I am in the process of working with a sixth grade teacher to get her students blogging. We've set up blogs on LearnerBlogs, with a few hiccups, and have even written a couple of entries. To me, the real power of blogs, beyond the reading and writing benefits, come in the conversations that are created. When students produce quality work and it's shared with others, there's potential for a lot of learning. I used LearnerBlogs because it was one of the few blog sites what is not blocked by our district. I understand the need for filtering at the elementary school level, and Cool Cat Teacher wrote a great blog about filtering, but there does come a time when we need to open things up for our students.

When teachers log in to district computers, they are not blocked from blog sites, unlike the students. I've experienced a lot of learning from the contacts I've made and the conversations I've been a part of due to blogging. I want my students to experience this as well. I came across a few other student blogs and wanted to share those with my students. I want them to see examples of great writing and great thinking. I want them to compare how they are writing to good writing. Unfortunately, they can't get to these blog sites - they're blocked.

Our district does have a form that can be filled out to unblock sites. It involves listing the site and then stating the educational purpose. I've completed the form and submitted it to the proper administrators. No luck! Even after several conversations, the sites are still blocked. The worry is that something bad will happen. This project is going to be more structured than much of what goes on in my computer lab when other teachers bring their kids in. Some teachers let their kids run wild on Google, but apparently, that's not a problem for the powers that be. Anyway, I feel I've already clearly defined the project, including the safety parameters in place, but still feel frustrated that the district won't open up the 2 student blog sites I want my students to visit.

I really don't know what they are afraid of. We are not opening the project up to the world. I've been in contact with the teachers involved with the other student blogs. Sure, we can't protect the students from everything, but shouldn't we at least give them the chance to learn? If there is anything inappropriate that comes up, isn't that a great learning opportunity for us to talk about?

The district really wants to clamp down on things and mentioned Moodle, even thought they know nothing about it. They suggested I look into that and see if that would serve the purpose, which I guess is to put our kids in a bubble. I don't know much about Moodle, but it appears that it's much more involved than what I need for this project and would be much more time consuming to set up than simply unblocking a couple of sites.

I'm looking for suggestions here. Do you have any ideas on how to proceed? I need help!

Well, today marks the last day of Spring Break. I'm heading back home after 9 days in Florida. I sure don't want to go back. Who would want to leave warm weather and no work for cold weather and work? Vacation is too nice.

I've realized a couple of things over break as far as technology and staying connected is concerned. The fun things I can't live without and the necessary things I can live without.

As far as the necessary things - I'm taking an online course through my local university. For the course, we have to read a bunch of stuff, write papers, and participate in online discussions. I had a paper due last week and submitted it before heading to Disney with the family. Since the Spring Break of the university was LAST week, and my Spring Break was this week, things got a little out of whack. It wasn't until today that I remembered I had work to do for my class because I was in vacation mode. Luckily, I am able to "borrow" a wireless network from my in-laws' neighbor and do my work on the patio next to the pool. It's the same place I am right now as I write. In the dark. Listening to the crickets. Very peaceful. Anyway, earlier this morning, I listened to an audio assignment and followed along on a PowerPoint my professor put together. It took was rather lengthy, but I did what I needed to do, for now. I have more to do when I get home, but at least I didn't forget completely about it.

Now, as far as the "optional" technology - I couldn't stay away. I was constantly checking my email on my iPhone daily. At the mall, at Disney, at a bar, all over the place. I don't usually get too much "important" email, but none the less, I was checking it. I was texting friends, hoping to strike up a conversation once in a while. I was checking my NCAA brackets and scores to see how things were going with the tournament games. I was checking Bloglines to see what's been written. I must say, however, that I haven't kept up as much as I should have, resulting in too much skimming, very little commenting, and some deleting just to not get too far behind. I've checked Twitter a little to see what people are doing, even though I've yet to get a good grasp on this new tool.

Can I live without technology and the ability to stay connected? A little. Do I want to? Absolutely not.

Spring Break began yesterday with a plane trip to Florida to enjoy some golf, take a short trip to Disney with the kids, and simply relax and get away from school for a while. I'm sure many educators look forward to the break to unwind, recharge, and simply remove themselves from the daily grind of school. For the first time in a while, I can't seem to get away. Thanks to the wonderful world of technology, I CAN"T get away. I'm finding myself checking Twitter messages several times a day. I'm reading blogs way too much - I know they'll still be there when I get back. I'm writing. I'm finishing up a grad paper that I have to turn in today. It's only the second day and I'm hoping this won't continue the rest of vacation.

Perhaps it can be looked at as a positive. Over the past several weeks, my professional learning environment has grown. I'm learning a few things- like how Twitter can be addictive. I've discovered a few new blogs. While I'm always interested in learning new things and sharing what I know with others, I'm wondering how much I should let it control my daily activity. Much of this is exciting and good, but only in moderation.

I'm wondering if anyone else is experiencing this. Have you been able to get away? Do you even want to? Is your Spring Break really a break? I'd like to hear thoughts and suggestions!

Twitter Time Has Begun

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | | 2 comments »

Okay, so I've jumped in to Twitter and have a few thoughts.

1. Thanks to those of you who have given me tips.
2. Ryan, thanks for my only direct message so far.
3. Jamie, thanks for the welcome!
4. I'm amazed that people have over 1,000 followers. Wow, that's amazing.
5. I'm amazed that some people follow hundreds other people. Why? Is that too much?
6. I did set Twitter up to send the tweets to my iPhone - it was kind of cool, but so many of the tweets were directed @someone I thought it was kind of a waste- but maybe some aren't.
7. I'm wondering who sees my tweets.
8. Do only my "followers" see my tweets?
9. How do others find me - word of mouth? Does "word of mouth" even make sense in today's world? Should it be word of fingers or word of keyboard?
10. I'm having a hard time following conversations - should I be worried about this at my beginning stage or will I figure it out?
11. I like the connections I'm making, I'm just not sure if I'll learn as much compared to blogging and reading the blogs of others.

I'm sure I'll have more as I use it, but for now, those are some initial thoughts.

One of my jobs as the library media specialist at my school is to work with all students using technology. I see each grade for an hour a week, part of the time for typical library stuff - book checkout, story time, etc. and the rest of the time in the computer lab working on technology skills. In addition, I try to work with teachers on integrating technology into the curriculum. When possible, I try to share new technologies with teachers in hopes that they jump in. In some cases, teachers simply dip their toes into the pool. Some other teachers are in knee deep. I'm not sure anyone is in it up to their waste yet, but we're making progress.

I couple of weeks ago, I sent out an email to our primary teachers about an exciting online project for St. Patrick's Day. I was hoping this project would be one way teachers could participate in a fun, worldwide project. I offered any assistance teachers would need, hoping that we would work together on this project, put together by Technospud. After several days, I didn't receive any responses, which disappointed me. Oh well, I thought, I at least tried.

To my pleasant surprise, I ran into one of the teachers this morning carrying a box of Lucky Charms. She said, "Hey, remember that email you sent about that project? Well, we're doing it!" I had two reactions to this: 1-YEH!!! and 2-Why am I not involved in this project with the teacher? After reflecting on this for a little bit, I realized that one of my personal goals is to get my teachers to a point where they don't need me to help them with projects. I want them to feel comfortable integrating technology into the classrooom. I want them to jump into these kinds of projects on their own. After thinking about how I feel a little more, I'm excited. I can't wait to see how the project turns out. I am really excited about this teacher participating in this project, it's too bad she's retiring this year and won't be able to do it again next year.

I'm jumping in to Twitter

Thursday, March 13, 2008 | | 4 comments »

Okay, I'm not sure how this is all going to play out, but if I have any intentions of figuring out a way to use this with students, I better learn it myself first.

I'm jumping on the Twitter bandwagon - user name "imcguy" If you tweet, please follow me. I have no idea where I might lead you, but if we're are lucky, it will be to a place where we can all learn something new. I currently have 6 people I'm following, Steve Denbo, Darren Draper, Bud the Teacher, Jen Wagner, David Jakes, and David Warlick. These are people who write great blogs (if you're not reading their blogs, you're missing out) and I noticed they discuss their use of Twitter quite a bit.

Through blogs I've read, people seem to learn quite a bit via Twitter. However, there's also been some discussion about the impact Twitter has on blogging.

I wonder how many people are using Twitter with their computers vs. cell phones. Talk about being connected! As a teacher, I'm not sure having messages sent to my iPhone is the way to go because I'm busy with students all day, but if I was at a conference or something like that, I can see a value. If you are using Twitter, are you receiving your messages on a mobile phone? I'm not going to go that route, at least not until I get a better hang of Twitter and if I'm find it valuable.

Until then, let me know if you're using Twitter so I can follow you - and please follow me. At this point, I'm the only person on my train and it's going to get a little boring unless my network grows. I'm in this to learn - please help me!

Over the past several weeks, we have been working on our school district technology plan, which is required by our state. Every district must put together a technology plan, which covers three years. We looked at the previous plan we had in place and took a look at the goals of the plan to see the progress we were making. We then worked on the next steps by writing new goals and coming up with action plans on how they were going to be met. I'm pretty sure having the plan is somehow related to some type of funding we get from the state, but I can't say for sure. Anyway, the group I was working with dealt with the topic of Educator Proficiency. We had to write, as part of the plan, how we were going to improve educator proficiency when it comes to technology and computer use.

What is educator proficiency as it relates to technology? We had a hard time defining this. Did it deal with simple management tasks like answering email and completing attendance and report cards online? Or, is there another component of this dealing with integrating technology into the curriculum effectively. If this is true, how do you measure educator proficiency? Is there a set of skills that you can simply check off? Do the skills needed for a first or second grade teacher vary from those of high school teachers? I think the answer to many of these questions is yes. If I judge this proficiency of the teachers I work with based simple management tasks related to technology, they are all proficient for the most part. If I start looking deeper at their technology use as it relates to instruction, many are not even close. These are many teachers who rarely integrate technology into their lessons. I'm not going to get into the "why not" part, but in some cases their reasons are understandable.

I do wonder about the educator proficiency levels of other teachers. What about the teachers at your school? Would you say they are proficient? Are you? What is proficient? I'd be interested in the tasks you feel teachers need to be able to do to be proficient. Comments welcome on this one.

It's a sad day in Wisconsin

Tuesday, March 04, 2008 | 0 comments »

No more Brett.

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