Archive for April, 2007

Hannah Computer 15 years ago today my oldest child was born. It is hard to believe that she is “halfway to 30” as she pointed out last night!!! Hannah has never known a time without a computer in her home. Her life began with an IBM PS/1 machine that she used to play several Disney games and eventually moved on to Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. Later she had access to a Macintosh Performa passed down from her aunt. This introduced CD-ROMs to her life and many great learning programs like Oregon Trail, several Jump Start discs, and Kid Pix. The internet and a PowerBook G3 Lombard, PowerBook G4 Titanium, an old PowerMac 5500, a beige Power Macintosh G3, an iMac Summer 2001, and our new Mac Pro have all been at Hannah’s disposal at various times over the past 15 years. Her iPod Mini has experienced heavy use for the past couple of years, and her digital life is second nature. I don’t think she gives a thought to the amazing power she has access to each and every day.

I was born in 1965 on a ranch. A transistor radio was high tech for me in my early years. I did not have a color television until after I graduated from high school in 1984. Growing up I had access to 2 television channels. I got a cassette tape recorder/player in junior high, and a portable cassette tape player in high school (I couldn’t afford a Walkman). 😦 However, I did start using computers (Apple IIe) in high school. My children ask what I did without all the technology we have today. Remember, I was born on a ranch!

I worked! We had a dairy until I was in 8th grade. I helped milk the cows. On the ranch I farmed the ground, planted crops, sprayed weeds, fixed fence, doctored and herded cattle, rode horses, fixed fence, irrigated, baled hay, stacked hay, fixed fence, was in 4-H, FFA, fixed fence, trapped muskrat, mink, and beaver, fixed fence, hunted, fished, fixed fence, and did I mention fixed fence!!! I would never trade this experience for anything, and I sometimes feel sorry for my children who will not get an opportunity to learn the values and benefits of the ranching life I grew up with.

Nevertheless, I am amazed at the access to information that my children have today. They are much smarter than I ever could have imagined to be at their ages. Smart kids need smart toys, and the digital age supports the two!!! Hannah will venture on in this digital age probably looking back at my life as something from ancient history. She will adjust and change with new technologies without a thought or concern. It is natural to her, just like it was natural for me to work on a ranch from daylight to dusk (and in the middle of the night when the cattle or horses got out, fixed fence, or when we were in the middle of calving season). These are the lives Hannah and I know/knew. Time marches on, and we continue to travel into the future together.

Hannah has had to fix fence. You didn’t think I would let her get away without that experience did you!?! 🙂 Happy birthday Hannah, I love you!!!

UPDATE 2010!!!

(4/13/2010):  McBride:  Don’t Count PAWS

(3/24/2010):  Local Teacher finds Snafu in PAWS Testing

(3/25/2010):  It has been almost 3 years since I posted this information.  The saga continues – “PAWS Problems Persist.”

The ongoing saga of state testing continues in Wyoming as you can read in the article below. I have touched on this issue before, and I know it is simply a requirement to meet the “standards” of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The unfortunate part of this entire process is that children are being “tossed around,” manipulated, experimented on, and deceived by the powers that be. My own children have been in the middle of this mess in which no one seems to care about how it influences students. Many students consider this testing a joke, something to toy with, and that it has no meaning or bearing on their lives. I suppose they are right.

The state has spent the better part of a decade trying to figure out how to implement a statewide test. I have been part of that problem/solution. My family and I are moving on, and we may face the same challenges in our new home, but the mismanagement and indecision that has existed in Wyoming is not good or fair for my children, my neighbor’s children, and the students that have graced my classrooms for the past ten years. Good luck trying to figure out what you are going to do Wyoming, but I am no longer going to help or wait for you to figure it out. My children are precious and don’t have the time for you to find out what you are doing!

Wyoming overhauls PAWS test

By AIMEE TABOR
Star-Tribune staff writer

“Wyoming’s student proficiency test will have fewer questions and only one official testing window next year following an overhaul of the program, which stemmed from problems schools had this year with the current test.

State officials and Texas-based Harcourt Assessment announced the revisions to the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students during a press conference Friday, saying they have a solid partnership and a new plan that addresses all the problems.

This year, schools encountered late and incomplete test results, which made it difficult for teachers to determine if their students should take the second test. Plus, some schools reported problems logging onto the system.

“We’ve developed a good working relationship with Harcourt,” said Jim McBride, state superintendent of public instruction. “We believe that they can and will perform to address the best needs of our students.”

For the 2007-2008 school year, only one official test will be given. In 2008-2009, a series of informative tests will be given to students before the official test so that teachers can determine what areas need to be worked on, McBride said. The year wait for the informative test will give Harcourt the chance to develop it.

“The idea will be that they will have the information available immediately to them to help them guide instruction,” McBride said of the informative tests. “That’s what it was about in the beginning. It was about improving achievement for our students.”

The state also is expected to save a significant amount of money with the changes because it will renegotiate its $13.9 million contract with Harcourt, McBride said.

Although the districts received the results late during this testing cycle, McBride defended his decision not to impose fines, saying it would destroy the working relationship between Harcourt and the state.

“If we start down the fine path now then we’re in an environment of litigation,” McBride said. “Then every single phone call, every e-mail and every piece of correspondence is filtered through the lawyers.”

Instead, McBride and Harcourt wanted to establish a cooperative environment where everyone works together to resolve the problems. They did that by meeting in Texas recently to discuss the problems. Plus, the state has put together a task force where members defined the problems and brought them back to McBride.

Michael Hansen, chief executive officer for Harcourt, said the company is committed to working with the state.

“We believe the best way to serve the state of Wyoming is to be in a partnership with the state of Wyoming, with the children, the districts,” he said. “We believe we have a good plan moving forward.”

School districts around Wyoming complained that the computerized testing was extremely slow at times.

“What we have experienced in the recent administration was a slowdown of the mainframe server that the test was on and we needed to stop and reboot the server that caused the slowdown,” Hansen said. “The students could still take the test but it took them longer.”

The PAWS test is how Wyoming school districts measure whether students are proficient on state education standards. The federal government uses the test results to determine if Wyoming schools are meeting required progress under the No Child Left Behind law. Students are not required to pass the PAWS to graduate high school or to earn good grades.

District officials anticipate the changes will be beneficial as long as they’re made and teachers can get the results of the informative tests immediately.

Larry Heslep, associate superintendent for instruction for Campbell County School District No. 1, said he’s heard from many teachers in his district who said they wished they didn’t have their students take the first PAWS test in January because of the late results.

He said he’s in favor of the test time being reduced considering other college entrance exams take about two and a half hours to complete rather than a total of eight to 20 hours.

“I think we can decide if a student is proficient in less than 20 hours,” he said.

Mike Flicek, research assessment director for the Natrona County School District, said the overhaul will be beneficial because it will give back instruction time for the faculty. Plus, having one official test will keep the scores consistent and easier to track, Flicek said.”

Infinite Thinking Machine has another great video piece that highlights several examples of students integrating and using technology in their learning projects.

Teachers Teaching Teachers is a blog/site that I have started to explore, and I have become quite impressed with the dialogue going on there. Click on over and check it out!!!

iQuiz Maker This morning I received an e-mail from Apple offering a new game for my video iPod called iQuiz for a mere 99 cents. As I read the news at MacNN I learned about Aspyr’s iQuiz Maker for this new iQuiz game (Apple’s bit on iQuiz Maker). Now that is a good combination!!! I downloaded iQuiz at iTunes and then did the same for iQuiz Maker (I also downloded some themes and ready made quizzes at Aspyr). I tried one of the iQuiz quizzes (TV Show Trivia) and soon learned that I don’t watch enough TV anymore (I think that is okay)! This has great possibilities with the ability to create quizzes. I will put one together using Aspyr’s software and see how it all works. This really opens up the use of iPods in the classroom as wonderful review tools with the ability to create tutorials in iQuiz Maker. Despite all the “i’s”, I really like that!!! 🙂

UPDATE: I just created a simple multiple choice quiz in iQuiz Maker on basic USA geography. The file is automatically added to the proper folder in iTunes. I synced my iPod and played the quiz! This is a very simple and easy way to create tutorials for the iPod!!! You can click the following link to download my “Geography USA Quiz” and either import it into your own copy of iQuiz Maker or drop into your iQuiz folder (located within your iTunes folder and iPod Games folder).

There is an interesting article at MSN concerning Second Life University. Second Life is all the rage right now, and I have not personally experienced the phenomenon myself as of yet. From what I can gather there are many possibilities when it comes to enhancing the educational process. I will have to give it a try and explore this world. I suppose I am too busy with my first life to venture into a second right now! 😉

OWL Purdue University There are many online writing labs (OWLs) out there, and the one I have used myself and with my students is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. I am guiding you to the “General Writing Concerns” section of the “old” site that, as they state, includes:

“In this section of our site, we offer you handouts and exercises on starting to write, effective writing, revising, editing, and proofreading, and types and genres of writing. If you are interested in a more extensive tutorial on research papers, check out our research paper workshop. We also have a research report workshop on writing scientific and technical reports. Finally, there are also some PowerPoint presentations related to general writing concerns.

We now have printer friendly versions and Adobe PDF versions of all of these handouts available. Visit our printer-friendly general writing concerns index to download and print any of these handouts. You can also get a printer friendly web page or PDF version of each handout by clicking the links on each page.”

This is an excellent resource to guide students in the writing process. Another OWL site I have used is the Bowling Green State University Writing Center. Please share other OWLs you have found useful!

I did the automatic update in Ubuntu and moved to 7.04 without a hitch. This is my first time upgrading within the system rather than downloading and doing a fresh install of Ubuntu. No problems or difficulties to report as of yet. This ease of upgrading is a serious plus for use in educational settings.

As internet users we are always searching for something. I want to share two great articles on search engines: Top 25 Web 2.0 Search Engines from Online Education Database and The Top 100 Alternative Search Engines from Read/Write Web. At each site you will find alternative and specialty search engines that meet many wants and needs. Enjoy and happy searching! 🙂

While catching up on my RSS feeds I read about and discovered some Web 2.0 resources in an entry at the Infinite Thinking Machine. Go2Web2.0 has been in my Blogroll for awhile now, but Web 2.0 for the Classroom Teacher An Internet Hotlist on Web 2.0 created by S. Summerford was a new find for me. There are a lot of resources here and plenty to research and use. Enjoy!

KidsKeeping our kids safe online is one thing, and keeping our kids safe at school is another. Yesterday’s events at Virginia Tech bring home another tragic event leaving each of us wondering why? I have been involved as a teacher in the public school system for the past 13 years. In that time I have had numerous discussions with my students and my own children each time these terrible events take place. It is not an uncommon discussion anymore. The big question is how can we stop this? It seems that we cannot.

Parents entrust faculty and staff to keep our children safe at school. As a teacher I can say that the planning, training, and preparation that takes place in our schools today is continual and thorough; however, can we totally prepare for such events? Unfortunately, the preparation is a need and not a choice. Our society has fallen into a state whereby school safety is a serious concern. What can we do to help?

Parents and citizens of any community can become involved in the education system on many levels. I believe involvement is a key to prevention. As a parent, I have often felt like I have little meaningful communication with the school system. Yes, I receive letters home, grades online, and read about school information in the newspaper or hear about it on the radio, but even as a teacher I don’t always know of what is going on in the schools and classrooms that my children attend each day. Part of that responsibility is my own, and it is the responsibility of each citizen to become informed concerning our schools.

Technology can be a tool to aid in the process of sharing information, but it does not and should not replace the face to face communication that must take place on a regular basis to connect each of us as human beings in a caring and concerned society. Social skills, crisis prevention, counseling, and human relations training are vital pieces of knowledge and assistance that must be a part of the education process. These things must be topics of discussion and conversation at home, at school, and in our communities. All of it requires dialogue between people, and my hope is that we improve our parts in that process.

I know I need to do a better job , and I hope you will join me in this charge. My heart goes out to all those touched by the events at Virginia Tech. We are all touched.

CNET has a good article in their “Living With Technology” series on internet safety titled “Keep your kids safe online.” The site states:

“The Web can help kids learn, communicate, and socialize, but it also exposes them to risks. Helping a child develop sound instincts for exploring the Internet safely is a challenge–find out what you can do.”

You will find a lot of good information and resources at CNET concerning this important issue.

My experiment failed with getting Edubuntu to install on a PowerMac 5500. It was a how low end can you go try, but I would assume other distros of Linux may work.

UPDATE:  The following link will help this process – Installation/OldWorldMacs.

Edubuntu I have been fiddling around with an Edubuntu 6.10 install for the past few months. Edubuntu comes with a superior educational program with applications for young children called GCompris. One of my problems was getting the children’s software GCompris to work without crashing. The simple solution was bringing up the terminal and typing in “gcompris -x.” Easy, but frustrating if you don’t know!!! The GCompris software is excellent for young children. There are so many applications from matching, counting, to problem solving, and more. Now that I have it running, I will have my soon to be 4 year old daughter try out the “games” to test them. My other 4 children will want to try too! It is nice having a test lab and subjects built in at home 😉 !!!

GComprisMy experiment for the day is to get Edubuntu running on an old Power Mac 5500. I am downloading the Edubuntu .iso image to create a live CD, and then I will be off to the races. So many times I have watched legacy hardware lined up in the “boiler room” to be taken away for salvage (most of the time to the landfill!!!), and I honestly believe that in a school we can find continued life for old computers. Edubuntu is one of the answers to extend the life of some of these machines. I realize there comes a time when the value of maintaining legacy equipment is not cost effective, but I also believe we must get the most out of the tax dollars that fund technology in our schools. If we can take old iMacs and install Edubuntu on them and put them to good use in K-3 classrooms, for instance, why not do it!?!

Please share your utilization of legacy hardware and any experience using Edubuntu in the process. Also, what are your experiences using GCompris in the classroom? Inquiring minds would like to know!

My good friend Brad Kovach at BradKovach.com is always coming up with interesting and helpful tools and entertaining podcasts! Today I present you with his Ultimate Trig Card! Brad states at his site:

“I’ve finally compiled all the trig stuff into one standardized 5 X 7 card. There is plenty of room for your annotations, too. I’m making two versions: one that can print directly to a 5 X 7 card and one that you cut from a regular sheet of paper.”

Brad Kovach Trig Card

Get it today!!!

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