Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A little bit goes a long way, or, Don't give up hope

It's interesting how our perspective can change, when we look at something through a new lens. The other day I completed a survey of technology use in independent school (done by NAIS) and when it was over I thought, gosh, we're farther along than I'd thought we were! Part of me felt a bit insecure: did I misrepresent our level of technology proficiency? Certainly we're not ahead of the pack. And I think the answer is that while not all people are equally adept at using technology in the classroom, we've definitely made some long strides in the past few years.

Here's a summary. All classroom now have SmartBoards and projectors. All teachers have laptops which interface with these. Sometimes the results are surprising. Everyone knows that a laptop is convenient, but it's more than that. A laptop can really change your approach to work. In my case, rather than sequester myself in my office to use the computer I can stay out at the front counter, in the thick of thins. I can get things done at home that I would never had on my desktop there, which doesn't have all the school stuff on it. I can carry my laptop to a meeting or a presentation or even on vacation/. And because it's so loaded with software and space, I can use lots of cool tools, like Flickr and YouTube as well as MS Office.

There was some anxiety among the teachers when all these tools were introduced just a year after they'd been required to learn BlackBoard. But most of them passed over the learning curve and found they could make classes so much more participatory with the new tools. And students began creating Powerpoint reports because the classrooms had to capacity to share them. Video content from United Streaming also enhanced lessons. So we're not using technology just to say we're using it but actually to enhance and increase learning.

In the area of the new web 2.0 tools, we're just beginning, but these things catch on and spread through example and word of mouth. We've had a couple of inservice sessions were faculty could learn to produce movies, and use blogs and wikis. And just this morning I had an email from the fellow who while not a classroom teacher is assistant athletic director and is in charge of our weight training program. He was asking me, because he knew I used blogs, if a blog might be a good place for him to share information with the students. I told him the difference between blogs and wikis and suggested that a wiki was really what he wanted, it being a super easy way of creating a simple webpage, with text, pictures, and videos. I directed him to wikispaces and told him to take a look and that I'd be glad to help.

So, in both big pushes, like the sudden introduction of a large amount of new technology, and in smaller ways, by example and the "each one teach one" approach, we are definitely making progress. I think the next step is to create a mini-course for the second semester fashioned along the lines of Helene Bowers' 23 Things, for our faculty to learn on their own time. because time for in-service is limited in a boarding school, and because these are things that people can teach themselves as long as they have others to turn to.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Video embedding, oh yeah!

I'm so excited -- I just embedded a video in my Battle of the Books wiki! Yahoo! Now I'm going to see if I can embed a video in a blog. As I told a teacher here, we'll never catch up with the kids, but at least we've crossed the bridge * into this century!

Speaking of which, we had a flat screen monitor go out ,and the tech guy put in an old, bulky tan one for the time being. It's the first thing the kids notice when they come in. They think it's amazing! I told them we're starting a tech museum. They never saw the computers of the sixties, the ones that filled up whole rooms and required key punch cards. Now that was technology.
*Tappan Zee Bridge, heading west, July 2007

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

We Put a Toe Into the 21st Century

So I'm sitting here in the computer lab listening to a presentation on blogs, wikis, and whatnot. Since out Tech. Director is leading it, maybe the practice will catch on here. Teachers are so busy, near-overwhelmed, with class preparation, grading, coaching, being house parents, and learning to use SmartBoards, NetClassroom and Blackboard that it's hard to expect them to consider, let alone embrace, yet more new apps. But I hope the infusion of these tools into our school will be viral.

I'm feeling conflicted, too, about this workshop, since i could have presented it but wasn't asked. I have to let go of ego and focus on sharing, on everybody's learning things that will enhance their lives and teaching. Maybe now that this is being presented people will begin to catch on. I'll email faculty again with a link to my school blog. I've told the director that I can teach these sessions and would like to. we'll see.

What I really want to do is to copy Helene Bowers' wonderful 23 Things and design a self-teaching course for our faculty. I think, now that we've had this technology morning, teachers could easily keep up with a self-directed course.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Giving Up on Web Page Design

I've seen the light, at last. After months of struggling to make a library webpage with a weak tool and little knowledge, not to mention NO desire to learn HTML, I've taking good advice from SLJ and have decided to use a wiki for my page. Yes, yes, I know wikis are meant more for collaborative projects, and I intend to keep control of this one, but last spring's SLJ article on wikis convinced me that wiki is the way to go. So I've chosen wikispaces, because it's easy and it's nice looking, AND it gives free accounts to educators.

I'm uncertain about the final success of this, since I don't know, for instance, how much data I can fit in, but I'm feeling liberated and happy. Now, if I could just get my camera out of the repair shop so I can resume taking pictures. All technologies are like this: once you learn to use them, then you feel handicapped if you lose them. I feel as though a hand's been cut off with the loss of use of my camera.
P.S. Don't look for significance in the picture, as related to this post. there isn't any: it's just a nice picture I took downtown.

Small but important tech tip: don't carry your camera loose in your purse: put it in a protective case.