Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grades, eBooks, and QR Codes, OH MY!

Several interesting articles crossed my screen today, and I am finally getting a chance to take a close look at them.

What do grades, measure, really?  Do they measure real learning and valid achievement, or are they now just becoming the ends that are to be reached by any means necessary?  Paul Cancellieri shares his thoughts in this article I recommend everyone read, if for no other reason than to start a dialog and force us to evaluate our assessments.

Scholastic, not surprisingly, frequently polls their consumers to see how much traction electronic books are gaining among young readers.  Their findings are that while eBooks are indeed gaining in popularity, books in print aren't going anywhere any time soon, at least not for pleasure reading.

Finally, here's an article with a quick list of ways to use QR codes in the classroom.  There are more possibilities than you'll find shared in the article, and I can also recommend and (which Harker teachers have already as part of their Google Apps accounts) for creating QR codes.  If you're interested in finding out more, give me a shout!

Say goodbye to your grandmother's way of attaching files!

Not only do e-mail attachments have size and often file type limitations, they are still separate files you need to hunt down if you need to use them later.  You still end up with a static file that may or may not be the latest revision.

Google Drive to the rescue!  From within a Gmail message, you can "attach" files up to a total of 10 GB by using Google Drive.  This also means that you're less likely to accidentally send an attachment to an unintended recipient.  You'll be prompted with a confirmation about sharing with the recipient(s) you specified, and then they can have the access you want them to have, which may mean NOT being able to change the content of your file.

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Language Learning Killer App?

Could Duolingo be the new solution for learning a language?  A study suggests that might be the case.

Read more here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Almost as good as being there....okay, nowhere near that good, but still cool!

I frequently skim my Google+ stream for articles, posts, and videos related to EdTech.  Since most of the people I'm connected to there are in this field, I get a lot of great resources.  Also some laughs and cat videos, of course.

Yesterday, I clicked a link to a video that had me captivated for its full 25-minute duration.  Granted, that one with the amazing halftime show by a college marching band performing a tribute to video games had a similar effect, but this time was different.  I guess you could say I was over the moon.

You see, my family and I go out and spot the ISS whenever it flies over at night, weather conditions permitting.  I get a notification on Twitter that tells me where in the sky to look, as well as how long the flyover will be visible.  We've often told our son to wave, since there are people up there.  We gaze at the tiny, bold light, zipping across the sky and wonder what it's like in there.

Well, wonder no more, people!  Back in November, the outgoing ISS commander Sunita Williams decided to host a video tour of the station, with camera work by the incoming commander, just before her Soyuz trip back to earth with two colleagues from Japan and Russia.  The tour is fun, informative (I had no idea how they did their business . . . if you receive my meaning . . . up there!), and great for kids. (Just don't click on some of the recommended videos or let the kiddos read the comments.)

I am looking forward to sharing this video with my son this weekend.  I may never get to visit the International Space Station myself (and now that I've seen how they pee, I kinda don't want to), but I feel almost like I've been there already now.  (They don't show anyone ACTUALLY peeing, by the way.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Boredom vs. Engagment -- the neverending battle

Often, when I leave work for the day, I leave a few browser tabs open as I close my laptop, intending to go back to them, perhaps to read something I didn't have time for while at work.  This morning, I had two such tabs still open when I finally settled in at my desk after meetings that kept me off my computer.

The first, a HuffPo blog post by Elizabeth English entitled Why So Many Schools Remain Penitentiaries of Boredom, challenges us all, yet again, to question the predictable and tired "model" of schooling in which the teacher is the center of attention and giver of knowledge, and students are subjected to the torture of sitting still, unplugging, and being fed information as passive, empty vessels.

Right next door in the tab to its right, I see peeking at me from the Charlotte Observer's Education column, "Education and video games are no longer enemies."

Now, it's not that I think someone would jump from one of these articles to the next and suddenly be ready to lead a revolution under the banner of student-centered, engagement-rich learning experiences right after stepping down from a podium and burning one's old overhead transparencies.  I just think this is further evidence of something I am often heard to say aloud: "This is an amazing, exciting time to be an educator."

I really just wanted to share these two articles because I want to help everyone see that these conversations are happening.  Here at Harker, we're doing a lot of things right.  Students are at the center of the learning experience, even though at times it takes a lot of old-school information transfer to get them there in some cases.  Our students ARE creating, performing, inventing, learning, and living.  They are pursuing research topics related to their own passions.  They aren't just starring in shows put on by the adults on the payroll; they're directing their peers.  Daily, we use software created by alumni while they were students here.

And they're gaming.  Granted, a lot of that is happening during free periods and after school -- especially on Friday evenings.  I step over bodies and wade through crowds of gamers just to get out to my car to start my weekend.  And in the next few weeks, I am going to have an unsuspecting group of kids teach me (and themselves) how to play Minecraft.

Through these experiences, neither sanctioned nor forbidden here at school, we see our students' eyes light up, hear their voices raised in high-pitched chatter (and the occasional profanity), and sense the unbounded energy they pour into these alternate realities that capture their imaginations and enthusiasm.

I look forward to exploring the chance to try things like these with our students as part of our classes.  And I welcome anecdotes about the kinds of things already happening in classes that I'm not aware of yet.

Friday, January 4, 2013

MERIT Program Applications due January 14th!

I'd like to take another chance to encourage you to take a look at the MERIT program at Foothill College's Krause Center for Innovation.

I am happy to answer any questions you have about the program and/or the application process.

We encourage folks to apply in a team of three or more if possible (though pairs are also welcome), but you can also apply as an individual.  We're keeping a few slots reserved for Harker teachers, so we'd love to see an Eagle Contingent as part of this year's cohort.

If you're wondering about a team, don't feel the need to limit your idea to one campus, grade level, or department.  Cross-campus, cross-curricular, and other variations for teams would be very welcome.

I can guarantee this: the MERIT program transforms teachers.  If you feel like this is the summer you want your world rocked (in a good way), do consider applying.