Tuesday, September 2, 2014

School News: Teachable Moments Can Be Awesome

There’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in education and in life called the Teachable Moment. 

Now this can be characterized by some sort of learning that is happening between students and teachers or between parents and children.  It can be planned out as part of an activity or it can be spontaneous.  Which is better? 

It would depend on who you ask as to the response you receive.  That in itself could be considered a teachable moment. 

Me I like, or prefer, the unplanned spontaneous kind.

That being said, I witnessed a teachable moment today while I was at a school and for me it was an eye opening experience.  While working with a school today on their first news broadcast you could say that everything that could go wrong went wrong.
  •       The sound did not work
  •       A computer did not power up
  •       The teleprompter did not work
  •       The camera kept shutting off
  •       The crew was late

Hey it happens so we drop back and punt and prepare for the next day.

In the mist of the chaos, the students took it upon themselves to figure out what the problems were, how to fix them and how to help each other to ensure a successful broadcast the next day.

I became a bystander as I watched these students diagnose and work through the problems that had happened during the morning broadcast. 

As one student determined what the problem was they would gather the rest of the news crew around and showed them how to fix the issue. 

This was something that I had not seen in some of the other schools that I have worked with in the past.  Usually students would just accept that there was a problem and then leave and go on with their day, maybe hoping that the problems would fix themselves. 

I expressed to their faculty mentor that this was something that I had not witnessed in other schools and it was incredible to see coming from middle school students.

Yes it was a teachable moment for the students to fix the issues and work with each other but I think that it may have been more of a teachable moment for me in that it was something that I had not expected and impressed me greatly.

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

School News: Making A Difference

Well it is hard to believe that it is the end of the school year and I have not written my third installment of School News.  I have been working hard with a number of schools in the area to help them develop their news program from the ground up or to improve existing shows to make them more informative and interactive.   The teachers and students have expressed how much fun it has been to have a news show at their schools and that they want to keep it going each year.

When it comes to having a school news program within a school, I have heard a lot of the negatives.  From this is taking away from instructional time to why would students want to do this?  There are just as many pros as there are cons to having a news program at a school.  For those where negatives outweigh the positives I can only offer some testimonials from schools where it has made a difference, whether in the classroom or to an individual student.  

I asked some of the teachers that I have been involved with over the year to share their thoughts on the school news program and how, if any, it has effected their students, classrooms and schools.

What Educators have said:

  • "Doing TV announcements was so motivational for my students. The hands-on guys took right to the technical aspect of setting up the equipment. Some of those guys were disengaged until we started videotaping."
  • "Many of my students have also become leaders among their peers and much more confident overall."
  • "The greatest benefit that I have seen from our school news is that the students are gaining a different understanding of responsibility and team work."
  • "They have taken ownership of the show and have been faced with many real-world situations and have had to come up with creative solutions to solve problems that have arose."
  • "The school news is the students' time to shine. Not only are they excited to be seen by the whole school, they really work hard to read carefully and speak clearly because they know that everyone is listening and needs the information they are presenting"
  • "I have noticed that my students have become much more confident in their speaking abilities"

One of the quotes I appreciated the most was this one from one of our High School Journalism teachers.  "Two of my students plan to take the video broadcasting course during the North Carolina Scholastic Media Institute in June."  I know that she is very happy for her students that have taken it upon themselves to continue their learning through attending this summer institute.  

I along with my colleagues attempt to strive to help teachers to spark curiosity in our students to help make their goals attainable and to motivate them to succeed.  For the schools that I have worked with this seems to have rung true.  The teachers have sparked curiosity in their students to learn the process involved in creating a news program. Also, whether or not they admit to it, I think those educators have gotten the spark to continue to strive and learn as well.

photo credit: ASU_Cronkite via photopin cc

Monday, April 28, 2014

Preparing Rising 6 & 9th Graders with Multimedia

As a 6 and 9th grade teacher you prepare every year to get a brand new crop of wide eyed students that have no idea of what they are in for as they move into Middle and High School.  Most of these students will not get much information in the way of what to expect as they move from one school to the next.  This is a big step for either grade level.  So what can we do to prepare them?

Most of these students will not know what to expect until the first day of school.  It can be overwhelming to some perplexing to others and even frightful to a few.  So how do we help prepare our students for the next level of our education?  Well let's see if we can reach them on their level and make it fun and make it fun at the same time.  Why not create a real world scenario using Problem-Based Learning to have your current students design a video for incoming students to help ease their minds and answer some of their questions.

It makes a good argument for teachers to build off the Research Writing that falls into the fourth quarter curriculum.  As well it can bring in needed Information Technology Essential Standards that may not normally be seen in the classroom on a regular basis.

The Scenario:
You are a rising 6/9th grade student and you do not know what to expect from the school that you are getting ready to start in the fall.  What information would you want to know about ahead of time so that you are prepared on the first day of school?

From this your students should be able to:
research information about the school
create a list of possible questions 
produce a video outlining what a rising student would need to know.

So then it comes down to what do you need to know to be a 6/9th grader?  Have your students collaborate to come up with ideas on what the most important things are that they should share about the school.  Let them be as creative as they want to be, the sky is the limit.  Some of your students will more than likely surprise you with what they come up with.  

It is a great focusing activity for the end of the year as well for your students that might be starting to tune out due to the impending summer vacation.  Most will not even realize that they are doing something curriculum based or part of a lesson because they will be entrenched in creating a video project.  

Who knows you might have a up and coming screenwriter, director or actor in your class and this will become the launching pad for their career.  

photo credit: MACSD via photopin cc

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What's In A House, What Can You Live Without?

So I recently decided to put my home on the market to see if I could take advantage of the recent uptrend in home sales in my area.  

When I decided to do this I panicked a little bit, not because I would have to keep my home clean - that is easy, because I would have to pack up all the gizmos, gadgets and other technology items that I use every single day!

The first week I was frazzled because I was trying to figure out what I could actually do without while my home is on the market.  

I sat down and looked at what I have and how I used it.  

The work technology vs. the home technology was an easy compromise because I figured I would not worry about the work tech except for my work phone.  

When it came down to figuring out my personal technology, that was the hardest part.  

What to do with all the actual gizmos, gadgets and computer equipment I own.  This is when the panic really set in.  

I never realized, even being a Digital Immigrant, how much I rely on technology in every part of my life.  With a lot of effort I paired down to what I thought I actually needed to keep.  

So here is what I did as my personal technology purge:  

  • I need to have access to email but do I really need a computer or laptop for this?  
  • I need to pay my bills, can I go old school and write checks?  
  • Now the mobile devices, how many does one person really need to have at the ready?  

I also looked at my "massive" video collection I had amassed over the years and the video equipment that goes along with it.  I never knew there were places locally that would buy used movies and I was able to sell the box I had put together.   

So in a nutshell I reduced all of my tech down to one single computer that I do everything from.  I still have both my work and personal cell phones but outside of that nothing else.  

I was surprised that everything that I thought I needed I really didn't.  

As the weeks have gone by now I have come to a realization that maybe I really didn't need to have all of the electronic stuff around after all.  

I even noticed a change, however small, in my electric bill too and that was nice to see.  So maybe I really do not need to have all of that electronic stuff around me all of the time.  

Or maybe I just need to move more often.... Nah.  

photo credit: mystuart via photopin cc

Monday, March 31, 2014

What's In A Web Page - Things You Should Be Sharing. Part II

Reviewing and getting your students ready for testing always seems to be a daunting task but think of making things easier because as you prepare your students in the classroom for what they will need to know for the testing why not remind them and their parents from your teacher website. It would be great to add information onto your website that will help students beyond the classroom.  

Even if that page starts out with a reminder to the parents that testing is coming up and that their children should be ready for test day by getting plenty of sleep the night before and eat something on the morning of the test.  

A great web page to create would also be one that has the same information abbreviated that you are going over in class on the web with web links they can go to for further information.  

If you are a teacher that will not be changing grade levels or subject areas this page is now available ongoing for your students and parents as a reminder of what is coming up in the fourth quarter.  

Talking with other teachers can help you if you change grade levels or subject areas because you could share your information with them and visa versa so your web site stays up to date.  

With the summer months coming up you also want to have information on your site again that promotes yourself, your class and your school so if there are any potentially new students coming in they will be able to make an informed decision to attend that school.  

Other types of easy quick web pages that you could add to your site:

  • A summer reading list for both incoming and outgoing students.  
  • A list of local summer locations and activities that offer a learning environment in which students are interactive and a part of the learning process.  
  • A page that talks about what students can expect as they enter the new school year in your classroom.  

What other types of pages could you create on your website that would offer the most information?  How about an individual page per Quarter that outlines what you are doing if you are an Elementary teacher.  If you are a subject area teacher you can put that class syllabus on the site.  How about those always great self-promoting pages that outline a great lesson, an incredible learning activity or field trip.  You can create a homework page that lets your students know when assignments are due.  

If you are a Magnet school you can have a page dedicated to outline your school classroom for the time of the year when Parents are looking to enroll their child(ren) into these schools.  Or as a Kindergarten teacher you can have a page that talks about all of the wonderful learning that is going on in your classroom for Parents during Kindergarten registration.  

With all things being said if you do some upfront work on your web page it will pay off in the long run with continued views from students, parents and community members.  It will ensure that the information you are sharing is up to date because all you will have to do ongoing is make small changes to keep things current.  And it will guarantee that you sell sell sell what you are doing in your classroom to get the buy in from whomever is looking at your website.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Geddit And Don't Forget It

So I found an interesting new site today that I thought I would share with you.  for some this might be old hat for others its brand new and you will really like it.

Let me start with some questions:
How many times does a student come up to you after the class to say that they really do not understand the material?
How often in class do you ask a question where you get the blank stairs or no one raises their hands?

In your mind you may be thinking that the students did not do their work, or just don't care.  But what if there was a student that really does not understand the material but is just afraid to ask questions.  Geddit allows you as the teacher to know how your students are doing at anytime during the class.  It gives a voice to the student that is afraid to ask the question.  As the teacher you can do some Formative Assessment by asking them a question on the fly by sending it to them silently.  The student can tell the teacher silently through the App or site by clicking on the bar graph and sending it to the teacher.  A student can even get the teachers attention by raising their virtual hand.  The one thing that I see is that it help with differentiated instruction by allowing the teacher to see students strengths and weaknesses an then be able to react to them quickly.  Maybe by grouping students that understand the concepts with those who do not for some peer assistance and collaboration.

Above is a quick video about Geddit, what it is and how it works.  The product is platform independent so as long as you have a Wifi enabled device and/or computer connected to the web you can use Geddit.  In the iPad App store you can search for Geddit and download it, or you can open any browser and go to letsgeddit.com to use the product.  When you get to the site there are just two options, Sign in as a Teacher or Sign in as a Student.  As a teacher you will create your account setup your class and give your students a code to join your class.  It is completely protected from outside influence since you need a code to join.  According to the website creators there is no requirements, or limitations, when it comes to age.  The site is very easy to use and set up, within minutes I had my account created, class setup, app downloaded, website up and created a generic student log in and was testing everything out.

Tune in next week for some ideas on how this can be used in the classroom. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

What's In A Web Page - Things You Should Be Sharing. Part I

Let me start by asking you this question… 

What do you do when you open a web page to a site that you think has information about spring and Summer clothing and it is still talking about the upcoming fall collection?  

You would open up another web page with the information on it that you are looking for....right?  

That is the same thing that happens if a parent, community member or even your students do when they go to your web site and there is no information available that they are looking for.  They go somewhere else, and that is not good.  

I see this every day in what I do both in and outside of the school system.  I admit that I may not have the best patience when it comes to outdated web pages but just think about this scenario:
  • I am a parent, living out of state, who is moving to the area this summer and I need to figure out what school I want my child to go to in the fall.  
  • I start looking into the schools that are close to my new home and when I check the teachers’ websites many of them still say "Welcome to the new school year" or "Have a Wonderful Holiday Break."  
That would not be a great way for a prospective parent to start their search of a new school for their child.  This may even cause that parent to reconsider attending a school in the area based on their first impressions of what they see on a teacher’s web page.  

Think of it this way, your web site is selling a product.  Whether that product is something that is tangible that you can hold in your hand or an idea of what there is to offer.  If the web site is not current or full of non-relevant information you will lose the sale, and in a game of numbers could mean the difference between an extra classroom of students and a teacher or combining classrooms of students and losing a teacher.  

What if you are applying for and/or are receiving a grant and part of the requirements are that you keep a current account of activities on your website.  You may lose the grant because of an out of date web page or site.

This scenario may seem extreme and some of you may be saying: 
  • "No way, that's not me." 
  • "I keep my web page up to date."
  • "My students won't go to my webpage so why bother."
  • Some may be saying "It doesn't matter because a parent will see the school web page before mine and that is all they need to see."  
But let me tell you more often than not those first impressions are the ones that stick regardless of how good you or your school is.  

So let’s get away from the negative and look towards some positives.  Just some simple things that can enhance your websites to keep them informative and current for anyone that may be looking at them.

Let’s start with today, we are in the final week of March and we all know what will be starting up at the beginning of April.  Yes, its review and testing time.  Raise your hands if you agree that you will spend the bulk of the quarter reviewing for a week of testing, then retesting.  Caught you, some of you actually raised your hands and that's OK.  

Join me next week to keep in the loop as I talk more about ways to keep your web site up to date. 

photo credit: jinkazamah via photopin cc

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sports Broadcasting 101

I have been working very hard the past couple of months with a number of different schools both in and out of my district to help guide and build their School News broadcasts. Now I get to delve into another medium that is just a little aside from where I have been going along for a while now.  It is time to get into Sports Broadcasting.   This is something that really has my interest peaked, and I am ready for a new challenge.

I never really thought about separating the sports news from the regular school newscast, I had always just thought it would be a part of the norm.  But a couple of weeks ago I was approached by a colleague regarding the ability within our system to deliver live broadcasts of sporting events including student commentary.  That got me thinking, some of the people I work directly with would say its dangerous, about all of the schools that are already recording their sporting events and the ones that have school newscasts.  This would provide some versatility to the students at the school to be able to go to certain sporting events and record their thoughts on the games as well get some live footage. 

In some of the middle and high schools that I have worked with the hook for some students to get involved was to make sure that there was a sports report as part of the broadcast.  With this possibly becoming an independent broadcast the amount of interest, I think, will grow to the point that it may become a part of the curriculum.

Stay tuned for more information and how the journey begins.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

First Look: Lumens DC-125 Document Camera

Let's take a look at the new DC-125 Document Camera from Lumens.  I recently got the opportunity to take a look at this little wonder.  Yes this device is smaller than its other family members from Lumens, close to one half the size of the others in the line.

Now just like the rest of the model lines from Lumens over the years the DC-125 also has a flexible armature, commonly known as a "Flex Arm" design, that allows for ease of movement so that you can really get up close and personal with the objects that you viewing.

When I unpacked the DC-125 the first thing I noticed is that there was no Infra-Red eye on the front of the base.  So no remote control is needed in order to run this model.  That's great, one less thing for me and probably some other to lose.  I know in talking with some educators they are always concerned about keeping up with remote controls.  Also the base is simplified with only four buttons.  You will see Lamp, Freeze, Capture and Auto Tune buttons but one button that you may be familiar with.  Figured it out yet... yep no power button.  That's because you do not need to have one to use this model document camera.  One other main factor that you will notice on the base is only one connection point.  A simple USB connector to the computer.  This model does not even have a power cord with it, everything is run through the USB cable.  All power, video and sound, yes I said sound.  This model has a built in microphone and an audio driver that allows the computer to utilize the document camera as an external microphone.  I will talk more about that later.

The lens is another change from the norm, you will notice that there are no moving mechanical parts.  This model only has a digital zoom lens on it which makes for easier focusing of the lens on the objects which are being looked at.  You will also notice that there is a simple LED light with no additional light arm as seen in other models from Lumens.  On the back, or top, of the lens is where you will find the built in microphone.  You will also noticed that there are a couple of notches next to the lens that will allow you to place an connector on the lens so you can use the device with a microscope.

So the Good on this little gem is that what you see is what you get.  Even though there does not seem to be a lot to the DC-125 it packs a punch.  You still have all of the features that its larger family members have with less you have to deal with.  In this case simpler is better, even using the Ladibug 2.0 software is easier and more straight forward to use.  It all seems to be put together with the teacher in mind, just plug in the USB cable and turn on the software that's it nothing else.

Another positive for the DC-125 is its ease of integration with other computer software.  I was able to successfully use the device with different whiteboard software loaded on my computer.  I quickly was able to use the device with web-based sites that both allows for audio and video integration.  Even with Skype, which has been an issue since Skype upgraded beyond version 4.2.  With the DC-125 I plugged it in turned on Skype and not only did I get the video but also the audio.

One Bad thing I noticed on the DC-125 is that the built in microphone is located on the top of the head unit. The placement may not be the best if you are going to use the camera recording feature because the microphone will be pointing away from the person talking if you have the lens turned upward.  A small design change would put the mic in the base for easier accessibility.  All in all the DC-125 is a well rounded document camera that is very easy to use with not a lot that can go wrong.