Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NOVA 5000

I finally found someone here who can get the NOVA's to go live! Cannot wait to use them. Fourier has a great website for such things. Once the kids get a chance to play with, I mean use them, I'll post again about how they did it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Low Tech question

Got these really old microscopes at my school. The stage keeps moving after the kids take their hands off of the adjustment knobs. Can it be tightened?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Teaching Grown-ups

Taught my first ever class to adults on Friday. I have given workshops and have presented at state and local conferences, but this teaching of a hybrid course is a first for me. Any one have any suggestions?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Grant opportunities

I am in the process of preparing a STEM grant application (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Looking for any advice on anything from who to apply to, to key words to include, to resources/outlines to follow.

I'll take any advice that I can get.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Great Technology Divide

I recently transferred schools, by choice, to another school in the same county. Physical plant aside, I did expect differences. However, I did not expect to see the EXTENT of those differences.

For example:
  • Former school, at least three printers for each of three grade level teams
  • Current school, one printer for the entire school
Did I mention that these schools are in the same county?
  • Former school was wireless
  • Current school is not
  • Former school had an LCD for each classroom and has for at least two years
  • Current school is just now getting them.
  • Former school, document cameras in almost every room
  • Current school, have not seen one yet
These are only a few issues in ONE system. And we have the nerve to talk about a level playing field. Level for whom? Quality of access to education and technology seems to still be linked to a person's home address! Wow...look how far we have NOT come

Monday, August 10, 2009

Old does not mean obsolete

Last week, I facilitated student learning at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The camp was an offshoot of STRI in the Panama Canal Zone. The camp was also in conjunction with Education Motivation. Basically, the kids study the work done by STRI scientists and then mimic their research. It is cool as the kids, unprompted by staff, come up with many of the same questions that are asked by the scientists in the field. That was cool.

Anyway, do you remember the Apple IIe computers and the 5 1/4" floppy disks? I know that I am showing my age (heck I learned computers on a TRS 80!). We gave the kids at the camp old learning games to play like Odell Lake and The Oregon Trail. I thought that the kids were going to laugh at the poor graphics and antiquated feel. But, the kids were doing something that I had not counted on...they were thinking. There were no funky or gory graphics to get in the way of learning. The programs lacked a rockin' soundtrack. The kids LOVED the programs and did not want to quit! Best thing is, they learned and thought and processed information.

Here is the irony, the program will not work easily on a Mac!.

The programs cen be downloaded here. Check them out and prepare to be engaged.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nova and SPARK

Looking for anyone who has used and compared PASCO's spark handhelds and how they compare to the NOVA 5000 from Fourier Systems. I saw PASCO's stuff at the NECC in Washington, DC and was very impressed. I am piloting the NOVA's for...let's just say I am piloting them and an having some issues.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Including usability, durability and any hidden costs.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

NECC Day Three

Day three of NECC, and indeed, the entire NECC conference is over. I learned so much the last few days that is somewhat overwhelming. For instance; Second Life for professional development? Someone needs to help me understand that concept as I just do not get it. Playing a game that I cannot access from school to network with other teachers. What is a professional Wiki or a dimdim or elluminate account for then? And those I DO have classroom access to. Just seems to me to be a bit of overkill.

However, the session on teachers domain was awesome! I had no idea that such a resource even existed. And best of all it is free! Check it out! All activities/lessons are sorted by grade and subject area! Did I mention that it is free?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

NECC Day Two

The best part of today was visiting the vendor booths. Among others, teacherweb, a site for school and teacher sites always puts on a good viewing. However, this year so far I have been most impressed with turning point technologies. They are a student response system maker and supplier. That alone did not impress me. What did was the ability of the teacher to chart the data and to easily see how individual kids responded. And, they have a school improvement and AYP feature for schools with questions specific for content areas. Check them out!

Monday, June 29, 2009

NECC Day one

I could learn to love PBSkids! There were so many cool learning tools that we were shown today from Fetch to Engineering Challenges to engage students in learning and problem solving. Don't you love it when kids learn while they are having a good time!? Almost tricks them into thinking that they are not really learning.

Oh yeah, I did attend two other sessions as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

NECC Here I Come!

For the last three years I have attended MICCA in Baltimore. Two of those three years I presented. For the first time, I will be attending NECC in Washington, DC and I cannot wait. The allure of seeing the new technologies for improving student learning is exciting. I am always on the loo-out for new ways to help my students succeed (Yes, I know that school is out and teachers are supposed to be "off"). Hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why Twitter?

OK...I have a twitter account. I check it and post periodically. I do not get the utility of it. I am following a few people and a few are following me. Tweets? What are they and how are they sent? Does anyone get the utility of this thing? Help!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Purpose of Education

MSA. HSA. Quarterly Assessments. Stanford-Binet. Test after test. Year after year. I often wonder, are we teaching kids to pass a test or are we teaching kids to think and problem solve by APPLYING things that they have learned? Good test scores are a good thing. Please do not misunderstand that. However, I'd bet a month's salary that if you asked HR folks at Toyota, Ford, IBM or any other multi-million dollar company/industry that they would tell you that test scores might get a candidate an interview, but thinking on their feet and problem solving lands them the job and helps them to keep it.

So I ask, are we doing kids a disservice? Are we churning out test takers and not thought makers? If there is a middle ground, where is it and how do we get there?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Teacher bashing is becoming the norm

We just finished teacher appreciation week here in Maryland. Kids and parents sent us gifts, the PTSA fed us breakfast and lunches and even dessert. We are done with the week, the one week where teachers are treated with respect and dignity that we deserve and we are back to getting bashed. This is evident here where an observer does the typical...observes for a day and makes assumptions about kids and ALL teachers.

However, I was heartened by an article that bashed teacher bashers.

Can we stop blaming the adult who sees kids (in middle school) for 5.5 a week? Can we stop blaming the media when it is the adults who allow kids to sit in front of video games or TV. Can we stop blaming ex-wives or ex-husbands for our child's ills? Can we stop medicating every active child we are unwilling to discipline?

Here is an idea, you do your job, and I'll do mine. When we focus on the child, and we work for the child and we help the child, then maybe, just maybe, we will not need to blame anything on anybody.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Earth Day is a celebration of environmental awareness. My kids and I are planting flowers this weekend with organic matting and natural fertilizer. We have recycled old cell phones and computers.

What are you doing this month to promote environmental awareness?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Disney II

What did we do before cell phones and mp3 players? We just got back from Disney in Orlando where we visited the big four...Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. The number of kids walking through "the most magical place on earth" listening to iPods! Kids are using iPods during dinner with their families. Are you kidding me? If my kid tried that, that would be his last mp3 player. Can this help to explain the decline of the American Family? Do families still talk any more? Between that and the texting.....

And another thing, what is with the cell phones at a theme park? Standing in one of the VERY long lines, I happened to do a highly unscientific and unreliable study. I counted the closest 100 people (not toddlers) to me. In all, 38 of the 100 who passed me that day at the Magic Kingdom were either talking or texting! That is 38% folks! The numbers were similar at the other three parks as well. It got me wondering...what did we do before cell phones? I'll tell you exactly what we did...we talked face to face to people. We had enough respect for our friends to show up on time...instead of calling to say that we would be late. And if we were late, our friends went on without us! There were no fights and no excuses.

Maybe we need to go back to that. Don't call me to tell that you are running late, call me to tell me that you are on time. Call me to see how the kids are. Call me just to say 'Hi". But stop calling with lame, worn-out excuses because you think that your time and your "business" is more important than mine.

And kids, turn off that damn mp3 player and talk with your family. If you don't, you will really miss it when the chance has passed. I learned a valuable life lesson regarding my Dad after his death in 2003 and by then it was too late. Here it is...the older I get, the smarter my Dad became. I just wish I had listened more often and more intently. I know that I would not have with an mp3 player in my ears.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Disney I

Whew. We just returned today from a trip to Disney Resorts in Orlando. The staff at the resort hotels and attractions could not have been nicer or more accommodating. However, if you plan to go, here are some tidbits of advice:

  1. If you need to stop and use your cell phone or consult a map, do so to the side and not in the middle of the pathways...it just causes traffic jams
  2. If your kid is over the age of 7, forget the stroller! You really have it for you and not the kid and all it does it get in the way or bang into the ankles of those in front of you
  3. Control your children but bag the kid leash. If your kid is so wild or you are so inattentive that you need to leash your kid, perhaps a theme park is not a place that you need to be
  4. Easy on the booze. Standing in long lines for a ride and having Dorko the Drink breathe and sweat stale beer breath on me is not my idea of a good time
  5. Finally, take advantage of the Fast Pass option that is offered. If you do not know what it is, ask. It will become your new best friend in Disney.
More later on our trip.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Google map feature

I am sure that this is not news to most of you. But it was to me. I just discovered the "street view" feature on Google Maps. I cannot get that view of my house, but major Metro area seem to have it covered. Even Main St. in Ellicott City, MD has a street view feature. Type in the address and then click on the "pin point" for that address and then if the street view feature is enabled, then the "Street View" option will appear. It can be used to "walk" a route (click the arrows) or to look around (use the joystick feature).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Networking???

Ok Ok...I bit the bullet and signed up for facebook.com and linkdin. I did so for the purpose of reaching out to others in the field of education to exchange ideas; to maybe see what others are doing; to maybe connect my classroom with another in Florida or South America. So far I have tw "friend requests" form current or former students, my uncle looking for a new job, a former girlsfriend and one mariage proposal. Am I missing somehting? What is the point of an on-line presence if it is full of junk?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tech Divide or Tech Indifference?

For a while now, those of us in education have been blitzed with the need to make our kids better digital citizens...we need to take advantage of the tools that kids are already using on the read/write web. Facebook and MySpace, they tell us, are where kids spend the lion's share of their time when online. The fact that many school filters block them both is a discussion for another time. I have tried it, and I am not sure that I buy it and here's why:

1. Kids who can update facebook but cannot center text in a Word document should not be considered digital citizens
2. When teachers post (me) class notes on a class Wiki and 2 students have used it, they are not showing themelves to be digital citizens
3. When lessons and links from teachers (me) are posted for other teachers to use and they are not, the teacher is not a digital citizen
4. Finally, when a student insists that an ethernet port and a USB port are the same thing, they are not digital citizens

I can hear you now..."but we need to catch kids where they are" and "since they are using the technology let's show them how to use it better". And I argue that we are teaching them how to use it but that they refuse to, or lack the means, to use it. As far as using technology because the kids do...doesn't that amount to pandering to some extent?

Now it's your turn...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Searching made easy?

Like most of us, I get tons of junk mail daily. Most of it I ignore and if I know that it is a scam or if I get irritated enough with it, I just mark it as spam and block future mailings.

Today, a friend of mine who usually sends me jokes or funny clips sent me a link. When I followed this link I was taken to a site where the icons for popular sites by category were listed. Each icon was clickable and took me to the very site!

What I find cool is that they are updating it daily AND I can add my sites to it! If you look at the left side of their home page, there are categories to choose from. Clicking a category breaks it down to even MORE categories! Check it out! Thanks to goes out to Jim Larkin of Silver Spring.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Google Does it Again!

Once again, the folks at Google are making me eat my words. As if Google Earth was not impressive enough, they now have come up with Google Earth in the Deep Blue sea! Now not only can you see underwater formations, but they claim to have the ability to find and follow migratory tagged fish! See the video here.

What a cool idea! Kids can "adopt" an animal and see how the habits and habitats are impacted by pollution, shipping, climate change and the like! Check it out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Google and the Age of Information

I have long despised Google as an intellectual wasteland. Last summer, the Journal The Atlantic seemed to bear me out. The author of the article, "Is Google Making us Stoopid?", contends that he and co-workers were having difficulty with reading passages that were lengthy. He attributed this difficulty to the short snippets of information that show up in a Google search and the habit of scanning the results.

However, the January 2009 issue of Discover disputes this claim. The author contends that Google not only is not making us stupid, but that it is making us smarter. By tapping into what he calls the natural way we think and process, Google is actually making us think and learn more; not less.

Further, he tackles the texting debate, where educators fret that the use of texting shortcuts but teens is threatening literacy. He quotes a book called Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 by linguist David Crystal who writes:
"texting actually improves your literacy, as it gives you more practice in reading and writing".

I am curious as to what you all think...