Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Willyn Featuring the 5 Step Plan at Utah Coalition of Educational Technology!

Check out this great conference

Make Texting a Positive in School with Celly guest post by Melissa Seideman

I am a huge fan of using cell phones in the classroom as long as students use them properly and know their limitations. Over the last few years my favorite mass keyword texting app has shutdown (TXTblaster). As a result I have been looking for new FREE resources that would allow people to “opt in” and subscribe to my mass text alerts (without me having to type in everyone’s phone number). I have finally found one that I really LOVE called Celly.

What is Celly?

Celly creates mini social networks called cells that connect you with people and topics that matter most to you. A cell can contain anybody with a cellphone, people from your existing social networks, or any web feed. The mission of Celly is to build a socially responsible and sustainable technology venture that transforms education and community with technology. They hope to empower communities and schools. They are changing the face of education!


I created a group for each of my two classes to serve as a reminder for assignments. I also created a cell group for my club. The security settings for the club is “open” so that any member in the club can text the club. My class is a “closed” cell, meaning that I am the only one who can text the entire class. My students can text me if they have a question. The best part is they do not have my real cell number and it is a controlled environment in that Celly keeps a record of every message placed. It is defiantly on my top ten list of FREE applications to try this school year.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Live tonight! Nielsen and Webb discuss Teaching Generation Text

Tune in to Engaging Ed Radio tonight, Sunday, February 26 at 9PM Eastern to hear Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb, co-authors of Teaching Generation Text, discuss using cell phones and student owned devices in the classroom to enhance learning.

On the show we plan to discuss:
  • Why should you use cell phones in the classroom?
  • The building blocks for successful use of student owned devices/cell phones
  • Examples of effective cell phone use
  • How to overcome administrative opposition
  • The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) debate

You can access the show’s BlogTalkRadio page by clicking HERE. That will allow you to listen live and even call in with your questions. We hope you’ll join us.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

10 Reasons Schools Should Teach Text-Speak

Guest post courtesy of Phone Service

Texting in school is a very popular topic with people able to argue both sides. Some schools are teaching text speak or SMS in school. The students put together glossaries and compare their versions to the formal written language. Many might argue but listed below are ten reasons schools should teach text speak.
  1. Translation. Teaching students how to translate one version of the English language into another version of the English language exposes them to critical thinking skills.
  2. It is useful. Students tend to wonder when they will ever use what they are learning. Not long ago students were required to take Latin, and a very small percentage ever applied it in real life. Texting, on the other hand, is quite useful to just about everyone who owns a cell phone.
  3. Teaches creativity. There are plenty of words or terms that have not been condensed down into SMS text language. By engaging the students to create their own versions they are not only teaching creativity, but instilling self-esteem and confidence when they come up with something useful for others.
  4. Quicker note taking. By teaching SMS text speak in schools the students can apply it to other classes as well by using it as a short hand note taking skill. Unlike formal note taking which can take too long and lead to missed notes, SMS can help students effectively take notes at a speed close to the verbal communication of their teachers.
  5. Can wrap ethics in. Classes can have an ethical or moral tone to them by discouraging students from using texting in inappropriate ways. Many kids today are using texting to bully or send lewd messages to one another. This topic can be brought in to dissuade that kind of behavior.
  6. Can prepare them for the future. Technology is improving at a rate that some of us cannot keep up with. By bringing this into the classroom you can prepare students for the ever evolving technological advances.
  7. Engages students. Since you never see a teenager very far from their phone and in some cases it seems like it is permanently attached to their fingers, it makes sense to utilize them in the classrooms as well. Using cell phones in school is a great way to engage students with something they are already familiar with and then use texting to draw them into other subjects as well.
  8. Can save future embarrassment. If texting is taught in school, then students have the opportunity to learn the different acronyms and what they may or may not mean. This can save face in the future when texting a client or other professional. Some SMS texts have different meanings and some, like in verbal communication, can be said in a variety of ways.
  9. It CAN be used to teach spelling. Most people think of texting as eliminating the bulk of a word in order to condense it. This is true but it can be used in reverse in a school setting. Teachers can use SMS text language to give the students their spelling words and then have the students send back a message with the correct spelling of the word or words.
  10. Increases participation. By integrating texting into the classroom, teachers have been using it to get students to participate that otherwise wouldn’t. Some students may be afraid to answer a question out loud in class for fear of being wrong, but by texting answers to the teacher more students can participate at once.
Some people believe that texting in school is a distraction and can lead to cheating, but by bringing it into a classroom session and properly teaching them how to use texting, it can be beneficial to both the student and the teacher.  For more ideas about effective ways to use cell phones for learning, including research-based strategies, lessons, and more order Teaching Generation Text

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Service Learning, Educating the Heart

Authors Note:  This post was written for the Innovative Educator blog in support of service learning, but as I completed it, I realized just want an important part cell phones played in the success of each of the projects below.  Not so long ago attendance at service learning events was spotty.  However, when we started putting the events into our cell phone calendars and texting out reminders, the attendance improved dramatically.  Sending group texts to collaborate and communicate when serving others makes a huge difference.  Brainstorming project ideas on a Wiffiti provides the safety of sharing anonymously and the lemonade stand actually came from asking students to text in ideas.  Finally, every picture in this post was taken on the fly with a cell phone camera.  Living with our phones helps us better live together.  This is why I am so passionate about embracing cell phones in schools.  Fighting and banning them wastes a lot of energy that could be used in thinking about how to help each other and make a positive difference in the world! So, I feel this posts fits here too.  

I have seen service learning turn at-risk youth into contributing, giving, happy citizens who have a solid set of values and are ready to pursue college or career success.  Service Learning is a set up for success in many ways.  
Here are a few:  

  • The great feeling that just comes from doing something good for someone else (increased self-esteem)
  • The perspective that just comes from seeing others that are more needy in some way than you (insight),
  • The learning that just comes from creating a project and following it through (task completion, life skills, reading, writing, math, speaking, etc).  
My recent ed chat with the group Do It Yourself Learning / Homeschooling / Unschooling / Uncollege made it clear how easy service learning can be.  Regardless of the age, skills, or learning/school choice of the involved students, you can just start with just a few simple questions:  
  1. Where do you see a need?  
  2. What are you thankful for?
  3. What would you like to be different?
  4. What could you do to start?
1 - Where do you see a need?
Talking with students about the needs of others is a valuable conversation.  It can begin with a neighborhood field trip, the viewing of TV programs of other places, an internet search on hardships, or a simple question of do you know anyone you could help.  Is there something you think could be better (in our home, in our school, community, the world)?  

2- What are you thankful for?
At Delta Opportunity School this often starts with being thankful.  I find that being thankful is somewhat of a lost art.  From my grandmother who always said, “Count your many blessings, count them one by one” to my favorite counseling modality of “Solutioning” I have taught many students that focusing on what works, teaching yourself to see the good (or even ok) parts of each day (even your worst day), and being aware that you have it better than others in some way is the key not only to personal happiness but to seeing how to make things better through service.  

For example, when we are thankful for our health, we can discuss those that do not have their health.  Visits to hospitals and nursing homes are a great way to see just how healthy students are.  Simply smiling and greeting someone who no one has talked to all day makes a difference (in both individuals).  From there service learning projects become evident (see examples below).  Another example, when we are thankful that we are making progress in school, we can discuss those who struggle in school.  Visits to elementary school special education classrooms are a great way to see how much academic progress has been made.  

3 - What would you like to be different?
Once you discuss needs and what young people are thankful for you can discuss how things could be different.  Options include projects like tutoring, playing, cooking, drives, etc.  A concrete example might be when we are thankful that we have food for the day, we can discuss that there are those in our community that do not have enough food.  From there, hunger is discussed and many service projects (those already in existence and those that do not yet exist) can be researched and discussed.

4 - What could you do to start?
Once young people have identified a need in which they want to make a difference, they need to make a plan to start. It might help to begin by discussing the plan, then capturing it in writing, possibly with a timeline and activities.  

To follow are examples of various types of service learning projects.

Helping Others Helps You
A couple of fun individual projects that have happened over the years are when a group of boys had a lemonade stand in front of Wal-mart to raise money to fix a bike for a little girl who they knew had had hers vandalized (by one of our own students).  The boys group bonded and took on a totally different reputation, which resulted in better behavior at school and in the community.  

Another group who was doing the NOT (Not on Tobacco) program walked the stairs of the bleachers for an afternoon and took donations for each step, and raised money to buy the cessation product needed for the woman who had come (on her oxygen) to speak to the group about the results of smoking.  These boys were the only group I’ve ever had that really quit smoking and I think it was because of their efforts to help our guest speaker.  Another group picked up cigarette butts in the park next to our school to show the community that they do care and want to keep things nice (the butts were theirs).  These kids started being more consciencience in many ways.

The learning that came from these projects included hazards of smoking, information on COPD, empathy; parts, costs, and repairs; cost-profit-loss accounting on a lemonade stand; biodegradable products and costs to tax payers for workers to clean parks, etc.  It can be big, it can be small, but the same result is there, helping someone else is the right thing to do.  

Here are some ideas for school and home-based programs. Young people need not attend the local school to ask if they could participate in their service learning work.  

  • Adopt a Grandparent
    • Overview:  Teens are paired with a resident at a local nursing home.  They visit every other week and do puzzles, take walks, and have seasonal crafts/activities around holidays.  The result is everyone feeling great inside.  
    • Preparation:  This program takes very little preparation, simply an arrangement with the facility, health policies determined, and let the kids decide on the activities.  
    • Learning: This program teaches a lot of thoughtfulness, empathy, communication skills, and history (the residents lived it and love to tell).  It allows students to study and celebrate holidays, read out loud, make crafts and enjoy many of the things they like in preschool and elementary school.  It provides perspective on life, a feeling of being able to brighten someone’s day, and gives students appreciation that comes from being themselves.

Grandparent visit.  This young lady even went during the summer!

  • Food for Thought
    • Overview: This program is a kids feeding kids long term service project.  With the awareness that there are children (preschool through high school) that do not have enough food on the weekends, they provide backpacks of weekend friendly food (2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and some snacks) to students who opt into the program (parents sign a permission form, list allergies).  The alternative ed students do all of the fundraising, food drives, speaking to community service groups, budgeting, shopping, meal planning, stocking, inventory, filling, and delivery.  Our school was awarded the “Volunteer of the Year” award by our Chamber of Commerce.  Not many alternative school (no sports or extracurriculars) have a trophy to display!
    • Preparation: Start small with a pilot program.  Do a fundraiser (food drive and/or money) and have a budget.  In our area the contents for each backpack with the weekend food is $4-$5.  Choose a school to serve.  You may want to approach the principal with your idea and either offer to serve a certain number of students for a certain period of time of take on a grade level and invite and see how many you get.  We found that asking teachers to select kids is difficult.  We choose to send the letter home telling about the program and letting families choose to opt their student in or make a donation (making the most of reaching every home).  This may be more risky but we found that when the need is there with a lot of work, the food/money can be raised (grants, civic clubs, etc).  You will need backpacks: new or used work.  We got the local Wal-mart to sell us the left overs from the back to school for $1 each.  For example letters, shopping lists for food, press releases etc, just email Willyn (see address below).  Once the school(s) you serve experience the value of the program, they are a perfect place to have food drives (we make it a competition between the classes and offer a banana split party to the winning class and a gift card to the winning teacher).  That is when it is truly a kids feeding kids program from the ground level on up!  
    • Learning: You can see that they learn a lot of life skills such as public speaking, nutrition, reading ads and shopping wisely within a budget, organization, communication, planning, and writing skills.  The students who receive the backpacks are set up for better learning because they do not need to worry about what they will eat on the weekends and have better nutrition.  Thus the all encompassing name, Food for Thought!  Watching my students deliver the backpacks each week is a joy.  They are so happy to help and the children run for their backpacks, often opening them as they walk back to class, looking in with anticipation.  It is heartbreaking to think a child could be so excited for a pack of oatmeal, some Ramen noodles, Raviolis, poptarts, and a can of peas.  It illustrates the true need and value of the program.  When my students are speaking in from of Rotary, Altrusa, and the Chamber of Commerce, they are proud, productive citizens (whereas for most defending themselves in front of a judge has been their only form of public speaking), it is precious.  They tell their story and share their experience working in the program and they often bring audiences to tears.  They leave Delta Opportunity School with much more than reading, writing, and math.  
For more information on this program, email
Taking tubs of filled backpacks into school.
Superintendent help fill backpacks.
Happy backpack recipients walking away.

Shoes for Shiprock
Service learning is a mindset.  My own children who have had a mixed experience of public schooling and homeschooling see needs and address them.  My daughter went to a basketball tournament her sophomore year of high school and played a team from the reservation.  Following that game all the questions came into play.  
Skylyn Webb, Shoes for Shiprock creator/organizer
  • Where do you see a need?  She came home and shared with me that she was so concerned for those girls, who were playing in old, worn out (not even sports type) shoes.  
  • What are you thankful for? She commented that her old shoes were much better than the shoes that team played in.  
  • What would you like to be different? She wanted to do something about it and after some discussion decided to collect used athletic shoes from her team at the end of the year banquet and send them anonymously to the team in Shiprock.  
  • What could you do to start? She made a sign, shared it with the parents who planned the banquet so it was part of the date-time information sheet, and shipped the shoes.
This year when they played that team she was beaming.  They were wearing the shoes.  The whole team kept quiet and the others never knew it was them who had sent the shoes.  I wanted my daughter to put that on her scholarship application, but she wouldn’t.  That was not why she had done it.  She simply wanted those girls to have better shoes. That is what service learning is all about. Through the process she stepped outside of her comfort zone and talked to the adults, made the posters, packaged, researched the school, learned more about life on the reservation, and shipped the shoes.  There were some life skills in there, but the heart (of all involved) is what was impacted.

The best, most passion-filled projects come from the young people themselves or something near and dear to them.  For example, many of my students had been hungry at times as children and they really get Food for Thought.  My daughter who values good shoes for sports is another example of this.  Start with a love and use it to make a difference for someone else.  Keep it simple and know that what is gained may not be measurable on a test, but makes an immeasurable impact in the lives of others.

Willyn Webb is a busy mother of three girls (10, 13, 17) and the administrator/counselor of another family called Delta Opportunity School where service to others, technological innovation, and a lot of love come together for a great education.  For more information about Willyn and to see her books go to or @willynwebb.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Creating a Plan WITH Students for Using Cell Phones for Education

Taking a metacogntive approach to embedding cell phones into learning provides a plan structure that is based on the goal setting research in “Classroom Instruction that Works.” By creating a plan as a goal setting activity students are given input, choice, and ownership. Once developed, these plans can be shared at the teachers online blog, wiki, or website in slideshow format. This can be done easily by taking pictures of each plan and having students email them to a teacher’s pre-tagged Flicker account tagged as Cell Plans. The subject could be their first name or alias and plan (i.e. Willyn’s Plan) and the subject can be a short description for the photo caption i.e. (My great ideas for making learning fun with cell phones!). Once completed, these slide shows can be shared with parents, guardians, administrators and each other. These make great testimonials for how cell phones can be used for learning. After students become familiar with the tools, you may want to repeat this activity and see how students plans have been successful and add new ideas. The discussion would be about “what worked.” You could encourage students to share evidence of improvement/enhancement (i.e. grades, test scores, testimonials, or pictures).

Lesson Title: Plans for Phones or Plnz 4 fonz
Subject: Any
Tools Used: Poll Everywhere
Lesson Overview:
This is a planning lesson in the process of embedding cell phones. In the context of learning tools in general, in this lesson, students will focus on cell phones as learning tools. With an overview of the educational uses of cell phones (the Gr8 8, below), students will determine how they will choose to use their cell phones for educational purposes. Contracts for tools will be developed by students and the result will be a plan for educational uses of cell phones that can be shared with all stakeholders.

Lesson Description:
  • Start with a class discussion about tools, and their purpose, for learning.
  • Multiple choice poll: Ask students to text into a poll everywhere free text poll examples of tools and their uses: pencil-communicating/taking notes, calculator-do math, dictionary-learn meanings of words, notes, books, websites, teacher instruction.
  • Free text poll: Ask students to share the tools available on their phone. This captures all of the available, educational, free cell phone tools that are in students’ pockets.
  • Teacher shares the "Gr8 8 Top Educational Uses of Cell Phones" to get students thinking about some ways that cell phones can be used for learning.
  • Teacher asks how are you already using your phone for learning? What are you already doing that works?
  • Multiple choice poll: Which of the "Great 8" would you like most to use for learning.
  • Note: The teacher may want to share these poll results with parents, administrators, and other teachers.
  • Students personalize this, by creating plans explaining how they will use cell phone tools for learning.

Here is a sample plan template:
When at school or at home, I will use my cell phone appropriately for learning in following ways:
I will use my cell phone to:The tool I will use is:This will help me learn better because:How will you know your plan is working?Did your plan work?
(To be completed at the end of a lesson or unit of study)
Example 1: do research
Cha Cha

when I don’t have access to the internet, I still have information and experts available to me. I will turn in assignments more often because I will get stuck less.
Example2: reach out to an expert when I am stuck on my work.text messaging or voiceI will start thinking about and collecting experts to connect with. This way I will learn more and have a lot of resources.The quality of my work improve because I will have a bank of expert resources to turn to. I will also use more references in my wwork.

Planning Worksheet, questions adapted from The Educator’s Guide to Solutioning

These planning worksheets provide great evidence to make a case about the benefits of cell phones.
At the end of each unit, teachers and students can share and learn new ways for using cells to learn.

Here’s How:
Using Poll Everywhere is simple. You can watch a demonstration or follow these steps:
  • Register at Poll Everywhere with your email and password.
  • Select “Create your first poll.”
  • Select a “Multiple Choice” or “Free Text” poll.
  • Type your question/answer choices in the text box. Select “Save new poll.”
  • You will be taken to a screen that shows your poll question and results along with how to respond via text.
  • For multiple choice polls, your audience will text Poll Everywhere (at 99503) and type in the code displayed to share their answer and send the text.
  • Once the answer is submitted the results are instantly displayed on the Poll Everywhere page in your web browser.
  • Have students put the number 99503 into their phone. Project the poll.
  • Students text Poll Everywhere at 99503 and enter the code that corresponds to their answer.
  • The answers instantly appear on the poll being projected.

Useful resources:
Gr8 8 - Top Educational Uses of Cell Phones
1. engagement-audience response-polls, wiffitis, 100% participation, can be anonymous
2. communication-group texting, group projects, cooperative learning
3. home-school connection-group texts to parents, parents text teacher/student
4. homework-phone never lost, answer questions on phone, review notes, etc on the go
6. research-googlesms/chacha/text an expert
6. organization-calendar/alarm/reminders/calculator/notes
7. varied sensory instruction-googlevoice,voki, pictures
8. visual-camera/video

Explain how the use of cell phones enriches this lesson: By using cell phones for the introduction to the lesson, teachers are modeling what they are presenting. The poll encourages all students to participate. Responses are collected instantly saving time that can be devoted to learning.

Special Notes/ Additional comments: If cell phones are not yet allowed in the classroom, this sharing session could be done by having students complete this on post its that they place on the board or chart paper and it could be saved by the teacher taking a picture on his/her phone.

NETS Standards for Students Met:
  • Creativity and Innovation - Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
  • Communication and Collaboration - Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  • Research and Information Fluency - Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making - Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

NETS Standards Addressed - Teachers:
  • Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
  • Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
  • Model Digital-Age Work and Learning

Research-based instructional strategies:
Summarizing and note taking
Homework and practice
Nonlinguistic representations
Setting objectives and providing feedback