Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. 

Recently our English 7 class read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. 
When Ponyboy and Johnny are hiding out at the church, and looking out over a sunset, 
Ponyboy recites this poem by Robert Frost.
This made me think about how life is ever changing.
What is there in our lives that we can depend on to be there forever?
People? Jobs? Technology?

For the sake of narrowing my scope, I will focus on technology.
One thing I have learned through the years is not to depend too much on any type of technology.
Just ask anyone who has ever lead professional development seminars related to web resources and you will see how quickly session materials become obsolete.
Websites come and go without notice. Right now there is an uproar regarding the impending doom of the web bookmarking site Delicious.
Many of us have used Delicious for many years to house our bookmarks. And now Diigo has become the destination.
What will come and go this year?

Reading through commentary regarding the poem's connection to The Outsiders also suggested that to be gold is to stay innocent and not grow up too fast.
We try to teach our students digital citizenship and safety. We want them to avoid misusing or abusing technology with a goal of using it appropriately. ( The vast offering of the internet may tarnish the “gold” quickly. 

I am not saying that we should remain stagnant with technology. Every day there are new sites, programs, etc. that can be adopted in our lives. What we used 5 years ago is not necessarily the most efficient way to complete tasks. Keeping up to date enables many to be at the forefront of their career.

I would like to hear from you. What is your gold?

Monday, July 19, 2010

QR Cards

By chance, I came across a QR image during my visit to the doctor. I was "patiently" waiting to be seen and I saw a rack with a variety of medical pamphlets. On the side was this strange bar code that asked me to take a picture of it to find out more information. I was intrigued! As usual, "I thought to myself, how can I use this?"

I have spent the last hour surfing Google for background information and how to create them. I read Cool Cat Teacher and Thumann Resources blogs as well as a plethora of how-to entries.
Now I am getting excited!

How could I use this? Would people "get it?" I know there a millions of cell phones out there, but I have a feeling it would take a bit of education for effective use.

I will be playing around with this for a while...I will keep posting my thoughts!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Podstock 2010

Tomorrow I will be heading to Wichita to attend Podstock 2010.
I'm quite excited for 2 days of networking and learning about technology integration. I would imagine that the environment will be much more casual compared to ISTE in Denver. That is one thing I look forward to...smaller size. I really don't know how many people will be attending; but, I am sure it won't be 18,000! I have looked over the schedule and am impressed with the diversity of topics. Yes, podcasting is an overall theme, but it is not the only offering.
I am excited also to have the opportunity to meet up with some of the educators which I have had online discussions. Cynthia Garrety, Dean Mantz, and Ginger Lewman to name a few.
Of course, hanging with Kevin, Michele, Kim, and Mitch will make the weekend perfect!
I will try make Podstock updates as the day permits.

Friday, July 2, 2010

ISTE 2010 Reflections - The Sequel

My last blog post was more of an over all day by day account of my ISTE 2010 experience.
That really helped me to document the non-stop action of this amazing week.
However, as I reread the post I don't think I was able to accentuate the lighter side of my days in Denver. I am sure I will come back and make revisions as the ISTE fog lifts. So, here is a collection of quotes and anecdotes from Denver:

  • "Kim, Stairs!" - watching out for the safety of KimberlyW
  • "I know where I'm going, the streets are just crooked" - my comment about driving on the oddly laid out streets of downtown Denver
  • "I want to be a mohel (person who does circumcisions)" - said by KevinH after being given a Hebrew name (Chaim)
  • "Mohel's work for tips" - bad joke told by LFeld52
  • "I'm your first groupie" - said by SDSherry after carrying my poster
  • "Hi Phil!" - Half of our PLN accidentally thought Shirky17's name was Phil! It's Paul...
  • "I lost my..." - Unfortunately, I misplaced just about everything this week
  • Kevin's computer bag...35 pounds of disorganization. SDSherry to the rescue!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

ISTE 2010 Reflections

What an amazing week in Denver for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Since the action was non-stop, I am going to try to map it out by day.

No excited! I kept waking up to add something to my suitcase, check for cords, or write down something that I might want to remember in the morning.


Travel day. Flew from Omaha to Denver. So lucky to be picked up by Sherry. We checked into Comfort Inn Downtown Denver. Unfortunately, it was a fairly small room and there would be 3 of us by the net day. So, we made the executive decision to upgrade to a suite. Much more space, but tiny bathroom. Oh well...shower schedules made.

Spent the day at the Denver Zoo learning from the leaders of the Discovery Educator Network (DEN). We had a full program to keep members up to date with the latest and greatest from the Discovery Network. First I learned how to make paper slide videos with Dr. Lodge McCammon. We also attempted to make a video from one of his teaching songs
I have to say, this was not easy. We had too large of a group and we could not get ourselves in and out of the shots fast enough. I guess that is how students feel when they don't quite "get it".
Later in the day we were lucky enough to have presentations from DEN Gurus. DEN gurus are experts in specific areas of Discovery Education. Traci Blazosky demonstrated how she intertwines Discovery Education materials with Glogster. If you haven't tried Glogster, what are you waiting for? We also were told to get our goggles on by Justin Karkow. This was supposed to be a science preso by Patti Duncan, but unfortunately she became ill. I hope she feels better soon! Finally, we were set loose in the zoo to complete a scavenger hunt. Our teams set out to find animals based on clues and take their pictures. Imagine 100+ educators running through the zoo trying to be first! Unfortunately, my team did not win. We found all of the clues (almost, one of the animals dies before our adventure) but were not picked from all of the teams who successfully completed their hunt. But...I did win a life-size cut out of the Mythbusters! Luckily, it will be shipped to me!
Saturday evening Kim, needed to be picked up from the airport. Sherry could not drive to pick her up. So, it was up to me to do it. I was a nervous wreck. Luckily Karen volunteered to drive. I promised to navigate. Before Kim's arrival we ended up switching places. Soon after we saw an amazing double rainbow. I am hoping that there are no roadside police cameras...I pulled off the road next to a no stopping sign! Sorry Sherry!

Most of the day I spent in the Bloggers' Cafe meeting up with friends from Plurk, Facebook, and Twitter. It was so funny trying to match screen names to real people! This may sound like a waste of time to some. But to me, it was an opportunity to learn from others and possibly expand my professional career path. You never know whom you will meet!
The end of the ISTE convention day included the keynote speaker. Jean-Francois Rischard. His speech was titled: Global Problem Solving and the Critical Role of Educators and Technology for Education. The audience response to his speech was not as expected. Actually it was awful. Rischard's basically read his PowerPoint slides (which were horrible) directly from his teleprompter. Social networking sites were bombarded with negative comments. I myself reported that a man behind me literally crawled under his chair in the back row to escape! Some in the room actually took pictures of his screens to use as examples of what NOT to do in presentations. I have never seen anything like it. So many (including me) left the room. Reflecting back, I do feel badly. I could have kept my thoughts to myself and not broadcast them out to the world. Lesson learned. The evening ended with a brainstorm by Kevin Honeycutt.
The big idea was to put together a Digital Jam Session using iPods, iPads, iTouches, laptops, etc.
We Skyped late into the evening making preparations and sent out Plurks and Tweets to ISTE members to stop by.

ISTE formally begins! Ironically my first session was with Ken Shelton. What great timing to lead a session titled Developing, Designing, and Delivering: The Case for Powerful and Productive Presentations! I do believe that Ken is the only person who uses 90% of his own photos in his presentations. Beat that! Other session that day included visiting the Promethean ActiveBus, and learning how to use Google's Sketchup program (another Ken Shelton preso). I was able to create a 3D dog house by the end of the session! My day finished with a Plurkup (meeting of friends from the social network) at Earl's Restaurant. It was so fun meeting friends from all over the world. At 8:00 pm we kicked off the First Annual Digital Jam Session. Such a wide variety of people streamed in to sing or play along with songs projected onto the wall. I cannot believe how great the Comfort Inn staff was! They had no problem letting us Jam the evening away. You would think I would have slept well after this...but, no. I started worrying about my poster session which was scheduled for 10 am. in the morning.

Destination poster session! I woke up so nervous because I have never presented beyond the state level. Lucky for me, a poster session is a more casual environment compared to formal session which have larger seating capacities. What I didn't realize, is that people started coming up to my table 30 minutes before the start time. When I looked at the clock and it only said 10:20 I was so confused. I wasn't sure I would make it to noon. But, once I got on a roll, I was unstoppable. You would never have known how nervous I was. Friends who came by said I did well. Whew! By the time I was done I could barely speak. I recovered during an amazing lunch at Maggiano's Little Italy. The food and company was amazing! After lunch a headed over to a session titled Computational Learning: Create Interactive Learning Modules for Your students.
I was wowed by how hard the leaders had worked to put together an online repository for teaching students using sequential thinking skills. I am sad to say the day did not end as well. I had signed up for the Haunted Denver tour thinking I would be able to walk around in old houses and/or grave yards. I was prepared to be frightened. Needless to say, I was not. For 2 hours we drove around on a motor coach listening to a tour guide tell local ghost stories. The driver slowed down while we passed haunted spaces, but we did not tour. Occasionally the bus would pull over (illegally) so the guide could continue story telling. What a disappointment. I found myself trading between snoozing and downloading ringtones on my cellphone. The only positive outcome from the evening was meeting up with friends at the Rock Bottom Brewery. The food was so good! Not to mention the company.

The day was started at the Corner Bakery. I met up with many of my Plurk friends. We talked about how it was such a great week and how hard it would be to leave. I teasingly equated it to going to summer camp and having to leave all of the new found friends. (Hmmm...sounds like a possible 2nd blog post) There were only 2 things on my ISTE schedule. The first was a session on on using MIT's Scratch program. Scratch is an animation program which enables you to create interactive stories and games. I think it will be hard to stop messing around with it once I get started! And my last ISTE event was the closing keynote. I was hesitant to go to this keynote after the debacle of the opening...But I had promised myself to be positive. So, I went. I am glad I did! Jeff Piontek's speech Today's Global Learners = Tomorrow's Global Leaders was good. He talked about how every student has potential. Including special needs students. His videos were powerful to say the least. We were amazed that his students produced his video clips. They used Blue Mars online editor to create them. He also proposed the change of STEM to STEAM: Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math. He made many valid points for all to ponder. I hope to challenge students in a way which creates the learners he highlighted.
Well, now the conference was over, and it was time to fly home. My flight was scheduled for 7:10 pm. Plenty of time to get to the airport after the keynote. NOT. We were stuck in rush hour traffic! It was gridlock. My blood pressure must have been normal (I have low blood pressure!). It made me so nervous as each minute passed. When I got in the terminal I was faced with a long line to get checked in. It took 10 minutes or so to get to the kiosk, and when I entered my confirmation number it said there was no record. Holy cow. Luckily the Frontier attendant found it but said I had to get my boarding pass at the gate. Next challenge: security. The line for security stretched beyond 2 moving sidewalks and then out around another hallway. I could not believe it. Finally, after another 20 minutes I got through security. I ran as fast as I could (carrying my computer bag and poster tube) to the gate to get my boarding pass. It was now 10 minutes before boarding. At about that time I realized I had not eaten lunch or dinner. But, the lines were so long at the fast food places I would not be able to eat. Just before giving up, I found a popcorn place with no line. I bought it and then boarded. You would think I would have just shut my eyes and gone to sleep. But instead I talked to 2 educators in front of me who had also attended ISTE. They were so much fun! Even the flight attendant joined in the conversation. It was a great end to a great week in Denver.

I wanted to sleep in. But I had to take my husband to the airport for a business trip. I had not planned on waking up at 6:30 am on my first day back! When I came home I went back to bed. Unfortunately, I slept through my noon dentist appointment. Oops. The rest of the day I took it easy. I admit that I have not unpacked my suitcase and carry on bag. Not quite motivated to do it. I will get to it.

So, that is it. I am sure I left out many details. If you are a part of my PLN that was with me at ISTE please feel free to add details or clear up mistakes. I can honestly say I am in a post ISTE fog! Of course, it is early morning and I need some sleep. I guess I just couldn't leave this incomplete!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

ISTE is coming!

Next Friday I will be leaving for ISTE 2010. For those who do not know what this is, the acronym stands for International Society for Technology in Education. I will be joining 14,000+ technology enthusiasts in Denver for learning and networking. Looking through the thousands of options for sessions I am overwhelmed to make choices. I am planning on attending a diverse offering of sessions in the areas of math, literacy, computational thinking, etc. Tuesday, I will be presenting my research during a poster session. This is a result of a National Science Foundation grant called Research Experience for Teachers (RET). I am a bit nervous, but excited! Somewhere in the mix I am sure I will be able to feed my nerd side as well. I have also signed up for a tour of "Haunted Denver"! Yikes.
Of course, seeing friends made at other conferences is a major benefit. It is amazing how quickly you can form bonds at these meetings. I will also have a chance to meet members of my professional learning network (PLN). There are so many that I have "met" by reading their blogs and wikis or searched their links posted on Plurk or Twitter.
My plan is to try and blog at least a few times during the week. Especially after my poster session. So, check back soon!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

Recently I have reacquainted myself with my Livescribe Smartpen. I purchased it last year and have used it sparingly for a few meetings. Played with some of the built in applications such as the calculator and piano, and have allowed students to use it as well for basic writing activities.

For those who do not know what a Livescribe Smartpen is, I will give a short explanation. The pen is basically a combination video camera/voice recorder. The pen must be used on specialized paper which has embedded time stamp dots on it. When the pen is activated, each time the pen passes a dot it creates a timestamp for each image/sound. All recordings can then be downloaded to a computer and also uploaded as a screen cast. Just in case this makes no sense, I am including a link to a demonstration.
Livescribe Demo
What do you think?

Now that I have begun using the Smartpen again I have thought of so many uses. Aside from having student talk out loud as they are writing, I have many new ideas to consider:

-"Reading" tests to students
-Fluency sample with immediate feedback to students
-Creating "pencasts" for posting to blog or for absent students
-Alternative to flashcards
-Interactive study guide

So many ideas! I am hoping that the Livescribe Smartpen will become a part of assistive technology options for our schools. The price point is definitely reasonable compared to many other technologies. It is definitely portable and user friendly.

I look forward to finding many uses for my Smartpen.

Image Credit:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Permission to vent...

Before I begin my venting session I would just like to say this is MY opinion. My opinion does not reflect my district or administration. I realize that many factors go in to the operation of a large school district and that there are instances in which concerns may arise.

Okay, with that said...We are coming upon a time of many formal assessments. Both state and district. Assessments are essential to highlight student's academic accomplishments. We need to know if they have met curriculum objectives. So far, so good.

Now the venting begins...I am a resource teacher. This means my job is to work with students who are identified for special education. The students I work with have been identified as learning disabled, mild/moderate mental handicapped, other health impaired, and autistic. I, and all other resource teachers, work very hard to keep students involved in general education classrooms. This is an ideal situation; keeping them in with non-identified peers.

This is not always possible. Our district has established curriculum for reading and math which is considered "life skills" level. Students are able to work with curriculum which is essential to the goal of independence in the community. Essential knowledge for survival (for lack of a better term). I applaud my superiors for their forward thinking. I have seen student have many "light bulb" moments when material is provided at a level which is not at a frustration level.

At this point, you may be asking, "so what is her problem?". The problem is when it is time fore the formal assessments mentioned above. Students who are in the life skills classes are required to take the SAME formal assessments as students in the general education classrooms. The SAME assessments that differentiated students take. My blood pressure rises each time these tests near. How can I expect students in life skills classes to be proficient on assessments for which they have not been taught?

An example of this problem is highlighted with semester CRTs (criterion referenced tests). All students in all grade levels have two of these each year. They are base upon material presented in their math classes. Well, students in life skills math class are not in these classes. Some of the concepts are not a part of their curriculum. However, ALL students must take these test. The only exception is if a student participates in alternate assessment which is used for moderate/severe students.

My heart breaks each time I see my students taking these test. I think to myself "I am helping them see one more thing that they cannot do". Students with disabilities may have had many failures in the past; this certainly does not help. How many times must special educators hear a student say "I don't know what to do" and we must reply "try your best" or "use your best test taking strategy".

Do these assessments truly represent my student's abilities? Don't get me wrong. Assessments are essential to show summative growth. But it is not a summary of my students' growth. I think a more appropriate approach would be to take the same objectives for the topic and have tests which are written for the ability level. This may mean changing the wording, reducing objective tests from 4 choices to 3 choices to omit a possible distractor.

If we are going to continue to have life skills classes, why don't we have life skills CRTs? The criteria would be based upon the material in which the students were taught. To me this is such a basic concept. Tests should reflect material presented. I have no problem if students do not pass assessments which are based on their material. At least it is accurate to their learning opportunities.

I have confidence that I am not the only educator who has had this problem. In fact, I bet that people at the district level have also had this conversation, many times. I would like to think of my district as being progressive and always evaluating practices.

I would really appreciate feedback from readers regarding my opinion. I would like to have an open dialogue of viewpoints. Feel free to leave your comments, links, etc. to keep the conversation going.

Photo Credit: via Google Image Search

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cleaning out my RSS feeds (aka Cleaning House)

This morning I cleaned house. I swept the floor, wiped the counter tops, vacuumed and started laundry. But, that's not all of the cleaning I accomplished. I decided it was time to clean out my Google Reader page. I use RSS subscription to keep up on the latest educational and technology trends. It is amazing how much I have learned from reading blogs and following updates by my favorite vendors.

I go through times where I subscribe to so many feeds that my inbox becomes unmanageable. It can be overwhelming to see unread items topping 200. However, much is valuable. I frequently bookmark ideas with my delicious or diigo accounts.

This morning, after reading through current posts, I realized I had a long list of feeds that I could not even remember why I had subscribed. This is what brought me to the next phase of "house cleaning". One by one I clicked on the feed and looked to see when the last post was made. Surprisingly, I found some from 2007! Needless to say, I decided to unsubscribe. I then decided that if someone hadn't posted in 6+ months I would unsubscribe.

Well, now I have hindsight and wonder if I should have changed my criteria. I am lax at posting myself. Does that make my thoughts unworthy of subscription? This is a thought to ponder. My resolution to this problems is as follows. I will continue to visit links posted on Twitter, Plurk, and other venues of my Professional Learning Network (PLN). Many of these sites I will subscribe to. Some will have great value, some will not. That is how it works.

My hope is that I might inspire someone who has not used RSS subscriptions to give it a try. I can honestly say that my teaching and learning as well have been greatly changed by the content I have gleaned from my subscriptions.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snow Day #4

Snow Day #4
Cannot believe we have another snow day...when will it end?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What Teachers Make

This is an edited version of Taylor Mali's poem. I muted one cuss word. I am not much on cussing!
I did not blur the finger though...I guess I am more of a novice than I thought.