Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Getting Techno-ready, but don't change everything!

Yeah, so I was supposed to post last week.  Best laid plans.  This will be in two parts.  Part one about sales people, and part two about lecturing.

I'm teaching Adv Stats this year, for the first time in three years.  We've offered it, but it hasn't run, due to few kids choosing it.  If ever there were a math course that cried out for technology integration, it is Stats.  Generating most statistics requires a mind-numbing amount of calculation. The TI-83 and TI-84 calculators have a really good Stats package on them, but the small monochromatic screens limit their educational use.  You want drag and drop, colors, icons, all that good stuff.  A number of years ago, I saw a presentation about "Fathom" - for LS folks, this is "Tinkerplots" on steroids.  It is very cool, very intuitive and sets up as a fantastic teaching tool.  We own a license to put it on ten computers. and I have ten students.  Kismet.  I was all set to use it for my regression lessons a couple of weeks ago.  I even knew where the disk was to load it on our laptops.  I called the publisher to see if I needed any new numbers to get things rolling, spoke with three people at the company and learned that if I wanted to use Fathom, they assured me of this, I would need to find a Computer Lab that had ten PC's in it or find a Mac computer that was still running on OS 8.  Good luck with that!  I taught the lessons on my projector and the absence of "hands on" was a palpable loss.  I mentioned my frustration to the kids in the class.  DURING class, one of the kids researched the whole thing on line on his smart phone (okay, I shouldn't compliment him for that choice) and discovered that there is a version of Fathom that works on new Macs and the whole thing costs less than $10 per student for a one year license.  You would have thought while I was talking to all those folks at Everyday Learning - makers of "Fathom" - that one of them would have thought to mention this as an option.   In retrospect, I shouldn't have called, I should have just gotten on line and researched myself.  If you want to see Fathom in action, ask me, it really is cool.

Okay, so I am coming around on the value of using the internet for research and technology for self-expression - although perhaps not on one's smart phone, in class, and without the teacher's permission.  That said, I am still struggling with how to have it augment actual learning in the classroom.  And then old friend Drew Nucci posts this article from the Atlantic Magazine (on his facebook page, yes I facebook too - stick-in-the-mud no more).


Read it, think about it.  We need to change the bathwater, yes, but let's be careful not to throw out that baby.

Some of everything is what education needs!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Inspired yet overwhelmed....in a good way!

I had the privilege of attending the iPad Summit in Boston last week with Lisa, Nancy, and Linda. I went into it ready to absorb anything and everything I could-- I wanted to LEARN. The workshops I picked for the first day were wonderful and gave me concrete ideas for how to use the iPad in my classroom. Workshop titles such as App-smashing, Collaboration 3.0, and Thinglink drew me in and the presenters didn't disappoint. The workshops on the second day were geared more toward navigating and managing the first year of 1:1 iPads in the classroom. I didn't gain much from these presentations. I decided I was really looking for some do's and don'ts-- suggestions that these workshops fell short of providing. I think the best option is to talk with my fellow techies in 4/5-- they are the best resource.

The definite takeaways for me:

1) Collaboration is a skill all teachers need to incorporate into their classrooms. And cooperative learning or group work isn't the kind of collaboration we're talking about. I learned some fun ways to bring collaboration into the classroom: at the very minimum, GoogleDocs and blogging allow students to collaborate with each other and beyond their classroom walls. To take it to anther level, what about Twitter (she talked about Twitter in a 1st grade classroom!), Google hangouts (a Julius Caesar video call and students play roles from that time period), Skype (with classrooms around the world-- create YouTube videos and send them if there is a time difference), Subtext (iPad app that allows students and teachers to exchange ideas in the pages of digital texts), and eBooks (create books collaboratively, maybe even with a class somewhere else in the world!).

2) The idea of App-smashing blew my mind. App-smashing is when you:
a) Create content with one app.
        b) Create content with another app.
              c) Merge the content together (smashing)
                     d) Publish content to the web.

So, the idea is students collaborate on creating something that can be shared beyond their classroom walls (that's the key!), but they do so using more than one app. For example, students could use the iPad camera, Explain Everything, Paper 53, and skitch.....then upload all of the images generated to the camera roll, then head to iMovie or Book Creator to put it all together. I have used Explain Everything and the camera together, but I hadn't even considered going beyond them for the same project. Cool idea! To check out the presenters notes and suggestions for how to app-smash, see the link below.

App Smashing presentation from iPad Summit

3) Finally, I learned about Thinglink, which is a way to make an interactive image....your images can come alive with music, video, text, and your voice. So, you choose an image, tag it with content, and then share it beyond the classroom walls. Here's an example of a Thinglink that was made to explain the app-smashing ideas. If you hover over the individual app pictures, you'll see video and text windows pop up that teach you about that app.

App-Smash Thinglink

Here's another one-- how about this for a project idea?

Fun Facts about Famous Landmarks in Europe Thinglink

I am still processing everything I have learned and how to put some of the ideas into practice. Lisa K and I have decided to meet regularly to brainstorm ideas and touch base about how we're doing re: putting ideas into action. This is just the beginning-- I am not an expert. But I certainly hope I will be further along the continuum by the end of the year.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sometimes I Bend the Rules

There are two seniors in my Upper School advising group who are sloughing through the college application process.  Everyday brings a new venting, only occasionally a celebration of a milestone passed.  So, it was with consternation that I read a recent article in the New York Times, titled They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweet., about the impact of social media presence on the college application process.  

The opening section caught my eye, "At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me., admissions officers are still talking about the high school senior who attended a campus information session last year for prospective students. Throughout the presentation, she apparently posted disparaging comments on Twitter about her fellow attendees, repeatedly using a common expletive." I cannot imagine what this student was thinking, but it made me stop and consider how my own seniors are using social media.  I have made it a policy not to connect through social media with current students but I bent that rule late last year.  

Have you ever driven a car full of teenagers for any length of time?  If you are quiet they forget about you, or at least they ignore you.  You learn a lot, and with a helpful cough or grunt, you can remind them of your presence to prevent yourself from learning too much.  I was invited by a then junior now senior to join Instagram.  I'd avoided it until then but I considered it on her behalf.  Then I weighed the implications and consulted with a workmate.  My colleague helped me see that if I allow a student just that little bit of a window, and I carefully curate what I Instagram it would have the same effect as when quietly driving a car full of kids.  My student would know I was there and perhaps her online social life would in some way be shaped by my presence.  

Mostly I post pictures of my cat and dog, or even a particularly lovely scenic view.  I don't "follow back" but there are a couple of other advisees that follow me.  I'm still wary but I try to model the "if I can't say/post it in a school hallway I won't post it here" mentality.  I was able to stay connected to advisees as I traveled this summer and when I posted a picture of an ancient Greek carving of Odysseus, from The Metropolitan Museum in New York, I was pleased to see that a kid to whom I'd taught The Odyssey expressed comic aversion to my taste in art. I got a chuckle and she got to rib me, it seemed like a fair exchange.  

A minor connection, perhaps too small to note if Instagram didn’t permanently log it, but the long-term effects are deeper.  I hope that none of my advisees is ever so alone online that they feel like no one who matters to them is listening.  


Sunday, November 10, 2013

As I find myself wondering if I have really made any progress with technology and teaching, I think it's a good time for an inventory...in no particular order:

*I use Apple TV daily to project notes, display websites, show video clips, etc
*My 12th graders use my website to see all weekly syllabuses, access HW, download forms, articles
*Some of my 8th graders use my website to see what's for HW or to verify HW
*The Stock Market Game project is now 100% digital for 12th grade, and I am moving the 6th grade project closer to that reality
*Math 6's website is becoming a key part of the class
*Poll Everywhere is my go to program to mix it up a bit in the classroom
*I've now done several presentations using my iPad converting PowerPoint slides.

I've really come a long way in the last couple of years, but I see that most of it is stuff that I do.  I really don't have the kids doing a lot with technology (except for Finance classes where we use it constantly).  But it continues to be a challenge for me to find a better way to learn math than with paper and pencil and chalkboards.

I feel like that "next great thing" for the kids is not here yet.  At least not at Waynflete.  But the momentum is there, we will get there.  And taking this at the right pace is probably a good thing.