Saturday, May 28, 2011

If I Was the Computer Teacher

As a teacher who uses and loves technology, I have been blessed with a really great opportunity to have a positive impact on not only my class, but my entire school.  Our computer teacher is retiring and our principal wants my help, along with two others from my school, to create yearlong outlines for the new teacher.  These plans will be for each of the grades at our school, K-6.

I know there are some things I would love, as a 4th grade teacher, for my students to learn in computers, then I can take it, run with it, and apply it to my curriculum.  I also know that I do not know everything, or what other teachers may want.  (I will ask the teachers at my school this as well) The new computer teacher will obviously have the freedom to do their job, and not be imprisoned by our general guidelines and ideas.

Because I want to do this right, and because I have such a knowledgeable PLN, I want your help!  Are you a technology specialist, teacher, administrator, who has seen anything specific work really well?  What are some of the crucial aspects you would include?

A little info on our school:  We have 1,200 students.  They each get to go to computers, in our computer lab, for half an hour once a week.  Besides our computer lab, our 6th grade classes are 1:1 with laptops, 4th and 5th are 2:1, and 1st-3rd each have one class set of laptops between the 5-6 classes in their grade.  We have the iLife programs in our computer lab as well as all of the classroom sets.

Another side issue, we got an amazing grant to get all of these laptops several years ago.  They are now 3-4 years old, the batteries won't hold charges, and many teachers have decided it is not worth the hassle to use them often.  We are looking into this as well, but really this is just for ideas for our computer teacher to use in the computer lab, that has nice brand new computers.

So if you were able to make a positive technological impact for 1,200 students, what are some of the things you would include?  If you know somebody who could help, please send them this link.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why Twitter?

Some of you know that I am a big fan of Twitter.  I have tried explaining to several people, why I think it is so great.  It is pretty simple, yet complicated.  So I am going to attempt to give you the basics of why it really works for me and I think it could for you.

First: You only see what you want to see.
One of the big complaints I hear from people is, I don't want to hear what people had for breakfast.  Well that is the great thing about Twitter, if you don't like what someone is saying unfollow them.  Unlike Facebook, you do not have to follow who is following you.  If someone is annoying and posts 100 things about cats, don't follow them!  You should never have anything show up in your Twitter feed that does not interest you, if you do, then it's your own fault.

I follow 33 people that do not follow me back, mostly celebrities, companies, or sports.  Some examples are @stephenathome (Stephen Colbert), @BillCosby, @RealSaltLake, @alyankovic, @rainnwilson and people like that.  I actually began twitter to keep up with Deron Williams during the off-season because I needed my Jazz fix.  Due to the nature of many people on Twitter following these people that will not follow them back, 93% of people on Twitter follow more people than follow them back.

Some new people to Twitter make it their goal to get as many followers as possible, but I just worry about getting what I want out of it.  I am myself, share what I care about, and people find me. If I look at what they have been tweeting about, and find it interesting, I follow them back, if not I don't.  If I follow them and I decide I am not interested in what they have to say, I stop following them.  Somehow, people seem to like what I have to say, I have often had people on Facebook say that they love what I post, or that I make them laugh.  Well, you would love me even more on twitter, at least 495 people seem to think so, even without me following back 287 of them.

Second: Great source for news.
Some people on Twitter don't ever use it to post a single thing of their own, they use it solely to get news and information.  It is becoming more and more of a legitimate news source, many things break first on Twitter. You do have to be careful what you believe, and check your sources, but it is where I found out last week that President Obama was going to be making a big announcement. I turned on my TV, but first heard that we had killed Osama Bin Laden on Twitter before they ever mentioned anything about him on the air.

Third: Helps me find people with similar interests, and in my professions.
I have developed a really good PLN (Professional Learning Network) with amazing educators.  Every Monday a group of 4th grade teachers and I get together from around the country, and even around the world, to discuss an educational topic.  I have gotten much more out of this than I get from talking only to teachers at my school.  I have gotten a lot of good ideas and tried them with my class. I never would have thought of some of the things they are doing.

Every Tuesday there is a similar thing, but for all people involved in education, and throughout the week there are also discussions on gifted and talented students, educational technology, new teachers, science, history, coaching, and many other chats on education.  (To really get a lot out of a chat or conference, I would recommend downloading TweetDeck.  It is also the only way I can access Twitter at work since Twitter got blocked in the middle of the year.  I have a class Twitter account where I post their daily homework everyday, and that made it harder, but several of my parents have really loved being able to follow our class on Twitter.)

A few weeks ago, another educator posted an article about how you can use an iPad to turn your computer and projector into an interactive whiteboard.  I researched it more and went to my principal to tell him it was something I was interested in.  Because of my research and interest, he is letting me get one and play around with it this summer.  Then next year, if we see success, we can get some for other teachers and I can train them on it.  When I prove that I can implement this, hopefully he can continue to have trust in me, and I can try some of my other ideas.  But without Twitter, I never would have discovered this.

Fourth: It's fun and you can connect with amazing people.
So you don't care about celebrities/sports/entertainment, you find out about news just fine, you don't think you could learn anything new about your profession/interests, then there is still plenty to enjoy.  Since everyone I follow has at least one similar interest with me, mostly Utah Jazz, Education, the LDS church, or something else along those lines, it is really easy to talk and make friends.  Since the only places I can meet people are at my elementary school, and church, it does not leave me many opportunities.

Now I have a whole network of people I can do things with, or at least talk about them with.  Last month there was a big religious conference in Utah and I was tweeting a bunch of quotes as I was listening.  This helped me pay attention, but I also made about 100 new LDS friends.  A few people disagreed with me in doing this, but remember, I am not spamming people, they choose to read what I write and can stop at anytime.  In fact only one person unfollowed me over that weekend, which is pretty normal, I have had 7 people unfollow me in the past week.  It is very normal for people to come and go.  In fact I unfollow most of the sports people this time of year because I don't want to hear them talking about baseball, I will follow them again in the Fall.

Because of these new friends I made, this past weekend I was planning on going to the local theme park Lagoon.  Neither of my roommates were interested in going, so I invited a few of my other friends and mentioned it to some people on twitter.  A couple of them were interested so we met up and had a great time.  I never would have made these new friends without Twitter.

They say you are not true friends until you are Facebook friends, but you also aren't going to make any new friends on Facebook.  Obviously, some people aren't looking to make new friends or meet strangers, heck I still find it slightly weird, but at this point in my life, finding new friends is something I need help doing.

In fact, that is really the main reason I love Twitter.  You can get whatever you want out of it, and you get what you put into it.  I like finding news, making friends, expanding my personal and professional networks, and being able to keep up on all the crazy random stuff as well.  It fits my needs perfectly, I want to be a better teacher, I want to meet new people, I love sports, I need an outlet and people to connect to.  You may need or want none of these things, and yet Twitter can help you with your interests and goals as well.  I can't tell you how to make it yours, but I have made it mine and I LOVE it!

This is the short, sorry it was kind of long still, version of why I love Twitter.  You don't have to give it a try, but at least now you can understand a little bit more why it works for me.  If you decide to give it a try, and want to follow me, my screen-name is @downrightdave

One Additional Reason:
P.S. Another thing I love is quick feedback.  5 minutes ago I posted: I'm blogging about why I love Twitter, what do you love most about it?  I have gotten over 10 responses, try getting that on Facebook.  I will list them below and add any later in the comments section.

(For those of you not used to Twitter, if you respond to someone, like me, you put @downrightdave then your message.  Only people following you and the person you are responding to will see your conversation.  So I could have a conversation with one of my friends and it wouldn't bother anyone but our friends, I still wouldn't encourage it though, it is one of my pet peeves to have friends that try to have a full length conversation on Twitter, use chat, text, phone, or "gasp" actually go talk to them in person.)

From @Sceryth: @downrightdave I can communicate quickly with others, and it's a great source for all sorts of news and inspiration.

@JDanielRollins: @downrightdave I love that I'm able to interact with people that I normally wouldn't, being a convert, I've enjoyed meeting a lot of Mormons.

@Mark_JHS: @downrightdave Follow favorite sports teams; #NJDevils #Rockies, #UtahJazz, news alerts, & sharing with fellow educators @Coachbulldog.

A Denver Post writer agreed with him and reposted or as we say retweeted (RT) Mark_JHS's message from their account @rockiestweeters.  How cool that we have a newspaper involved in this conversation!

@ladyozma: @downrightdave I get more "conversation" on twitter than on my blog :)

@grouchyteacher: @downrightdave twitter has saved my sanity since G was diagnosed w/ #diabetes.  He is the only kid in our school with it and finding other moms online has made it not so lonely.

@ladyozma then responded to her and said: I can see that, I wish I'd had twitter when Cameron was diagnosed w/cancer back in 01. Hospital stays crazy makes.

@kyfrancik: @downrightdave Connected me with many great thinkers about education - great PD tool - leading me in thinking about my guidance of students.

@redcherries22: @downrightdave networking and winning contests + getting feedback & questions answered.

@RyBen3: @downrightdave because you can learn so much from other people's opinions & fast news in 140 char.

@cspokey: @downrightdave twitter has probably saved my life.

So there you have it, why twitter?  Why not?  I have a lot more I could say, but this should do it for tonight.  If you have something you love, hate, or a question you have about Twitter, please add it in the comments section.

P.P.S. I will not be at all offended if you never join Twitter, it's not for everybody, and just like I said, you get what you want out of it, and if you don't want anything out of it, then that is perfectly fine.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vote Fictionist

A local band called Fictionist is currently in a competition to be on the cover of The Rolling Stone.  It is a big deal and really awesome to have a local band getting the recognition they have.  I have now seen them three times in concert and every time I like them a little bit more.  My friends made up some fliers to pass out at a recent concert on how to vote for them.  In the process of passing them out, we tried to hand them to some of the parents of the band members.  They told us they already voted everyday and thanked us for all we were doing to help.  

We were also able to meet the lead singer and bass player. They were so down to earth, humble and appreciative of their fans and all the votes they have been getting.  It was in getting to meet them that I really came to appreciate them and their music.  They are good people trying to live the dream, and doing a great job of it, I might add.  Even Donny Osmond is on the bandwagon trying to get people to vote for them.

So if you won't listen to me, listen to him.  Just go to this website, rate them 5 stars, and for your efforts you are also welcome to download 4 of their songs for free.  Help support local music!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Teacher Appreciation

Teacher appreciation comes at a great time of the year, we start testing next week and teachers are trying to squeeze everything in, or review what we have done the past 8 months, all in one week.  The weather is getting nice outside and we would all rather be there than inside.  Summer is fast approaching and some wish it could just get here already.  Classroom management begins to get harder than it has all year and trying to keep everyone motivated can be a bit of a struggle, especially once the tests are over, and two weeks of school remain. 

Amidst all of this craziness comes a little breath of fresh air, teacher appreciation.  I think my class was the most difficult it has been all year, but at least at the end of the day I can feel like my efforts, stress, and countless hours of work have meant something.  Here are a few sections from some of the notes I got:

You are the best teacher that I could ever have.  Your great at teaching, you make me happy all the time.

Your the best teacher ever!  How did you get so nice?  I'm doing way better on my grades.  This is a graph of my tests.  (Then she drew a great bar graph with labels and everything)

Thank you for everything you have done!  You are so nice, and helpful!  Your the kind of teacher any one would want to have!  I will always remember you as the best teacher ever!

Thank you so much for being there for us!  Your the best teacher ever!

Thank you for helping us and being there for us.  I hope your necked (next?) class will be nice to you and be awesome.  You rock! and you have done a lot for me.  I will miss you when I am in 5th grade.  I loved being in your class and I hope (my brother) will be in your class.  You rock at teachin and I rilly rilly rilly like you!!!!

Thank you for being the best teacher.  You taught us the great stuff

Thanx for Helping us learn! We appriciate the hard work for us! and we Have Hade a lot of FUN!!!

Thank you for being a great teacher.  Thank you for helping me when I need it.

You are a good teacher!  Now I have a poem for you.
O so cool
Really good
No bad in you.

These are 4 things I love best about you!
1: Your laugh
2: Your fun activitys
3: You letting us organize the room
4: And espesially your dancing!

There were more, mostly saying, You Rock!, and stuff like that.  I know they probably tell their teacher every year that they are their favorite, and they will say the same thing next year, but it still feels good.  Plus, you should always love your current teacher the best.  Hopefully tests will go well the next two weeks and I will have lived up to the goals I had for me and my class this year.  Every year I want to be the best teacher I can and continue to improve.  I am not the best teacher, but today they made me feel more that way.  (Looks like I need to do a lesson on your though for a few of them)