Teaching and Learning with the Unlinked Net

Unlinked

Images from OpenClipart.org

I have been thinking of this post for a while as our students begin blogging more this year. Most all students in the Middle School are now blogging through Language Arts classes using Edublogs. In grade five, students use a teacher’s blog to post with the teacher serving as the editor who must approve both posts and comments. In grade six students and teachers use the class blog feature in Edublogs so that each student has their own blog but are managed under the teachers blog. This system worked well last year as it provides the students with ownership and a place to find their voice. The teachers still serve as editors and must approve all pages, posts, and comments. This systems works well to establish solid writing, collaborative commenting skills, and learning how to interact in an online community. These are important skills that must be taught if we do not want a world of trolls on the internet. Starting this year, grade seven students and teachers will be expanding the use of class blogs with the students starting with restricted publishing as they start the new year. This will soon move to full editing and publishing done by the students with the teacher only serving the roll of monitor. In grade 8, the class blogs have no restrictions for what is posted and commented and the teacher serves as a monitor. While the blogs have different setups, the goals are the same: Write for an authentic audience, Write more, Learn to write collaborative comments, and establish a presence on the internet that showcases your work and yourself. I feel it is important for students to work at creating their own “Google Juice” so they are searchable with results ranging from silly photos to articles written by them. All of our blogs are open to the public and indexed by Google and other search engines.

The idea of cultivating “Google Juice” is also why four years ago we started having students create and manage digital portfolios with Google sites. These portfolios hold not only a link to their personal blog but also samples of exemplar work along with goal settings and reflections on the student’s learning. These portfolios live at the edges of what we do as all of our Google Apps services are private only to our school which means no one outside of our school or any search engine cannot access them.

This leads to the title of this post as I have been asked by teachers the following question: “How will parents find our blogs?” The quick answer was to send them a message with the link. While that works, it does raise the larger question in my mind of how do we expose all of the wonderful learning and teaching going on when it is not linked by our school or not accessible to anyone outside of our school? Should we expose this part of our school to the world? What are the risks? What are the rewards? I can make a page on Veracross which would allow anyone from our school to find the blogs. I do encourage teaches to list their blogs in the Edublogs directory as a way to engage with the world. 

 

Until I figure out the best solution, here is a list of the blogs so far. Some will have a link to class blogs on the side.

Grade 4 – Mrs. KarolMr. Mason

Grade 5 – Mrs. Goldstein, Mrs. Parry

Grade 6 – Mrs. WilliamsMrs. Donnelly, Mrs. Saffo-Cogswell

Grade 7 – Mrs. Howes,  Mr. Michelman (new this year and not doing it yet), Mrs. Engebretsen

Grade 8 – Mr. Sheard, Mr. Michelman (new this year and not doing it yet), Mrs. Engebretsen

Students Remember

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The image above is called “Working Memory” from Openclipart.org which depicts my retained memory each year I walk this planet. I have been teaching since 1993 when I started as a Science teacher at Grey Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill, NC. As my classroom became more technological I became a Technology coordinator and ended up leaving in 1999 to take the position I now have at Durham Academy. In 1997, I had a classroom with a variety of Macintosh computers with inkjet printers. We did a lot of hands-on activities and used the computers when it made sense. Today, I work with iPads, Computer Labs and no shortage of the most powerful tools we can deploy for learning. I still think we should use technology when it makes sense.

I became a teacher to help make a difference in the world and over the years, I think I have helped make some dents in the future. This past weekend I had a message on Twitter from a former student who well, just wanted to thank me. I am so grateful that she did this as while I think I have made a difference, it is nice to be remembered. That is a big part of me even as a parent and grandparent; I want my grandchildren to remember me when I no longer walk this planet with them. To have a student find me and thank me is very fulfilling and thought provoking as I try to remember my classroom and this student. I have some ideas as to who she was 17 years ago. Was she the one who made Speedy, the really cool mouse-trap vehicle? 

This is the exchange of messages:

Khaleyremember

Clearly I was concerned about being remembered even in 1997 as the image below shows. Harrison I think refers to how some of my students thought I looked like Harrison Ford, yeah right:)

Rememberme

Poetry in Place with Audioboo and Cell Phones

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Each year, the 7th grade travels to Washington, D.C. where they engage in many different activities. Last year students did VoiceThreads about Words on Stone. This is one example.  When Ms. Howes and Ms. Starnes approached me this year about an idea, we came up with using Audioboo to record a poem in place. Students were writing and studying poetry so they had to choose a poem to recite in a place connected to the poem. To make it happen, we created a Google Doc that we shared with all students giving them the directions on how to setup the app and record their poem. I was most excited the day we brought the students into the computer lab and told them, “Get out your cell phones”. The looks on their faces was priceless as some thought it was a trick since cell phones are supposed to be in lockers turned off. Many students indeed did run to their locker and got their phone. They download the free app and set it up. Those without phones used a computer or found a poetry friend to record with. I want to find more ways to prove that students carry technology with them everyday that can be harnessed for powerful learning.

I think they turned out really well so I wanted to share them with you. There is an iTunes Podcast feed if you want to subscribe as there are 115 poems. You can view them at the MS Cav Studios Audioboo channel.

Here is one from a boy and one from a girl to give you a taste.  Sylvia S.  and  Jack P.





We Learned the Address

As part of the 150 year anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, I asked teachers, students, and administrators to record themselves reciting the speech. This is our mashup on Vimeo as YouTube is blocked for our students. http://vimeo.com/79823268

 

 

Since I submitted it to the LearnTheAddress website, you can see it there as well.

Hi, Karl-

The video you submitted to LearnTheAddress.org has been approved!

See it (and share it!) at http://www.learntheaddress.org/#WbMh8gs4VBg, and see all the submitted videos at http://www.learntheaddress.org/videos.

Thanks for your participation!

NCAIS Innovate 2013

North Carolina Association of Independent Schools 2

On Friday, I will be presenting at the NCAIS Innovate Conference at Noble Academy in Greensboro, NC. My session will be a repeat of sorts from the Mini-MOOC I did at the Google Apps for Education Summit. I think the idea of using a Google Site as a launching and training platform for any type of device program is incredibly worthwhile. I spoke about this fact at the Apple Event we hosted at our school yesterday on Information Technology aspects to consider for an iPad or other device program. Infrastructure is important, but so is building a community or digitally connected learners that are versed in both skills and citizenship in order to leverage the device. I think the iPad Passport that we have used the past two years is one of the reasons why our students and teachers have been able to extend the learning and not chasing issues like we have seen develop where schools rushed in. For instance, we asked our students to not update to iOS 7 which we could not prevent them from doing (I know) and except for two situations, no one did. In fact, one of the updates was done by a parent who was “helping” her son out by updating all of their families devices. Besides applauding our students restraint, I think we need to acknowledge they have learned about having honor and character as demonstrated with this test of delaying upgrading.

Here is a link to my presentation.

VoiceThread Updates iOS App

VoiceThread

I have been a fan of VoiceThread for many years and use it with our school under the Ed.VoiceThread domain. The iOS app was a getting a bit long in the tooth so was excited to see that they have updated it to both take advantage of the iOS 7 update but also to make the use easier. I have been testing it and even though I had some issues to work out since we not only use the ed.voicethread sub-domain, we also use a single-sign on through Shibboleth which I think may have made things a bit more complicated on our end.

I was successful when I chose the following setup in Settings in VoiceThread:

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The sharing has improved but still not as powerful as on a desktop or laptop. The addition of groups will definitely help although I generally start in the computer lab where students create the VoiceThread and then embed it into our Moodle course inside of a forum. We could do the same with a group although I would need to manage those groups which can be more effort then I want to put into the process. Still, the fact that VoiceThread has continued to iterate and improve their product is impressive given they had to adjust to the mobile non-Flash world.

To learn more about the changes to the iOS app go here.

 

 

When Peering Disagreements Stop Digital Learning

YouTube Error Message for Khan Academy 9_23_13

YouTube error

 

There is so much promise of learning with video. YouTube, School Tube, Khan Academy, and the list goes on. Each day though at school the promise of learning is lost because of the way internet service providers and content providers get a long. We have struggled with having a solid dependable connection to YouTube since last January. This is about the same time that Time Warner Cable and Google/YouTube stopped working on their Peering Agreement. Google/YouTube wanted to put a caching server inside of Time Warner Cable’s network hub so the videos could be shared faster since they would be stored locally and not have to come from a Google server. No way would Time Warner Cable allow that since they are in the content business as well. So even though we pay for a 100 MB connection to our Gigabit Ethernet connection, we get this message. Out IT department has made adjustments to help but there is nothing more they can do. This is a great article from Arstechnica on why the promise of digital learning will not be fulfilled until these agreements stay out of the way of learning. http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/07/why-youtube-buffers-the-secret-deals-that-make-and-break-online-video/

Until then we will continue to learn less and don’t even ask about the filtering of information to prevent our students from seeing something on YouTube that might be offensive. Seeing this error message is offensive.

Quizlet and Students

Simple free learning tools for students and teachers Quizlet

 

Quizlet was started by Andrew Sutherland in 2005. It has been used by students and teachers since then with much success. Each year new features have been added which for older students may be useful. This video will show you how to setup accounts for your son or daughter who is under 13 which will restrict certain parts of Quizlet. While teachers in the past have created classroom accounts and then shared the log in information with their students, the ability for parents to setup accounts would elimate this need. Teachers could still use the classroom account method for younger students. The ability of students to track their learning over the years makes the use of a personal Quizlet account an important step.

VISNet Onsite Training 2013 OER and You

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I will be presenting about Open Educational Resources or OER’s for the VISNet trained teachers workshop. These teachers are the first cohort of teacher who will be teaching the new VISNet Teacher Taught courses. If your school is interested in having your students take online courses with vetted and trained teachers, contact the fine folks at VISNet.

This link will take you directly to the slideshow where you can make a copy or leave comments. http://goo.gl/cVqCBM

This QR code will take you to the Google Presentation as well. 

Qrcodeoer