Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Course Selection?

It finally happened!  

This year, I have taken on a new role as Tech Lead in my school.  Basically, it means that I'm here to help work on any tech projects that roll around or help teachers with technology in school.  So far, it's been mostly Help Desk stuff that I probably have no idea how to do.  But, I dutifully figure it out and help the person.  It's a new title and new role.  No one knows what to do with it yet.

But today, it happened!  My principal swooped into my room and asked me to research a question.  This is the first time!  I'm almost giddy with excitement, but I don't really get giddy -- except when the Philadelphia Eagles are in the playoffs.  But I digress.

My mission is to discover how schools use tech tools and the web to offer up course selections and in turn how parents and students use tech tools and the web to make those selections.  

So, other than Google Forms, what is out there that we can use?  What does your school use?  Do they like it?  If you don't know (I wouldn't know if I were asked that question) would you mind asking your principal?  

Thanks for your help!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Google Apps in the Elementary School

While on Twitter recently, I bumped into some elementary teachers who are rolling out Google Apps in their elementary schools. We've hooked up and started a Google doc with our initial thoughts and questions.  I would love to have as many people join the discussion as possible.

You can find us at #ElGoogleApps or


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sometimes You Just Gotta Sing!

"You're going to play with me, Daddy?"

My daughter's bath time is a great time to get things done.  I love having an iPad because it's so mobile.  I can sit on the bathroom floor and check my email, Facebook, and Twitter, catch up on blogs, play a few rounds of Words With Friends, and even read a chapter of a book.  As a parent of a preschooler, I have come to realize that I don't get a lot of screen time; the little bugger wants to get her fingers all over my screen and keyboard.  Bath time is the perfect time to get it all done.

My daughter is three.  We adopted her from South Korea shortly before her first birthday.  Naturally, she is going to have security issues all her life due to many things she can't help.  I've been sick all summer. My summer break started with an ambulance ride to the hospital and a four-day visit.  My illness has caused me to spend most of the summer laying or sitting.  Until very recently, we have had sitters come in and take care of us when my wife works.  It's been a rough summer, which has not helped my daughter's security issues to say the least.

This morning's bath time was more of the same.  I read blogs. I played a round of WWF. I read a chapter in my book.  I put the iPad down to scrub the little one down.  "You're going to play with me, Daddy?"

How can any daddy resist that?!?

I grabbed a "microphone" and sang along with my little performer.  We sang loud.  We sang long.  We sang badly.  Most of the time we just made up songs on our own.  Sometimes we sang real songs.  Best of all, we sang together.  I am nearly certain I heard these words.  (She's in speech therapy at school; not every word comes out crystal clear.) "I love you so much. I love being with you alone."  It melted my heart!

Ironically, one of the blogs I read while she was bathing was by John T. Spencer, who specializes in making me feel bad about teaching out of a textbook or doing anything that squelches a child's creativity.  Being in his class must be a blast since he attempts to mix learning and play.  He would have loved our little concert.

What's the moral of the story?  Sometimes you just need to put the iPad down.  Sometimes you have to stop doing what's so important to you.  Sometimes you just have to pay attention to your kid (or the students in your room) and do what's important to them.

Sometimes you just gotta sing!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

YouTube in Your School?

I recently read this blog post written by a former student of mine.  He is on staff at a church in Chicago, in charge of the church’s social media program. Apparently, we watch four billion YouTube videos a month.  Let that stat sink in for a moment.  Josh takes a few moments to ponder how churches can use YouTube in creative ways to increase their online audiences.  He even used a personal example of an eyeglass store who sent him a 15 second personalized video clip to invite him to the store.  

This all leads me to ask... How can we use YouTube to increase our audience at MVCA?  If YouTube is getting bigger than Facebook, can we somehow put our content out there?

Right away I thought of two hindrances to doing this.
1. Our students (like all K-12) students are minors.  What legal issues surround putting their faces and voices on video and online?  Is there a waiver we need parents to sign?  Could that be something we put in paperwork parents need to sign when enrolling students for the year?
2. What copyright issues would we run into?  It would be tempting to post clips of our fine arts performances, but would we be breaking laws?

Let's look past those legal issues momentarily to see the benefits.  
1. One goal of educational technology is for students to user higher level thinking skills, and creating content on YouTube can help achieve that objective. If our students can create excellent promotional videos, they can learn a life lesson that can be carried well beyond graduation.2. As a private school, we rely on enrollment to maintain our budget.  We are constantly marketing ourselves.  Here is an excellent and free method to do this.  
3. Parents, grandparents, friends, and potential donors can view videos and see what's going on in our school.  This positive press show our constituency what our students are learning and doing at our school. 

Overall, I think that we can effectively utilize YouTube to promote our school and increase enrollment, funds, and good will. It is in our best interest to jump on the YouTube bandwagon.  

How do you use YouTube in your school?

Math Books?

I got a crazy idea the other day when I took my daughter to the library.  Get ready for it...

Math Book Monday!

Out of my four daily preps, two of them will be math classes: 5th grade Advanced Math and 6th grade Advanced Math.  I'm really a language arts teacher at heart.  (This is my first year in 19 years of teaching that I won't have a language arts class.) So, I thought I would bring language arts into math class.  I already mentioned that I want to bring writing to math class via Kid Blog.  Now, I want to bring reading into it too.

Have you ever read Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith?  This may be the absolutely best math book out there.

My question to you is this... What other math books are out there? I'll need about 35 more.  A simple question to my Facebook group (Education Bloggers) gave me another idea: How Much is A Million? This Amazon link gives me a few more ideas too.  

My wife is also urging me to do a longer term read aloud with A Wrinkle in Time, which sounds like a good idea.  I think I might try to tackle some L'Engle with my kids. 

So, can you help me out?  What books have you used in your math class?  Thanks!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gearing Up For Back to School

It's been quite a summer for me.  I jokingly call it the laziest summer of my life.  The weekend that school let out, I was hospitalized with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and spent the rest of the summer recovering and recouping.  Needless to say, school was the last thing on my mind for most of the summer.

In less than two weeks, I need to be at an inservice day, so it's time to start thinking about school starting.  Get ready for some random thoughts.

I have been given the title of Tech Lead this year, which means that I get a five hours a week to read about technology happenings in the world and try to implement them in our school.  My first job in this role is to lead a round table discussion about our acceptable use policy for technology.  Please feel free to read what we have and make comments on the Google doc.  

If you've been reading this blog, you know that we are an iPad school.  The iPads were used well in 5th and 6th grade, but we found that they were not quite so well received in middle school and high school.  Also, we had a number of 6th graders bringing Kindle Fires and other technology.  For this reason, we are morphing into combination of iPads and BYOD.  Here is an interesting article about how BYOD is working in other schools.  I intend to sit down and read this closely, taking copious notes, before school starts.  I think it will be a good foundation to build our program on.  Your thoughts? How does your school focus on BYOD?

My course load has changed a bit.  I will be teaching Advanced Math for 5th and 6th grades.  You know that I struggled last year to excellently integrate technology into my math curriculum.  I will be using Kid Blog as an online math journal for kids to take notes.  As we get comfortable in this setting, I expect to be able to use this in a flipped classroom model as well as having students use Educreations to put their examples on their blogs.  How do you use Kid Blog?

Question?  Does your school issue email addresses to each student?  What is the benefit of each student having a school-issued email address?  Since we are using Google Drive this year, I am pushing for each student (and teacher) to have a school-issued gmail address.  Can you give me any ammo for my discussions?

Finally, I thought briefly about having no posters on my walls this year... just QR Codes to poster links.  Then, I realized that it's probably not aesthetically pleasing.  Oh well!

Enjoy the last few weeks of freedom.  Thanks for reading and commenting!