Thursday, May 7, 2009

Want a taste of Dot-to-Dot?

This is the promotional video prepared by Christina Jenkins and Jana Schmieding:

What is READ339?

RE@D339 is an initiative to approach the teaching of reading at middle school IS 339 in a more comprehensive manner. In addition to creating a Google Site with a host of resources for teachers, we have been running professional development on employing pre-, during-, and post-reading strategies in ELA, math, social studies, and science lessons. This has involved modeling, collaborating on lesson plans, and videoing exemplar lessons.
Stay tuned as we ramp up this activity for 2009-2010. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ms. Sowin's Measurement Activity


In order to get Ms. Sowin's science students a little more invested in measurement, I have included a screencast anecdote about a red-bellied black snake hiding in a bush in my backyard. measurement seems to become so much more interesting when you're referring to a poisonous creature almost 5 feet long. (It might take a few rulers to sort this problem out though.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Re-launching Reflection

I haven't posted in some time, but I'd like to recommence with plaudits for two principals. Firstly, I'll explain why these two principals are figuring in my thinking.
I am listening at the moment to a presentation about Scratch, creativity, insight and design by Professor Mitch Resnick at the National Convention Centre in Canberra, Australia, as he gives his keynote for the ACEC.

As I look around the room, I fear again that there will be a shortage of administrators in the audience. Typically, these educational technology conferences are populated by ICT coordinators and early adopters from the classrooms. Not so often do we see the people who have the potential to have the most influence (via their own authority) in schools - the principals and regional education directors.

Mr. Jason Levy and Mr. Dominic Cipollone are two Bronx principals who are prepared to invest in educational technology - not by throwing a bone to the Tech Coordinators in the form of a few more laptops or interactive whiteboards, but by embracing technology for organizational and instructional improvement within schools. They are principals who have developed a vision, a voice and a vehicle for change.

These are two principals who are looking to remodel education, and there is a tremendous level of excitement that can be generated within schools that have adopted this approach. I have seen what Chris Lehman has achieved with his teachers and students at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, and Jason Levy's school will host an International Conference in 2009.
This is the type of leadership that is required in all of our schools. These principals are turning their schools into learning institutes not just for students but also for teachers. They are focusing on technology for improved communication, collaboration, transparency and innovation. More importantly, they are investing in professional development.

Visitors who attended the 339 Tech Open House in June were treated to observations of some innovating practices:

  • teachers' proficiency levels with technology is assessed as a baseline, and professional development is offered according to differentiated needs

  • teachers' and students' goals are collected via online surveys and displayed on online spreadsheets

  • team meetings within the school are recorded and shared via web-based documents

  • teachers, students (and even some parents) are now linked via gmail

  • teachers are prepared to have their lessons recorded on video (and even live streamed hopefully) to gain peer feedback

  • Parent Expos and Open Houses allow promotion of innovative practices

  • teachers use chat to communicate throughout the day

  • school and grade-wide data is shared via online spreadsheets

  • teaching teams are setting up Google Sites and Google Groups to share and archive their planning

  • teachers are setting up class blogs and Google Sites as instructional spaces for their students

  • administrators use online documents to give teachers supportive feedback on their teaching, lesson planning and unit planning

  • important documents such as online calendars, daily announcements and action plans are housed together and automatically updated on Google Sites and wikis

  • all students will enhance metacognition through reflective blogs that are used in all subject areas

  • teachers email the daily work to students, who then upload prompt questions and respond via Google Docs

  • teachers are pre-recording read alouds as podcasts

  • instructional resources are collected in Google Sites and hyperlinked to online lesson plans

  • students will display their work via digital portfolios

The innovations go on and on, but they have been expediated as a result of principals' support of organizational and instructional reform.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Google Docs and Wikispaces are a Good Combo

Just when I was growing a little tired of wikispaces, Jason Levy has shown me something new. Not only is it possible to embed Google Spreadsheets, Google Presentations and ustream broadcasts into a wiki page, you can also embed a Google Doc into a wiki page as well.

This is really something special, because you can also edit the Google Doc from within the wiki by scrolling right down to the bottom and clicking on 'edit this document if you have permission'.

We have been using Google Docs all year in so many different ways, and the school wikispace serves as a great archiving site for these documents and spreadsheets.

My only reservation about embedding Google Presentations is that they can result in the web page being slow to load up. However, the resulting effect of the embedded files is really great.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Apture captures interest

Apture, which came to my attention via a post from Will Richardson, is a very interesting application for blogging, although I think it will take a little getting used to. I think where it could really have success is in:

  • teaching students how to hyperlink, and reference sources;
  • showing students that writing is not a one-step process, that you can continue to develop your ideas (even after initial publication, in this case);
  • demonstrating the interconnectness of web-based publishing;
  • encouraging students to read and view beyond their initial idea for a blog post;
  • making the reading of blog posts more interactive;
  • adding visual support to ideas;
  • creating a blog-based project;
  • a thematic class blog;
  • a school newspaper blog

After you publish a post, you then highlight key words and Apture does the searching for you for links to related sites, definitions, pictures, maps or videos. One thing about it that is a little bit annoying is that the tutorial video then pops up every time you visit your own blog, although I'm sure there would be a way to stop that.

Footnote: You really have to admire Apture's tech support and follow up. Within seconds of posting, I received my answer to the 'problem' that I mentioned in the previous paragraph:

Hi Pat,

This is Tristan from Apture. I really like some of the applications for using Apture that you pointed out.You can hide the tutorial video by clicking the "Don't show this next time" link on the bottom right of the window. We're going to make this link more obvious so that people notice it quicker.


Now that's service!

Monday, May 5, 2008

So why does technology change you?

One of the complaints about integrating technology is that there is too much to learn and too little time. I agree with the summation of 'too little time', but the fact that there is so much to learn is what produces such amazing results.

When I think about the time that I invest in my own professional development each week, the total time expended is staggering. And I'm sure that I don't spend anywhere near the amount of time that others do in PLN's or PLC's.

At a glance for the week:
* About an hour looking for new applications, conferences or thoughtful links on twitter;
* At least three hours reading through and commenting on the educational blogs to which I subscribe through Google Reader;
* An hour or two at least signing up for, or downloading, or trialing some kind of new software;
* Probably an hour fiddling with the tools of an application that I'm already using, trying to get a better effect or do something more efficiently;
* Maybe half an hour looking over an upcoming conference (or even more time submitting a proposal);
* At least an hour conversing with colleagues about how best to use an application, or which application is more suitable;
* An hour writing my own blog posts;
* And, of course, an hour in conversation with someone to explain what it is exactly that we do with all of these web 2.0 tools.

When you do the sums, it's at least a day of extra work each week. And that's a conservative estimate, and doesn't even to take into account the many, many hours spent actually using these applications during my work.

It's little wonder then that those who are exposed to educational technology have accelerated learning. If I took all of that technology out of the equation, I'm sure that I couldn't claim to have been learning this much if I was just concentrating on my teaching each week.

The constant movement forward is very tiring, but when you look back it's truly startling to see how far you've travelled.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Scrapblog great for celebrating Expo success

The students, staff and parent of I.S. 339 have just pulled off something remarkable. Only two months ago, the idea of hosting a Parent Expo was born, and since then students and staff have been working feverishly to prepare for a wonderful celebration of teaching and learning.

Unfortunately, the Pacific ocean and the width of the U.S. stopped me from being present, but the feedback has been incredibly positive. Apart from showcasing the innovative learning that has been taking place, the Parent Expo enabled the students to become the teachers, and they excelled in this new role.

About 300 parents attended this evening event, and staff and students all put in extra hours to stay back at school. From all accounts, there are many exhausted people now trying to recover, but I'm sure that they would agree that it was all worthwhile.

I'd definitely recommend to teachers and classes that they take a look at scrapblog
as an excellent way to further celebrate the success of the Expo. Scrapblog is not only great fun to play with, it is extremely functional with its ability to encompass pictures, text, video and music. I can't wait to hear more stories and see some of the video and over 1000 photographs taken of the event.

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