To Change … or not to Change?

What I Know

I know that Edmodo would feel familiar to my students using other social media sites and I like what I’ve seen on it so far but:

  1. I already post all assignments on my Computer Lab Wiki and I can set up discussions on the wiki – though I don’t often use the discussion feature and when I have the students don’t seem to really use it effectively.
  2. Parents can see what’s happening in the lab on the wiki: both the assignments and completed work that gets posted for each grade.
  3. Other teachers can see what we’re doing in the lab and are welcome to use the ideas themselves.
  4. I can have students turn in assignments via Dropbox or the online grading program I use – though I to admit that I haven’t used either of these options this year.
  5. I can contact students through the online grading program and through the wiki. I haven’t done this often and do admit that students don’t always check these when I do send them a message but would they check anything?

What I Wonder

I wonder if my desire to use Edmodo (or maybe I should look into Collaborize Classroom, instead?) is more about me and jumping on a bandwagon and trying a new tool than it is about my students.

  1. Would my students be more likely to participate in discussions if they were in a more private environment rather than a public one like on our wiki?
  2. Would the parents even notice if they couldn’t see all of the assignments anymore? Would it matter to them as long as completed projects were still posted publicly?
  3. Should I use this blog or a different wiki to post lesson plan ideas for other teachers and not worry about the fact that every assignment isn’t publicly available? The bigger question for me is would I maintain something else in addition to what I am using with my students?
  4. Is the turn in process better with something like Edmodo or not? What would my students or I gain?
  5. Would students check messages in Edmodo more than they check messages I currently send?

I am thinking of piloting Edmodo or (maybe Collaborize Classroom or both?) with at least some of the grades I teach next year. I wonder …

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of something like Edmodo over a wiki?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of Edmodo over Collaborize Classroom?
  3. Would one or both of these tools fit well into a Computer Lab situation?
  4. Would it be better to use this with my older students who are already almost all on the popular social media platforms or would it be better to use it as an introduction to social networks for my tween age students?

Do you have any answers? Comments? Suggestions? I’d love to hear about your experiences with Edmodo and Collaborize Classroom if you have used these with K-8 (5 year old – 14 year old) students.

Cyberbullying – Yes or No?

Cyberbullying is a subject that I cover every year in Middle School. When asked what Cyberbullying is my students tend to talk about the sensational things they’ve read or heard – the cases where it leads to suicide or someone being charged with a crime. There always seems to be an attitude that if there aren’t threats of any kind that it’s not bullying or it’s just treated as a joke.

I felt that I needed to bring in examples that were real but not sensationalistic. I wanted my students to be engaged and to talk about the issues. Taking a cue from Stephen Davis‘ presentation on Technology and the Developing Needs of Adolescents, I decided that I need to let the students move around the room rather than having them just sit and watch a video or presentation of some kind. But, how could I accomplish this? Aha, I decided to adapt, Dan Callahan’s Things That Suck presentation!

Now as much as my Middle School students would love a lesson titled Things That Suck, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to call it that, so Cyberbullying – Yes or No? was born. I hung up big signs in the room: NO (on one side), YES (on the other side) and UNSURE (in the middle). The lesson started with a definition and video to help define Cyberbullying. Then, I had some examples which I presented one at a time to the students. After they heard the example, they moved to the appropriate area based on whether they felt the example was Cyberbullying or not. After they had moved, I had students defend their choice. This seemed to work well and made them think about why they chose what they did. Sometimes students moved as they heard explanations and, of course, there was the one student who always had to take and argue the minority position. After every second or third example, I showed a short Cyberbullying related video and then launched into another round of examples.

The entire set of examples that I had took a class and a half which I think is too long. Interest waned on the second day. I think this is best as one class and have reworked my presentation to take out some examples and one video. Some examples were better than others in sparking discussion and I feel I had too many obvious choices. So, I’ve reworked this a little too but may need to work on this more. Depending on the class and the discussions what I have now is probably still too long. Next year I intend to skip some examples or videos if needed to have this fit into one class. The students really liked the real world examples and wanted to know more about what had happened in these situations.

You can see and download my current version of the examples and links to the videos I used from Slideboom and Slideshare. If you use the online version, I’d recommend the Slideboom one because you can see the notes from the slides which include the source of the real world examples I used.

Cyberbullying – Yes or NoView more presentations or Upload your own.

It remains to be seen if this lesson will be any more effective on influencing actual behavior than previous lessons. Only time will can tell on that one but there were less comments like “Big deal. They were probably only joking.” with this lesson so I am hopeful.

Another Weekend & Another OC PD Opportunity

The weekend after edCamp OC, it was time for the OC Cue 2011 Tech Fest. I had debated throwing a few suggestions into the mix as a presenter for this one but never got around to it so I headed down to Santa Ana to take in some sessions and spend some time with friends.

occue-techfest

Session 1

After registering for the event, I headed to room 610 for Greg Dhuyvetter‘s session on PowerPoint. About two years ago I blogged about how I love PowerPoint and I’ll tell you a secret, I still do. The session was not all about never using PowerPoint (whew!) but how to use it effectively and creatively and why other options might be better than PowerPoint for some things. Greg used and suggested Prezi as an alternative to PowerPoint for presentations. I do have a Prezi account but I haven’t used it much. I think I’m much too linear to get Prezi but I really should try it again sometime. I may be biased, because as I said, I do still love PowerPoint, but I think a lot of the objections raised about PowerPoint (not just in this session) can apply to any presentation tool. The effects in Prezi can be overwhelming as can animations and transitions in PowerPoint. You can have too much text and read your text on any type of presentation tool. PowerPoint is more linear than something like Prezi but it can be made more interactive and less linear if slides are designed correctly.

I am issuing myself a challenge to create a presentation both in PowerPoint and Prezi to learn Prezi and to see what I can and can’t do in PowerPoint vs. Prezi. Why do I still love PowerPoint? Well, I have it everywhere – at school, at home, etc. I use it as school with students for much more than just creating presentations – maybe it’s time to revisit PowerPoint on this blog.

Session 2

I didn’t have to move very far because I stayed in the same room for the next session which was Technology and the Developing Needs of Adolescents presented by Stephen Davis. Stephen had the attendees contribute to a Google doc as we discussed the physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs (PIES) of Middle School students. Seeing my Middle Schoolers only twice a week for 45 minutes at a time, it can be hard to fit all of the intellectual topics in. However, after this session, I am looking at ways to fit in even more – ways to meet not just the intellectual needs of my students but ways to blend in the physical, emotional and social needs whenever possible, too.

Session 3

After a great lunch with Jen Wagner and a teacher from her school and some time spent in the Student Technology Showcase, I headed back to the same room for Jen & Sean Williams‘ session, Digital Footprints and the Impact of Online Navigation. I was interested in this session because it was a session that had been given to parents at some schools and I am in the process of trying to put together a parent education night on Social Networking and Digital Footprints. The session actually ended up with Dennis Grice stepping in to co-present with Jen since Sean ended up not being able to be there.

This session was a very casual conversation since most of the people in the room knew one another and the information provided gave me a lot of great ideas to use when I have this same type of discussion with the parents at my school. It also raised a lot of questions in my mind again on when we as educators should should start helping our students to develop a positive digital footprint. One of the slides showed some statistics which included the fact that 43% of students have shared their first names online. We have recently started allowing this at our school Is that wrong? Should we not be? When is it okay?

Session 4

Guess where I was for the final session? Yes, I stayed right in the same room and attended Jen Wagner‘s Googling Forms Effectively session. I use Google Forms a lot in my class and with various projects online but Jen reminded me about the go to a new page on an answer option in forms that I haven’t tried out yet. In the past, I’ve just added questions that had instructions about only answering this one if you said yes to a previous question. I need to try the new page option sometime to see if that works more effectively for what I need.

It was a great day with a lot of learning and time spent with some wonderful Twitter friends including @jimconn @Matt_Arguello @jenwagner @cbell619 @danielabolzman @bbarreda @dgrice @GDhuyvetter and @rushtheiceberg.

What I Learned at (ed)Camp

The first edcamp in California is history and I’m humbled to say I was one of the organizers along with fellow educators Matt Arguello, Chris Bell, Lisa Dabbs, Stephen Davis, Jayme Johnson and Sean Williams and our silent contributors Daniela Bolzmann and Scott Schang.

edcampOC Team
There is no budget for professional development at the school where I teach – the money just has to go to the kids. I don’t let that stop me though and I constantly look for opportunities for PD. So, back in September, when a call went out on Twitter for educators interested in bringing an edcamp to southern California, I added my name to the wiki. I had read blogs and followed edcamp tags on Twitter and been excited by the energy and passion that I had seen in previous edcamps and was excited to be involved.

What I Did

Things got underway and people stepped up to handle the website and the money and the graphics and organizing donations. I really didn’t feel that I was contributing much other than adding my 2¢ in group conversations or Skype calls and posting some Facebook messages. We only had one face-to-face meeting during the planning and only three of us were able to make it. During that face to face meeting, I volunteered to put together the on site sessions board and set up a Google spreadsheet for an online sessions board.

I spent some time checking out pictures from edCamp Philly and edCamp NYC and looked at both of the websites for these previous edCamps to see how they handled an online session board. I didn’t find any information on whether these worked well or didn’t work so well. I contacted Ann Oro, who was one of the edCamp NYC organizers, to ask her some logistical questions about the session board and what to expect the day of the event. I was starting to panic that maybe we had forgotten something. Ann was kind enough to Skype with me about it and set my fears to rest. Thanks Ann!

I set up our online sessions board grid in a Google spreadsheet and spent some time creating a grid on bulletin board paper using painter’s tape for the squares. I also printed out session cards that people could fill out and velcro to the board in the morning.  This seemed to work well and in fact Scott Schang, who attends a lot of BarCamps, said he’d never seen such an organized sessions board. HA! We’re teachers! I can’t take the credit for the idea. I got all of the ideas from the previous edcamps so thank you to them.

Session Board For The Day
Speaking of Scott, he set up and maintained the edCamp OC web site for us and did a great job with it. I felt that we needed something more interactive and collaborative that attendees could add to themselves on the day of the event and suggested and set up an edCamp OC wiki for this. If you were a session leader at edCamp OC, we’d still love to have you add your information to the wiki!

The morning of the event was a little crazy trying to get the board up and the session cards out to the registration table and then getting the online sessions board filled out after the sessions were established. However, after the morning rush to get it all set up and going, the day really did run itself. I had been told this would happen and it really did.

Me updating the online sessions boardPhoto by: Matt Arguello

During the day, I also set up an edCamp OC Contact Form to collect names and contact information from attendees for future conversations and collaborations. This is on the wiki and we’d still love to have anyone who attended add their information to the form so that the conversations that started can continue.

What I Learned

Conversations about learning were what the day was about and here were the highlights of my learning from the day:

  • It really is possible to organize an event like this without meeting in person until the day of the event – gotta love Google Groups & Skype.
  • People are flexible and will wait for lunch when the catering truck is late – especially if the ice cream truck is already there!
  • Using Facebook pages for connecting with kids is a great way to be where they are but not have to be their friends.
  • Dan Callahan Rocks! It was so awesome that Dan came to the first edcamp in California.
  • The best idea of the day was from the staff of The Children’s School in La Jolla – they brought their students to share in the conversations.
  • I judge a successful conference by how many times I want to be able to clone myself during the day. By that measure, we were successful since that was pretty much every session. Great conversations all day long.
  • I truly enjoy the unconference model for sessions. Learning should be about conversations and I need to remember that in my teaching as well.
  • The edCamp OC organizing team are all amazing people. It was truly an honor to work with all of you!

Created with flickr slideshow.

There’s a Million Little Thoughts Swirlin’ Round Me

I just read Jen Wagner’s Today My Kids Have Pencilogy blog post and chuckled but then quickly realized that I am the Pencilogy teacher at my school. Yes, my students still come to the lab twice a week for 30-45 minutes at a time depending on the grade level. I sat down and figured out that if my students never have a holiday and aren’t ever sick and never leave early for a game or some event at school, my Elementary students will have 35 hours of technology instruction for the year and my Middle School students will have a total of 52 1/2 hours of technology instruction for the year. So, not only am I the Pencilogy teacher, I have very limited hours to teach whatever it is I should be teaching.

I really wish that technology in my school could be described as Chris Lehmann says “.. like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.” Unfortunately, it is not. At our school, in the computer lab, we have 18 10-12 year old computers with 9GB hard drives and 256MB of memory that mostly work – slowly but they work. They don’t have the newest graphics cards and can’t run things like Google Earth and a few of them have CD drives that don’t work. There is no projector (or IWB) but we get by with a large monitor and a connection to allow projection of the screen onto a large TV – not the best resolution but it works. We do have Internet access in the lab and I’m fortunate that not much of anything is blocked. Our classrooms have, at best, 1-3 even older computers and no access to the Internet from the classrooms.

I have been struggling with what to teach during the students’ time in the computer lab and have felt guilty that we’re not integrating technology into the classroom. I have, however, come to the conclusion that I need to do the best with what I have and continue to try to find resources to make things better. To me, doing the best with what I have means that I need to teach my students the skills they will need when (not if but when) our school gets the funding to upgrade the equipment and move the technology into the classroom. So, for me this means that I will concentrate on:

  • Digital Citizenship – More and more of our lives are being spent online. Employers and colleges are looking at the digital footprints of applicants. Something posted today can come back to haunt someone years from now. Many of our students apply to local private high schools and I can see the high schools looking up a student’s online presence at some point. It is imperative that students learn what it means to be a good digital citizen and I feel that this needs to be my primary focus in the computer lab.
  • Productivity tools such as Microsoft Office – our students need these both now for required projects and reports and as they go to High School. I also intend to expose them to Google Docs and maybe Open Office (if I have disk space to install it) and presentation tools such as Prezi. I want them to understand what they are doing with these applications and not just where the button is they have to push to format a paragraph or change a font, for example. If they understand what they’re doing, it won’t matter what the tool is, they’ll be able to figure out how to create the document or spreadsheet or presentation they need.
  • Keyboarding – I still believe that keyboarding is an important skill that students need to know and that if they learn how to touch type, they will be able to type faster and more accurately. This will only help them as they move on in school and have to type more and longer reports. I can see keyboarding going the way of handwriting as we move toward touch screens and touch pads but right now my students still need this skill so I still include it.

Does this mean that I’ve given up on trying to integrate into the classroom curriculum? Not at all. Integration is a great way to teach the productivity tools and to practice keyboarding. What better way to teach search skills, how to cite sources and how to format a report or create a presentation than by using the real work that the students need to do. Joining online projects that can integrate into the classroom and the computer lab helps me with my goal of teaching digital citizenship and how to communicate responsibly online and it helps to get the teachers excited about using technology to go along with their lessons.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one still stuck in this older model – still running the pencil lab. Is there anyone else out there doing the same thing? What do you feel are the most important things you should be teaching?

Note: The title of this blog post comes from the song You’ve Got No Time by The Cowsills