Thursday, December 23, 2010

EdTech_365/2010

Last December, an Ed Tech person posted on Twitter and challenged other ed tech's to keep a daily photo blog of the year 2010.  It was such an interesting and simple step and a great reflection on ed tech, work/school, home, changes, and unexpected occurrences.  Some days had such powerful statements and others were just fun, while others, were just looking for a picture.

This is a great project for students.  Create a blog and use a camera to keep a journal of life, a specific academic topic, or group project, and write about them.  Simple, clean assignment.  My journey is here.  It certainly keeps one from forgetting the little things.  And, one I will probably do again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What We Need - More Videoconferencing

"There are three basic skills that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy: the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate." This quote is from Thomas Friedman's column in the NY Times on Nov. 20 as he speaks of "The Global Achievement Gap" by Tony Wagner, Harvard.  The article goes on to say countries that rank higher than the US have teachers in the top 1/3 of the class.  The article includes references to the Race to the Top to give money for innovative ideas in education. Change is needed.


Some educators like problem based learning as a way to engage students in learning, collaborating, and thinking skills.  Adding videoconferences to these collaborative efforts brings in communications over time and space and brings our students face to face with students from other cities, states, countries.  Imagine!  


One of our second grade classes meets monthly with a class in Michigan to share math problems.  The students work in their groups and individually and then share their answers with the other class.  Along the way, these students polish math skills, have some fun, learn about another community (geography, weather), hear accents, and make friends.  They are learning to work with others, step one.  As they grow, these classroom to classroom activities extend and increase experience in working with others (who may not be just like them) - it becomes a standard learning technique -- listening to others and valuing opinions of all people involved.


Imagine - middle schools and high school students using videoconferencing to discuss and learn about environmental problems or social problems.  Students using these skills to discuss and offer solutions to today's problems - isn't that what we want?


Videoconferencing collaborations use all of these skills - critical thinking & problem solving,  communications, and collaborations.  Add some multimedia, blog or wiki for scheduling, posting schedules, information sources, and you have a mix of learning that changes, allows for updating, and continued collaboration.  


After 28 years in public schools, two sons who attended public schools, and eight years working with videoconferencing, I continue to see, daily, the needs of our students, and I feel that videoconferencing offers many opportunities to develop these skills.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Flat" Communications with Voicethread

       

Hello to the Austalians in St. Joseph's Primary School in Merewether, Australia!  We are thrilled to be involved in the Voicethread project with your school.  We will post our voicethreads on the project page and embed them on my class wiki.  Yesterday I mailed our "bulldog" mascot to your class and it should arrive within 10 days.  Because the mailing is expensive, please just keep our bulldog at the end of the project.  We will enjoy the voicethreads and enjoy seeing you and your students with the bulldog!  
We love the idea of sharing our cultures on field trips - we'll see your exciting and interesting places and you will see ours.  We also will enjoy the different accents.  American - southern and Australian. 
          School website: St. Joseph's Primary
          Rural Hall Elementary - Distance Learning
          Mrs. McDermon's Class Wiki - click on projects and voicethread

          





Saturday, October 2, 2010

Desktop Videoconferencing

If you don't have a school videoconference set-up (Polycom or Tandberg) using h.323, you can use a desktop set-up.  The only drawback is that when a lot of classes webstream, your quality can vary a lot, depending on your bandwidth.  This is also great for home to visit those family and friends who do not live close-by.

Carol Skyring found a free link to download Polycom PVX software for a PC (not mac).  You should read her post for more details.  You can use this with a usb camera to do high quality desktop videoconferencing for five minutes at a time.  I have used this software and it is great - quality and easy to use.  We used it one year to share our student school news with a school in New Jersey.  We saw their school news live and they saw ours live the next day.
Skype is also a great alternative and it's free.  Again, you need a usb camera and can google a search or look through the skype link for webcams.  With these desktop solutions, you can do classroom to classroom (with a data projector or white board (Promethean or SmartBoard).   Skype works with PC or Mac.  We have used skype, a usb webcam, and a laptop (or desktop) computer to easily visit other classrooms.  These projects are easy to set-up and blog or share on a wiki.

There are websites and listservs for locating a connection on specific topics.  Some of these are listed below:
Global Leap - http://www.global-leap.org/index.php
Skype in Schools - http://skypeinschools.pbworks.com/
TWICE - Two Way Interactive Connections in Education - Capspace
CILC - Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration

Currently these web cams do not work with museum visits or h.323. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What do you use?

In the computer lab this year, we are using a class wiki (mcdermonclass.pbwiki.com), EduGlogster (mcdermonclass.edu.glogster.com), and Google Apps for Education along with digital pictures, movies, voicethread, and blogs (several different blogs at blogspot.com) to teach the NC standard course of study.  The technology has changed quite a bit since I last taught the lab 7 years ago, but being the school instructional technologist, I've kept up with web tools to share and encourage teachers to use them in their classrooms - now I get to use them with students -- wow -- what a fun job!

What types of web tools and software are you using?  The biggest change is for students expecting to play games in the lab.  The only software games I think we will be using (at this time) are Type to Learn Jr. and Type to Learn.  If possible, we will upgrade the software and then students will have access at home (online).

I'm also looking for projects that go along with the NC SCOS and involve other classrooms.  The first project is partnering a 4th grade class with a class in New Jersey and a class in Australia.  These students will use school mascots to take on field trips and then create voicethreads to share.  I love it!  Imagine a southern US accent, a New Jersey accent, and an Australian accent.  This should make the project entertaining, interesting, cover content in instructional areas along with technology content.  This type of collaboration is allowing our students to work with others over time and space and cover instructional content.  School was not this much fun when I was an elementary student!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Time to Go - It's August!

So excited - teaching the computer lab this year, K-5, so many new changes.  Bought some new digital cameras and headphones with microphones so students can put different media in their work.  Exciting about student webpages, sharing, and collaboration.

Just ordered some cool, inexpensive, attention getting devices (read toys), to toss out to students from trainerswarehouse.com.  These inexpensive devices will add to moments of attention and "no fade-outs".  Also saw a really cute "Exceed Expectations" to drive home the idea of excellence is expected.

It seems like each year June is the "wind-down" time with staying busy with details and finishing a year; July is vacation; August is "gear-up" time.  I'm geared-up, completed some lesson plans, many "rough" ideas for using the new tools and collaborations.

Read an article yesterday about computer labs being passe.  It was based on college level.  That I can understand, but not at elementary level.  This is the place to learn the basic skills so that by later elementary years, students are applying these skills to their own content; using these skills to communicate collaboratively; using these skills to create their own learning.  Just like reading and arithmetic are the basics, so are the computer skills to then transform the basics to your "own" work.  Without these skills, students haphazardly use computer games to pick-up on their own, unfortunately, not learning enough basics to go to the level of independent usage.

Computer games are great for basics in "mousing" or "track" control, basic motor skills, visual perception, reading, math, and others.  But seeing basic word processing skills, presentation skills (PowerPoint or HyperStudio), spreadsheets, spreadsheets with formulas in real life usage, offers another level of understanding and raises the level of computers as tools, not just games or entertainment.  Using these tools in class aids work communication to other students and provides skills for further sharing and work related products.

I am looking forward to a great year in the computer lab!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Reflection Time

Completing a school year always brings me to reflecting on what I liked and what worked and what could be better and what didn't work at all. This year, I've been slow in working through this. We had so many changes last year with moving into a new building and having new technology in each classroom in this building. Changes for the good.

With the building changes and the budget changes, I'm sure that we will continue to change and grow in many new ways.

Our videoconferencing program - completed year 7 last year - will continue to offer programs from our wonderful state museums and other state institutions. We also use VC with NASA Digital Network, Sea Trek, These institutions offer expert classes for our students. We have taken these opportunities and expanded them in our curriculum to specific class to class projects with RAP (Read Around the Planet), Carolina Connections (4th graders around the state studying the state regions), PPS Megaconference, UK Poetry Day, and others. We have collaborated with other schools using the school wiki and used this collaboration to present shared content to Megaconference Jr. (Mega Jr. is a 12 hour around the world live VC.)

As we expand these programs and opportunities each year, we are only limited by our imaginations and our resourcefulness to meet our students needs while pushing our students to be their best and reach for higher goals in their own learning. For the 2010-11 school year, the teachers will be responsible for facilitating the vc classroom during the conferences, along with any follow-up. The teachers can simply come 10 minutes early to set-up materials, seat students appropriately, and maintain good behavior and aid the instructor with materials. Ending the conference should only take an additional 5 minutes in clean-up and returning materials to the mailing box, leaving the room ready for the next vc class. With each teacher being responsible for her class, the dl coordinator can simply set-up the vc schedules from the teacher and grade-level requests.

The biggest challenge will be planning for, setting-up individual class projects, and arranging rehearsal times, but the richness of these opportunities for our students will keep us focused on the end products.

Another big change for me personally, will be returning to the classroom to teach the computer lab. I loved this before and will enjoy the increase in student contact as we prepare our students for technology use/skills that they can integrate in their class projects, science fair, and daily lives. Remember, our students do not live in an analog world - it is definitely digital and they need instruction that will allow them to be successful in choosing technology to help them meet their learning goals.

Of course, "thoughts" of past years and future years do not touch on the details, but those will be worked out. Now, after a week at the wonderful NC outer banks -- this year on Hatteras Island - I am truly enjoying summer vacation -- time to grow a garden, experiment with new, healthy recipes, and enjoy the beauty in the world. But at the back of my mind, as always, is the next school year and the things I can do now to prepare and enhance my teaching to be a better instructor, communicator, and learner.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It is raining! - Or Just Politics?

This week our county commissioners, who hold the purse strings for our county's public schools, decided to deny 4.5 million dollars in funding for our school systems budget next year. Last night the school board met to make more cuts in the budget, which is not yet finalized.

Top of the list is elementary foreign language - we know that children learn languages easier when they are young - this hurts our students. Our school's Spanish teacher also does double duty as a translator. Who will translate next year?

Second on the list is technology facilitators - sounds harmless, but what do they do? They keep a school running with the technology that they have. Many teachers are tech savvy, but many are not. Do we want to loose good teachers because they are not tech savvy? Take away their help and what is left? Who does the web page? Who diagnoses problems and sends in equipment for repair? Who runs the computer labs and distance learning labs? Who sets up the reading software (AR/STAR, Orchard)or other school databased learning software? Who facilitates projects for collaboration over time and space (using wiki's, blogs, skype, or videoconferencing)? This is 21st century learning and the skills needed by our students to compete in today's world. Again, this is short-sighted. Our particular school was fortunate enough to move the 3rd-5th graders into a new technology rich building. We have state of the art technology in each classroom and a videoconference room for trips to state museums and other schools and countries. What parent doesn't want his/her child to go to a museum once a month? What parent would want to see this equipment sitting unused due to no personnel?

A third loss for our school is our office assistant. For the 28 years I have been at this school, this position has taken care of teachers clerical needs such as supplies and making copies for students. Her equipment is pretty sophisticated - another task that would be difficult for teachers to do as they are in the classroom. This equipment would soon be in dis-repair and wouldn't work. Just another stress for classroom teachers.

The list was about 20 items long - all of these jobs are needed to work with our students. I could write a paragraph about each of these jobs and how they will affect our students and teachers. By the time teachers make up for all of this lost help, when will they teach, or when will they be able to go home if they stay all of the extra hours needed to do the other "chores" they have had help with in the past?

Do we want the best education for our students? Do we care about quality? This is the question.

Our school board is in a difficult spot in trying to make the budget work. They have spoken up for the employees and cut with regrets. But their question to the county commissioners and my question to the county commissioners is the same - What kind of education do you want for your children and grandchildren? Top qualitly or mediocore?

The county commissioners are trying to make the point that it is the state's job to pay for public education. Well, that is only acceptable if the county commissioners are willing to allow our students a less than top quality education.

Today's newspaper, the Winston-Salem Journal, put the cuts at 4.5 million and said the county has 100 million in cash reserve - their rainy day fund. I do believe it is raining. Where is the umbrella for our students?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Google Apps and Our Staff - Part 5

What’s next? Well, that is planning for next year! As we move into the last month of school with testing, look to summer training – we have a team of 5 attending NC Teacher Academy for Technology – we have a lot of exciting plans and some summer time to reflect and prioritize our next steps.

One is to increase our Google Apps for Education to more grade levels. Currently only our fifth graders and one fourth grade class are logging into the domain with the teachers. Next year, we will have 2nd through 5th graders involved.

I can see students working in pairs, teams, across classes, and grade levels to complete projects using web 2.0 tools and google apps for education. Plans have been developed and ideas are bouncing around to work together to develop skills and projects and share these with others.

One step at a time, we become stronger and wiser and make progress in learning together.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Google Apps and Our Staff – Part 4

On May 5, our staff met for our fourth day of Google Apps for Education. On this day we shared google sites, blogs from blogger.com, and google groups.

We use google groups to send email 2-3 times a week to interested families and community. This free listserv allows us to share important information, news, events, and pictures with our community. I also use a google group for our local Friends of the Library board. It keeps us informed and connected.

I also shared two articles. The first was “Why Schools are Turning to Google Apps” http://mashable.com/2010/04/28/schools-google-apps/
The second article was “Improving School Communication with Google Apps” http://www.edutopia.org/google-educators-school-communication

This year we got very busy with our move into the new building, packing up materials and equipment for the move. Moving and setting up again, learning new technology – we have the “classroom solution” in all classrooms in the new building – called the 21st century schools. It is fantastic! This move and learning curve of this new technology has kept us busy learning and communicating.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Google Apps and Our Staff – Part 3

On March 9, our staff met for our third day of Google Apps for Education. On this day, we logged into our domain and looked at google reader, google calendar, and google email.

I shared my google reader and how it helps me keep up with articles, news, blogs – at work and for hobbies. Using a “reader” brings the information to you—you don’t have to go out and search for it, it comes to your computer email or reader page. This helps me a lot in keeping up with work, new ideas (that I don’t have to create, but just implement). This saves a lot of time and I gain the knowledge from other educators.

Another great way to have information come to you is through google alerts. I use them for school and for hobbies, and family. Each day my mailbox has one email on my school alerts for videoconferencing and for instructional technology. I also use it for Old English sheepdogs (dog rescue & transport). For my personal life, I get an alert when one of my sons is the referee on a college soccer game or the other son has a new article published in the newspaper (journalist). It is a modern way to keep up with families across the country and world. Again, information comes to me and it saves time.

The great part about Google Apps for Education at RHES is that it is closed to the public. Our students can only email each other and their teachers. No email comes into our domain and no email goes out of our domain. This gives us the opportunity to teach students how to use email in a safe environment. Once students are 13, they can have an email account without parent permission and there is no instruction. Learning this at an early age allows us to include the importance of our character traits when using email, reminding children to be kind, write positives, use email for school work, and most important to tie it to the “golden rule.” Without instruction, our students are left to their own resorts, temperaments – they need instruction and positive, gentle, guidance.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ed Tech Funding – Help!

The “Enhancing Education Through Technology” program is about to die. HELP! In many states and school districts, this is the ONLY funding for educational technology. Congress first approved EETT as part of No Child Left Behind, with the idea that technology plays a big part in improving “student achievement, ensuring high quality teaching, and increasing parental involvement…” (this quote from ISTE – International Society for Technology in Education). We use technology in so many ways to connect to parents – through a weekly email listserv, school website, Twitter, blogs, and wiki’s.

As Congress begins to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it is certain that technology should play a large role in making (1) equity in teacher quality across all schools (2) creating data systems to follow students over time – allowing for more research into what is working and then duplicating those traits (3) making a better test – one that fairly shows what a child knows, not just what they can do on a multiple choice test in a segment of time – and improving state standards (4) supporting schools that need help – not throwing out the baby with the bath water – helping all students learn.

In North Carolina, the IMPACT grant funds have shown that teacher retention is higher and students are 33% more likely to improve one full grade level each year as compared to non IMPACT schools. IMPACT can be found on the web at http://www.ncwiseowl.org/Impact/igrant/
This is a document that provides coordination of the library media and instructional technology programs to enhance learning. Schools apply for this grant which includes teacher training, flexible staffing in the library and tech labs, and hiring of a technology facilitator and assistant. This team of library and technology work with classroom teachers to implement technology through-out the curriculum. This grant is funded from EETT. Last year 11 new applications were accepted into this program, which has run successfully since 2003.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Google Apps and Our Staff – Part 2

On February 8, our staff met in the computer lab during planning time again to learn about Google Apps for Rural Hall School. Each staff member has a login to our “cloud” domain. We have email, docs, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, sites, calendars, and video. This is a great way for students to complete homework or classwork. There is no problem with software incompatibility or version or operating system.

We loved using the video site! Only teachers can upload video, so the student flip cameras have been put to good use. When the fourth graders went on a three day field trip to the NC outer banks, they took six flip cameras and took video of the stops along the way. Representative movies of each stop were uploaded on the google video site. We have some great photographers here! This was also a great way to have the students at Rural Hall who didn't attend the trip stay in touch with the students who did go - we used Google Moderator and posted questions for the students on the trip to look for things while touring. The teachers on the trip responded back to us at school. We also made a Google Earth tour of the exact trip with all of the stops along the way. The students enjoyed this tour in the computer lab. These applications allowed our students to stay in touch and be "connected" to the field trip even though they were at school.

Another great use we found for Google Apps for Education at RHES was the calendar feature. Each login has its own calendar. We created a calendar for the laptop cart lab. Now, our teachers login to our google apps and sign-up on this calendar to use the laptop lab. They can access this from home to check when making plans and sign-up without having to wait to return to school and use a paper sign-up on the door. – Improvement!

On this staff day in the lab, the teachers logged into Google Apps for Education at RHES and we looked around a bit. I showed the different applications briefly. During the next two staff days, we practiced all of these different possibilities. Having time between these staff days allowed us time to try out some of the applications, think about uses for the applications, and be ready to apply them.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Google Apps, Wiki, and Our Staff - Part 1

We had four staff development days in our computer lab. Teachers and staff came during planning time in January, February, March, and May. (In April we moved into a new building.) Total attendance was 138.

Our first day was dedicated to our private school wiki. We use it for staff communication. Last summer I happened to see that pbwiki was offering a free wiki upgrade and a free six week class in wiki’s. (And it looks like they will be doing it again this summer – check http://www.pbworks.com for information.) The staff learned to login to the wiki and practiced on sandbox pages. We began posting grade level notes and meeting notes on the wiki. The principal added readings to the wiki and the teachers posted reflections. We also used the wiki to develop our new mission and vision statements.

This type of staff development and time to learn something new and practice was invaluable. The wiki has had over 2000 logins from the staff.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What a week!

The end of one long adventure - is coming to a close. One of our school buildings is 60 years old and it has been replaced by a new state of the art technology building for 3rd-5th graders. The classes begin moving into the building on Monday. Next week will be an adventure - moving, teaching, checking that classroom computers are moved and set-up - of course, our county tech department has done a fantastic job having things ready for us - the building is wireless although the computer lab is wired. We have a separate room for videoconferencing - so good for our students.

The teachers are so excited to have a new teacher "classroom solution" (our county term) for a new desktop computer, slate, voice modulator, speakers in the ceiling, 6 foot Promethean board, class set of ActivVotes, and a new, larger room, with sinks, and of course new classroom furniture.

The original building was built in the early 1900's and has been changed over the years. The current "old" wing of the building was built in 1950 and will be demolished this summer. The K-2 building was opened in 1977 or 78 and has very large classrooms with sinks and restrooms in each class. These really nice rooms still look modern. They should have the "classroom solution" in the near future.

We can stop talking about not having resources and looking for money to improve equipment, but move on to using these resources to engage our students in learning. Teaching has always been a task where you must know your subject well, but to succeed, need skills to engage students in learning tasks and activities - like being a cheerleader on the sidelines, you must direct the activities and encourage students to do their best. Many people qualify for the knowledge factor, but the human factor of making that personal connection to a student and being their personal cheerleader for success - that is the key.

Now for a little nostalgia - my boys went to this school many years ago and at that time, the PTA was raising funds for air-conditioners in each classroom in this building. Education has changed so much over the past 60 years and so many things have improved for students. But, it still comes back to the basics of the teacher in the classroom - is he or she qualified (yes if licensed by the state) and the crucial part, does the teacher connect to the students. Teachers have very little influence over differing home situations, living conditions, parents support of schools and learning, but teachers can make that connection to make a child's life at school optimal - connect in an adult way, share your knowledge, be a cheerleader for every student at their current learning level - showing students respect & students respecting teachers - all of these are so important for learning - moving forward - learning to think.

Off the soap-box of my opinions and on to learning in new ways! Follow the yellow-brick road? :-)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Favorite 3 Web Tools

Wordle: favorite web tools
www.wordle.net

Saw wallwisher.com and wondered what your favorite or top 3 web tools are (they do change often), but thought I might find new ones quickly this way -- I did! Sent out a message on twitter and found many replies rather quickly. Thanks folks!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Google Docs - Presentation

Here's an idea for using google presentations to study a unit, giving groups of students different topics to study and work cooperatively to present to the class. The teacher creates a presentation, putting the name of the presentation in the title box and putting the students in the group in the subtitle box. Then the teacher shares the presentation with these students. See the lesson plan and rubrics to learn more details.
Lesson Plan
Google Docs – Presentations

Overview:
Teacher divides students into groups for making presentations on specific topic and shares with these groups of students. Students work in groups as they participate in presenting topic to class.
Time:
This presentation takes 2 class periods and 2 computer lab periods to prepare, with 1 class period for groups to share with class.
Preparation:
Teacher chooses unit of study and divides topics in groups. Teacher assigns students to groups. Teacher creates basic presentation with title and names of students in group for subtitle. Teachers shares each presentation with appropriate group members. Teacher prepares a list of requirements to include with each topic. Teacher prepares a rubric for assessment.
Specifics:
Teacher shares groups topics and group members with students. Teacher shares sample project. Teacher shares rubric for assessment. Students meet as a group and begin research on assigned topic. Students have two class periods to work on project. Students have two computer lab periods to work on project. Students can also work at home on project.


Students share completed presentations with classmates in classroom or computer lab. Students are given rubric assessment by teacher (privately). Students comment on presentation of other groups and use self-assessment on own group.


Assessment Rubric for Group Presentations
Directions: Circle one sentence on each row below the headings to represent the group presentation.

Excellent Good Needs Improvement Incomplete
All students worked equally on completed project. All students worked on completed project. Most students worked on completed project. Some students worked on incomplete project.
All parts of project content demonstrates understanding and deeper insight into topic content. All parts of project content demonstrates understanding of topic. Some parts of project demonstrates understanding of topic. Content is at basic level of understanding.
Presentation includes audio and video content in exceptional presentation. Presentation includes audio or video content. Audio or video inserted does not work. No audio or video.
Photos included show levels of ideas in presentation. All are cited correctly for copyright. Photos included demonstrate ideas in presentation. All photos are cited correctly for copyright. Photos are included, not necessarily on topic. Not all photos are cited correctly for copyright. No photos.
5 points 4 points 2 points 1 point
HTML Tables

Rubric for Group Presentations - Self Assessment
Directions:  Read the table below.  Circle one sentence in each row that tells how you worked in this group.  You may have circles or answers in different columns.

Good Needs Improvement Incomplete
I finished all of my work. Other people did some of my work. I did not do my work.
I listened and responded to my group. I helped when someone asked me. I didn't listen or join in discussions in my group.
I shared my ideas with my group. I shared at one idea. I did not share with my group.
I helped my group with problems. I listened when my group solved problems. I did not help or vote when my group solve problems.
I worked on my part of the presentation. I worked on some of my part of the presentation. I did not complete any of my part of the presentation.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

NCTIES Reflections

Short notes on conference:

Many great sessions and of course, difficult to choose which ones to attend!  One of the great things about a conference, though, is learning from the people attending, too.  There are conversations in the car - for us in Forsyth County, that's an additional 4 hours of conversations about edtech, what works, and what doesn't, what's new, what we want to try, etc.

Next month, we will move into a new building with new equipment.  We have thought for a while we would have SmartBoards, but may have Promethean boards - just not sure.  The first session I attended was on ActivExpressions, the new, upgraded handheld used with Promethean boards.  He showed us how to do the software upgrades to the handhelds and several different ways to use them in a class situation.  We should find out soon which we will have in the new building.

Another session was Cindy Phthisic's "Ride the Wave."  She shared her top 10 google tools.  Loved them.  One tool that is advantageous for groups in education or in teaching is google wave.  It has a great way to share and communicate and plan and you can add widgets and maps, so many things that aid the discussion.  But, I think that they do work best with smaller groups - like a class -- 10 or 20 or 30 people can do a lot in a wave.  If it gets too large, it is too bulky.

The absolute best part of the conference was Ron Clark's introduction and presentation at the luncheon.  I've read one of his books.  I've always enjoyed teaching with enthusiasm to engage students - singing silly little made-up songs to help students remember things.  In the fall, we took the ship measurements of the Mayflower, used chalk to draw them in the courtyard, used tables, chairs, boxes to represent areas of the ship and tried to imagine how the people lived there during the voyage.  We followed up by reading a lot about the first settlements, how the people lived, and what they did.  We made our own Thanksgiving meal, made hats, collars, place-cards for our lunch, churned butter, baked a turkey, cooked the side dishes, and finally enjoyed our feast.  This is just one example of many practical, hands-on activities.  Like others in the luncheon, I identified with Ron Clark and his love of students and teaching -- finding out what students need and trying to help them learn and be excited about learning new things.

The session after lunch was about Ready Animation - software by John Lemmon and session by Julia LaChance.  This session demonstrated one of the grant winner's project that worked great for her middle school students.  We skyped with John Lemmon and had the opportunity to ask him questions.  It was another good session.  We could do parts of this with clay animation, or art, and use digital cameras, and powerpoint with 1 second slides.  This is thought for a trial class to see how it works.

The last session of the day was a session from LearnNC about online learning.  Many participants were beginning online learning opportunities for their teachers and staff just like we have in Forsyth County.  There are many online courses offered to our teachers in the state and LearnNC is also offering COLT classes to add more classes - free classes - for counties in NC.

Friday sessions began with Leslie Fisher's updates on ipods and iphones.  She shared many great apps for students, teachers, and techies.

There was a great session on using digital storytelling.  This was appropriate for our new 6 digital flip cameras for students.  Gained some new ideas for use.  Our original idea was for students to take them on their field trip to the coast as they learn about other regions of the state and visit landmarks that they have been studying.

The last session was another digital storytelling session using flip video cameras.  My head is spinning with all of the interesting sessions and the vendors demonstrations.  WOW!

The benefits of this conference will be seen within the next year as we try out some of the ideas for technology in our new building and create some new ones of our own.  Yippee - when you love your work, all is good!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Google Apps for Education

Our fifth grade students and one fourth grade class volunteered to be a test group for our school using Google Apps for Education, a free, closed environment for our students to use some of the many web tools.  Students have access to email, documents, presentations (like PowerPoint or HyperStudio), forms, sites (webpages), and calendar.  We are not using chat at this time.  Students have access from school and home.  Teachers can send one email to the whole class with an assignment or announcement and students can use the tools (above) and save and share with the teacher.  The teacher opens the documents and can grade and reply to the student--no paper!  
Students can work on projects in groups.  If the teacher begins a group project using presentations, she can name the project (the assignment) and in the subtitle area, list the students who will be working on the project together.  Then the teacher shares the project with these students.  The teacher can see who make which changes, if some students aren’t working, etc.  When the projects are completed, the students can share in class, or by sharing in email with comments on the “sites” page.  
In our county we are fortunate to have Winston-Net, which has computers in recreation centers around the county, plus the county public libraries.  There are many opportunities for students to have access besides at school.  
The entire staff has one day a month scheduled for staff development during planning times to work on google apps.  The success is encouraging to teachers. I will update with links to lesson plans and ideas we have tried.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lifelong Learners - Are you one?

This is a common term tossed about in education. You see it in vision statements, read articles that mention it, and teachers say they want their students to be lifelong learners. What does this mean? Well, I think it means you are willing to continue to learn through-out your life. Whether it is school work, new teaching methods, or revised and renamed teaching methods, new techniques for business, interpersonal relationships, work environments, hobby information, health, or computer updates, or just about anything else. Data/facts/information has doubled, doubled, and doubled, and continues to at an amazing rate. We now know we can’t memorize or learn it all, but can learn to search for the information we need. Still, we need to analyze it and put it to use. Whether it is health information on lowering your cholesterol without drugs, or learning to do your job in a new way; it comes down to whether or not you like to learn new things. Attitude plays a big part.


Many people feel confident that they do a good job at work. Sometimes the question arises, “Why should I learn to do it differently when my way works so well?” This is a hurdle for people to overcome. Attitude is important here and can make such a big difference in success. Teachers who have taught in specific ways for several years find comfort in that routine, knowing that it works. Just as companies and assembly lines change their procedures and techniques, so must education. One big question is why do we test students like was done in the 19th century when we live in the 21st century? But that is a question left for another day.

These thoughts come from a person who loves to learn new things –- finds it intriguing and interesting. Back to the teacher who doesn’t want to learn technology, drags his/her feet in using technology – this teacher is the model for not being a lifelong learner. When we say one thing and do another, children and students see that. We need to remember that we don’t know it all and remember that facilitating instruction is a good method for teaching – not the “sage on the stage” that students quickly tune out. Sometimes this attitude can come from administrators who do not like change or technology.

We are very fortunate at our school to have an administration that enjoys using technology and encourages our staff to learn and offers opportunities in safe and comfortable ways. We need to be lifelong learners to function at our best for our students. For ourselves. What new things have you researched or learned recently?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not High Tech, but Touches the Heart and Senses


Cotton, the therapy dog, visits our school several times a month.  He loves to listen to children read.  Students leave their classroom in small groups and take turns reading their favorite book to Cotton.  He looks at the child who is reading and wags his tail, showing comfort and approval.

The children are encouraged in their reading and happy to read daily so they can read to Cotton the next time he visits.

The NY Times has an article about research on pets and the effect on humans today (Jan. 17).  There hasn't been much research over the years.  In 1987, a NIH study suggested more study on the effect of pets on health and child development.  With a background in child development, dog rescue, raising children with pets, teaching a regular classroom, I'm thrilled  to hear about this research.  Children should have fun and loving approval while learning at home and school.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Traveling Through Twitter

One of the unusual aspects to twitter, for someone like me, who works in a job with no travel (teacher), I find the network of people who use twitter broadening.  I love to travel and bring back those experiences for my students, but this is not something that happens often.  I spend all of my county supplement on my classroom and there is just not that money or time to travel - I dream of traveling when I retire, but that would be so different, no students to return to to share.  The web has brought the world to my home and classroom, which is great!  Twitter has brought the personal touch to these experiences with contacts - pictures and short bio's of twitterers - which brings faces, personal contact to this network of educators who love to learn and to share.  I love the ideas and find comfort in other professionals who want the best for their students and continually strive to improve.  Folks who are not satisfied with the status quo and want to get better every day.  I can spend time checking the ed tweets, clicking on the urls's and adding them to my delicious bookmarks to share with the staff at my school.  It is amazing how teacher's love to share good ideas and that is wonderful for our students. This aspect was surprising to me, but as helpful as the ed chats and other web opportunities.  Just one more tool to help me keep updated.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

EdTech 365/2010

OK, I've joined the crowd of folks who are blog posting pictures every day this year; my focus is on our new building which we will move into during the end of March.  The new building, and older section, will all be outfitted with state of the art technology in each classroom - hallelujah!  With so many changes, physically in the building, there will be lots to photograph.  Our teachers and students doing new things, learning new ways to instruct and learn.  This is so exciting!  Heard about this from langwitches on twitter.  I'm posting these pics on my flickr account in a set called EdTech_365/2010 and at mcdermon.