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I’ve met Angela a couple of times and even though we don’t exactly know each other, I consider her a friend. I read her blog often. She matters. Watch and enjoy as she sums up a lot of my thoughts about life as of late, because you matter to me.
After a fun filled July I am back at the business of learning and helping to get ready for the new school year. We have finally upgraded many of our computers to Windows 7 ($ held us back!), and the 300 additional netbooks that we’ve been waiting to get to the high school are in the building ready for use (600 netbooks at NPHS now!). Exciting times indeed.
Several trainings are in store for support staff, administrators, and new teachers the beginning of this week. This is my fifth year in this district and I feel like we have made some great progress over that time. Access to digital devices is much improved, our network and storage space has been upgraded (a continual process), and I hope to see more of a focus on use, integration, and embedding technology in the classroom this year.
We have a 1:1 initiative at our smallest middle school with about 200 netbooks in the system. It is not a full fledged take home program, but students have access during the day. We hope to get to the 3/4 stage of 1:1 at our high school with only 300 devices left for next year to bring online 1200 netbooks for students to use at NPHS. This year will be a preparation for that goal, and I hope we can have some progressive discussions and preparation as we move closer to that end.
Annie, our new Jack Russell Terrier puppy, has found a new home at our house. Like anything new, she is providing new learning opportunities, and we are enjoying her presence. Summertime clicks away at a rapid pace, and it will soon be time for the school doors to be opened once again. I just saw a back to school add while watching TV with my kids last night!
Another summer has arrived in my life, another school year has ended, perspective rolls in once again. I am starting my fifth year as the educational technology director for the North Platte Public Schools. During that time we have gone through 2 superintendents and currently have an interim while we sort out who will be best to lead our instructional team in the future. Technology in the district has increased and improved, but we have much more to do.
Within this big picture view are some little things that have profound influence on quality of life. There are so many troubles out there in this big old world, and it is nice to have some tender mercies around to lighten the load. We got a puppy in the spring and had spent all the time and energy it takes to bring him along as a member of our family. We determined that the time was right and that we would have the summer to train him and enjoy him. School ended for my five children on May 18th and my wife followed the next day after wrapping up her school year as a speech-language pathologist. I have an extended contract that runs into July; so, I continue my service as we ready the district for a new school year.
On May 26th our dear, new friend Shadow was hit by a truck and we had to put him down. Needless to say, the Memorial Day weekend took on a whole new meaning and was not filled with happiness and joy. I grew up on a ranch in western Wyoming and have spent my life around animals. For me, I have seen them come and go, but there are always a special few. Shadow was one of them. My children and I have had a special opportunity to reflect on the short life of something that became important to our family. It has not been easy, but they are learning that it gets easier as each day passes. This learning is profound, meaningful, and lifelong. It will never be measured on a standardized test, and my children have learned more from this experience than an entire year of school will ever hope to bring.
We get in such a hurry in life that we forget to enjoy the things that are going on around us. Events, people, pets, our surroundings often slip by like the scenery we view in a speeding vehicle. We don’t notice, or cherish the little things, the special things, until they are sometimes taken away without a moment’s notice. This can be the summer that Shadow died, or it can be something else. I’m not sure what that something else is as of yet, but our family is searching.
I know a few that visit this blog from time to time, and your visits may be less because I post less. It is because I have been too busy living life and that’s okay. I hope you are all having a great summer, but if you are sad I can understand how you feel. Your sadness may be greater, more profound, and more serious. Take comfort in the fact that your sadness comes from the loss of joy. Remember the joy and get it back someway, somehow, as soon as you can. Goodbye Shadow. You brought my family true, honest, joy. Thank you.
Once again I had the opportunity to attend the Nebraska Educational Technology Association Conference in Omaha this past week. As always, I am impressed with this hidden gem (for some people) held here in the Heartland. I had the pleasure of listening to keynote speakers Rushton Hurley and Richard Byrne. I attended several informative sessions on hand held devices, 1:1 programs, and took part in a great discussion on moving forward with reluctant staff. Of course I was able to network with several colleagues from around the state and to renew old acquaintances and made some new friends along the way.
If you are in the region, I highly recommend a trip to Omaha next spring (April 26-27, 2012) to attend the NETA conference. You will be amazed at the resources you will have access to, the speakers and presenters that will share valuable information, and the power of face to face networking. You can learn more information about NETA at the following url: http://www.netasite.org.
See you next year!
Crisis in Dairyland – Message for Teachers – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – 02/28/11 – Video Clip | Comedy CentralPosted: March 2, 2011 in Education, School
It has been a few years since I heard Ian Jukes speak at the T+L Conference in Nashville (October 19, 2007). However, his words continue to ring in my ears, and I want to share some of them with you as I reflect on where our school district is with embedding technology in learning.
Ian Jukes said:
“We have access to some new technologies but their use is generally optional not integral and certainly not required of all teachers – and the technologies are often used to reinforce old practices and assumptions about teaching and learning and assessment and do not require the teacher to change their current instructional practices.”
“Ask yourself this very important question – would your students be there in your classrooms if they didn’t have to be? Are they there because they want to be there? Or are they there because they have no other choice? And if they’re there only because they have to, what can we begin to do differently to help more students want to be in our classes?”
“…Our emphasis as professional educators has to be on more than just LOTS.”
“The starting point for making the necessary changes is that as educators we have to understand how truly different our students are.”
“This shift is so fundamental – the gap between them and us is so wide – that there’s no going back to the basics. There’s no going back to the way things were when we were kids.”
“The problem is that many educators just don’t get that there is a digital divide. Many of us pay lip service to the notion that this generation is different. We knowingly nod our heads but then we shut the door to the classroom and go back to business as usual where it could just as easily be 1960 all over again.”
“Most teachers know very little if anything about the digital world of their students – from online gaming to their means of exchanging, sharing, meeting, evaluating, coordinating, programming, searching, customizing, and socializing.”
“The bottom line is that we really don’t understand their digital world and we never will until we take the time to honor and respect where they come from. But to do this we have to be willing to acknowledge their world and start to educate ourselves about that world.”
“If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of our children, schools must become a place where students are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge and know how…”
“The context of a significant event provides a frame of reference and relevance for remembering the specific information about what you were doing long after the event. By providing a context for the new information teachers are actually helping students with long-term memory.”
My summary and challenge to myself and others that continues today: As educators it is time that we take responsibility for our own learning. If we want to create self-directed learners, we must become one. We must model self-directed, independent learning, and we need to discover how our students learn in the 21st Century.
Angela Maiers poses some wonderful Parent-Teacher Conference questions at her blog. Her personal experience in gaining answers met mixed results, but she explains how these questions do not fit into the aspect of data that has high priority in schools. However, the questions are what I want to know the answers to as a parent.
- Who is my child to you?
- Who are they as readers, writers, community members?
- What makes them unique?
- What are they passionate about?
- How do they add value to your class and the wider community?
- What makes you proud?
Read Angela’s article to learn more: Parent Teacher Conference: “The Morning After”
Definition of RIGOR
Inference – Online Resources
Simply put, an inference is also known as reading between the lines. The reader must put together the information the author provides and the information that the reader already knows to come up with the answer.
Lesson Plans (K-12):
Logic Problems (K-12):
Middle School Activities:
High School Activities:
Differentiated instruction (sometimes referred to as differentiated learning) involves providing students with different avenues to acquiring content; to processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and to developing teaching materials so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability (Tomlinson, Carol 2001).
Identifying differences in ability is a key step in gathering technology resources for students to utilize. We can easily identify students that have differences in ability via pupils that have an IEP. Often, we can access resources that we have used for these students and modify them to meet the needs of other students. This really is a good foundation to draw upon; however, we want to focus our attention on student strengths and constructing knowledge when it comes to differentiation, and multiple intelligences are another good place to start.
Howard Gardner is a leading researcher on the topic of multiple intelligences and is an excellent resource to draw from when focusing on differentiated instruction.
Gardner has extensive research and resources that can be found at the above link, and I highly recommend reading through his information on multimedia and technology and their relationship to multiple intelligences. Some other good Gardner resources can be found at the following links:
What are my learning strengths? (Inventory)
Products for Multiple Intelligences
Utilizing Gardeners inventory is a quick way to identify learner’s strengths, and the product lists provide teachers with ideas on what various students might create in a project based environment to show what they know. Most of these products can be produced via technology tools. This product list can provide a reference point to work from in order to create lessons that will build a foundation for varied learners to construct knowledge and reach their project goal.
As a former building intervention team chairperson I found myself faced with researching various strategies to provide accommodations for students that were struggling in various subject areas. I found technology to be one tool that met many students’ needs. The following web site and tutorial page is an older example of online activities that shared similar information in a variety of ways. The strengths and needs of particular students in my classroom guided my efforts to assist students in gaining the basic information in my geography classroom, and not all students completed all of the online activities. The activities helped me to differentiate instruction, practice, assessment, and re-teaching based on particular students’ abilities. After those basic skills were in place I could then draw upon Gardner’s multiple intelligences product ideas to expand student opportunities where they could construct knowledge via projects to show what they knew.
Hokanson’s World Geography
Hokanson’s World Geography Tutorials
Most of the activities in the above links were created, over time, by my students and I via an online “quiz maker” called Quia or a program called Hot Potatoes. I also utilized a program called Game Show Presenter to do whole class review over basic information that students needed in my geography classes. These activities served as scaffolding exercises to build knowledge toward student created projects.
Hot Potatoes (Installed on all NPPSD district computers since 2007!): http://hotpot.uvic.ca/
Game Show Presenter: http://www.almorale.com/
Now, with today’s World Wide Web there are many online resources that serve the purpose of many of the initial activities I created years ago (See links below). Teachers also have access to technology based resources via subject area textbooks especially online.
Example web site (blog) with links to resources for differentiation: http://oxpower.wordpress.com/
Textbook Resources: http://www.glencoe.com/sec/socialstudies/ushistory/taj2005/index.php4
Secondary Online Resources: http://mail.nppsd.org:8080/~nhokanson/online_resources_hs/index.html
Elementary Online Resources: http://mail.nppsd.org:8080/~nhokanson/online_resources/index.html
All of these resources are simply tools to assist students as they construct knowledge, but each tool and resource allows for deeper understanding of content and provides a foundation for students to build upon their strengths as they piece together information. Remember, technology is one vehicle toward learning, it is not the focus, and it cannot be an event. Technology is a tool that can be utilized to differentiate instruction and ultimately support individualized learning.
Other “quiz” makers to explore: