Sunday, October 28, 2012

Coming Soon to Mercy -- iPad Whiz Kids!

Soon I will be sending out invitations to ninth and tenth graders inviting them to become trained as iPad Whiz Kids.  The idea is still very much in development, but the rough outline has become clear.  A group of thirty iPad wizards will spend a school day with Mercy consultant and ed techie extraordinaire, Lucy Gray.  They will spend the day learning, sharing, and creating.
Photo by Jennifer Schuck taken in her Design Foundations class
After identifying, training, and branding our whiz kids we we hope they serve the school community by helping Mercy students and staff with iPad issues and initiatives.  They would also play a special role in orienting next year's iPad newbies to the iPad academic workflow at our school.
It's all very exciting-- the applications will go out in a couple of days.

Expect to hear more soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On the Occasion of My 2000th Tweet

As it turns out, I tweeted for the 2000th time, a couple of weeks ago.  Actually it was a retweet, unsurprisingly about baseball from a Tiger fan who calls himself Phil Coke's Brain.  
Here it is:

My unremarkable 200th tweet.

The avatar is quite humorous, because Phil Coke is a normally mediocre player with entertaining eccentricities and odd quips.  Ironically he has performed as a hero in the recent baseball playoffs that have produced a trip to the World Series by our beloved Tigers.  It is not surprising that I would have been on Twitter during a baseball game.  I have a special column of "all star" tweeters on my Tweetdeck which I usually follow on my iPad as I watch the game on tv.  It is quite entertaining to watch the game with these fellow sports nuts during a contest.

It's much more difficult to do this at a Tiger game because getting a cellular signal is so difficult.  I was in bliss when I visited  Target Field in Minnesota. The Minnesota Twins actually provide Wi-fi for the fans, assuming that they wish to enrich the experience with their mobile devices.  In fact, the Twins had their own in-house app for mobiles.

This probably strikes some old-time fans as disrespect for the game itself.  But I would point out a couple of things.  First, I am a serious sports fan.  Aso, I love it that I do not have to wait until the next day for a newspaper to get someone's informed reaction to the game.  And, if you think about it there is a lot of dead time during a baseball (or football) game.  Plenty of time for both watching and tweeting.

This year, M-Hub is going to initiate an enrichment activity at Mercy High School using Twitter.  As far as I know it will be the first attempt to carry on a conversation through mobile devices during a school activity.  We are working with the dedicated planners of the  Women Mean Business Symposium to arrange for a Twitter hashtag during their panel presentations.  Tweeters can then have their comments projected onto a screen and perhaps some of the chirps can play into the program itself.  Hopefully this can model a best practice using social media for our students and draw them more personally into the program.

Creative Commons photo by ~Ilse

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Recent and Ancient Quotes on Education
“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” -- Plato

“Human resources are like natural resources; they're often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they're not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”  -- Sir Ken Robinson

“To fish, water is invisible. To students today, technology is invisible. It is only noticed in its' absence~ like at school.” -- David Truss (via Jackie Gerstein EdD)

“We’re training our children in skills they rarely need, while ignoring those they absolutely do. Teaching kids how to nourish their creativity and curiosity, while still providing a sound foundation in critical thinking, literacy and math, is the best way to prepare them for a future of increasingly rapid technological change.” -- Peter Diamandis (via Will Richardson)

“Imagine you’re a studt who, on 1st day, gets a list of rules (on which you had no input) & punishments. Excited about learning yet?” -- tweet by altiekohn

“Analytics can’t capture the softer elements of learning, such as the motivating encouragement from a teacher and the value of informal social interactions. In any assessment system, whether standardized testing or learning analytics, there is a real danger that the target becomes the object of learning, rather than the assessment of learning.” -- George Siemens

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Reaching a Milestone . . . Sort of

I was startled to realize that recently I surpassed 500 blog posts to the Drive-thru.  When I started the blog, I intended political commentary (Hence the peculiar name).  But that only lasted a couple of posts.  Consequently,  it is safe to assume that I have composed at least 500 ed tech related items.

The 500th Post at Larry's Opinion Drive-thru
Though the blog format is a bit dated, it still works for me.  I do not have the energy (or the content) for tweeting blurbs throughout the day.  I also prefer scheduling composition in advance, so that I can compose when the time and mood suit me. because I don't teach four courses a semester,  I don't have as much material in reserve as I used to have.  Consequently, I share articles or quotes that I've been reading with greater frequency.  

My shift into school administration has shifted my content as well.  Teaching only one class means that I am less likely to report upon my methods for using technology with my students.  On the other hand, administration allows me to observe what others are doing and reflect on broader programs like professional development.  I am now more likely to post material to our school IT blog and port it over here, so the Drive-thru has a stronger taste of matters that effect the Mercy High School community in particular.

That said, the blog still serves me well.  Writing is good way to clarify one's own thinking on a subject.  In addition, the blog also subtly pressures me to try knew things and follow through on experiments.  If my reported successes and failures help others, that's pretty cool, too.

Larry's Opinion Drive-thru remains open for the foreseeable future, and I hope to continue serving up fresh chow.  Thanks for reading any one of the 500+.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Captivating Teacher Manifesto, Best Apps, and More

From Cool Cat Teacher Blog
The Captivating Teacher Manifesto
I want to be captivating. I want to entrance students with my subject. I want students fascinated to walk into my classroom. . . .

Connecting Students to Geometry Through Twitter
When will we use this?” It’s the question all teachers hate and motivated me to change my approach to teaching. Being a geometry teacher, it was easy for me to find life applications of my subject. I found myself snapping pictures daily and adding them into my smart board lessons. It wasn’t until I went to Alan November’s conference in Austin that I realized there were easier and faster ways to bring “real life” into my classroom. Why had I never thought of any of this before?

5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads (And How to Correct Them)

Over the last few years K-12 schools and districts across the country have been investing heavily in iPads for classroom use. EdTechTeacher has been leading iPad professional development at many of these schools and we’ve seen firsthand how they approach iPad integration. . . .

How Students Learn Differently in Online vs. Face-to-face Classes
An offhand comment by a caller to NPR’s On Point discussion of "Big Changes in Higher Ed" about the difference in learning between online education and traditional classes got me thinking about what those differences actually are and whether one mode of learning is inherently superior to the other. Here’s my take on how learning varies between the two to help prospective students decide which path to choose in higher education. . . .

The Best Apps, Communities & Tools for Writers and Journalists 
Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” From CNN anchors to TNW contributors, those bound by the written word can always benefit from a leg up in the digital age. Here, we give you some of the best apps, tools, and communities for writers and journalists. Whether you’re suffering from writer’s block or en route to becoming the next BBC reporter, we promise: there’s an app for that. . . .

Thursday, October 11, 2012

YouTube at Mercy

I composed this week for our school web site:
As a teacher I love YouTube.
There, I said it.  And I realize that some of you imagine me entertaining my students with stupid pet tricks and music mashups.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  I love it for its incredible convenience and efficiency.   I teach my students to write well, but I also want them to express themselves in visual mediums.
AP Government video commentary posted to YouTube
But here is the catch:  Video files are large and clunky.  Many of our favorite cloud storage sites limit file size in ways that make sharing video difficult.  Not so, with YouTube.  My students and I can upload different types of video files and share them across platforms in a snap (as long as the video is less than fifteen minutes long).  Beyond that it integrates ever so well with our Google Apps for Education-- an important feature of Mercy 2.0.
My students are seniors, but video is a major part of the ninth grade Design Foundations curriculum as well  Having videos stored in YouTube (or Vimeo) allows student to link files to web portfolios. For example, Wix won't let one upload a large video file from a desktop.
The class premise is that we live in a visual culture and that the artist brings a competitive edge to the software's use. Denying the use of a major part of our visual culture (Google, YouTube) defeats the purpose.
Every student is given a YouTube account as part of her school issued Google Apps for Education account. Students must name their YouTube channels once they initially set them up. They are advised to use their Mercy user name (last name, first initial) and never their full name. Once the student uploads content to her channel she has full control over who can see the content ranging from full public access to only allowing certain users to no access. Students can also submit content directly to a Teacher's channel who can in turn utilize the same privacy controls.
If you as a parent or student have questions about YouTube use at Mercy, contact Larry Baker, Tom James, or Gray Bank.
Written by L. Baker with considerable input from T. James and S. Smith

Sunday, October 7, 2012

And I Quote . . . .

"In an age of specialization, are we destined to know more about less and less, or less about more and more?" -- Annie Murphy Paul

Leo Tolstoy (courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions, which they have delighted in explaining to their colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven thread by thread into their own lives." -- Leo Tolstoy

"The iPhone ushered in an age of all Internet, all the time. For better or worse, it's blurred the lines between work and home lives, made communication a round-the-clock habit and led to a host of new rules about when and how it's appropriate to use smartphones (not while walking, driving, playing trivia or on a date, please)." -- Heather Kelly

"True openness requires data to be not only accessible, but also intelligible, assessable (who produced the data, what are their qualifications, do they have conflicts of interest?) and reusable." -- Geoffrey Boulton (by way of Will Richardson

"Each moment in a classroom is fleeting, precious and unique. But some moments set courses and shape a child's future." -- Sean Junnkins

"Anyone with a cellphone today is paparazzi; anyone with a Twitter account is a reporter; anyone with YouTube access is a filmmaker. When everyone is a paparazzi, reporter and filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure." --Thomas Friedman

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Presentation Topics

Assessing individuals for group project is one of my proposed topics
I have written some proposals for upcoming conferences and webinars. These are the two topics I would like to develop for presentations:
Individual Assessment within Group Challenge and Multimedia Projects

This presentation will explore a variety of methods for evaluating individual students as they work in groups on challenges, problem-solving or other authentic groups activities.  The presentation will consider that a good teacher may be eager to examine prescribed objectives, soft skills, or even unanticipated outcomes.

Evaluation methods such as shared documentation, rubrics, slide presentations, prompts, and podcasts will be discussed by a teacher who has conducted several engaging challenge projects (large and small) with high school students.

The methods presented have specific application to group project learning and broader application to the evaluation of multimedia projects such as slides, video products and audio reflections.  It is hoped that attendees will have lots of questions and suggestions.

What We Have Learned about Professional Development for the iPad
This school year Mercy High School transitioned from 1:1 HP laptops to  the new Apple iPad.  Quickly realizing that no cookie-cutter professional development programs would prepare its staff for a challenging year, Mercy customized its professional development.

The first step was determining how the iPad would fit into the workflow of various curriculum areas.  Additionally, a high priority was given to differentiating PD across a broad spectrum of staff tech mastery and interest. Achieving "buy in" to the new program was considered critical.

Mercy ran workshops, drop-in labs and even a "boot camp".  All these activities will be described in this presentation(warts and all).  Mercy had to adjust and refine its efforts "on the fly" as the staff became better acquainted with apps and the iPad itself.

How does a school provide meaningful PD when its staff possesses widely varied levels of skill and motivation?  Find out how Mercy is doing it in this session.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Apple TV

When we as group of Mercy teachers returned from our Apple Executive Briefing in Chicago, last winter, we were very excited about the possibility of using Apple TVs in our classrooms.  Some of us were familiar with the Apple TV as a consumer device that allowed folks to stream movies, photos, and other media.   We had never considered how valuable the Apple TV might be in a classroom.
David Mahaley recently summarized some of the advantages of linking our iPads to the Apple TVs:
Photo Source Business Insider
The use of the Apple TV in combination with an iPad in the instructor’s hand provides a mobile platform from which classroom activities can be initiated. Through the use of several apps, teachers can provide notes, display steps and processes to problems, initiate the display of media (pausing and resuming as needed from any location in the classroom), and allow students to participate from their own seats in a variety of interactive activities. This is different than the remote control of a connected teacher laptop to a traditional interactive board. Movement within and between apps is measurably better than the laptop interface, and navigation on the iPad screen directly to the Apple TV is visually more intuitive.

Imagine our delight, when we received grant money over the summer that would allow us to put an Apple TV in each room!  I could hardly wait to try mine out.  I received the necessary training and tested it out before the first day of class.

Unfortunately, when school started and all the Apple TVs were flipped on, we started losing some of our wireless connections.  I know personally, I quit using the Apple TV in class because of these chronic problems.  But thanks to some determined research by Tom James, our IT Director, we identified the source of the problem-- our wireless network.  He eliminated our connectivity issues by making some adjustments to accommodate the traffic that our many Apple TV units generate when they are being used to project the screens of our iPads, 

For the first time, I (and the other teachers) have been able to take advantage the Apple TVs.

To this point, I have been teased with the possibilities of using the Apple TV in the classroom.  Now, I and my colleagues will stretch out our ATVs and take them for a joy ride.

Blog Archive