Friday, August 28, 2015

One More Day...

Hitting the Ground Running

So, I've hit the ground running (ahem walking?) in my new role as a tech integration specialist. It's hard, y'know. I'm struggling a little with confusion. A friend shared with me the chart below;
It seems to me that I have the skills, incentives, and resources. I'm less clear about an action plan and vision. Well, I know my vision.... but it isn't easy to articulate. Anyhow, the chart explains why complex change is difficult to manage. Take a good look at it. I find it quite convincing. Anyhow, I shared a letter with my colleagues explaining my new role. I tried to explain that technology isn't about some Skinnerian-style learning box. It can be an almost organic tool- organic in the sense that it is a natural extension of our brain. Here's what I wrote. Feel free to borrow from it if you are in a position like me, a new tech integration specialist.

I’m excited to join you in Upper School and equally excited to rejoin my friends in Middle School in my new position as Technology Integration Specialist. My job description tasks me with improving teaching and learning through the use of technology. This means I have to stay on top of the tools available to enhance the learning process and stay educated about best practices in pedagogy. I view my job as being a gentle nudge who makes you think a little bit differently about teaching and learning. I hope you let me nudge you. I write to offer my services to all of you. Some of you may be beginners at this technology stuff. Others of you may see little need for technology, learning 2.0, etc.. and feel it an imposition; still others of you are nervous and a little intimidated but also excited, and perhaps even a few of you feel quite comfortable and adept at using technology. My job is to help you at whatever stage at which you are. Don’t be shy to ask for help. I may not have an answer for you immediately, but I will work on it and come back to you with suggestions on how to implement your idea. I know it’s easy to complain about the iPad. I piloted chromebooks three years ago and for workflow it really does work better. I complained about the transition when I started with iPads two years ago in the 5th-grade pilot program. Yet, this bemoaning, this type of thinking, helped lead to the fiasco in Los Angeles in which the school district gave and then removed iPads from every student only a half year into its district wide launch. So, I encourage you to flip your thinking a little and consider what the iPads do well. They are fantastic presentation devices and a superb platforms for fostering creativity. Someday soon, we surely will get an integrated device that combines the best features of the iPad while allowing for great work flow and compatibility with Google. In the meantime, though, could you think of one unit or two that you could revise and incorporate technology? (For those just starting out, I encourage you to commit to incorporating technology into two units this year.) Does every assessment need to be a test or paper? Can you leverage the iPad and technology to make your classroom a richer place for students? I really want to be in your classrooms to help you think and plan. I’ll invite myself in (with ample notice of course). I hope you say yes to me. Monday morning, we enjoyed a session of appreciative inquiry. Many spoke of the “feel” of this place and the kind of student we produce. I feel strongly that technology if utilized properly, will let us be more ourselves; it will allow us deliver what FCS is even more effectively. Tech can help us be a better us. Forgive me for my minor rant, but sometimes technology is portrayed as cold, sterile, and bereft of the rich, meaningful and interactive “stuff” of the classroom. I’ve used iPads to make my class a more dynamic and collaborative place, furthering and deepening what already works so well in an FCS education. These devices don’t isolate kids, they bring them together. I’ll be easy to find. I’ll have a table on the 2nd floor of the library. I also have an office in the language building. If you need to find me in the morning, I will have a homeroom in room 6 of the language building. I look forward to working with you. Alex

Friday, August 7, 2015

Baiboard vs. Talkboard

The art teacher and my school and I are talking about finding an interactive whiteboard app that he can use on Pope Day. (All Schools in and around Philadelphia will be closed for a day or two in September when Pope Francis visits).  This art teacher wants to have students collaborate on a same project on the same screen from different locations. Two apps the technology director has suggested are baiboard and talkboard. Both work as advertized. It actually is quite cool to work remotely on the same activity in real time.

Baiboard is a little more complicated to use but it does more. Talkboard is simple to use, but also simpler in its functionality. I like both. As a history teacher, I see both apps useful in the classroom for map activities and group brainstorms similar to padlet (on Baiboard).

Using Word Clouds and Phoetic

Here are some cool ideas on how to use word clouds. So, I'd add to this idea a couple of things. I'm teaching a world religions unit. I think it could be powerful for kids to use phoetic, a word cloud app that builds upon a picture, to create word clouds capturing a visual image and main concepts of a religion. For instance+, here is a phonetic word cloud created by a 5th grader using the cover of Maniac Magee.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Thing Link Video

I think thinglink video has the potential to be very powerful. Most teachers have had kids watch videos in class or for HW. Using thinglink, you can embed your questions or other links of pertinent information right in the video itself. I can think of many classroom applications. In this goofy video, I added a google form, a quiz using online quiz creator, a wikipedia entry and a link to an NPR interview. It took all of 20 minutes. As a teacher, I'd feel this is time well spent.

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