Saturday, February 23, 2008

Racing ahead, falling behind.2

Now that I have thought about my previous post for a few days I thought I would describe my journey of incorporating technology in the classroom.

I have been teaching for less that ten years and when I came into the classroom most schools already had computers in the classroom and they were networked together. But at that time the primary use of computers was word processing. Some were using e-mail but not for important communication that was hand written or printed out and sent via student to the teacher or placed in their mailbox. A few teachers were using "Learning" games on the computer.

Coming to teaching later in life and having used computers in my business I knew that they were capable of doing much more.
Keeping records was something that I always found tedious at best. And much to my early dismay I found that most teachers are very consistent record keepers. Computers also do tedious and consistent very well. We were using Macs at that time in the schools and Apple had a great simple program for creating databases. I used that to create a student behavior database and was beginning to create a grading database when our tech teacher said that the school owned a grading program Orbis GradePro. but no one used it but the software and instructions were in the box and I was welcome to give it a try.

Ooh I was in heaven. This program allowed me to keep track of students grades, attendance, seating chart and notes on the student. I was able to print out charts and graphs on my students after just a little set-up (ok that set-up consisted of typing in all 500 of my student names) But it was worth it because it gave the illusion that I was as organized as a veteran teacher.

The graphs and charts proved to the other teachers and administration at my school that I was some sort of computer savant. Because of this I was able to move into my room a really cool blue and white Power Macintosh G3 and the only scanner in the school. People came by to see that the computers in the classroom could be used for something other that showing screen savers of kittens or grandkids.

To be continued.......

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Racing ahead, falling behind.

I have been grappling with incorporating technology, web 2.0, and other "alternative" methods of teaching for the past few weeks. I have a Twitter group of educators and technology pioneers that I follow regularly. From this I read how others are using various technologies in their classrooms. Of course being very curious I follow links provided and discover new web 2.0 sites.
I also use an RSS feed to aggregate blogs that I read. This allows me to quickly scan what other bloggers are thinking. I also blog myself but not as regularly as some.
A web 2.0 that I have been using in the classroom is PBWiki. A wiki is an easily edited read write web page. I have been using this in my classroom having my student create web pages about their art work. The kids are very interested in publishing to the web but I do not have the time in my class to devote to an in depth study of wikis by the students.
Another wiki that I use regularly with web 2.0 is Wikipedia. Some view the information on Wikipedia as suspect because anyone can create or edit
entries. But because of the rapidly developing aspect of web 2.0 wikipedia is often the only source of information. (That is why many of the references in this blog use Wikipedia) Often current events are updated on Wikipedia as they happen. I am writing this on the evening of February 19th 2008 and early this morning Castro announced that he was steping down as the leader of Cuba. Just a short time later that day contributors had begun changing the entry on Castro to include the fact that he had stepped down and his brother is taking power. I think that this feature of a wiki is very interesting.
I have also begun a lesson plan wiki to collect and share lessons with other art teachers. Blissart is also a PBWiki that I encourage other art teachers to add to, the password is #1art, go figure.
To be continued.....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

February 14th

The dark underbelly of February 14th.

Last Thursday started off like most work days, coffee and a 25 minute drive to work. When I got to school I knew something was different, the kids. The kids were more excited that usual for a Thursday; then I remembered it was Valentines Day. The day of sugar excess. When I met the buses I knew that this was going to be a day to remember. Kids were getting off the buses with bags, boxes and other containers of sweets. And they were grinning from ear to ear knowing that moms had put special treats in their lunch bags, some already eaten on the bus.

When the first group of the day came to my art class (something that on a normal day excites the kids) they were buzzing. I had them stay in line before entering my room and asked them who had Valentine candy for breakfast. About ten hands went up. Then I asked who had candy on the bus, more hands. From that brief survey I determined that about 80% of the class had already exceeded their daily consumption of sugar. Time 8:15am. This was going to be a long day.

The next two classes were about the same. Most lasted about ten minuets till I yelled for them to work in silence. Even then kids were falling out of their seats and spilling their paints more than usual.

Then I had a fifth grade class come in. I could tell something was up because the teacher informed me that she had already told them that they had better behave. I reluctantly inquired as to why? She told me that before coming to art that the class had reenacted the Boston tea party and then eaten Valentine candy. Thanks a lot! Like that Star Trek TV show where Captain Kirk Starts moving so fast he disappears, some of the kids were getting a little faint around the edges. By the end of class 3 cups of paint water had been spilled and a few papers destroyed by overly vigorous erasing.

The day pretty much continued like that till dismissal, and then it really went downhill. Of course some of the buses were either late or missing so the kids had to sit and wait. Left to their own devises while waiting for their bus the kids found many ways to get on each others and my nerve. Those that were not fighting or crying were throwing up. I blew my whistle and had them stand. Then they had to put their arms out and make sure that no one was near enough to touch and then sit silently waiting for their bus to take them home.

I’m thinking of going to the school board and asking that sugar be declared a controlled substance that cannot be brought within 500 feet of a school.


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