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Archive for January, 2012

My dream classroom would include the following:

  • Class set of laptops (preferably Mac Book Pro’s)
  • Class set of iPod Touches complete with a charging station
  • A Smart Board (even if they aren’t quite as nifty as they seem)
  • Document Camera
  • Clickers (probably SMART since I have the board)
  • Surround sound speaker system (Bose would be nice!)

I guess I will stop there. I am not even going to delve into the different software and apps that I want downloaded on all the machines.

What are the chances of me having my dream classroom? Pretty slim. Okay, very slim, but I can dream. Really, it’s not about what I want because I’m not going to get it all, and even if I did, technology changes so quickly that keeping up is impossible.

The whole point here is not wishing for tools that I don’t have to use in the classroom. Dream a bit and then snap out of it. Being a good teacher is all about using what we already have. Take a minute and assess what you already have at your disposal. Talk to the principal. Talk to the school librarian. Talk to other teachers. I bet there is a much more in your school than you are aware of. One school I worked in had several sets of clickers that were still factory sealed because no one used them. I don’t even know if anyone knew they existed.

Make a list of what you can use and get after it. There’s plenty to keep you busy.

 

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Here is the dilemma: the students in your class work for a week creating a video, and as luck would have it, one or two students miss the entire week due to illness. Not only do these student miss out on all of the collaboration that takes place in the project, they also do not have the opportunity to film the video and put it all together. There is a lot of learning lost here. This can be a headache for both the student and the teacher, but it doesn’t have to be.

Have the student(s) do an alternative project for make up work. Obviously, having them make a video on their own is most likely not going to work. For starters, a one person video project is hard to film and act in at the same time. Here several alternatives that will allow the student a good learning experience as well as allow them to produce a quality product to show off in the end:

GoAnimate: This is a great way to make an animated video. Learning to use the app is quite easy, and the end product is always amazing.

Xtranormal: Another excellent means of making an animated video. Users type in scripts, choose actions for characters, and hit play. This one is a little more technical than GoAnimate, but really allows scripts to come to life.

A substitute for a video project doesn’t necessarily need to be a video. Have student use their script to make a comic instead using one of the following apps:

Pixton: This app is user friendly and allows student to make a visual representation of their scripts.

ToonDoo: This is another great app. I had a few students make comics with this too this week and was impressed with the results.

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A few hours ago, I was sitting in class and decided to research water horses (I just recently finished the Scorpio Races). Of course, my number one place to find quick information is Wikipedia, but today there was not any information available for me to gain. In protest of the SOPA Bill working it’s way through government, Wikipedia has been blacked out for 24 hours.

I don’t want to get into the “right” or “wrong” or “too late” discussion here. There is certainly enough of that going around on the web. What I thought was interesting today was that when I told my class Wikipedia was down, several of my students told me that they already knew that the site wasn’t working. This was a big surprise to me. Understand here, these students were not the scholarly type that spend their days surfing Wikipedia trying to learn something new, so I was quite surprised that they had already tried to use Wikipedia for something today.

I have been thinking about this all afternoon, and I don’t think the students knew why it was down, only that it wasn’t working. Students need to know about these two bills regardless of whether or not the bills pass, but students need to know what they stand for.

I am not one to throw my political views on students. I try really hard not to do that, and that is not my intention here. However, it is important that students  know what is going on in the world, especially when these happenings may have a direct impact on them and their future. If anything has an impact on how students use the web, both as a tool and as form of recreation, these bills do.

So here is my question for students tomorrow: What do you know about SOPA and PIPA? The question should provide for some pretty interesting discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

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I know a lot of teachers who want to use technology in their own classroom. Many of them know that it will benefit the students. They are sure that the students will have fun and learn at the same time. They even know that this is the future of education, but that is as far as it goes: thoughts.

The problem in getting teachers to use technology within the school does not lie in a lack of knowledge that this is the way students need to learn. The problem is that many teachers are afraid to take the leap. Sure, there are a myriad of excuses: We don’t have the money. Everything is blocked. I don’t know how to do it. I have to teach to the standards.

There is only one way to start using technology in the classroom, and that is to start using it. I know that some schools have limited resources, but there is technology around, even if it is just an old computer and nothing more than a whiteboard. The key is to use the resources that are available to the fullest extent.

So, if you have been thinking about it, now is the time. Stop thinking and plan to use technology today. Once you do, neither you nor your students will ever look back.

 

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One of the challenges in doing video projects with students is having enough cameras for every group. Often, there is one or two cameras for an entire class meaning there are a bunch of students standing around waiting to use the camera which is frustrating for both the students and the teacher.

If students are allowed to use the technology they already own, the sharing of school cameras will not be a problem. This week, two of my classes are making videos to demonstrate satire. I have 9 groups filming and not a single one of these groups is using a school camera. The majority of them are using either an iPod or an iPhone to do their recording.

I’ll admit, I was a little bit skeptical at first. I expected a bunch of shaky film work with barely audible soundtracks, but the result of the videos was outstanding. The pictures were clear and crisp and surprisingly stable, at least as stable as most student made videos even when they are using a tripod. On top of this, the audio was loud and clear, even better than a few of the actual video cameras that we used.

Teachers and administrators often look at the technology that students bring to school as a distraction, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it can be.¬† However, not using the technology that students have at their disposal is asinine! The students have it. They have paid (or their parents have paid) a lot of money for it. Why not show them how to use it productively? Why not put it to good use? I do know this from personal experience: when students get the opportunity to use their own technology as a tool for learning, they become totally engaged in whatever they are being taught. Actually, when this happens, they take great ownership in their own education.

First, teachers need to be educated in how to use the technology that students use. Those iPods in the student pockets are not just a fancy Walkman (I bet you haven’t thought about one of these for a while!). They are tech powerhouses, almost as powerful as the desktop computer or laptop you are reading this on right now. Though this video is a few years old now, it gives a great overview of what can be done with an iPod in the classroom:

 

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This is a good question. Both projects have their advantages and disadvantages. However, after some serious thought and discussion, I think that teachers should incorporate both into the classroom.

Last night’s #edchat discussion on Twitter was on this topic, and it made me think. Recently, I have done several tech projects with students, and on almost all occasions, I have had students approach me and ask if they could do the project another way that did not involve the computer.

This seems to go against the grain of what we think students want. We see them as connected 24/7 and unless teachers are using technology, the students won’ t be involved.

Interestingly, the #edchat discussion last night didn’t really focus on what kind of project was more successful. Rather, the consensus was that students needed numerous opportunities to be creative no matter the form of the project.

Don’t get hung up on what kind of projects you plan. Do a little of both. Just make sure that students have a wide berth for creativity when they are working. Personally, I am finding that a mix of tech and hands on “artsy” type projects gives students even more chances to develop their minds.

In the end, that is the whole point of education.

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Don’t even ask

Last Friday, I wanted to show a video in class. I had found a link the day before and thought I was good to go. However, on Friday when I pushed play, an error came up on the link, and the video wouldn’t play. The whole class was sitting there looking at me. I had talked up the video too much not to show it, so I told them to hang tight for minute and frantically searched for a new link to the video. Five or six minutes later, we finally watched the clip on a different site.

When we were finished, I book marked the site because I wanted to show in on Monday to another class. Today, knowing that I had everything under control, I clicked on the link and once again, an error showed up on the screen, same error, different site. It was a mirror image of last Friday. I frantically looked for another link and after several minutes of looking, I finally found one that would work.

Why did this happen? I have no idea. A part of me wanted to mess with it until I could figure out what was going on, but that would have been a waste of time. I showed the video, and now the class is moving on.

Sometimes it is better not to worry about the problem when things are working. Maybe this shows my lack of knowledge, but I don’t understand half of the things that my computer does. For the moment, I am not going to ask.

 

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