Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Making Technology Valuable: Stories of Meaningful Assessment

Our ADE project team worked very hard in Arizona last week to pull together some meaningful resources on Assessment. Largely due to the leadership and dedication of our leader, Jim Harmon, we have finally been published to iTunes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ten Things for Three Labs

As I recently wrote in Experimenting with a Google Apps Lab, Mercy's approach to professional development has recently shifted from presentations and workshops to one-to-one help in "labs". Our first lab ooh place during our Final Exam period and focused on Google Calendars and Google Sites. We had 8 volunteer trainers and about 35 attendees, which I considered a terrific success.

Last week, week we held our first lab during summer vacation. Again this was very well attended and we had seven volunteer trainers. This lab and the ensuing July and August labs will focus on specific skills that we wish all teachers to possess by the beginning of the next school year. In fact fellow Associate Principal, Colleen Rozman, and I wrote some instructional modules for our staff. Colleen was the chief architect and modeled the approach after the Learning 2.0 Program (conceived by Helene Bowers). Here is a condensed version of the skills that our program includes
These tasks created some fun activity at our very well attended lab. Staff plunged into the skills and received significant individual attention. As a trainer, I can attest that I learned a number of "tips", too. I continue to be impressed by how determined most of my colleagues are to prepare for our shift to Mercy 2.0. I am already looking forward to our next lab in July. . . . But now I have to get back to my own "Ten Things"!
Screen Shot from Mercy "10 Things"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Take Out from the Opinion Drive-thru

Microsoft Takes Aim At Apple With Business-Friendly 'Surface' Tablet

Microsoft is doing its best to make Windows 8 as attractive as possible, especially to business users, in an attempt to carve out a space in an Apple-dominated tablet market with its Surface tablet.


Apple’s Retina-Equipped MacBook Pro Is a Sight to Behold

With its newest MacBook Pro, Apple has drafted another set of design standards and build philosophies for PC makers to follow, this time for high-performance machines. The next wave of portable computers will become even slimmer. They will lose their optical drives. Their serviceability will be limited. And the screens will get better — much better.


50 Must Have iOS Apps for iPhone and iPad Users

iPhone is a great phone. Hardware and software aside, what makes the phone great is the app ecosystem. There are lot of apps available in Apple App Store and you will surely find lot of apps that you’ll like. In this post, I have listed 50 apps that I have found after lot of searching and trying.


QR Codes: Poetry & Speech Units

While QR codes could be used to direct students to any type of podcast, they are incredibly helpful for teaching poetry and short speeches. In such a context, students have the ability to choose their own “text” and listen, review, take notes, even evaluate.


14 Ways to Use Garageband in the Classroom

Garageband is a great app that I think any student or teacher using an iPad should consider buying. It is a multi-track audio editing app that is as robust as you will ever need (unless of course you teach audio production). Later this week I will be posting a new page full of Garageband resources for teachers, students and learning. For now, you can get your brain juices flowing by reading the list below, watching the embeded ‘how to’ videos, and then go start playing with Garageband yourself!


Obama directive means federal agencies have to go mobile — can newsrooms keep up?

Major federal agencies are getting 12 months to implement new mobile strategies, the White House announced on Wednesday. President Barack Obama says each major agency has to pick two “key government services” to make available on mobile phones. Obama said in a statement that “Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device.”



"Take Out" with generous permission of americanvirus

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Six Random Quotes that Caught My Eye

"We're still talking about bringing education into the 21st century - yet we're already eleven years into it. Our society, culture and industry are all forging ahead at exponential speed leaving the practice of education in their wake. We could quote overused cliches such as, "it's not about the technology" but frankly finding ways to place technology in our schools is an important first step. However it's just a first step. Technology has become a core component of almost every facet of our daily lives but modernizing education requires significantly more commitment than simply providing students with access to technology." -- Sam Gliksman

"The model that says learn while you’re at school, while you’re young, the skills that you will apply during your lifetime is no longer tenable. The skills that you can learn when you’re at school will not be applicable. They will be obsolete by the time you get into the workplace and need them, except for one skill. The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn. It is the skill of being able not to give the right answer to questions about what you were taught in school, but to make the right response to situations that are outside the scope of what you were taught in school. We need to produce people who know how to act when they’re faced with situations for which they were not specifically prepared." --- Seymour Paypert

"We are putting our lives in the cloud, as companies and consumers store everything from family photos to corporate business secrets on remote servers. Beefing up online security is of paramount importance." --NYT Editorial:

"Social networking behemoth Facebook reached 1 trillion pageviews in June." -- John Paul Titlow

"More people now visit Apple's 326 stores in a single quarter than the 60 million who visited Walt Disney Co.'s four biggest theme parks last year, according to data from Apple and the Themed Entertainment Association. Apple's annual retail sales per square foot have soared to $4,406—excluding online sales, according to investment bank Needham & Co. Add in online sales, which include iTunes, and the number jumps to $5,914. That's far higher than the sales per square foot and online sales of jeweler Tiffany & Co. ($3,070), luxury retailer Coach Inc. ($1,776), and electronics retailer Best Buy Co. ($880), according to estimates." -- Wall Street Journal

"Standardization is the opposite of passion. It's the opposite of joy, motivation, love of being part of the struggle -- the pathos -- of sport and learning alike. Standardization tells you that making a mistake is a bad thing. Standardization suggests there is a clear cut measure. A process that works. No gray. 'Best practices' tell you that there is a 'Way'; and if you just follow that way, you'll find success.in teaching. There are only teachers looking for a way on one hand and those making their own way on the other." --Shelly Blake-Plock

Creative Commons Photo by markchadwickart

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My summer project-- iBook Author!

Photo courtesy of venturebeat.com http://bit.ly/HXlpm9
I wasn't sure what to expect when I attended the Apple briefing with eleven of my colleagues on March 29. To my delight, a significant portion of time was devoted to iBooks Author software for creating iBooks which was revealed to the world along with Apple's announcement about its textbook initiative for iBooks.

Since adopting the iPad for ninth graders, parents, teachers, and administrators have been eager to examine textbook content from the major publishers. But with iBooks Author, teachers can begin creating their own content, immediately. The thought of creating an entire textbook is simply overwhelming. However, if a group of teachers contributed to a unit of material, or a teacher focused on converting his or her supplements into iBooks, the project seems doable. My colleague, Alison Kline-Kator noted,

The possibility of creating an entire text is daunting The idea of using them for a lesson or unit, though, seems like a great place to start, particularly for classes or units where the text may be weak, or I'd like to present some contrasting viewpoints.

I am anxious to try it out for my AP Government & Politics class this summer. Two summers ago, I plowed through a complete tutorial program for Keynote, which should give me a leg up, according to Mashable's Christina Warren,

The program interface will immediately be familiar to anyone who has used Apple’s excellent presentation application, Keynote. It’s easy to dismiss Keynote as just another presentation tool — or Apple’s version of PowerPoint — but the truth is, the program is much more powerful than that. Using Keynote, presenters can craft full multimedia presentations. . . . The most compelling part of iBooks Author is the widgets feature. This allows users to insert dynamic elements into pages, including photo galleries, movies, full Keynote presentations, interactive images and 3D objects.

Several of us are fired-up to get started with this. I am guessing that the experience alone will help us re-think the whole notion of what a "textbook" actually is. Perhaps our efforts can prod the publishers into deconstructing their own fixed, bound, anachronistic hunks of information. I would love to place purchased units or lessons of digital content on the iPad "shelves", next to my own.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Baker's Dozen Quotes

Creative Commons photo by Sundar1
"I often grapple with the question: 'if we designed education today, what would it look like?'. Would it look like our existing classrooms? Textbooks? Libraries? Or would it look more like the internet? What roles would teachers play? Or learners? What would 'teaching' look like if we had a system that jettisoned the legacy baggage of our current education system?" - George Siemens

"The understanding of the importance of motivation and persistence is growing every day – but not within school." - Yvonne Roberts

"There’s a difference between the kind of problems that companies, institutions, and governments are able to solve and the ones that they need to solve. Most big organizations are good at solving clear but complicated problems. They’re absolutely horrible at solving ambiguous problems–when you don’t know what you don’t know. Faced with ambiguity, their gears grind to a halt (sounds like the current educational system)." - Jackie Gerstein

"There's something unnerving about how much I depend upon one corporation in order to function in this world. I still have a voice, but I'm willingly filtering it through the white noise of Google, hoping that when they claim "don't be evil" as a mantra, they'll stick to it." - John T. Spencer

"While 'technology will replace teachers' seems like a silly argument to make, one need only look at the state of most school budgets and know that something’s got to give. And lately, that something looks like teachers’ jobs, particularly to those on the receiving end of pink slips . . . . . we are laying off teachers in mass numbers. Teachers know their jobs are on the line, something that’s incredibly demoralizing for a profession already struggles mightily to retain qualified people." - Audrey Watters

"I have books on my bookshelf that I've owned across several computing platforms coming and going. I LOVE the idea of having all my books with me, and not having to box and move them, and to be able to search, etc. But, books aren't a 'throw away' item to me, so another thing Apple really needs to consider is how to ensure books I buy are still going to be useable to me after the iPad and OSX have moved on as well." - Steve Wilkinson

"China and India are likely to produce many rigorous analytical thinkers and knowledgeable technologists. But smart and educated people don’t always spawn innovation. America’s advantage, if it continues to have one, will be that it can produce people who are also more creative and imaginative, those who know how to stand at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences. That is the formula for true innovation, as Steve Jobs’s career showed." - New York Times editorial

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mercy 2.0 Boot Camp

With two recent retirements and and a bumper crop of 9th graders expected in August, we have six new teaching positions posted. These newbies will certainly have an impact on our school environment. And naturally, we are very eager to impact them with Mercy 2.0.

Ironically, we cannot reasonably expect that otherwise excellent candidates will arrive with the tech skills needed to jump in to Mercy's program. For one things, schools of education are behind in such things. For another, we truly are on the leading edge in instructional technology, so even experienced teachers may be unprepared for the breadth and depth of our program. Consequently, rather than listing specific skills as prerequisites, on our job descriptions we stipulated a need to demonstrate both an aptitude and an enthusiastic curiosity toward the investigation of technological tools and their integration across [science, etc.] curriculum

In order to prepare them for Mercy 2.0 we have arrived at a unique solution. In July, we will host a Mercy 2.0 Boot Camp for new teachers. (Mercy staff veterans will also be welcome to audit). The sessions will be led by our crackerjack Religious Studies teacher and tech wizard, Alison Kline-Kator. Over the course of three days, Alison will introduce teachers to such Mercy necessities as Moodle, PowerTeacher, Google Apps, and of course iPad/iPad apps. Most importantly, she will orient them to the engaging teaching methods that these powerful tools enhance.

We have introduced a number of innovations with Mercy 2.0. I consider this to be one of the most critical. We have a lot riding on the staff's enthusiasm Mercy 2.0. After graduating from boot camp, our cadets will be ready to join in the action.
Creative Commons Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Experimenting with a Google Apps Lab

As we shift into a summer mode at Mercy, we are also going to shift our professional development format. In May we presented some "Super Tuesdays" (and Thursdays) -- These were after-school workshops dedicated to the introduction of specific iPad apps like Dropbox, Noteshelf, Evernote, and Explain Everything. These sessions were very well attended even though they came at an exceedingly busy time for our teachers. Volunteers presented the workshops and it was unreasonable to expect them to give make-up sessions or post lots of resources.

So for summer, we will try to slow down and individualize. In June, we will host two "labs". This was the suggestion of our incredibly tech savvy, Alison Kline-Kator (someone you will be hearing more about in an upcoming post). She suggested a "drop-in" environment where folks could come for the 1:1 or small group training they desired. About eight staff members answered my call to serve as "trainers" for these two hour periods.

The first lab will be held on June 4, and it will focus on anything Google. Going to Google Apps was a key facet of our transition to Mercy 2.0. During a Keynote in April, Lucy Gray gave us a taste of all the interesting instructional possibilities for Google Apps. In addition, since across the school we are transitioning to Google Calendar, fluency in that environment will become essential for all staff. About 25 staff members have indicated that they will probably or certainly attend.

Two weeks later we will present a lab for all things iPad. I will be very curious to see how many people drop by, and that will pretty much determine whether we will offer another couple of labs during the summer.

In my next post I will describe a scheme for our newbie teachers that is a little more intense!
CC illustration found at http://bit.ly/LTaWcl

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