Archive for February, 2006

1:1 Classroom Management

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

I’ve rolled thoughts around about classroom management in a 1:1 environment for some time now. This page from our 1:1 site in Irving demonstrates 7 strategies for classroom management, supplemented by video clips of each strategy in the classroom. While the strategies are worth taking a look at, I find that those who demand the BIG RED magic ‘classroom management’ BUTTON typically are looking in the wrong place. I was joking with Chris Moersch this morning about the BIG RED BUTTON and how people just don’t realize that it isn’t about discipline management - it IS about student engagement. He looked back and got that smile he gets and said with a laugh, “yeah, they just don’t get that all it takes is hard work!”.

So, my thoughts continue on how to get teachers to see the student engagement piece … and every time I pass that link out to someone who asks about how to handle classroom management in a 1:1 environment, I am sure to tell them that this isn’t the BIG RED BUTTON that they might be searching for. You certainly won’t find THAT button out where the left lane ends.

Inspired Classrooms - a 1:1 alternative?

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

INspired Teaming

So, about 5-6 years ago, I started brewing this idea of how to use computers more effectively in my 4th grade classroom. Seeing a picture of a classroom setup of Paula Barnard’s classroom (a 4th grade teacher in Washington State) triggered me to start exploring the potential of students having access to computers throughout the day. Just as my excitement for my new classroom design (and how I was going to implement it at the beginning of the following year) was peaking, I moved out of the classroom and into a campus instructional technology position. But - that didn’t stop me from pressing forward. I found an eager teacher at my new campus who shared the same enthusiasm for this new design, and INspired Teaming was born. The whole premise for designing a classroom this way was to move the computers off of the wall (where they typically sat in a nice neat row), and in front of the students where they could use them throughout the day.

I put together an 8 minute video at least 4 years ago, so feel free to take a look at how the classroom design got started: VideoInspired Classrooms

You might be asking yourself ‘why are you bringing this up, Jerram, 6 years down the road?’. Well, the answer is that while we have seen a number of classrooms (mainly elementary) move forward with this physical setup, the tools have changed drastically in the past couple of years.

Darren Wilson, Instructional Technology Specialist at Hanes Elementary is bringing new life to this concept. While he is working with teachers to provide the necessary hardware for setting up the classroom environment (Inspired Classrooms!), he has also setup an Inspired Classroom Wiki to share the design.

While this blog entry is simply designed to introduce the concept, I would (and probably will in the near future) argue that this setup is close to being as effective as a 1:1 laptop environment. You see, what we have discovered in our 1:1 laptop program (and it makes perfect sense) is that it comes down to how you teach, not whether you have a computer or not. (This is backed up by the LoTI concept that we are working hard to bring to the fore of our 1:1 program.)

Inspired Classrooms prime the learning environment for a teacher that already knows how to engage students. I love the word ‘prime’. I always think about our 2-cycle Lawn Boy mower that I grew up with (with a 22″ deck), mowing 2 acres of grass every third week of the summer. I had to push that white, rubbery priming button to inject gas into the engine so that when I pulled the starter cord it would fire to life. THAT is how I think about technology. Just imagine what happens when we prime a good teacher with the right tools! I can picture them roaring to life in their classroom…somewhere out there where the left lane ends.

Google is NOT your friend. Never has been, never will be.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Ok, I PROMISE that I wrote, saved and put this article into the ‘to write soon’ queue before I ran across this. Furthermore, I promise that I’ll tie this into education and teaching our kids before I am all said-and-done.

A story on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday prompted me to queue this piece for finishing in the near future. I should clarify - I had already been tossing around the whole story involving Google and current events. Listening to NPR locked it in for me, however.

You may be aware of the current situation where Google has been asked by the federal government to provide a certain amount of search history for evidence regarding child pornography. Google refused to do so and has wound up in a lawsuit. On what appeared to be the opposite side of their fight to protect digital rights, Google partnered willfully with the Chinese government to filter results on the Chinese version of Google. You can test this out yourself: Google America (results for Tiananmen square), and Google China (results for Tiananmen square). You may not be able to read Chinese, but do you see the difference in the results? Look for that magic total results number in the upper right hand corner of the Google results screen.

Initial reactions to Google’s apparent split response to online rights sparked many to wonder why they would work to ‘protect’ digital rights in one place and inhibit them elsewhere. This is where I firmly believe that the NPR story and the article published in ZDNet are right on target. Google is looking out for nothing but themselves in both cases. They are protecting their own search results for fear of releasing important pieces of the Google ‘recipe’, and protecting their relationship with the Chinese government because, heck, it is the biggest market in the world. Their response is consistent, and I would predict that this will be the continued response from Google in related issues revolving around digital rights in the future. If you take a look at the blog of Robert X. Cringley you might get a glimpse of why. Google makes money on advertising, and what they are poised to provide for the relatively ineffective mass marketing provided by radio and television is specific, spot marketing to individuals at any time and any place. (Remember Minority Report?) So, I sound like a conspiracy theorist. However, before you throw me out the window, I would advise that you take a look at the article that I first linked to. It advises you of your legal rights to all of the times you have searched, explored and grabbed anything via Google. In short, they have your data, and there are no laws (like there are –minimally - with email) that prevent them from using it however they like. Google is a corporation that makes a LOT of money. That’s what they do. Every time we search and use the service that they provide, we are making their ability to market to us more robust; making their ability to collect data about who we are and what we do easier; and making their ability to make money a piece of cake.

I promised I would tie this into education: We are in a tough time, as teachers. It is hard enough to teach our students to be fluent in digital literacy, to find information and then to verify it. I believe that we need to, at the very least, consider the ramifications of all of the data that is being collected, and how that plays into the decisions we make when we search and mine the internet. Why does Google provide this information to us? What happens when we compare it with other search engines? Do corporate motives get in the way of providing information in a non-biased manner? We are very far behind, I believe, in teaching our students to be fluent in digital literacy, and just because they can navigate the internet, text message on cell phones and play interactive networked games doesn’t mean they are fluent in digital literacy. We need to push forward in questioning the accuracy and validity of the way we construct our knowledge (through the use of Google , in this specific case) and teach our students to do the same.

You know those handy little grocery story cards that fit on your keychain? That barcode gets you a discount, but it is also a digital leash that tracks your every purchase and compiles them all into trends that you may not even be aware of. Letting corporations know private information about us wouldn’t be so bad if we knew they would use it appropriately - but power and money are a dangerous thing. So for me, every time I click ’search’ on that wonderfully clean and easy to use Google search screen, I feel my digital leash get a little bit more taught, and try to remember that Google is not providing the information that I am returned, simply out of the goodness of their hearts.

They might be on the path to make a lot of money, but I, for one, certainly don’t think Google is anywhere close to finding where the left lane ends.

TCEA Robotics Competition

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

We had a great robotics competition at TCEA this year. Student in two different divisions performed a ‘disaster recovery’ mission by clearing Spam out of their area and rescuing survivors (Coke cans) into their area. For detailed rules, click here.

Not only did students work to develop a robot that could compete in this arena, head-to-head competition, they also participated in a discussion board. Within this environment of questions and dialogue, they prepared for the competition.

The second part of our competition was an Inventions portion. Teams who entered into the inventions competition developed their own invention and built it out of LEGO Mindstorm’s kit. They are judged on their invention, programming of their invention and presentation of their product to the judges.

Interested? Take a look at the videos below:

videoTCEA Robotics - Arena Competition 2006

videoTCEA Robotics - Inventions Competition 2006


Saturday, February 4th, 2006

Well, we’ve been preparing non-stop for being gone to TCEA this coming week. The state robotics competition, which Irving ISD coordinates, is on Monday this year. We’ll be going down Sunday to setup. Want to watch? We’ll attempt a live webcast.

You’ll have to use Internet Explorer for this one folks (sorry, Firefox users!). We should begin broadcasting sometime around 8:00 Monday morning.

I’ll post some reflections as the week progresses and am able to attend sessions, although I don’t plan on ‘documenting’ my experience extensively. A good part of the convention can be found online, so I’ll work to just focus my experiences towards what is applicable here on LLE.

Why do we inhibit???

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

So, I was working on some stats stuff this afternoon/tonight, looking for some kind of decent conclusion to be made between a control campus w/out 1:1 laptops and one with 1:1 laptops (middle school). WHAT I was doing with these statistics didn’t strike me as much as HOW I was doing it.

(I’ll tell you up front that this is an opinion piece rather than a connected/hyperlinked piece…read at your own risk!)

I started my work with some data analysis software (SPSS, for all those stats fiends out there(ok, I lied, there will be some links!)) that I am just learning. My first resource came in the form of a phone call to the person that collected the data, Gerald Knezek at UNT. He had the same software on his computer and we walked through a number of different ways to analyze the different variables. It amazed me how quickly I was able to pick up the use of this software, even though neither of us could see the other’s screen! Language, in regards to software and technology, has leveled out to the point where we can do that.

Later that evening, I was meeting with a colleague to continue work on said project. As we were meeting in person (with 2 PPT screens open, 2 SPSS windows, Firefox with WHO knows HOW many tabs running and email up and going), I noticed my father was on Messenger. “What are you doing?,” I asked. “Grading Statistics papers,” he replied! Sweet…live help! (He teaches Stats, among other things at Sterling College in KS.)

So, while working live with my colleague (who had his own laptop going), I was messaging my father to get valuable information about how to run some new and very functional reports (thanks, Dad), working on my computer, pulling data off of the web, jumping back-and-forth between PPT and SPSS and even managed to message a friend to let him know what I was up to (who could’ve cared less that I was playing with statistics).

It struck me. THIS is how it’s being done now! THIS is what kids need to be doing in AND OUTSIDE of school in an effective 1:1 implementation. It seems so random and attention deficit, but yet it works so well!

Another great illustration of this came through the Mac interface this past weekend as we went to relax to some live music at Standard and Pours, a Dallas coffee shop/local music scene. We were listening to one of the openers and I noticed a college aged girl sitting in front of us working on her PowerBook. That wonderful Mac interface demonstrated this concept SO fluidly, it was almost poetic! (we’re a windows shop here in Irving.) She was dancing back and forth between writing a paper of some sort, researching online, talking to two friends, browsing personal interest web sites, playing a game (which would pop up when the other player, apparently located somewhere else in cyber land, would make a move) AND actively listening to the performer on stage! A keystroke would move her around between the different windows, and when selected, would zoom that window to a larger work size - you know how Mac windows zip around the screen playfully… Then her friend would IM her, and that window would zip into view. After a quick response, she would flow back over to her paper and write a half a sentence more! My thought was how I would just love to see the flow of that writing! I couldn’t believe that it would be connected or fluid at all. BUT I WAS DOING THE SAME THING EARLIER TONIGHT!

Now, you may be thinking: “Well, Jerram, just look at your spastic writing - you’ve been A.D.D.’ing whilst writing THIS piece (which I HAVE been, by the way).” So what’s the point??!!

The point is, we give kids laptops and spend SO much time blocking, inhibiting, impeding, limiting and preventing them from connecting, despite the FACT that they should be connecting, flowing, working without limits and relating to the world - their world.

Well, it was Miguel’s note:

Discussions among technology directors focus, not on the best ways to use such technologies, but how to best block access to those technologies.

that got me started on this whole thing. I didn’t think I would bring it to the fore tonight, but out it came…

Sometimes, when you see the ‘real’ world compared to the real education world, you just wanna ask ‘WHY?’.

Google Earth Uses

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Dean Shareski writes about geography lesson ideas on his blog and says:

So there’s the challenge. Get your kids to dig into these tools and their value and post the findings.

Here’s one…Sam Farsaii, Director of Instructional Technology for Irving ISD, presented a way to use Google Earth the other day. Google Earth has a built in measurment tool. Why not locate a local landmark and compare its length/size/area to another well known landmark - a sphinx, for instance. Not only do students compare the two objects, but they almost literally fly around the world and develop concepts about global locations, continents and worldly perspective as they do so. This one little tool has so many great applications and is only a slice of the limitless application of Google Earth.

…just don’t tell your networking department about it’s constant bandwith consumption…

Oh, and if anyone can find a Left Lane Ends sign - mark it and send me the latitude/longitude so I can pull it up. People have found fly cars - someone’s GOT to be looknig for where the left lane ends…


Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Well, I had to reinstall. My apologies to those that had already created accounts - I hope you’ll give it another shot (that’s what I get for being too anxious!)

Links to the posts have changed slightly, I’m sure. So, those would need to be updated if applicable.

Comments issue is ‘fixed’! (More like removed/reinstalled!)