Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: May 2010

I Still Love My Job

Three years ago today, I was offered a job here in Goochland County. I was so pleased I skipped all the way across the parking lot to my car. I knew I would work with great people who would share loads of knowledge and expertise, and that I was coming to a place where creativity and resourcefulness were valued. I know I made the right choice coming to Goochland.

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Riding the Technology Train

Goochland County Public Schools provide enormous open windows into what goes on in our classrooms and around our campuses. Our websites, maintained and updated by a team of media specialists, guidance counselors, and instructional technology personnel, strive to be up to date, informative and dynamic. Our blogging initiative, recognized nation-wide as a monumental effort and a leap forward in the use of the read/write web in the field of education, keeps parents appraised of what goes on in each individual classroom. Furthermore, teachers are taking advantage of these websites to provide instructional assistance and to champion the successful efforts of student learning.

I value working in a division that leverages the innovative use of read/write technologies online. Sprinkled among the information presented on blogs and websites throughout our school division, you can find evidence of all our other uses of technology in education. Student artifacts produced using FrameByFrame, ComicLife, Scratch, iMovie, GarageBand, and many others can be seen regularly. Mentions of Moodle and Google Apps are everywhere. These two online tools, acquired at no cost to the school division, facilitate collaboration and allow students to work at their own pace, at any time, from anywhere.

By using all of these tools we are helping students achieve towards our local, state, and national standards. But educational technology also helps students develop habits of digital citizenship and twenty-first century skills. Wikis, collaborative documents, and anytime/anywhere connections–these are the buzzwords you’re hearing in the hallways of today’s successful businesses and organizations. But what’s new today is old tomorrow. Living digitally is living within a culture of change. The train keeps moving.

Everyone can see what the technology can do for our teachers and students, but not the time and effort that goes into making the technology available. Finding, acquiring, and learning these tools takes time. Tools that don’t have a monetary cost attached to them, such as Moodle, Alice, Scratch, WordPress, and others we commonly use, have a drawback: no sales person often translates into no tech support person, or no instructional expertise. We become our own support team, our own experts. We rely on each other, online forums, and user groups to help us find solutions.

Instructional technology doesn’t just happen. Effective uses of technology in education require much more than projector bulbs and charged batteries. We could just focus on what’s already here, on what we already know how to use. But that is not possible when working with technology. We must always move forward.

If we’re not moving forward, we’re falling behind. As I reflect on this past year, I also see ways we can improve. We are also going to have to adjust. But these challenges require leadership and adaptation. Be on the lookout, around the corner… we’ve come far, and we still have great places to go!

Summer Tech

Have you signed up for any Technology classes for this summer? Take a look at our new, expanded schedule.

Enjoy our promo video, too…

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A More “Natural” Animation

After creating the animation I shared in the last post, I played around with Alice some more. I wanted the scene to look less mechanical and more natural. I changed the fishing boat to a sailboat that tilts as it moves over the waves, added a scuba diver who bobs his head and wags his feet as he sails, and randomized the bird’s height to make it look like it was really flying. Here’s the end result.

I know this would be a great tool for reinforcing math concepts. In just this little animation I had to use negative numbers, generate random numbers within a specific range, convert from fractions to decimals and back, and find distances using similar triangles. And, it was all very visual and fun.

Alice’s Wonderland

I know all teachers in Goochland know about Scratch, so this summer I hope to push things a bit farther by sharing Alice.

Alice is a system for teaching object-oriented computing using 3D graphics and natural language. Users can tell objects on the screen to roll, rotate, move forward, change colors, and any sequence or combination of bunches of different actions. Here is a little video clip to show you a bit about the interface and what can be done with Alice.

Math Fun

Over the past two weeks I’ve been working with students at GMS to help them prepare for their SOL tests. I have to say, it has been one of my most rewarding activities all year.

Usually, when I spend time with kids, each one of them is sitting with a laptop. I use the Promethean boards, mostly, for demonstrating what the kids will see and do on their own machines. With the math kids, it has been the other way around. They have been at the board demonstrating to their peers how they find answers and sharing shortcuts. It has been fun to watch them work together, using the board as a collaborative platform.

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