Friday, October 21, 2005

Pit Stop

Thought I'd take a little pit stop in between tasks. Things have been hopping around here. We're making some progress with web pages. I think teachers have been learning a lot about web design, working with tables, inserting clip art, etc. Mrs. Kreuser just started her blog the other day. Now it's time to begin review for the NC Computer Skills Test. If you are an 8th grade parent reading this entry, please feel free to visit the NC Desk site to learn more about the new online version of the test. You can even download the program and have your child take a simulation of the online test.

I highly recommend every parent sitting down with his/her child and taking a look at this new format. Some of the questions on the simulation even bewildered me at first. The good news is that the generic versions of word processing, spreadsheet, database, email, and window manager are included on the "desktop" of the program. Students can go into these generic programs and create their own documents. Parents can sit down with their children and go over the parts of a spreadsheet or what does the paper clip mean on an email window.

I have begun collaborating with the 8th grade science teachers on how we'll do the review for the test. They suggested we do the review in their classes since they have a technology chapter in the textbook this year. While one team's science classes are doing a 4 day review for the test in the computer lab, the other team will be covering the technology chapter in the textbook. Then the teams will flip flop. There are plans to use PowerPoints, create technology bulletin boards, review worksheets as homework during lab days, etc. I am thrilled to work with and support the science teachers. We've sketched out a unit of study instead of just pulling the kids out of classes to review for the test. I believe this unit will dovetail very nicely, preparing students for the test at the same time teaching them a lot about technology.

Besides all that, I am looking forward to getting in a classroom and teaching students again. I have enjoyed teaching teachers but it's different with kids. Know what I mean?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Blogging Pioneers

Kudos to Mrs. Lancaster's creative students for being the first classes to blog at MCMS! Mrs. Lancaster's classes typed up a lab report on hurricanes in Microsoft Word, then went to their blog to write a personal reflection on hurricanes. Their responses so far are phenomenal.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Blogger for Word

Wow!  I just published the last post and this one using the free add-in “Blogger for Word.”  Now updating my blog is even easier!  I just open Word and there is a new toolbar just for Blogger.  I login to the blog I want to update from the toolbar and start typing.  When I’m ready to publish I click on the publish button.  It asks me for a title and which blog I want to publish to.  How easy is that?  Plus I can format my blogs the way I want to.  I can even open a previous post and edit it from Word.  Very impressive…

The add-in download is it at the bottom of Blogger’s home page.  

Fish!

I just finished reading Fish! by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul, and John Christensen. For those who have never heard of it, it’s a book based on the Fish! Philosophy—a 4 step method for boosting energy, enthusiasm, morale, and productivity in the workplace. We learned about Fish! from our new principal at school on the first day back after summer break. She showed us a video and we threw some fish (literally!).

Fish! is based on the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. The fishmongers there decided years ago to change their dreary, boring workplace into a fun place. Their method is simple:
  • Choose your attitude—You may not be able to choose the type of work that comes your way every day but you can choose how you react to it. It’s your choice to be bored or to shrug it off and have fun with it.

  • Play—You can be serious about what you do without taking yourself too seriously. Doesn’t everyone want to work somewhere that’s fun?

  • Make their day—It’s the simple concept of giving. Do something special for someone, doesn’t have to be a huge thing, just something that makes their day and makes them smile. Compliment them, give them a piece of chocolate or a word of encouragement.

  • Be present—Don’t read your emails while on the phone with someone who has a problem and who needs your help. Give them your attention. When you have something on your agenda but a friend needs to talk. Put down what you’re doing and listen to him. Don’t go through your whole day and not be engaged in what you’re doing.

I liked the book a lot. It is a fictional account that brings the Fish! philosophy to life and shows how it might work in application to a department that’s otherwise known as a “toxic energy dump.” The philosophy is simple and easy to understand.

I think with my job in technology, it’s easy to get caught up in one problem after another. I’m choosing a different attitude. I choose to have fun and look at each “problem” not as a problem but as an opportunity.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Blogging as a Teaching Tool

I found this interesting article about using blogging as a teaching tool. The author uses student examples to prove his points. Here are some excerpts that caught my attention:

"Because Web logs are rooted in writing, their appeal to composition teachers and students is obvious. They enable the easy creation of almost limitless reams of digital paper that support drafting, feedback, revision, and publication in ways that traditional paper simply cannot support."

"For one thing, asking students to articulate their thoughts in writing for publication in the Web log gave them an opportunity to develop their ideas."

"Another obvious result of the Web log was that it gave more-reticent students a chance to enter the conversation."

"Students were also able to offer their own creative interpretations of the work, and some of the responses to those works showed a great deal of attention to the detail of the artist."

"Without question, however, one of the most powerful aspects of the Web log is the interaction it allows from outside audiences, in this case, the author, Sue Monk Kidd. Because we were among the first to study the book, I contacted her publicist to see if she might be interested in joining our Web log discussion. To my amazement, she agreed to respond directly to some of my students' questions...The author's ability to easily interact with my students in the Web log gave us a unique opportunity for a richer understanding of the work. "

How amazing is that? An author communicating real-time with students who are reading her book? We never did anything like that when I was in school!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fear

Why do we let fear keep us from trying new technology? What are we really afraid of? Do we think the machine will blow up if we press a wrong button? Do we think it will take up all of our time?

If time is the issue (learning new technology, software, etc.), then how do fix that? I can do a lot of things as a technology facilitator but I can not add one more hour to the day. How can we squeeze in time to learn one more new program, update our web pages, blog, create dynamic, interactive, multimedia presentations? *gasping for breath*

We know technology can be fun and look cool but how do we make time to learn how to use it and then use it? Any thoughts out there in the wild blue yonder?