to others.

Start small. Think of a lesson you teach and think of a way that the students could do a project to learn that topic instead of sitting in class listening to you talk about it. Try out a one class period project before moving on to a large scale project. Search the internet for examples of projects and adapt them for your class. An internet search of "Project Based Learning" will get a huge list of results for you. I also suggest searching for "WebQuests", "Problem based learning" and "Projects" with your classes subject and grade.

Another idea for projects is to look at your school or community and see what they need. Art students could research the history of the school and create a wall mural. English students could write a history of the school, or help other groups write letters to lawmakers to get an issue addressed. Music students could write an updated version of the school song, or even a new one. Tech Ed students could build wheelchair ramps, furniture, or other items needed in the community. Biology students could study water quality in a stream nearby or research animal or plant life.

An idea I got from my wife (a Biology Education student) is to have students create a lesson for other students about a topic. I am planning on using this with my AP Physics students after AP testing this month. They are going to create a physics help guide for the honors physics class. Next year, I'm going to have the honors physics class create a help guide for the general physics class. The students will learn their content better and provide a great resource for fellow students.

PBL offers teachers a new way to have their students learn content as well as 21st century skills. The students can have fun while learning, and even provide a service for others as part of the project. Be creative and have fun with PBL.
Some web resources to get you started:
Project Based Learning online -

Please share your project ideas with everyone!

Bobby Flay

Ok, so this has nothing to do with education. But, it was fun. Tuesday evening my wife and I got to meet Chef Bobby Flay. He was a doing a signing for his new cookbook at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, CT. Stew's staff had a good plan and layout for dealing with the crowd and even provided snacks and water to people in line.

Chef Flay was friendly, personable, and signed the books, took a minute to talk to people, and took pictures with everyone. He thanked us for buying his cookbooks and eating at his restaurants.

My wife and I love his shows, his recipes, and have dined at both MESA Grill and Bar Americain in NYC. We love the food. The only problem is that once you've dined at a restaurant like these, other restaurants pale in comparison. Top quality service, outstanding food, and fresh ingredients. Can't beat that. 

If you like good food, especially with a southwestern flair, try some of his cookbooks and recipes. Some recipes are on his website for free too. I recommend "MESA Grill Cookbook", "Burgers, Fries, and Shakes", and "Bobby Flay's Grill It."

Enjoy! Buon Appetito

(We also love his wife, Stephanie March, as ADA Cabot on Law and Order: SVU)

NASA and Microsoft Release 3D viewer of International Space Station

NASA today released an interactive, 3D photographic collection of internal and external views of the International Space Station and a model of the next Mars rover. This project was done in cooperation with Microsoft using Microsoft's Photosynth technology and Virtual Earth.

The site is a great, fun way to explore the ISS. Kids will love it. 

Free Technology Tips and Help

I found a great site yesterday that provides free technology tips and help for educators. 180 Technology Tips is a great resource for educators. It sends out an email everyday with a 5 minute lesson on some aspect of technology. You just sign up using your email address and it does the rest. Topics include better web searching, Microsoft Word and Excel tips, email, toolbars, cellphones, and more. The site also has past lessons archived for you to look at. I found the lessons easy to follow and understand and recommend this to all teachers.

Discovery Education

Discovery Education is a great resource for teachers. I recommend it to my colleagues often and suggest that they create a free account on the Discovery Educator's Network (DEN). DEN has a lot of great free resources available, including uploaded resources from other educators. You can also apply to become a STAR Discovery Educator and become elligible for more resources. 

They have videos, lesson plans, games, and more.

This is the same company that brings you Discovery Channel, Discovery Streaming (formerly United Streaming), TLC, and more. 

If you already have a Discovery Streaming account, you can use that to sign in to DEN.

Go to the site and explore a bit. It is well worth the time.

Another great resource for teachers

Richard Byrne has a great blog called "Free Technology for Teachers." In his blog, he talks about free technology resources for educational use. He also links to a wiki page with tons of resources. I'm really impressed with his list of resources and I suggest all teachers take a look at what he has listed.

I really like his post about Copyright issues. In this post, he embedds a great slideshow explaining educational copyright issues. I suggest that all teachers read this post.

A great response to a tech hating teacher

A fellow TL Advisor posted this blog today in response to a teacher who stated that "I hate technology". I thought that the response was great and that the teacher who hated technology just needs some guidance and training on how to use technology in their class. Technology has made my life easier as a teacher, has engaged my students, has taught them things that they would never learn otherwise, and saved our school money. Hopefully that teacher will be trained and start to see technology as a great tool for teaching and learning. 

Web safety resource

Web Wise Kids - - is a great resource for parents and schools. It has a variety of resources, many free, to help educate students on the dangers of online predators, sexting, and more.  Some resources only have a "suggested donation." The costs are minimal and the resources are very good. You can also sign up to get updates of new and emerging technologies and how they can present issues for kids.