Thursday, July 19, 2007

Getting ideas together

In addition to school in September, I'll be talking to teachers. I'm putting together about three hours of material about Integrating Technology. I attended the same talk last year and came away disappointed. I wanted to learn something new and didn't. I want to make sure the teachers have the ability to get what I didn't. To this end, I know I want to show a few videos that I found on TeacherTube. I want to have them respond in a wiki. I want to have them do a Jigsaw activity of viewing other teacher's blogs.

I had the class in February and have learned so much on my own since then...much of it since summer vacation started. The idea of the Google Reader,, and RSS feeds are all new since February. I've used wikis in the class this year and want to start incorporating blogs.

One of the issues that I had last year was what to do with videos that the middle school kids produced. They were very happy with them, but I didn't want to post them without explicit parent approval. I have to work on this aspect in August so that I am ready. I'm absolutely in love with the Paperworks videos that I saw this morning. This could be an interesting direction for next year. This past year in computer class, the eighth grade made infomercials on Internet topics from using Photobucket, to Internet video games, to MySpace and Internet safetly. They have very little direction from me and they were not bad at all. They have since graduated, but I'll hang on to the videos.

Now that I know about TeacherTube and with a plan in place to get parental permission, I should have a set of infomercials to make public.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Time to switch gears

I took a good part of the summer completing a Harry Wong Classroom Management course. I found his book my first year of teaching five years ago. I pretty much re-read it every summer. I was trying to find out if he was going to be speaking in my area and came across his online course. I enjoyed it and feel better prepared than ever after taking the time to put together a comprehensive binder about math class. I'm also in the process of reviewing my computer class in the same manner.

I still feel like I need to gather my thoughts on the idea of having the students blog. I've done a fair amount of research, but always feel like I could do more. It's hard to remember that everything will be accomplished if I just take it one thing at a time. It doesn't have to be perfect this year, but it will get better with each passing year.

We'll soon be going on a trip. It will be fun to have a forced break from my obsession with math. When I return, it's time to review where I'll be going to computer class. It should be easier this year. Last year, I was transitioning the kids from OS 9 to OS X in the computer lab. This year, I will start transitioning the 4th through 8th grade machines. We'll still have OS 9/ OS X issues this year. Hopefully, by next year, we'll have the funding to be totally OS X. All that will remain is the lower grades the year(s) after that.

I'm pretty satisfied with the K-3 curriculum after five years. Grade 4 and 5 would have been completely set if HyperStudio would have made an Intel-based OS X solution to the program. I ended up selecting MediaBlender as the replacement. I'm still happy with the decision, but it runs so slow on OS X on the old G4 machines. Half the lab should be new iMacs this year. MediaBlender runs so much better that way. So this year I should get back to having a multimedia program. We used to have so much fun with HyperStudio.

Grade 6 through 8 is really spectacular. I always imagined that they would be doing great things and last year gave me a glimpse of it. We worked on some wikis in sixth grade math and seventh grade computers. They were some obvious baby steps, but at least they were steps. We played with The Gimp. We made web pages. Although, I'm having some huge issues with my web space at Verizon. I'm going to have to recreate my web pages and just use FTP to get around the issues. Perhaps when I return from vacation I will do this so that I can go back to having all the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade pages posted at the same time.

Next year, I think I'm going to rely less on web pages and more on wikis. I'll have to rethink the way the pages are built, but in the long run it will probably work better. The way the Internet is transitioning reminds me of the differences between computers in 1982 when I first encountered them in college and the way I used them in business in the late 90's. At first, you had to know BASIC or LOGO to teach a child about computers. In the late 90's, if I taught a College for Kids class, you could teach Microsoft Office. When I started teaching in a grammar school in 2002, you had to teach HTML to build web pages. This really isn't the case any more. It feels like teaching the kids HTML can really turn into a short project. They can use blogs and wikis without really having to know too much about HTML.

In "real life", the kids who have a MySpace and know some HTML from school have used some of the classroom concepts. What they really feel the need - locking strangers/ parents/ etc out of their pages - is accomplished by cutting and pasting codes into their pictures, comments, and other MySpace components. They don't "know" what they're cutting and pasting, but it accomplishes their goals.

In the same way, they don't "know" about the programming language that is used to create Microsoft Office, but the accomplish their goals when they create their word processed document or spreadsheet.

Well, I'm off to upload photos to the geometry wiki so they can be added to the project in September by the seventh graders. They started that project last year and I really want to finish it. It's so nice to have these kids in a continuum. I like to start and end projects in the same year, but if I need to, I can continue the next year.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Preparation for 2007 Math Class

I am working on setting up some blogs for my sixth grade math classes. I like the idea of having the students work online. I believe it will be useful to give everyone the ability to contribute to writing a post on what we did in class each day. They will be able to see it at home if they are out sick or away.

I want them to contribute from home. I am working out a method to have it help their math grade. I have been following a post from a math teacher in Canada who has been very happy with his results. He has some great ideas.

Since this is my first time doing this, I have to remember to take it slow. I can always build on this idea in following years.

I have had a fair amount of work getting this first blog set up prepared. I chose Blogger since it is free and I saw other teachers in the US and Canada who seemed successful with the web site.

Next, I had a fair amount of thinking to do. I knew that I wanted a space to keep a journal on what happened in class. Since it was going to be a journal, rather than a collaborative work, I wanted it to be a blog.

I did not like the navigation bar at the top of the screen since I don't want the kids to have easy access to inappropriate web sites. It was not as easy as I would have thought. I finally ended up using Google to search for blogger navbar remove.

I like the idea of indexing all the posts and worked on the "Labels for this post" link at the bottom of the Edit Posts window. Then I had to customize the settings to see it on the main blog page.

I also wanted a contributors list. So I made a fake student (this account) and added it to a test blog. The test blog is useful because I can check things out before I put them on the actual class blogs.

It will be interesting to see where this end up in the final analysis.

Last year, I created a class Geometry wiki with the sixth grade math classes. I liked it, but they only saw it as a computer class project. They didn't contribute from home or outside of class time. I will still create a wiki with this math class, but I will probably make it clear that they should feel free to look at it and edit it from home. Since I am going to have them sign up for a Blogger account, I will also have them make their own wiki account. I have to remember to include that in my parental permission slip.