Friday, August 27, 2010

Student Learning Manifesto

My goal for my students this year is to require them to be more reflective with their learning experiences. I have spent the first week of school having my students create a Student Learning Manifesto. Here is a link to the post for the students. 

Here is Kiley explaining her manifesto. 

I am having my students share their work this year on You can check out our here. The best manifesto (so far) was written by Yolanda. I was very impressed by her critical, reflective thinking and plan on using this as a student example for the other students.

I have decided to be much more transparent with my reflections this year as well. I will be posting (hopefully) weekly reflections of my teaching and learning. Maybe you would like to join me?

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Had Cancer

I had a rough week last week. Tuesday my wife and I took our two youngest children to get their back to school shots. My wife had also made an appointment for me because she was worried about a mole on my shoulder that had gotten significantly bigger in the last year. Wednesday I had surgery to remove a very large piece of skin and the mole.

Both the nurse practitioner on Tuesday and the dermatologist on Thursday were convinced I had melanoma. Honestly, the dermatologist really scared me. She was visibly shaken when she saw the mole. I am pretty sure that when the doctor is worried enough that the patient shot full of Novocaine notices the prognosis is pretty bad. She told us we would find out on Monday what the pathologist found. She explained that I was likely looking at biopsies and all sorts of other unpleasant things.

Saturday I received a call from the dermatologist. She quickly explained that she had gone into work and checked the fax machine. She saw the report from the pathologist and wanted to let me know that although the mole did have melanoma, it was in situ  which means that it was contained in the skin removed and I would not have to have biopsies or other horrible procedures. Before she hung up she told me I needed to go home and celebrate with my family.

There is no way for me to explain how the shock that I felt after meeting with the dermatologist affected me. I virtually shut down any thinking about the upcoming school year. I went in to school on Thursday and Friday, but spent less than an hour both days because I couldn't focus on any work. The only thing I could do to get cancer off my mind was by diverting myself by watching movies at home. I am still not back, I have no idea what I will be doing my first two days of school. School starts in three days.

I had the support of caring medical professionals, my wife, and my family, but I still couldn't function. Today I was thinking about my students and all the major, life altering situations they face: divorce, death of loved ones, neglect, and abuse. Most of them don't have the support system in place that I was fortunate to have. What hubris we show when we expect them to continue to work.

It is time for us to reflect on our tough times and how they affected us. We need to make sure we show compassion for students going through stressful situations. We need to be part of their support system.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One Teacher, One Smartphone: How I Plan to Use My Smartphone in School

Always one to leverage technology as best I can I decided that getting a smartphone would be a great way to add some new tools in my teacher's tool kit. I have had a Droid X for a couple of weeks and have been experimenting with it. Of course, the idea is to find ways to make the my life a little easier.

Those of you that visit my class blog Mr. C's Class Blog know that I like to add a lot of pictures and video from things going on in my classroom. Being able to add pictures to a post is very important because it allows me to share student work, recognize students, and make posts more interesting. Because the Droid X runs on the Android operating system which is made by Google I can easily take pictures using the native camera app and share the photos directly to Picasa where Blogger stores the pictures used on blog posts. It really makes adding pictures a breeze. Here are a couple of examples I took in my classroom.

Video is also a very important tool I use in the classroom. I record student presentations, science experiments, some assemblies and (my favorite use of video) student reflections. I use Ustream to stream video from my classroom to my blog all day and I really like the service.  I downloaded the Ustream Android application and I am really pleased with the result. As the video streams live it is also being recorded on the Ustream site and when the streaming is finished it allows me to save the recording or discard it. The app streams video using 3G (don't know if it will stream over wifi) which is great because I don't have to worry about the network when I make the video. As you can see from the short video, it seems to work best if the camera is stationary. Since I plan on these videos to be mainly student interaction I see no problem with it.

Of course the camera will take video which is stored in memory on the camera and that video can be shared through wifi to places like Youtube, but this adds a little more complexity (plus the video upload is pretty slow).

File Sharing
If you like to keep certain files handy with you and you use Dropbox on your computers then you will be happy to know there is a Dropbox Android application that is great for sharing files. You can have your students get Dropbox accounts and set up a class shared folder that will not only allow them to drag and drop any work they have for easy access from your desktop, but also from the smartphone. And you can add things from your phone into the folder as well.

I will be using this with other teachers in the building to share files really quickly. It is much easier to use than setting up a shared folder on our network and the files will be accessible at home (or on my phone!)

Note Taking
If you need to take notes or even share notes with students Evernote is a great addition. You can use it as a pretty good file sharing program like Dropbox, but you can also take notes on the program. Again, this will be a great fit for sharing notes with other teachers in the building. Please note, unless you pay for the premium service the shared notes will not be editable by the people you share the notes with.

Have an iPhone?
Good news, the iPhone has these apps available for you to use too.
Pixelpipe HD this application allows uploading to Picasa as well as a number of other picture sites. 

Please Share
Are you using your smartphone in the classroom? Do you have any suggestions or applications that I can add to my digital tool kit? Please share them in the comments.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Twitter, School and Schrodinger's Cat

I use Twitter as an aid to learn about teaching methods, get teaching ideas, or to help others looking for the same. It seems that lately there have been many conversations describing how classrooms (a little) and schools (much more often) have to change for the benefit of the students. I have not been as engaged in these discussions, instead I have usually chosen to just follow them.

Now that school is starting I am beginning to view these conversations as a Twitter version of  Schrodinger's cat. The (very basic) idea is that you put a cat in a box with a device that may or may not kill the cat. While the box is shut the cat is neither dead or alive, it simply has the potential to be one or the other. 

When we open up the box what will we see? Will we see more Van Meter/SLA type schools or will we see a dead cat? When school starts we will realize the outcome of this summer's experiment. I hope the cat is still alive.