Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reviving the Dead Blog

This is the first August in nearly a decade that I’m not planning things for my students this year. I still work and teach in the same district, but I’ve switched roles to become the Instructional Technology Coach for the six schools in our area.

I guess I’ve been a tech coach in my free time for several years now, so it’s nice to finally transition into this as a full-time role. It looks like I’m not the only one. This last February — at the ICE Conference in St. Charles, IL — I must have met at least a dozen other people who are becoming first time tech coaches in their district. The common thread was also that there wasn’t necessarily a common thread among districts as to how to utilize these new tech coaches, which to my mind makes this a great time to be moving into the role. Each school district has unique needs and differing levels of familiarity with technology and the frameworks needed to use it effectively. Some districts are steeped in the SAMR model, while others are just beginning to hear about this “Sammer thing” and how it can help teachers think about the way they plan and work with their students.

To that end, I need to start documenting my first year as tech coach. I’ve always attempted this in the past with this blog as a teacher, but I’ve tended to have this fall by the wayside as the year ramps up. This year I feel as though I might have more time to devote to journaling about my days and weeks as the tech coach, so we’re going to revive this blog that had been long dead.

zombie hand

Rise!

No promises…

So let’s quit pretending I’m actually going to keep this updated. As busy as work(s) and life seem to get, I need to just blog when I can and not feel guilty when I look at this site and realize I haven’t been here in a year and a half.

Home page for 3D GameLab

I’ve started with the 3D GameLab Spring Teacher Camp hosted through Boise State, and I want to use this blog to post some of my reflections and share some of the great tools I’m learning about. I’m getting really excited about trying to blend the use of games into my curriculum, and 3DGL seems to have a lot of what I’ve been looking for in terms of its layout, structure, etc.

So stay tuned for more news from Teacher Camp!

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On your mark… get set…

Here it is… year 3. New room, new teaching assignment, new grade level, new team… so I almost feel like calling this Year 1: The Sequel.

I’ve decided to changed the focus of this blog slightly. Instead of having people wade through my rants about my school district, I thought it might be more edifying to move beyond my own situation and join the discussion on technology, professional development, and shifting schools.

With some vacancies left by teachers who moved on to other districts and administrative positions, here I am in my third year as the co-chair of the Language Arts department. I’ve also taken a position on the school’s leadership team (working on our school improvement plan.) Taking all of those things into consideration, I’ve taken on quite a bit this year and I feel a renewed sense of interest in helping my school develop effective and worthwhile PD. After attending the NSDC conference in Orlando this summer I brought back some ideas for our staff, and the LA department in particular, to adopt.

For the first time many teachers are being asked to track what they’re doing in the classroom using actual data. We’re attempting to collect data on student learning through common assessments, action research, and regular pre- and post-assessments. While this can be done in a useful way, I’m afraid many of our teachers see it as busywork and they’re concerned about viewing students as numbers rather than human beings. To be honest, I’m so new at some of this that I don’t know what to do to allay their fears.

Many of them have been in this district for so long, they’ve seen initiatives come and go, and come back again. Many of them are disillusioned and suffering from “new initiative fatigue.” We bring in speakers who say the same things over and over, we’re doing things that were ended ten years ago because they “weren’t working…” I can understand their frustration. I suppose my goal with this blog is to engage others in conversation about motivating teachers and influencing administration to enact effective and worthwhile PD.

So… any suggestions?

Classroom blogging

After-school meetings are usually the last thing on my mind following a long day in the classroom. This last meeting, however, left me encouraged to keep on keepin’ on. Just the other day we had scheduled a “tech fair” at our school, which is probably simpler than it sounds. It was really four teachers who had attended the IL-TCE conference back in February presenting some of what they learned to the rest of the faculty. Myself and one other faculty member presented Blogs & Wikis… and received some very positive feedback.

I’ve been working with our district’s tech department to look into school-wide blogging for next year, and the response from this tech fair told me that a good deal of teachers would be willing to try blogging and are actually excited about the idea. I think the key is to get teachers to believe that blogging will, if not revolutionize, then streamline their ability to get and give feedback from students and parents. It has certainly saved a lot of extra paper in my classroom; I carry my laptop home some nights and that’s it.

With Spring Break over and the kids already talking Summer, it’s been a busy and tiring two weeks. The feedback from our teachers on this presentation, though, has me reinvigorated. I’m excited about getting this set up for next year and anxious to see how each classroom teacher will take this idea of classroom blogging and make it uniquely their own.

(I think I’ll go order David Warlick’s book now.)

Just got blog-blocked…

I’m wondering how many other teachers/students out there have the problem of their district blocking web sites at the first sign of student mis-use. Last year we were able to use some YouTube videos to complement our lessons. This year they blocked it. I helped a Special Ed. teacher find a site that allowed students to “create their own superhero,” which tied into a lesson she was doing in Language Arts. That site is blocked too. After attending the ICE conference in St. Charles, Illinois, in February I was introduced to Netvibes as a way of keeping track of blogs or podcasts that I might want to follow as a means of building a Personal Learning Community. This morning, I try to open my Netvibes page… I’ll give you three guesses. You’ll only need one.

I’m on the tech committee for our building and I’m a contributor to some of our district tech meetings, and we’ve even discussed the problem of blocking sites purely for the sake of keeping kids away. We came to the conclusion that instead of blocking everything, we should be educating the students on how to use the Internet appropriately. This is beginning to remind me of 2-3 weeks ago when China started blocking YouTube for the videos related to Tibet. There’s great information out there, but if we just block it instead of exploring it as an educational opportunity, we’re losing a great tool.

Perhaps my question should be this… are there districts that have come up with a good way of teaching their students appropriate uses of the technology? I’m finding that’s not happening here, as far as I can tell from my Language Arts classroom in this little corner of the building, and instead we’re opting for the quick fix.

This is a quick post, but I want to make sure to publish it before they start blocking my blog!

Not even on top of things…

I thought, “Sure, keep a blog. Talk about things that are going on.” Yeah, right.

I think I’ve had all of two minutes with my own thoughts since the school year began. It doesn’t take much to throw me off this year — new baby, semi-new teaching assignment, new responsibilities, etc. At least I feel a little prepared. At least this year I know what’s expected of me, I know what district tests are coming up, how to get a herd of 8th graders down to the gym for Picture Day, how to safely break up a fist fight in my classroom, etc.

This year’s students appear to be more well-behaved than last year’s group. I’m not sure if there are quite as many “actors” this year, though, which I know I will miss. Perhaps it’s just the first two weeks of school and everyone is still getting adjusted.

The one thing that has me excited for this year is the start of the school Podcast Club that I’m heading up. I think we’ve got a group of kids signed up that will make it a fun experience for the club members, listeners, and me.

Curriculum Night is tonight, so I should be spending this time getting my room and my presentation ready. Oh well… the blogging will have to wait for another day.