Sunday, November 15, 2009
Earlier this fall, I purchased the Acer Aspire One netbook and so far, this form factor has exceeded all of my expectations. The portability, weight, battery life, and performance of the netbook is why I consider it my main computer while I am on the go. With the addition of Kindle for PC software, I have now added a dimension to my computing environment that has been lacking; the ability to read books, magazines,and newspapers on my computer.
My first selection was Clay Shirky's book "Here Comes Everybody", and so far the experience has been quite good. I have the ability to bookmark pages but I am unable to search, highlight or take notes. However, it appears that the hide notes and marks features will be coming soon as they are listed in the drop down.
There also seems to be a bug on computers that synchronize My documents to a network folder. The bug has caused me to deregister and register the netbook to gain access to my purchase. An annoyance but the real bummer was when I lost my bookmarks.
When Amazon, implements those features and expands their offerings to include textbooks, schools will definitely be able to take advantage of lower cost texts and computers for their students.
Now what will make my world complete is when Amazon makes the Kindle software for the Blackberry so I can have access to my eBooks anywhere and anytime. And one other thing, let's be sure to synchronize my notes and bookmarks between the 2 devices.
But for now, the Kindle for PC is a step in the right direction.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Google Never Forgets, I decided to mimic Darren's approach by copying and pasting Seth Godin's post in full. It is priceless, a keeper, and worth sharing over and over again. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Personal branding in the age of Google by Seth Godin
A friend advertised on Craigslist for a housekeeper.
Three interesting resumes came to the top. She googled each person's name.
The first search turned up a MySpace page. There was a picture of the applicant, drinking beer from a funnel. Under hobbies, the first entry was, "binge drinking."
The second search turned up a personal blog (a good one, actually). The most recent entry said something like, "I am applying for some menial jobs that are below me, and I'm annoyed by it. I'll certainly quit the minute I sell a few paintings."
And the third? There were only six matches, and the sixth was from the local police department, indicating that the applicant had been arrested for shoplifting two years earlier.
Three for three.
Google never forgets
Of course, you don't have to be a drunk, a thief or a bitter failure for this to backfire. Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record.
The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you're on Candid Camera, because you are.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
So what does that mean? It means our teachers are integrating technology with greater frequency and they want to use more of it with their classes. But there is a caveat, they would like more access but without the headaches of juggling/jockeying for lab space or wondering if there will be sufficient computers to accommodate the class size.
The good news is that the MS is up for a replacement of its computers which has prompted our tech department to do some exploring and creative thinking. Soon thereafter, I came upon a tweet mentioning the Acer Education K-12 Seed Program. I took a look and determined it was a great opportunity to beta test a netbook in a school environment.
Upon receiving the netbook, I was immediately stunned by how light weight it was. I've been a laptop/tablet user for quite some time and they just seemed like boat anchors by comparison. The next thing that caught my eye was the screen. It is super crisp and it supports a max resolution of 1024x600. The keyboard is considerably more comfortable than the 2goPC tablet's but I wish the space bar were a bit more responsive towards the ends of the key.
The OS + upgrades
The netbook shipped with XP home sp3 which did surprisingly well but made it difficult to connect to network resources at our school because one cannot connect to the domain. After using the netbook for about 2 weeks, I decided to switch to Win7 and I increased the memory to 2 GB(it ships w/ one). Let's just say I will never look back. Win 7 runs great on a netbook and the RAM upgrade just made the overall experience that much better.
Putting the netbook through its paces
I've been using the netbook daily for several weeks now and I am impressed. I've run multiple programs concurrently while teaching and it has yet to hiccup. On several occassions, I've run Excel, Chrome, Synchroneyes, and Outlook without a noticeable decline in performance. I've also projected wirelessly with this netbook but in this case video refresh did decline. I have to test this again because I was still running Aero. I have not tested video editing and rendering but I suspect it will handle short clips(2-3 min) without a problem.
Is this a viable device for students?
I would say yes. The size, weight, performance, and battery life make netbooks a nice alternative to a full fledged laptop. The price point is particularly budget friendly for schools and parents and it is a nice alternative to the desktop/lab model. It can provide the ubiquitous learning environment that models how our students will engage with technology in their daily lives.
I'll keep you posted on what we decide but wish us luck, because I know where I would like to go.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Honor at St. Christopher's School: A brief digression
At St.Christopher's School, we have an Honor Code that is deeply rooted into the fiber of our school's persona. So much so, that when asked, alums always mention the importance of Honor at St. Christopher's and later in life.
After a chapel session on the topic of Honor and nominations and voting of our student representatives to the honor council, our school had a ceremony in which all of the students and faculty signed the Honor Pledge. So the stage was set for our middle school boys to learn about digital citizenship as it relates to having access to email.
To summarize, I started by introducing the value of a signature-"your signature" because your signature is as important as your word. Our boys sign an Acceptable Use Policy over the summer but this venue reminded them how they should behave as it relates to technology while connecting it to the signing the honor pledge.
Because our teachers requested email for their students, a request becomes an opportunity.
A brief presentation surrounding one's digital footprint follows with questions about do you Google well, because your footprints don't wash away as easily as they do on the beach.
The last question posed to the boys was What kind of footprint do you have? Are you the same person online as you are offline? And, How does your footprint make you feel?
At this point, Phil Spears, the MS Head, adapts a presentation that will be given later in chapel regarding First, Second, and Third class citizens by our MS Asst Head, Ken Miller.
Here are Phil's words:
Email is a wonderful avenue for communication when used well.
Primary means for teachers here.
What kind of cyber-citizen are you and will you show in your use of email?
3rd class cyber-citizen, as he chats, facebook/my-spaces/tweet/texts AND emails…
·Hides behind cloak of anonymity
·Acts like a different person
·Writes things he wouldn’t say in person or on the phone
·Goes hunting for things on-line he knows in his heart he’s not ready for and/or aren’t healthy for him
·Most people here – adults and kids
·Communicates clearly and in a friendly way
·Doesn’t mistreat others
·Does pass along or participate in 3rd class activity
·Does lie on-line or about what he’s done there
·Does what a 2nd class citizen does, but also
·Actively seeks to make cyberspace a safe, fun place for all
·Challenges a 3rd class citizen to cut out poor behaviors
·Considers HONOR a code of conduct applicable to the digital world
So what kind of citizen are you?
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Now I've heard inklings about Obama's speech here and there but I have been amazed as to how heated discussions have become. That said, the extended labor day weekend has given me the opportunity to play catch up. So while reviewing my tweets, I came across Will Richardson's latest blog post The Obama Speech. He states, "It would seem to me that there should be no better place for my children to watch that speech (or any other, for that matter) than in a place where ideas are encouraged, where critical thinking about those ideas is a natural part of the conversation, and where appropriate response and debate can flourish."
Well that passage from his latest blog post tugged at me while making pancakes this morning and it prompted me to head to my netbook and start writing. I agree with Will 100%. What better place to scrutinize, discuss, and debate than in schools.
But I would like to take it to the next level. I want teachers to act on it, to reach out beyond their classrooms and expose their students to a variety of perspectives. Utilize your personal learning network(PLN) to discuss and debate with students from across the states or abroad. Expose your students to regional perceptions from across the the USA but don't stop there. The global community is clearly interested in what President Obama has to say, so why not ask interntational members of your PLN to contribute too.
Clearly, there is much more to gain from President Obama's speech than lose. Take advantage of the teachable moment. Start an etherpad doc, a voicethread, write a blog post, do a podcast or video editorial just do something but don't waste a good "crisis".
Monday, July 27, 2009
Well, it is the second example which is the impetus for this post. Within the past few months, I've acquired information on how to repair my mountain bike through bicycletutor.com, determined the location of the cabin filter on the family van through wikianswers.com, watched a video on how to install a 3 way dimmer switch at easy2diy.com, and most recently, I was able to correctly insulate the pipe leaving the central air unit using yahoo answers. Can you tell I am a new home owner?
In each of those instances, I was hoping to be an informed consumer and save a few bucks but ultimately it was my passion knowing for how stuff works(great site) and a love of learning that drives me.
So how can we foster a love of learning? With respects to the curriculum, often times, too much emphasis is placed on content objectives when it is the affective component of the curriculum that is deficient. Please note, that I am not advocating abandoning content because having a foundation is indeed important in creating interest and passion.
What I am advocating, however,is balance on a sliding scale. Provide the foundation, check for understanding, and then allow your students to discover, apply, and create. And as the content becomes more complex, allow that scale to slide some, perhaps in favor of content, so the affective component can grab hold.
This is hardly a new concept, but imagine the time and energy our students would spend given the opportunity to engage in meaningful learning. For some teachers, this is a radical shift in pedagogy but our teachers need models too. If we model this approach within our professional development days or classes, we can take advantage of the innate curiosity within educators. Spread the seeds of curiosity(change) and watch the learning take hold.
Monday, June 1, 2009
This is certainly a convenient format for parents and friends that are unable to come to the event but it is also a wonderful opportunity to share your institution's story.
This past academic year, St. Christopher's School streamed the homecoming football game, the Virginia State Indoor Track and Field Championships, a Basketball and Lacrosse game with our rival school, and Lower and Middle School graduation(Upper School will occur in 2010).
The new online presence was received very well but then the questions and requests started to pour in.
Here are a few of the questions:
-Can we stream all athletic events?
-How about the arts?
-Can we stream chapel talks?
-Will athletic events be limited to varsity sports?
-Which varsity sports will be streamed?
Those are only a few questions but it did prompt us to consider developing some sort of protocol or at least a consistent response to streaming requests.
Ultimately however, it comes down to few basic issues.
Manpower: Does your school have the manpower to stream some/all of the requests? Will your school use student help? Who will supervise students?
Access: Is internet access readily available at the location of the event? This is particularly problematic for away games, off campus events, or even outdoor events if your institutions wireless access is spotty.
Equipment: We have yet to stream more than one event at a time, but I can already anticipate the requests. Whose camera will be used? How about spare laptops? Spare cables? High capacity batteries? Can I stream with cellular broadband card? How much does a cellular broadband card cost?
Streaming media can and will enhance your school's online presence but be ready for the requests. I would encourage you to be proactive and develop a protocol or consider how you will respond to certain questions.
But ultimately, it is a good problem to have.
Monday, May 4, 2009
A wise man once told me that when working in groups it's all about the people. If you have the wrong people, the best intentions will fall by the wayside. I have a great team and I'm eternally grateful for all of their hard work and willingness to take risks, share, and offer constructive criticism. I am looking forward to working with them as we start to develop our wiki full of tech tips.
Presentation tennis is a wonderful way to learn how others perceive a certain concept, theme, or idea.
Teachers learn and adopt strategies at different rates. Our team certainly illustrated this and we are all moving forward and sharing.
It's not about the technology it's about the learning.
Leverage technology to cater to various learning styles and provide differentiated instruction.
It's ok to lurk but don't make a habit of doing so or there will be missed opportunities.
Develop a strong PLN. It will be one of your greatest resources.
Lead and model by example.
Take advantage of teachable moments in the classroom and in meetings.
Some of your best meetings can occur virtually while you're at home in your pjs.
Thank you to Susan Carter Morgan, Will Richardson, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and the members of the international cohort for providing our team and school with such a wonderful opportunity to participate in this journey.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The directions were tough to follow for nontexters but after I talked them through it, it made sense.
American Idol fans don't seem to have a problem. :-)
Students w/o phones can respond via a pc for open ended questions.
I was impressed by how fast the information appeared on the website.
My students were excited because I allowed them to use their cell phones in class.
One can export the results in a .csv file
See clip of results:
This technology certainly has a great deal of potential. I may introduce it during student elections or perhaps for an alumni function but for the time being it will be for nonacademic purposes until I have additional time to explore its capabilities.
Also, as a recent Blackberry adopter, it has become clear to me that the smartphone will continue to grow in market share which will only increase and improve the capabilities of these devices.
This article came out today from the Daily Press: Cell Phones get top marks in education
And yes, I read it on my phone.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
A few months ago Darren Kuropatwa suggested an activity as part of the Powerful Learning Practice. In his words, the activity was going to be "something along the lines of" Presentation Tennis.
Specifically, here is what Darren asked us to do.
We will collaboratively create a 20 slide presentation (not counting the title slide) called "Teaching Well". 20 slides in 10 pairs of contrasts: "Teaching well is more like < slide 1 > than it is like < slide 2 >." or however else you want to create contrast.
Each day one slide is added to the deck that builds on those that came before. The final 4-6 slides must bring the presentation to some sort of close.
The collaboration continues after the deck is done. The completed slide deck will be uploaded to SlideShare.net as a "Master Deck". To view our final project, click here
Time to Model
I was so impressed by the results of that activity that I decided to adopt the strategy and use it in my 8th grade computer class. The goal of the activity was to have each student develop a slide(a few made 2)that depicts what it means to be a creative problem solver. They were required to have an image and a quote that would assist them in depicting what constitutes creative thinking and problem solving. To view the slideshow, please click here.
I hope you enjoy my students' perceptions on this topic.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The ISENET ning for example, was developed by @demetri has become a tremendous resource for educators around the world. Although I tend to stay in groups related to technology, there is a group for just about any facet in education. This ning is 1800+ members strong.
So how do we leverage the collective wisdom of educators around the world? I believe teachers need to open up their nings to other teachers and resident experts in the fields being explored within their ning. The ning is a powerful tool but if used solely for the class of students being taught, then the classroom walls have moved only slightly. A concept I have learned over and over again in the International Cohort for PLP Ning.
A few weeks ago, Debra Garcia at Fredericksburg Academy asked if I wouldn't mind joining FAT BIO(Topics in Biology at Fredericksburg Academy). I accepted the offer and was thrilled at the opportunity to read and participate in topics related to Biology.
You see, before I moved into the world of educational technology I was a MS science teacher but my degree is in Biology from the College of William and Mary. Although I have a new found passion for educational technology, I will always be a science guy first-look out Bill Nye.
The ning is indeed a wonderful opportunity to share but I say let's move beyond our classrooms a little more and ask a colleague from another school, university, or profession to share their experiences with your students.
I hope school's of education consider this model because there are lots of grad students who could certainly benefit from this type of experience.
Monday, March 23, 2009
How are we helping? Toorak College suggested that we support Chum Creek Primary School. This is a small school that suffered tremendous damage and it is our desire to assist Chum Creek acquire a new playground and to send drawings developed by our lower school students to support their students.
Interested in helping the students of Chum Creek?
Please send notes of support or checks made out to:
Chum Creek Primary School
care of Michael Corr(principal)
705 Chum Creek Road
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Back to this dreaded PPT assignment. The first thing we covered were issues that can make a PPT presentation ineffective. We brainstormed different concepts using Inspiration and then launched into the assignment entitled the "Lousy PowerPoint". The assignment itself is nothing new. Many teachers have asked their students to create Lousy PPTs, but my goal was to also incorporate many of the "wiz bang" options available to users.
After developing presentations that exaggerated and highlighted poor presentation skills my students were then asked to redo their PPTs so they could be delivered effectively in front of an audience.
As my students were developing their new and improved PPTs, I was struck by how much they picked up from designing and critiquing each others lousy PPTs. So, is the oral presentation dead? I hope not because public speaking is a valuable skill that should be groomed and practiced regularly. Presentation software has unfortunately been misused by so many users that many teachers blame the product rather than the instruction. Guidelines and rubrics are all fine and good but the true essence of creating an excellent presentation is having good public speaking skills. So let's be sure to include those items in our guidelines and rubrics too. After that, it is all a transition away.
Helpful tools for presenters:
-practice space that mimics where the presentation will be given
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
On Feb 24, 2009, I believe I almost fell off an increasingly flat world.
It started late in the afternoon when students in our missionary society at St. Christopher's School, were engaged in a video skype session with Toorak College in Australia about the bushfires in Victoria. However, before the session started, @jennyluca and I struggled to get our skype connection up and running. As we continued to try and get skype to function, we utilized Twitter to post our status to each other should the connection fail. Well, someone was looking out for us because right before our planned start time, skype started working.
- Word choice and spelling-English spelling versus American English taken from Australian Newpapers
- Time zone differences-Toorak was a day ahead and we spoke to them at 8am to our 4pm
- Use of the metric system: celsius for temp, km for distance, mm for rainfall. I used to teach science
- Wildlife: gotta love the question about comparing deer to kangaroos
Monday, February 23, 2009
Join us to work together 2 make a difference for fire ravaged Victoria: Title taken from Jenny Luca's Blog
After reading Jenny Luca's post about the bush fires in Victoria, I felt the need to pull together our boys and I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for our boys to hear first hand from our Aussie friends and see if there was anything we could do as a school. My call to action started by discussing the possibilities of holding a video Skype session with the missionary society officers from our lower, middle, and upper schools at St. Christopher's School and with the students of Toorak College.
But in the true spirit of PLP , why should our effort be limited by just using skype for our 2 schools! Join us this Tuesday, February 24 @ 4pm Eastern Standard Time and 8.00am Pacific Eastern Standard time. Watch via ustream.tv as the students from both of our schools discuss the needs of the area and speak with a member of the Toorak community who lost a home.
Search for stchris_tv once in ustream.
Jenny Luca and Hiram Cuevas
Thursday, January 22, 2009
- Both of my parents are from Puerto Rico but met in the states-The Empire State.
- I am very fond of anything to do with the fire department. My dad was a New York City Fireman for 21 years and I have wonderful memories of rides on fire trucks, nights spent in the fire house, and the smell of smoke on his clothes.
- I will listen to just about any music except opera.
- I'm a big fan of Star Trek, TNG, BSG and super heroes. I prefer DC over Marvel.
- I qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 1500m in 1988-nope I didn't make the team.
- I considered going to med school but found I enjoyed teaching more. You're never too old to go to med school right?
- My bride and I went camping for 2 weeks on our honeymoon and we're still together.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Over the past several weeks, I have participated in a number of online meetings, school committee meetings, elluminate sessions, skype calls, ning threads, and tweets. The amount I have learned from my Personal Learning Network during this time has been incredible. The amount and willingness to share is unmatched by any other forum where I have been a participant.
So here is my struggle.
How do we incorporate this new idea in schools without coming across as having consumed too much kool-aid?
As of late, I have opted to do this utilizing the strategy-leading from behind. Although this is not a strategy I prefer, I have found that when working in a traditional school culture, change is slow in coming. However, if one arms teachers and administrators with tools that can enhance their personal and professional endeavors there is often a willingness to explore.
With that, my latest effort has been to use a Ning as a means to provide ongoing dialog for the curriculum committee. In so doing, the Ning will provide a venue for ongoing dialog and sharing to occur and it will provide many teachers and administrators with an opportunity to model and participate in a web 2.0 application that is in nonthreatening environment.
If this format is successful, I hope other committees and or classes will start to utilize this effective tool.
Wish us luck!