Sunday, January 18, 2015

Brainstorm First, then Do Something

On Thursday of this past week my 21st Century Communication class presented their first projects. This project took only a few days and oriented them with the features and layout of the class. After the presentations took place we began discussing the concept behind the next project, which I cleverly call the Online Ethics, Etiquette & Bullying project. (Fascinating, right?) The thing that the previous classes have all liked about this project, however, is that I lecture very minimally and allow them to come up with the online behaviors they are most concerned with altering in the next generation. This semester, however, things went a little differently...

We started by considering the contrasting uses of social media between their generation and mine. They were shocked to learn that most of their social networks didn't even exist when social media rose to popularity, and it was interesting comparing uses. Best example:

My generation began using Twitter to share information, typically including a link, to some kind of news or pop culture event/item. Also, hashtags were almost isolated to being universal, widely-used, and searchable.

Their generation uses Twitter to have conversations with one another and to post random tidbits about their daily lives. Even they agreed - who care!? Their use of hashtags is primarily to comment on the words within the tweet. A perfect example we discussed was #sorrynotsorry.

However, before we could finish our comparison chart a few students began adamantly sharing concerns for the next generation that go much further and deeper than social media, though they apply there too. The farthest we got in our discussion, which extended through Friday's class, was how parents expect morals to occur naturally and lack of importance of education and faith/religion.

Color me shocked. And thrilled!

Sadly the bell rang before we could get too far, but I can honestly say I'm beyond excited to continue this discussion on Monday. Thankfully before the bell rang I was able to leave them with one thought:

I asked, "How many of you have a serious concern for the next generation?" Every hand but one or two went up.

I asked, "What are you doing about?" This question was met with silence.

Here's hoping we can come up with an action plan ASAP.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's All in the Numbers

As I mentioned yesterday, I surveyed my freshmen for the details on how comfortable they really are with different Apple devices and how reliable their access to wifi is. I think the results are pretty interesting, and just so you know I have 69 freshmen.

Comfort with Apple devices like iPods, iPhones and iPads:
64% very comfortable               32% somewhat comfortable                4% not at all comfortable

Comfort with MacBooks or desktops:
13% very comfortable               42% somewhat comfortable               45% not at all comfortable

Reliable access to wifi
75% have it all the time            22% nearly always have access          3% have it none of the time

First of all, I think it's pretty interesting that so many of them are comfortable with Apple devices, but few are comfortable with Apple computers. I think the experience with mobile devices will give them a huge step up when learning about their new MacAirs. Additionally, I am very grateful that only two of my freshmen don't have easy access to internet at home. Yup, that's it! That will save me a lot of stress when accommodating for lack of access.

All this is just more evidence that this is a really, really great place to work with a lot of amazing things going on.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Testing the Waters

So today was the students' first day back from winter break. As a part of my easing them back into academic life process I thought we'd spend a little bit of time chatting about the pending laptops. After all, they could be here as soon as three weeks time!

I started by sharing the information with them about when things were voted on and how certain things were determined - though of course my knowledge of the details is minimal. They really tuned in to that whole thing though. It's amazing to see how much they care about this process. Then I opened the floor up to questions, not all of which I was able to answer unfortunately. I was very impressed with the quality of their questions. The students showed great concern for taking care of the devices and capability. Next, I got their feedback on how the devices will be used in the English classroom. For instance, how do they feel about digital textbooks, digital journals every day and digital note taking. The general consensus was pretty positive. The nice thing was that for almost every concern I was able to provide options. For example, every student writes in a spiral notebook for three minutes every day, and some said they would prefer to go digital with that process while others prefer to maintain their spiral. Another thing I found interesting was that a high number of students said they would definitely take more and better notes if they could type them instead. That's the answer I was hoping for, but honestly I doubted that they would say that. That's a good kind of surprise in my book though. We finished the discussion by having each student fill out a brief survey about their comfort with Macs and their home technology access. I'm eager to check them and see just how much access these kids really have when they leave these walls.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Apple Training with the 6-12 English Department

Today the entire 6-12 faculty broke into departments around the high school and had an Apple instructor per content area to share with us some resources, tips and tricks that fit specifically into what we teach. It was a great day and I'm so excited I decided to "live blog" it. It's obviously not live right now, but it's broken down throughout the day. Enjoy!

8:38 a.m.
After group introductions, including every teacher adding together their personal number of years teaching, we have reached a total of 217 years of teaching experience for 17 people. Our instructor, Cyndi Danner-Kuhn, seems very approachable and knowledgeable, and I’m eager to learn more from an Apple instructor with English as the focal point.

8:53 a.m.
Really enjoying hearing ideas from all teachers, regardless of the grade, to make assignments more technological. I didn’t expect to gather anything from the middle school level teachers, only because I assumed we did such similar things, but we don’t! I’m eager to visit with two teachers a little bit more about how they used Minecraft for an English assignment.

9:20 a.m.
Opening iBooks, here we go! Plus, Cyndi put up her personal site and it’s already obviously full of great stuff. Check it out here - I found a super great iBook of “Romeo & Juliet” that had graphics for every single line that when clicked on will bring up a modern English translation for the entire book. How fun!

10:25 a.m.
Moving to iTunes! There are Apple Learning Series books intended to be read on the iPad so we can read on the iPad and execute on the Mac. Now, someone was thinking there!
Ooo! There’s a free audiobook of “Romeo & Juliet” broken down by act and scene so kids can listen to the book while they read. Now this could be a very useful and effective way to break up the monotony of reading as a class every - single - day.

11:05 a.m.
Now Cyndi is showing us her personal website, she has a ton of amazing resources. Plus, hello Pinterest! Now she’s speaking my language.

12:38 p.m.
Okay, back from a tasty lunch from HyVee (thank you adminstration) and ready to do some more practical work. Looks like we’re prepping to make a little video reflection. Better pay attention…

1:18 p.m.
So individually or in pairs we all made videos discussing our teaching objectives and/or how mastery is demonstrated and assessed, and now Cyndi is having us share them all. Some are totally hilarious and others are more straightforward, but I’m really struck with out allowing students to record speeches ahead of time will ensure a quality improvement. Now, when they give speeches, they never rehearse. I mean, they SAY they do, but I know better. This way there are no excuses for awesome speeches. They can record, view, revise, rehearse and re-record. I know this is a can, not a will but at least it’s a can. Plus, they will probably be less nervous about public speaking when they have this much more power over the situation. I do believe we’ll be doing some more speeches in English I once the Macs are delivered.

1:41 p.m.
Exploring the differences between making Bookmarks in Chrome and a Reading List in Safari. I would say we’ll stick with Bookmarking into a folder in Chrome, that way everything is still in a group, like for a research paper, but they have all the convenience and compatibility of working in Chrome. I really do like the idea of helping kids to decide that they should keep their reference sources all in one place for easy access. Of course there will be a few sites that update too regularly to make a bookmark of, but those will be relatively far and few between.

3 p.m.
Well, we all just made a Pages document that could kind of be used to advertise a unit. It might be a notebook cover or a poster for the whiteboard during the unit. I chose to make mine over “Romeo & Juliet,” and for only 30 minutes of work time I think it turned out pretty well! Others are over Digital Citizenship & Plagiarism, the Holocaust and Anne Frank, poetry, and others.

3:12 p.m.
I just shared my “Romeo & Juliet” poster and, like I said, I’m pleased with how much I got done and the group responded pretty well to it. Now we’re all sharing one thing that we’re really excited about from today and know we’ll use. A lot of today was repeat for me after having gone through four full days of Apple Vanguard training, but it was still a very nice refresher on what I learned during those days, and it was a fun day with the middle school English teachers who we almost never get to see. A big thank you to Apple, Cyndi, and our administration for everything the entire 6-12 faculty had the opportunity to learn today. I’m incredibly blessed to work in a district that keeps what’s coming up in their sights and does their best to roll with all those punches.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Year, a New Goal

I have too long neglected my educational technology blog, but I now have the inspiration required to make it actually happen - the amazing district I work for has approved 1:1 devices for all students grades 6-12. Though the questions are many and the risks possible, I firmly believe that the benefits far and above outweigh anything negative. Plus, it's going to be an amazing learning challenge for the educators.

Obviously, the aforementioned devices will be the inspiration for my re-vamped blog. Now all I have to do it keep it up!

We'll have to wait and see.