Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I cost my school $2000 dollars

Tools of the Trade ... well, actually a bit more than that. Today I brought my new toy into work, and just had to show it off to the media specialist. She liked what she saw, and liked the price tag (only $220!) even more.

Just then, our Principal walked in with a smile on her face. She was in a good mood.

Long story short, the Media Specialist and myself convinced our Principal to buy a digital video camera and a digital still camera for each grade level. (I also agreed to help the Principal out with her own personal digital camera provided she brings it in. Should I be worried about what I've gotten myself into? ... nah!)

This is all really good news. (Even the helping the Principal bit - I'm looking forward to the opportunity.) One of the biggest hurdles I've encountered with tech is finding room for it in the budget, and we have it. Now, we'll have to move onto the next big problem.

Convincing the staff that the cameras should not only be used, but that it's easy to use them.

I've a few ideas concerning what I could do, but I'd like to hear your ideas. If you had only 15 minutes to show other teachers a cool digital camcorder activity, what would you do?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Academic Aesthetic Netcast 123

This time around I play with a new toy (a digital video camera), lament (sort of) on spending so much on tech, and talk about redefining education.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Room to Read

Kids in a LibraryI've recently fallen in love with the podcasts that National Geographic is rolling out on a regular basis.

In one of them they've posted an interview with John Wood, an ex-Microsoft employee who got the idea of collecting books for impoverished schools in Nepal and Vietnam (and more countries?) after a vacation to the Himalayas.

He founded an organization called Room to Read and has started over 3,000 libraries already, saying he wants to set up more libraries than Starbucks has coffee shops.

But enough from me. Why not listen to this National Geographic episode yourself?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Academic Aesthetic Netcast 122

Today's 'cast is all about groups and a legitimate concern or two voiced by Bud the Teacher. (I'm cross-posting it on the Next Gen Teachers group partially to check out how well it handles podcasts.) (UPDATE: Looks like it works just fine.)
Shownote links:

Saturday, January 13, 2007

His English was better than my Polish

I just spent over 2 hours chatting with a 16 year old student in Poland who found me on Skype and wanted to practice his English skills.  We talked about popular culture, politics, school, and anything else he could think up.  He had only been learning English for two years, but he was good enough to get by in most English speaking countries, I think.

The cool part is that this was a kid who decided on his own that he wanted some practice, so he found a teacher on Skype on his own time who might be able to help him.
When I was 16, if you had suggested to me that I should contact someone in a country a quarter of the way around the world in order to improve my skill at anything, I would have said you were nuts.  Now, I'm sure it's much more common.

This is the future of education - students deciding they want knowledge, then going out and finding it for themselves.  I think of all the skills we pass on to the next generation, teaching them where to find what they want is one of the most important.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

World's Youngest Blogger

Aiden 018

Aiden 018,
originally uploaded by teach42.

Steve Dembo is now the proud papa of a bouncing baby boy! He hasn't blogged about it yet, but there are a ton of Flickr photos uploaded already.

Congrats, Mr. and Mrs. Dembo! Now the fun can really begin. :)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hear ye! Hear ye!

(Taken from Dangerously Irrelevant)
All education bloggers are hereby invited and encouraged to...

  1. complete the short and completely unscientific, but hopefully interesting, education blogosphere survey;

  2. forward the URL of said survey to all other known education bloggers to ensure decent representation of the education blogosphere; and

  3. publicize said survey URL on their own blogs to foster greater participation in this most noble endeavor.

Survey results received by Sunday, January 14, shall be posted in the town square on Wednesday, January 17.

Those solicited who choose not to participate shalt be labeled both publicly and widely as dastardly scoundrels, notty-pated hedgepigs, or beslubbering, doghearted, maggot-ridden canker-blossoms!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Academic Aesthetic Netcast 121

The best part isn't the coreDownload .mp3

Chris Craft (a man who is quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers) wrote a post yesterday that I find difficult to sum up in an introduction.  He had a few insights that spoke to me, partially because art and foreign language are both lumped outside that tightly knit group of "core" subjects.  (I continue to believe that a "core" subject should be any subject that prepares you for the real world.  For me, my art classes were some of the most important core classes I had.)

But one thing that sent a shiver down my spine was when he quoted another blogger named Christian:
"Instead, get kids to begin to define their stake in the world .... Otherwise, tomorrow's 'blogging assignment' is merely yesterday's boorish 'PowerPoint presentation' ..."

Best Slide EverMy goodness, that's scary!  For years I've fought against the idea of giving the students an annual PowerPoint assignment as a halfhearted attempt to fulfill some technology integration requirement, and to see today's blogs become yesterday's PowerPoints would be like taking Web 2.0 and turning it into Web Beta.

And yet Chris and I have a similar dilemma - how exactly are we supposed to get our students where they need to be with information literacy if we barely have time to teach them our official subject areas?

As much as I love my job, the kids I get to see most often are the ones in my art club.  Our weekly meetings give me only an hour of instruction time with the kids, so setting up the back end involved in getting students to start blogging on their own is much harder than it could be for a classroom teacher teaching the same grade level.

Well, I have three choices.  I can whine about it, forget it, or do something about it.  I've just finished my whining (and yes, it did make me feel better) and I'm too much of a geek to just forget about it, so It's about time I start doing something, right?

Working TogetherThe key thing I have to remember is that I'm not alone.  In some ways I'm in a great situation, because K-6 students have very few teachers.  For those grades that do team teaching I can collaborate with one teacher and actually cover every student in that grade level, and it's the upper grades that are more likely to be taught in teams.

So there's a way to divide the work load (and get more face time with the students), provided I can get certain teachers into the whole blogging thing.

Beyond that, there's still a lot of work.  We'll simultaneously have to drill the students on internet safety, show them just how easy it is to blog and comment on the blogs of others, and give them writing prompts that will encourage them to give answers that are more than just copied out of their textbooks.

Yeah, I never said it would be easy.  But the collaboration will make it easier, I'm sure.