Thursday, February 19, 2009

teaching to the "A" students

I found a new blog today by a gentleman named Alvin Trusty. His latest blog (as of this post of course) is about both copyright and creating a good PowerPoint presentation. He is able to talk about the first by doing the second. He also mentions some of the creative commons sites which I have listed in my previous post.
So of course the first thing I do is add him to my Google Reader and take a look at his recent posts. I got down to this one which is a video hosted on Yahoo Video where Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra is speaking about a number of topics. The presentation is just under 30 minutes but after 5 minutes I was sold. He first gives a discussion about students that hopeful and those that have lost hope. Then gives a perfect lesson about grading all the students. Now I realize that his class is in music and grading may be a little more subjective then a class in Math or Lang Arts, but I think he has an excellent way of thinking about his students. Take a peek (just watch the first 5 minutes if nothing else) and then come back and let me know what you think...

Monday, February 16, 2009

resources for today

Today's post is going to have a couple of resources which I have found both helpful and cool. I hope you think they are worth taking a look at. Please leave a comment if you have used the tools before or if you have similar ones that you like!
1. Spell with Flickr - This is just a fun site where you can spell any word with pictures from Flickr. If you look at the top of my page you will see my name using the program. Each time you refresh the page, the letters change. Pretty neat!

2. Jog the Web - I think this is a great program. You can create a webquest using just the addresses you want the students to go to. There is a little window which can be viewed on each page where the teacher can give directions or put the assignment for that page. Very neat!

3. Evernote - This tool allows you to cut and copy any part of a webpage (blog, wiki, etc) and keep notes about those pages online so you can view it anywhere. Kind of like delicious with a bonus because you can actually just keep the parts of the sites that are interesting to you.

4. These last tools are just a couple of different sites that are creative common places so you can get pictures and music without worrying about breaking copyright rules!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

reinforcement pitfalls?

Basically, this evening's post is just a recap of a comment that I left over at one of David Warlick's recent posts. (I promise that I do have some original thoughts of my own that I am sharing, but these guys just do such a great job of asking questions that it is easy to use them for information!) His post is about gaming in modern society and what people are seeing as some of the advantages in students graduating from school and going into the workforce. David had met someone who worked with both younger and older employees in a publishing company who had made the statement " thing he remembered was that younger workers want to know that they are doing a good job, that they need frequent reinforcement...".
So, my question for today is this: Do you think that this has become a part of society today? Now-a-days don't students get rewarded for everything? We give trophies to all the people on the team now. If you participate in the local Science Fair, or Geography Bee, or Spelling Bee or whatever, you get a ribbon or an award of some kind. You don't have to be the best athlete or even the hardest worker to receive recognition. As a classroom teacher believe me, I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE WITH the idea that each person has something to add or that some people would never belong to a club/group without it, and of course everybody likes it when they receive recognition. For some students the participation ribbon might be the only one that they get and a little recognition might pull a student out of his/her shell. But in the experiences that I witnessed, I think that it devalues the idea of getting awards for doing something better, or working harder, or doing something for intrinsic reward instead of the piece of paper or metal. I have seen many an award get left behind "it doesn't mean anything" because "everybody got one of those". Are these same people going into the workforce expecting to get that trophy for simply doing the job that they were hired to do?
(Flickr photo credit: red team by atomicshed)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

accountability vs documentation

I read a blog post over at David Warlick's blog yesterday that got me thinking. Then today I was having a conversation with one of my teachers discussing accountability and I used J.D.'s quote reference about a teacher documenting more than doing anything else. So, first I read it, then I quoted it, now I am asking questions about it! Is it true that the typical teacher is now so tied up in documentation that they don't have time to teach? How do we hold ourselves accountable for the classroom if not in documentation?

Now accountability has been around for a while; but, has it gotten worse with all of these new tools (Web 2.0) that many people don't know how to implement? Is it harder for a principal to see that learning is going on in the room or for the teacher to prove that he/she is doing something better if the outsiders seeing it don't really know what is going on in the room? Is it that there is just so much information now that we have to prove (through documentation) that we are teaching something (anything) and that takes even longer?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

where are we going?

Recently some of my teachers and I went to the local high school in an effort to do some "vertical teaming". If you aren't familiar with the term, basically it means do we at the elementary/middle school level teach things that make sense for the students in high school? I got to meet with the tech directors and see some of the rooms and labs. I asked a question about student e-mails (which has to do with an earlier post of mine) and all of the web 2.0 tools that are out there. The answer I got was "we don't really do any of that stuff. Our focus is more on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access then on any of those tools." When I asked if they had any computer classes the answer was "not this semester, nobody had signed up". On a side note (unrelated to technology but disconcerting none the less), they had to put all the music classes on "hold" because they were trying to increase the science and other "core curriculum" classes being offered and they just don't have the space or the money.
Now, in this school's defense, their enrollment took a big hit this year and of course, money is always an issue, but I was surprised that there was really very little push to use any of the collaborative tools that were out there. What about anyone else? Have a similar experience?
(photo Bryan Adams High School Hallway taken by Dean Terry)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Highly effective 21st century teachers

So I was just sent a link to an article titled "Eight habits of highly effective 21st century teachers" (here is the link). It is an article that in 8 short steps does a great job of encompassing what a teacher in the 21st century needs to be. A visionary, a role model, a leader, and a follower, amongst other things. We need to adapt, collaborate, take risks, and communicate with parents, students, and each other. It really is a lot to ask - thank goodness we get paid so well for it! :-)
My question is, it is too much to ask? Can 1 person be all these things?
One last thing, as I was looking at the comments that had been posted, one of them said that the teacher was going to print out the article and put it in the front of their grade book! My first thought was, "How 20th century"!

Monday, February 2, 2009

getting to classroom tools

To work off of my last post I have a very simple question. Should a school provide email addresses for their students? A simple question perhaps, but not so simple of an answer.
As a said in my last post, there are so many free Web 2.0 tools out there which can be used by students (and teachers alike) to make the classroom a more exciting and interesting place. The downside? Most of those tools involve having an email address to register. Want to use Google's Doc and Spreadsheet - need to have an email address. Want to sign up for a blog or a wiki - need to have an email address. Want to download podcasts - need to have an email address. How about twitter, skype, youtube, etc? All need an email address. There are so many of these tools that someone has created a site where you can get an email address which lasts for 10 minutes (the site is called 10 minute mail).
So what is a school to do? You can't just give all the students email addresses and say good luck. Too many bad things can happen. Do you have all the messages go through the teacher to monitor them? You have now given your teachers a whole lot more mail and taken up a whole lot more of their time. What about if a student does something inappropriate (bullying, threatening, etc) while on your email accounts? How is the school held accountable and how do they hold the students accountable? All tough questions.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

changes in the wind

So as a tech coordinator for a school, my job is to try and provide the best technology for my teachers and students to help them accomplish their respective jobs, the teachers to teach, and the students to learn. In many ways that becomes much more difficult with tighter budgets and shrinking line items. But, in many other ways there are so many new tools out there which you can use for free, maybe it can be done. Of course, free companies come and go and you have to be ready for that account you had earlier to no longer work. But, is that really any different from the for pay companies? Can you provide an excellent foundation in a classroom with free tools?