Monday, March 25, 2013

Rubber Meets the Road: Ed Tech for Everyone

Just like many other areas of life, we in the education world (and often the educational technology world) are guilty of using acronyms and jargon. ELL, CCSS, scaffolding, personal learning network, and the one I'm addressing today: Web 2.0. What does that even mean? To people who only have vague aspirations of using technology, it's a scary techie word that sounds complicated.

Good news folks! It's not nearly as complicated as it sounds! That's why I developed the online class that I'll be teaching again this spring called Rubber Meets the Road: Web 2.0 For Real. What does it actually mean? This course explains to participants what Web 2.0 is (the participatory, creative internet), gives participants a chance to test out 3 parts of the 2.0 internet (blogs, wikis, and videos), and then the opportunity to actually implement one of the three in the classroom. If this sounds like something that'd be of interest to you, please register below. Details are as follows:

Rubber Meets the Road: Web 2.0 For Real

  • April 22-May 19, 2013
  • 4 week online course 
  • Completely asynchronous (no deadlines, except the last day of class)
  • $20 (pay below registration form) [malfunctioning button has been fixed] 
  • 12 hours of continuing education available
  • Registration is available up through April 25. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When life gives you lemons...Take pictures!

On Tuesday, I was informed that my computer lab was going to be used for testing, and that I could use a newer lab instead for the day. This would be great if there was a server my kids could save information to, so they could get it from any computer. But we don't. This would also be great if the kids could get over the novelty of new computers that aren't "theirs" for one day. But they can't. The one other time we did this, virtually no learning occurred because they were so excited with the new computers. So, when I was told that I could use this lab again, I decided it wasn't worth it, and we went outside.

When I was a classroom teacher, I used to take kids outside on gorgeous Arizona spring 85 degree days. I forgot how much more I loved my classes when they were spread out over a football field. So much more tolerable!! Of course, I couldn't just let them play, we had to be doing something curriculum -related. So, we implemented our own BYOD-type activities :-)

My 8th graders worked in groups of 3 or 4 (they had more devices) and chose a vocabulary word from class. They then looked for each letter in the environment and took a picture with a phone or ipod. Below is my example (ACE--not a vocabulary word, but the quickest example I could find). The rules were that it had to 4 letters or more, couldn't be printed letters, and had to have at least part of it that was in the existing landscape (i.e., you can't make an O with your arms). They had a great time :-)

My 7th graders had an even better time :-) Their assignment was to work in groups of 5 or 6 (they had fewer devices among them) and choose a fairy tale. They were then to identify the 5 plot points (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution), re-enact a scene for each plot point, and photograph it. First I had each group identify their fairy tale (following brief, but intense debate over what a fairy tale was: Jack and the Bean Stalk? Yes. Tangled/Rapunzel? Yes. The Avengers? No. Harry Potter? No. The Wizard of Oz? No. The Lord of the Rings? No.--The goal was SHORT, since we only had 45 minutes.) Then they retold it to each other to make sure they knew the ending. (Also, brief, but intense debate over the endings of Jack & the Beanstalk and Beauty and the Beast.) Then, they went out to take their pictures. Here's one of my favorite versions of Cinderella I saw acted out. (Captions below photos.) The kids had such a ball, and asked if we could do it again :-) Must have been a success! (Minus my intense sunburn.)

 1. Cinderella. 

2. Gus the mouse :-) 

3. Cinderella cleaning. 

 4. Enter the evil step-mother. 

5. Prince invites Cinderella to the ball. 

6. Smooth carriage ride for the prince!

7. Cinderella loves the ball. (Turns out the top of the jungle gym is a great place for a ball :-)) 

8. Cinderella loses her slipper. (top of the stairs in the shadow)

9. Prince findes the shoe. 

10. Prince (and Gus) deliver the shoe. 

11. (Drumroll) Will it fit? 

 12. It fits!

13. Cast photo :-) 

Online Reliability

For several years, I've taught students about how to decide if something is reliable online, a skill that I think is beyond essential in the world of higher-education and the general job market. It has taken many times of teaching this to refine what actually makes something trustworthy or not, and much examination of how I make these decisions myself. (Try it. Next time you Google something, analyze how you decide what to click on, and once you get there, how you decide if it's something you should trust.) I finally decided to compile all this information into a Google Doc and would love anyone else to add in their own input!

Please note: I don't use websites like the tree octopus to teach students about reliability. The vast majority of websites are NOT trying to trick people. However, they are trying to persuade them, from various perspectives, and it's critical for students to know how to identify those perspectives.

(Can also be accessed here.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Become a Better Teacher at Edcamp

An unconference. No speakers brought in, no sessions planned in advance. Planning an Edcamp can’t be that hard, right? Ha! It turns out there are a lot more logistics than one might think.

However, when all the logistics were set up, and people began arriving on Saturday, February 23, for the first ever Edcamp Phoenix West, some might say magic happened. I however, would not call it magic. What happened is exactly what one should expect when teachers get together on their own time in their own way.

They became better teachers.

They shared ideas, successes, and perplexing issues. They wrote down others’ great ideas, websites, and names. They exchanged contact information so they can keep working together. This is what professional development should look like. We don’t have to force teachers to do this. We don’t have to pay them to do this. We don’t have to bring in an expert. They’re already here.

What did we do to encourage this kind of a gathering? We supplied a location, coffee, pizza, and prizes. That’s it. Yes, the details of coordinating all of this involved more than one meeting. But witnessing the energy, excitement, and passion for education in the building made it all worth it.

So. Do you want to be a better teacher? Do you want to engage with others passionate about their craft? Come to Edcamp Phoenix 2014. (Dates to be announced soon.)

photo credit: a.e.ray via photopin cc