Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two Other Projects for the Year

Interestingly enough I left off two other major projects I'll be working on this year. First is our conversion to a new student information system. We decided last year to go with Veracross as our SIS and the implementation begins now. Our initial meeting with the project management team was last week. This should be interesting.
Second, I am taking a course with the Online School for Girls called Charting a Direction for Your School: Online Learning. This is basically a year-long course that will help school leaders determine a course for implementing online learning into the fabric of the school. I expect this to be an incredible learning experience and fully expect to increase my knowledge base about online education.

The one-on-one meetings with teachers have been progressing fabulously! I admittedly was initially skeptical that teachers would want to be obligated to a class period with the technology integrator one day per week, but I am happy to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by not only the response to the time commitment but also the desire to learn! Many teachers come to the meeting with lists of topics and questions they'd like to cover, and others are so very open to learn what they don't know to ask about. One-to-one instruction has always been a part of the total technology integration model, but I have not experienced it to this magnitude before now. The time required of me to be able to meet with everyone has been considerable. I have begun to consolidate meeting times by scheduling a least two teachers in one period and with the plan of possibly alternating each appointment every other week. In the off-weeks, the intention is that the teachers will work on projects and goals we've set up together either on their own or with another teacher partner. Currently, we are still in the start-up stage and in the process of establishing the goals and projects.

The iPad program is expanding almost exponentially! We have added three library skills classes to the "pilot" and will soon make an all-school announcement that the iPads are available for any class if they are available. Additionally, we are adding 5 new iPads to enable more teachers to get their hands on one to explore and consider for their curriculum. Because there is one set of iPads that students share, we needed to establish some standardization of the organization for the iPads. I created a "page" for each subject area and placed the app icons in the same locations on each iPad. This way students will basically know where to go on the iPad to locate the apps they need regardless of the specific device they pick up. With the announcement of the iPad mini last week, perhaps we will test a few of those out in the near future to see how they fit in our environment.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Welcome Back to School!

Welcome back to school! Yes, it has been anywhere from five to nine weeks since school started, depending on what region of the country you are in, but things have been so busy that I am only now able to stop long enough to post! The summer was busy with developing processes for maintaining the backend technology at my school as well as developing a strong teacher training program, reviewing and evaluating the results of the previous school year's initiatives, and determining a process for creating a vision for technology for the school. As usual, the summer went by quickly and here we are: five weeks into the new school year.

An Update

My previous posts have included the mention of an iPad Pilot Program. I would like to offer a "report" of how that initiative fared.

We began the initiative with 15 iPads for an eight grade science class with as many students. The teacher of this class was very diligent about the use of iPads in her curriculum and made sure that it was the central tool for her course. The students used many science-specific apps like Pig Dissection, Chem Lab, and Quiz Chemistry, as well as some productivity and creation apps like Explain Everything and Evernote. I sat in on many classes and was witness to the excitement the students exuded when producing video explanations of the parts of the body or a chemical reaction. In the end, the pilot was a success. All of the 15 iPads we began with are still with us and in great condition! We used the ASVPP with one Apple ID so we still have all of the apps used last year to continue to use with this year's eight grade science class. In addition to continuing the Science 8 initiative, our middle school French teacher has been added and we are now exploring expanding the program to 6 more classes. We have graduated our classroom-sized pilot into a middle school pilot. A new adventure for a new school year.

Posts to come

I plan to continue to report on our iPad program this year. I am certain there will be a lot to learn from it. We have also begun a new initiative surrounding teacher development. The school administration has decided that integrating technology and supporting teachers as they learn to do this is so important that time has been allocated on their weekly schedule to devote to this endeavor. I have been meeting with every teacher weekly (our faculty is small enough for me to - barely - do this) to work on developing their technology and integration skills and knowledge. Again, I am certain there will be much to learn from this endeavor and I plan to update this blog with the progress. A third major project this year is the work of establishing a technology vision for the school. This is an exciting step forward as we think about and mold the future of our school.

So, please continue to read and I hope that you can glean something useful from the posts. As always, please share your comments, thoughts, and questions with me and other readers. Discussion is always welcome!

Thanks for reading!

Links to apps mentioned in this post:
Pig Dissection
Chem Lab
Quiz Chemistry
Explain Everything

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Create > Consume

I have a guiding philosophy when it comes to technology use with my own children, as well as use in schools and with students: create more than you consume. As summer break begins for many children in the United States, many adults are looking for activities to keep children productively occupied. If the average elementary and middle school-aged children are anything like mine, then undoubtedly they will want to spend countless hours watching television and/or playing video games. Of course we'd all like to see them outside playing and running around with neighborhood friends, or using old boxes or unused items to play make-believe or create some new game. But the reality is this just doesn't happen as much anymore and the technology of the day has encroached upon our children's playtime. So, to compete with this phenomenon, I submit this to you: let the children use their playtime on technology, but insist that most of the time is spent creating something with the technology, not just consuming it. We can channel the creative energies we had as kids making up games, playing house with dolls, or using the living room furniture to make a fort into encouraging our children to design video games, produce a short story on video, or create a photo collage of their summer vacation. Not only are these activies fun and entertaining for our children, but they also help them gain and hone valuable skills for producing content, working with technology tools, and using their creativity. 

I will share some ideas I've already begun to implement with my children. I have a son who is a big gamer. He loves everything video game! He'll play on the computer, the Xbox 360, Wii, DSI, whatever (and, yes, he does have all of these!). So, in order for him to earn playing time on these games, I require him to spend time designing his own games. This feat is not as daunting as it may sound to a non- techie! I use a website called Gamestar Mechanic. The site is well-scaffolded for teaching an introduction to game design and incorporates a sharing element as well. It teaches students the conceptual elements of game design, the mechanics of designing games, and allows them to play games along the way and share the ones they've created with their friends. The students work through a series of "quests" that are leveled video games and as they successfully complete each level they earn items that they can use to build their own games. As they navigate through the quests, students are ocassionally required to "fix the game," where they are learning how to create and edit a game and apply the elements of good game design learned in earlier quests. In the end, the students create their own game from scratch or a template and have the ability to share their game with others and to provide feedback to other designers. Incidentally, I've used this website as the primary tool in a game design class I led for middle schoolers at my school. It works really well! 

A second activity I've used is digital video production. My other sons loves television. If he could watch television everyday for the rest of his life, he would! So, naturally, I require him to make videos. The first one was a "day in the life" video. We spent the day visiting a museum and he took a Flip* video camera and an iPod Touch along with us and filmed various parts of the day. Once we got home, I showed him how to upload the footage and how to edit the footage using iMovie. Again, iMovie is an easy tool to learn and to use. Once the user gets the hang of trimming video clips, he or she can add sound effects, music, cool transitions, and text to the video to help tell their story. This activity is great for helping students learn how to organize their thoughts to tell a story. And the more they create videos, the more they will develop into better storytellers - when you use video to tell a story, you have to be very organized in the beginning of the project in order to capture all the footage you need to sufficiently convey your ideas. In the end of this activity, the student has a video of a memorable event, or a story to share with others. Digital video production is also a course I've taught and I see that video projects are being assigned by other teachers in other disciplines more and more often. 

The ideal is to align your child's or student's consumption interests with their creation projects. Once you've identified what they are most interested in when they use technology, find or create a project that will require them to make it, or some aspect of it, for themselves. There are tons of tools and help sites out there to get you going. Additionally, I'd love to be part of your process if you'd like! Feel free to comment on this blog or send me an email to share your ideas with me or other readers of this blog. If you are already doing this, please share what you've done, as well as what has worked and what hasn't. We all want to learn from you!

Thanks for reading!

Tech Tools Referenced:
Gamestar Mechanic  gamestarmechanic.com/parents/page1
iMovie  www.apple.com/ilife/imovie/
Flip Video Camera (RIP)
iPod Touch  www.apple.com/ipodtouch/

*Note: We took along the iPod Touch as a back up camera in case the Flip ran out of space. It turns out we needed it! He captured footage using both cameras and also learned how to import the footage onto the computer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tweeting with Teens

Last week we held an assembly for all of the high school students about digital citizenship. I was very concerned about the presentation being too formal and stodgy so I wanted to find a way to make it more interactive. I began to consider the use of cell phones as a means for the students to communicate with the presentation, each other, and with me, the presenter. Because the presentation was very short and packed with a lot of content, I needed to provide the students with a method of asking questions and offering comments during the presentation. Two possibilities emerged: texting and tweeting. One morning in homeroom several weeks before the presentation I took an informal show-of-hands poll to determine if the students had Twitter accounts, and if they were actively tweeting via their cell phones. Enough of the students appeared to meet these requirements so I decided on tweeting.

I set up a hashtag (#PCSCyberliving) and used Twitterfall to aggregate and display the tweets during the presentation. I had a regular backchannel going! Technically, all worked well. I had a prepared Keynote presentation for the content and I periodically switched between the presentation and Twitterfall to field questions, highlight comments, and to publicly acknowledge the backchannel. I had a teacher serve as the "monitor" of the Twitter feed, so as I focused on presenting the material, she focused on making sure the Twitter feed was under control. She also posted links and resources that went along with the presentation. In the future, I would really like to have someone serve as a commentator in addition to moderator. That way anyone not attending the presentation but following the feed can also follow along with the crux of the presentation. All of the technology elements worked well and I found no issues using Twitter to make my presentation more interactive.

Socially, well that's another story! As expected the Twitter resolution was used for both good and mischief! (I was dealing with high school students after all!) Most students offered thoughtful and appropriate comments and questions, but there were at least two students that insisted on using the feed as an opportunity to play class clown. This is why the moderator was so important, as well as my announcement at the beginning of the presentation that I would be displaying the feed periodically to the audience. I hoped that these two factors would deter students from indulging in bad behavior. Overall it worked. The moderator had to send one or two direct messages to students that got out of hand and her intervention seemed to quell the behavior. I think that given the subject of the presentation - digital citizenship - the Twitter resolution was a perfect lesson by doing. There was even a student out sick that day who participated in the Twitter feed.

If you think about employing this technique I strongly recommend you do - whether it be for a big presentation or in a classroom. It is an excellent way to encourage and enable students to use technology in a more academic way, if they are not already. It also provides teachers an opportunity to see how this technique can be used in a classroom setting. And it gives students an opportunity to practice good behavior using technology while under the guidance of adults. I'd say it's a win-win-win solution!

Feel free to email me or comment below with questions or share your own experience!

Thanks for reading!

Tech Tools Referenced:
Twitterfall http://twitterfall.com/
Twitter http://twitter.com
Keynote http://www.apple.com/iwork/keynote/

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The [Instructional Technology] Age-Old Question: How do we train our teachers?

Having been in the profession of technology in schools and curriculum for 7 years now, I have sort of developed an opinion about what does and does not work when it comes to how I get my teachers trained in the technologies we need to use. There are a variety of approaches my colleagues and I across the nation engage in regularly: one-to-many lecture style trainings, one-to-one individual meetings, small groups, faculty champions or department leaders, and even online asynchronous trainings!

One method that I strongly feel does not work is any iteration of the technology workshop. That would be the likes of 'Wired Wednesday', 'Tech Tuesday', or 'Monday Tech Madness'. Now, I am open to suggestions and open to continue to try this method if I can find cases where it has worked. This openness has led me to my latest version of the technology workshop: 'Lunch & Laptops'. I am trying one more time (at the strong urging of my head of school) to put in place this method of instructing teachers. I'm thinking of it as sort of my office hours when teachers know they can always find me available to answer questions or help with a skill. I am also holding one session per week after school (Though a clever name for this session has eluded me! Any suggestions?!). I only started this last week and this week is the end of the quarter, so, of course, attendance has been low (three sessions => three students). 

This brings me back to the question in the title: How do we train our teachers? I've attended several conferences and special interest group meetings and spoken to my professional network about the topic, and as anyone reading this in the profession knows, we don't yet have an answer! Especially in the schools where leadership has not made the training a requirement for the teachers or attached some sort of accountability. If you have discovered the recipe, please share with the rest of us! In the meantime, I will give my latest creation a solid try and hope that I can raise the bar for myself in my marketing and cajoling skills and get the chairs filled!

Friday, January 20, 2012

What is Technology Integration REALLY About? A PCS Anecdote

Happy New Year!! I am back and ready to move strong in 2012! I hope you are too!

My first post this year is a spotlight on technology use in the classroom of a real teacher at my school. I try to frequently highlight what teachers are doing in technology to other teachers at the school through our school's internet portal. I periodically post an Academic Technology message with tidbits for the faculty to consider as they execute their daily routines. Here is the latest Technology Spotlight:

What is technology in education all about? A PCS anecdote

I wish I had a tape recorder on when Roberta [our music teacher] came into my office this morning to share her latest experience with me.
I'll try my best to recount her story:

Today is my last class for Music Theory. I was planning to play Musical Theory Jeopardy with them but thought that would be too boring. So instead I decided I'd like to analyze a piece with them. I realized that I did not have the CD that contained the symphony with me, but, I remembered that I could search for it on YouTube. Not only did I find it, but I had several performances to choose from! I then made copies of the score to give to the students, hooked up my laptop to the TV to project the symphony performance, and carried on with my new lesson plan.

What is technology in education all about? This is what it is all about! 

The ability to be flexible in your teaching and in your planning. 
The ability to have just-in-time access to the materials you need. 
The excitement that results when you are able to execute your vision for the lesson!

That is what technology in education is about!