Thursday, May 29, 2008

Digital Citizenship

Is this a new buzz word in the ed tech community or the real deal?

Our tech meetings always give us much information - information that takes time to comprehend and understand the consequences - today at our meeting we received a copy of Digital Citizenship in Schools. Interesting ISTE book. This fits into an empty area and appears to be a much needed resource for filling this gap in teaching and learning. With newly created technology a daily event, changing the lives of students, teachers, parents, families, communities, we must approach an ethical way to use this exciting technology in positive ways to benefit the world community. Section 1 asks some important questions, gives a definition of digital citizenship, and then lists 9 elements that explain and expand the idea. Using technology engages students and requires that we think in ways other than the routine 19th century classroom that is so familiar and "comfortable" to adults. The comfort zone of knowing what to expect is tempting, but may not be the best way to learn or to reach students.

More as the book is digested.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Technology Facilitators

Looking into the state legislative website, NC House Bill 156 passed the house on the first reading in 2007, and was sent to the appropriations committee. Unfortunately, it stopped there. It is still written for 2008, so maybe it will be revived automatically and have a chance this year. This bill will put one technology facilitator in place for every 2,500 students, with one at the administrative unit. My elementary school has approximately 675 students. That would be one tech fac for every 3-6 elementary schools. This is a start.

The difficulty in understanding the need is the tremendous variety of uses and applications in this area. In some schools, the full time tech fac helps the staff and students by working one-on-one; being the first line of problem solving before calling the "help desk"; sets up new computers and other technology equipment; packs-up and sends in computer and technology equipment for repair; prepares workshops for the staff; works with the administrative technology staff in solving computer problems; stays updated by attending monthly meetings with the administrative technology staff; joins listservs and tech groups to continually update knowledge and ideas; spends own money to attend workshops and conferences; searches for new sources for curriculum deployment using technology to engage students; applies for grants to gain new technology or training; maintains communications with the parents, students, staff, and extended world community by emails; sends photos to local newspapers to inform community of school events; maintains listserv for school families; writes articles for professional journals; cooperates with state agencies; works with staff on software programs; discovering answers for problems and sharing; spreadsheet report cards; school webmaster; daily, live in-house TV production produced and presented by a team of students; school blogs; school wiki; audio and video podcasts; and more.

In my school, I have the added pleasure of scheduling interactive videoconfernces for each classroom teacher, establishing relationships with partner schools for class to class projects and world projects. What does this mean?

Can you imagine your child having the opportunity to visit the state museums in NC several times a year? Normally it costs over $2000 for a grade level of students to drive to Raleigh on buses for a day's tour (we are about 100 miles away). Add in the cost of fuel, lunch, and lost teaching time on the bus, and you have an annual outing. Now, consider walking down the hall to a classroom (1-3 minutes walking time) and instantly connecting to the NC Museum of History, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, NC Wildlife Resources Distance Learning, and NC School of Science and Math. You have free instruction from the state's historians, science, math, and wildlife experts. These expert instructors send boxes of materials for students to explore, manipulate, discover, discuss with grouped students, ask, and teach their fellow classmates in an interactive discussion. This is powerful learning! -- Now, go back to class in 1-3 minutes and you have no wasted class time spent on riding a bus or using fuel down the highway. This can be done monthly instead of annually! Have you chatted with a child who got to hold, explore, and discuss dinosaur bones and scat? Exciting!

Engaged students - is that what we want? After almost six years of facilitating videoconferences (15 years of elementary classroom teaching and 5 years teaching a K-5 computer lab) I find students actively involved in activities, discussions, and thinking during and after videoconfernces with a little follow-up. Students who may have difficulties paying attention are attentive and focused on the lesson activities. These skilled expert teachers use a variety of short activities geared to age levels, invoke skilled techniques, extending vocabulary to students, who leave the experience with a heightened sense of learning and accomplishment. Success does breed success.

Any good classroom teacher has his/her students write about a field trip upon return to school. This allows the teacher to generate discussion of what occurred, with students giving details of the event. This basic activity allows the student to build the connections in the brain and make sense of this new knowledge. You can do this too, with a videoconference. Having the students discuss, then write about what they learned can be written on paper, blogged to share with their class, school, community, extended family members, etc.

We have completed projects on a state level with 4th graders, classroom to classroom projects, state to state projects, and national and international projects where our students meet face to face with others and share learning (topics, curriculum, experiences). This is powerful learning. This year a class of 4th graders worked with a class in Pennsylvania and Spain to study the drought in the southeast U.S. and it's effects such as flooding. They used a wiki and the culminating experience in Megaconference Jr. This is 21st century learning.

Our county, Forsyth, has fiber connections in schools and by July 1 we will have 100mb connections in all of our county schools. The infracture is there; the possibilities of expert teachers and activities are present, too with our great school staff and the wonderful instructors at state institutions. Combining these time and fuel savings would be a good way to spend educational dollars for our children. One of my basic premises in education has always been "Is is good enough for my child?" If not, then it must improve because everyone's child deserves the best educational opportunities. As a parent and tax payer, I want the best for our children. As an adult I want practical applications for results. When I look at these YouTube and TeacherTube video's, I realize that without the best for our students we are seriously challenging our potential futures. We must prepare our students to live and work in the 21st century, using collaborative tools and interaction among groups as they develop learning strategies and skills for success.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Updates for May 13

SP3
Please do NOT update desktops or teacher laptops to SP3 (service pack 3) until notified by the school system. This update may try to start automatically and if so, you should say "NO" -- this update may cause problems with our wsfcs software and services; they will test this software and let us know when it is safe to use on our computers. THANKS!

Technology Facilitators - 077 or 079
There is a legislative item for the state budget that would place a tech fac in each school. This is needed by our continued use of technology in 21st century learning. You can write an email to the Forsyth Legislative Delegation recommending this position. Currently this position is paid for with local funds or school funds, which are threatened each year. Many states use this position to help students and staff advance in technology uses and meet the new standards for technology learning, NETS. These goals are changing from learning "skills" to "application" in students and staff ability to collaborate across time and space with web 2.0 tools and, for us at Rural Hall, videoconferencing (H.323 technology).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Internet vs. Computer Use

Remember that all students have permission to use a computer at school, as it is part of the SCOS. Because the computer is part of the SCOS, students may not be kept from using a computer. They must have parent permission to go on Internet, the dark purple form in the cumulative folder.

Also be aware that websites we use at school are FILTERED. If students have access to these same sites at home, they may or may not be filtered, depending on parent choices for Internet. This is an important topic that schools and parents should be clear about. A recent article in ISTE's Learning and Leading with Technology (Volume 35, Number 7, p. 26) discusses this subject and gives 4 steps to prevent a problem.
1. parent-education program about Internet safety and content filtering
2. see that teachers understand that web sources inside wsfcs are filtered and these same sites may NOT be filtered at home or in other locations (hence, use NetTrekker at school and home instead of google for elementary students)
3. use district supported web 2.0 resources (google docs and pb wiki and blogger are on this list)
4. stay alert to news and changing resources - stay updated

Instructify

Learn NC has a new website that not only has access for teachers, but offers collaboration through social networking. The website is called Instrucitfy.
There are flash cards, too. The social networking is so helpful in allowing teachers from different schools, regions, states, countries to share ideas.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

May 7 Update

Lots of information to share from 2 months of meetings. Please read and let me know if you have questions.

Virus Scan
If you see a broken line or symbol on your blue virus scan icon on the bottom right of your taskbar, you need to "alt, control, delete" and choose task manager. Click on the processes tab at the top, if you see "authenicat" then you are OK and your web filtering is working. If you do NOT see "authenicat" under the processes running list, then you need to log off the computer and logon again.

Student Information
AUP - the grape colored paper is for the cum folders and goes at the very back - these are only sent once, with new students to wsfcs and for kindergartners. We need to encourage all parents/guardians to approve use of internet. I'm happy to talk with parents and explain what we do. Even if this is denied, the students is NOT off the computer, but only internet. Computer skills are part of the state mandated SCOS, so must be taught.

IMPACT study
This can be accessed on the ncwiseowl website. All schools can use this model and it is highly recommended by DPI.

Technology Plan
We are asked to think about where we should be in five years. This is a very difficult topic as many of the software, hardware issues for five years from now are not yet here. Think about how we can change our thinking, teaching, and skills to keep our students interested while teaching SCOS and relevant topics. This conversation should be ongoing. Please post comments or email me any suggestions or ideas.

NetTrekker
I will offer this at school next year if you haven't had it. We should NOT use google with students. NetTrekker is screened by teachers and is on target with elementary curriculum.

Shared Folder
If you want to have access to your student's work, get them to save a copy to the "student shared" folder on their desktop. Inside there is a folder for each teacher. Go inside the teacher folder to save. This way you can check, print, or grade and resave to this folder. You can pull up a student's work and "track the changes" by editing or correcting and then resaving. It saves time and is fairly easy. I'm happy to show you how.

WIKI
Be sure to check the YouTube and TeacherTube movies on the school wiki. The "how-to's" are excellent. The one about using excel for a poster is easy to follow and makes a nice product. An example poster is on the computer lab door, "Museum of History Mocassins to Motorcars."

Grade Level
Next year it would be great to meet with each grade level to see what you want for technology staff development here at Rural Hall School. We can develop projects and set-up access to the WIKI and class blogs for students to share work. The new NETS standards require students to "use" 21st century skills to collaborate, not just use an excel ss or word document or powerpoint presentation. We can put our heads together and come up with some easy strategies to help you do this with your students. The new teacher NETS standards will be unveiled this summer at NECC. They are tough, so we can look at how we want to work on these, too.