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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 6, Issue 23
December 2010
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche

Welcome back to our StarTeaching newsletter, 
Features for Teachers, packed full of tips, techniques, and ideas for educators of all students in all levels. 

In This Week's Issue (Click the Quick Links below):

What's New @ StarTeaching   Learning - What It Should Look Like   Coffee Talk
NEW! Tony Vincent's Blog: 3 Conferences on 3 Continents The Art of Storytelling Themes on Life: 
"Twas the Week Before Christmas"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Accreditation (part 1)
New Teacher's Niche:
Journal Writing (part 2)
Student Teachers' Lounge: School Day Before A Holiday
Book of the Month Club:
Your First Year As An Elementary School Teacher
  Website of the Month:
  Article of the Week: "Music Piracy"

Remember to bookmark this page and to visit our website for more great articles, tips, and techniques!

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Our Newsletter is now posting a opening for a Social Studies / History Writer interested in a monthly column focusing on Historical Events and Education.

We are also looking for an administrator interested in sharing 21st century leadership skills and ideas in schools.  

Email your resume and letter of interest to:  editor@starteaching.com


Feature Writer

Coffee Talk

by Chris Sura

Chris Sura, upon earning his Bachelorís at Western Michigan University worked for Central Michigan University in Housing before teaching at River Valley High School. When he moved to Houghton Lake where he currently teaches, Chris completed his Masters in Education at Central Michigan University. A member of the Crossroads Writing Project through Ferris State University, he facilitates a conference on Professional Writing every summer and does online instruction through Kirtland Community College. He is married to Heidi, his wife of twenty years, and has two kids, Christopher and Grace. Chris writes poetry and fiction and has self published a book of poems. 

You can visit Chris at his website www.surawordz.com

Gathering with another is a great opportunity to talk. Therefore, the idea of grabbing a cup of coffee with someone has come to be a symbol of taking a few minutes of time to share with someone. This positive setting is also a great drill for introducing the creative process in a drama class, developing understanding of a character from a novel and reviewing a historical figures life and achievements. It can even be used in a math class to explain a function.

Using a universal and friendly setting of having a cup of coffee opens up many possibilities to use, focus and classrooms. By limiting the conversation, student can put their attention to developing a good conversation and not worry about the hows and whys the conversations are happening.

Two chairs and a table are all that is needed. Depending in your objective, you can add coffee cups, cream and sugar. These are good props for a drama class and adding movement as part of the conversation and performance. And since the setting is determined, the spectrum of conversations is unlimited.

With my Drama A classes, I tell them that they must perform a conversation between two people and each must at least five lines. The characters they create can be anyone, at anytime, sitting and talking: father/daughter, teammates, high school students, alien from another planet and president. I use it in drama classes to focus on body language and natural body movements.

To apply this exercise across the curriculum, let me take you back a show called Meeting of the Minds (1977-1981) where historical figures sat and had a conversation. The host, Steve Allen created the show. He would have four guest from different periods and lifestyles. I still recall Emily Dickinson sitting next to Genghis Kahn. Steve Allen would research and write the script, and then have actors act out the conversation.

This lesson can be applied to many topics and in many ways. Students can research people or just create characters. I mentioned above how I use it in a drama class. An English class can have a conversation with characters from a story(stories). In season three, Steve Allen had an episode called ďShakespeare on LoveĒ that included the ghost of Hamletís father and Shakespeare.

The personalities and figures of any subject can be brought forward in this role play exercise and include a little or a lot of research. History, obviously, can delve into many avenues: military leaders, women and womenís rights, or passengers on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Think what would Sir Isaac Newton would say to a high school math class today.

With a coffee talk, teachers can add their own personal focus or objectives of what the students learn. The neat thing, if you need help, walk down to the teacherís lounge, grab a cup of coffee and talk.


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3 Conferences on 3 Continents

By Tony Vincent

Learning in Hand is an educator's resource for using some of the coolest technologies with students.Tony Vincent

Learning in Hand is written by Tony Vincent. Tony taught fifth grade in Omaha, Nebraska for six years, and three of those years his students were pioneers in educational handheld computing. Then, as technology specialist at Willowdale Elementary, Tony brought the newest technologies into classrooms. Whether it was digital video, blogs, email, podcasts, or handhelds, Tony helped Willowdale teachers and students understand the usefulness of new technologies. Currently, Tony is self-employed as an education consultant. He conducts workshops, presents at conferences, and writes books based on his teaching experiences and passion for new technologies.

Always excited to share, Tony has documented much of what he knows about handheld computing and podcasting on his website, learninginhand.com. There you'll find useful software collections, the best webs links for handhelds, complete lesson plans, and an informative blog.

Tony is a teacher who wants to make education effective, relevant, and fun. He knows handhelds are small computers that can make a big difference in classrooms! He hopes Learning in Hand inspires and motivates teachers to use technology that students crave.

Mobile learning is a hot topic, and that's why there are conferences devoted to using readily available digital tools in education. I'd like to tell you about three conferences for those interested in mobile learning. I happen to be fortunate enough to be part of all three. 

Learning Without Frontiers

Formerly known as Handheld Learning, Learning Without Frontiers takes place January 9-11, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. It's an international festival of learning and technology and has the theme of "Disruption, Innovation and Learning." Speakers include Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Theodore Gray (co-founder of Wolfram Research), Stephen Heppell (award-winning educator), and Karen Cator (US Department of Education Director of Educational Technology).

I will be hosting a Pecha Kucha style session where participants have 6 minutes 40 seconds to tell the group about an app or mobile learning activity, project, or concept. I will also be presenting "Mobile Movie Making"

Register for Learning Without Frontiers by December 31, 2010. Follow the the conference tag #lwf11 on Twitter.

Mobile Learning Experience

mobile 2011 is the conference for those interested in the latest in teaching, learning, and mobile computing. It will be held in sunny Phoenix, Arizona April 6-8, 2011. Sessions will be devoted to iPod touch, iPad, netbooks, web tools, and apps. Participants can look forward to a dinner keynote by Graham Brown-Martin, founder of Learning Without Frontiers. The event features many visionary speakers. Some of them are Travis Allen (iSchool Initiative), Derek Keenan (Rocky View Schools, Alberta, Canada), Susan Wells (Culbreth Middle School, Chapel Hill, North Carolina), Scott Meech (The Joseph Sears Schools, Kenilworth, Illinois), Suren Ramasubbu (CEO of Mobicip), and many more.

I will present sessions about learning through projects, movie making, and personal productivity. I'm also planning other fun and entertaining activities since I'm part of the volunteer conference team.

Register for the Mobile Learning Experience by January 7, 2011 and save $100. The registation deadline is March 1, 2011. Visit mobile2011.org's News section for updates about the conference, and follow mobile2011 on Twitter.


In its second year, Slide2Learn is an education event by teachers, for teachers. The conference will be held April 18 and 19, 2011 on Queensland's Sunshine Coast at the ICT Learning Innovation Centre, Sunshine Coast University, Australia. Not only will it feature beginner and advanced sessions on the iPod touch, but also have a special focus on the iPad, with every attendee being able to borrow a device for use. 

I will be keynoting the event and presenting breakout sessions. This will be my first time in Australia and I am very much looking forward to Slide2Learn.

Registration opens January 15, 2011. Follow the tag #slide2learn on Twitter, not only for conference info, but to read tweets from an active iPad and iPod touch community.



iPod Touch

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Mastering Basic Skills software:


There are six modules designed to test the basic ability of an individual in terms of Memory & Concentration. Needless to say this is the most important basic skill for not just to survive but also to thrive in this competitive environment. Each of the six modules tests the six variants of Memory & Concentration in an individual, namely: 1. Picture recognition
2. Paired Associate Learning
3. Immediate Recall
4. Serial processing
5. Parallel processing
6. Recognition and Recall
Each of these modules runs at three different levels, from easy to difficult.

At each level, the individual's performance is depicted as Scores Obtained.

A feedback has been built into the software for all these 18 levels depending on the marks one scores during the test. 

Each individual can assess his/her performance any time by clicking on "history", which gives complete details of date and time of taking the tests, marks scored each time and even time taken to do the test. This builds the confidence level and encourages more participation to eventually culminate in improvement and enhancement of memory and concentration.

Essentially, this software is a SELF AWARENESS tool that surely motivates the individual to realize one's capability and seek or be receptive for improvement. Also, if repeatedly done over a period of time works as Training tool to enhance their capability.
This software package is specifically designed to help young children to learn basic skills that will help them in school.  Continued follow-up will give these young learners success as they mature.  

Three versions of the software exist: Individual Software on either CD or Online,   Family Version Software, and an Institutional Software package.

StarTeaching wholeheartedly supports and endorses this software.  It will make a difference with your child or student.

Click HERE to order your own copy today:



Student Teachers' Lounge: 
For The Things They Don't Teach You In College

School Day Before A Holiday

Holidays can be an exciting time, especially around the school. The days leading up to a vacation can, however, be a pain when students are distracted.

These are not good days for students to use power tools, sharp objects, or lab equipment as more accidents occur when students are distracted.

One of the best way to keep the kids focused and to make the time pass quickly for both you and them is to set up hands-on activities, keeping them busy, active, and involved. Art-type projects they can finish and take home allow them to have fun, be creative, and have something to show off at home afterward. Another idea is making foods they can also eat at the end of the class.

Be careful about unstructured time. Having a party only makes it take longer; the novelty wears off soon as students' interest wanes. Also beware of movies and presentations. You dont want them sitting around or in a situation where they'll be bored, waiting, able to daydream, and ready to distract others.

Some teachers give a test, or work and push hard right up to dismissal. Sticking to routines makes time pass faster as students pass through the familiar schedules.

Teachers are often as glad as the students to be on vacation. However, be sure to keep your focus, or the students will know it, and act accordingly. If you stay serious and expect control in your room, the students will follow. The day before a break is not a 'free' day, nor a day off. And the students are not in charge, unless you've allowed it to happen.


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  Tech / 21st Century Teaching Corner

Learning, What Should It Look Like

By Mark Benn, Middle School Teacher

Mark Benn teaches math and ELA at Inland Lakes Upper Elementary School in Indian River, MI. He completed his Masters of Science from Full Sail University on June 4, 2010, and he can be reached via email at mackinacfurtrader@gmail.com.

I have a great video I'd like to share with everyone below.

Your browser may not support display of this image.  

Check out our selection of past articles, including more about groups and stations, from previous issues at:




  StarTeaching Feature Writer

The Art of Story Telling

By Salima Moosa Sewani


Storytelling is an art. It takes dexterity to expose the creative person inside us. When we play with any toy, we pretend to walk, talk, and act the same as that figure. We might be telling a story about a fairy, or we might be having a birthday party, or, conceivably, we may be going on some outings. The fun of playing by ourselves is in making different sounds and many gestures. We try to set different emotions in order to make our expressions clear and full of reality.

When we tell a story to anyone, for example letís suppose a child,  we do follow the outline of beginning, middle, and end. We fill in details of our senses, emotions, feelings, expressions, etc. We try to locate the timings and make our story more interesting by adding descriptive words in it.

To be frank with you all, telling a story is not a cup of tea for everyone. It requires dedication and skills to fill it with emotions. I would suggest to teachers not to duplicate any characters. Be real!  Use gestures and always move from one place to another to grasp the attention of your audience. Everyone must start as who they are and let the action and the description of the story inspire us to play. There is no right or wrong way to tell a story except to be ourselves, relax, and have fun with the pleasure of sharing a story.

During my teaching career, I have used many techniques to teach students with the help of stories full of life. Here are some of the suggestions that might help you to become a good story teller.

The first step is to write it. Make your habit to fill the your words full of expressions and ideas in your writing. I, myself, am struggling to be a good writer, and that's what the dedication is (which is required from your side too) to be passionate about trying and learning things. The idea for your story may be based on an old tale or it might come right from your mind, but it must be put into your own words and then told with your own style of telling.  Never plagiarize a story or copy words. It might make your story artificial. There are many ways to tell the same story.  When you tell a story, you must imagine it just as if you were there.

Choose a favorite story from your school or college library or you can even try newspapers to get a good story. Websites can also help you a lot to get different tales.

First: Make an outline of each important plot point of the tale in sequential order: a true beginning, middle, and end. This outline is a map that will remind us where the story is going, even if we experiment by taking a few detours. Add some details and scenes that no one has ever thought of before. It should be unique and should please your listeners.

Second: start writing your first scene. Look at your outline and brainstorm. Work in a group to get a lot of ideas. You can arrange workshops for the teachers in order to gain different ideas before transforming it into reality. I still remember that while attending workshops at the Aga Khan University , Institute of Education , we brought many ideas by working in a group, and then formulate the effective lessons on the basis of our own thoughts and unique ideas. You may discover new actions to add to your outline or change the order of the outlined actions. You may make several outlines before you are done.

Ask yourself these questions:

*  Who are the characters in your story?

*  What is happening?

*  Why is there a problem?

*  Where and when does the scene take place?

*  Can you describe what the setting looks like?

*  By whom? By what?, etc.

List the senses:  seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching details of the pretend world of the play. Imagine you can hear what the characters are saying. Imagine and write the dialogue of the scene. Pretend to walk and talk like them. 

Third:  Imagine that you are one of the characters in the play. Write down the story from your point of view.  Imagine being the character and speaking this story out loud.  Share these monologues with your team so you get to know all the characters in the play.

Fourth: Now, imagine you are one of the spectators. Using pieces of the dialogue, the monologues, and the expressive details which you and your colleagues have already written, write a new version of the story describing the whole imaginary world you have been brainstorming. Tell this story out loud. When you converse the words of the characters, let yourself move and talk like them. Sometimes you will recount the details of the scenes that you can see in your mind's eye. Sometimes you may become the characters and feel what they are feeling. Let yourself be in the middle of the world of the story, describing to the listener what is happening all around you as if it were real.

Remember, imagining things is the most challenging task to learn. The imagination is like a muscle. The more we use it the quicker and stronger it gets. Don't be discouraged if at first you feel awkward. Keep trying and soon you'll be leaping and roaring. Just like bike riding, gymnastics, football, or any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get at doing it. Practice playing, and soon you'll see your storytelling skills growing.

Last, I wish you best of luck to become a professional story teller.


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(part 1)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Accreditation is a process by which a facility's services and operations are examined by a third-party accrediting agency to determine if applicable standards are met. Should the facility meet the accrediting agency's standards, the facility receives accredited status from the accrediting agency.

In the United States, the term is most often used with reference to schools and hospitals. Accreditation of these institutions is performed by private nonprofit membership associations known as accreditors. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees accrediting agencies and provides guidelines as well as resources and relevant data. In contrast, in many other countries the authority to operate an educational institution is at the discretion of the central government, typically through a Ministry of Education (MOE). In these countries, the MOE may provide functions similar to those of accreditation body, depending on resources and government interests.

Accreditation in the United States

When discussing accreditation in the U.S., it is important that the concept of accreditation not be confused with the authority to operate. The authority to operate a school in the U.S. is granted by the each of the states individually. As the U.S. is federal republic, the authority of the U.S. Department of Education does not extend to authorizing schools to operate, to enroll students, or to award degrees. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education is not responsible for accreditation of institutions.

In the United States of America the accreditation of schools has long been established as a peer review process coordinated by accreditation commissions and the members, and predating the U.S. Department of Education by many decades. As noted the U.S. Department of Education itself, it does not accredit schools. These accreditation commissions are formed, funded, and operated by their members to create an academic community that is self-regulating.

With the advent of the U.S. Department of Education and under the terms of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, the U.S. Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the Secretary determines to be reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training provided by the institutions of higher education and the higher education programs they accredit. The federal government makes no distinction between accreditation bodies, giving all equal standing.

Look for more in part 2 of this series!



Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



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  Spanning the decades and the geography of the Great Lakes State , Frank weaves:

  A mysterious police report of an unsolvable death in Manistee County

A terrifying encounter in the U.P.ís remote Dickinson County

A BLOG, begun as one manís therapy, becomes a chronicle of sightings from around Michigan

A secret governmental agent investigates the grisly aftermath of Sigma

A pioneer family meets more than they expected on the trail north

A campfire tale of ancient betrayal handed down through the Omeena Tribe

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Year of the Dogman Website
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Haunting of Sigma Website
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Nagual: Dawn of the Dogmen Website 
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The Longquist Adventures, written for elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and classic stories to young children.  




We now have special offers on Classroom Sets of our Novel.  Click here for more information:





New Teachers' Niche: 
A Place for Teachers New To The Craft

Journal Writing (part 2)

This is the second article in a series on journaling in class. 

I use a grading system that makes the journals easy to grade.  In my class, a full page is given ten points (ten being the maximum per page).  However, I'm a stickler; the students must write a full page, right down to the last line on the paper.  I do allow the top eight lines for brainstorming, though I don't always require it.  Students are always allowed to use the brainstorming lines if they wish. 

I require at least one page at each journaling session, which lasts from ten to fifteen minutes.  Students are required to write constantly until the time is up, or until they reach a full page.  However, before they are allowed to go on to another activity, they must show me their completed work.  Students may also write more than a page for extra credit.  I give out ten points for each full page beyond those required.  For example, we may have three journal sessions in a week, so the weekly grade is out of thirty points.  If a student completes five full pages, their score is fifty points, twenty of them extra credit!

I don't mind offering the extra credit, since usually the ones who take advantage of this are your A students anyway.  And since I want to promote as much writing as possible, I strongly encourage every student to write for extra credit.

Journals are the only form of writing that I allow to be done outside of class.  Mostly this is because I allow students to write for extra credit (only promoting more writing!)

Students are allowed to share their writing with the class afterward, though no one is required to share.  I tell the class they may read all or just part of their writing, or just tell about it.  The remainder of the students are allowed to keep writing during the sharing time, and must stop when there are no more to share.

I strongly believe students should be allowed to keep their journals when the year is finished.  For many students, putting down their private thoughts in class can lead to a lifetime of writing.

If you'd like to check out a list of journaling topics, check our website at the following quick link:   www.starteaching.com/free.htm.  Again, you may feel free to use any or all of these, and they may lead you to think of many others of your own.  You can also use any of our Weekly Writing Prompts from issues of our newsletter.  I encourage you to send along your own topics to add to our calendar. 


Use this link to access this writing assignment on our website for your own classroom use:



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Be sure to check out our website for more great information, tips, and techniques for new teachers, student-teachers, and interns in teacher prep programs. Also be sure to check out our Who-I-Want-To-Be teacher plan for preparing yourself to enter the educational profession.  Simply click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

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"Twas the Week Before Christmas"
By Heather Skipworth Craven

Themes on Life

Sometimes we need a little chuckle to keep our positive attitude at school ...

Reworked from Clement C. Moore's "Twas The Night Before Christmas"
By Heather Skipworth Craven

December 2002

Twas the week before Christmas
And all through my class,
The students were buzzing, not a one was on task.
The stockings were hung on the incentive board with care, 
In hopes that "smiley" stickers soon would be there.

The kid's desks were strewn with Christmas drawings of green & red,
While visions of class parties danced in their heads.
With my chalk, markers, spelling lists in hand, I donned my "super teacher's cap" 
And longingly I looked forward to a long, Christmas break nap-

When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was a matter
Away to the teacher's lounge I flew like a flash,
Tore open the doors, ran to the window in a dash.
The sun on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave lustre to the playground objects below.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the "ho, ho" man himself...yes with reindeer!!
With a sleigh, and a smile so lively and quick,
I thought to myself...am I feeling quite sick?
Or could this indeed be the famous St. Nick!

Through the door St. Nicholas came with a bound,
Went straight to the teacher's boxes, with nary a sound.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
And filled all the boxes, with goodies, bonus checks and other great perks.
And laying his finger aside of his cheek
And giving a nod..said..."Good teacher, take heart..tis but one more week!"

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down on a thistle,
I wound my way back to my own classroom halls,
With my students gleefully bouncing off the four walls,
But I heard him exclaim as he drove off with elation,
Merry Christmas dear Teachers...and enjoy your Vacation!


What's New @ StarTeaching?


Welcome back!  This final month of the year, our web partner Tony Vincent shares notes on upcoming technology conferences, while tech writer Mark Benn shares an excellent video on learning, and our Featured Writer Chris Sura has a great writing activity to spur discusssions. 

Our Website of the Month features Prezi, an excellent site for live presentations on the web. We're also continuing the series on journal writing, as well as displaying an article on Story Telling from Salima Moosa Sewani.  

Look for more real math problems from Mary Ann Graziani and the Article of the Week from Frank Holes, Jr.  And be sure to join up on our FACEBOOK page for StarTeaching for more reader interaction as well as constant, updated streams of educational information.  

Of course, you should also check our website for a number of updates and re-designed pages.  We're starting to collect quite a few articles from educational experts all over the world.  See these archives on our website: www.starteaching.com



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Technology & Teaching: Seamless Integration into Curriculum

Writing Process and Programs

Classroom Management


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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 Multiply:  

-3 ◊ 3  6   = ?

Day 2 Multiply:  

    1      -1
3  5  ◊   4   = ?

Day 3 -5.5 ◊ 0.8 = ?
Day 4 -6.25  +  7.75 = ?
Day 5                  1
7.3 ◊  -5  10   = ?
Day 6 What is |5.7| ?
Day 7 What is    7
              10    ?
Day 8 Type these numbers in order from greatest to least, using the formats given.

11          12      -19
22     -2  20       38

Day 9 Which sign makes the sentence true?< > =

-4.5    ?    -4.50

Day 10 Which sign makes the sentence true?> < =

-2.9    ?     -2.7


Be sure to visit Mary Ann Graziani's website to pick up a copy of any of her THREE books for sale





Tech-Ed Articles

Check out our entire collection of technology articles, including:
* 21st Century Learning
* Integrating Technology
* Computer Literacy
* REAL activities you can use!




Science Activities For Any Setting
By Helen de la Maza
Pennies and Surface Tension
(click for PDF)

Pennies and Surface Tension PDF


Boat Buoyancy
(click for PDF)

Boat Buoyancy PDF

Click HERE to see all of 
Helen's Science Activities


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Inspirational Quotes
& Photos

Check out our entire collection of inspirational quotes and photos from our 5 years of newsletters.  








Using Photography To Inspire Writing
By Hank Kellner

Visit his blog at: hank-englisheducation.



Learning in Hand is an educator's resource for using some of the coolest technologies with students. Tony Vincent
Tony is a teacher who wants to make education effective, relevant, and fun. He knows handhelds are small computers that can make a big difference in classrooms!  He hopes Learning in Hand inspires and motivates teachers to use technology that students crave.


Article of the Week
"Music Piracy"
Click here to download the PDF
"Cell Phone Cheating"
Click here to download the PDF


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