Friday, June 6, 2014

More Randomness

I’ve been keeping a list of notes/blog post topics.  Many of them are just random thoughts, or things that I’ve read about that I want to explore more.  I’m sitting at my inlaws house while they do a garage sale so I have some time to write about a few of the random thoughts I’m having.

Sign outside my door: I had a principal once who wanted all of her teachers to hang up their degrees in their room.  I really liked this idea and am going to hang them up next year.  My school currently has our highest degree and the university listed on the sign outside our door.  The problem is I have multiple degrees so I’ve created a sign I’m going to hang outside my door this coming year.  You can see it here.  I’m also thinking about adding a sign outside my door and inside my classroom that says something along the lines of no video or audio recordings without permission.  I don’t think this will necessarily keep kids from doing it, but it will at least make them aware.  

Online Museums: I know there are a lot of these available, and some of them are really good.  How do I use them in my classroom?  If I use something like that I really want it to be interactive, and not just something that kids go look at and don’t use the information.  They also have to fit what I’m teaching.  Has anyone used these successfully?

Computers Every Day: How will my seating change with the addition of computers?  Can I get power strips put at every set of tables, or would it be easier to train the kids on where the power strips are?  Also, if the expectation is for a kid to have their computer at school every day what about those kids that don’t?  Do I loan out my chromebook?  Do I have consequences?  I’ve always made it important for kids to have their notebooks with them and still they forget them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Devices are Official . . . Finally

Today we officially got the email letting us know what devices students will be receiving next year.  6th and 7th graders will be getting Chrome books.  8th graders are getting Macbook Airs.  Currently the kids are supposed to get their devices on the 4th day of school.  I’ve not heard word yet on what type of training there will be before that.  The rumors are that we will have pretty specific lessons to get the kids ready for their devices.  I’m really excited that we went with Chrome books.  I think this opens up a lot of doors for what can be done and it solidifies me going paperless next year.  

On a side note to going paperless, I had a meeting the other day where I was given three handouts.  I know if these made it back to my room, they would be put in a box and never looked at again.  I took out my phone, clicked a picture and emailed it to myself.  I then copied and pasted it into my notes from the meeting.  Now I will have those handouts, don’t have to worry about where they are and can references them in Google Docs from anywhere.  It was awesome at the end of the meeting, I handed the papers back to my principal.  This will be my new plan for all handouts.  Using the phone was a little clunky so I may try to use the camera on my computer instead.  I may also really push for all handouts to be also given out in digital form.

Citing Sources

Who don’t kids like to cite their sources?  Why didn’t I like to cite sources when I was taking Master’s classes?  It is time consuming, and a lot of times felt irrelevant.  It didn’t feel irrelevant when I needed to go back to find something from a source that I had forgotten.  At that point citing the sources became relevant to me.  I think this is where we are failing our kids.  How do I make citing a source relevant?  

How do we cite sources in real life?  We don’t unless we are taking some type of class.  So what is the real world equivalent - relevance - of citing sources?  I think it is retweeting.  If there is a link I want to keep, I bookmark it, save it in Feedly, post it to Facebook, or retweet it.  These are the ways that we are citing sources today.  Why not make this the expectation for the kids?  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Team X

Several years ago I got an opportunity to spend a week at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.  While I was there I worked with Kobie Boykins, an engineer on the Mars Rover and Tracy Drain, a solar panel engineer.  While working there we learned about Team X.  This is where projects start out.  When an engineer sketches something on the back of a napkin, they bring it to Team X.  Team X is made up of representatives from every component of a mission, science, funding, logistics, education, planning, engineering, etc.  The idea is presented and then torn apart.  The scientists want to send as much up as they can, the engineers understand the reality of weight requirements, and the funding people want to keep it as cheap as possible.  As I was sitting there I couldn’t help but think of how hard it would be to present an idea to Team X.  I asked Tracy if people got their feelings hurt by going through this process.  She said that didn’t really happen.  A lot of time mission ideas would come out of Team X looking significantly different but that once it had been through that process the overall mission is much stronger.  Everyone understand that ultimately everyone in the room is working toward making the strongest mission possible.  Wow, that to me is an amazing culture.  I’ve been in a lot of meetings where disagreeing with someone makes them think you don’t like them, which usually is no where near the truth.  

Since I’m on the idea of this culture, another episode that happened at JPL that has stayed with me was how everyone there is pulling in the same direction.  I was doing work for the JASON project which was creating a text book and filming us (me and three amazing students) as we worked with the engineers.  As we were working with Tracy, on camera, she had created a model of a solar panel deployment.  She had showed us how it worked before the cameras started rolling, then did it again on camera.  The second time I noticed that she had put a spring in the wrong place.  The solar panels did not deploy.  We had a crew filming us and I was really nervous about pointing this out, I mean, she is a rocket scientist.  Finally I did.  She was really excited and used it to point out a big principal at NASA.  It doesn’t matter who finds the mistake, the important thing is that the mistake is found.  Again, everyone is truly pulling in the same direction.  

How do you foster this climate of everyone pulling in the same direction toward a common goal.  How do you do it in your classroom, how about your school?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Doing a Little Math

I decided to see how much paper I used this year.  I’ve actually never done this before.  These numbers are all ballpark.  I’m sure there are some things I made copies of that I didn’t count and I didn’t count anything I printed as individual sheets like sub plans, etc.  These numbers come from 4 sections of 7th grade science.

By my calculations I passed out or used 113 pages this year.  These included handouts, evaluations, worksheets, activity guides, safety contracts, and lab directions.  This number is probably low but it is where I will start.  

For each I copied 130 copies.  That way I always had enough for all the kids and a few extras.  That adds up to 14,690 pages of paper I used this year.  

That’s almost 30 reams of paper.  Three entire cases of paper, just in my classroom.  I’ve read that one ream of paper is equivalent to 6% of a tree.  This works out to one tree making about 16.5 reams of paper.  By that calculation my class used up almost two entire trees.  

WOW!  I had no idea.  I’m sure the number is probably higher than that and I’m by far not the biggest copier in the school.  I just asked the secretary how much paper we go through in a year.  She orders 40 cases at a time and has done four orders and we are getting really close to finishing that up.  160 cases of paper, 1600 reams, 800,000 sheets, 4 tons in one year, just for printers and copiers in one building, and that doesn’t count the number of copies sent over to our district copy center.  I would guess that number is the same, or higher.  

I think this is reaffirming me wanting to go paperless next year.  Honestly there are two things standing in my way.  First, I don’t know what device my 7th graders will have.  We got a long email about device training, parent insurance policies and meetings, but no one has told us if they are getting chromebooks or ipads.  The second thing holding me back is the idea that it is scary to give up paper.  At this point if the answer to question one is Chromebooks I am going to take the plunge and give up paper next year scary as it might be.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

200 Reps - Talking Broadcasting with Jeff Montgomery

Last night I was on the wireless camera for the Royals game.  The cameras normally live in an auxiliary radio booth.  When I walked in to get my camera last night Joel Goldberg and Jeff Montgomery were in there working on something.  They were leaving and I started talking to Montgomery.  I asked him how he got into broadcasting.  I told him I was a broadcasting teacher.  He said they just called him.  The Royals and Fox Sports had heard some of the stuff he had done on the radio (just interviews) and they called to see if he was interested.  They brought him in and basically threw him to the wolves.  The next thing he told me I thought was really interesting and started me thinking about how I teach.  He said that at first it felt like they threw him in a race car going 200 miles an hour and it was hard to keep up.  He felt like he was drowning and by talking to the producers and guys that had done it before they said it would take reps - 200 or more reps to get really comfortable with everything.  That number blew me away.  He related it to baseball in that the more you play, the game slows down.  

200 reps!  I knew there was a learning curve.  I’ve seen both him and Frank White work through this.  I remember White’s first year as a broadcaster.  It seemed like all he did was laugh.  Then he started throwing in some tidbits and by the end he was a lot of fun to listen to and I felt like I was learning something every time I watched.  I’ve seen the same thing with Montgomery.  He started out rough but has really grown into the roll.  Do we give our kids enough reps?  I know for me the answer a lot of times is no.  We teach something once and expect the kids to have it.  I’m not talking about direction following - my kids on our current project (green screen weather reports) are struggling with simply following directions.  I’m talking about understanding a concept, I’m talking about getting comfortable on camera, I’m talking about getting smooth at tasks we ask them to do over and over again.  

My next big question is where is the line in a classroom between getting in good reps and being boring?  How do you handle those kids that need less reps to be comfortable with something?  Is there a way to decrease the number of reps it takes?  Would short, specific help videos decrease this number, or help make the reps better quality?  How do we help the kids have quality reps - instead of just going through the motions?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Classroom Help Desk

As I was reading some stuff last week about 1 to 1 teaching, I came across something that kind of blind sided me.  What are the procedures in your classroom for when the technology doesn’t work.  I had not even thought about this and now that I am, I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it.  This is going to be an important piece of a successful 1 to 1 implementation, and one that I’m guessing a lot of teachers have not thought about.  I’m not talking about when the network crashes at school, or the power goes out.  When that happens it will scrap any lesson plans I had and I improvise.  It’s not like I haven’t had to do that before.  

I’m talking about when that one kid can’t get logged in, computer dies, website won’t work, or some other individual technology catastrophe.  I say catastrophe because for the kid it is happening to, it will be.  I’m kicking around a couple of ideas right now on how to handle this, and I’m completely open to other suggestions.  I like the idea of turning this over to a “help desk” in my room.  Not sure how this would work but basically having a few kids who are really comfortable with technology helping those that are struggling.  Will this keep those kids from staying caught up or are they typically far enough ahead that it won’t hurt them?  

Another idea I have is to really work with the kids up front on trouble shooting.  There will always be problems no matter how well you train the kids but I think the training can go a long way to cutting these problems down.  What things do I need to teach the kids to do?  

I’ve had success in the past with using short videos for simple skills that the kids don’t seem to get.  For example when I was using movie maker in broadcasting finishing a move wasn’t hard but it was a multi step process with a couple pitfalls along the way that kids always got lost on.  I created a video on how to save, finish, and turn in a video.  I’ll be that video was watched hundreds if not thousands of times.  I actually quit teaching the skill and just had kids watch the video.  I will probably create a stable of help/troubleshooting videos for the kids to use.  I’m hoping to not have to create all of these but some will be class and project specific.  

What procedures do you have in place for troubleshooting these problems?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Random Thoughts

When a kid misses class and they come back in after several days of being gone, they many times get their makeup work very quickly, in half or a quarter of the time we worked on something in class.  Why is this?  I think it is because it isn’t about the assignments.  It is about being present.  Not just being in the room, but being present mentally also.  There is something magical about being in a classroom, something that can not be replicated with makeup work.  

Can technology make content students miss more engaging and meaningful when they come back?

The discussion at lunch today was that next year when we have one to one we need to assume that there is ALWAYS an immediate line of communication between students and parents.  Kids won’t have to hide cell phones anymore to text mom or dad.  They will now be able to email, chat, or even text.  

All of the laptops will also have cameras.  As teachers we need to be under the assumption that anything and everything we do can and probably will be recorded.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Powerful Stuff

My Desk This Week

I read a lot of blogs.  Actually, I skim a lot of blogs.  I use Feedly which seems to work pretty well.  It allows me to look at the title and first few lines of a blog, then decide to read it, or move on.  It also give me the option to save a blog post I particularly like.  I’ve started paying particularly close attention to anything 1 to 1.  Today I read a powerful post from Sara Henschell titled, “Humanizing Education: A manifesto on wanting more and working less.”  A very powerful read on giving kids ownership of a classroom and not using the test as the be all end all.  We just ended our THREE WEEKS of testing and this post really resonated with me, especially after a student asked me yesterday, “Why are you still taking grades after the tests are finished.”  I really encourage you to read this now, then again at the beginning of the school year.  

Gaming in Education

Just happened to read this article right after I wrote the previous post about feedback.  This is a really interesting look at using the ideas associated with gameing in the classroom.  I especially like the section on feedback.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Feedback: A Bit Off Topic

Besides teaching science and broadcasting, I am also a cameraman for the Kansas City Royals.  This morning it really hit me how different the environment is there and how it has helped me improve significantly as a cameraman.  

I started working for the Royals 6 years ago on the “front row” these are the guys that run all the statistics on the scoreboard.  My first job was to look at situational statistics and decide what made our players look the best, and put those statistics on the scoreboard.  I got paid for doing this which made me officially a “professional nerd.”  I only worked about 10 games my first year as a backup to the backup.  One day as I was coming in I happened to be riding the elevator up with my boss.  He asked me if I had ever run a camera.  I told him that I had not but I could learn.  Two days later I was running a camera.  When I first started, I basically knew how to zoom in and how to focus.  I barely knew how to break the camera down at the end of the night and if anything else went wrong, I had no clue.  

Fast forward 6 years and I now work every game that I want and the majority of the time I am on Camera 1, which is right next to the Royals dugout.  I am also the backup fancam operator - the one that roves around the stadium.  I worked the All Star Game on camera, I’ve had shots used by TV, including the MLB network, and I’ve started to get asked to work camera outside the Royals including the NAIA championship.  

I’ve improved a lot since that first shaky shot from the upper deck.  This morning I was thinking about how I was able to improve as a camera operator and a couple of things struck me.  Last night I had 2-3 shots where someone in the booth, either the director, or technical director said nice shot, or nice move.  Really small things but they mean a lot.   Every time I get a positive reinforcement like that, I want to do something even better.  

Running a camera everything that you do is noticed, either by someone seeing your shot, or another camera person having you in their shot.  (For example the other night Miguel Cabrera fouled a ball off that was no where near me, but I just caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and I flinched - big time.  By coincidence another camera happened to have me in their frame and one of the guys in the booth saw me flinch.  It then got replayed and I got laughed at a lot.)

I guess where I’m going with this is that there is constant immediate feedback, both good and bad.  If your focus is off, pan off while you are still live to the board, or if you do something cool, it gets noticed.  I think this is one of the reasons I’ve improved.  Not only does the feedback help, but I really want to hear one of the guys say something good about one of my shots.  One of the most powerful things that anyone has ever said to me was the first day I ran the fancam.  The director told me that he wanted me to be awesome and that he would rather me fail trying to be awesome than to try to be safe.  That one sentence made it click.

When was the last time I got immediate feedback, or any feedback on my instruction?   The most thorough feedback I’ve ever gotten on my teaching was when I was student teaching 16 years ago.  My cooperating teacher would leave notes on my desk after lessons with positives and things I needed to work on.  These notes were amazing and this is a practice I’ve used with student teachers I have had.  I also had my assistant principal come in and observe a lesson.  He followed me around to groups and scripted everything that was said and done, then we met and he broke down the entire lesson and asked really difficult questions.  Questions that made me think about how I had been doing things, and that opened my eyes to what could be better.   I still remember him asking me what happened to the small groups when I left them to work with another group.  I had no idea.  

I know this seems like I’m throwing those that have done evaluations under the bus, and I’m truly not trying to do that.  I know they are slammed with a lot of evaluations, and a million other things to do.  I just think it is interesting to make a connection to how I’ve gone from having no experience on a professional camera (and only 1 week of broadcast training before that) and in 6 years I’m one of the go to camera guys for the Royals (and still no where nearly as good as the TV guys . . . wow are they awesome!).  Ultimately, for teachers to get better administrators, instructional coaches and other teachers need to be in classrooms.  We can’t be afraid of feedback, even if it is negative.  If you have a bad shot, shake it off and move on.  We’ve all had lessons we wished we could do over.   How, as a profession are we supposed to improve without feedback?  Are you afraid of feedback?  What kind of feedback is important to you?  How can I take this lesson and use it to help my students, especially with all of them having computers?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Current Set Up

This year I have had a lot of success with my website.  In the past I created a daily PowerPoint for when the kids came in, then posted their homework to another location, and eventually I would just quit making a daily PowerPoint.  This year I decided to streamline a lot of what I was doing by doing everything in Google Docs.  

I have a school loop page that is the main landing spot when anyone wants to go to my website.  This is an easily to use website.  It is simple to add links, and text boxes but is kind of a pain to log into every day.  You can see my website here.  This year I decided early on that everything was going to be in Google Docs.  So when I set up my site I basically made it a bunch of links to Google Docs folders.  This allowed for a couple of things.  First I NEVER got make up work for a student all year.  Anything I passed out in class ended up in my Google Drive.  I saved almost everything as a .pdf and uploaded it.   There were a few plain Google Docs I shared as well and I found this was a great way to keep a running list of links and videos.  

I also posted a direct link to my daily PowerPoint.  This allowed the kids to go in when they were absent and see what we did in class as well as any homework we had.  

I’m looking at how I want to set things up for next year, specifically leaning toward going paperless.  I am planning on doing something similar with School Loop as my jumping off place to google docs, but I also need to figure out how to incorporate students not having a paper copy.  The links to google drive may become useless (other than for parents to see what we are doing, which I think is important and powerful) but as far as student use, I think they will have to go in through their Google Drive.  This then leads me to several questions.
1. If I teach the kids to copy a shared doc to their drive, is there a way for them to drop it into a shared folder so I don’t have hundreds of documents to sort through?
2. What is the purpose of them sharing documents back with me?  Will I go through and grade them?
3. Can I incorporate the use of Quia, or Google forms to collect scores and to assess where students are more efficiently than by grading work they do in Google Docs.  

Going Paperless

I’ve read some about teachers who have gone paperless.  I like the idea of going paperless and in the past I didn’t feel like I had the resources to actually implement it.  Now I think I could . . . but it is scary.  I love the idea of NEVER having to run down to the copier at the last minute - only to find that it is broken.  I love the idea of saving trees, and not having piles of papers around my room.  I love the idea of a student never being able to tell me they lost it in their binder.  It seems to me like a pretty huge leap and I’m not sure why.  As I just typed that list of things that get me excited about it I am really pumped up.  I think it is like when I gave up my overhead projector (yes, I’ve been teaching that long - you knew you had really been working when you came home at the end of the day with blue and green fingers).  It wasn’t comfortable at first but eventually I really liked that it gave me more flexibility.  

The main downside I see is training the kids.  For it to work, it will have to be mainly Google Docs based.  We are hearing rumors that the kids are for sure getting Chromebooks but it could switch back to ipads.  I think it is going to take a lot of time upfront to get them used to how I want things done, how I will collect papers, naming files, etc.  The more I think about it, the more I want to attempt it.  

This year I made the decision that any paper I handed the students I would have in digital format, mainly .pdfs.  That has been great and has completely eliminated me dealing with makeup work (the kids still ask).  

Now that I finish typing this post, I think I’ve decided to try to go paperless.  Pretty sure there are some logistics involved that I still need to do some cogitating (wow, that’s a real word that spell check didn’t underline) on.  I will keep you posted on the cogitating.

Friday, May 9, 2014

One to One Broadcasting

So I know this blog is called 1 to 1 science but I also teach broadcasting so at times I will also be talking about that class.  No one has told me yet what that will look like.  All the 8th graders will have macs.  Right now I’m assuming we will keep some of our computers, especially those running our studio, and use iMovie for a lot of our editing.  It has been a long time since I used iMovie so I’m kind of excited to get in and use it.  

Last week I started creating a document for my broadcasting students that will serve as a semester long evaluation/portfolio.  The link for this document (still in progress) is here.  I’m not completely sure how this is going to work but I like the idea of going paperless and I like the idea of keeping a running log of their work.  The part that concerns me is giving student edit access to this document.  I will keep all of their official grades in the grade book so if they go in and change something I will have the original grade, and I can always go back to the edit history.  I think I’m going to work with the kids on evaluating themselves in black, then when I grade them, I will use red to keep it separate.  One other drawback I see to this is that I’m going to have to make 25 copies of this doc per class, rename each of them and share them with the student individually.  I thought about having them make copies from a shared folder but I want to retain ownership of the document.  That will take a little bit of time but overall I think it will be worth it.  

MacBook, Here We Go!

This week I got my macbook.  In all honesty, I am not a Mac guy.  When I started teaching we all had the purple and teal macs and I hated them.  The year we switched to PC as a district I rejoiced.  To say I’ve not been looking forward to this implementation would be an understatement.  Last year our high school went 1 to 1 and next year that dips down to 8th grade.  All teachers from 6th grade on up got mac books.  This year the district gave me an old pc laptop, which worked ok, except for playing videos my kids had created.  In order to view, or project those I had to hook an extra desktop computer to my projector.  That computer is still hooked up but I only use it for projection stuff.  The day we got the Mac I decided to put the other laptop away, and go whole hog on the Mac.  So far I’ve been pretty impressed.  I like the swipe features enough that I don’t know if I will get a mouse for it.  There are a few things which I am still trying to get used to/don’t like.  My email seems slow.  I will get an email coming through on my phone long before I see it on the Mac, and when I have a long email, especially one with graphics, scrolling through it seems choppy. On a positive, I like how fast it prints, and having access to all the other printers is nice.  It also pops up a printer icon in the doc that goes away after it prints.  This will be nice when I print longer documents.  I’m pretty happy that I started converting everything to Google Docs this year.  I think that will really pay off next year and it has been really nice next year.  In a later post I will explain how I have my website and Google Docs folders set up this year.  

Current Set Up
My current set up isn’t very technology intensive.  I use technology a lot but I try to make sure that it serves a purpose, and isn’t just to do something for the sake of using technology.  In my classroom right now there are 8 pc desktops along one wall that are mainly  used by my broadcasting students.  There are an additional four in the adjacent room that is our broadcast studio.  I rarely send science students in there.  I have digital projector, and a desktop computer that I use to project.  That means usually there are two computers on my desk and if I’m working on a project on my personal laptop it isn’t unusual to see three.  I have access to a document camera (which now won’t work with my mac) that I haven’t used much this year since the desktop I use to project doesn’t have the software.  Someone the other day suggested plugging it into the VCR, which is a great idea that I hadn’t thought of.  

At the beginning of the year I had the kids bring in cell phones and we set up a system where they could submit anonymous questions.  I really like this system, and have used it in the past.  The plan was to make this an everyday thing.  It fizzled after a month or so because so few kids were bringing their phones because of poor cell phone reception.  This is an idea I am really excited about fully implementing next year when every kid has a device.  

This year I started putting my tests on Quia.  I have liked this but I only started at Christmas and didn’t take the time to set up student accounts so getting the links out to the kids is a pain.  Also I made the mistake of posting a test link early and had several kids, and parents, take the test early.  I really want to explore the idea of using quia more as an exit ticket, or daily assessment for next year.  More thoughts on the MacBook and other technology issues to come.