Blogger Template Designer Announced

I must first admit that I am a WordPress fanatic.  I did however start my blogging escapades using Blogger, and one of my biggest complaints was the lack of customization. Google has released a Blogger Template Design Tool; something that I think will help get more people excited about using Blogger.  This is especially exciting for Google Apps For Ed.  Why?  Well I do believe that soon we will see Blogger included as one of the standard tools in Google Apps For Ed.

Official Story Here

Collaborative and Creative Learning Environments

I have been reading a lot lately about Stanford’s D.School on Fast Company’s Blog.  The posts I have been reading have gotten me thinking a lot about classroom environments and school building architecture in general.  Bottom line: it’s safe to say that students can optimize their thinking, learning, and sharing to the maximum in an environment that fosters collaborative and creative thinking; like the D.School at Stanford.  Research shows that their is a correlation in facilities and student achievement (Uline & Tschannen-Moran, 2008).  I hope that school administrators and other key stakeholders understand the importance to get rid of drab musty buildings and replace these outdated facilities with state of the art, collaborative, technology laden learning environments.

“Suck it up and try something that you haven’t done before, and absolutely be willing to fail”  – Scott Whitthoft (Co-director of the environments collaborative at the D.School Stanford)

Shaping Space: The’s Environments Collaborative from Stanford on Vimeo.

I remember my trip the the Google Offices in Boulder, CO for the Google Teacher Academy in 2009.  The work environment was like nothing I have ever seen before.  I walked away thinking about how stinking cool it would be to have a classroom designed like that!  Climbing walls, Rock Band, Big Bean Bags, Healthy brain food, reliable wireless networking, giant monitors, adjustable desk…oh to have fountains of money and no limitations for building!

Google Offices - Boulder, CO
Google Offices - Zurich

So start slathering on that IDEA PAINT and rethinking classroom, and building, design any way you can!

Other Resources To Inspire:

Some Resources For Free Icons

Using Blog Badges To Motivate Students

My 4/5 GT students all have their own blogs, which can be found on the sidebar of my classroom blog, and they are all extremely proud of their blogs and get visitors and comments from students all across the country.  Ok, so you get the picture: my students blog and THEY LIKE IT!

Well, we recently completed an interactive simulation on establishing a colony.  This simulation lasted three weeks,  almost everyday for 15-40 minutes, depending on the day.  My kids loved this simulation and were excited to find out which colony had the most wealth units and was to be declared “Mr Atkinson’s Most Successful Colony of 2010.”  Of course I painstakingly deliberated over what I could do to celebrate this, and since my school can’t use food as any type of award I had to think outside the box.  That’s when it came to me…

Badges and Certificates!

I decided to create a badge that the winners had the privilege of displaying on their blog, as well as give them a paper certificate to be able to hang at home.  This, to my surprise was a huge hit!

Here is a picture of the badge I created on Adobe Illustrator:

I like the idea of using badges to promote healthy competition and a sense of pride with certain competitive projects.  I downloaded the vector for the badge here:  Web 2.0 Badge Vectors

Once I created the badge to be what I wanted it to I stored it in the public folder of my Dropbox and used an image embed script to add it to a “text” widget in Edublogs on each of the winning students blog sidebar.

In conclusion I like the idea and plan on expanding on it more in the future!