Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Great AntiDrug Assembly Today

Paul was one of the most captivating speakers I have ever seen. The students were raving about the assembly and begged me to put his site on the Smartboard. We even took an impromptu field trip to the parking lot to check out his Honda/BMW hybrid. He even has BMW floor mats. Check out his site www.justthewayyouare.com for complete information.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Last Lecture

If today was the last day you were ever going to teach, what would you teach? What would you tell your students?
Randy Pausch, a Computer Science Professor gave his last lecture, entitled, "How to Achieve Your Childhood Dreams."
Oprah.com reports:
Randy Pausch is a married father of three, a very popular professor at Carnegie Mellon University—and he is dying. He is suffering from pancreatic cancer, which he says has returned after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Doctors say he has only a few months to live.

In September 2007, Randy gave a final lecture to his students at Carnegie Mellon that has since been downloaded more than a million times on the Internet. "There's an academic tradition called the 'Last Lecture.' Hypothetically, if you knew you were going to die and you had one last lecture, what would you say to your students?" Randy says. "Well, for me, there's an elephant in the room. And the elephant in the room, for me, it wasn't hypothetical."

Video Watch Randy's famous "Last Lecture."

Despite the lecture's wide popularity, Randy says he really only intended his words for his three small children. "I think it's great that so many people have benefited from this lecture, but the truth of the matter is that I didn't really even give it to the 400 people at Carnegie Mellon who came. I only wrote this lecture for three people, and when they're older, they'll watch it," he says.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I have been meaning to use Voicethread for a while

And I finally got some time in the computer lab so I did. It would be best if each student had their own account, but I just made one for my class and let them make a continuous Voicethread. It is great because it is totally anonymous and they love to try to guess whose voice it is. Now I am set on using Ustream. My students saw Mr. Higgins' presentation and immediately came up with ideas for TV shows and guess what? They were all about topics we are learning about in class.

Wiki vs. 21 classes- and the winner is...?

I am on team wiki.
There are pros and cons to both wikispaces and 21 classes. However, wiki has very few cons when it comes to using it with 6th graders.
Customer Service and Help
Wiki wins hands down. Their help pages are easy to use and they respond almost instantly to emails. On 21 classes, they have so few help topics and I actually had to use the telephone to contact them and got a message back after 3 days. Plus, 21 classes only offers 50 free accounts and a public wiki is pretty much a free for all.
Navigation and Visual Appeal
It is very easy to change the look and feel of a wiki and I really like the "tab appeal" of wiki. I can easily see how many postings there are on a page. Plus, everything you put on the home page is visible. On 21 classes, after you post 5 topics, you cannot see the 5 before and they are very hard to find.
Setting up student accounts
Unless your school assigns student email accounts, setting up accounts of any kind can be a pain. However, 21classes wins because you do not need email addresses to set up accounts for your students. In wiki, you do unless you ask the wizards at wiki to set accounts up for you , but this takes time and advance planning.
Depending on how you set up your wiki, anyone who is a member can edit whatever they want, that is pretty much a wiki given and part of the game. However, on 21 classes, each student gets their own weblog that they can personalize with backgrounds, icons, videos and music. This allows them a great sense of ownership. However, as a teacher you need to check up on the weblogs to make sure nothing inappropriate is posted. Unlike comments which you can accept or deny, personalization of the weblog is not monitored. Wiki also gives each member a mailbox that remains on the top of the screen when they are logged in. It is very easy to check your messages and respond to either the whole group or to just one member. I find it very hard for the students (and myself) to check the messages on the 21 classes blog and it is not easy to respond.
21classes. You can make them both as secure or unsecure as you want. Anything on a wiki can be recovered or deleted. Watch out - when a student creates a wiki account, they have access to your (probably private and or protected) wiki and any public wiki. On 21 classes any comments or posting are deferred to the owner (in my case the teacher) of the blog before they are posted. You can set a deadline such as "At 7 am and 7pm I will release comments if appropriate." Since I have started blogging in my classes there has only been one incident where I had to remove someone. The students are so into blogging that they take the rules very seriously.
21 classes wins. They offer so much mathematical info that sometimes my brain hurts. The charts and graphs they provide are endless. But for me, seeing the tab on wiki that tells how many times a discussion question has been answered is enough.
Fun Factor
Wiki wins. It is just fun to say "wiki." Plus, the competitiveness of making your page the best and being one of the top edited sites on the wikispaces home page makes wiki seem like a game. A game where there is a lot of learning going on.

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Which do you like better? I am in an arguing mood.

Why I love my job!

Patrick passes this onto me and I have been slacking on my blogging so...
1. I am a good teacher because…I plan everything on the fly.
2. If I weren’t a teacher I would be a…an event planner or a profiler for the FBI.
3. My teaching style is…if I am bored, then they will be born. Do the unexpected.
4. My classroom is…in the best spot, right across from the bathroom and the lounge. I also have a beautiful view of fall foliage.
5. My lesson plans are…written posthumously.
6. One of my teaching goals is…to have a one to one computing environment and still have a great rapport with my students.
7. The toughest part of teaching is…feeling like you always have to defend yourself.
8. The thing I love about teaching is…when students beg me to let them continue working on something.
9. A common misconception about teaching is…that you only work for 10 months of the year from 9-3.
10. The most important thing I’ve learning since I started teaching is…treat every kid as if they were yours.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Including Parents in a Blog

When we decided to start off the year with our blog for the novel Chasing Vermeer, one of our questions was whether or not to extend an invitation to parents as well. After all, we needed their permission and sometimes their email addresses to even start out blog. To our surprise we received no parental objections to our blog, probably because we talked up the value of one and showed an example at Back to School night. Parents were blown away when we showed one discussion question on our blog that was repsonded to 546 times. In a classroom discussion, maybe one or two children would have been given the chance to respond.
In a recent New York Times article, "Spreading Homework Out So Even Parents Have Some," a teacher in Montclair, New Jersey requires parents to blog with their children, and even gives them assignments. Students can be penalized if their parents do not complete the assignments. While the idead of parental involvement sounds great, I would never penalize a child if the parent did not complete his or her assignment.
Next year we will be experts in blogging so maybe we will invite the parents, perhaps we could even sell copies of the novels we'll be blogging about at Back to School night.