Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: August 2011

First Week…

It is Tuesday. It is only the second week in school. I can’t believe all that has happened and all that we have done already.
On the second day of school, we were hit by an earthquake. The epicenter was a mere 15 miles away from Goochland High School, but we were all unharmed and the building was not damaged.
The very next morning, Senator Mark Warner came to Goochland to address our high school students. With all the excitement the day before, I had completely forgotten he would be there until I saw the email asking teachers to escort the students to the auditorium. Luckily, I had my camera with me and took a few pictures for the GCPS website. I thought he did a really good job of engaging the students, talking about education, jobs, and learning from failure.
Next came Hurricane Irene to blow down our trees and power lines. We had, and still have, lots of teachers and students without power, but again our buildings were spared. Schools opened as usual on Monday morning, and despite some grumblings, I think it was the right choice. If students don’t have power at home, but there is power at school, does it make sense to leave them at home? As a senior said to me in the hallway, he was glad to be in school. He could charge his phone. Hopefully he was also there to learn. 🙂
In between all the disruptions, we’ve managed to get everything else that happens at the beginning of the school year taken care of. All new students have accounts everywhere they are needed. All teachers have their equipment in their classrooms and all of it works. We’ve started working on our staff development schedule for the year, and we’ve planted the seeds of projects that, hopefully, will allow the students to shine throughout the year.

It is Tuesday. It is only the second week in school. I can’t believe all that has happened and all that we have done already.

On the second day of school, we were hit by an earthquake. The epicenter was a mere 15 miles away from Goochland High School, but we were all unharmed and the building was not damaged.

The very next morning, Senator Mark Warner came to Goochland to address our high school students (see more on Senator Warner’s website). With all the excitement the day before, I had completely forgotten he would be there until I saw the email asking teachers to escort the students to the auditorum.

MarkWarner 2Luckily, I had my camera with me and took a few pictures for the GCPS website. I thought he did a really good job of engaging the students, talking about education, jobs, and learning from failure.

Next came Hurricane Irene to blow down our trees and power lines. We had, and still have, lots of teachers and students without power, but again our buildings were spared. Schools opened as usual on Monday morning, and despite some grumblings, I think it was the right choice. If students don’t have power at home, but there is power at school, does it make sense to leave them at home? As a senior said to me in the hallway, he was glad to be in school. He could charge his phone. Hopefully he was also there to learn. 🙂

In between all the disruptions, we’ve managed to get everything else that happens at the beginning of the school year taken care of. All new students have accounts everywhere they are needed. All teachers have their equipment in their classrooms and all of it works. We’ve started working on our staff development schedule for the year, and we’ve planted the seeds of projects that, hopefully, will allow the students to shine throughout the year.

Teaching Search

I ran across this piece in The Atlantic about how few people know how to use the “find on page” shortcut. On a Mac, the key combination is command+F. It is an amazing timesaver.

The article also mentions Dan Russell, a search expert at Google. I was lucky enough to have dinner with Dr. Russell at the Google Teacher Academy in DC back in 2009. I ran into him again at ISTE in Denver, and he interviewed me on camera. He said he was using the video to share with others at Google my idea of teaching search as a game. You know, like a modern version of the Draw Swords! dictionary game.

I blogged in the spring about A-Google-A-Day, and since discovering that little treasure, I’ve wondered if my conversation with Dr. Russell had anything to do with it. I hope so. It is a blast. And it makes me think I have good ideas every once in a while.

But, going back to The Atlantic, there is something else that caught my eye.

It makes me think that we need a new type of class in schools across the land immediately. Electronic literacy. Just like we learn to skim tables of content or look through an index or just skim chapter titles to find what we’re looking for, we need to teach people about this CTRL+F thing.

Do we take the time to show students these tricks in Goochland? I hope so.

If you want to have some more search fun, take a look at Dr. Russell’s blog, SearchReSearch. Lots of ideas that could be use as a warmup in any secondary class where kids start the block sitting in front of a computer.

Student Products With a Purpose

Continuing with the week’s theme of experiential, contextual learning, here is a project idea I really love. Mrs. Long, our ceramics teacher, will be working with her students to raise awareness about hunger in our community. Her students will participate in the Empty Bowls Project to raise money, but also to learn about who is hungry in Goochland, why they are hungry, and what can be done to help in the long run. The bowls students make each year to take home and gather dust will this year have a purpose. Great idea, Mrs. Long!

Bowls from Mrs. Long's studio

To find out more about Mrs. Long and her ceramics classes, visit her blog.

UnSchooling and Creativity

This week the Washington Post published a column in which Dale Stephens makes the case against going to college. He claims students don’t learn any more in college than they would if they learned on their own. He cites some pretty interesting statistics about kindergarteners and people who apply to Harvard. I highly recommend reading it.

In their 1998 book “Breakpoint and Beyond,” George Land and Beth Jarman refer to a study in which 1,500 kindergartners between 3 and 5 years old were given a divergent thinking test. Divergent thinking tests don’t measure creativity, but rather one’s propensity for creativity. The test asks questions such as “How many ways could you use this paperclip?” or “How many ways could you improve this toy fire truck?” — questions designed to encourage creative thought rather than elicit right-or-wrong answers. Ninety-eight percent of kindergartners tested at the genius level. After five years of formal education, only 50 percent of children tested at the genius level. This study shows the deleterious effects school can have on a child’s creativity and desire to learn.

Whether we agree with every point Stephens makes, we should recognize that we MUST make learning experiential and open ended. He gives examples of how companies hire now. Corporate recruiters place much more weight on experience and samples of work than transcripts and resumes.

I can hear so many colleagues saying it right now… Don’t we need to make sure kids have the fundamentals straight before we let them create stuff? Maybe. But maybe it is better to let them explore the fundamentals rather than having them memorize facts and formulas, prove that they can pick one answer out of four, and then carry out a thoroughly predictable experiment out of the textbook.

Of course, this all goes back to our G21 initiative. Let kids explore. Let your projects be open-ended and creative. Let me know if I can help…

Who Loves Technology?

This week John Hendron has shared several videos about students, schools, and technology. In one of the videos, the speaker said that, in a study of a number of sectors of the economy, K-12 education ranked LAST in terms of technology use.

Take a look at this infographic. How do teachers compare to students? I wish there was a comparable infographic about teachers. Maybe this is a good G21 project.

Students Love Technology Via: OnlineEducation.net

Tech Goodies

Now that all teachers are back, it is time to get down to business. Here is some information to help you get your hands on some of the resources we have. Keep an eye out for announcements. There is more in the works.

1. Carts

Cart checkout starts the second week of school. If you need laptop carts, send me an email request including the dates you need laptops, and how many carts you need. There are fifteen laptops in each cart, so most of you will need two carts. This year we have two more carts than we had last year. That is great. However, those two new carts do not have a printer. If you must absolutely print, please let me know at the time you make the reservations. Please remember we do have several alternate ways for students to turn in work to you that do not include printing. Please consider the effects on the budget and the environment when printing, and ask me about the Digital Dropbox, Google Docs, and Moodle.

Keep track of your reservations and find out what carts are available by looking at the calendar on the Technology Page.

2. Promethean Cords

I will try to be in my office as much as possible this week so all of you can pick up your Promethean cords. If you see me, stop by. If you decide to walk from across the building, iChat first so I know to wait for you and you don’t waste your trip down the stairs or down the hall.

3. Promethean Votes and Slates

Please use this Google form to request votes and slates. I will deliver votes and slates as requests come in and time allows. We do not have enough votes and slates for everyone, so I will assign equipment on a first-come-first-served basis.

4. Document cameras

We have document cameras at the LMC. You may check them out from Ms. D or Ms. Cooley when they are open for business. I keep an extra one in my office, a sample with, ummm, interesting software, but it works if you absolutely need to have one for a while in your room.

Anything Else?

If you left equipment with me at the beginning of the summer, I have it…somewhere…. I will get it to you when I am done unpacking and restoring order.

Remember you can iChat, email, or drop by my office any time.

Welcome!

Today is day two of New Teacher Academy. In the tech segment of our day, we are learning about online communications in Goochland County: Google Apps, blogs, mail, iChat, and more.

Go to the bottom of the Weblog page and take a look at what our new teachers have to say about themselves.

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