Wednesday, May 21, 2008

5 Essential Learner Outcomes in Art and Technology

Back when I taught high school, I was often in buildings that were fed by middle and elementary schools that did not hold art education in high esteem. This meant that I had to tailor my lessons to cover things most students learn in their K-8 years but make them interesting for a high school audience.

It also meant that I was able to make a list of things that, once I eventually taught elementary, would be able to drill into my students to prevent premature baldness and graying amongst the high school art teachers.

This list included the following five things:

  1. People ON sticks, rather than people who ARE sticks.People are not sticks. (I don't mind if a 3rd grader tries to draw a person and it doesn't turn out, but a 3rd grader drawing a stick figure isn't even trying.)

  2. Trees are not lollipops.

  3. Not every tree has to have a hole in the trunk. (Honestly, half of them draw the holes so they're wider than the trunks!)

  4. I've never seen a blue cloud in a white sky.

  5. Sky touches ground. (A blue bar at the top is ... a blue bar at the top. Not a sky.)

Granted, I didn't cover these things in every grade and every lesson. Not all students are developmentally able to comprehend my little list, and I still have room in my curriculum to do lessons that are more fun than they are nitpicky.

But at least by the time they leave elementary school all of my students know:Kindergarten kids paint the sky down to the ground!

  1. A way to draw people that have at least enough mass to wear some clothes.

  2. A way to draw trees that are more accurate depictions than a circle (or green cloud) on a stick.

  3. That because it can exist on one thing does not mean it exists on everything.

  4. More than one way to make cool looking skies , including sunsets, storm clouds, and more.

  5. What a horizon line is.

My official curriculum is much more detailed than this, but I suppose these items are my "pet peeves," if you will.

And this sort of got me thinking: Since I might become a technology teacher in a couple years, how will my list change? What are my technology pet peeves that I'll feel I must cover, above and beyond the official standards?

I came up with something like this:Tools of the Trade

  1. Be safe! There are ways to be safe from online predators, stalkers, identity thieves, cyberbullies, and so on. Use them.

  2. Be creative! The great thing about the internet is that anyone can create content, including you!

  3. Be skeptical! The bad thing about the internet is that anyone can create content, including people who mislead others. Take the things you see online with a grain of salt.

  4. Be cautious! Also, what happens on the internet stays on the internet, but not in a good way. Anything digital can be copied and archived, as well as indexed for easy searching. Don't put it online unless you want your mom, teacher, principal, significant others, and any future bosses to see it.

  5. Be clear! There media (PowerPoint, website, movie, etc.) should never be more important than the message it's used to convey. Overworked and poorly designed projects can both keep people from remembering the very things you wanted them to learn.

Well, that's my list, at least. What's yours?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Spare some Change?

(The following post has been the hardest thing I've had to write in the past 8 years.)

This is what I('ve) live(d) for.I am a teacher.

Every time I walk into a classroom, I walk out knowing that the people in that room have learned something new. Words cannot describe the feeling of accomplishment that gives.

For a teacher, that's incredibly addictive. It's why we put up with low pay, budget cuts, No Child Left Behind, piles of paperwork, security checks, and much more.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways to curb addictions. The stuff I just mentioned can be more effective than methadone with getting teachers to kick the habit of enjoying their jobs, but this year I've noticed some tell-tale signs that I'm suffering from something worse than all of those things combined:

How I feel right nowBurnout.

I've seen burned out "teachers" before. Ones that cut every corner they could (whether or not they should), gave the same lessons every year, and lived only for the weekend and summer vacation, where they could do anything other than walk into a classroom.

I don't want to be that person. Ever.

I need a change. A change of location, a change of work environment, a change of job description, a change of something. I don't know for certain what the change needs to be, but I do know that I can't keep doing this.

I need a job where I can be truly inspired, do what I love to do, and get a living wage for doing it. For 8 years, that job for me has been teaching art. I'm passionate about it, the kids seem to like it, and the classroom teachers will often participate along with the students. Just a couple of weeks ago I had a 4th grade teacher tell me I'd just taught her the best lesson she'd ever seen me do.

I am a teacher.

Every time I say those words my chest swells with the feelings of pride and fraternity (or gender neutral equivalent) that are shared by firefighters, police officers, and soldiers. This is not something I want to give up.

This is not something I'm going to give up, either.

I will not leave the classroom, but I will most likely be leaving my current classrooms after the 2008-2009 school year. That gives me one year to explore my options, whether it be a change of employer, job description, or schools.

Where I might go.I'll be weighing all of my options, and while that could include leaving the classroom that will be a last resort. I'd much rather have an art position in a single elementary school or a tech teaching position in an elementary or middle school.

I've been putting out feelers, and it seems if I want to stay with my present employer, teach technology, and earn a living wage, middle school is the youngest age bracket there is. I have not yet looked into other employers, but I will be if for no other reason than to compare and contrast.

There's a lot about the year after next that is totally up in the air. As I start to get a handle on what I want to do and what I can do, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 160: Flickr Video

Wow, 160 ... that's almost a milestone, isn't it?  I suppose I should take the time to try out something new then, huh?

In any case, here's a quick rundown on my opinions concerning Flickr's decision to host videos:

  • Flickr's video hosting is to most online videos as Twitter is to most blog posts.

  • 90 seconds is very short.

  • If you edit well, 90 seconds can be enough. (Remember, most commercials are 60 seconds or less.)

  • The first time I tried to cut one of my ramblings down to a minute and a half, it wasn't easy.

  • I say in the video that I cut 10 minutes of footage out to make it fit. I was exaggerating.

  • It wasn't more than 8 minutes. Honest.

  • Still, editing out everything except the core points took much longer than I thought it would.

  • Flickr Video ≠ YouTube

  • Flickr Video = Neat little toy

  • You can supposedly embed the videos as easily as the photos.

  • "Supposedly," because copy/pasting the provided HTML code did nothing but place a blank, black box in this blog entry.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Wrong Issue

This story, as horrible as it is, ends with a very misleading quote at the end.
Herrera said the violence could have been prevented if the school had enforced its cell phone ban.

I think this quote points at the wrong issue. Yes, the student used her cell phone to call her mom into the school and solve her issues with violence, but she could have also told her mom once she got home from school. The cell phone only sped up the process.

I see 2, maybe 3 issues here - none of which are centered on cell phones.

  1. The mom in this story has some serious anger management issues. I mean, come on - attacking someone and yelling profanities in front of kids? Way to be a role model there. Your "Mom of the Year" nomination is a sure thing.

  2. Behavior issues with the daughter. Repeatedly interrupting the class? Calling someone on a cell phone in class? Not exactly gold star behavior.

  3. Classroom Management issues with the teacher(?) I add this as a "maybe" because the information on how this teacher conducts her class is not present. I've no idea what strategies she used. Perhaps she tried various methods to diffuse the situation and calm the daughter (and later, the mom) down. Perhaps the methods she tried did nothing, perhaps they made things worse. Goodness knows I've been teaching long enough to see all three of those outcomes happen to me - although not nearly to this extreme.

Is it too much to ask that a news story portraying an all-around-bad situation not have anything in it that blames the technology along with (or instead of, in some cases) the people using it?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Getting Started in Video, with Bre Pettis

I've been a fan of Mr. Pettis' work for a while now, mostly because of stuff like this. I can't wait to see the rest of this series.

Hm, perhaps I should break out my old digital video camera again? I've been focusing on text and audio so much of late...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Teachers 2.0 Podcast: Podcasts, a Wiki, and Teacher Communities

I have a new podcast up over at Teachers 2.0. You might want to check it out if you're a Teachers 2.0 follower OR happen to like things like Second Life or World of Warcraft.

To be honest, I was inspired to record this (or at least the third part of the podcast) after finding out that there's more than one DEN member that plays Warcraft. We have edu-groups on Facebook, Second Life, and almost everywhere else, so why not Warcraft? (Or any other online environment you happen to like.)

Comments, of course, are welcome.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 159: Podcasting Tips and Tricks

I promised to have this uploaded before I crashed for the night - looks like I got to keep my promise.

This is the audio from my presentation at this year's MICCA conference. Forgive me if I keep things brief as I'm quite wiped by the experience of these past two days.

  • A pdf version of my PowerPoint, including a special bonus slide at the end, is available here.

  • Yes, I really do mention David Warlick that often. It's only because he does so much to help educators.

  • As I explain in the intro, I was able to use Audacity to remove the background noise but not the slight echo. It annoyed me at first but I got used to it ... I think.

  • I may be wrong about the new version of Audacity having LAME built in, but like I say in the podcast I do prefer iTunes for encoding my mp3 files.

  • I also over planned, and had very little time to do practical demonstrations. Perhaps next time I'll focus on one tool? We'll see.

  • I've said this a lot, but the wiki is still here. Edits are still encouraged.

  • I'm tired. Goodnight.

Open Source Software

Last seesion of the day, and I'm in the one for cheapskates people who like free software. Not just free, but created by everyone for everyone. Yeah, saving money is a big plus, but in many cases open source software has better features and fewer bugs. Everybody wins ... unless you sell software rather than services.

He's going over the history of open source, starting with IBM. Some of this I knew, most of it I didn't.

Just took the presenter's (Matt Burkhardt's) picture, and got a nice reaction from him in the process.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, his presentation was created in OpenOffice using a computer running Linux. Sweet.

Still going through the history lessons, but now we're getting to things I remember, rather than having just learne about. Ah, nostalgia.

Linked in uses software from the 80s.

Roundabout story that lead to a tale of "crowdsourcing," or having many people help a little bit to achieve an amazing goal.

More and more stories ... hoping for some software choices soon.

Ask and ye shall receive. Mozilla... Red Hat... MySQL... Trolltech... and more. Now he's going through project names quite fast. This is a broad overview.

Ubuntu Linux.

"Software as a Service" It's not important what's important on your hard drive, it matters what's online. "Thin clients," I've heard them called.

Answering questions from the audience - good questions.

Podcasting and more with Will Richardson

My presentation went very well - perhaps too well, since I kept answering questions and helping people out until the session after mine was over - along with half of lunch. As I said before, that's not exactly a complaint. I'm happy to help.

I was a few minutes late coming to Will Richardson's last session of the day, which I've (sort of) seen before. I say "sort of" because like any good presenter he revises his presentations to keep them current. Last year, didn't exist - or at least most people hadn't heard of it. His wiki handout, the same address as last year, has likewise been updated.

Heh, he's showcasing the Cog Dog himself.

Now discussing screencasts. There are a few free ways to do that, including Jing. Jing is very easy to use, but saves everything in a format that I've yet to figure out how to edit. People have suggested using, but not even tat wonder of file conversion can help me.

Went to his Ustream chat room to ask for links to resources. Very cool.

(Went up t osay "hi" afterwards, and once again Mr. Richardson recognized me. My ego knows no bounds.)

MICCA Keynote Day 2: FableVision

When I saw that FableVision was the keynote for today, I admit I was a little worried - but only as much as I'm always worried when I see a presentation by someone running a commercial business.  I suppose the idea that a company involved in education is more interested in the business than the education runs deep in me.  Goodness knows, I've had my share of bad experiences in this area...

But every now and then, I find a glaring exception.  The DEN, usually, is one.  FableVision is another.  We're a good way into their presentation so far and they've barely even mentioned a product that they sell.  (I think I caught a few references, but they weren't shameless plugs like I make.)  Rather, they're talking about using a child's interests to help them get excited about learning.  It started with a story about the twin brother of one of the founders getting in trouble in math class because he was drawing in class.

As you might imagine, I loved the story.

Raffle time.  Think I'll end this post here and stop by their booth later.

Now, they're talking about games in education.  Not much research supporting their importance, but a lot of anecdotal stories and Maryland is apparently at the forefront of the research supporting the idea of good games getting kids into learning.

Ok, now they're talking about a product, although it's not being released yet.  I think they spent enough time making the case for keeping the students' interest to spend some time talking about their bread-and-butter.  (But that's just my opinion.)

Labyrinth is a math game (mostly) for middle school students that uses a lot of comic book style storytelling to get the kids interested. It's being privately beta tested at the moment, but the booth in the hallway was offering a way to sign up for a chance to try it out.

There are no instructions, leaving the kids to figure out the mechanics.  Makes me think of MYST, a game series that sucked away countless hours of my life in college.

There's even a way for students to communicate with each other using the "Tasty Pet Communicator " (the name fits the plot, trust me), although according to the ThinkPort booth there are enough admin rights for teachers to make that communication safe.

"The people who learn the most from educational software are the people who make educational software."  He told us that quote was a secret.  Gee, I hope no one blogs it...

That was a segway to talking about Scratch and other programs that help students make their own games - products that FableVision doesn't make.  Encouraging students to compete against them in game development, or trying to encourage students to become future FableVision employees?  You decide.

MICCA, for most of yesterday

Forgive me if this reads like I'm just a bit distracted - I'm writing this during the awards presentations that are preceding today's keynote. It's hard for me to do 3 things at once sometimes.

I didn't blog from any sessions yesterday, as I spent the entire time showing people just how easy podcasting can be at the podcasting booth. As such, I missed all of yesterday's sessions.

Don't take this as a complaint, however. I would have loved to see all the cool things that were going on, but I also loved talking with the many cool people who stopped by to learn about a topic which I'm truly passionate about. I remembered several of them from last year, and was pleased to find that they remembered me, as well.

Granted, my extroverted nature makes me stand out in a crowd. Oh, well.

My goal was twofold - first, I wanted to show as many people I could that podcasting was not as scary or difficult that some people seem to think (including that darn "but don't I need an iPod?" question). The other goal was to get as many people as possible to call in to the Gcast account I set up for MICCA and let us know what they thought of the conference or podcasting in general.

That 2nd part was ... not as successful as I would have liked. At least I can promote it again during my presentation today.

More to follow.