Thursday, June 30, 2016

The New Google Sites

At last, Google Sites has finally updated! In actuality, it is more accurate to say that Google has invented something completely different and has given it the same name. It isn't an update at all. It is something brand new. Old Google Sites and the new Google Sites are nothing alike. There are some things that I like about the old Google Sites that can't be duplicated on the new version. The was an "announcements" setting in the old Sites which let me use Sites as a blog. There were also some layout options that I miss.

In terms of ease of use, there is simply no comparison. The old Sites used code from 2006. It was cumbersome and not particularly intuitive to follow. The new Sites couldn't be easier to use.

In regards to appearance, the difference is just as stark. The new is infinitely better than the old. Here is a recent but "old" Site of mine I built to house resources for a presentation I gave at Core Connections to Instruction & Technology Conference.  Here is a "new" Site I am currently working on for a class I will teach in the Fall.

Right now, the new Sites is not totally ready for mass use. I'm accessing it through my school's GAFE account. I'm told that one might not actually see the new site if outside of my school's domain, so only my in-house readers will see if I understand this correctly.  Here's some new Google Sites propaganda.

One question I haven't found an answer to is, will there be a way to migrate old sites into the new format? I've used Sites for student portfolios and would like for my students to eventually use this new and better tool without having to start from scratch. I'd like to think there might be a way.... because Google is amazing, but this is a totally different product.

And of course, when will this be workable on an iPad, the tool my school chose for our 1 to 1 program? 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Twitter in the Classroom

I tried leveraging twitter in my HS history class this year. It worked okay. Kids didn't particularly like it. They thought I was forcing it. I see more uses for it in the course I am designing for next year.

In looking for cool twitter uses and users, I came across this twitter feed from a school in Maine. It is quite fantastic and is a great model for any classroom.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Optimizing Chances for Success

Differing views exist in the ed-tech/ ed. leadership world on how to foster "buy-in" in teachers. Some suggest a better approach is a bottom-up approach, letting change percolate from within.  Others suggest a top-down style.

I confess to not knowing a best way. Surely my school has adopted the percolate model. If I take a loooonnnngggg range view, I can affirm that there clearly has been growth. However, there is no upward curve. One would suppose that a "tipping point" would occur and then everyone would adopt tech. If anything, the opposite has happened. There are small flurries of success but the larger community doesn't change. 

Surely the LA iPad fiasco points to the perils of a top=down model gone awry. But the drip, drip, drip approach of teacher-led revolution seems unlikely as well. 

Next year, my school's leadership will push technology in a more aggressive way. I've been told that each teacher will be required to meet with me at least monthly. I think I like this.  Though I can point to real successes in my first year as Ed Tech Coordinator, I felt underutilized. I'm interested to see what next year's changes bring.  Will they change the curve?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jerome Bruner

Jerome Bruner died on Thursday. My edu-geek is showing when I say I was saddened to hear this news. He was truly a giant in our field. NYT article on his passing.

I started teaching before I knew anything about teaching. I came to teaching from a liberal arts college where I received a rich education. I promptly tried to give that same education to middle schoolers. I forgive myself for that stupidity. It was 25 years ago. Despite my absurd practices, I decided I loved teaching and decided not to go to law school. Instead, in my third year teaching, I started my Master's degree.

Too often we hear teachers out of education programs wish they had less theory and more practical advice. I think new teachers are so busy surviving that theory goes out the window. When I started grad school, I had already survived my first three years. I was able to see how theory was helpful to practice. I learned pedagogy. An aside, we really need to rethink how we train teachers. We need something akin to a residency program, as doctors have. It would help us so much.) When I got to grad school, Skinner and Jerome Bruner were set up in contrast to each other.

I am bemused now by the young teacher that I was. I was totally a behaviorist. I didn't know/ hadn't known who Skinner was, but my model of education was based on rewards and rote learning and hard tests. In fact, I took pride in how challenging my tests were. Indeed, I even named my tests! That's right. I had a series of tests called, "Homicide", "Homicide II", "Suicide." I thought I was funny. Now I cringe.
Jerome Bruner

Reading Bruner showed me that I totally misunderstood how children learned. He showed me a cognitive theory of learning where learners "construct" meaning and understanding through a dynamic interaction with the texts, the instruction, and the environment. I've never been the same. I changed more between my third and fourth years of teaching than I changed in the rest of my career. I stopped giving grades altogether, I rarely gave tests, I tried to embrace a constructivist theory.

That's a long time ago now. But more than 20 years later, I think of constructivism often. I talk about schema theory far more than a normal person should. Ask my wife, when we go for walks I start talking about this stuff. I admit that I haven't really thought about Bruner himself- for a long time- if I ever did; I guess I thought he was already dead. Still, as I plan in-service training for teachers next week, his thinking will be guiding my thoughts probably more than anyone else I've read all these years later. How many other in-service programs this week will have Bruner's thoughts shaping the conversation? If the instructors are worth their salt, then almost all of them.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Speaking at Core Connections in Berks County PA USA on Tuesday.

I built the google site linked to above. I've never before built a webpage to use as my "text" for a presentation. But I like it even though google sites is just so clunky looking.

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