Sunday, August 31, 2008

Goin' the Distance

I watched "Rocky" with my 10-year old son this afternoon--he had never seen the movie before. He was captivated by the story of an underdog who dared to take on 'the champion.' How audacious for someone like Rocky to take on someone like Apollo Creed...

...Everyone loves a hero and Rocky is no different. For better or worse the character of Rocky Balboa epitomises the dream of success and the hope that lives in us all. You know, if you work hard enough, you can break through and achieve your dream...Rocky achieved his dream...he went the distance--he trained to go the distance...not to win--but to 'go the distance.' And, in going the distance, he won.

I think, in a way, the key to life is having the fortitude to 'go the distance,' Life throws us punches, jabs, hooks, and body shots. What distinguishes between those who win and those who lose is the ability to stay with the fight--to 'go the distance'. That's the message I want to impart to both my sons and my students, "Stay with the fight, no matter what...fall down 5 times, get up 6."

I found a short video sums up my mantra..."Go the distance...no matter what punches life throws at you, be willing to get up and keep moving forward...keep moving forward..."


Friday, August 29, 2008

Steppin' Out

This first week of school has been very exciting--and VERY busy! I've barely had enough time to breeze through some of my favorite blogs (via my Google Reader), much less create a blog post of my own (how does CoolCatTeacher do it?).

I decided before school started this year that I wanted to incorporate blogs and wikis into my curriculum. And...well...all of my students now have a blog. They will be utilizing their blogs during the course of the year to reflect on what they are learning in class, to research and blog on specific topics related to business/marketing, and to comment on their own topics of interest (and each other's blogs).

I was really unsure of just how things would go, but aside from a few forgotten passwords and typos that prevented login, things went pretty smooth. In fact, most of the students have already made two entries into their blogs! I will be spending the next couple of days entering a blogroll into our class wiki (I'm not ready for 100+ students to try and get into the wiki just yet). Until then, I wanted to share a couple of posts that I thought were really good.

Each year I spend some time having my students introduce themselves to the class. It's a great way for students to get to know each other and an opportunity for me to learn their names. This year, I gave the students a specific assignment regarding their introduction (a lesson from Campus Chaos--can't find a website for them). They were to choose a color, a car, and a destination that describes their personality, then blog about it. Using their blog post as a reference, I had them introduce themselves to the class. There were a number of really good posts, but two really captured my attention.

From Desiree R's "One Step at a Time" Blog:

My name is Desiree Robinson aka (also known as) Dezzy by family members. I choose the color PURPLE. I would love a black Infinity going to the beach in Florida because I am very outgoing, and I love to have fun. And just like the beach I am open minded. The characteristics of the beach when some days its full of big waves, like me I can be full of energy. But the beach water can also be calm with small waves, and like me I can be calm and full of thought.

From Catie W's "Catie's Blogg!":
My name is Catie and I choose an isotope green bug headed to Hershey Park, Pennsylvania because I'm sweet and cheerful, love the outdoors and love to have fun!

Awesome, huh? I can hardly wait for next week--and the next--and the next...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Keeping My Fingers Crossed

I did it. I applied for the Certified Google Teacher seminar that will be held in Chicago on September 24. I thought that maybe I should wait since I am so new to Web2.0 technologies, but after reading the CoolCatTeacher post about the application, I decided to produce my video idea and finish the application process.

Honestly, I wanted to apply ever since I came across the post about the Academy on the Google for Educators site (BTW, I've also seen references to the Academy from Miguel Guhlin, Mark Wagner, and Doyle (among others). I just assumed that because I am new to Web2.0 and live further than 90 minutes from the training site, that my application wouldn't be considered. The CoolCatTeacher (Vicki Davis) said in her post that

"it is worth going through it just to be a part of the teacher resources made available after you go through the course. The networking is phenomenal."

That sold me. I took the idea I had on the 'drawing board' for my video and produced it. I don't own any video equipment, but I consider myself fairly resourceful. If (I mean, WHEN) my application is accepted, I will make it to Chicago on September 24. I'm posting my video here. Watch it and then comment...I want to know what you think.

video

Friday, August 15, 2008

We're Back!!!

Yesterday was my first 'official' day back...although, I came back to work this past Monday to get started setting up my lab. It takes a while to arrange all the desks and re-connect all the computers after the custodial staff finishes waxing the floors.

Only this year I was greeted with a crashed server...what fun...the curriculum we use to teach Computer Applications (in Texas we call it BCIS), is server based (no textbook, yeah!). It's wonderful curriculum...I would recommend it to anyone teaching CompApps. I called TPTB right away...they came and picked up the server, but I still don't have it back and I am supposed to conduct teacher training on all the software updates...ummm...today? We'll see what happens!

I've been so busy with setting up my room and dealing with the server issue that I haven't had much time to read through my favorite blogs to discover new nuggets of wisdom--or blog for that matter. So, I came into my classroom very early this morning to update my Google Reader and read through some of my favorites...and post an entry...

Although I enjoyed several posts, one really hit me...I found it on Andrew Meyers' blog...it's about VED Analysis. As a newbie to Web2.0 and its potential to transform my classroom and my teaching, I've found myself a bit overwhelmed by all the (incredible) information out there. Thanks to Mr. Meyers I realized this morning that what's important is to decide what is Vital, Essential, and Desirable for teaching success.

I'm looking forward to all this year will bring!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

The other day I posted about how I approach the first few days of school to set a successful tone for the year. Well, after I posted that I begin contemplating--I've 'met' a number of incredibly successful educators this summer online. I've tagged their blogs/posts on Del.icio.us, added a number of these blogs to my blogroll, and read much of their information on various topics.

What I hadn't done, was read/study how they approach their first days...so...I started searching. Here are some links to some great posts from some great educators and some of their best practices for starting the year out right...

Vicki Davis - Tips for Starting the School Year Right
Todd Seal - Change in Your Classroom
Cal Teacher - Settle Down
Dan Meyer - How I Work

This is just a smattering...check out Teacher Lingo for connections to other educator blogs.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Just Around the Corner from Here

The summer is drawing to a close; the first day of school is just around the corner from here.

What an incredible summer of learning it has been for me. Thanks to my participation in "23Things," I will return to school with an arsenal of new teaching tools. I'm really excited about this year. I've been staying up late every night for a couple of weeks now contemplating and planning on how/where/when to use all the Web2.0 tools I've learned. I've also thought about how I will start the year--setting the tone (if you will) to ensure an optimal learning environment and experience for my students.

I plan my 'first days' approach each August; however this year I will be mentoring a couple of teachers on my campus (both have about two years experience), so it's especially important to me to help them prepare for a productive and meaningful year.

Here are a few things that I do (and will communicate to them) that really set a great atmosphere for my students:
  1. I always greet my students at the door and introduce myself (it takes a little time, but well worth it)
  2. I utilize a multi-media presentation to introduce myself, the course, expectations, etc...the students enjoy that much more that just a paper/pen syllabus (I post my syllabi on my website and show them how to access it)
  3. I have the students decide on classroom rules/consequences (no more than 5--I make a PPT slide via the LCD projector and place it on the classroom bulletin board for reference)
  4. I have each student introduce himself/herself to the class (they give their name, grade, what they hope to learn from my class, and where they 'see' themselves in 5-10 years)
  5. I take my time with this...if it takes a few days to complete this process (my classes are only 53mins long), then so be it...building relationships with my students is just as important (if not more so) than my curriculum
It's my goal to help both my "mentees" and myself prepare for a great year with our students. I believe that by communicating clear expectations and building solid relationships we can teach our students both the necessary curriculum and interpersonal skills they will need to succeed.

What about you? What can you share with me that will help me (and my mentees) prepare for a terrific year? I would love to hear your suggestions!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Little "Comic Sans" Relief

After spending an inordinate amount of time on my last post, I began reading some of the blog posts from my blogroll. I found this video on Ewan McIntosh's edublog and just had to share. Who says that we as educators don't have a sense of humor?
... ... ... ... ...

Okay...the 'newbie' in me couldn't get the video embedded so...click here to see the video and to read Ewan's blog...enjoy!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Twitter v. Plurk: A Newbie Review

This past summer I completed on online learning experience (via my District) called "23Things." This professional development course was derived (loosely) from 43Things and a Stephen Abram article titled "43Things I Might Want to do This Year" (Information Outlook - Feb 2006). Through this opportunity I learned about a number of Web2.0 tools. In addition to learning how to use these tools, I was challenged to find innovative ways of incorporating them into my classroom/teaching. Two of the tools I was introduced to were Plurk and Twitter.

Both Plurk and Twitter are "free social networking and micro-blogging services that allow users to send updates, which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length" (definition quoted from Wikipedia). Let's take a look at each service first and then compare the pros and cons of each...

Plurk:
The user interface for Plurk includes a 'timeline' that lists both your plurks (messages) and those of the people you 'follow.' You can search for people to follow by clicking on the "My Friends" tab at the top of the Plurk window. You can also review "interesting plurkers" by clicking on that navigation button (also located at the top of the Plurk window. Plurk also includes a "Karma" feature that more or less tracks your behavior and activity...the better your behavior/activity the higher your karma--high karma unlocks specials user features, like emoticons and different backgrounds, etc. Here's a picture of the Plurk Window:
Twitter:
The user interface for Twitter displays a 'message list' of all of your twitters (messages) and those of the people you 'follow.' As with Plurk, you can find and follow friends by clicking on the 'Find & Follow' navigation button at the top of the Twitter window. No Karma stuff here...at least I couldn't find anything like that. Here's a picture of the Twitter window:
Comparisons:
Registering: It's really easy (and free) to register for Plurk and Twitter. What's more, you can easily add either of them to your mobile device; a great way to keep up with your friends (colleagues, collaborators, etc).

Adding Friends: When adding friends, both sites allow you to add via email and/or instant messaging forums; however, Twitter will allow you to search by name only. I really like this feature--as a Web2.0 newbie, I want the opportunity to connect with as many teachers as possible. I collected some names from my favorite teacher blog (CoolCatTeacher), from my own Blogroll, and from a YouTube video of this year's Edublogger's conference (click here for video). I then typed those names into the Twitter name search and voila! I found some of the people that I want to both follow and learn from...I can't find that option on Plurk (although it may be there).

Finding/Following Friends: Twitter makes it easier to find/follow friends (JMHO). You can request to follow other people's friends on Plurk, too, but it was difficult to figure that out. It's probably in the Help section somewhere, but I haven't found it. I stumbled across the option while devouring the site.

Add ons: Twitter seems to have a ton of different apps (add ons) available--it will take me a while to get through them all to see which ones are applicable to me. I haven't found any add ons for Plurk, yet.

Conclusion:
Both Plurk and Twitter are easy to use. They each have unique user interfaces and features. Further, they both serve their purpose--for people to network and stay in touch. Unfortunately, Twitter is already blocked by my district and I am sure the Plurk will be blocked soon. Although I can still access them on my mobile device, it sure makes incorporating this type of micro-blogging (via these two services) almost impossible in the classroom.

I would like to see both Plurk and Twitter add a search feature whereby one can search my interest area (or something similar). I want to connect with as many innovative teachers as I can now that I am learning about all that Web2.0 has to offer. For now, I will continue to comb the blogs I have listed on my blogroll (see the area on the right side of my blog titled "News, Sites, and Blogs I Frequent") looking for additional experts to follow (both on my blog and Twitter/Plurk), thus expanding 'my circle of the wise.'