Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Video and the Spanish classes

For the past several years, I have been working with a Spanish teacher making videos, this project has grown over the years and has improved the language skills of these students.

The first years of the project I would meet with the students to discuss video planning and visual language in movies, the students would then put together scripts. The teacher now handles this part, which is great. Right now my role is to help out with editing, this being the labor intensive part, and the teacher cannot help all groups at all times.

In the beginning she only worked with Spanish 3 students, with the task of putting together a Spanish soap opera, each group of 4 would make their own. The later years the class would work together, with each group working on a subplot to the story, usually a large group scene in the end. These projects have become more sophisticated over time, and look better.

The Spanish teacher now has all levels of students doing videos, this morning I will work with them in editing a newscast. The idea is that all group have the same clips and they are to edit to make it look best. They worked together on the scripts and shooting, now need to put it together. This is similar to an assignment I had in a video class in college, we all shot the same thing and made different stories, we were not involved in the script, just had several takes of several scenes and had to make sense of it.

I have always felt that having students making a video is a valuable lesson, we are working in groups, developing ideas, writing scripts, thinking about visual language, budgeting time and resources. It is a form of expression that some students excel at, similar to some students excel at writing, some are good at video. I struggle to put my thoughts on paper, but to video the ideas is easy and effective for me to do.

I have been hoping that video making would expand to other classes, and it has to a small extent, not the level I would like. The ELA teacher who worked with me in having the students video short stories has left, and there has been no interest in picking this up in the creative writing class or any other ELA class. This is a disappointment.

For anyone that cares we use iMovie and various digital video cameras. Getting them to use a tripod when I am not there is another story.

Off I go to work with them…

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We have an issue....

Last year I installed a computer lab for students to use for on-line learning classes. We made the decision to set up the lab using PC rather than our normal Mac computers, the reason for this was, I was sure, somewhere down the line, there would be an issue with something that would only work with PC and not Mac, you know this was sure to happen. So to avoid that problem we did PC, and gave us a chance to mess around with Vista (which by the way works well).

In order for this project to work, we felt it was best to put a teacher in the room to supervise rather than someone else, as the students would take it seriously, and the teacher was needed to supervise quizzes and tests. Therein lies the problem. Due to factors not under my control, these classes have been greatly under enrolled, most teachers have one or two students, several have none. So a few teachers, with multiple computers in their rooms decided to hold the sessions in their classrooms, with two exceptions, these classrooms have Macintosh computers. And so yesterday the inevitable occurred. I get a call saying one of the on line teachers could not read an attached file sent by a student, and I need to fix it. I tried to explain to the teacher that the reason the classes are held on PCs is to avoid this very problem!

I guess that explanation is not good enough. Now I have to explain up the food chain why I cannot “Make it work” , and the reason why the online lab is set up as it is. I was given trouble for using PCs there, now I guess I am getting problems because the teacher does not want to give up time in their room to cover their class where the class is to be held.

I could set up these classroom computers at a cost, to run windows, but why if we are all set just down the hall?

and so it goes

Monday, April 28, 2008

Note to self:Don't let the blog die

This is where I run into trouble. Not sure what to write, and then forget to write.
Almost really spring, might have a frost this week, we shall see.
Did some planting this weekend, and the rain today is helpful.
The garden is coming up, so that is good.
that is all for today

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

OLPC continued

As mentioned earlier, our district is working with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to pilot some of their work with the One Laptop per Child Program (OLPC). Today we met with some of the students from RIT to discuss their plans and some details of the pilot tests. I want to make sure that the tests are educational relevant to our students so that we are not just supplying lab rats.
The big problems we are facing is that RIT is out of session in a few weeks, and the researchers need to get data and write it up. We need to get parent permission out, signed and returned, but the permission forms are still being reviewed by RIT. The draft form we saw today looks intimidating, if I was to receive it, not sure what I would say.
We will be working with 5th grade students; they will work in groups of two at a time. It will take a fair amount of time to do, but if we get the paperwork done, should be no issue.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a working relationship with RIT and their educational technology people. The more the better!

Job Interviews

Does anyone like the process of job interviews? I really hate the trend toward the “gang interviews” where all of the “stakeholders” get a chance to ask a question. I think the gang interview process is more of a PR stunt than anything else. I do not think the committee can get to know the person, nor can the interviewee understand the culture of where they are trying to get a job. I prefer one-on-one interviews or a maximum of 4 people, any more than four; I cannot get a feeling for the job or for the person being interviewed. I would prefer sitting through a series of interviews rather than trying to be everything to everyone, and would prefer to sit down one on one with perspective employees. I think it is helpful to know if you can communicate with the people you will be spending most of your time with.
In order to make the interviews “fair” the large committees have a list of questions that they assign to a person at the table, this does not allow for communications, but who says the right words when. Sometimes when asking for clarification of the question the person that asked it has to ask what the question meant. Is this good communications?
With the current interview process, I need to ask to spend time in the district before accepting a job, and have turned down offered positions after that.
I guess that is the way the world is now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Not a great day, but things will pick up. Had a good break last week and am ready to sail through the next 10 weeks of the year, and then spend the summer setting up for next year.
Always time to plan and plot what is going to happen in the next few years, determine what is going to be the next big thing. I think we made the right call about SmartBoards, jumped into that five years ago or so, and have really made it an item the teachers now want.
It is difficult to predict the future, and that is part of the job of director of technology. I have made some wrong calls, but we were not heavily invested when we realized it was not what we needed to solve a problem.
The hardest thing is to look for needs and then find a technology to fill the need, and do this before people realize there is a need. The easiest thing is to find cool technology and try to force it to work, that is not a great strategy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

some tired thoughts

Some thoughts while sitting and waiting for a meeting.
We were to start at 12:45, I don’t wait well. Just a few moments late, but antsy. Contemplating education in general, looking at some questions. What do we want our students to learn and how can we support them? The students are going to be supporting us in our old age- at least my kids will be in a way. I want all students to be able to solve problems, think for themselves, solve the world’s problems, and find cures for everything.
So students need problem solving abilities, we must teach this from the beginning of their education, they must cooperate with others in their learning, be responsible for their knowledge. Share their knowledge

Waiting 10 min now

I have a job I enjoy, why look for a new one? Life quality? Tired of living paycheck to paycheck, more money will allow me to do more things with the family and the house. There will be a loss of time with the family, but it will be worth it.

Is on time the new early?
Don’t fall asleep. Tired from a long day yesterday.
Set cell phone to vibrate. Check.

Friday, April 11, 2008

so far this year

The school year is 3/4 done. Has there been progress made in how we teach and learn here? I know we need more direct work with the teachers to make it go. There are several on the bandwagon and working with technology and their students. 
Smartboards became hot this year, most want one, we are getting more, but the budget does not allow for all I want to get. More computers in more classrooms is always a good thing. Run out of computers before we run out of requests. 
Sometimes I need to look back over the years to see what has been accomplished in the district, and it looks good. The changes are slow at times, but are working. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I shall whine now

Email- the great thing about it is you should know what the subject is based on what the writer puts in the subject line--hey that makes sense.  I do not like getting email with a blank subject line. Especially if it is from a teacher here and I know that I need to read it. I guess I need to know before I open it if the message is good, bad or indifferent. What I think is worse, is reply email that is unrelated to the subject. For example, if I send out an email with a warning, such as a server will be down for a short time. I expect reply related to the outage, and need to reassure some folks about their data and connections (If the file server is down, you can still get onto the Internet, for example). But I get at least two replies that are so unrelated that I get irritated. I usually place bets on (a) Who will do it, and (b)How much time until they do it. But getting upset does no good, but when working on an issue, I need to concentrate on that problem. Is it worth getting frustrated about--no not really, and I should work on that.
So if you send me an email, have a subject or if you reply in an unrelated email, change the subject. 
That did not make me feel better!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thinking of education

What do we need to do to get the students ready to live? It seems we have many new ideas, but the best way to implement them? 
thinking back to how we were taught to teach. Did your methods match up with the methods taught? Mine usually did not. My first teaching job was many years ago - Early 1980's in rural North Carolina. At that time the state was into the 6 step lesson plan. We were to teach using these steps, no exceptions. I do not recall the author of this concept, but remember reading she did not think every lesson needed these steps nor should the lesson be one class period long. But the schools and state did not do the latter part in their evaluation. The teachers taught this way only when we were being observed. Otherwise we taught the way we were most effective and what met the objectives of the day. 
Now we need to see how to fit technology in to classes. Some teachers do this effectively, some don't. Is it a matter of training or the teacher's teaching style? I would hope all teachers would embrace technology, but is it effective for everything. Sometimes the best technology to use in a classroom is a piece of paper. Other times it would be other technology. Unless it is easy to use and makes sense, will teachers use the technology? They will if they see results, I hope. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Moving on

The voice recorder debacle has been resolved. He can use it for his assignments. No need for an IEP amendment, using technology for organization is covered in the document, as I thought. 

Now to other things.

We are in a short lull here this week. We have spring break next week, so no new projects going on. After break there are a few projects starting. 

Hope to be working with teachers on developing their personal learning networks using twitter, google reader, diigo and things like that. 

Think we need to re-think our technology plan, in terms of allowing more web 2.0 products to be used in the classroom. Generally we can use most things, but there needs to be clear information about blogs and the like and responsibility of the school, teacher, student and parents regarding posted information and replies. 

Hope that we get moving on the OLPC project, paperwork has been taken care of, now need to work with the students at RIT on this. Information on the project can be found here comments are more than welcome. Wondering if the lower priced PCs that Microsoft is working on will take the place of these machines?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Now where was I?

There are times that doing my job is impossible. I know that I am not alone in this problem. I was hired several years ago as an instructional technology coordinator, but don't think I really do that, I am more of a director of technology. Is there a difference? sure. An instructional technology coordinator helps to integrate technology into the educational setting. I would love to do this, as it is my training. What I spend most of my time on is working on the technology and developing planning for the network, technology purchaces, fixing and gettting ready. When I try to take the time to work on projects, there is some sort of technology crisis that must be taken care of. But if the technology does not work, then it cannot be integrated. 
If I was really the director I should be getting paid more, but that is life in a small district. At least I have a job that I enjoy. Am I doing the best for everyone? I think so. Could I do more? last week no, but with technology it is boom or bust. I hope this week I can get back to working on getting technology into the teachers hands and showing them what to do with it. 
I have a monthly meeting with people that do the "same" job as I. We sit around talking about what we are doing. It is great to hear about all of the training and projects they do. When it is my turn for sharing, it is not the same subject. They really don't want to hear about the new email server and system and the lead up work to the  VoIP system to be put in this summer or next summer depending on funding. This is not what they do, but they have larger departments than I do. Such is life

Thursday, April 3, 2008

to continue

After several phone calls, managed to get the school to agree to amend his IEP in order to allow the use of the recorder.
I thought technology was to help.
This is also a school that does not allow any streaming....

grumble, organize, and middle school

I don’t think I can learn how to organize like some people do. Never have. I am a firm believer in entropy and the laws of superposition. That is in other words, things fall apart and what is on top is newest. I guess the key for your personal organization is if you can find stuff and use the stuff you need. I have tried, different color folders, stacks for this and that, could never find stuff that way. I can find stuff on my computer, if all else fails use the search function. The only thing really in my filing cabinets is notebooks from different projects.

Part of the issue is I am ADD and have dyslexia, a difficult combination, and a deadly one in the middle school world, or at least what I see as a middle school world. The reason bring up middle school is that one of my children, who also has ADD is going through seventh grade right now, and I see what he is dealing with and remembering what I had to deal with.

I went to a 7-12 school back in the 70’s. 7th and 8th grades were the junior high at the start, I liked it. Generally it was the same as high school; you were responsible for yourself and did what you needed to do. When I made it to 8th grade, they turned it into a middle school. We had team meetings, did all sorts of touchy feely things. I thought is was stupid and took away from my learning. I just wanted to be left alone. We had study skills and had to keep our notebooks a certain way. I am more of stuff things into the book and use it when I need to. We had to use the little notebook reinforcement stickers on all of our loose-leaf paper, and got points off if we did not. Our notebooks were collected and graded! This I could not understand, my way of taking notes worked for me, it may not be the same as what works for you. I was getting good grades, and this notebook keeping was distracting from my learning. I was more stressed about keeping my notebook in order than learning. We had reading handouts, but we were to take notes about the reading on another piece of paper and put them in some other section of the notebook—that made no sense and still does not, I take notes on the reading on the papers itself, still do even on electronic readings and WebPages.

I remember one time in social studies class we were given a reading to do which the teacher considered advanced. It was taken from a magazine, which I read often. We were to underline in BLUE words we did not know and then on another paper we were to write the words and define them. I had no words underlined. The teacher, moving in for the kill asked me to define words as she picked them out of the reading, I did and she got madder and madder. What did this teach me? Not one whole heck of a lot. I don’t remember much from that class, except that incident.

After teaching high school for a few years, I took a job in a middle school. This was a difficult transition for me. The first time I met with my team of teachers, we were to write our supply list. The others wanted different color notebooks and specific color pens, crayons and the like. They did not understand when all I wanted was the kids to have “something to write on and something to write with”. One of the teachers explained that she liked the students to have four different color folders for her class, as we were on a four day rotation, red for day one, blue for day two, yellow for three and green for day four, she felt this helped their organization somehow. I think one day was spelling one reading one grammar and one whatever. I can imagine the mess I would be in if I was one of these kids.

I can understand the idea of transitioning from elementary to high school, but there were teachers in the eighth grade doing the same thing. When do the kids learn to be responsible? I understand for some students it is necessary to check that they have written their assignments in their book and initial that it was correct, I did that for students at any age if the parents asked me to do so, but at the beginning of 6th grade we were to do this for each student, so there goes 10 minutes of teaching every day. Do we put off the sink or swim until 9th grade, the first time some of these kids learn that if they don’t do the work they fail? Having taught 9th grade for several years, it came as a shock to the students that if they did not do the work they would have to take the class again. In the middle school we chased the kids down to do makeup work, I never liked that, a communication between the teacher and parent should have taken care of the student doing makeup work.

That was a divergence.

Not what I wanted to write about. My son as mentioned above has ADD, just like his dad. He has organizational problems and an IEP, which discusses the use of technology to help with his work. I bought him a little voice recorder/mp3 player; with the knowledge he was not to put anything on there except voice recording of his assignments. He has gone through several assignment books this year and they do not work for him. This seems like a good idea. One teacher does not like it, she wants him to use the assignment book, and this makes no sense to me. I want him to find what works and use it, not to be forced to use what does not work for him.

We need to nurture the students learning styles, not force them to try and fail a way that does not work for them.