Friday, January 25, 2008

Educon here I come!

I just got out of school a few minutes ago (early) and am stopped for
gas and a bite to eat prior to my trip to educon. This weekend seems
like it will be awesome from looking at the agenda. Hopefully I'll be
able to bring a lot back to Hanover that will increase the
effectiveness of the CFF program and the appropriateness of South
Western's next strategic plan.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chatting ≠ educational??

...just trying to play around with chatting here at school. I feel that when all the computers get the "clean sweep" (a.k.a. when they are imaged), iChat will be blocked. There have already been multiple times when I have used iChat to transfer documents/presentations from myself to another teacher and vice versa. I believe we may need to rethink the supposed "sinning" that is involved with chat programs.

The websites for Google Talk and Skype are both blocked. About a year ago I watched a piece on the news (local; WGAL; Lancaster, PA) about two classes presenting speeches to each other (10 miles away) because they felt that presenting to strangers allowed for more authentic critique of their work. One piece of evidence suggesting that chatting might be an important part of this 21st century education everyone is talking about.

-- The state has to think its important: Though the macbook comes equipped with a webcam, the PC package arrives with an external webcam.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Quotes providing historical perspective on change

"Student today can't prepare bark to calculate their problems. They depend on their slates, which are more expensive. What will they do when the slate is dropped and it breaks? They will not be able to write."
- Teachers' Conference, 1703

"Students today depend on these expensive fountain pens. They can no longer write with a straight pen and nib. We parents must not allow them to wallow in such luxury to the detriment of learning how to cope in the real business world which is not so extravagant."
- PTA Gazette, 1914

"Students today depend on store bought ink. They don't know how to make their own. When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words or ciphers until their next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern education."
- Rural American Teacher, 1928

"Ballpoint pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away. The American values of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Businesses and banks will never allow such expensive items."
- Federal Teachers, 1950


Friday, October 5, 2007

Response to Edutopia article on electronic whiteboards

My response to an Edutopia Article (it also references some of the comments on Edutopia):

I find a middle ground between the utility of electronic white boards as stated by Sue and Joel's remarks. Though having an e-board allows one to USE a nice collection educational manipulatives, it does not provide a new technology in terms of displaying such manipulatives (LCD projector and computer will do this alone).

Along the same lines, It is currently possible to insert internet links and surf for answers with the computer/LCD projector combo. Sue says, "Any software you can put on your laptop can be used with a SMART Board." Any software installed on your laptop can currently be viewed using just the LCD projector. I believe that drawing and writing on the SMART board, and the ability to move to a new "slide" and back without losing your annotations is the key feature. Joel, your picture solution does not provide that type of flexibility. At the end of the whole process, your images and annotations are savable (great for absent students). Sue's ideas would make sense to me if the SMART software allowed a user to pause a video and write on the screen, maybe diagramming the scene. Does anyone know if this is the case?

At the end of the article there is a list of activities that are now possible with electronic white boards. Here is the list with flaws that I see.

  • Digital storytelling. (already possible through software)
  • Creating, viewing, and annotating student PowerPoint and multimedia presentations in real time. (once again, annotation is the key feature here)
  • Showing streamed or downloaded videos. (already possible, paused diagramming would be great)
  • Using online map and satellite imagery to teach geography. (already possible)
  • Displaying artwork or online museum presentations. (beneficial if labeling parts)
  • Demonstrating movie-making techniques. (Already possible but may be more beneficial with teacher pointing on board instead of just using the mouse pointer)
  • Viewing and analyzing competitive sports and physical education activities. (great for saving diagrams of plays/technique)
  • Teaching students how to conduct research on the Internet. (refer to movie-making response)
  • Working collaboratively on writing and editing exercises, math lessons, and science experiments. (Usually easier to write/diagram than type math problems)
  • Instructing the class on the use of a software program, keyboarding techniques, and other computer skills. (refer to movie-making response)

Oct. 4...from an email expressing concerns w/ quick implementation of CFF

I believe in the "idea" of classroom for the future. The few things that were major concerns of mine have quickly become incredible, brain-power-consuming issues with the news that the hardware will arrive at any time. Though I'm sure people across the street (I'm sitting in my room at the high school now) are answering the tough questions, how much thought can be put into decisions in such a short period of time? Here are few of the issues that worry me:

What rights will students/teachers have over their laptops' look/feel? Example of issue: If the dock placement is interfering with what I want to do, can I change it, hide it, shrink it, or even remove the magnification feature? This is something that science teachers are currently unable to adjust on our older iBook cart. Also allowing students to have some "ownership" of the machine has been shown to reduce damage (middle school teachers in Maine found less total damage to laptops when they went pure 1-to-1 and allowed their students to take the machines home, as compared to when they shared a few laptop carts over the entire school. This is an incredible statistic considering they probably now have at least 10x the number of computers). This "ownership" can come in the form of allowing students to adjust the display setting to their liking. This sounds unimportant and trivial, but visual customization IS ownership. Look how often these kids changes their MySpace layouts.

What rights will teachers have in terms of installing useful widgets/plugins/software? Examples of issue: If a teacher has a series of photos that they want to use in class are they going to be able to download and install a simple plugin for iPhoto (awesome software) allowing them to quickly upload their photos to their flickr or picasa web album accounts? If a teacher is encouraging his/her students to use a social bookmarking site in class, are they going to run into issues when they try to install or update a plugin for firefox (are they even going to have firefox)? Is it possible for me to purchase iWork to use on my teacher laptop? One of the largest concerns for teachers is the amount of time it takes to learn the tools and use them effectively. If a "time-conscious" teacher knows there are ways to do things faster than they are currently allowed, they will become annoyed and eventually frustrated. I like to use the following analogy for computer use yesterday and today/tomorrow: The computer in schools used to be glorified paper, dated library, and a filing cabinet. The computer is now a library, telephone, new textbook, newspaper, journal, community center, paper and filing cabinet. That's a lot of tools to install/update periodically. I feel that educating and holding teachers accountable for responsible use and legality of software use fits with the adage, "Give a man a fish... Teach a man to fish..."

Will the current web filter loosen up? Example of issue: In teaching students information literacy, website reliability and good search technique a teacher encourages students to narrow results by doing an advanced Google search. The filter blocks the ability to complete an advanced search through google. I know that the school is required by law to protect its students from content on the internet. Is it possible to protect the kids by lightening the filtering while offering more of an education on the SWSD acceptable use policy and good browsing practice? Though there is much "sketchy" content on youtube, there is also value for teachers. I realize that TeacherTube has been proposed as a fit alternative. Though it does host a lot of content, you must be a member to comment on a video. You must be 18+ years old and an educator to become a member. Therefore, videos are no longer accompanied by a conversation. These conversations provide the value in the collaborative web.

What will happen when a student violates the acceptable use policy? Example of issue: John visits a dirty site. The abridged technology acceptable use policy in the student handbook lists John's minimum punishment of, "Suspension of information network access." Without access to the network, John is unable to participate in class as he/she normally would. I believe that the consequences for AUP violations should be reevaluated prior to the placement of laptops in classrooms (if they haven't already been).

Sept. 18... Email to college advisor, apple geek, science ed professor, cool guy.

The email starts with a discussion of the iPhone which I didn't feel that I needed to include

...Some more good news to pass along: South Western is a CFF winner this year. Though the school only got half of the original amount requested, I am one of 4 science teachers to receive the package.

We were able to choose what package (Lenovo or Apple) we wanted on a teacher-by-teacher basis. You will be happy to know that I chose the apple package, and will be personally ordering a keyboard, mighty mouse and 23" cinema display to park in my house.

With this opportunity presented by the CFF grant, comes the scary task of making sure that it is "done" correctly. I feel that my department is innovative/open-minded and therefore has the opportunity to be the positive driving force behind other those that get frustrated. I think about CFF every day and often wonder how the 1-to-1* idea fits in with an already crammed standards-based format which we are to be using now (and which we are being tested upon). Surely teaching the nature of science (which was apparently half the PSSA during round one) fits well with the 1-to-1 model, but 1-to-1/CFF is often associated with great student productions. My experience is that teachers become frustrated when thinking about the time spent on student vod/podcasts, and therefore other options and examples need to be presented.

There needs to be a large cache of great ideas/projects/assignments/tactics people have used. Maybe there already is something like this? Maybe it's something I need to start? Maybe a google group for CFF/1-to-1 educators? Maybe a google group for CFF/1-to-1 educators in each core subject area?

This email has obviously committed a flagrant foul with regard to the 5-sentence rule. Sorry. I've been meaning to start blogging my CFF experiences. Looks like I just wrote my first entry in this email.

*I say 1-to-1 while understanding that true 1-to-1 doesn't just happen in core classes and allows students to have a little more ownership in the machines.

Past "Posts"

I have recently found myself finishing discussions and emails with the comment, "Sounds like a blog entry." Well here goes...

This blog will take you through my beginnings as a CFF teacher, concerns, problems and certainly successes of the project. Please comment.

Since I've sent a view blog worthy emails, they will be my first few entries.