Monday, October 31, 2011

Drawing a Blank

     Yep.  I've got it, and hopefully I don't have it too bad.  Blog Block.  Not really sure how I came down with it, but hopefully it won't last.  Is there a cure? For my teammates sake, i hope it's not contagious!

     It's not that I have nothing to say, or have not been busy, it's just, well,...uh mm, sometime I feel that if I don't have anything profound to write about, or that I have had some great epiphany, then it's not worth writing about.  So, let's recap the week and see what we can connect to technology.

     Got a twitter account!  Never really found an interest in it, but have been chatting with a lot of people and how it can be used in the classroom.  I actually am following a teacher at one of our middle schools who tweets assignments for his students.  A principal in the district is using it to communicate with parents about things that are happening in his school.  Its actually almost like an addiction with him.  I even follow James VanReimsdyk (JVR to all you Flyers fans)  I have made a few posts, and read what others are doing in the world of tech ed.  It's fun, and I enjoy seeing what others are thinking and doing, but I am not a Twitter fanatic yet.

   Snow. October.  Two words that should really not go together!  Unbelievable that we got up to six inches of slush this past Saturday.  While it looks great, it's too heavy to shovel.  Was nice spending time with Mitch outside making the area walkable.  Add all of the branches that came down with it, and Sunday morning was a blast!  I had been motivated to write this Blog on Sunday, but that darn block just wouldn't ease up.  Was a bit taken aback when I learned that my teammate was in an accident on early Sunday morning.  Thankfully, he is OK, and the car is not too bad.  Kind of puts a little bit of a different perspective on things.

    Watched some second graders use a site called Animoto.  Really cool.  Talk about raising the bar high, this second grade teacher expected her students to research something specific about a city.  write text, save and then upload a file to Animoto, put together a presentation with music, and then publish.  All with what I saw as little instruction other than a few handouts.  Granted there were three teachers in the computer lab, but the beauty of it was how she let the kids work to just figure it out!  They were great!  Yes, a few played the helpless card, but for the vast majority, they only needed a little guidance on how and where to place some files.  The learning that took place was incredible!  I was impressed with how much she expected from her students.  The ability of the teacher to let go of the 'control' factor and not have to do everything for the kids was exemplary.  Ahhh, if only others could let go...

    Speaking of expectations, we as Eagle Fans had a high level of expectation for our 'DREAM'  team this year.  After a dismal start, the Linc was electric last night as our boys put a whippin on those boys from Dallas!  Probably one of the mot entertaining parts was the Dallas fan I sat next too, who was booing Tony Romo all night!  Other than a week off, I'm not really sure what the difference was, but I'll take it!  Did Andy Reid use some type of technology to aid in his 2 for 2 red flag throws!  The game was  an unexpected treat from a good friend who called at the last minute.  Was a late night, but one that makes today well worth it. Thanks Dan!

  Finally, my daughter got a wedding dress. Not sure whether or not the father of the bride is supposed to see it, but from what I hear, she looks amazing in it!

Well, I feel a little bit better, but not sure the 'Blog Block is totally gone.  No research to post, quotes to share, or links to, well, link, but, I hope that you had a great week as well.  How do you cure 'Blog Block'?  Maybe a bologna and cheese on rye?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

High Hopes!

Next time your found, with your chin on the ground
There a lot to be learned, so look around

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant

But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your gettin' low
'stead of lettin' go
Just remember that ant
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

     Couldn't have said it better myself.  For those of you that know me, I am a bit of a Sinatra fan.  So in the past few weeks, this song seems to have fit into my life in so many ways! personally, Philly sports-wise, and of course professionally w/ technology integration.

     From a personal viewpoint, I have high hopes for many reasons.  One , with my daughters recent engagement, I have very high hopes that she has found her soul mate and that she have a life full of fun, happiness, and prosperity.  My guess is that this is the hope that all parents have for their kids.  With a son heading off to college next year, I have high hoped for his ability to live on his own, make the right decisions,and choose a career path that will be fun and not a job,  I also have extremely high hopes that I will be able to pay for it all!!!  (Is anyone counting how many times I type 'High Hopes'?)

     Maybe it's has to do with the air, an injection we are given at birth, or the proverbial, "It must be something in the water", but we as Philly Sports fans constantly have high hopes.  None more so than this past baseball season, and the current football schedule.  When hopes are dashed, why is it that we cry, curse, cringe and then collect ourselves to the tune of "We'll' get 'em next year!"  It has to be because we all have 'High Hopes'  It's a gene that we have.  Seems a bit ironic that with the swoon of the Phillies this year, it was s song that the late and great, Harry Kalas made famous!  Would Ryan Howard actually be able to move a rubber tree plant?   Let's Go Flyers!!!

     Of course, we come to technology.  What better way to start my day than with 'High Hopes'.  I truly do have high hopes every day.  I hope that one teacher will realize the potential that exists in each and everyone of their students that when given an opportunity to try something new in technology integration, the kids will rock! They are digital natives and can problem solve technology like it's second nature.   I saw a clip on the news this week where a nine month old, yes a nine month old had been exposed to an Ipad for a few weeks.  Next,the child was playing with a magazine and was videotaped trying to scroll the page and click on pictures!  A nine month old figured it out!!!  If you have a minute or two, check out this 2 year old w/ an Ipad on YouTube...amazing!
     Two year Old w/ Ipad

     I have hope that teachers will begin to let go and let the student becomes the teacher.  I have hope that we can give instructors the confidence that their kids do not need step by step instructions on how to complete a task using technology.  In the brief time spent in this job, I am constantly amazed at the accelerated learning curve that kids have, whether it's excel, movie maker, edmode,...the list goes on and on.  We as teachers have that gene that we want our students to be successful.  We want that bar of expectation to be raised so high.   However, for some reason, they have to learn it from us, or we need to be in control. If I as a teacher am not giving them step by step directions, they will never get it.  Really?  If they are able to figure it out for themselves do we fear becoming obsolete, or that we didn't do our job correctly? Would the learning objective become unmeasurable if we are not fully responsible for the students grasping the concept?.  For whatever the reason, I feel that I need to help teachers let go.  Seriously, what's the worst thing that could happen.  They are not going to break it!

    So keep your hopes high!  Sing the song next time you have a chance.  It's quite a catchy tune. 

    Please post your thoughts.  I'd love to hear what you have as 'High Hopes'

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It was a beautiful thing!

     Every once in a while, a plan comes together, including the technology piece, and it becomes a beautiful thing. Sorry, I am not talking about the new look of this year's Philadelphia Flyers, but a great activity that I participated in at North Penn Sr High School this week. As expected, a few glitches prior to implementation, but this was so refreshing to see the tech pieces fall into place and work flawlessly, and have students be engaged with a true 21st century activity...It was a beautiful thing.
     Here is the scenario....juniors at the high school that did not participate in taking the PSAT test, needed something to participate in while the rest of their classmates took the exam. As a result, I received an invite to participate in the planning of a tech integrated-cyberbullying activity. (My guess is that it was purely coincidental that my wife is the bullying expert in the district.)  The challenge was made to somehow have students be fully engaged in a video and then have the opportunity to respond immediately with their thoughts and feelings about this extremely important topic.
     Long story short, we created a google docs form to accompany a PowerPoint with embedded videos. Of course there were some last minute glitches with the links, but all was ready to go. It was a beautiful thing.  As the students logged on and answered some pre-video questions on cyberbullying, we watched in real time as over 80 students responded to why people are cyberbullied, how they perceive themselves, and others online, and what they can do to today to help stop negative online behavior. Once all students had finished watching the compelling and moving video, and completed the form, a quick PowerPoint was created and then broadcast live on NPTV to all those involved. Dr. Nicole Yetter hosted the event and eloquently discussed the results and some pertinent information that the students had shared in the google docs form. 
     It was quite powerful for the students to see their opinions being shared on TV, moments after it was placed into a form via the Internet.  Ownership?  Yes.  Validation?  Yes,   Life Changing?  Maybe.  One of the questions reported that nearly 1 in 4 have experienced some type of cyberbullying scenario.  As long as it had an impact on one student to either take a stand, feel better about themselves, or change his/her attitude about how they are perceived, then it was so worth it!
It was a beautiful thing.
     When we come together as educators and really stop to think what is best for kids and begin to let go of some of the control that we feel we MUST have, awesome things can happen.  21st century learning and activities aren't that difficult.  We, as educators, know what great instruction looks like.  We have all had the 'goose bump momemts' when things go flawlessly and our goal has been met, and then some.  The tools are all around us, and it is up to us to learn them, embrace them, and use them in an atmosphere that can keep students engaged and begging for more.  This activity was just that.  We gave the students an opportunity to express themselves in a medium that they are comfortable with and use on a daily basis. We met their needs and gained some excellent data.
    As an Academic Integration Coach, I feel it is my responsibility to make this happen with every teacher in the district.  Bring on the goose bumps...It's a beautiful thing.

Thanks for reading.  Let me know about your beautiful moments in education....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gotta do a better job of that...

     This week let's take a break from technology, but somehow I'm sure I will tie it in, and talk about the debacle that is your Philadelphia Eagles. How can what was in the preseason called a 'Dream Team', be on the verge of being 1-4.
     Agreed, I am not a football expert by any imagination, but I feel that I do have some common sense. plus I listen to a lot of sports talk radio. Let''s start at the top with Big Red, Andy Reid. Winningest coach in Eagles history - duly noted. But at what point in one's career, do you begin to lose it without realizing it? Where in the NFL playbook does it say that if you are the boss, arrogance is good call? How many times would you and I still have a job, if upon a review of our work, all we commented was, "I gotta do a better job of that". Really?
     Someone please remind me what Andy's strategy was to promote someone who has a no NFL experience in coaching defenses, to the top spot as a defensive coordinator. Fine, he may know what defenses to plan against an offensive line, but Juan Castillo seems to think that a blitzes are something you get at a fancy brunch! Plus you sign the top defensive back in the league, who can play man on man coverage, and make him play zone d, Really?
     Post game press conferences remind me of...well not really sure what they remind me of, but when listening to how Andy deals with the media is unbelievable. Granted the press can be a bit unforgiving, but these guys that cover the sport do know a thing or two about a thing or two? Do the fans have any say about their team? I would have to guess that the Lansdale Cannoneers 90 lb football team would not call some type of flea-flicker play from the three yard line! So when asked why would you call such a play, and is that a play that is practiced, Andy responds with,'If you came to practice, you would see'. Does that have the tone of arrogance or of someone who is losing it?
     Having taught for 25 years, I have had my share fair of observations. All quite good, if I may say so, but the point is, if my boss, or parent of a student, questioned me on why or how I did certain things and I constantly replied with, 'I gotta do a better job of that', for almost thirteen years, I know I wouldn't be typing this blog...I would be out of a job. And you thought teachers had job security!
     So, what's the tie in with technology? Not really sure, other than that I hope that I NEVER feel that I am the expert on something and become arrogant to think that I have all of the answers. I also hope that I realize what types of technology fit best with the desired outcome, and not go with what I deem as the right one, just because I am the tech guy.  Remember, it's not about the technology!!
     This concluded my rant on Big Red. Will this blog actually accomplish anything...hardly. Sure makes me feel better though, especially after a Game three win in St. Louis by the Phillies. Post a comment. Don't feed into the mentality of making me feel good by not saying anything.


Hope to hear from you!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Phase complete.  Sounds official.  Has perhaps many different tones, and as my wife so eloquently expressed this week, life's about phases.

Professionally and personally, my life seems to be in some type of transition from one phase to another. Professionally, I've entered an exciting phase with the new position of  AIC. (Academic Integration Coach).  A new job that I am really enjoying and feeling better about every day.  Most thanks go to Nicole's support and Scott's patience and guidance.  But I digress...I wonder about technology as well.  Are we able to enter the next phase of technology and meet the needs of our students to be engaged, challenged, and become problem solvers?  Personally, the next phase is one that I greet with excitement and pride.

My kid is a senior!  Makes me feel a bit elderly, but yet this phase in his life, and mine, is and has been quite rewarding.  Watching him grow into such a personable, pleasant, and respectful young man makes me swell with pride.  But the next phase, in his life and mine, is for him to prepare to go of to college and begin his own adventures into the world.  How will I handle that phase when the house becomes a bit quieter?  Was kind of surreal, yet satisfying to high-five each other when the first college app was sent in today.  Phase Complete?  On the flip side, we went to preview a house my daughter and future fiance are looking to purchase.  A great starter home and memories of my first home with her mom came flooding back.  This phase in her life is one of the most exciting and scariest!  Feeling all gown up is a phase that we all have gone through (or hope to go through) and from the parent perspective, we just hope and pray that they are prepared to handle all of the big and little things that life throws at them.  Phase Complete?

Professionally, the new job rocks!  Getting to spend the day working and, for lack of a better word, playing each day with all the toys that we are afforded, is awesome!  Making new friends, and working with seasoned veterans has made this next phase of my career one that I hope will remain until retirement!  Phase complete?

Is technology in a phase?  Are we entering a new segment in the use of technology in the classroom or is education as we know it entering a new phase? According to the International Association for On-Line Learning ( 'Fast Facts About On-Line Learning', many virtual school show annual growth rates between 20 and 45%. The report also details some information from The Sloan Consortium. The overall number of K-12 students taking on-line courses rose almost 47% from the school year 2005-06 to 2007-08 In addition, the US Department of Education in their study of Internet Use By Children in Nursery School and Kindergarten, founds that 67% of children in nursery school and 80% of those in Kindergarten were computer users in 2003!  Lord knows what that percentage would be now!  Phase Complete?  No way.  I am perplexed, amazed, dumbfounded, and to be truthful, ticked off to think that the percentage of classroom teachers that use computers and other technology in their classroom is not even close to what Kindergartners were doing 8 years ago!  Combine this with the staggering increase of on-line schools, we had better be ready for the next phase or will be left with no next phase to complete.

What is it that makes teachers hesitant to enter this next phase?  Time?  Fear of the unknown?  Lack of control of what students are doing?  (this last one gets my vote).

What type of phase are you in?  Professionally, or personally?  Are you greeting it with a smile or with trepidation?  Let me know...