Game On

by John Woodring in ,


Next week I will be returning to Liberty University for my second intensive class. These classes run for five days with some pre and post course work for three hours of credit. Based on my experience last summer intensive is the proper term for this experience. Yet, these are fun because I get to meet and work with new people in a traditional classroom setting. The class I am taking next week is Technology Practice for Instructional Improvement, which should be an interesting one for me.

One of the pre-course assignments is to select a team for a literature review based on the following topics: augmented reality, game-based learning, mobile devices and apps, and personal learning environments. While Personal Learning Environments looked interesting, I selected Game-based Learning because the topic intrigued me since I first heard about it a few years back. I was told games, especially electronic ones, have certain characteristics. One, a player must learn a new skill or demonstrate a skill to progress to a new level. Achieving new levels take practice and critical thinking skills we desire in our classrooms. Two, players naturally collaborate in working towards new levels. One experienced player passes on skills to other players or multiple players work together to solve the problem needed to progress. Again, another desired trait we wish all students showed in the classroom. The best part is players (usually their parents) pay for this engagement and do it willingly.

When I was in the army we used computerized battle simulations for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle to great success. We also played role-playing games which helped in teaching various tactics needed on the battlefield. I casually observed my son playing video games over the last few years I noticed how he had to problem solve and collaborate to enjoy his games. When we played the Nintendo DS game Animal Crossing together I got to see first hand how he wanted to collaborate with me so I could learn what I needed to succeed so I would have fun playing with him. I also noticed how he could channel his creativity to enhance his game-play experience.

While not every lesson should become a game, there could be benefits to Incorporating both traditional card or board games or electronic games on a computer or massive multiplayer online (MMO) games into some lessons for potential maximization of engagement. It is going to be about two to three years before game-based learning achieves any real potential as their quality begins to match consumer-oriented games. The idea of game-based learning should not be rejected as unrealistic either. I am looking forward to learning how game-based learning can help students become better learners. Stay tuned.


Implied Curriculum in an Online Course

by John Woodring


This past semester I learned a new term that describes about lessons learned that are not part of the official curriculum. That term is implied curriculum. An implied curriculum recently learned in my Curriculum Theory class is there are right ways and wrong ways in designing online courses. One thing I do miss in my online classes is some for me real-time student-teacher interaction. Nothing beats being face-to-face chats and questioning with instructors and I would at least attempt this using Skype or Google Hangouts if I ever need to create an online class. It could help facilitate this interaction.

This past sub term I saw how asynchronous communications in an online class can be a hindrance to an educational experience. It should be a cardinal rule when creating online courses to remember students cannot ask clarifying questions about assignments because of the asynchronous of an online environment. Online assignments must be as self-contained and self-explanatory as possible so students can clearly understand what they need to do. One assignment this past sub term serves as an example of this need for clarity. The assignment was to conduct an evaluation of a textbook using a provided chart in the assignment instructions. These instructions stated questions at the bottom of the chart needed to be answered. When I looked at the chart there were no questions at the bottom. I figured the chart was an updated version with the questions built-in to the other parts of the chart. Wrong! The questions I needed to answer were not on the chart but in the assignment instructions and it was not clear these were the questions to answer in the chart. This would have been quickly cleared up in a traditional classroom because either the instructor or one of the students would have raised this concern about no questions at the bottom of the chart.

In an online environment, students sometimes must make judgment calls regarding the parameters of an assignment. This means course designers must take student independence and asynchronous communications into account when creating assignments. Why did I not email the instructor? I know to do this now but I had never experienced such a situation before. Also, it may take a day or more to receive a reply depending on how often an instructor checks email or needs to get clarification from third-party course designers. Also, other students might miss out on this important communication because of a missed email or the instructor only replies to the individual student. In the assignment I described I may not have been the only student with this problem because the instructor sent an email telling the class one assignment can be revised for full credit. Knowing what I had to do, my textbook evaluation grade went from 75 points (due to unclear instructions) to 100 points! Even with this experience I am still enjoying my online educational experience. Thanks to implied curriculum about online course design I got a bonus lesson out of deal.


Philosophical Heritage

by John Woodring


Whenever I see the word philosophy in the title of a course I must prepare myself to look deep within myself and wrap my head around some mind-bending topics. I am thinking about my first writing assignment for my Curriculum Philosophy class which asks me to reflect back on what I perceived the philosophical positions of three former teachers. These three teachers must come from my elementary, secondary, and college educations. Two of the first three are going to be easy because they influenced my desire in studying and later teaching history. My history teacher at Spartanburg High School showed history can be a wonderful and interesting story if told right. One of my professors at USC-Spartanburg showed how researching history makes it come alive as it becomes an investigation of a mystery to be solved instead of just the memorization of dates and facts. It is the teacher from my elementary days that has me really thinking. I can remember who these incredible ladies are and what they taught me to some extent or I would not be writing this now. However, to think of their philosophical positions is something one never really thinks of because one never thinks of their elementary teachers in that light or at least I never did. As I am thinking about it two teachers come to the surface, my first grade teacher and my sixth grade teacher (sixth grade was in elementary schools when I was growing up). This should be an interesting intellectual exercise.


Protecting Students with a Cybersafety Plan

by John Woodring in


A vast majority of teens are online on a daily basis with most of them using their mobile phones or tablets to access the Internet. Combine this with schools pushing out one-to-one initiatives at a rapid pace. It is no wonder cyberbullying and sexting are most often done through mobile technology with this amount of mobile technology in the hands of teens. While most cybersafety incidents happen outside of school, they often start in school. This means school districts and their schools need to create cybersafety programs to counter these threats to the learning process. 

For a cybersafety program to be effective a school districts must:

  • Survey students yearly using an instrument such as Hinduja & Patchin's Cyberbullying &Online Aggression Survey (2009). 
  • Select programs for individual schools based on data from the cybersafety surveys and input from the students it is supposed to help.
  • Provide professional development for faculty and staff on implementing cybersafety education programs.
  • Adequate budgeting for cybersafety programs.
  • Provide necessary materials to schools.
  • Provide instruction to parents on research-based methods on keeping their children safe online.
  • Appoint a cybersafety coordinator to assist schools with developing cybersafety education programs, develop appropriate consequences for cybersafety violations, train staff involved in cybersafety programs, research the latest trends in cybersafety issues, works with parents, law enforcement, and the media on cybersafety issues.

Schools should do the following for cybersafety effectiveness:

  • Insert cybersafety instruction into the most appropriate courses all students are mandated to participate in. Not all students may take technology courses every year.
  • Create a school cybersafety response team consisting of an administrator and guidance counselor specially trained to handle cybersafety incidents.
  • Ensure all faculty and staff understand how to handle cybersafety incidents and properly report them to the cybersafety response team.
  • Provide an annual presentation to parents and the community on cybersafety concerns based on survey data, explain the dangers of cybersafety violations, explain school cybersafety initiatives, and explain what can be done to promote cybersafety in the home.

If school districts and schools fail to develop comprehensive cybersafety plans they run the risk of having the education process disrupted due to fallout from cybersafety incidents. These incidents could also expose school districts and schools to legal accountability if the school does not adequately respond to cybersafety incidents. Finally, schools may lose E-Rate discounts if they do not provide cybersafety education stipulated in the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2012.

For more information on this plan to protect students from cybersafety incidents click the link below: 

 Comprehensive District Cybersafety Plan


Source: https://www.dropbox.com/s/nuohirfzwgbkszt/...

Santa Brought You An iPad, Now What?

by John Woodring


Right before the holidays a teacher friend told me about an iPad she received through Donors Choose and now wants to know what apps to get for the classroom. Well here is my response (with my friend's blessing). Listed below are the iPads Apps I find most useful as a teacher. Please note these apps are general for teachers of any subject and/or grade. You will need to learn how to navigate the App Store if you want these or subject specific apps. Also, for those who found an Android tablet under the tree please consult Google Play for these or similar apps. Now on to the list (in alphabetical order):

Display Recorder: This app is a must for teachers interested in flipping the classroom or just recording lessons. It is easy to use and you can export movies to the Photo Roll for editing in other apps.

Dropbox: Most teachers I know create files across different platforms. Now that you have an iPad you will find yourself creating documents, presentations, movies, and other files you will want on your school computer. Dropbox allows you to store files in the cloud and on folders you place on every computer you wish to use. The files will then sync across all the devices. No more looking for that flash drive.

Edmodo: This is the social network for the classroom. Students and teachers can communicate and share files securely over this network. The iPad app closely resembles the website except the app allows access to your Camera Roll so you can post pictures and videos.

Educreations: This app is a whiteboard you can scribble on while you record your explanations and more. One creative teacher uses it to create presentations by adding photos and text.

Evernote: Probably the best note taking app hands down. You can review your notes across any platform and on the cloud. Other features are taking pictures, creating links to websites, and many apps and hardware import information into Evernote. This is one of the few apps I pay for annually.

Genius Scan+: For the times I need to go from hard copy to digital copy Genius Scan+ does what I want. I just snap a photo of the document and Genius Scan+ turns the document into a PDF file which I send to Dropbox.

Google Drive: If you have an Edmodo account then you need a Google account to create and share documents with your students easily. Photos and videos can also be added to Google Drive. This is a good compliment to Dropbox.

iBooks: One day iBooks may actually be useful for reading books but for now I mainly use it for storing PDF documents downloaded from the Internet.

iMovie: Whenever I need to create a quick and simple multimedia video iMovie is where I go. Just drop in your photos or videos, add titles and music then share it. Say good bye to Live Movie Maker's complicated process for making a movie.

Keynote: This is probably what all presentation should be, simple but elegant. Easy to use but there are powerful tools that will make your presentations come alive. One pleasant surprise was adding video to a presentation and have it play. Now Keynotes can be saved as PowerPoints straight from the iPad.

Lesson Plans: Need to submit or post lesson plans? This app creates detailed lesson plans easily which can be printed or emailed. The fields can be customized to whatever format you need (mine is set for GANAG with a couple of more fields). Also, lesson plans can be copied if you need to modify a plan for differentiation or other needs.

Pages: Another easy to use iWork app by Apple. This word processor can do just about anything you need on paper and now you can save files as Microsoft Word documents.

Skitch: There are times photos need to be marked up and Skitich allows you to do just that.

Snapseed: While iPhoto is a good app for editing photos, Snapseed does the same and more with photos for free.

Team Shake: Need to quickly create teams for group assignments? Add the names of your students then figure out how many teams you need then let Team Shake do the rest.

If you plan on showing any of your creations to your students on the projector then you will need to invest in a VGA adaptor for your iPad.

Let me know if there is an app you believe should be included in this list. I hope you enjoy using your new iPads or other tablets in the coming year.


Welcome to the Big Leagues Meat!

by John Woodring


If you wondered where I have been the last several weeks, I recently completed my first course in my doctoral program. The title of the course was Theories and Research in Educational Psychology but it easily could have been Let's See What You Got 101 or You Really Think You Can Write? 101. While I never claimed to be the world's greatest writer I did consider myself better than the average bear. Notice I wrote did instead of do in that last sentence. My first couple of course writings left me wondering if this doctoral thing was a huge mistake. I expected comments such as poor paragraph transitions and a tendency for wordiness. Comments about lacking a vocabulary and "you should read the APA Guidebook" that left me reeling. It was like looking at my A- Master's thesis after announcing I was going to present it to World War II symposium: bleeding like a stuck pig with all the red ink on it.

After reading the professor's comments I took my dejected self to our school's high-speed, low-drag, often imitated but never duplicated Literacy Coach. This is the woman who taught me how to teach middle school students when I started the Computer Technology program. After crying about how my life was over, she peers at me over her reading glasses and tells me "It seems like this professor wants to see if you have what it takes to go to the next level." In all of the years of her giving me advice I never expected that. She also told me to read my work to myself and quit whining. Great, now I have two people kicking me in the seat of my pants.

After my pep talk, I figured I needed to do something because regardless of the outcome I still must repay the student loan. I took my friend's advice and worked at improving my writing. Needless to say my writing and grades improved along with the professor's comments each week. Now I have the confidence to move forward. Another big help in improving my writing started in 2006 when I started a blog called "Teacherbytes". That experience has been invaluable because I kept practicing my writing. So if you should be thinking about going back to school after a few years do yourself a favor and start writing a blog because the practice will payoff. Imagine what might have happened if I had not blogged over the last few years.


Curriculum Neutrality

by John Woodring in ,


'.neutrality.' photo (c) 2010, amish.patel - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/I am starting a Theories and Research in Educational Psychology class and one of the first assignments is to discuss whether there can be curriculum neutrality in education. The idea of curriculum neutrality is when the teacher attempts to not to place any of his or her personal, political, religious, or moral beliefs when developing curriculum for their classes. This poses two interesting questions:

1. Is curriculum neutrality possible?

2. If curriculum neutrality is possible, is it desirable? 

Personally, I say no to the first question. Curriculum will always reflect the values of the teacher, school, and community. Watch what happens whenever mentions teaching sex education at a school board or PTO meeting and you get my meaning. On the second question, if the teacher does not go overboard then yes. I have always tried to be a moral compass for my students so they would have an example to follow. All of the teachers i know always want their students to do the right thing. Sometimes it is the teacher who is the only one to provide that moral grounding and that is unfortunate.

How would you answer these two questions? Discuss!


Crossing Over

by John Woodring in , , ,


The past couple of weeks I took my first steps in reaching out to other teachers for the purpose of doing a Cross-Curricular project. The group I identified was the sixth grade Math teachers. My plan was simple, teams of students would create instructional videos demonstrating how to solve a type of math problem chosen by their Math teacher. The videos would be the Paper Slide because they are simple and quick to create. Next, I met with each teacher to explain the project and see what problem they wanted see their students to explain. Once I had the problems, it was time to organize the students into teams and give them their assignment. I grouped my students in class according to the team they are on to make this organization easier. All I had to do was use Team Shaker on my iPad to pick the teams at random. Once I informed the students of their teams and task to perform they were off. 

Imagine my surprise when our school's Math Coach, Kim, stopped me in the hallway telling me she heard about my project and offered her help which I readily accepted. Was I glad for her help because I have trouble adding 2+2 (three right?) and even more grateful when she answered my students' questions I would have had trouble with. 

The teams were given storyboard templates for them to design the slides they would use for their video. Kim and I moved around the students offering bits of advice about both the math and design of the slides. The students were also encouraged to show their storyboards to their math teachers to make sure they were correct. The students were very enthusiastic about the project and I had very little trouble keeping them on task. The biggest problem I saw, like their presentations, is they wanted to write every instruction down on the slides. I had to keep reminding them to just pick a problem and write the individual steps in solving the problem on each slide. I further explained one of the team members would explain what is going on while another team member was videotaping and another was working the slides. 

My students are almost finished with this project. Once a team tells me they have finished a video to my specifications (it has to be sharable), I come look at it. If there are any problems then I explain that the team needs to try again with the corrections I suggested. When I am satisfied, the videos are to be sent to their Math teachers via Edmodo for their evaluation and I enter my grade in the books. Once we are finished, I plan on going back to the Math teachers to see how things went and how this project could be done better next time. 

Was this project effective? One student came up to Kim and I to tell us this project was harder than she thought it would be. We asked why and she replied that that she had to know more to explain how to do a problem than just solving the problem like she normally would. Kim and I looked at each other and smiled. Mission accomplished!

Here is a video on how to create a Paper Slide Video.

 


Hello 911? What Tech Do I Need For a House Fire?

by John Woodring in


Hello, 911? My house is on fire. I had to make this dreaded phone call right before Memorial Day. Fortunately for my wife's sweet tooth I spotted the blaze in our garage on my way out for ice cream. After getting everyone one out of the house and calling 911, I had the presence of mind or stupidity of grabbing both my MacBook Pro and iPad as we were leaving. I figured I would need the devices to communicate with the insurance company, family and friends, and others as we picked up the pieces. A note on safety: Both devices happened to be close at hand and I did not grab the chargers. Do not stay in a burning building to collect valuables, get out immediately! They can be replaced, you cannot. Hours later, the American Red Cross put us up in a hotel for a few days to give us time to start working out the claim with our insurance company. The first thing I did was to get on the computer and start the claims process. It turned out this was the first of technology needs I would have in the three months my family was out of the house as it was being repaired. Here are the technology items I found useful:
Laptop Computer: This was the key piece of equipment I needed to communicate with my insurance company. Emails to claims adjusters and scans of receipts and other documents had to go through my MacBook Pro. Also, it helped in communicating with concerned family and friends through email and Facebook. The photos I uploaded to my website of the fire damage and repair progress also had to be done on my laptop. The family was staying in hotels so the ability to watch videos on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video saved our sanity when there was nothing on the regular television.
iPad: The iPad came in handy in taking notes about repairs and replacing items. We had the document of items that were to be replaced and the values loaded so we could reference it whenever we were in a store. Sometimes we took pictures of damage, repairs, and items were were considering purchasing but not too often. I did come to like using iPhoto to process photos that were taken with other cameras. A sketch app came in handy when drawing what various rooms looked like and how new furniture could be placed. When it was bedtime, the White Noise app helped us drift off to sleep. Finally, when the MacBook was in use or impractical, we could watch video and communicate via email or Facebook.
iPhone: We had to temporarily suspend our account with our telephone service so the iPhones were our means of telephone communications. The cameras on the phones were also very handy for taking necessary photos as well as using Facebook.
Handheld Scanner: Insurance companies love their documentation so a handheld scanner is a must. We purchased a VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand but I wished I could have shopped around a little more. The Magic Wand was inexpensive but it only scans JPEG files so information from receipts could not be transferred to a spreadsheet app. There are scanners that can transfer this information and it will save you lots of time in the long-run. However, for what it does, the Magic Wand does it very well.
Camera: Again, documentation is key when working with insurance companies so a camera is another must. While I did take majority of photos with my iPhone, several were taken using a Nikon D5100 DSLR. The photo detail is better and the zoom lenses do a better job than the iPhone. Also, become familiar with photo enhancing apps such as iPhoto. We realized a mistake when my son claimed his new car stereo was not on the inventory of lost items. Fortunately, we found a picture that included the stereo and forwarded it, along with an enlargement, to our adjuster.
Other Items: I mentioned a sketching app that we used to help pick out furniture. If you can actually get an app that helps draw rooms to scale it would be helpful. Also, learn how to create a screenshot on the iPhone or iPad by simultaneously pressing the home button at the bottom of the screen and the on/off button at the top. I noticed some crown molding was off so I used a level app to check. Sure enough it was off by about 1.8 degrees. I was wondering how to prove this to the contractor when I saw the bubble could be frozen and I took a screenshot. When I emailed the photo to the contractor, I was imagining all of the curses he would say when he saw the email. Later, when I asked him about this, he told me he actually thought it was cool and downloaded the app for himself. Finally, we used Awesome Note to create a folder so we could note down information on items such as ceiling fans and blinds so the contractor could purchase them. Awesome Note allows users to email out notes directly from the app which was another handy time saver. My Livescribe pen was useful in recording notes taken during various conversations and allowing me to keep a digital record or share the information.
I hope you never have to go through the experience my family went through this past summer. However, it pays to be prepared for things such as fires, tornados, floods, hurricanes, and other means to destroy your home. As I have learned, it pays to make sure technology is part of your preparation plans. At least, you can point to my experience whenever students ask, "When will we ever need to use this stuff?"

 


Computer Tech in a Common Core and iPad World

by John Woodring in , , ,


The start of the 2012-2013 school year seemed to be more hectic than ever. First, my family was finishing picking up the pieces of a house fire that happened in late May. It was not fun living in hotel rooms over the summer except for that week we spent in Florida. Bluffton Middle School got a new principal because our former principal was promoted to be the district's new Chief Instructional Support Officer. While she has not made too many changes, she is naturally curious about what our school does and Computer Technology is no exception. The state of South Carolina is making changes as it moves toward the Common Core State Standards and a new way to evaluate students, teachers, and schools so the No Child Left Behind requirements may be waived. The biggest news of all is our school's core academic teachers are receiving iPad carts for students to use this year. All of this means big changes in the focus of Computer Technology but I had been moving toward this since last year because I saw it coming. 
First, we all knew about state's shift towards Common Core which is required to get out from under No Child Left Behind. The features I like best about Common Core is how it requires students to be able to think about problems and seek solutions. This includes being able to seek information to help solve those problems. Anything that requires students to research information and then present the results of that research is always welcome to this Social Studies (yes, that's right) teacher. The other aspect of Common Core is how it encourages teachers to create cross-curricular projects. This is something I have wanted to do with Computer Technology from when it was created. So far I have had some great discussions with the academic teachers about how we can do joint projects and I am excited by their enthusiasm so far. There will be fits and starts but once the kinks are worked it out it will be a great experience for everyone involved. Another thing is that I have my students do research on effective presentations and cyber safety then present their findings. As I explain to them I could do a whole group lecture but it would not mean as much as to have them learn it then give a whole group lecture. 
Second, while our school is getting iPads, I was put on notice that the only iPad I will even get a sniff at is the one I bought recently and carry to work everyday. Students will not be allowed to bring the Apple tablets due to security and logistical concerns. The iPads will not be allowed to go home with the students. Hopefully, as the district gains experience and confidence this will change. For now it poses a problem for me. How do I teach students how to create technology projects using iPads when I only have PC's? Believe it or not this problem is actually simple: I teach students the basics of design. This means instead of teaching PowerPoint, I teach students how to design presentations that can be effective using PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Presentation or any other presentation application. The same goes with video, photos, audio, documents, etc.... I teach enough of any application for students to create that basic project. My students still want to throw everything into a project but the kitchen sink but I keep after them to keep things simple as I explain they will not have time to do this in their other classes. There is a lot of bad habits they have picked up over time and most of it done by teachers who do not know how to design presentations for an audience. As students are working on projects they are slowly getting the idea that products are for other people and not themselves which is an important step. My students will not have the iPads forever and they won't have them at home either. This means students should learn how to use the devices he or she has at home because that can be depended on throughout their days in school and beyond.
There are other minor changes that I have made that show promise and I may write about over the course of the year. It is safe to say that so far I am mostly pleased with the way things are going and I hope it stays that way. 

The start of the 2012-2013 school year seemed to be more hectic than ever. First, my family was finishing picking up the pieces of a house fire that happened in late May. It was not fun living in hotel rooms over the summer except for that week we spent in Florida. Bluffton Middle School got a new principal because our former principal was promoted to be the district's new Chief Instructional Support Officer. While she has not made too many changes, she is naturally curious about what our school does and Computer Technology is no exception. The state of South Carolina is making changes as it moves toward the Common Core State Standards and a new way to evaluate students, teachers, and schools so the No Child Left Behind requirements may be waived. The biggest news of all is our school's core academic teachers are receiving iPad carts for students to use this year. All of this means big changes in the focus of Computer Technology but I had been moving toward this since last year because I saw it coming. 
First, we all knew about state's shift towards Common Core which is required to get out from under No Child Left Behind. The features I like best about Common Core is how it requires students to be able to think about problems and seek solutions. This includes being able to seek information to help solve those problems. Anything that requires students to research information and then present the results of that research is always welcome to this Social Studies (yes, that's right) teacher. The other aspect of Common Core is how it encourages teachers to create cross-curricular projects. This is something I have wanted to do with Computer Technology from when it was created. So far I have had some great discussions with the academic teachers about how we can do joint projects and I am excited by their enthusiasm so far. There will be fits and starts but once the kinks are worked it out it will be a great experience for everyone involved. Another thing is that I have my students do research on effective presentations and cyber safety then present their findings. As I explain to them I could do a whole group lecture but it would not mean as much as to have them learn it then give a whole group lecture. 

Second, while our school is getting iPads, I was put on notice that the only iPad I will even get a sniff at is the one I bought recently and carry to work everyday. Students will not be allowed to bring the Apple tablets due to security and logistical concerns. The iPads will not be allowed to go home with the students. Hopefully, as the district gains experience and confidence this will change. For now it poses a problem for me. How do I teach students how to create technology projects using iPads when I only have PC's? Believe it or not this problem is actually simple: I teach students the basics of design. This means instead of teaching PowerPoint, I teach students how to design presentations that can be effective using PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Presentation or any other presentation application. The same goes with video, photos, audio, documents, etc.... I teach enough of any application for students to create that basic project. My students still want to throw everything into a project but the kitchen sink but I keep after them to keep things simple as I explain they will not have time to do this in their other classes. There is a lot of bad habits they have picked up over time and most of it done by teachers who do not know how to design presentations for an audience. As students are working on projects they are slowly getting the idea that products are for other people and not themselves which is an important step. My students will not have the iPads forever and they won't have them at home either. This means students should learn how to use the devices he or she has at home because that can be depended on throughout their days in school and beyond.

There are other minor changes that I have made that show promise and I may write about over the course of the year. It is safe to say that so far I am mostly pleased with the way things are going and I hope it stays that way. 


21st Century Classroom?

by John Woodring


I just saw this infographic on Google+ from the Australian-based online course company Open Colleges, shared this infographic about what the classroom of the 21st Century should look like. I like the way students are potrayed as bringing their own mobile devices or laptops engaged in a lesson at the front. However, there are a couple of things that strike me as very 20th Century. First, look at where the teacher is located. She should be viewed as walking around the students with a connected tablet instead of being chained to her desk at the front of the room. Teachers need to break away and move around their students to observe the work being done. Next, the students are shown in their individual desks in nice, neat 20th Century type rows. There seems to be no collaboration amongst themselves with teacher guidance. Maybe they are taking notes on what is being shown on the projector at the front of the room. Yet, should these students not already have the notes or video on their devices? Finally, a student or group of students should be giving the presentation. This infographic is a start but the artist who conceived this picture should do a little more homework.

http://gettingsmart.com/blog/2012/07/infographic-components-21st-century-classroom/

From my iPhone.


What Do We Choose Now?

by John Woodring in ,


During my recent trip to Florida I stopped to see the Kennedy Space Center for the fourth time. The first three of my tours the NASA center was engaged in our manned exploration of space with either the Apollo Moon missions or the Space Shuttle. One could the feel the excitement as tour guides discussed upcoming manned missions to space and what we could expect from them. This last trip there was a different feel about the place. It was like an old, washed-up athlete sitting around telling stories of his or he past glorious accomplishments because there was nothing else the athlete could talk about. 

During the tour, every stop was someplace that once had importance during the manned missions into space. Now that there are no more American human spaceflights in the foreseeable future, these buildings had a snackbar and a giftshop stuck on the ends and became tour stops. The giftshops had all kinds of memorabilia about the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle missions. In fact the Space Shuttle was called "The Pride of America." I guess calling the now seemingly ancient Apollo Moon missions the pride of America would be too much to stomach even if I thought those were more exciting than a "flying truck." The biggest thing discussed was the addition of the retired Space Shuttle Atlantis, a reusable rocket to launch satellites into space, and a new vehicle to explore Mars. These are all good things but it does not bring to me the excitement that sending humans back to the Moon or to Mars would bring.

When I was growing up, the astronauts were real-life heros to me. I would follow each mission on television with great interest. Other people followed the manned space missions because we were in a competition with the Soviet Union to see who could get to the Moon first. Later, I would tell my history students that our race to the Moon proved to ourselves and the rest of the world that again Americans could accomplish anything it sets its collective mind to. One day we woke up and decided to go to the Moon and actually did it in about eight years. It was this same determination to do something that scared the Soviet Union into spending itself out of existence when President Ronald Reagan proposed a missel defense system to do the unthinkable, make a nuclear war winnable. Could such a system be built? Who knows but based on past history the Soviets could not take that chance and started spending money on defense and neglecting the needs of its people to the point it could not sustain itself and collapsed. We need a national goal such as going to Mars to inspire today's students to take up challenges that have always defined America in the past. 


Solving a Mystery

by John Woodring in


On a recent trip to Orlando, Florida my wife and I decided to try out Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show. At Sleuths the guests try to figure out a mystery that was portrayed by a group of actors while dinning. The actors setup the mystery with a skit that introduces the characters and any relationships they have with a crime at the end of the skit (we had a murder). While we dined, the actors encouraged guests at each table to discuss the mystery and come up with a question to ask the suspects. After dinner, each group had a spokesperson ask the question the group came up with. While we ate desert we were supposed to write down who did the dastardly deed and the motive for the crime. Once the desert dishes were cleared, the actors revealed the murderer and asked who in the audience solved the crime. Those who fingered the criminal and the motive for the crime received a small prize.

As the night went on I thought this is how a flipped class should operate. The skit that setup the problem could be done with a video. The actors wanted the guests, randomly grouped by table, to engage in collaborative discussion about who may have committed the crime to come up with at least two questions (in case yours was asked by another group) to ask the suspects. Finally, a formative assessment was given when the actors wanted the guests to write down who did the crime and, more importantly, why he or she did it. In other words it was a critical thinking exercise to come up with a possible solution based on using available information and group discussion. To top it off we paid $55.95 plus tax (take off $6.00 with coupon) per person for the experience. 

It was great fun that my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed. If you or someone you know wants to know how a flipped class with critical thinking exercises looks like and are headed to Orlando, Florida then I urge you to spend an evening at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows. Not going to Orlando? The actors did tell us they take their act on the road too.


Why Do We Do It?

by John Woodring in , ,


 

Last week was the Beaufort County School District's Summer Institute. This our school district way to bring the conference experience to teachers every year and save money as teachers get some great professional development. The theme for this year's institute revolves around the 4 C's of 21st century learning. This concept comes from the Partnership of 21st Century Skills, a national group whose goal is to prepare our students for the 21st Century world by fusing the "3 R's" with the "4 C's." The 4 C's identified are:

-Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
-Communication
-Collaboration
-Creativity and Innovation

It should be clear these elements will make students stand out from tasks that can be routinely done by machines. Add Common Core standards (another two C's) and we will have students that can tackle any future problem they will encounter. Since we have no clue what will be required in the future as far as careers are concerned it is safe to say there will be many problems. All of the sessions at the Summer Institute touched on all of these themes including my session on the Flipped Classroom.

While I did the Flipped Classroom in Greenville earlier this summer, I was given more time in Beaufort to actually work with teachers and let them experiment. After defining what the Flipped Classroom was and its possible benefits followed by a question and answer session, participants grouped by subject area created lessons and video them using the Paper Slide method I learned in Greenville. Later, each participant went on to create their own flipped lesson. I was struck by the fact that almost all of them worked together to share information and techniques even though it was an individual activity. The 4 C's in action and everyone learned something.

One of the great things I really like about conferences is the chance to see friends I have made at such conferences over the years and the conversations we have. Probably because we know we don't have much time we get down to business discussing educational issues. One such discussion was about the Flipped Classroom that I advocate. One friend said he could not grasp the flipped concept and pressed me hard on its merits because he felt it would eventually take away jobs from teachers. My friend later apologized for, in his perspective, upsetting me. There was no apology needed because my looks were actually me thinking about his questions and trying to formulate intelligent answers. If if my friend annoyed or upset me I should not take it personally. It is these type of questions that educators should always be asking each other because if we cannot adequately defend our classroom techniques then why are we doing them and even worse trying to get others to do them too. Too often we fail to ask the hard questions to each other out of fear of upsetting other friends and colleagues. If we wish to raise our standards and incorporate the 4C's in teaching students then we should be willing to use them amongst ourselves. If not then why are we doing it?


UTC 2012

by John Woodring in , ,


Last week I was privileged to participate in the Upstate Technology Conference (UTC). Once again the technology staff of the Greenville, SC County School District did an outstanding job putting on one of best small educational technology conferences anywhere. It is also remarkable that in this era of shrinking budgets the folks in Greenville are able to offer this conference to all comers for free. Thanks should also be given to Discover Education for being the main sponsor of this event along with the other sponsors as well. UTC is always one of the highlights of the year for me and I would attend even if I did not do a presentation for them.

This year I presented the Flipped Classroom from the point of view of having tried it in my Computer Technology classrooms. Before I did my two sessions I was scared that nobody would come. The reason was Dr. Lodge McCammon, Director of the FIZZ Project at North Carolina State's Friday Institute, was the Keynote Speaker and his specialty is the Flipped Classroom. In other words, I was going head to head with a legend in the Flipped Classroom field. After watching him at both his keynote address and his two Flipped Classroom sessions I wondered if anyone would want to waste their precious development time with me when there were many other wonderful sessions going on at the same time? Lodge's arguments for doing the Flipped Classroom are essentially the same as mine: less time lecturing, more time with students, differentiation in the classroom, less discipline problems, research to backup his methods, etc.... The technique to create the lecture videos was fairly simple and probably within most teachers' comfort zone. Finally, Lodge is far more entertaining than I am. I did have one trick left up my sleeve, there is more than one way to skin a cat or flip a classroom. Lodge was kind enough to allow me to add his methods to my presentation for which I am grateful. My worries were groundless too because both of my sessions were full and all of the participants seemed satisfied with the variety of methods I shared with them. This week I will be working with a group of middle and high school teachers in Beaufort County in helping them create real lessons to flip their classrooms with the variety of techniques I have to share.

The other session was done by my good friend Shirley Smith on how Richland, SC School District Two is phasing in a 1:1 technology initiative in their schools. My own school district wants to provide iPad carts to core academic classes and I wanted to see how Richland Two did it. Except for a few exceptions that went iPad, most schools opted for Google's ChromeBooks. I got to play around with a ChromeBook while I was in Greenville and I can say it is a serviceable but limited device. Anything one does on the device must involve the Internet and Google Apps in particular. The biggest question is how a user could create and edit media on the device and I am sure there is an answer to that question (please feel free to answer in the comments if you know how). The other main question I had was how were teachers trained on how to use the devices effectively in the classroom. Richland Two is phasing in the devices over a three-year period and staff development is ongoing. Each school is assigned their own technology coach whose main job is to help teachers learn how to use the devices in the classroom. An independent group is studying how teachers are using the devices through classroom observations and providing feedback to the district on how to use the devices and what further training needs to be done. What about any teachers who do not get with the 1:1 program after the three years are up? Let's just say they will need to make sure their resumes are updated. Ouch!

Finally, the Discovery Education Star Educator dinner at the Wild Wing Cafe was a great event. If you use Streamline or any other Discovery media products in your classroom and find yourself sharing what you know about them then you should sign-up. There are a lot of great benefits to being a Star Educator (you must be a subscriber of Discovery to view this page) besides a free meal. Many of my best friends in the Educational Technology community are Stars.

As always, I had a great time at UTC this year. It is always great to see old friends and make new ones as I usually do in Greenville. I also look forward to coming back next year but one participant requested that I do a session on Edmodo. Fran, Tim, Jeff, and the rest of the UTC Staff considered yourselves warned. Thanks to you for a great conference!

My Video on the Flipped Classroom

Dr. Lodge McCammon's videoi on the Flipped Classroom

 


Lessons Lessons Learned

by John Woodring in ,


Soon I will be putting the wraps on another school year and my first experimentation with the flipped classroom. For those who are not familiar with the flipped classroom, it is a teaching style where the teacher records lectures for students to view or listen to at home instead of in the class while the students would do their "homework" or other assignments normally given to do outside of the classroom. In other words, the class is flipped. My experimentation is a hybrid of the true flipped classroom style. My lectures and demonstrations were recorded and made available to students but most of the viewing was expected to be done in class as well. My reasoning was for students to attempt to view what they needed to do then attempt to do the task themselves. This would free me to work with students who continued having problems with an assignment. After trying this with four classes over the last year I must say it was somewhat successful but I did learn some things along the way.

Lesson number one is that students need to be taught how to watch a demonstration video. One of the reasons I went to my flipped style class was based on how students performed after watching me do demonstrations in the past. Usually, it was like I did not do a demonstration at all. I would still have to go over the task about 30 times because students only saw the demo once and rarely bothered to take notes. When I told students to watch the video I created, they would watch the video all the way through and not stop to attempt the steps as the video progressed. Then they would look up and say they did not get it. Once I showed them they could stop the video at any point and rewind when necessary did the videos become more effective.

Lesson number two is that it is hard to break years of conditioning. This did not really surprise me because I have done other things in my class that runs counter to what students have done in other classes. Still students would sit at their seats and wait for me to do some kind of lecture even when I told them their assignments and resources are on Edmodo. This usually took a few days for students to get used to.

Lesson number three is the grades will be horrible at the beginning. As I implied in lessons one and two, students need a period of adjustment. They will keep trying to do things they are used to without success and get frustrated. Administrators and parents will want to know what you are doing by suddenly becoming the hardest class to pass in the school. Hold your ground because it is almost like a light switch turning on when students finally figure it out. The grades will shoot up like a rocket. Most parents who meet with me to put my head on a platter usually look at their child and say "I wish I had this when I was in school" after I demonstrate how the videos work.

Lesson 4 is to have your gradebook with you as move around the class. The grades will quickly let you know who needs the extra help and who does not. I carry around an iPad that is connected to my computer via Splashtop. This allows me to see grades at an instant to determine who needs help. Also, it allows me to enter grades immediately when a student shows me a successfully completed assignment which save a lot of time come grade report time.

Lesson 5 is to hold the students accountable. Many times a student will tell me he or she does not understand what to do. The first question I ask is if the student watched the video. The answer is usually no because students who watch the video usually have a more direct question about a certain step. In the past some students did have a legitimate complaint because the videos did not work due to technical problems but I would quickly work to fix the technical problems. If students are not working quickly enough then I make a call to parents to offer my after school services to give extra help. While that cures most problems, there are students who are in legitimate need.

Here is a lesson I learned from another teacher who is doing it with her class: make sure to upload the lecture video as soon after school as you can. I heard one parent complain that a video lesson to be viewed at home was not uploaded in a decent hour. The problem was technical but you should be mindful of parents who want to download the videos so their children can watch it. Also, there are those high-maintenance parents who can never be satisfied.

Now that one year of using a flipped classroom is almost in the books I will be looking and reflecting on what happened. There will be videos that will need updating as tools change. Also, I will look at lessons that need videos if no other reason than to show what a successful product looks like. Over the summer I will be sharing my experiences with teachers from one end of South Carolina to another and help them create their own flipped classroom lessons. Then I will be looking forward to doing it again next year.


Greetings Pizza Maker

by John Woodring in , ,


One of my favorite science fiction movies is The Last Starfighter. The story is about Alex, a teenaged video game wizard, who beats all the levels of the game "Starfighter" which pits the player in a simulated war against an evil empire. Little does Alex know that the game is actually a recruiting tool for an alien society needing warriors to repel a real invasion by an evil intergalactic empire. Our Earthling hero must use all of the skills he learned playing the video game to save the galaxy from tyranny. Game-based learning is one of the hottest topics in envisioning the future of education. Many of the skills needed to be successful in video games such as learning new skills, figuring out solutions to situations, and teamwork are considered vital skills in the 21st Century. It would only be a matter of time when a game would come out that would serve as a recruiting tool and it finally happened. Surprisingly, it is not from the military.

The game is the iPad app "Pizza Hero" and is published by Domino's Pizza. The player needs to create pizza with speed and accuracy to achieve the maximum amount of points. There is also a link to order your creation online when the game makes you hungry for that pizza you are slaving away to create. However, the aspect of the game I found most compelling is that if you demonstrate a high enough level in the game you may be invited to apply as a pizza maker at your local Domino's. At least that is what the game description in iTunes claims. I may never get to know if I have what it takes to become one of the elite Domino's pizza makers. So far it takes me too long to create a sad looking pie and the manager yells at me so much that I may quit if I don't get fired first.

Making virtual pizzas aside, this game is an interesting marketing ploy by Domino's. I am sure they hope people will get hungry for a pizza as they are tapping on those pepperoni and they will also tap on the order now button as well. Those people who are still out of work might also be playing this game as a desperate means to find employment. I am not sure how serious Domino's is about hiring pizza makers through their game but it would be cruel if they don't hire a few at least. This is not the first gimmick to use creative ways for companies to find employment. Once upon a time, Google secretly used a billboard with a complex mathematical formula to find potential engineers. If "Pizza Hero" proves to be a success in both selling pizzas and recruiting quality employees then I am sure other companies will also start using games to help screen potential employees. Our society is rapidly getting to the point where potential workers will need to demonstrate a skill to be hired and one skill I don't see a need for is filling in bubble sheets.


It's not always this easy

by John Woodring in ,


Many of the people I work with at my school must think that either my knowledge of technology was preprogramed in me at birth or that I was the result of some super secret government experiment (probably gone wrong) in which I was bombarded with radiation that gave me mystical superpowers of education technology. Actually, neither is the case. My knowledge of technology came to me by way of lots of research and even more time with trial and error. In other words, old-fashioned hard work. I have had more things go wrong, blowup in my face, and lost mega amounts of data, and said lots of words that would make my mother constantly wash my mouth out with soap. 

'Nook Simple Touch--Daily Image 2011--June 23' photo (c) 2011, rochelle hartman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/One example happened last weekend when I was attempting to download a book from Overdrive to my Nook. The process was so frustrating that it almost made me turn Kindle. First, I sent the file over to my Nook and of course nothing happened even though it was supposed to be an epub file. Oh wait, I needed Adobe Digital Editions which I downloaded. Tried the file again and met with failure again. The file would not open. That's right, I have to convert the file you silly person! Somehow I got the file converted then sent it to my Nook. I opened the file to only to see a message that my device was not authorized. Colorful metaphors were coming from my mouth at a steady stream now. After a couple of more unsuccessful attempts, the dog was seeking a place of shelter as far away from me as he could get. After about an hour or so I was finally able to authorize my Nook and open the book I downloaded. After that ordeal the only thing I could think was I wonder if it is as much trouble for Kindle owners as for epub reader owners. If not then Amazon stands to make a lot of money off Overdrive.

When I shared my Overdrive adventures and key lessons from the ordeal with our media specialist, instead of laughing along with my story she gave me the strangest look. The look was similar to what Glen Walter recounted in his book So Where's My Apple when a student saw him eating in the faculty dining room and exclaimed, "You eat!" Yes folks, I am human after all.


Be Careful of What You Wish For

by John Woodring in ,


'Stop complaining.' photo (c) 2006, Alan Turkus - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/For years, many in the EdTech community have been wishing for the day when students would come to school with a digital device that would serve as textbook, notebook, research tool, and homework folder all rolled up into one small, lightweight package. With Apple's recent eTextbook announcement along with (surprise, surprise) President Obama's call for students in the United States to use digital textbooks in the next five years you would think the day of jubilee has come. However, instead of shouts of joy, I seem to be seeing complaints about this move to the digital student. The funny thing is many of the arguments are the ones I used to hear from teachers who did not want to embrace technology at all.

The complaints I am hearing are the likes of the Adobe PDF format is too hard to work with or iPads and the necessary accessories will cost too much. One argument I can agree with partially is do we really need textbooks at all? It seems to me the attitude is that unless every student can take part in the new educational digital revolution then forget it, we won't play. What are people thinking? Steve Jobs was going to leave an iPad to every student in his will? This is the type of thinking that hampers education to begin with. Why don't we outlaw new safety features on cars until every car has them instead of seeing them on luxury cars first? Because we know these features will eventually come down to the masses as standard features eventually if they work. We should not act surprised about this digital education revolution either. If you read Steve Jobs' biography you got a clear warning that education was one of the next things Jobs wanted to reinvent. Actually, Jobs has been talking about this for many years but the pieces have now come into place.

Okay, we know there are not that many interactive textbooks, iPads in the hands of students, teachers trained to take advantage of these advances, and school districts that have the infrastructure to handle the rush of mobile devices. Well new content will start flowing with iBook Author. Also, there will be other products that will do the same thing for other platforms by the end of the year. As far as getting iPads into the hands of students, I am willing to predict that the iPad 3 will be the top of the line device but Apple will still sell iPad 2's at a cheaper cost. Apple is still selling iPhone 3GS's and iPhone 4's and they are plenty serviceable. Google and the Android supporters will not go sit in the corner and sulk? They should have something out before the end of the year if they wish to compete with Apple. Remember too that five years in the tech world can see many changes. Teachers have been warned for years this day would come so if they are not ready, it is probably their fault and they better start cramming. The new digital tools will change the way teaching in the classroom is carried out. 20th Century practices will not work in 21st Century tools. Likewise, districts should have seen this coming too. Some have taken steps to welcome the new technologies but I am sure the recent announcements also caught many unprepared. Do we really need to continue investing in interactive whiteboards?

There it is, the time is at hand to put up or shut up. When I was stationed in West Germany during my Army days, the idea of a divided Germany was a given fact even though West German propaganda talked about reunification. When I left West Germany in 1988, everyone (including myself) thought the East-West border would continue to divide Germany for many years to come. However, within two years the Berlin Wall was down and Germany was reunified surprising many people (again including myself) that it actually happened. Well the wall between old and new, analog and digital, paper and eReader has been torn down. It is now time for us to quickly gather our wits and forge the new future we have dreamed about but did not expect to happen.

You Can't Afford Apple's Education Revolution Gizmodo

What's Wrong with the Dept. of Ed and FCC Digital Textbook Push? Hack Education


The First Ghost of Steve Jobs

by John Woodring in , ,


Like Matthew Sobol, the protagonist in Daniel Suarez's book Daemon, Steve Jobs has come back from the dead to attempt to redefine society. Those who read Jobs' biography know the two areas Steve Jobs wanted to change was television and school textbooks. Well like how the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future changed Ebenezer Scrooge, the first Ghost of Steve Jobs wants to change a stodgy and stuck-in-the-past education with the release of iBooks 2, iBook Author, and the iTunes U app. Whether Jobs' specter will make a positive change remains to be seen.

The most intriguing of Apple's recent releases is iBook Author. This is a free application for Macs which allows anyone to create a multimedia rich book. The primary target is teachers who wish to create their own textbooks that would help their students. Now all those teachers I know who do not like to share their curriculum unless someone pays for it have an outlet to share their great secrets to turn students into super learners at up to $15 a pop. However, I can't wait to see teachers who have embraced the flipped style classroom and teachers who have their students create a book as a review project start having their work popup in the iBooks store. This is a great creative outlet for both teachers and students alike looking for ways to share or celebrate learning. This could be a money maker for schools because students can contribute to a virtual yearbook that actually relives memories and they don't have to work with yearbook publishers. I would like students to become editors of a class companion or textbook and produce updates to a review book during the school year. The only downfall is it currently works with the iPad but I am sure that will change and other other programs will come along that will cover Kindle and other eReaders.

Tech News Today said Apple's education announcement could eliminate schools. While this was an attention getting headline for the show, the iTunes U app could have an impact on schools. I have often told teachers that iTunes U was one of the best kept secrets of education. Where else can one see lectures from universities around the world with the prestige of Harvard, Stanford, and Duke. It now looks like Apple wants iTunes U to become a place where students can retrieve course materials such as syllabi, lectures, and other course materials. While this is an interesting first step to make class materials easier to get on an iOS device, the lack of interactivity will not see iTunes U replacing classroom management systems such as Blackboard, Edmodo, or Schoology.

Like other Apple products, the introduction of iBooks 2, iBook Author, and the iTunes U app are not something never before seen products but are meant to make creating mobile online class content easier to do providing you are on the Apple ecosystem. However, you can bet others will be coming out with similar tools to support Android, ePub (Apple claims to support this but iBooks Author is hazy on this), and Kindle (is it real Android?). Hopefully, like Scrooge's transformation, this offering from Steve Jobs' ghost will transform schools to be more welcoming to mobile devices in the present and future than they have in the past.

Photo credit: everwonderpowdersplunder