Monday, March 15, 2010

MEC 2010 Day 1

"How did you get your administrator to let you go to that MEC conference at ASU??" Well, I asked. If you wish you could go to a fun tech conference, ASK! I can't guarantee it'll work all the time, but it works more often than you'd imagine :-) I had a blast today at my first big edtech conference, and especially had fun tweeting about it! I never get to tweet that much since I don't have a data plan on my phone :-) Anyway, here's a quick summary of some of the cool things I learned about:

-Twitter -Great workshop with Tony Vincent :-)
-Live Classroom 2.0-Free weekly edtech webinars
-Kidsblog-A free blogging service for kids that doesn't require email addresses
-Twoogie-a fun one for fans of Twitter and Doogie Howser MD :-)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Back Side of Web Blockers

In a good example of the double-edged sword of web blockers, I posed a veiled challenge to my kids a week or two ago. We were getting ready for our quarterly benchmark tests and I knew we hadn't talked about tides yet in science and that it was going to be on the test, and I was running short on time. Hence, I wrote the following on the board: Find a video online that describes to you how tides work. Then embed that video in a blog post. I have never done any of those things with the kids before, but I wanted to see what/how they'd do :-)

Not surprisingly, they knew exactly how to find videos, but they also know that youtube is blocked. So, immediately, one kid raises his hand and asks what to do, since youtube was blocked. I said, "Figure it out," knowing that 1) there are plenty of other places to find videos online, and 2) there are even more proxys available which get you around web blockers to the blocked site. 30 seconds after the first kid raised his hand, someone else goes, "Got it! I'm in!" They found a proxy (several actually) that worked, and others used various other sources. Eventually, everyone got a basic idea of how tides work, though we ran out of time for the embedding bit. I'll try that again some other time :-) Then, to guarantee that everyone had the same understanding I wanted them to have, I showed them this high-quality video from HowStuffWorks, which helped out as well. Yay for technology!

A few cool tech things

As the kids (and the teachers) start to wind up for our state standardized testing (AIMS) and other tests, stress levels rise and behavior goes down the tubes. Needless to say, this is true on both sides of the teacher's desk. So, as is usually my M.O., I've resorted to technology to ratchet down stress levels and behavior issues.

About a month ago, I ran across this genius idea by @rmbyrne on Twitter (author of the always excellent Free Technology for Teachers blog). His idea was to take a topic and compare what different technology sources say about it. So, since women's suffrage was next up in our march through US History, we read the 8 paragraphs in the textbook about women's suffrage, then read sections of the Wikipedia entry on the same topic, and then looked at primary source documents (which we've studied) about women's suffrage. Then, the students wrote blog posts explaining why they would choose one source over another, and how the information that was offered by each differed.

This turned out to be a great exercise. It benefitted the students in several ways. First, it showed them the beauty of Wikipedia (which they've discovered off-handedly, but we haven't done any direct work with). They weren't aware how much information could be found there, which needless to say, is a wealth of information. Next, in order to save time, which was not surprisingly, running short, I found about handful of primary source items available online (poems, photos, legislative documents, etc.) , showed them to the kids and explained them. First of all, they were very interested in them, which was great. But even better, I was shocked to discover that they were fascinated with the concept of the Library of Congress, where I'd found some of the sources. They just thought it was the coolest thing that there was a place where all these original sources were stored :-) Bonus for the LOC! And finally, they were able to reflect on which source was most effective in various ways on the class blog, by answering some questions I posed.

Speaking of the blog, I was thrilled to discover last week that somehow, a college class of students studying to be teachers discovered our class blog and posted lots of comments on it. The kids were THRILLED to see that other people actually cared about what they had to say!

Where can a degree get you?

It occurred to me recently, that after 5 years of teaching, I'm a good teacher, but I'm still an awful classroom manager, and it exhausts me every single day. No, I take it back. I knew that already. What occurred to me is that there are ways around that part of teaching, and I really don't have to make myself suffer through something that just does not come naturally to me.

Lucky for me, I (will in May) have a degree that can get me to those kinds of jobs. So, this year, I'm not just applying to 2 places, I'm looking at all kinds of other places, from teaching educational technology at online universities or in face-to-face community colleges, to teaching basic computer classes to middle schoolers, to doing professional development for teachers, to teaching online classes for a K-12 online school.

So, I've sent out inquiries to many of these places and am planning on sending out more. I finished my Curriculum Vitae the other day, which felt good (and professional :-)) It was surprising as I created the CV and my resume, to realize that I am actually pretty qualified for many of the positions I listed above! Good job, NAU! It feels great to actually have some options outside of teaching in an elementary self-contained classroom. That's the thing with a BA in education. Generally, the only thing you can do with it is teach. So, I'm excited to have more options. Wish me luck!