Monday, June 27, 2011

I got in to the Google Teacher Academy!

So this is an interesting experience and I feel really lucky to be having it.  This morning, three days early, I got an email telling me that I was accepted to the GTA. I was in public, checking my son in for a cool summer session about inventions and I had to contain myself so as not to embarrass him. Also I was about 40 minutes late. Our drive to the school and the paperwork process had kept me from checking e-mail sooner. (Confession: I sometimes even go several hours without checking email. That's over.)

By the time I got to twitter I was already 50 minutes behind. I announced my fabulous good fortune with this tweet. (It's important to word these things carefully.)

 I also might have mentioned it on my Facebook page. Congratulations rolled in. There were suddenly all these new fellow soon to be GCT's to follow and talk to on Twitter. And then the organization began. Alice booked a block of hotel rooms and posted a spreadsheet to organize roommates. Robert started a doc for us all to add a bio to. Several of us, Aaron and I that I know of, started Twitter lists of GCT's both current and forth coming.

It makes me wonder if it isn't part of some larger social experiment. Take a bunch of smart people who know their tech and see how fast they can coordinate a trip to Seattle. Could make a good reality TV show. To add challenge perhaps the next GCT should be in a third world country. (Is that PC? Can I still use that idiom?)

But we haven't all found each other yet.  There is no master list of who got in. (Well there is, but we don't have it.) We can only go by those who announce on Twitter or use the #gtawa hash tag (And some of the people using that are not attendees, but current GCT's sending us congratulations.) Only ten people so far have added their bio to the page Robert made. Aaron's GCT Twitter list only has twenty people. There are 30 other prospective GCT's out there.

So, I offer you a scavenger hunt to find them. Check Twitter, search Facebook, look at your Linked In updates (note to self, update linked in profile.) heck, look at MySpace if you're into that. There are Nings, there are Google groups, there are tech forums. Leave NO social network unturned. No one should arrive in Seattle out of the loop. Over and out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Summer of Ed Tech

My summer plans are a product of my choices and I’m choosing to LEARN. Fortunately there are many opportunities for me to do that. In a way it’s my own self directed masters degree in ed tech. I wish I were an accredited university capable of awarding myself a degree, because I plan to earn it.

At a minimum I’m scanning twitter and various blogs daily (okay several times daily) for the bits and pieces that flow into my instapaper and make up the bulk of my professional ed tech reading. Then I get cozy with my ipad (loaner from school) and read through those, learning, emailing links to colleagues or students, marking favorites, retweeting the best of the best and sometimes adding the link to my class facebook page.

Then there will be three days on digital literacy with the San Diego Area Writing Project. I hope to learn more about podcasting and other digital student products that are far outside my normal tech comfort zone.

I applied to the Google Teacher Acedemy in Seattle, for the end of July, but I won’t know if I got in until late next week. Please cross your fingers for me and if you have one minute watch my application video that shows just how motivated my students are when I'm not looking even three days before school got out.

I was asked to be the “Digital Teacher Leader” for my school next year. This is a new position (my principal gave me a release period for this) that our Ed Tech department came up with to facilitate tech integration in classrooms. The district has been rolling out 1:1 for the last two years and there needs to be more site based support. I was planning to support my colleagues anyway, but it’s nice to have a title to go with it. The position also comes with four days of training in early August from Intel and ongoing training next year.

During the rest of August I’m teaching five workshops for Ed Tech, assisting with a sixth and attending five more as a participant. I’ll learn more about video editing, one note, edmodo, Kurzweil, Activinspire. I’ll teach about Lan School, blogging, LiveBinders and Golgster, but I learn more about everything I teach, so the teaching counts as learning too.

Then I must make choices. I’m presenting in November at NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) about digital pedagogy with three colleagues I’ve never met. I was planning to show the teachers there how my students use the chat feature in a Google Doc to have a “discussion” about a text while annotating it collaboratively. I think I will still do that, but I think now that even more exciting options will be coming for and from my classroom and my colleagues classrooms.

Lest you think my summer is nothing but educational technology, I will get eight days of curriculum writing with my grade level team. Fortunately I taught them to use dropbox. Then there will be three days of planning the PD for the rest of the staff with the admin team; looking forward to working more ed tech into that as well. Somewhere in there I may find seven free days in a row to get away to the river and soak my toes in the swimming hole where the only Internet is dial-up and therefore not worth mentioning.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Paperless American Lit Final

 Last week I was able to give my first ever entirely paperless final. I’ve had 1:1 laptops in my room for four years, but the batteries were never strong enough to make it through two back to back two hour finals.  With new netbooks this year the paperless final became a possibility.

I was inspired by @TeachPaperless who shared his all digital Human Geography final in January. His approach was to have students complete a number of tasks and create a separate blog post to answer each task. My students haven’t used individual blogs this year, so I had them create a Google Presentation and use each slide as the answer to a different task.

I presented the tasks list to the students through the class blog and they responded by sharing an presentations with me in Google Docs.

This was my first time creating this type of assessment so I wanted to see what students retained from the semester, use a variety of question types, use a variety of technical skills and keep it interesting for all of us. The final product was a presentation of 15 slides covering ten assessed tasks. Sometimes two slides were necessary for the task. I did not count the title slide or the last slide.

Some questions required students to write original responses. Others asked students to find and paste in specific information or images along with citations or the URL. I told students that I would be happy to help them with technical issues, but that I could not answer questions about content.

Final exams tend to reinforce a grade that the student already has and I found that here too most of the time. Well prepared students who had studied and done the course work all along found that much of the content came easily to them and in some cases they were able to paste in answers on the final based on responses they had written earlier in the semester. Students who had struggled with the material struggled with the exam as well. But there was another group. Students who had not done much of the course work but still did quite well on the final.

There were 5-6 per class who did much better than expected. Perhaps they had studied hard in fear for their grade or perhaps the format of the final had something to do with their unexpected success.


The questions are posted on the class blog.
An exemplary product: (Published with student's consent)


The exam turned out to be more rigorous than I expected. Almost all students worked very intently on it for the full two hours. Few finished on time and many asked for extra time. Initially there was anxiety about some technical details.  I learned they need more practice adding images to slides during the year for example. But in the end only 2-4 students per class ended up with incomplete exams.

I would give a paperless final again. I think I would be more careful to ramp up the tasks. On this final too much of the difficulty came early on. I think that had to do with the chronological nature of the questions.  I would require more student writing, but also more opportunities for students to pull directly from their earlier work. 


Assessing the finals went more quickly than I expected. Many slides could be assessed with just a quick look. I assigned 1-5 points per slide and then added them up. The trick was communicating the grade to the student.  I ended up using the speaker notes on the first slide to enter a grade, but I had not told my students that I would be doing that. So, they probably don't know where to look. These are things I'll be able to tell them about before hand next time.


One more great example: (Also published with student consent.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Using ActivEngage With Students

 The folks in our ed tech department made a video of me using ActivEngage with my 4th period students for the first time ever. (I practiced with third period for one day before this.)  There were a lot of extra adults in the room to watch the demonstration.