Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quick Update, or How Technology Initiatives Can Turn a Quick Update into a Long Update

This has certainly been the busiest start to a school year in my career (O.K., that's at least my excuse for not posting anything since September 1, which by the way, seems an eternity ago). Here is a quick update on some of the things that has been keeping me busy (other than actually planning lessons, grading assignments, attending meetings, etc...) :
  • Web 2.0 class -- I am in the middle of an outstanding graduate class on incorporating web 2.0 technology into the classroom (see my post on what I learned in class). The class is taught by Jim Gates and is offered through Harrisburg University. I spent a week this summer at Harrisburg University learning about all the free and powerful learning tools that are available online. The class is still meeting through a forum on the class Moodle. We just had a synchronous class session where we discussed the progress of our projects. It lasted over 3 hours, but it was beneficial to hear how other teachers are using these tools in the classroom. Shouldn't the time to share and reflect on what we do be more of a priority for teacher development, especially considering all the technological changes that are changing how we learn, and consequently, teach? We have one more synchronous class session, and then our final showcase is on October 25th at Harrisburg University. The project that I will be showcasing involves student blogging. Which leads me to...
  • Student blogging -- I believe every student should be exposed to blogging for various reasons. First, blogging is a more interactive and engaging way for people (not jusst students) to write and express themselves. By encorporating links, images and video into a blogpost the student not only becomes a writer, but also a creator. Second, students should get the opportunity to write and create for an authentic audience. When this happens the grade becomes less important than doing your best, because people outside the confines of the classroom are watching. The simple addition of a Clustrmaps can be a very motivating experience when you see your words and creation are viewed by people around the world. Third, educational blogging provides a safe way for students to learn the educational and real world value of technology. Students are advanced users of technology to socialize and play games. How about teaching students to responsibly use technology to communicate, collaborate and create content that solves a problem; or expresses their viewpoint to elected officials; or simply to share ideas and learn from other people that may not have been in their same network if not for blogging. Lastly, I personally have learned more in the less than one year that I have been blogging than in all of my inservices and graduate classes combined. It's not even close! To be an effective blogger you need to read other blogs. Voila! Now you are exposed to a plethora of new ideas. Poof! Now you blog about something you read. It's almost like magic. Throughout this process you have just read, reflected, written, and created something that didn't come from a $5,000 expert speaker and trainer, or a $3,000 graduate course. It was free and you became your own best teacher. Why not provide the same opportunity to students? So the question now is which blogging service should we use? Blogger? WordPress? Edublogs? ePals? The one I am currently intrigued with is 21Classes. Hopefully, I will be able to decide, communicate with the parents, and get the students blogging soon (very soon)! Which leads me to...
  • Student Technology Training Sessions -- Fortunately, Hershey Middle School is progressive in its view of technology. As evidence, two other 8th grade teachers, the Principal, the Technology Integration Specialist, and I have been planning sessions to teach all 8th grade students basic information about blogging, wikis, rss, Google Docs, VoiceThread, and ethcial use. The plan is to do this over two days and for students to apply what they learn in some form. The original days we had planned to use have been pushed back to allow staff technology training to occur prior to the student training, so that all the teachers will be able to more easily and confidently use the tools in their class after students have been trained. It is nice to see an attempt to coordinate a plan to teach these tools. Hopefully, these training sessions can be a model for other grades, and maybe even other schools. Stay tuned...I will be updating our progress and results of the training sessions.

So, as you can see I have been...Wait...Stop!!! I forgot to mention that I will be traveling with our Assistant Principal to Indianapolis to attend the Open Minds/Open Source Conference from September 25th -- 27th. Unfortunately, I will miss our Back to School Night. However, the plan is for me to present via Skype. Hopefully, there will be no glitches, but I am preparing a Flowgram just in case.

O.K., now you can see why I have been so busy lately. I'm sure things will slow down...Philly field trip in November...Project Citizen starting in not long after Project Citizen...Oh well, June will be he before I know it.

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