Wednesday, December 20, 2006


It's the last day of the semester and one of the tasks I have each class do is write a summary of the class. They tell me what they liked, what they didn't like, and what they would change if they could. They have to explain why on each of their answers. I always take these print them out and read them over the weekend. Normally there are no surprises, but there is always one or two ideas in each class that are worth some serious thinking. I have put in some changes as a result of some of the things they have told me. Since I have found it valuable to have my students do this I thought I'd do this about my semester.
My sixth graders were great, every time they were introduced to something they acted like eager puppies, not only were they excited about doing it, they were bouncing around trying to show their friends and sharing how they did it. Lots of energy all focused on the task. Wonderful stuff. How do I get my 7th and 8th graders to show that kind of excitement?
My seventh graders did well for the most part, but lacked the focus and excitement of the sixth graders for the most part. We were doing the new curriculum and trying a lot of stuff I had never done before. Really good learning experience for me, I found a lot of pitfalls and traps to avoid in the new materials. Which means I spent a lot of time correcting my 7th graders and trying to get them to use the materials in the correct way. A lot of time will be spent over the break thinking of how to structure each assignment so these learning pitfalls don't happen and the kids are not sidetracked.
My eighth graders, well, I tried some stuff to prepare for the new curriculum next year and ran into massive problems. Most of my kids had no prior knowledge or experience to build upon. Everything had to be reexplained over and over getting simpler and simpler. Finally I had to give up and go to other activities that I had done with the 8th grade before, but by that time I had lost them. Just before the end I had gotten most of them back, but by then it was too late. I've taken steps in my planning to not repeat those mistakes next semester. I think I have found solutions to the problems I ran into, but it was very frustrating for me with my eighth graders this last semester.
Personally, I have gotten very excited over discovering the "Web 2.0 tools" including blogging and screencasting. I have been doing a lot of online researching and feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up to a new world. I have been doing a great deal of thinking about how to bring these and other tools into my class and how to share them with the rest of my faculty. Some progress with the former, a lot of fear and tension about the latter. This is one of my goals for 2007 to bring at least three faculty members into the blogging community.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Musings on What I've learned in 60 days

After having experimented with several of the new Web2.0 "style" technologies, I've become very pumped with the idea of working them into my curriculum. I've tried a wiki, Photo Story 3, blogging (my own), screencasting, and a few others. Some met with a lot of success, some didn't. Part of the problem with the few that didn't work in my class was I had no idea how to give directions to use it with my kids.
My eighth graders are mostly "digital savages", even though they have grown up with the technology, they do not have exposure to using technology beyond the basics, either because of economics at home, being newcomers to the US, or some other reason. Because of this they are still Web1.0 consumers, not Web2.0. They really have to have things explained, not just the purpose for using a program, but the way they use it. Programs they have used before several times are not a problem, they jump into it and function well, but anything new I have to drop down into first gear and really plan everything out.
Finding out about screencasting and blogs has really helped me out on this. Now I can record the directions on how to do an assignment while I actually work it out. I then save it and link the screencast to my webpage. Any of my students that missed the first explanation or need it again can follow along with the screencast. This gives it to them in both oral and visual directions, not to mention the written copy of the directions (also linked to the web page.) I'm in the process of doing this for all my assignments for all three grades, but it's already proven its worth with my 6th graders who have shown up with copies of missing work that they did at home using the web site.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Cool Stuff

Ever since I started teaching Technology I've had one problem I couldn't find a way around. Anytime I tried to do a reading assignment on technology or a technology issue the text was way too hard for my kids to read. However, I stumbled across called "Cool Stuff and How It Works" by DK (ISBN 0-7566-1465-1). Written by Chris Woodford, and Luke Collins, Clint Witchalls, Ben Morgan, and James Flint with gorgeous illustrations by Kevin Jones, Andrew Kerr, and Lee Gibbons. The page layouts are a lot like webpages, except the illustrations are better than any webpage I've ever seen. It doesn't water down the technical terms, but it does a wonderful job of either explaining them or writing/illustrating so that they are easy to understand.
Here at my school I've tried to do a reading assignment at least once every two weeks and in the past it's been a chore because I basically have to read it as a class and stop and explain everything. NO MORE OF THAT! The students take to the articles in this book like ducks to water. I just wish I could afford a room set so they would all the colors of the illustrations.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Names Change

I thought I had come up with a fairly original name when I changed to Blue Man's Blog. Based on the fact my favorite color is blue, I always wear blue, etc. etc.. But when I saw the special for Blue Man Group on the television last night I figured I better change so I don't have an arguement over copyright.

The last week has been very interesting wrestling with my new e-machine at home. It constantly is trying to update my Microsoft products to versions that I don't want, and it always interupts what I'm doing to ask me if I want to update. If it was human it would have gotten the hint about thirty times ago. I haven't figured how to turn that off yet. I have the automatic update turned off, but the reminder system sees to be controlled elsewhere. I don't know which is worse the updates or on the few updates I do want the validation testing my Microsoft. Its enough to make me start thinking of a different OS.

That got me thinking about the fact that over the last twelve years, between school and home, I have used 17 different OS on 41 different machine platforms. Just counting my personal computers its 7 OS on 12 machines. Bizarre.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Setting up a Web Page

Hurray and Bummer. I'm excited that I've finally gotten my website for class up and running and bummed because I'm already exceeded my allotted space and haven't even touched what I want to put on it. I have some really great examples I want to post and some PowerPoints I've created based on ideas from blogs I've read, and some screencasts I've done to help the kids with their assignments, (not to mention let the parents know what we are up to), the more I do the more ideas I come up with. I really am getting into it. But the lack of space is really going to be a downer. I sent an e-mail to tech support to see if the district will give me more room, hopefully they will.