Friday, October 29, 2010

Why are you raising your hand?

Mrs. V asked, "Why are you raising your hand? So the computer can see you?" She was using the Smart word randomizer feature to call up students to share their daily journal stories.  The students wanted to be picked,  and kept raising their hands. It was the funniest thing.    Apparently that paradigm shift has not yet occurred.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Smartboards need Smart Teachers

In the last week, after our training from Faisal, I was really struck by how well the mimeo worked.  I have heard of mimeos hiding in closets in some districts and I personally know some teachers that have Easyteach boards in their rooms that they never touch. Why?  They lack training.  It is not a good idea to spend money on technology and not FULLY train teachers how to use them.  I had no training when I received my Promethean board. It took a me a year to fully understand how to use all the features and I would have used it for more if I had been trained for a few full days.  The training has to involve not just the features, but the content area toolbars and resources.  Teachers need TIME to build or change resources.  Unfortunately, districts want the biggest bang for their bucks, so they choose increased technology over training.  If we had the chance to learn our craft, we would be more effective and could turnkey our knowledge with other teachers in our district during district professional development.  I am seeing a trend toward this area in some schools, simply because districts cannot afford to bring people in from outside.   It is not enough.
If there is a teacher in a school who knows what they are doing, we can use prep times to be in their rooms and learn from them as they use the technology.  Both can get professional development hours for this.  We started off in the field as simple observers in our fieldwork classes, and it is still a wonderful method of learning as we attempt to keep up with the latest innovations in education. Here is a district goal outlined by Alan November, senior partner at Educational Renaissance Planners in Evanston, Illinois:
Since this is the job I am performing right now, Technology Integrationist, I am more aware than ever of the lack of technology education our teachers have.  The little things like saving to a jump drive and printing in greyscale are big dilemmas to teachers who are now expected to provide interactive lessons using Smart boards.  I only hope that we move away from the drive-by trainings that don't provide the ongoing assistance teachers really need.  Only some of the teachers are comfortable with screencasts and webinars, a huge population of teachers need hands-on training that can be repeated as they need it. As I try to squeeze such trainings into lunch periods and preps, I get frustrated.  I feel like every other teacher feels when their students are just about to complete an objective and the bell rings.  I will be pushing for some substitute coverage so I can get more time with individual teachers.  Luckily I work in districts that have technology-rich goals, so I may actually get somewhere.  
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    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Parent Night for Talent 21 Grant

    It was a rewarding evening for the parents of the Talent 21 students in Woodbine, NJ.  They were able to use their child's new laptop and learn about the acceptable use policy, insurance options and the rationale for  the laptop rollout. Parent asked questions abou the use of laptops in their homes and in school.
     These students are the lucky few, they will have one-to- one computing for three years, across all subject areas.  One of the challenges they face is the learning curve to use the technology in a constructive way to learn content and share what they have learned with others.  Every day new challenges arise, new technologies are available, and they will keep pace with theses lightning changes.  This ability to adapt will serve them well in the future as they compete for jobs in a technology rich society.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Technology-enabled Substitutes

    Yesterday, The substitutes of one of the school districts I work for participated in professional development. They learned how to access the teacher's websites and to use the Smartboards. Technology-enabled substitutes will be able to carry on with lessons in the technology-enabled classrooms when the teachers are away. The laptops can still come out and the students do not have to complete worksheets all day long.
    The substitutes spent the morning in trainings and the afternoons with teachers in their rooms learning how technology is used in the classroom. This experience was the first of its kind that I ever witnessed. The principal also conducted a training session with the substitutes on how to be an effective substitute in the district. This planning for school-wide and student success is commendable. We will provide substitutes with a list of every teacher's website until the district website can be updated to include that information. They were also given directions for laptop basics and turning on projectors and smartboards.  An issue still outstanding is the ability to log into the teacher laptops.  A substitute username and password will have to be enabled on all machines and laptops that are connected to the smartboards. It would
    be helpful to create hotsheets for each room that is technology enabled for the subs with quick reference sheets for the programs the students may be using.  We should also create a substitute website that has information and training tutorials.  Since the technology-enabled substitutes will be called first to serve in those classrooms, it does provide incentive for them to learn on an ongoing basis.
    On a sad note, in another school, the susbstitutes  allowed students from another class to use the 6th grader's laptops.  Substitutes need to follow the plans we leave for them as teachers, they definetly shoud never allow students to tell them what they "usually" do, because the students "usually" lie  to substitutes.  When in doubt, check with another teacher nearby, call the office and just maintain that it is your responsibility to follow the teacher's plans.  As a teacher it is hard enough to miss a day with our class, it causes huge problems when susbtitutes deviate from our plans.  We spend time getting those plans ready and it is frustrating  when we come back to havoc. In this instance, the offending students tried to visit blocked sites, they changed the students backgrounds and settings and added items to their favorites.
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    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Upping the game

    After last week's incredible presentations, I have upped my game when giving internet resources to my teachers.  Instead of  looking for  Prepositional Phrases PowerPoints for one of my English teachers,  I was haunting Prezi and looking for  presentations that would make the most of the Smartboard. Most of the lessons in the Smart exchange are a bit young for the 8th graders so I was seeking other quick solutions.  Now I am off to investigate how the two programs can work together, can I upload an old PowerPoint to Prezi and then work with it?  I will update you when I get the answer. So far Prezi does not have a lot of grammar teaching resources on  their site, just those made by students, and I do want to be able to provide the best alternative to spending hours making Smart Notebook lessons.

    This was the best one I found so far. It appears that most of the grammar Prezi presentations were geared for English language Learners.  I will be sure to share them with my friends that teach Bi-Lingual and ESL students.

    Teacher Interview Questions

    As an offshoot of last week's discussion in my Intro to Ed. Tech class, I though I would share a helpful link with anyone out there still looking for a teaching job this year. You know that if we get the interview, and that is pretty hard these days, we have to make the most of that moment. You may have read about some of my worst job hunt moments last year in this blog, and I hope to help alleviate some of your fears.
    The Apple posted this article recently on how to answer the toughest interview questions effectively. There were some admirable answers, especially to the question, "What is your greatest weakness?"  We hate to have to answer that one!  It is impossible to do correctly without being self-serving and we want to be honest, but we can't because then we would appear weak.  If you like, please post YOUR toughest interview question in my comments section. If you would like to share YOUR worst interview moment, I can give you a link to be a guest blogger on this site.
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    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Hating life and PowerPoint right now

    PowerPoint fragged up on me three times today with my macbook making the most incredibly weird noises.  Having to employ the hard shutdown always makes me nervous.  I had to redo a few areas of our group presentation many times because it refused to SAVE! Even when it did the backup every few minutes, it still didn't have the changes.   Since my entire weekend has become this project, I could have done without this nonsense.  I still couldn't embed video, like I can do on  non- mac machines. I just couldn't find the feature on the PowerPoint for mac. I wanted to upload the whole thing to Issuu as a flipbook, but it wouldn't take the formatting.  I had to go to Plan B for the Web 2.0 component.

    I used slideshare instead.  I did not yet use the narration feature, because we have to narrate as a team.  I look forward to doing that on my own when we are done.  It would be too hard to do it with three of us in different places.  Slideshare has been a resource for my blog when I want to post a bunch of pictures from an event. As a presentation solution, I was thrilled with some of the free options it offered.  It has some great features and I wish I could change my tooltime to that tool.

    Can you read our Webspiration?
    The most illuminating thing that happened this weekend was having to work as a team.  Giving up control of even part a project has to be  the most challenging feeling ever, and one we have to remember stresses OUR students out as well.  I had to understand and implement what Brian's main ideas were from our  mindmapping in Webspiration.  I hope I stayed true to his ideas, if not, it is tooooooooo late.  I started working on what we had, then he added more and I had to match it all up again to make sure I didn't miss anything.  Note to self: Don't even start until it is all done. I have no idea if Roma finished our  Timeline activity Gant chart, our meeting this evening did not come about due to scheduling issues.  So now I have to rely on the email for communication until we can all talk again in Wimba.   Wimba as a crutch?  I am officially spoiled and hate having to go email everyone as they are not on Skype right now.

    I chose the peace sign because what is contained in the this Tagxedo
    just a "piece" of the whole IT picture. I know, very corny.
    Spending the entire weekend tracking down appropriate pictures, videos and articles to make the mindmap come to life was accompanied by the endless sneezing and snuffling of my nose.  Infection from all those school kids has finally set in, and I am tainted. At least now I have a comprehensive understanding of the history of Instructional Technology and a trash-can full of tissues.  I could have just read the textbook, but then I would have had no reason to yell at my family for asking me silly questions when everything was going wrong.

     I also made a Tagxedo to enhance the presentation and spent some time rearranging the Webspiration so it wasn't so busy, then Brian really fixed it and it looks nice now.  Too big to actually read the screen capture in a photo here, you will have to be content with my Tagxedo instead.  I was unable to do the things I REALLY wanted to do with this project.  I wanted a blinking eye between the  time eras, and I wanted to shoot words out of a cannon or a rocket as a transition as well.  I especially wanted a photo of Tompkins with the macs from the 80's to include, but I can't always get what I want. The transitions won't work well in a  web 2.0 sharing scenario unless I convert the entire thing to a movie.  This will not work for me because of the video clips I want to have in it.   The audience will be able to just move ahead after they watch what THEY want.  Oh, well, best laid plans...