Playing around with a Kodak Zi8 this weekend. Took some inspiration from Dean Shareski.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
I like many have had this brewing for awhile. It is time to get it out.
I will not be going to see the new movie Waiting for Superman. The biggest reason is that I don't need to see the movie denigrate the awesome things I see every day. I am tired. I am tired of all the teacher bashing going on in the media and in general, particularly here locally. It seems like the national bashing is just catching up to what has been going on here in Utah for about as long as I have been employed in education (20+ years). The main reason that I am so tired of it is that so much of what is said is simply untrue.
I am in a unique position where I get to see several teachers everyday. In doing so, I get to see the heroic things they do with kids everyday. To public education's critics I say quit waiting for the superhero and go look at what thousands of them are doing every single day of the school year. They are heroes. The are doing the best they can with the material they have. They don't care what condition a child comes to them in, while that child is there they are working as hard as they can to help that child learn and grow and develop.
By the way, while doing so they are learning new things themselves all of the time. New programs, new tools, new technologies, new and more and more assessments. I'll be perfectly honest, I don't know that I could do it anymore. Teachers are asked to do more and more everyday, often times with less and less resources. There is always someone that doesn't like them, a parent, an administrator, a student, a fellow teacher so there is constant criticism. If what teachers do under these conditions is not the definition of heroic, then we need to change the definition.
So are there bad teachers, of course there are. There are bad accountants, bad cops, bad quarterbacks. But it seems like teachers are often get treated globally based on a few bad apples. I am not going to debate tenure, but I do know that if a teacher is truly not able to do the job there are means to remove them from the profession. My biggest fear though is that the current witch-hunt of teachers is going to cause so many of the heroic ones to leave.
That will be the saddest part of all of this. I would implore you, don't wait for Superman, go find that heroic teacher that exists in every town and city in this state and nation and tell them thank you and ask what you can do to help.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I am in the midst of a social media barrage, primarily from Twitter. Tonight a fire rages about 15 miles from my home. Friends that live in the area have evacuated or are ready to at a moment's notice. Over 1400 homes in all have be evacuated and at this point there are reports of at least 3 homes burned. Since I started following the twitter hash #Herrimanfire around 10:00 pm, there have been at least 1,500 messages come through.
The local news covered the fire as a top story, then most when finished went on to regular programming. One station (props to Fox 13 for staying on top of and with the story until 12:30 also they have been a major part of the twitter coverage) just finished reporting for now. On the other hand, one of our local newspapers just tweeted out the top 20 volleyball teams in the state, however nothing about the fire.But the twitter stream continues at a tremendous rate.
The information from the twitter stream has apparently been very accurate and been cited by the news and vice versa. It has been fascinating to observe and participate in this experience. That it is so close to home and even closer to friends makes important to me and those around. Even more interesting is seeing messages come in from around the country from people that have lived in the area or have family in the area.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Recommendation: If you haven't heard me rant against using computers for drill and kill, good, then this review won't sound hypocritical. Those who have, hey, it is that good of an app. Mathboard is an app that allows you to work Math problems. That is the strength of this app. It allows a student to actually work through problems on the iPad.
Let's start at the beginning. When you start MathBoard you can jump right into working problems with the preset settings. You can also change those settings from the main screen. Settings include: Operator Types,Problems, Number Range, Time, and Additional Settings.
Operator Types for this app are Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Squares, Cubes, and Square Roots. So this app can be made very simple for young students and more complex for older students. You can set the number of problems offered in a quiz from 10 up to 250 (wow really). You can choose the answer style the first being Multiple Choice, meh. The other answer style is the exciting part to me, Fill in the Blank. This means that the student is presented with a problem and then they write it on the screen (chalkboard). They can then solve the problem right on the chalkboard.Once worked out they return to the main screen to input their answer. I really, really like this implementation. They can expand the work area to fill the screen. There are 5 colors of chalk available and an eraser.
Where I will ding this app is in the entering of the answer in this mode. Once a student has solved the equation, they go back to the primary screen where the problem is shown to submit their answer. Here there are two ways to enter their answer, one is to use arrows to flip through digits 0-9. This is pretty straightforward but would take some training for younger students. The second way gets a little confusing. There is a calculator icon that can pick selected to bring up a number pad. You enter the numbers you want and they appear in the answer section. This is where it can get confusing. You enter the first digit and it appears in the far right column. When you enter the next digit that first digit slides to the next position to the left. I think this could get really confusing for students, especially grade 1-4 students. I am not quite sure how this could be fixed but it bothers me a bit.
There is a problem solver that a student can invoke if they are struggling with a problem. I like this functionality as well. The student can step through the problem to see how it is solved. If a student invokes the problem solver that problem is marked incorrect.
Once the student finishes quiz their score can be saved to a history if desired. If a quiz is saved, students can retake the quiz or even just retake the ones they missed in that quiz.
Overall I think the implementation of this app is terrific. I heartily recommend it.
Classroom Use Examples / Ideas: One additional use for this app would just be as a response board in math class.
Developer Website: http://www.palasoftware.com/MathBoard.html
ITunes Link: MathBoard
Reviewer Name: Kelly Dumont
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So Apple is going to live stream their event tomorrow. To me this means one of two things. Either they really don't have much to show or share so don't care that it's streamed, or they have something so spectacular coming that they want everyone to have access to the info immediately. I am hoping for the latter, but not holding my breath.
Monday, August 30, 2010
I made a couple of discoveries about the iPad today that have increased my excitement about this device. The first is the the release of an update to Pages that allows for exporting of documents in the ePub format. This means you can take documents and make books out of them pretty easily. Not 1-2-3 easy, but pretty danged easy. I was able to create a document with pictures and even video that worked in iBooks. This is pretty powerful. It really ups the game for teachers.
The second discovery really only applies to educators in Utah, but UTIPS (Utah Test Item Pool Service) is nearly fully functional on the iPad. You can create and take assessments on the iPad. The only thing I didn't try was uploading media, which I suspect won't work, but for the rest this is pretty cool.
Here is a link to the example "book" that I created this evening. UTIPS Basics ePub
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Capturing, Creating, and Collecting Learning - Ben Wilkoff - learningischange.comThis session was about what forever means as it relates to how our students work survives in todays world. It focused on capturing the student voice, whether that be through audio, video, text, etc. These are the concepts that Ben presented. (My comments in italics)
A great question to lead off... How do you create learning that last forever? ...and what does forever mean anyway?
- Forever does not mean planning for storing things indefinitely.
- Forever does not mean password protecting all of your ideas and creations.
- Forever does not mean that your work remains unchanged over time.
- Forever does not mean you are storing it.
- Forever does not mean that everything should be preserved
Forever means more than that.It means:
- Done does not exist.
- Everyone has something to teach.
- Exit strategies are not optional.
So, how do you capture your learning? How do your students capture theirs?
This is where I think we as educators have to be extremely wise in the choice of tools. If we try to keep student work in a walled garden, we will fail. They want to be heard. If we don't provide the desired tools and the spaces there are many places online that will. But in providing those spaces there has to be an exit strategy, if not they will not choose to use our spaces.
- The Quick Soundbite - Vocaroo.com
- The Call-in Drop-Box - drop.io
- The Mixer - Myna from Aviary http://aviary.com
How do you (will you) use cell phones to capture learning?
Capturing Learning through Video and the Screen
- The Record Button
- Video Collaboration
- Open Spokes - openspokes.com
- Ask questions and record answer in video.
- If you have a webcam
- Ask and frame a question at Open Spokes.
- Open Spokes - openspokes.com
Capturing Learning though objects, Email, and Real-time creation:
- Everything posts - Posterous
- Everything syncs - Dropbox
- Everything links - CC your blog, share a folder, Collaborate in real time. Google Docs for example.
This is an important message. Students are creating,we need to help them find spaces to help them do that and also will enable them to continue to build on their thoughts and ideas. Oh yeah, and be able to get to them again 3-5 years from now.
The last button is for the preferences for which there are 4 setting you can change. The first preference is for the Quiz Mode. You can turn the quiz mode on and off. With quiz mode on, the letters for the word are scrambled. This for me is what extends the use of the program a little beyond 1st grade. Some of the words are pretty simple, but others are a little more difficult, like alligator. In the quiz mode, the user drags the letters around until the word is spelled correctly. The app corrects you with each move of a letter, which is good in some ways, but gets tedious and is not specific enough in its correction. Each time is just says Try Again.
This impacts the second preference which is Auto Go To Next. If this is turned one, when a user spells a word correctly the screen will automatically advance to the next word. The third preference is for the background music, which is basically bird and other nature noises. It can get a little irritating and distracting, but kids will like it. The final preference is for the size of the pen you trace the letters with. the default is medium and seems to be the best size for the activity.
To move back and forth through the screens you simply swipe left or right. Now, the test is how a child would react to this app, so I let my 5 year-old grandson have at it for awhile. He liked flipping through the screens and hearing the names of the animal. He flipped a few of the screens to trace letters, but that didn't hold his interest for very long. He did actually like having the quiz turned on and worked to get the words spelled. The longer ones frustrated him which I suspected they would. Next I gave it to the 3 year-old. He didn't care at all about the tracing, but he loved flipping through the screens and hearing the names of the animals and repeating them. This leads to my biggest criticism of the program. The app never gives the sound or name of the letter. It only speaks the name of the animal. It seems for an app called ABC anything you should probably here the sound and/or name of the letter. For this reason alone my wife (a kindergarten teacher) was not enthused about the app. This could be fixed in an update, but I don't know if the developer has the inclination to do so. This was previously a paid app, I don't know if the reduction to free is temporary or permanent. I will try to contact the developer to see if there are any plans for upgrades and what the pricing will be going forward. All in all I think this app might have a place in some classrooms, but with a few refinements could be much more helpful in teaching the alphabet and sounds to children. Classroom Use Examples / Ideas: I really like the variety of activities for such a simple app. For a K-2 teacher the handwriting aspect is interesting. I think this app would work pretty well in a center of 4-5 iPods/iPads in a K-2 classroom. Developer Website: http://touchnology.blogspot.com/ ITunes Link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abc-swap-flashcard/id313357256?mt=8
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I guess Apple can make me want weird things. I am not a huge fan of the trackpad on my Apple laptops, never have been. I much prefer to use a mouse. I really love the Magic Mouse, but now Apple comes out with one of these and I want one. Huh!
Sunday, April 04, 2010
Last week I was having a conversation with my administrator about how to personalize professional development for the teachers in my building. My school is very small so providing personalized learning opportunities for each staff member is reasonable. I asked how we make sure each teacher receives the kind of training they need in order to continue growing. I remarked that most of my learning takes place on my own time through my personal learning network. His response was that he does not want one teacher to be way out front while the rest are way behind. It isn't fair to the students that some of them get to do things in your class that they cannot do in their other classes."
Really? What does that even mean? I interpreted to mean that I need to apply the brakes and put my brain on ice until the other teachers catch up and that isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Why? Because I spend hours of my own time learning and growing. It is how I choose to invest a great deal of my free time. The other teachers, while not opposed to learning new things, are not passionate about it. For the most part their day begins at 7:30 and ends when they walk out the door. With the limited opportunities provided during the school year there is no way the others can catch up unless they decide to invest their own time. While they are experts in their subject matter their understanding of how to integrate technology into their classrooms is very limited. This happens to be my greatest strength.
I am left wondering what I am supposed to do. Am I supposed to not utilize my skills because my coworkers don't know how to do the same things I do? Am I expected to stagnate while I wait for them to catch up? I have offered to teach them, but there is never enough time. (This year has been crazy at my school and there really hasn't been time.)
How can a district claim to be progressive when they are asking those at the forefront to stop blazing trails? What kind of administrator tries to stand in the way of a passionate teacher who is committed to being a life-long learner? What message are we sending to both students and teachers when we basically tell people to stop learning?
Who else has experienced something similar to this? I am anxious to hear how you handle being asked to stop growing.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
App Title: Depict
Grade Level: 4-12
Purpose: B Program Functionality: A Overall Educational Value: B+ Cost: $-Free
Recommendation: I swore my first review for IEAR would not be a game. However as I looked at apps for potential review this month, I kept coming back to Depict. If you are familiar with Pictionary, then you will understand Depict. When you launch Depict you can choose to play a Quick Match or with Play with Friends (which I will get back to in a minute). In an education setting, I would avoid the Quick Match as that throws you into a game with a variety of people that you have no control over.
In Play with Friends mode, if you have no friends available the game with throw you into Solo mode. In this mode, a drawing begins to be displayed on the screen. Along with the drawing, 4 to 6 buttons with the names of what the drawing could be appear. As the drawing progresses the player selects what they think the drawing is. If they are correct they get a point. Then they are presented with another drawing and so forth. The drawings are simple and most look pretty much like what I would draw. A potential pitfall is that people can draw what they want and something inappropriate could pop up. There is a whistle icon on the screen so that if it happens you can "blow the whistle" on that drawing. If it gets flagged twice it is pulled from the server.
When you choose to play with friends, you can set up a friends list and choose from those friends. Depict uses the Open Feint system, so I would recommend that teachers set up the names and accounts for the iPods in a generic fashion. The students then can select to play just with each other and not with just anybody out there. In this mode, the person whose turn it is to draw is given the word and begins drawing. Then the others are shown the list of word choices and make their guesses. When drawing you have access to a pencil tool, an eraser, and a color pallet of about 40 colors. Points are awarded to those who guess correctly and the artist if there are correct guesses. The first correct guess receives more points than the second and so on. The artist also gets the total number of points that the guessers receive. If no one guesses correctly, then no points are awarded. There is a time limit of 30 seconds per round. A game consists of 5 rounds and you can have up to 5 players, so all 5 would get a turn to be the artist. The artist with the most points at the end wins the game.
One other thing, the puzzles use words that, when drawn would look similar. Some of them can be a little difficult. For example one time I was supposed to draw wheat. The other choices were barley, grain and grass. I couldn't decide how to draw wheat different than barley or grass. Also I think students would need to read fairly well to know the words so I would probably recommend this game for about 4th grade on up.
Classroom Use Examples / Ideas: I think this could be a great tool for teaching spatial recognition and detail in the classroom. Students would learn to use space wisely for drawing. They would also develop skill in providing detail visually. I don't know that it would improve art skills but one thing I like about it is that all of the artwork looks pretty similar, so my terrible art skills aren't on display. I also like that this game rewards every one who makes a correct answer and not just the first, although being first does get you more of a reward.
Developer Website: http://makeshiftgames.com/depict/
Reviewer Name: Kelly Dumont Reviewer Blog: http://www.theeducationalmac.com
Other: I can't wait to play this on an iPad with that larger screen. I bet the developers can't wait either.
Hey, check out our Ning (Online Community) devoted to helping teachers utilize these devices to the their fullest. Please leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or have other creative uses for this app in the classroom, etc.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
It has been a whirlwind of a year. I can’t believe it has been a year. It has gone by so fast. There has been a lot accomplished and there is still a ton more to do, but I am so grateful for the opportunity that I was given to come and work here. To build something new was not something I was planning on 18 months ago or even 15 months ago. But, here we are building.
I have to thank my directors for allowing me this opportunity and for having the courage to blaze this trail. I also have to thank my team and all of the teams in the department for the tremendous work we have all done together over the past year
. I am psyched for what lies ahead in the coming year.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
To that end, yesterday I attended Photocamp Utah 2010. I follow a few local photographers on Twitter and when I saw the announcement of the event in January I signed up immediately. A good thing because they ended up with hundreds on the waiting list. Many times over the past couple of weeks I thought about just bailing or selling my ticket to someone on the waiting list. I knew I would be way in over my head and didn't know how much I would enjoy it. I should have known better, and yes I was in way over my head. The audience was probably 99% professional photographers as were the speakers for the day.
I did learn a lot and have already forgotten much of what I learned. However,I think the reason I like to hang out around photographers is because their craft comes from their heart. Just like I believe a teacher's craft does. In fact I see a lot of corollary between photography and teaching.
Before yesterday, I had never heard of Zack Arias. He is a new hero of mine. Zack was the closing keynote for Photocamp and he was inspiring to me. Zack is a music photographer in Atlanta, GA. He failed in the photography business once, but came back and has done very well in this iteration of himself as a photographer. Besides the beautiful images in his presentation, he gave a few great words of wisdom and encouragement. I think the advice he gave is very appropriate to education and educational technology as well with just a few word substitutions. His presentation is available here. I will also embed it at the end of this post.
1) Know Your Camera - In educational terms, know your tools. He talked about being so knowledgeable about the equipment that when you are actually using it you don't have to think about it. I think this is an area in which we have not done well recently. We throw a lot of stuff into classrooms and never give teachers the opportunity or they never take the opportunity to master using it. When I talk about stuff, I am not just talking about technology, but curriculum, texts, management strategies and on and on. Teachers have to know the tools they are working with before they can use them effectively to teach.
2) Know Your Glass - In photography this means your lens, how you focus. In education I think it means pretty much the same. It is important to know which tool will achieve the desired effect in your classroom. To a photographer, that means knowing which lens is going to give the desired effect in a photo. In education right now a lot of the focus is on testing, particularly this time of year. But I am pretty sure this is not giving us the effect we want.
3) Knowing Light Gives You Options and Control - A huge part of photography is about lighting. How does that apply to education? I see it as a lot of the external forces that impact what happens in our classrooms. If a photographer tries to use only natural light achieving success in a photo can be difficult. So they bring in other light to enhance or diffuse what they are given naturally. In knowing what the deficiencies are in lighting they again can select the correct tools to make adjustments. In the classroom there are a lot of external things that impact what goes on. But the more we understand those forces we can use the tools we have to grant us more options and controls.
4) Nothing Matters More Than Trust - For someone to feel comfortable with a photographer they have to trust them. It is the same in our classrooms. Teachers have to develop trust for many different people. The must develop the trust of their administrators, their peers, their parents, but mostly their students. We have to earn the trust of our students so that they know we are there for them, collectively and individually. If we can build and maintain that trust the students will learn and succeed.
5) Fear Nothing: Gear, Locations, People - This comes back to some of the previous points about knowing and if we know, we shouldn't fear. We need to be fearless in the education of our students. We need to let them know that the should fear nothing as well. That stumbling blocks are just that, they don't need to fear them, face them, conquer them and move on.
6) Ask for Help, Grow Your Network - Those who are reading this already understand it. I see so many requests on Twitter every day from teachers and technology specialists and principals and many others. I never see those requests go unfulfilled. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Others are waiting. As you seek help and provide help for other teachers, your network will grow tremendously. Don't just grow it outside of your immediate confines though. Reach out and develop the network around you as well.
7) Know Your Craft, Know Your Clients, Serve Them Both - Sage advice for anyone who wants to make a living at photography. Critical for us in education. We need to know our students and serve them continually. We also have to know our craft, and contrary to the belief of some that craft is constantly changing. We may not want it to, but it is and if we can't or won't keep up we can't serve our clients.
I want to finish with a couple of other quotes from Zach, but I think you can see how they relate to education as well.
I don't want my clients to say I'm good at Photoshop. I want them to say, I'm a good photographer.
Photography has great rules to break!
Photography has great rules to break!
Zack also did a video about a year ago that is pretty incredible. Here it is followed by his presentation from yesterday.
Zach Arias - Transform Zack Arias - Photocamp Utah 2010 Keynote
Thursday, February 04, 2010
I'd like to see schools showcase the wonderful learning artifacts of students in the same way that school athletic departments do. –Matt Montagne
Matt tweeted this out about 11 months ago. I kind of filed it away, but have thought a lot about it. As we have started this new district, I have tried to notice this more. I have come to a conclusion. Our schools really need to promote themselves and particularly their student’s work more. I know this is not particular to our district, but needs to happen nationwide.
Nearly everyday in the newspaper now there are stories about our athletic teams. How often do other accomplishments in our schools get covered by the mainstream media. I am not looking to disparage school athletics, and the coverage they receive, but isn’t that really some of the least important work that goes on in our schools.
Now once a week or so another program or a student from a school may get some coverage in the media, (and I am not even going to start on about all of the negative press our schools and education in general receive) but there isn’t a lot of coverage about 95% of the great things that go on in schools. I am talking about old school, old media type coverage of course.
The crux of the matter and the purpose of this post is to emphasize that schools don’t need this old school, old media coverage. They can create their own coverage and promote a lot more of the great things that happen in their buildings. That was the point of Matt’s tweet. The showcasing of learning artifacts should be and is more important than showcasing what happens on the field or court. Also why in today’s landscape would we want the media to be the ones shaping the public’s view of our schools (like they currently do). Why would we not want total control over that. We have the avenues to do that now.
A couple of examples. A week or so ago, one of our schools was featured on a local news for a stranger danger type program they are running. A nice piece, but a couple of problems. Problem number 1, the name of the school was not mentioned until the piece was nearly over. Earlier in the report the referred to the school twice by the name of the city it is in. Problem number 2, we have another elementary that carries the city name. Therefore anyone not paying close attention would think that the program was being run at the other elementary. I have seen this kind of thing happen many times over the course of my career. A school gets some good push for something they are doing, but not identified well.
One of the best examples of this that I have ever seen is the PS22 Chorus. This elementary chorus has exploded into notoriety. If you haven’t heard of them, where have you been. This chorus from an inner city New York School have been invited to perform at the White House, and all over New York city. They have sung songs to the artists who originally recorded them and had them it tears. They have recorded with artists . Their videos have been viewed on YouTube over 15 million times. 15 MILLION! How have they done it. They put the great work they were doing out there for people to see. They put the videos on YouTube and celebrities and others used Twitter to get the word out about them. I think this is an incredible story.
Now I am not saying that every school needs to have this kind of push, but shouldn’t they at least let their patrons and communities have the ability to see what kinds of great things are going on in classrooms. Wouldn’t we want people moving into the community be able to see the great things the students at the school are doing, so that they choose our school.
So what should schools do. With an online presence I think schools need to be tapping in to the myriad of resources that are out there. Where are more and more people going to find out information? Wherever those places are those are places that schools need to be out promoting the great things that are going on in their learning communities.
I believe every school needs is a dynamic, growing website on which they promote the heck out of everything great that is happening there. Too often our school websites give basic information, that tells us how to get there, when the kids will be there, when they’ll eat lunch and so on. They don’t really tell us much about what goes on in the school, what the kids are doing. This should be the starting point for our school showcases. The new problem now becomes how do you drive traffic to the site so that the showcases are actually viewed.
This is where social networking comes in. Twitter is fairly simple to set up and more and more people have heard about it. So set up a Twitter account for the school and get your patrons using it. Then when you have something happening tweet it out. Tweet often about updates to your school website. How about a podcast talking about or showing great things that are happening on your campus? A YouTube channel? A Facebook fan page? The opportunities are many. What if these services are blocked in your district or school. Then start a campaign to show the value of unblocking them.
Coming back to Matt’s quote, the trophy case is an anachronism today. Who even ever sees those things anymore. We have the ability to shout from the rooftops as it were the accomplishments of all of our students. Why don’t we do it? We need to do it?