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What have I learned? March 4, 2009

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Alec asked near the end of class last night, what have we learned from our experience within 831. In reflecting on this last night and this morning two things have become more clear to me as how this class has impacted upon myself.

Firstly is the idea of excitement and potential. More comfort level with technology has seemed to increase exponentially. I find myself asking questions, can I do this? How can this be done? Can I use technology to better this? I am not as frustrated with technology on a whole. When things go wrong I solve them in a rational manner, thinking things through. With this chip off of my shoulder, I am actively seeking out ways to improve and connect to students, parents, colleagues, friends, and family through technology. Just this morning I thought why couldn’t I use a Blog + Google Docs (the form option) to create a survey to gather info on the upcoming Regional 8: Drama Fest. With posting the menu online and having students/directors/chaperones fill it out, in a nice spreadsheet form I will have everything I need to prepare, in exact numbers, what is needed. No more counting by hand. I would not have thought of this prior to this course, and it is exciting to figure this out.

The second way this course has changed me is in my idea of sharing. I have always shared before, and will always continue to do so. This course however has convinced me to reach out and interact with more people through sharing/talking/asking. I am excited to share these ideas I have running around in my head. Jim [Snodgrass] and I have been talking tech like mad, sharing ideas and thoughts about how to use technology creatively. Just the other day I was telling him about the PowerPoint option of WordPress and he was telling me the ease of Podcasting. We seem to spark one another to try and develop our ideas, maybe even pushing one another into new areas, perhaps trying to out do one another [much like our golf games]. But to share with a colleague in person or online has been an awesome experience. Ironically it has placed me as one of the “tech experts” on staff. That is a scary thought!

Another thought on sharing comes to mind. As I have been working on my final paper I found a resource that sounded much like my project. I was excited and scoured the Internet for it with no luck. It has been discontinued and even the publisher has no e-copies of it for sale or to share. My excitement quickly turned to disappointment. However I thought with academic sharing why no contact the author. I fired them off an email and two days later the author emailed me a copy back of the paper. Wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for but it showed to me that the spirit of sharing was alive. I had this doubt in back of my mind that they would offer the paper to me, perhaps the pessimist in me coming out. I emailed them back thanking them profusely. Would I have done this prior to this class? Probably not.

So this class has opened my mind to new ideas/thoughts, it has created a thinker open to new ideas and challenges, and one willing to share. How can one not be impressed with a class that does this?


Another step forward… February 9, 2009

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One of the ideas I have had [for my final project] is building and maintaining a blog for daily updates of the goings upon within the classroom. I attempted this a few years ago, but with constant tech issues from the school I quickly became frustrated and let it fade away. However, I think this is the time more than ever to try and recapture this idea. Over the past few months I have talked with many parents and a few of them hinted at how they feel a disconnect from the school. My original idea was simply a blog for students (to keep track of what and when we were doing things (exams, assignments, etc.). Why couldn’t I have parents do the same? Would this not assist in possibly increasing parental involvement within their child’s education?

Over the past week I have been diligent in keeping the blog up to date. On the course outlines that were sent home to be signed by the parents I made an obvious note for parents to read regarding the blog. As well with the next set of class marks updates to be sent home I will include a note regarding the blog again. Is this enough? I know some parents will, but some won’t. Whether it is to a digital divide or simply parents not active in their child’s life (educational or otherwise) I think it is a positive step forward.

Another idea I had last week was to simply not just list what we were doing within the classroom, but make it a resource site as well. I have just discovered through Scribd a way to embed notes/assignments within the blog. I have done this for two reasons. Firstly is to make sure that students can access their assignments [virtually] at any time (whether it be at home or school). This will hopefully cut down on the “I forgot it…” excuse many of us hear. Secondly I hope that this cuts down to any undue waste of paper. I often have to run off more than I need or want as students lose or misplace notes/readings/assignments. Now I simply run off enough for the class and if they lose it they simply have to go to the blog and download it themselves. Hence shifting more responsibilities to them.

Hopefully this pans out. I am enjoying learning what I can do with my blog and make it more user friendly and more interactive.

My Classroom Blog February 3, 2009

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As I am becoming more comfortable with technology I thought I would resurrect an idea I ran with a couple of years ago when I was first exposed to blogs.  I attempted to have daily blog updates upon classroom activities to assist students and parents in the daily activities of the class.  There were problems though that made it difficult to go on with.  The computers and server were notorious for going down, which caused me to not update the blogs regularly.  Also frustrating was the fact that I had a stat counter that seemed to be going nowhere.

This time around I am trying a few new things.  The first obstacle was getting the school division to unblock the blog site.  With new filters in place, security was making updates and students seeing it very difficult.  Secondly was communication with parents.  So this year I sent a form home, that the parents had to sign, with the blog address clearly indicated for them.  I hope these measures help students to succeed more as they can have a constant connection to what is going on in class.

That said I would like to find a way to have students access to forms, assignments, etc. on the blog.  I think I have researched this by using Scribed.  I understand as a third party software it is supposed to do so but I have as of yet to try.  I am also hoping by forcing some of the Journal entries upon them via the blog to get them used to checking it out.

The blog address is http://handspiker.blogspot.com/

Excitement… January 27, 2009

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As I sit here in my classroom I can feel the excitement building for term two of the 2008-2009 year.  Part of this excitement is this class, but also a couple of ideas that I have been kicking around in my head for technology use.  One of the subjects that I will be picking up this term is Work Experience.  Since I have not taught this before I naturally hit up some previous teachers for ideas/notes, heck anything I could get my hands on.  One of them mentioned that students did weekly journal reflections on their work placement.  He mentioned one of the problems with this was the students forgetting to drop off the blogs the week after their placement (when they came back to Carpenter for their other classes).

So with my mind racing I wonder if blogs could be an answer to this?  A good majority of students have access to computers at home (judging by my past term’s classes) or else have access here at school.  They are rather simple to use, easy to set up, and even on dial up they don’t take a lot of time to load.

The best that can happen is that it succeeds and the worst that can happen is it fails and I go back to the drawing board.  I do see some pluses though.  Firstly a lot of students are comfortable with computers and prefer to work on them instead of handing in a written assignment.  Secondly this could be a way to keep in contact with them when they are not in front of me during their work placement (sounds like 2.0 to me).  Thirdly I could monitor these journals weekly with Google Reader.  This would be a bonus as I can see and monitor when they post and if they are doing so weekly.

Will this work?  Who knows?  Regardless it should be a fun learning experience.