Sunday, January 29, 2012

CBL: "Make a Difference"

As I mentioned in Some Great New CBL ResourcesI have conducted a challenge based learning project for a few months.  Tomorrow, I will be officially launching my AP American Government Challenge:

Flickr CC by sheffpixie
Its aims are a bit paradoxical:  I want my students to engage in a rather sophisticated concept (political efficacy) through a very simple challenge.  This is certainly the most open-ended challenge I have ever presented to a class.  But each time I do this (Is this my eleventh CBL?), I seem to let go of the reigns and trust the process a little more.

In a couple of weeks I'll share my students first responses and reactions.  Wish us luck!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mercy on the Cloud

The the cornerstone of Mercy 2.0 is our transition to the iPad, the first changes involve moving to “the cloud”.
We are in the process of moving us to Google Apps for Education.   Besides being free,  Google Apps gives us the advantage of moving easily across platforms.  Don’t worry, your work will not be immediately impacted.  Even when we move to Gmail (this summer), you will be able to keep the same address.  Google provides fantastic educational tools which we will invite you to explore with your students through 2012.  Tom will be creating a Google Account for every student, teacher, and staff member.  This may create a hiccup for you that I will describe in a separate email, following on the heels of this one.
In addition, we are moving Moodle off the Mercy servers to a company called Moodlerooms.  They will host, support, back up, and update this vital vehicle for our curriculum.  We will pay for this service, but allowing them to assume the increasingly heavy technical  burden of keeping Moodle operational, we have reduced our own staffing through retirement. (not quite sure how to rewrite this since I don't know exactly what you were trying to highlight?)
We thought you would also be interested in how exceptionally well Moodlerooms has integrated Google Apps into Moodle:
  • Automatic creation of users in Google Apps (Google Docs™, Google Calendar™, and Gmail™) when they are created in Moodle
  • Automatic log in to Google Apps when a user logs in to Moodle
  • A Gmail block in Moodle that displays latest Gmail messages on the Moodle Front Page
  • A Google Apps block on the Moodle Front Page displays links to Google Start Page, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Gmail

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Textbooks for iPad

Given that we just recently announced that all of our ninth graders would purchase iPads, we are thrilled by Apples' recent announcement this week about apps that may change the textbook paradigm.  We have long been frustrated that while less expensive digital versions of popular books proliferate, the availability of ebooks has only recently begun to slowly increase.  Apple's announcement dangles the near future promise of $14.99 multimedia rich K-12 textbooks that never grow out of date.

Regardless of how soon these titles begin showing up on our students' iPads, we can safely conclude that Apple's move will trigger shockwaves throughout the industry and accelerate the availability of texts.

Easy to overlook in the news about Apple's agreement with publishers is the new "iBooks Author" app.  This tool immediately offers teachers the prospect of self-publishing their own materials in multimedia rich book form.  For students with iPads these "texts" will sit right along their digital bookshelves next to their other books and will contain many of the same features.

Here is a link to an excellent summary of Apple's Announcement:
Apple Goes Back to School with iBooks 2, iBooks Author, and iTunes U

Thursday, January 19, 2012

M-Hub Launch

Twenty-one months after a large group of us met to dream up M-Hub, we officially launched at a staff meeting, today.  The students, presented an introductory video and conducted to a live tour of our site.
Opening Presentation
The girls then directed the staff through search activities looking for universities, careers, etc.
Sarah directs the activities

The searches began at our Moodle portal, which serves as the home page for our intranet.  M-Hub is now linked to Moodle.
Note the Moodle link between counseling and the Media Center

We are also linked to the school's main web site in the drop down menu under alumnae:
We're between Newsletter and Spotlight

The girls led a forum discussion, handled a brief Q and A, and showed the staff our survey.  At the ending of the meeting, staff were invited to fill out the mentor survey at our site.

This was indeed a gratifying day for those of us who attended that first meet, in April, 2010!

M-Hub's First Meeting, April 20, 2010

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Exploring iPad Apps

Last week I was the beneficiary of two separate phone conversations concerning Mercy's adoption of the iPad for incoming ninth graders.  I learned a great deal from Lisa Tortorich, principal of Mercy Burlingame about their pilot program with the iPad.  They will be requiring an iPad of all students, next year.  I also spoke with consultant,  Lucy Gray about a whole range of topics.  But both conversations allowed me to ask them off the top of their heads for recommendations of iPad apps that we might consider putting on all staff and student iPads.  Yesterday, I added the ones I had not already explored.  Checking them out will be a fun project.  Here's the list:

Google Search
Google Translate
Google Earth

Dragon Dictation
Explain Everything
Blue FIRe
Common Core Standards
iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote)
Open Culture
Documents to Go

What would you add to my list?  Do you have any feedback on those listed here?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Aren't Students Using E-books? (and other Links)
Why Aren't Students Using E-books? 
The slow adoption of digital textbooks by students doesn’t necessarily mean that textbooks will be the last bastion of print. But it does highlight the ways in which students’ needs aren’t being met yet by digital content providers. That means there’s still a huge opportunity here to reshape what the textbooks of the future look like. Openly licensed content, for example, could address students’ concerns about sharing. Better social tools could help meet their needs for social reading and learning.

22 Filmmaking Apps for the iPad and iPhone
The iPad and iPhone have taken the world by storm. Only very recently have filmmakers started to see their potential in a production environment. The iPad has only been out a few months and we are already seeing it used in some very creative ways.

Don't Get Caught with Your Paradigm Down
Now let’s look at teacher training in the digital age. For about 200 years, since the introduction of the blackboard in 1801, education in America has been relatively static and so has professional development. Phases come and go and we all attended professional development workshops which were promptly forgotten. Does everyone remember going to Cooperative Learning workshops? How about Whole Language seminars or Total Quality Management applied to education? Old ways of continuing teacher education just won’t do. We can’t be effective educators in the exponential times we live in unless we develop a new paradigm of professional development.

The New Nook Aims at Amazon's Kindle Fire, but the iPad is Still Safe
Whereas Amazon launched a completely new product when it revealed the Fire, Barnes and Noble is really just upgrading its existing Nook Color and finally adding the word "tablet" to its name. In the launch presentation, CEO William Lynch Jr could hardly have made it more obvious who the company is gunning for here. He made several direct references to Amazon and the Kindle Fire, which he unsurprisingly dismissed as an inferior product.

Redefining Our Value
There is an urgency now to redefine our value. We cannot be about passing the test. We cannot be about content to the extent we are today because content is everywhere. We cannot be about a curriculum that’s a mile wide and an inch deep. Something else can do that now, and in some ways, that’s a good thing. We have to be about the thing that technology cannot and will not be able to do, and that’s care deeply for our kids as humans, help them develop passions to learn, solve problems that are uniquely important to them, understand beauty and meaning in the world, help them play and create and apply knowledge in ways that add to the richness of life, and develop empathy and deep contextual understanding of the world. And more.

An Amazing Social Network (Comic)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mercy's FAQ on iPads

We have been working through the details on our transition to an iPad 1:1.  We communicated a letter to our current parents and included the following FAQ which describes some of the effects that this change will  have on the community in the time to come. We'll have a "mixed environment for quite some time, which will be very challenging, but exciting!

Mercy 2.0 iPad FAQs for Parents

Can I go buy an iPad for my daughter from the Apple Store or from the Apple website?

No. iPads for the 2012-13 school year will be purchased directly from Mercy. They will be preloaded with many of the software apps that students will need to start the school year. The standard Mercy iPad package will also include an extra year warranty and will also be discounted from the retail price. Recommended accessories will also be available for one stop shopping. Further information on when and how you will be able to order an iPad will be forthcoming.

I have a daughter who is already a student at Mercy and I paid a lot of money for her HP laptop; how will this affect us? 

The students who currently own an HP Tablet will have the choice to continue to use it or to purchase an iPad. Students who wish to switch to the iPad for the 2012-13 school year will be offered a buy back discount on their current HP Laptop toward the purchase of an iPad. Further information on the discount will be released as we draw closer to the end of the school year. Support for HP laptops will remain in place at Mercy until all students who own them graduate.

How much will the Mercy iPad cost? 

The base model price of the Apple iPad is $499 through most retail channels. Once the discounts that Mercy can pass along to families and any added cost for extra year warranty and software are added in, we expect the total cost to be in the $500-$600 range before any accessories.

Why is Mercy switching to the iPad?

There has been a dramatic shift in the personal computer world away from the standard laptop to even more mobile devices. Accompanying this shift has been a move away from machines that have large storage capacity and computing power to devices that connect to the cloud for storage and computing power. These shifts, paired with a decrease in price to our parents, were key factors in the decision to move to the iPad. Recognizing these trends, officials from Mercy started researching the best way forward through surveys, focus groups and discussions with parents, students, teaching staff and outside partners. We evaluated several similar devices from different manufacturers. The widespread adoption of the Apple iPad by thousands of schools across the country and the relative maturity of the device and its platform were keys in the decision to go with the iPad.

How will this change my daughter’s education experience at Mercy? 

Mercy has been in the forefront of integrating technology into their curriculum for many years. In the six years that Mercy has had a 1:1 computing environment there have been dramatic shifts in many classrooms in how subject matter is learned. These shifts have allowed our teaching staff to accommodate many learning styles and pedagogies to further enrich our students’ learning experience. We expect this to continue regardless of the device we use. Our teaching staff will receive specialized training and will be ready to maximize the potential of the iPad once the new school year begins.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resources for Budding Filmmakers and other Good Stuff

Flickr CC photo byErica Hargrave
5 Online Resources for Budding Filmmakers
Although nothing can help you develop that intuitive knowing like hands-on experience can, here are 5 great resources for learning filmmaking skills.

TimesCast/2011: The Year in Media
A look back at the growing intersection between social and mainstream media.

10 Apps for Working Really Easily with Apps on the iPad
I got sent a form the other day that the sender needed filled out and sent back immediately. Fortunately for them they were using an app that allowed me to tap on the form, type in the required information and send it back. Many apps give you the ability to write anywhere on the PDF. I thought this was great and so sourced a number of cheaper apps so I could do this on the iPad.

New Etiquette for Using Tech, In and Out of Class
Technology, especially social media and text messaging, competes for students’ attention as never before. When half of social media users say they check messages from bed, and 11 percent of those 25 or younger are willing to interrupt sex for a Twitter or Facebook message, what chance do teachers have of keeping students’ attention in class?

In the Flop of H.P TouchPad, and Object Lesson for Tech Sector
The TouchPad tablet from Hewlett-Packard was one of the most closely watched new gadgets of 2011 — and quickly turned out to be the year’s biggest flop. The TouchPad, which was supposed to be a rival to Apple’s iPad, lasted just seven weeks on the market before H.P. killed it, citing weak sales. Analysts point to a long list of factors behind the tablet’s quick demise. But some of the people involved in creating the tablet’s core software now say the product barely had a fighting chance. . . . . 

Flipped Classroom Full Picture
The following lesson describes a type of flipped classroom.  This lesson did not center around the content media, in this case the Slideshare, but on the students’ personal experiences, interactions with other students, and acquisition of tangible life skills.

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