Thursday, September 25, 2008

Best Buy Teacher Grants

I have once before alerted my readers about one of the easiest ways to apply for a grant that just might give you the funds to purchase a laptop computer, a projector for your class, a new digital or video camera, or a myriad of other hardware that you might be wishing for. I do not mean that it is so easy that you apply and automatically are awarded the funding, but there are many awards made and the application process is not so hard that it is not worth your time to try.
It is time for this year's round of Best Buy Teacher Awards!

Go to

You must first know that the deadline for applications is October 12th. and you will receive notification by March 2rd.

Best Buy Teach Awards range from $1,000 to $5,000 and will be granted to programs that engage students at any grade level by creatively integrating interactive technology into the curriculum.
There are also $10,000 Best Buy Teach Awards and these will be granted to up to fifteen (15) schools serving 9th grade students that display the greatest creativity in their programs/projects and the clearest vision of how to increase the school's use of interactive technology.

Jen Wagner, writing in her blog Tech Thoughts by Jen , gives us some insight on how she has been lucky (lots of skill there, too) to be awarded these grants each year since 2003. We should be grateful to her for sharing some of her secrets!
Jen's thoughts:
1. Write about what you are doing now — But also write about what you are doing in the future. When asking for ipods, I wrote “our students are recording books which will help to grow our audio library.” Share what you are doing TODAY but also how it effects TOMORROW!
2. Make sure your Wish List equals what you are doing. If you ask for a MAC on your wish list…..make sure your plans for use emphasize greatly what the mac can bring (such as iLife!!) Be specific as much as you can. If you are asking for ipods — really talk up podcasting. If you are asking for computers, talk about internet availablity, programs you will need, how the printer, the ipod, the monitor, and the tower will all work together for the benefit of your students!
3. Don’t be afraid to boast.If you have won awards on what you are doing, share it. If your class got written up in the local newspaper, share it.And talk #’s — share how this award will not only impact your immediate classroom but also how it will help the entire school as well.
4. Be specifically vague.They want to know what you have done, but they also want ideas of what you will do. Dream big, blow it out of the water……..shoot for something you might not be able to achieve, but with the grant monies, it will be a bit more possible. It is okay to embellish a bit….. (smiles)
5. Emphasize how you won’t be able to do what you wish to do without this grant!Be confident that you will get the grant and let Best Buy know how much you are grateful that their grant will help your classroom achieve your goals!! I wrote “when we receive this grant, we will be able to ……” Look forward and accept the grant before you are even given it!!
6. You don’t have to use all the words quota!Don’t ramble on and on. If you can be specific with 100 words — but they ask for 250……but you said it with 100… content!! As long as you convey your thoughts well….not hitting the word quota is okay.
7. Type it up in Word first!Use spell check, use the thesaurus, check for words you use over and over again. And have someone else read it before you send it.
8. Double check carefully before you hit submit!!!Triple check if necessary.
9. When you get the grant…….MAKE IT KNOWN!! and at Best Buy, meet the manager and thank him/her and get a Personal Shopper to help you! This last time we won, the manager kept introducing us to EVERY clerk saying she (Janell) won the Best Buy Grant and mentioned our school. Great free publicity — made our school look very good!

And you thought you were going to have a quiet weekend??????

Lots of Luck,


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Flat Stanley Project

I am sure that most teachers have heard of if not participated in a Flat Stanley Project. Based on the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, teachers and students have been mailing or emailing pictures of "flattened" characters around the country or around the world. This little prop seems to make students want to write about their own community and share their own space with a visiting Flat Stanley. They also willingly send their Flat Stanleys traveling throughout the world and digest the information received upon his return. Teachers can help students to follow the trip on maps or Google Earth and all areas of the curriculum can be developed through this project.
Everything you need to know in order to engage in a Flat Stanly project is available at the main Flat Stanley Project website This site will help you to match your class with another class willing to do this project.
You might have heard that Jeff Brown (or his estate right after he died) was suing this teacher from Canada who started this project. I read his blog and tghe whole ordeal is very close to settlement, but the site is definately up and running. He is thinking of making a Flat Family Project site after all of the litigation is settled. I believe he was found to not have crossed any copyright laws, but there was a threat of this site closing down.
Take a look at the list of participating classes and I am sure you will see locations where you may want to send individual or class Flat Stanleys.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Picturing America

Two blogs that I read regularly, Tech Thoughts by Jen and Doug Johnson of the Blue Skunk Blog both recommended that teachers become aware of something that can be sent to them in "hard form" and free. Sometimes you want some interesting pictures that can be displayed in your classroom and aren't just seen on a screen. Picturing America is an initiative of the National Endowment of the Humanities, brings masterpieces of American art into classrooms. It also provides teachers with a Resource Book that will help them use these pictures within all aspects of the curriculum. There is an easy application that you complete online. The deadline for applications is October 31st. and from what has been reported by those who have received their collection, it is a great addition to the classroom.
Just thought I would let you know that it exists, in case any of you want to complete the application to take advantage of this free offer.

You Tube-Then Teacher Tube-Now School Tube

I read about School Tube on Teachers' First - the wonderful list of Featured Websites that comes to my mailbox each Sunday. It is a website where you can now upload safely videos made by your students in your class and share them with their families and other classrooms. Of course, no last names are ever used and I would also be careful about the location of the school or even the school name if it can be connected to a specific city. Teachers' First had such a good explanation, I am going to use most of theirs here:

This safe, free site lets students and teachers show off their talents by sharing their appropriate videos to be viewed all over America. With a simple registration, you can upload your classroom video, which then goes into a “holding” area. That video then awaits approval by the website’s moderator before becoming available. Because of the layering of approval, this site poses no security concerns to students or schools. Not only can teachers and students upload videos, but administrators may also want to post welcome or informational videos to be viewed by parents and students. You may also wish to share some of these videos with your class. Teachers will find videos suitable for classroom instruction (and lesson plans). Use the search box at the top of the webpage to look for topics that relate to your current units of study. If your school blocks streaming video sites, consider accessing this site and choosing videos at home, using a tool such as Vixy (reviewed here) to bring them in on a USB stick for class use. Searching the site and simply viewing the videos does not require any registration or log-in.

I thought that this sounded quite useful as it is totally filtered to be for student use and should have some appropriate videos that go along with instruction.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Finally Something You Don't Have To Pay For

In all of my workshops, one of my favorite news to share is that there are many tools for teachers to use that are online and free. Many of these tools do so much to save time and to save money. Teaching aides that used to take you hours to make and items that you once had to make in sets of 25 or so, now can be generated right from online programs. For the most part, the ones that I have advocated have been "free for the asking".

While reading Vicki Davis's blog Cool Cat Blog , I was introduced to a really neat site filled with tools that are interactive. From the name generator to timelines to venn diagrams and to many other interactive tools Class Tools provides students with online templates that are interactive. Teachers do not have to create anything themselves and each student can create on the blank canvases that are provided by Class Tools. Here is a list of what templates are contained on this wonderful website:
  • Random Name/Word Pickeer
  • Countdown Timeer
  • Post It
  • Dust Bin Game
  • Target
  • Fishbone
  • Hamburger Diagram
  • Timeline
  • Living Graph
  • Venn Diagram
  • Learning Puzzle
  • Diamond Nine
  • Priority Chart
  • Lights Out
  • Source Analyser
  • Accelerated Learning Cycle

I am sure there will be something that you will find that you can use on Class Tools.