New projects

It’s been a lovely week for collaboration!

Yesterday morning Ken and I brainstormed new strategies to get his seniors to better understand characters and motivation in Hamlet.  This led to a nifty new strategy. 

We grouped the students into Hamlet communities–Hamlet, Gertrude, Claudius, and their choice of one other character.  Students are each maintaining blogs as their characters, reporting their personal responses to each scene as they read it. They are also responsible for commenting on the blogs of the other three characters in their communities.  (Because no one selected Polonius, Ken is modeling good posting through his character.)

And in another activity relating to perspective and deeper understanding. . .

After watching the film Control Room, reading sections of Persepolis, and examining the current nuclear situation in Iran, Jeff, the Global Studies teacher and I, developed a new project.  Students will create a mock special issue of a news magazine originating from a non-Western country of their choice.

We’ve set students up with links to international news media and are encouraging them to frame their editorial decisions based on their selected country’s cultural norms, political concerns, government restrictions.

And, just for fun, they’ll be doing their covers using Flagrant Disregard’s magazine cover tool.

New teachers’ induction

Yesterday, Michael, our technology director, Carol, our English Chair, and I presented a full day technology workshop for new faculty. Our focus was, technology and how to use technology to support research, communication, critical thinking, and learning.

You can see our agenda and the resources for my alternate 2.0 focused wikiworshop.

Here’s what really shocked me. Thinking I am talking to natives, I am describing Mark Prensky’s metaphor, labeling myself a digital immigrant. I talk about unpacking the good stuff I brought with me in my trunk from the old world.

As I look out at the faces of some 20 folks I would consider digital natives–some of them 20, some of them 30 years younger than me–I realize only a couple of those folks are shaking their heads when I describe common Web stuff like YouTube or Flickr or open source options. None of them have any real experience with a SmartBoard. What was truly shocking was that some of them never used databases before, not even in their preservice programs. Few had seen a streaming video database before they arrived at Springfield. None had ever created a WebQuest or a website.

So, I wonder. What are new teachers learning about technology in their undergraduate programs?

Our new book trailers!

Last week I judged the video competition among Ken Rodoff’s seniors. The goal: Create a 30-second trailer for Ayn Rand’s Anthem, to be used to motivate the juniors who will be reading the book next year.  We are slowly working our way through the entire reading list.

This particular group of students had never before used iMovie. Few of them had ever before used video cameras. The project’s time restrictions were intense. We wanted to avoid straight on images of student faces. Students were judged on their creative screen shots, their appropriate use of music, their expression of the book’s theme, their “pitch” of the video to the judges.

Without exception Ken’s students rose to the occasion. Their motivation was obvious in their presentation. They gracefully managed the software’s steep learning curve. Although only one is the official winner, I’ve decided to post all five.

Which would you have chosen?


Google for educators and stop watches

Google is crawling its way into the education world. A journalist phoned me this afternoon and asked what I thought about Google’s new program for educators. I went back and took a look.

In a pilot program, Google is looking to certify selected California teachers at a November 7th Teacher’s Academy to be held at their northern California headquarters. Applications are due October 22.

the intent is to build a cadre of experienced trainers who can conduct local training sessions on Google products to help improve instruction, communication, and collaboration in K-12 settings. Google Teachers will be expected to lead at least three local training activities over the course of the 2006-2007 school year and share the impact of their work with Google Teacher community.

It’s impossible and unfair to judge a program that hasn’t yet surfaced. Although this instruction is likely to be branded, most teachers (most people) could improve their searching and technology skills. Learning with one brand will likely transfer to better use with another.  We’ve Microsoft certified folks for as long as I can remember and I suppose, whenever we teach a non-open souce app, we’re kinda promoting a particular brand of software.

I do wish librarians could scale up their inservices and services to better prepare their teacher partners for the shifting searching landscape and I wish all librarians had formal, updated training in searching. (I am continually grateful for my archaic experience as a Dialog searcher, indexer, and online database builder! Training that helped me to understand the innards.)

What I discovered on my trip to Google’s education site was a left frame of teacher resources I never before noticed. The suite of tools includes: a mini searching lesson; a tour of the advanced search screen; intros to Google Book Search, Google Maps, and Google Video. Even more interesting were several Web-based applications and tools I never noticed on Google before.

Google Docs and Spreadsheets offers an online word processor and spreadsheet editor:

that enables you and your students to create, store and share documents and spreadsheets instantly and securely and collaborate online in real time. If you know how to use any word processing or spreadsheet editing program, you can easily use Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and you can even upload older documents and spreadsheets instead of creating new ones. There’s no software to download, and all your work is stored safely online and can be accessed from any computer.

Google SketchUp is a basic free downloadable 3Dmodeling software. A free pro version is available for more sophisticated teacher users. Looks like a good choice for math (geometry), applied technology, and art teachers.

Google Calendar is a sharable online calendar, appropriate for teams, clubs, classes, and other groups.

Google Personalized Homepage offers a browser-based site creation with some interesting features and gadgets–a date and time clock, a class calendar, bookmarks, feeds, to-do lists, blogs, etc.

Another interesting discover that has nothing to do with Google (except that we used it as a search tool). My students we trying to time their podcasts and had a very messy time with their watches. We decided to search for online stopwatches to make the timing far more obvious to the entire group. We found several, including this one and this one. Very nice tools for planning and making presentations.

Pennsylvania Classrooms for the Future

Around two weeks ago Springfield got some great news. We were granted one of Governor Rendell’s Classrooms for the Future grants. A press release describes the changes proposed for the 103 high schools selected in this first round of the grant. Among the many goals of this ambitious high school reform program is:

to put a laptop computer on every high school English, math, science and social studies desk and to provide teachers with a multimedia workstation and intensive training to enhance education. Governor Rendell’s 2006-07 Budget provided $20 million for the first year of Classrooms for the Future, which the Governor intends to expand statewide.

I pointed the grant out to our administrators. I suspect many other librarians did the same. I worked with our technology director to plan the proposal.

What role librarians will play in the implementation of this major initiative? The plan calls for the district’s Keystone educators and a half-time, newly hired coach to manage the change for each high school.
Our English and math teachers are delighted about the upcoming transformations for their classrooms.

I want our friends in Harrisburg to recognize the friends they have in their high school librarians as they plan this major reform. We are already in place. We are already working to integrate. We are already invested in technology. And likely, we are already invested in the grant process. Please use us as you create high school teams.

Governor Rendell, librarians can be your strongest allies and partners in this ambitious project!