Devices Students Bring to School

We have policies at school about cell phones, iPods and even student own laptops. Students follow the policies as we have a great bunch of students. Sure, some students pull out a cell phone to call someone or other infraction throughout the day but for 90 – 95% of the students, it is in their bag if needed.
I have written about this in the past in how I want to capture and use the devices in the backpacks. This is more on that line of thinking, although what is changing is the increase in the number of students and the variation of devices. I thought I would photograph some of the devices I have helped students setup to use on the school network. What is great is that we can do this for almost any device and monitor and filter the experience just like a school owned computer on campus.

New MacBook

An Acer Netbook

A MacBook

Another MacBook

Yet Another MacBook


iPod Touch

2 students and 2 iPod Touches

2 students on Friday afternoon configuring

Collaboration in the computer lab

I heard from one teacher today that 7 of her students now bring a laptop to school. They get frustrated when there is software on the campus computers that they do not have on their laptop so they must use one of the 4 year old MacBooks instead. Of course a laptop program would take that issue away.

What about the students who do not have parents who can afford these devices? I think we need to be concerned about the differences in learning opportunities that this presents. I am in favor of more opportunities and not fewer of course:)

Perhaps in a few weeks I can add a LiveScribe Pen as a device!

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The Digital Learning Farm by Alan November

He has written about this restructuring better then anyone I have read. Many times, I read articles from experts who tell of lofty ideas or ways to do things in a classroom that are not as feasible as they seem or still keep the teacher as the person with the knowledge or information key. Alan, just gets it and with a sense of humor.

In this recently publish article in National Middle School Associations Middle Ground magazine he outlines again what I see happening in classes here at Durham Academy. My goal is to see it happen in all classrooms where appropriate and useful.

We have come full circle as globalization quickly becomes the norm, and it may now be essential for our students to compete with peers from around the world. Today, we can restore the dignity and integrity of the child as a contributor. Across the country, pioneering teachers are providing students with new roles that have students making contributions to their learning communities. We have powerful, easy-to-use tools such as screencasting and podcasting that give students opportunities to contribute content to the class. At the same time we can also provide them with rigorous and more motivating assignments and better prepare them to become more productive in our new global economy. It’s an exciting time.

The jobs as Alan states them to be and what I see in our school include:

Tutorial Designers – Students in Mrs. Williams sixth grade Language Arts class are creating Vocabulary Podcasts complete with pronunciation, spelling, parts of speech and even images. See I’m done!

Official Scribes – Many students with a learning difference get notes from a scribe as an accommodation. Why not make it a part of the collaborative learning. With FirstClass Workspaces some students are starting to create these shared resources. See When Students Take Charge. Moodle discussion forums also allow for this sharing of the notes. Teachers do resist this step due to the belief that students must write the note in order to benefit and simply getting the notes delivered to them will decrease the understanding. I can understand this thinking but also believe that contributing to a collaborative process will engage more students. If some students are not still note takers, perhaps they need to be Fact Checkers or Researcher which is the next job.

Researchers – How open are we to letting students get and share information they find on the topics we cover in class? Every so often a student suggests a web site or other resource that could be useful to the learning of the group. We recently did 1920 Radio Podcasts and a student found a 1920 slang web site which really helped the students to speak in language of the era. We shared the resource in the Moodle course for all students. However, we could make assembling the resources part of the project itself.

Collaboration Collaborators – This is an job that has not taken off like I would hope. We have brought in guest via Moodle courses where discussion forums proved helpful. Mostly though we do not reach out to bring experts in or connect with the world in our classrooms. We have the technology available but do not make use of it like we could. Mrs. Ward did use Wimba to connect with students while she was part of PolarTrec.

Contributing to Society – We have built schools in Uganda, paid tuition for students to attend school in Kenya and even now we are having a Mseki Primary School Book Drive where students are reaching out globally to help. We also do much work locally with food drives and community service projects.

Curriculum Reviewers – This is beginning to be seen more as teachers have students create content or share content with classmates. I would love to see this expanded and hope that we will begin to see more classrooms construct the digital materials for students to download or access as part of their Moodle courses.

I agree with you Alan and look forward to building out our DA Learning Farm. The tools are at hand and only the change in perspective stops the cultivation process. Of course we always fall back on “if I only had the time”… Let’s work smarter and more efficient by managing our digital farming to include all participants.

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When Students Take Charge

All students now have FirstClass accounts. Here is a cool student and a cool demonstration of how digital tools can change the learning platform.

Over the weekend some discussions were seemingly lost inside of a Workspace that a student had created for 7th grade History class. Because I was asked to assist, I logged in as Dana and helped her to undelete the discussion posts. These are the quoted messages between myself and her teacher.

This is not Dana, but Mr. Schaefer logged in as Dana so I could fix the discussions. I got them back or as many as I could. I went to View and said Show Deleted Items. Once the posts showed up (they had a trash can next to them) I selected all and then went to File – Undelete which removes the trash can and the fact that all of them were deleted. How did they get deleted, I do not know although anyone in the workspace you made could delete them either on purpose or by accident I assume. This is a case where a discussion forum in Moodle would work a bit better since the discussions would be available to all students and there is no way to delete them as a student. I do love how you have used more of the features in FirstClass and think it was OK to try this out. There is a balance between FirstClass and Moodle here that we are all learning. Obviously FirstClass allows students to manage their learning more then Moodle which is a good thing:)

Are these all of the discussions? Mr. Schaefer

This is the response from her teacher:

Thanks a lot. For extra credit, Dana, put ALL of my students into the discssion in First Class, so ALL of my students should have access to it – not just a few selected people. For the next unit test, I will work on setting up something in Moodle.

Thanks again for retrieving the lost items!


I wrote back:

I noticed that after I wrote that she had indeed put all students in the workspace. I had assumed that she had only a few subscribers. Awesome work on her part and something she took away from Science.

This is the response from her teacher:

Yep. Dana mentioned the science thing and asked if they could do a similar thing with history. I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that the science stuff was for lab groups. So, I told Dana that I would only want her to do it if ALL of the students could participate. (I thought about Moodle at that moment, but since it was a student’s idea, I went with that…) I thought it was cool that she was learning something in science and applying it to history. So, I threw in some extra credit if she was willing to spearhead the movement and enter all of the students. I have NO IDEA how she did it! The really cool thing is that the students are taking ownership of their learning! Dana is also spearheading the collaboration on quizlet – she is one cool kid!

To which I responded:

I agree totally and can see exactly how it happened as Dana is an awesome student. I would have done just what you did as that is why we have FirstClass for kids. I am very happy and proud of your group and you for letting it flow.

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Learning Language Arts with Laptops

Conversation between a teacher and a student today.

Student: I am excited for LA today

Teacher: Why?

Student: I know, it is rare for me to say that

Teacher: Do you not normally like LA?

Student: No. I am just not into reading and grammar and stuff.

Teacher: So why are you excited for today?

Student: I just really like using laptops and I think they are really cool so I have been looking forward to LA ALL day today. I just might learn to like LA.

Teacher: Proof that laptops encourage learning and promote excitement about a class that some students do not like at all.

The more I see how students and teachers interact with technology, the more I see the need to have laptops in the hands of all learners from 6th -12th grade. They were doing a Writer’s Workshop free write activity.

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Levels of Learning in a Day

I have been working today on setting up a DAILE Moodle course for our Election ’08 voting for all of the Middle School students. Simple enough to do as I can now create a Moodle course in less time then I can a word processed document. Of course I do not need to print it out either. I am taking a course through UNC’s School of Education in order to be certified as a Carolina Online Teacher (COLT). I am doing this not because I expect to be teaching online solely but rather to keep learning myself. David Warlick had a great post this past week called “Two Future Trends” and I think the post is interesting, I liked the line:

What do schools look like, who task themselves with graduating students who have taken on learning as part of the lifestyle — learning lifestyle.

Moodle allows for a learning lifestyle and not just learning for now or for SAT prep. Other links that came across my learning view today come from a fellow classmate in my COLT course: The Futures Channel which has the tag line of “Connecting Learning to the Real World”. I did not even know about dotsub or Odiogo until today but am already seeing uses. How do I learn, my iGoogle brings me RSS feeds from my leaning community.

The title of this post, Levels of Learning is because on any given day, I can watch students podcasting, doing online DAILE Moodle assignments, collaborating in a FirstClass Workspace or other technology infused lessons. I hear about other levels of learning where there is no technology integration but rather a commitment to make sure there is no technology. For instance, a parent talked with me today and wanted to understand why a student would have to hand write a paper in ink any longer. I had no answer for this as I see no reason and was astounded that this was happening in the same school where students were doing the other activities. There is too much distant between these levels of learning.

How can we close the distance? It is not just technology but pedagogy. We must all as David Thornburg said years ago: “Prepare our students for their future and not our past”.

If we do not close the distance, we will see the distance grow much to our detriment. What is it like for my students to navigate this uneven learning field?

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Virtual History Education in the Forbidden City

I had a parent (Mrs. Murray) send me this link which is an amazing example of how virtual education is The Palace Museum and IBM where she works has just launched a virtual re-creation of the palace grounds, architecture, and artifacts as they were during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Beyond Space and Time is the site. To view you will need to download and install a piece of software that allows users to travel with an avatar within The Forbidden City. Much like Second Life but without the danger of the social networking.

Mrs. Murray also shared a story from the Financial Times about the project:

I think this has some great potential.

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Research Report Without a Printer?

How fast can change happen when a committed educator employs the technology tools available at school. Each year, sixth grade students do a Vertebrate Animal Research Project that involves library research, hand drawn picture, and much word processing.

The report must include the following items:

  • Cover Page – Colored Drawing of your animals in its natural habitat (tracing is allowed)
  • Title Page – Report Title, student name and due date
  • Table of Contents
  • Three to four pages of text (double-spaced)
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography

The students used Pages for the first time instead of Word which although brand new takes along time to load and has problems when used in a networked home directory setup. In addition, the tools and formatting of pictures in Pages is much easier which leads to more successful writing. That of course is the most important aspect of any technology integration. It must not hinder the learning and teaching that is happening.

By using the Public folder of the teacher where students dropped their papers into her Drop Box she was able to not print and still view and suggest improvements. She used track changes in Pages to monitor the editing and changes her students did on their papers.

By using the new Fujitsu ScanSnap that we purchased, she was able to scan in the students cover page and email it to them using FirstClass. Once the students had their cover page PDF, they inserted it into the research paper. This was done in one 45 minute period which is amazing and was not possible even last with our scanners.

So a pretty complex research project that uses a lot of technology now was done with out wasting paper for printing out the many rough drafts that would normally be printed. The money we saved on printing can be used for other educational supplies. I know some folks will miss the good old days of having the report in the hands of the students, but when you see the amount of things students already are carrying and trying to keep organized it is wonderful to see a project that uses the latest tools. In addition, the students have expressed to me how proud they are of their research papers as they like how they look. Pride in our work is a tangible that leads all of us to doing more work.

The “I’m Done “Student Created Content in a Moodle Course

Ever had a student who said: “I am done” when you have others who have not started? We gave those students a challenge to make flashcards using Keynote and then record it using Garageband. Once it was done, they were to share it via a DAILE Moodle discussion form. Wow, did they make it better then we imagined. What started out as a simple concept became a text, audio and digital literacy tool that is iPod ready. Using the voice of Alexstudents were able to practice what the words sounded like since many had never heard them before. This helped, but of course learning is a continuum so not all students got each word correct the first time. I was impressed with the student who decided that images would add context to the vocabulary definition. Nice touch. Never underestimate what a student will do when they say; I’m done. We should all say: I’m done with being the only one creating the content for our learning. I am always impressed with how students help each other use the tools of their generation.

Next year after the teacher assembles the best vocabulary tutorials, she can podcast them so next year students can learn from this years students.
Vocabulary Week 4


Learning Through a Windshield & Rearview Mirror

As I see and feel the end of the year approaching I have been thinking of the work done by our students and teachers in the past academic year. I am also in the process of looking forward as I begin the process of ordering supplies for the 2008 – 2009 academic year. My own learning has grown this year as I learned more about working with middle school students and teachers, using DAILE Moodle to extend and support learning, iLife and iWork ’08 software to create well designed student projects, and how many of my colleagues support my desire to see our school adopt and expand the tools we use with our students by stepping up to the plate and modeling life long learning.

I have blogged about many of the projects that our students have done as I am proud to play a part in helping them learn forward with technology. For other community and class projects see: MS Digital Learning. I am the person who is the executive producer as I do the iWeb for this content. I hope to change that next year so students and teachers can produce the content directly with our new Leopard Podcast Producer. My hope is that we will make creating content and publishing content both easy but also as a natural process in the normal learning grid of a classroom. Students have always handed in homework on paper and now I hope to have students hand in their digital content so teachers can assess it and then publish it. We do some of this within the DAILE Moodle CMS but the audience is limited to just course members. We all want to publish to a larger audience and our students live in a world of instant publishing and content distribution.

I know how I have reacted to being published as yesterday I spoke with Peter Jauss from Parat Solutions about their iPod cases and synchronization tools for the new iPods for the Lower School. He said I was just reading about you in T.H.E. Journal and it triggered my memory that I had done an interview a few months back (Rearview Mirror) about our use of iPods and Raybook Math Facts. We live in an interconnected world where information flows with fewer boundaries then we adults know. How do schools reflect this flow of information? For too many students it is still one way I am afraid.

My windshield sees 8th grade students working on creating a Constitution project in history. They are making PowerPoints, Keynotes, iMovies and other content after being inspired by a project shown from last year. Allison K. did a remarkable movie that she brought in on a DVD which due to music used, I can not post on the web. However, she has inspired the students behind her to stretch themselves further. Mr. Dahlgren just poked his head in and confirmed this as he thought the partnerships and the work being done reflected ” the students running with this project”. He feels the students that have taken him up on reviewing their information (still the role of any teacher with research projects) have the the facts straight and could produce another round of inspirational and factual projects. Students using camcorders, headsets, learning how to compress files for transport to and from school, exporting files to different formats while developing a deeper understanding of the US Constitution is engaged and relevant learning.

Also in my windshield are 6th grade students creating their 4th booktalk of the year. Using Keynote, Mrs. Williamson is asking her students to stretch themselves by incorporating creativity, multiple programs into telling the story of the book they read. Keynote is the main tool with students using Alpha Channel, A to B animation, along with narrating their booktalk. Photoshop is a natural for some students when they need to have just the perfect image and a Google search does not turn up an image. (I think Photoshop is the better solution as creators have a future). Garageband is used to create a theme song for the book. Andrew H. used his home computer to create a theme song, shared it to iTunes and brought it in on a USB flash drive to use in his Keynote. He worked on his booktalk over the weekend! I know, what is the big deal, but he was working on his booktalk over the weekend and it was not writing a report, it was composing theme music for his booktalk. Did I mention the deal about how creative people will do well in the future. Daniel Pink’s book is a must read and is the foundation for a workshop here this summer and a book discussion group in August of Durham Academy teachers.

Next week I will work with 5th grade students who will podcast their research on 20th Century events. I was in the Library yesterday when word “leaked out” that phase 2 of the project would be recording podcasts. One student said that I would put them on iTunes, and I said, what do you mean? She said, “Our poetry is there already so why not our research projects”? This of course left me the opening of how I would be glad to publish their work as long as it is of publishable quality and that all resources are cited. Are students willing to meet these rigid standards? You bet they are and the more we can do to instill the need to publish quality, well-researched and properly cited work, the less time we will spend looking in our rearview mirror wondering what we just left behind us on the road of learning.

Now, how do we keep those bugs off of our Learning Windshield?

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How do you stop them from learning?

So, the Romeo and Juliet unit ended weeks ago and yet students keep wanting to retell what they learned. How could this be? How can we stop this desire to translate scenes? In addition, students are collaborating on this project since the scenes are not shot at one location. This must be stopped as the Unit is over, I tell you, over.

Of course, I am using sarcasm to highlight how students engage and continue to learn when they are interested and enjoy the tools they using to learn.

While not related to Romeo and Juliet, this student became so passionate about learning to play a song on the piano that he used his mother’s laptop to record the audio track in GarageBand so he could play it for his classmates and teachers. He then used the built-in camera to record him playing the song with no sheet music. I heard you can see him at school practicing playing the piano whenever he has a spare moment. He brought the laptop into school to share it with his classmates.
Piano Player

How awesome is this? What do you think, should we encourage this with devices for students or should we keep the school learning separate from the personal learning?

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