Friday, June 29, 2012

ISTE 2012 Recap & Personal Goal Reflection

I'm second from the right- looking all grown-up :)
I attended the ISTE 2012 convention in San Diego, California this week. I really don't know where to start with a recap, so instead I'm going to list a few of my favorite parts:

  • Meeting the other Emerging Leaders and learning about the cool things they were doing in education. I was really honored to be a part of that group!
  • Exploring the exhibit floor and learning more about the vast array of digital tools available to help enhance learning. I still have to do some more research on comprehensive science curriculum offered digitally, but I at least found a place to start.
  • Taking a tour of Petco Park (no, this wasn't related to ISTE, but it was still awesome). Miller Park just won a "Battle of the Ballparks" competition and even though I'm loyal to my hometown (seriously, I wore a Brewers' shirt to the Padres' game), PETCO park probably should have won.
  • Exploring the break-out sessions, poster displays, and social gatherings. The best part of ISTE was meeting other people and having those conversations about where education was going. It wasn't all about the technology- it was about improving education and using technology to help us get there.

While I was at the conference, I was asked, "What are your goals?". I have thought a lot about this over the past year, but it really took me until a few days after I got home to clarify my thoughts. 

I want to be a catalyst for change.
When I think back to when I was a kid, I always remember the career paper I wrote in sixth grade. My parents had just pulled all five of their kids out of public education and put us in a private school. This, coupled with my insistence on reading The Fountainhead as an 11-year old, instilled a serious sense of cynism within me [the protagonist of The Fountainhead, Howard Roark, refuses to compromise his creativity and personal vision for a formal education].

Friday, June 15, 2012

Let's Get Back to the Point! English Ed. Graduate Workshop- Day Two

Day two of the graduate workshop was reserved for presentations by the workshop attendees. Here is a basic rundown of what was presented:

1. Pulling Together: Building Community to Support Learning and Learners  by Kelly and Carolyn
  • We started by talking about how stereotypes of Native American students are perpetrated in schools by mascots and a lack of education about Native American culture.
  • The two presenters suggested a few activities: have students spent time getting to know each other through ice-breaking activities, create presentations about family and cultural traditions, and spend time talking about all the issues. One neat activity was to have all students fill out a worksheet written in another language (the one I had to fill out was in French) and then talk about how frustrating it was to understand the task but not be able to complete it.
  • Some different articles we were given to read:
    • "NCAA Takes Aim at Indian Mascots"
      • "We believe hostile or abusive nicknames are troubling to us and it can't continue," committee chairman Walter Harrison said. "We're trying to send a message, very strongly, saying that these mascots are not appropriate for NCAA championships."
    • "Sorry For Not Being a Stereotype" by Rita Pyrillis
      • "When you say you're Indian, you better look the part or be prepared to defend yourself. Those are fighting words. When my husband tells people he's German, do they expect him to wear lederhosen and a Tyrolean hat?"
  • We then discussed the issue of stereotypes in school mascots- and how educational institutions have a responsibility to educate students and not use their influence to perpetuate misrespesentations or stereotypes of any culture or people
  • Act 31 requires teachers to teach lessons about the history and culture of Native Americans. 
  • Some additional resources:
    • "After the Storm"- a documentary about the racial tension that occurred after a legal battle about spear-fishing rights by the Ojibwe tribe.
    • "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"- a young adult book about a Native American teenager (also a budding cartoonist) who leaves his reservation school to go to all-white school.
    • "Smoke Signals"- a comedy written by Sherman Alexie and starring an almost all Native American cast. I saw this in high school in my English class- it is an awesome movie!
  • Kelly actually founded the Indian Resource Center of Marathon County to help meet these issues (see video below). She suggested contacting the organization for resources, information, or for school presentations. They are currently redoing their website, but you can visit their Facebook page here!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Let's Get Back to the Point! English Ed. Graduate Workshop - Day 1

I am attending a graduate workshop (today and tomorrow) at UW-Stevens Point to discuss issues in English Education. Here are the highlights / my notes:

1. We took a look at the book The Truth About Testing by W. James Popham. The stated goal of the text was to "understand the misuses of today's high-stake tests" and to help others recognize what makes a test "instructionally illuminating". He says, "The most serious consideration in the generation and use of a high-stakes testing program is whether the tests being employed actually help or hinder the quality of the education children receive (15)." He argues that standardized achievement tests should never judge instructional quality- partly because of:
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  • The inconsistency with testing & curriculum- "If you look carefully at what the items in a standardized achievement test are actually measuring, you'll often find that half or more of what's tested wasn't even supposed to be taught in a particular district or state (43)." This is dead-on. We do a data retreat once a year and look closely at the questions on the WKCE tests... and this analysis usually goes hand-in-hand with changing parts of our curriculum. I'm interested to see how this changes with the new common core standards.
  • The misrepresentation of curricular topics- a "reliable" test has a high score spread- which means that it keeps questions with low p-values that marginalize students. "There's a tendency to remove from standardized achievement tests any item on which students perform too well (55)". In other words, if every English 9 student knows what the word "plot" means, that question won't be included because it won't categorize students. All of a sudden, the topics we focus on the most don't even matter. How is that reliable?
  • The disregard for cognitive/socioeconomic/cultural differences. "In a particular district, and especially within a specific school, the students' cognitive quality at a given grade level can vary substantially from on year to the next (51)." Additionally, Popham covers the differences in socioeconomic status- he looks specifically at different questions that reference keywords like "telescope" / "computer graphics" / "celery". Students from families who can't afford to visit museums, watch cable TV, or afford fresh fruit are at a distinct disadvantage. Finally, Popham looks specifically at what the cognitive demands of the specific questions are- he says "you'll discover that the item is fundamentally measuring the academic potentials that children were fortunate or unfortunate to have inherited from their parents: inborn word-smarts, number-smarts, and spatial-smarts. Essentially, "achievement" tests really measure aptitude based on external factors.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How Starting a Student TV Station Saved Each of Our Students 30 Hours of Instructional Time Per Year

I've been waiting to write this post. I started teaching video production in September, with the intent of broadcasting school announcements every day during lunch. It is now June- and I feel pretty comfortable saying that this class turned out to be a success. This post will go over the process I went through to create this class, what technology I used, and what roles different students held.

First, however, let's talk about why we decided to do this. Besides the obvious goals of teaching real-life skills like communication, organization, and work ethic, we realized that we were battling two inefficiencies. We had an administrative assistant who was spending approximately 250 hours per year compiling and organizing the announcements she was receiving through email, and we also had our teachers spending about 10 minutes per day reading announcements- for a total of 30 hours of lost instructional time per student per year. By putting the responsibility on the students and broadcasting the news during lunch, we were able to reduce both of those times to ZERO. The presentation below shows how that process worked (the description of that process is detailed even further below).

Now, let's start with a video that explains what RAHS News is all about:

Let's break it down. Here was the process I used to set everything up and what kinds of technology I used. The major players were: Google Apps for Education, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Zamzar, Vimeo, and Dropbox.
Our website-
Where we film the news every day
Where students watch the news
  1. Create a Google Site. Here are my instructions on how to do this. I registered the domain and embedded a form on one page (for teachers to submit announcements) and embedded a video player / widget / hubnut from Vimeo on the front page. I also added links to our Google Docs files (we also created daily presentations & a PDF version of the calendar), and embedded a calendar. We also decided to put our student newspaper online- we did this by using the "announcements" page templates and embedding "recent posts" on the front page.
  2. Decide on a video host. I chose Vimeo over YouTube for a few reasons, but primarily because the Vimeo player defaults to the highest video quality (whereas YouTube defaults to a lower quality automatically). I paid the $50 for a Vimeo Plus account- this gave me 5GB/week, unlimited HD uploads, and faster conversion times. I also liked how easy it was to create playlists  for my video widget (all I had to do was check a box after it was uploaded).
  3. Gather and organize announcements. I created a simple Google Form for teachers to fill out- this form was linked on the website. Once a teacher submitted an announcement, the entire process started. I had two TA students (my "Administrative Assistants") who were in charge of transferring those announcements every day around noon- they would log into Google Docs, check the spreadsheet, and transfer information into Google Calendar and Google Presentations. They would then print a PDF list of calendar items and re-upload into Google Docs- that PDF & the presentation would go into a shared folder that was also embedded on the website. Their last task was to convert the PDF files of the presentation into .jpg files (they used and add them to iPhoto so we could use them in the final product. The specific instructions for their job is detailed below.
  4. Film the news. My filming, editing, and anchor team consisted of a rotating group of 4-5 students. This meant that the majority of the class was free to film special features or work on other projects (like our lip dub video). The anchor team read the news by hooking a laptop up to a TV at eye-level behind the camera. They scrolled the presentation created earlier and read the news off of the TV. The person filming then gave the SD card to our lead editor, who changed the green screen into our standard background using Final Cut Pro. If the news team stayed focused, they were able to finish this entire process and export the video by the end of the hour.
  5. Decide on a file sharing system and compile video files into the final product. My lead news editor, Jeff, installed Dropbox on his computer and the second computer in my classroom. By the next morning, my last TA student ("Post-Production Editor") was able to download the news files and combine them with other video files. We used iMovie for this portion of the editing- transitions, photos, and subtitles were added and the video was exported using the Vimeo compression settings. The file was then checked for errors and was uploaded to Vimeo and added to the playlist. From there, teachers could stream the video, the local cable access channel could download the video files, and administrators could play the video for the student body during lunch hours.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 Instructions: Set up an Organization-Wide Appointment Calendar

The situation: Let's say that you need to schedule parent-teacher conferences, and you want parents to be responsible for making appointments with teachers. You want one location for parents to register (so they can see ALL of the available options for ALL teachers), and you want a pre-determined amount of openings for each time slot. You want parents to receive confirmation emails when they book a time, and you want teachers to receive notifications as well. You also want teachers to have those events automatically added to their calendars.

Presenting... and Google Calendar integration. These instructions go over:

  • What the initial set-up entails
  • What teachers and parents see during booking

Friday, June 1, 2012

We Want a Shrubbery!

One of my former students stopped by my room today (I wasn't there) and dropped off the item you see below. She made it in pottery class and thought I would like it. Um.... YES!!!! Move over, Michelangelo, because this just might be the greatest thing made out of clay ever.

Congratulations on graduating tonight, Brenda, and thank you for being so awesome!

Also, for reference....

A List of Technology Integration Workshops I've Created

This post is simply a list of eight technology integration workshops I've given or would like to give in the future. I've listed descriptions and linked resources, videos, examples, and lessons I've created.

I'm actually really excited about all of them- each workshop will be very hands-on and I think that attendees will gain a lot of useful skills from actually playing around with all the applications. I think my favorite one will be the "PBL: Intro to GAFE- Create a Lip Dub Video"- the plan is that attendees will brainstorm, plan, and create a lip dub video within two hours. I have a wee bit more organizing to do before that can happen... but how much fun will that workshop be?!? My next step will be creating individual sites or site templates for each workshop. Good thing school is almost out- I'm really good at finding new work for myself!