Monday, October 10, 2011

Argument Writing

Today I was able to lead a pretty successful PD session for argument writing.  I think the staff is starting to come back around in seeing the Moodle as a valid resource again.  I just wish people would listen during professional development and not talk through the sessions.  Talk about rude....I'm always amazed how teachers can feel comfortable bringing papers to grade or clearly type emails while I am talking.  It makes it frustrating that sometimes teachers are worse than students when it comes to listening and paying attention.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Vision for PD for the Year

Well, tomorrow after school Keith and I will attend the first Professional Development Committee meeting for the school year. As active members of the PD committee, Keith and I want to hear the vision for the school year and see how our PG goals can be realized within the scope and sequence for the year.  By the end of school tomorrow, we should have a clear plan in place for the school and should know what sessions will be offered to the staff this upcoming year.  Getting excited!!!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

PD, PD, and more PD

Well, the opportunities keep coming and I have begun to realize that as one travels into the realm of PD the pond just keeps getting deeper as teacher needs rise and opportunities abound.  Keith and I have found a dedicated group of teachers interested in planbookedu and the numbers keep growing with each passing day.  It's spreading like wildfire because teachers are always looking for ways to improve their classroom and be more efficient.  We have talked to ITL's in the building, met with interested teachers, and offered one on one tutorial sessions.  The school Moodle continues to be an excting place for teachers to create inspired lessons and we have been working on making it more user friendly for teachers.  In the coming weeks we plan to send out a needs survey to see what teachers need to know about using the Moodle with their classes and then will conduct follow up PD from there.  At this time we're not sure if it will be whole staff or after school break out sessions.  Common Core is still in full swing and Keith and I continue to look for ways to support that through our internship.  One way will be for teachers to log their lesson plans that meet Common Core while using a template created in Moodle.  It will allow teachers to select standards and upload content.  With teachers, we have realized that things must b simple and make their life easier.  No teacher want to add complication to their lives- no matter how beneficial.  Finally, it looks like we might offer a session on podcasts as there seems to be staff interest there as well.
     So, things are going well.  I'm exhausted, but satisfied that things are going smoothly.  I'm still not sure how I will add grad class on top of this busy schedule (class begins next week) but we'll see how it goes.  I only wish we could have taken this class over the summer since unlike previous summers, we only had one class to take (the very enlightening Admin course- can you sense my sarcasm?).  Two classes this summer would not have been too much, I could have focused on the reading, and then go into the school year with just my internship to focus on.  Call me crazy, but this just makes sense.  I have to ask someone about this....

Monday, August 29, 2011

PD well on its way...

So, teachers are back to work and PD is under way.  So far, we've been able to lead a PD session with technology on the Common Core, speak to ITL's about planbookedu and other technology resources, gather interest amongst the staff on planbookedu, begin discussions with staff on what kind of professional development they would like to see this year, and lead sessions on Moodle.  With staff interest at an all-time high, it seems that our internship is coming at a good time after all.  Now, if we can only stop all of this earthquake and hurricane non-sense, we might actually be able to get students in the seats to benefit from all of this PD.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Productive Summer...

     I can't believe summer is coming to a close already, but at least I have a lot to show for it.  Keith and I agreed that if we have the time off we should at least get a jump on creating some of the resources we will need for professional development and our internship this year.  So far we have already created several powerpoint presentations and an interest survey for the staff.  I know once the school year begins it is going to quickly become overwhelming with a new school year, new students, grading, a final grad class, and our internship.  At least most of my pre-internship portfolio is finished (except for a few changes). 
     I have a lot of hope for this internship.  I really hope it can help my staff with all of the new mandates coming from the county and help create stronger collaboration within the school.  Right now everyone does a good job teaching in isolation but it would be nice to see the walls come down and have transparency amongst the staff.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A new partner, a new idea...

Wow!  It's been a while since I have posted.  I guess I've been enjoying summer a little too much.  But the good news- I have an idea, and a partner in which to help implement the idea.  Keith J is switching schools and will be joining me at MVMS.  Which means we can collaborate together for our internship and make a better product because of it.  I'm really excited!  I think we are going to focus on the Moodle and how it can help teachers with the Common Core role-out since that seems to be on everyone's minds anyways.  My big thing is that I want my internship to mean something.  I do not want it to be something I just do but something that will enhance my school culture.  I want to help my school embrace technology and allow it to make them better teachers and better administrators.  I think if we look at the Moodle and maybe google docs or planbookedu we might really get somewhere.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back to the drawing board...

Well, so much for that idea!  I just heard back from central office and the answer is a big fat no!  Here the email that awaited me this morning:

Hello, Steve,
After much consideration and thought regarding the use of Turnitin as a tool to use with your graduate assignment, I have made the decision not to approve its use.  The arguments against its use overshadow the arguments for its use.  The tool is advertised as a college and university tool, with some public and private institutions electing to use it at the high school level as well.  

A tool which might serve many of your purposes is Writeonline. Folks at Hammond Middle piloted this writing tool this year- I believe- and can provide you with valuable feedback regarding its usefulness with writing instruction for middle school students.

I wish you much success with your project.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  Really?  After much consideration?  Why didn't she tell me this a month ago if ultimately it was her decision.  So much back and forth and waiting just to get this answer is quite frustrating.  I think sometimes people are afraid of new technology or even new uses of old technology and so they try to squash other people who are trying to be creative and innovative.  There is such a fear of the unknown that it is quite remarkable.  Now I'm not even sure what direction to go in.  Wow, talk about frustrating...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grad Internship Coming into Focus?

So, I think I've decided what I want to do for my grad internship.  I have spoken with David and my school principal and they are on board.  My next step is to get central office to agree.  My idea?  I want to examine, the plagiarism site, for middle school use.  It has been used for a while now in the county as a means of teaching kids the value of honoring other people's ideas and creativity but by the time kids are in high school they have already spent so much time writing papers that many of them are stuck believing that there is nothing wrong with taking someone's ideas as long as you change a few words.  So, why not use it as a teaching tool in middle school?  Kathy is excited about the idea and hopefully once I hear back from central office I can get started on mapping our how I will introduce the idea to the English team.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Final Internship Thoughts...

As we begin to finish more and more grad classes, the thought keeps hitting me that I am actually close to finishing my course work.  I will actually complete my Master's Degree.  While the idea of a future without grad classes and papers seems exciting, I still have one more challenge still in my path- the final internship.  What to do, what to do?  I have all these ideas running though my head but I'm not sure where to settle?  I keep thinking about online portfolio work and something to do with writing.  I wonder if my principal would be on board?  I need to look over the requirements again and start jotting down some thoughts.  Maybe that will help me settle on something.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Is technology always the answer???

Throughout this grad program, we have examined many useful technology tools and ways they can impact a classroom but it leads me to wonder if technology is always the answer.  I am fascinated with the idea that many of my students spend time reading on the computer but not from actual books.  They read from their kindle and their other e-readers but many do not pick up books for fun anymore.  Even newspapers are mostly online.  It seems so foreign to me to only read using digital means or when asked to write something students get nervous if they cannot type it using a computer.  Is technology quickly becoming the only way we work? Are we creating citizens who are too dependent on technology to solve life's problems?  I guess time will tell...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Benefit of Blogging

     I never knew I would love blogging so much!  At the start of this project I was hesitant to begin, thinking that it would a pain to set up my blog.  However, with blogger it could not have been any easier.  I love the customizable widgets that you can choose from and the colorful templates as well.  It was so easy to create a personal blog without actually having to do much work.
    Over the duration of this project I have come to love blogging.  I find it very therapeutic to blog random thoughts and discoveries (I know I am late to the blogging crazy).  Just knowing that there are people out there to share you findings with is an interesting revelation.  It’s an amazing interconnectedness.  It’s not unlike facebook in that fashion but it somehow seems even more personal (can that be possible).  I think because with blogging you are able to find your voice in writing. It’s not small tweets or tiny quick updates on facebook from your phone, but instead it is your thoughts, fears, questions, and insecurities all written out for the world to see.  When you create a blog you have to find you voice all over again.  What kind of blogger will I be?  Will I be friendly and encouraging?  Cynical and jaded?  Helpful but aloof?  Should my blog be me or another version of me?  So many questions abound but so many answers lie in the act of blogging itself.  Who knew so much could be gained from typing with the hopes that someone is reading.  Who knew Doogie Howser would start a phenomenon?
     If you are interested in starting your own blog, I heavily recommend blogger or word press.  As I already stated, blogger is easy to use and it makes blogging quite simple (I have heard the same for wordpress).  If you are looking for helpful resources, I would recommend A Beginner's Guide to Blogging and How to Blog Effectively.  If you get started on a blog and have any questions feel free to drop me a line and ask any questions.  I'm off to grab some lunch and then maybe more blogging...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

More Tweets

I wanted to show you that I am still alive and tweeting.  I think the problem is that I do not have a phone with internet capabilities (I mean, yes it can surf the internet, but I'm too poor to use the data plan feature).  Without a phone or mobile device, twitter loses some appeal.  Especially now that facebook has moved into the "what are you doing right now" territory.  On that note, it's funny how the competition amongst technology powerhouses like twitter, facebook, google, etc have motivated them to continue to evolve.  In this fast-paced culture it seems that you either evolve or you get left behind (R.I.P. myspace).  It's weird to think that somewhere out there is a small start-up company that will one day topple google.  It doesn't seem possible but that's what we said about yahoo...

Anyway, here's what I have been tweeting:


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm going to call on...

So, this next discovery is a little random, but really quite useful.  Now, this isn't exactly web 2.0 technology but I had to share anyway.  Do you ever have the feeling, as a teacher, that you always call on the same students?  Looking for a fun way to get everyone involved in the discussion?  Check out and their random name/ word picker.  You can type in the name of your students or upload from another document.

Add the names of the students from your class

Next, you can choose the template you want to use: typewriter or fruit machine.  Then, it will scroll through the list... 

Scrolling through your students

 and then randomly choose one of your students.

Viola!  You have your next student "voluntold" to read the next passage, answer a question, clean up the lab, or wash your car during their recess.  Again, this is not really a web 2.0 tool but it is a fun discovery nonetheless.  Hope you like it!

Writing without Boundaries

Below is a sample of something I made using write board:

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I have also used google docs in the past, especially when it has come to grad school.  It is a marvelous tool that has changed the way I do group projects.  I think before there was always a hesitancy to work in a group to complete a project simply based on logistics and time.  Now, you can work with others without leaving your home.  Google docs and other word processing tools are changing the way we collaborate.

A past project created with Kirstin, Leslie, Patrick, and myself

As stated above, this changes everything in the world of education.  No more will students fear working together.  No more will one student get stuck typing up the final draft while the other group members encourage on the sidelines.  And what about tellecollaboration?  Students can work together who are miles and even countries apart.  They can create a document, edit, and share with the world around them all while learnning about team work and other cultures.  What a fantastic web 2.0 technology!

Google Doc Art!

This video is too cool!  Apparently three artists wanted to show the capabilities of google docs and thus created this video using only google docs.  Pretty fun- thought I'd share.  Let me know what you think!  Ahh technology...

Google Docs and Writeboard

Are you familiar with google docs?  It's an amazing tool that makes collaboration a snap!  Google users (and non-google users) can create a document and then share it with others giving all invited members the authority to add, delete, and edit the document with all changes being able to be tracked.  This document lives in cyber space and not on any one person's hard drive.  How could this be helpful?  Remember being in school and the pain of having to find a time all of your group members could get together to work on a particular project?  Well, with google docs that is no longer a problem.  Simply invite all members of the group into a google doc project and they can edit and tweak the paper to their hearts content. 

Writeboard is similar to googledocs in that many users can create and edit a document together.  The big diference is that unlike googledocs that constantly saves and changes your original document, writeboard continues to make new pages so that users can see the changes made to the original document and go back to earlier version if necessary.  Students do not need a google account in order to use this which is another advantage.  Only those invited by the creator can view the document.

Some helpful links and other fun resources on online word processors:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Middle School Moodle Mayham

Now try saying that five times fast....After telling you all about Moodle, I wanted to show you how you can use it in your class.  One of the best ways I have utilized it in my middle school English class is by having interactive message boards with the students.  The students love it and enjoy interacting with one another while getting to discuss literature from class.  Once the students have signed in to the Moodle, I had them read guidelines for Moodle use (midddle school kids can be mean when they think they can hide behind the Internet)

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Next, the students need to select the appropriate board topic:

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Once they've chosen the correct topic they will see the prompt question:

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Now that students understand the topic or posting directions they can begin posting answers and even responding to one another.  You can organize your students by period or even let them discuss amongst your classes.  Other teachers at my school who teach across grade level created a telecollaborative  Moodle by allowing older kids to help younger students with homework questions.  It's pretty neat!  And best yet: the entire site is safe and monitored by you so that the kids have a safe place to interact, blog, respond to message boards, and more.

Sample student work (without names of course):

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Also with the Moodle, teachers can:
  • Make quizzes/tests (that are self-graded)
  • Create posts where students can upload documents
  • Design a calendar of upcoming events
  • Have students upload projects/presentations
  • Create web pages and wikis students can access from the main moodle site
  • Establish a database of student info
Moodle would be  agreat way to create a telecollaborative project between schools as well.  It would require some planning on the part of both teachers but a project similar to the flat classroom project could be housed on the moodle while providing a unique opportunity for student growth and development.

Moodle Resources...

For those of you interested in Moodle, here's a great introduction video that tells you all about Moodle and its capabilities:

Other useful websites include:
  • Moodle Rooms- A helpful site for educators interested in the opportunities offered by Moodle
  • Moodle Help- Offers message boards and a help-community for those using Moodle

Moodle Mania

     The term moodle refers to interactive web-based platforms that allow users the ability to create and edit content much like a wiki-space.  Moodle stands for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.  The aim is to enable users to be able to create online learning environments.  They have become increasingly popular over the years as web users have enjoyed the freedom they offer and that they are user-friendly for individuals of all ages.  As of By January 9th, 2010, Moodle had:

~46,624 registered sites
~32,464,992 users in 3,161,291 courses

It was also present in:
~209 countries
~More than 75 languages

Many schools in Howard County have begun to explore Moodles as a way to enrich the students while also being useful for educators and administrators.  So, how can educators use this technology in their classrooms?  More to come...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Would Shakespeare Tweet? Twitter in the Classroom

Now that I have told you all about twitter and walked you through the process of setting up an account, it's time to ask the big question- who cares?  In all honesty, twitter can be a fun way to express yourself but if it can't impact the world and have a true purpose than it may just be an entertaining waste of time.  More specifically, can twitter have an impact on classrooms?  Can education find a use for social micro-blogging?  Whenever you bring up the idea of using technology with students many teachers and administrators become increasingly nervous.  What if the students use the technology in an inappropriate manner?  What if they hurt the computers?  What if their parents feel uncomfortable with their child using the Internet in such a public manner?  There will always be fears with unknown technology, but the best way to change education is to think outside the box.  For good and bad, here are some possible ways to incorporate micro-blogging into the classroom:

-    Teachers can use twitter to remind students of upcoming projects- With email, teacher websites, and teacherease, twitter seems an unlikely way to keep students updated but it is one possible idea.
-    Students assume twitter identities- Have students create limited twitter accounts where they assume the identity of a famous author or literary figure and they tweet as if them.  Caution would need to be taken to ensure student safety but this could be a fun way for kids to use technology and be creative.

But maybe they can use twitter without really using twitter?  Since it is such a cultural phenomenon that everyone is aware of, students could use the concept of twitter while not exposing themselves to the risks of the internet (especially for younger children).  A project could ask kids to tweet as a literary character with typed tweets in a word document or prezi presentation.  For example, what would Odysseus tweet while on his famous epic journey.  Or, what would star-crossed lovers Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet have to say as their impending deaths drew nearer?  Would their tweets have been able to save them from the mistaken communication that resulted in their deaths? 

Creating Your Twitter Account

     Alright, cyber friends- interested in creating your own twitter account?  Here is a great link from e-how that will help you get started.  Once you have created an account you can begin sharing your thoughts, feelings, questions, and life concerns with the masses.
     I actually took this time to make my very own account as well.  It could have not been any easier and truly only took a few minutes to complete.  Take a look at my what I created:

My first tweet!

     Now, before you go off and create your own twitter account and tweet up a storm, there is something to keep in mind.  Each tweet that you create cannot be larger than 140 characters in length.  This keeps to the true intent of twitter- a short message meant to inform or update.  It means that you have to be creative and find a way to condense your thoughts.
     As you begin to create your account here are a few other helpful resources I found on the web:
  • Search Twitter- This is a great site to be able to use key words to examine the plethora of converasations/tweets actively found on twitter.
  • Attracting Attention- For those more business-minded, this website points out how twitter can be a wonderful advertising campaign