Delivering and Questioning the Computer

I’m glad I’ve had this break from the kids. It reminds me of what I did over the summer. Wake up and drink coffee while writing in my paper journal, fire up my Bloglines account, just start reading and thinking, and decide on possible topics to blog about. Why does it take me several days to get into that meta-cognitive state in which I can more easily learn about learning? Two big areas I’ve been focussed on is how to deliver the instructions on using the internet apps/tools, and about the justifications/reasons for using the tools. Brian Lamb’s "big fat lousy screencast" really hit the spot with his musings over potential applications and excellent examples as well as showing what Snapzprox can do (I’d downloaded the demo several years ago but didn’t think it worth the cost). It’s not thorough, but thoughtful and spontaneous. The related wiki has the links for further exploration. Back when I started teaching my ELD students the steps for a software application I would just do a screen grab and write on the printout. I’ve found that the program called Flysketch does that as well as several other tasks. I’ve been demoing an interactive whiteboard unit from Luidia and I like the potential use by my students to brainstorm content for their podcast groups and print it out. I’m also excited about the ability to save what I write (Quicktime demo) for students challenged by taking notes or attention issues. It’s not as sophisticated as a Smartboard, but I can afford it. I also enjoyed looking at Mix-Rip-Burn which is a Web 2.0 presentation by a math teacher named Darren Kuropatwa. I add these site to my collection of good resources for those teachers at my school that have enough interest and time to invest in what this is all about.

Finally, getting down to the nitty gritty of asking myself why introduce these tools into an elementary classroom. I spend so much more time as I set up this technology pursuing this task then any other teacher at my school. Of course what would anyone rather do, grade papers or install some cool software/tool that does something that was impossible or too technical for the likes of me five years ago.  I keep prefacing and apologizing for what I am doing when I share with other teachers by saying that this is my passion, and in a way I can trace this back to the sleepless nights before I was a teacher. There I was learning to create web sites back in 1995 and leaving my classes at the SFSU downtown campus buzzing with so many ideas about finally being a part of a new medium that I couldn’t sleep. What struck me then was that a few letters separated a Disney website from a local individual website. The truth is I left the program after realizing I didn’t want to sit behind a computer for eight hours without interacting with people, but that is so Web 1.0. I have to thank Will Richardson as usual for giving me food for thought as well as another blog to add to my ungainly and in need of organization, bloglines account. His article "Uneasy Classroom Space" gets at the heart of what I am always asking myself. Is there worth in putting in hours of work while my colleagues after writing down and preparing for book based lessons go home? Am I preparing my students for the flattened world of Thomas Friedman Video, for skills that they will need in a way that is more efficacious then traditional models of teaching and learning? Barbara Ganley does an excellent and much better job then myself of articulating the dilemma and self-doubt which confronts any thoughtful educator about using these tools. I can say from my own experience that the use of blogs has made my students begin to interact with each other’s writing in a way that I could never create through an Author’s Chair format. I find moving their serious reading, respect, and praise of each other. Before the current state of the tools we have now I think that Lowell Monke does make some valid points, but the example he uses involved individual presentations using software intended for that purpose (a person as source presenting their ideas for a passive audience). I’ve never fully embraced multi-media CD’s or even really liked to use a lot of videos in the class because so much of it involved the content one on one with the single passive participant/viewer. In creating content with these new tools I can’t think of a better way to give the students the necessary information literacy (recent article I came across) they need and begin processing the content behind much of what they are exposed to. When I had my students create a powerpoint project, what struck me was the chart paper I put up so students could ask questions, write comments to each other, request help or offer to help someone in need. My use of computers is to transition that level of student centered access to information and interactivity between students to web logs, wikis, social bookmarks, etc.

Technorati Tags: , ,


The Podcasts are Coming.

I was beginning to focus on how I was going to organize my class to create podcasts, when one of my students asked for a "closing circle" which is a meeting at the end of the day in which a student has something that is important to discuss. The student wanted to bring up the idea of starting a podcasting company. Other students chimed in their interest, and so a company was born. I’ve been working diligently to create a bureaucracy (Kafka would be proud) in order to have an interaction and dependency between departments.

The Pod Groups

pres-pods.jpg There are pods which will function as part of the process of producing the podcast. Each group will be composed of five students. I had the students write their preference and tried to honor it as much as possible. The groups will oversee a Flickr pro account, del.ic.ious account, GarageBand, and the blog at BlogMeister. I of course am the president although truth be told it was the students who decided on this. The Geek Pod will oversee the use of the technology and the Biblio Pod will monitor the use of tags and the written portion of the podcast. They will also help with the choosing of grammar problems for minilessons. I was thinking that each of the podcast groups which I will discuss in the next section will be required to submit two grammar/parts of speech issues that they had difficulty solving to the Biblio Group.  Each group will have forms which I intend on creating from screen grabs of the interfaces from the respective program or internet apps. that the students will fill out by hand.


The Podcast Groups

The second organizational structure will involve the content. The students will be in groups of at least four with two groups of three. The class brainstormed ideas that made sense to report on and we also listened to Bob Sprankle’s classe’s podcast to hear an example. The content will be fairly open so that even if the podcast group is say math, the students can choose to report on topics outside of what they are studying.

The importance of Student Centered Learning.

I tried as much as possible to allow the student to be involved in all aspects of production. But because these are fourth and fifth graders I wanted them to use the social aspects of the tools and take on the technical elements which can be done by an individual, myself. The part of the process that I am doing myself may change later when the students are ready. At that point they would need to learn the conversion of the Garageband file into an MP4 file, the addition of chapters using the Chapter tool that I’ve found easy to use, the uploading of the file to Ourmedia although I’m growing impatient with the slow uploads and access, and finally the html needed to link the file in BlogMeister.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

What have I been doing?

I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since August. In making the transition to a new school and trying to "pilot" all the tools I was studying and learning about since last spring, the use of this space has dropped to a lower part of my priorities. The BlogMeister web log with my new students has taken up my free time. I don’t mean writing my own articles but getting through the the thirty to forty minutes worth of reading of my student’s writings per day. I can’t say I mind. The web log has taken root and like a tree I’ve tried to nurture it by as quickly as possible posting the student’s writings and comments. Many of my students still haven’t internalized the skills and need to proofread and edit carefully their own writing.

The Whys and the Hows

I haven’t written in several days, and its not that there isn’t anything interesting happening in the blogging/internet sphere. I’m just focussed on my classroom which will have students in 4 days. Of the many thoughts floating about in my head, many involve my implementation of technology. Am I just implementing something for the sake of itself rather than looking first at the state standards and then proceeding to the tools? I think I am at that point, having taught for 5 years, that while I have not completely internalized the standards completely, I have a general recollection of them whenever I design a new lesson. I think the technology tools are for me personally motivational, and that enthusiasm carries over into what the kids perceive (just like my excitement about reading and learning). I enjoy the unpredictablility of using these tools and the team work that is required in solving problems that arise. I once had a student who I was helping to use a drawing tool with. I had added a Wacom drawing tablet and she picked up the pen and started trying to draw directly on the monitor and I told her, "yes you are right it should work that way, but you’re way ahead of the people who make computers." This unpreditable aspect of young minds meeting technology is what fascinates me. They were born into a hyperlinked, interactive, multimedia world, "let’s have fun." I don’t want things to be predictable to the point where I don’t get excited, but the problem may be that teachers won’t proceed with a learning tool until they feel a greater mastery. And that’s not going to happen with the rapid evolution of Web 2.0.

Onto more mundane topics, I have been concerned about using BlogMeister, in terms of its limitations for posting media such as pictures and sound, but I think for the pictures I’ll set up a seperate Flickr pro account for my classroom that is separate from my personal pictures. That way if something is accidentally erased or altered I won’t have to worry about it. For podcasts right now I’m leaning towards again creating a classroom account using Ourmedia account, but I may choose something else if I come across an easier to use tool. The pictures that my students use they can do so independently, but the podcast I think I will be more involved with when it comes to posting. I was’nt going to really do that much with podcasts, but I think it will help solve a problem that I’ve always had with process writing, and that is during the editing step the students do not read their paper but instead hand it off to someone else. Podcasts will force them to read aloud and this will help them catch their errors. It always happens that when I conference with a student and ask them to read their paper that they catch many errors that slipped through the process (technology to the rescue).

Technorati Tags: ,

Where am I going with this?

I’m back after a fun road trip to Texas and then southern California, and of course like so many other people I’m trying to read the new Harry Potter. Unfortunately I was right in the middle of trying to finish in a more determined fashion Guns, Germs, and Steel (now that a TV version is out), and GTD (Getting Things Done). I can’t say I missed not using my computer or blogging for several days, but now I only have a week before school starts and my list of what I hoped to accomplish doesn’t seem any smaller. I’ve really been trying to reflect on why I should sustain this weblog other than as a learning tool for the process. I think I understand the basics of how to do it but now the content is my current concern. Stephen Downes has posted a good overview on the process I’ve been going through as I learned how much I didn’t consider and all the mistakes I’ve made which he warns the reader about. I don’t want to just parrot other writer’s ideas but there are so many good weblogs that I wonder were is my niche? I know that being an elementary school teacher places me in a minority relative to the weblogs that focus on using these tools for middle school and above. I did find a model for how I would like to use both weblogs and podcasts in Bob Sprankle’s classroom and for teachers weblogs (Thanks to David Warlick’s postings as usual). I wish I could get some feed back on a weblog that would be useful and fun!

Technorati Tags: ,

What I expect. . .

Now that the summer doldrums are upon, us several of my favorite bloggers/educators are reflecting on their processing of the superabundance of information and also the importance and use of conference presentations. I think the first post I noticed which started this was Dave Weinberger and his admitance of not following everyone’s weblogs, and later Will Richardson also said that the post "rings true for me," followed by Ken Smith, etc. etc. Their ideas are so important for me that responding to posts is less important to me than processing ideas. Later I was reading what Richard MacManus posted about the bot/automator services that glean information mechanically and post the aggregated feeds.  I was reminded of my studies of information/interface design and reading of books by Brenda Laurel, and how she was always putting the needs of a human user first and the importance of the humanistic (value driven) approach to computer software. Is there a need for a human behind the interface and information? What do I expect for the time I put in to reading or (now with podcasts) listening to the posts? I want more than a mechanical reposting of information. I want opinions and honest reflection. To me these posters are like my avatars of the virtual world. I have no contact with them, I know nothing about them as people except for the slow process of gaining a simple understanding what they are like through their words. I don’t expect them to keep track of every scrap of information tagged with "education" and "technology." I do expect them to respond, critique, and evaluate what they are exposed to because as a teacher I won’t be going to all the conferences they attend and be involved in conversation with all the people they meet face to face. I don’t have the time to attend very many conferences during the school year, and I didn’t go to the NECC conference because I couldn’t afford to. But come next year, I look forward to seeing them present in San Diego which is only a 6 or 7 hour drive from Cupertino. And this brings up my last point. When I go to see David Warlick, I think his use of the wiki to present the information/handouts and allow the audience to contribute is an excellent compromise and use of the limited time he has (this reinforces the necessity of wifi, which I’d read was unreliable at NECC). I can also see the benefit as Steve Dembo talked about of having a video/quicktime movie of what will be presented ahead of time. My initial response is that teaching/presenting is a performance and even when I move to the facilitator side of the spectrum in terms of my presence in the classroom I still must hold the attention of the students/audience, and having never been a presenter I wonder whether I could repeat a lesson and make it as interesting the second time around.

So here’s to the humans overwhelmed with information, shining lights, who accept the responsibility and gravity of what they do. The technology I have implamented in my classroom, I have done on my own with the virtual, indirect influence, and enthusiam of those I have mentioned as well as others I need to list on the side of my blog. At my school I couldn’t get anyone else interested in blogging and had no peers or colleagues to bounce ideas off of. So for those educators/bloggers, you don’t have to follow the trail of my thinking nor respond to my ideas, but follow your heart in what is best for teaching children because for that I expect nothing less than the best.

Technorati Tags: ,

Early Reflections on Using Weblogs Next Year

As I only started blogging with my students in the spring of this last year, I’ve begun the process of evaluating and reflecting on what I’ll need to change for next year. I definitely intend on using blogmeister again because for elementary students it has all the features I need and ease of use. Our school is very careful about protecting our students and not allowing pictures or personal information, and with this tool I can maintain these requirements. This last year I just let the kids blog and did a brain storming session to begin with and whole class reflections every few days on what we were doing. My connections between blogging and the language arts standards were tenous since I didn’t really know what to expect and didn’t have clearly defined goals. I was just happy to have the kids posting and commenting on each other’s ideas with out my intervention. Now I really need to think of the standards/goals of what I’m trying to do, and whether I’m going to expand blogging out of the writer’s workshop model into other curriculum areas. Anne Davis has some very useful points to bring up based on her lessons learned and extensive experience with blogging. Will Richardson summarizes a panel discussion at the NECC also on the topic of lessons learned. Within his article he mentions Tim Lauer who brought up a wiki that is very easy to set up called instiki Lauer mentions that a teacher gave each student their own page which would function similar to how a weblog would work, where as I used it more as a bulletin board for an endangered animal project my students were working on and they used the wiki to post questions and assist each other in finding sources and pictures for their reports. I know I’ll be doing literarture circles this year and Anne Davis also has a good starting page to explore ideas on using a weblog to do so.

Technorati Tags: , ,

iTunes 4.9 and Chapters

I’ve been reading a few blogs with people either frustrated or disparaging over the idea of Apple being in control of the podcast content. Several podcasters/bloggers I enjoy following like Bud Hunt are concerned about content being taken out of the hands of "the people." He along with several others have been unable to get their content listed. I suppose it begs the question as to whether this is a further instance of the gate keepers taking back control of another new content medium. Growing up in the 70’s and feeling a keen affinity for punk rock as a bored teenager in the suburbs, I remember when the record companies mediated the intensity of the music and it became new wave, and then stores such as Macy’s started selling gaudily painted ripped t-shirts and jeans held together with safety pins and I felt like the battle had been lost, another radical avant-guard set of ideas made digestible for the larger society. Granted I’m a teacher so I’m supposed to be one of the models for a set of values which is in line with the greater part of our culture, but I’ve never limited my breadth and scope when it comes to learning and ideas, and in this instance or any time in the future the conversation has begin and will be sustained. With RSS 2.0 with enclosures I know how to find the content I’m interested in and I’m not concerned. As long as I can subscribe to whatever content I want without using the Apple podcast directory I’ll be happy.  So maybe Darcy Norman and web sites such as David Warlick’s Educational Podcast Network and people like them still need to oversee how educators get our content (after David Weinberg’s keynote address at the NECC can we depend on the major media/corporate entities out there). I don’t know if I’m being overly simple in describing about how to subscribe in iTunes but teaching a room full of ELD kids has made me always assume that they aren’t following my words but just the visuals I write on the white board, so anyway, here goes.

My working methodology to subscribe to podcasts in iTunes 4.9 is to:

First, open the advanced menu and choose "Subscribe to Podcast…


Second I paste the copied feed into the windowpasting.png

The feed will show up under podcasts and clicking on the arrow will show the most recent podcast, but allows the user to download previous ones.

What I think is the coolest feature is the ability to add chapters which display graphics and links. I haven’t even finished my first podcast so I’m still working on the basics, but for many of you who have the knowledge and are up for the challenge (I still don’t do much in the Terminal window) here are two links I followed one’s a how to wiki and the other one is more background information and both have a link to download the actual Apple tool if your interested.

What are the implications for education in all this? To me always looking forwards and back drawing analogies between the tools I’m familiar with to understand the new, thinking along the lines of the Art Guy’s (sorry I couldn’t find his name)1.5 solution  would have me start at a filmstrip with sound. Continuing forward I can see where someone could take their powerpoint slides and add commentary similar to what the NECC webcasts looked like when the camera stayed on the projected image rather than look at the presenter. Perhaps with a real time feed a presenter could with wifi in the room stream the images and links directly through to the audience, but for student learning I wonder how a webquest would look like if done in this manner. The student could pause at key points, and follow the links at their own pace. Oh the possibilities!

Technorati Tags: , ,

I love David Warlick!

Having finally posted something and started a blog I was reflecting and back tracking to how I got to this point. You see even though I work in the Cupertino school district and had (we moved) the Apple corporate headquarter’s parking lot adjacent to my school we are so underfunded that at least at the elementary school level we currently have no one (the last person just resigned) at the D.O. for technology in instruction. I’ll leave it at that to get back to my story. I’ve been on Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators – S.O.S.- Sites of the School Days list for some time and found many of her links useful and good starting points for further exploration. In March she started talking about Bloglines and stepped the user through the process to sign up and then the following week the information was about Blog Meister. Besides the innumerable reasons for why technology has been hard for me to use (ELD 4th and 5th grade) and teach content with, our district is very strict about posting student pictures or other personal information. It was the perfect tool for what I needed. And now I’ve grown accustomed to his lilting southern voice for podcasts, and his Buckminster Fuller like enthusiasm and vision to what education and technology can become (does he ever run out of ideas). P.S. I love you Kathy Schrock too!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Inspiration from so many Sources

Due to a concurrence of many experiences happening together I’ve started this blog. First I was reading about Eudora Welty and the garden that she used for so much of her inspiration and I finally had a concrete metaphor that I could hang my hat on to begin this education focussed blog. My thinking has been quite shifted since I have started my class blogging and begun using Bloglines and to interact with others finding information. I really thought that the problem with the internet was the lack of some grand structure as envisioned in say the Xanadu project.  But with the change to more of a social conversation such as what David Weinberger is talking about and combined with the inspirational happenings at the NECC conference which I experienced virtually through the webcasts here I am posting something at last myself.

Technorati Tags: ,