One Last Push

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 | , , | 3 comments »

HELP!!!

The State Project is off to a pretty good start. We had a huge initial surge of interest from people across the country. However, we are still in need of participants from about 20 states. We need to wrap up the project in the next couple of weeks. Please pass this on to anyone you think might be interested.

Check out the wiki for the project and see if the state you teach in still vacant. The wiki is private, but if you ask to join, I'll give you permission and you can join us. Otherwise, leave a comment hear with all of your contact info, including Skype name if you have one.

NECC, Here I Come

Sunday, April 27, 2008 | | 6 comments »

Last week, I found out that I'm going to San Antonio to NECC '08. This was probably going to be the highlight of my summer, but my wife and I just booked an August trip to New York for a weekend to catch a show and a Yankee game before they tear down the house that Ruth built. I guess NECC now has competition for best summer trip. Anyway, as far as NECC is concerned, my flight is booked, accommodations set (at my cousin's house), all I need is a rental car - and tips from you.

Since this will be my first time attending, I'm looking for all the tips and advice I can get. If you've been to this conference before, what should I make sure I do? I'm not planning on attending any workshops, but are there any other "unofficial" things that need attention? I've heard of unconferences that will take place. How do I find out about those? I'll be adding my info the NECC wiki in the next day or two.

I read a recent blog about blog commenting and what kinds of posts get comments. There were several mentioned, but I'm hoping this entry gets plenty of action. The more advice the merrier. I certainly hoping to meet some of my fellow bloggers and twits (I think that's the correct term) during the conference. I met a few at WEMTA and it was very nice to be able to put a real person to the thoughts and ideas being shared.

If you've attended in the past, let me know your NECC experiences. If you're going for the first time like me, let me know that as well, perhaps we'll both experience something great.

Do You Have the Right Job?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | 3 comments »

I've been thinking a lot lately about my current job. I'm a K-6 library media specialist at an urban (sort of) school in metro Milwaukee. I spend about half of my job with technology (which I love) and the other half with the library part of the job (which I like, but don't love). Our school has about 75% of our kids on free and reduced lunch. I do not have a problem with that at all - we have a bunch of great kids, but the technology in their homes is lacking which causes some problems when their only access to a computer is at school. In the past, I have written about my job and the fact that I like the people I work with. The physical space of my library is one of the best in the district.





I have great support from my building principal and our district has put a premium on our department. The district has put an emphasis on keeping a full time certified media specialist in all but our two smallest elementary schools. Our department has been involved in technology staff development, which for me, has been a lot of fun. We also work on fixed schedule which is sometimes good, but I'd take a flexible schedule in a heartbeat. While I miss the classroom after teaching third grade for eight years, I do like working with all of the students, even though seeing some for six or seven years is going to be six or seven years too long!

I've jumped into Twitter over the last month or so and have realized that there is a job out there that I'd really like to have - Technology Integration Specialist. A lot of people around the country have this job and it seems that it is their job to help teachers and students integrate technology into learning. This is what I'm doing as part of my job, but I'd like to be doing it all the time. I would be more than happy giving up the library part of my job. I like putting books in the hands of kids and I think I'm doing okay with the library part, but it's not my specialty. I want to be working and teaching with technology all the time! There is so much I'd like to do with teachers and technology, but for a variety of reasons, it's difficult where I am. The only problem is that the position of Technology Integration Specialist does not exist in my district.

I also wonder if I want to continue working with elementary students. It's the only world I've lived in, but sometimes I get tired of helping little ones log in because they don't know their alphabet. Watching third graders hunt and peck for letter because they don't know the keyboard is frustrating. Would these problems exist if I was working with older students? Of course not, but there would probably be other problems - like kids knowing more than me (but that might be great).

I've looked at local job openings around the area, but there aren't any T.I.S. positions. There are other elementary librarian jobs available, in better off communities where students most likely have experience with technology which would lead to me possibly doing cooler projects, but who knows? Does it pay to leave where I am if it's not the "dream job" I'm looking for? There's no way any other district would have better benefits than my current district. I've thought of going back to school to get my Director of Technology certification, but fear that a position like that would remove me from working with kids and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like that.

I signed my contract to come back next year.
Who knows what I'll do down the road.
I'm not 100% happy with my current position.
I like it, but don't love it.

Thanks for giving me some of your time.

If you're new to this blog, you are probably unfamiliar with this post. If you are familiar with the videos a couple of my third graders did, here's the third one.



One of Those Days

Thursday, April 17, 2008 | , | 1 comments »

Did you ever have one of those days when you felt tired or exhausted before the students even showed up? Today was one of those days for me. For some reason, I was somewhat irritable from the start. Talkative children didn't help the situation, especially the ones who like to have directions repeated several times before they even consider following them. When I'm tired, I take it out on some of the kids. I know, it's wrong, but in some ways, if they would have just listened in the first place, the small problem would have stayed a small problem. So I guess I'm blaming them.

Another thing that didn't go so well was a particular project I'm working on with second and third graders. It's called the Monster Project. For this project, which I heard about through Twitter (I think), students are to draw a monster. We're using KidPix, as are some of the other classes. After that, students are to write descriptive sentences about their monsters. Then, you swap writing with another class and each student tries to draw a monster based on the other student's writing. After the monsters are drawn, you compare pictures. If the student does a good job describing the monster, the pictures should be pretty close. This sounded like a cool project that was relatively simple. My second and third graders love to play with KidPix so I thought, what the heck, let's give it a whirl. I threw out an email to the second and third grade teachers to see if there was any interest and there was - great!

While we are still in the early stages of the project, drawing our monsters, I've come to the conclusion that I did a horrible job getting this project underway. Now, things can be fixed, but I made a couple of huge mistakes early on. Here's what I did:

1. Started the project with 3 of the 5 classes when I was gone. Yes, like an idiot, I left directions with a substitute. The kids did okay, projects were saved correctly but......

2. My directions/guidelines for drawing monsters sucked, leaving some pretty sucky monsters out there. Not anyone's fault but my own. One positive note about teaching is that if a lesson doesn't go well one day, you can always reteach it the next. Unfortunately for me, the next lesson doesn't occur until the next week. Today was the next week.

3. Assumed the KidPix skills of my students were actually decent. Hey, I've let them "play" with KidPix quite a bit. I severely overestimated their skills.

Today marked the day when we started to correct many of my early mistakes with this project. After redescribing (is that a word?) the project to the students and explaining better the directions for drawing the monsters, the kids started producing some pretty neat work. We are about 70% done with the monsters. Once they are done, I have to load all of those onto the wikispace for this project. That's going to take some time, but hey, it's all for the kids. The teachers are going to work on the writing part in their classrooms, so I can't really screw that up too much. This is a simple, yet neat project that our students will be doing for the first time. Unfortunately, things started off on the wrong foot. I just hope it ends on the right one!

I've created my first wiki!

http://hmstateproject.wikispaces.com/

If you are interested in participating in my State Project, go to the wiki and fill in your information.

If you commented on the earlier post about the project, I think I have some of your information, but I may need more.

Thanks.

There is a saying that goes something like this - "It's not what you know, it's who you know." I can honestly say that over the last few days, I have experienced the Power of the Twitter Network at a level I never imagined.

On Friday, I wrote a blog entry about a state project I will soon be working on with fourth graders at my school. To help me with the project, I turned to my PLN. My Personal Learning Network consists of several components - blogging, Classroom 2.0, Library 2.0, and Twitter. I didn't think my network was that strong until I asked for help.

After writing the post, I posted a tweet trying to spread the word about the project. I didn't know it at the time, but things were about to really take off. A couple of people I follow, and who follow me, decided to jump in and spread the word to their networks as well. Jen Wagner sent me a tweet "@imcguy -- Just blasted your project idea to my 3 mailing lists. :) Be prepared to fill your quota quickly!! :)" Sue Waters wrote "@imcguy I've got a considerably larger twitter network so have forwarded the twitter on for you..." WOW!

About 5 hours later, I had over 30 comments on the blog post. At about this time, I think I had about a dozen states all set up. I decided to retweet the message because if many people on Twitter are like me, they are not on all the time. After sending the message again, I continued to get more responses. At last check, there are over 40 comments on the blog. I have a few replies on the post at Classroom 2.0 as well.

I can only take a little of the credit for this. The reason this has taken off (I think I have about half of the states covered) is because of the our network, more specifically the Twitter network. I'm sure there are a lot of educators out there who don't understand Web 2.0, much less Twitter. They don't realize the impact it can have on them professionally and how it can impact their students. I'm not one of those people anymore. I enjoy Twitter, but after this experience, I'm sold. I will never underestimate the power of my PLN. This just goes to show that there are a bunch of great minds who are willing to help teachers and students learn. Thank you!

I can't forget that we are only half way there. I still need your help gathering interested educators in more than 20 states. I may try my hand at setting up a Wiki with the contact info of the people involved. I have my own chart, but there are many blank spaces. Perhaps setting up the Wiki will allow interested people to fill in their information.

In the next few weeks, the fun will really begin when we start contacting these schools for interviews. I know the students are going to have a blast learning about other states using technology in ways they have never used it before.

Grand Project Idea Update

Friday, April 11, 2008 | 0 comments »

Okay, here's the update after about 12 hours of airtime.

I think I've got about 23 states set up.

If you're going to comment and join us for this project, please make sure you provide me with a plenty of contact info. You can also head to my profile and send me an email that way.

In a few days, I'm going to post about the life this project has taken on, I'm completely amazed! Today was one of the most exciting days I've had teaching. I owe it all to the people I've made connections with over the past several months and the connections they've made. It's awesome!

A week ago, I purchased a webcam for our school, housed with me in the library, since I'm most likely the only one who knows how to use and will use it. After testing it out via Skype with Teryl_Magee and her students in Knoxville, Tennessee, I started thinking big.

In about 3 weeks, our fourth graders will begin a unit on the United States. For their big project, they will pick a state and research it. Last year, the 2 fourth grade teachers and I collaborated on this project. This year, I'd like to take it a step further and I need as much help as I can get. As one form of research, I'd like our students to interview a student or teacher from each state. In other words, the student who is researching New Mexico would actually "talk" to someone who lives there to get a prospective they couldn't get in a book. I would love this interview to be done through video conferencing. Our students have never done that before and I think it would be great. Now, I realize that finding people in all 50 states for a video chat will be difficult, but I would settle for at least an email interview. I have 3 or 4 states covered already, but am looking for contacts all over the place. I would even think that touching base with someone outside of a school system would be fine - perhaps a grandparent or business person, someone like that. While having the students interview another student would be great, interviewing an adult would work as well. I'm really hoping my Twitter network, which has over 100 followers representing at least 25 states can be a great resource for this. They should be able to help, right? Some of my fellow blog readers should be able to help, right?

I certainly cannot find all of these contacts myself. That's why I need your help - assist me spreading the word about this project. Are interested? Do you know someone who would be? If so, please leave me a comment with your info or send me an email. I think this could be really cool and more importantly, a great learning opportunity for everyone involved!

Here's my post on this project from Classroom 2.0 if you're a member.

Why I Blog

Wednesday, April 09, 2008 | | 9 comments »

Via a Tweet from TeachaKidd, I read this blog entry related to blogging and why educators blog. The original post is here. Participation is needed in an Open PD session this afternoon that I would love to take part in via UStream or Skype. I've used these technologies before and but may be unavailable at that time. If I can't make it, I'll be bummed. At least I can share my thoughts here and hope that someone finds them.

The discussion will center on the following questions:

1. Where you blog and how long you have been blogging for?

I wrote by first entry on January 16th, 2007. That year, I wrote 62 entries and have posted 18 so far this year. I pretty much write about teaching, educational technology, other ideas related to school libraries. Occassionally I write about something the students did, something my children did, or something that bothers me, but for the most part, it's all related to education.

2. Why you blog? How does it benefit you or your work?

I started blogging because I wanted to learn about blogging itself. I had thoughts about trying it with students and figured I better learn it first. I have "met" some amazing people through blogging and have learned quite a bit. I benefit from blogging because I can share my thoughts, concerns, and questions with other in hopes of getting feedback. In short, I think it makes me a better educator, and I'm not alone. In many cases, I get ideas on how to handle situations. In other cases, I am encouraged to think. I think blogging takes on two parts - the writing and the reading. To me, reading other blogs is where I learn the most. While it's great to produce something that can create a conversation and perhaps share an idea, reading what others have to say is important to me. I currently follow about 50 blogs through Google Reader. In addition, I am notified about other blogs and posts through Twitter. I have done more professional reading over the last year and a half (my time Blogging) than I did in the previous five years.

3. How blogging has helped your students and how long have you been blogging with students (if applicable)

We recently started student blogs with a sixth grade class, but have had some trouble getting it going. There are a number of reasons I won't get in to, but I hope it's more successful down the road.

4. Why you feel blogging is important.

To me, blogging is important because I have made connections with other educators and leaders around the world. My peronal learning network, the new buzzword flying around, has grown quite a bit. I'm able to bounce ideas off a wider audience that I ever have. I'm able to learn more from a wider audience. I'm able to share experiences I have with others and learn from them. In addition, blogging has kept me up to date with Web 2.0 tools and other new educational technology tools. Without blogging, this would not have happened so quickly. Educators need to keep up to date with current trends. Not only in reading and math instruction, but in technology as well. Blogging is keeping me connected and it's really helped. I fell much more up to date than I have in the past.

5. What are the 3 most important tips you would share with a new blogger?"

1. Realize that you cannot read everything.
2. Read blogs, read blogs, and read blogs.
3. Don't let it consume you.


There you go, thoughts and comments are certainly welcome! Remember, conversations lead to learning.

It's been a little over three weeks since I've joined Twitter. While I'm still learning, it has both hindered me in some ways and benefitted me in others. Below are some of my thoughts and questions about this new networking tool.

Twitter has:

1. Helped my personal network grow. I've "met" some great people through Twitter. Teryl_Magee and JLWagner have been especially welcoming. I can't wait to meet more! In fact, I'm meeting at least 3 people I follow F2F at a conference on April 7th.

2. Introduced me to more great new minds. I'm now reading The Power of Educational Technology and The Thinking Stick.

3. Helped me experience the Power of Twitter. The other night, Kate Olson sent out a Tweet helping me break the 50 follower barrier. Within about 10 minutes, 12 new people were following me. This was amazing.

4. Learned of other Twitter members who do the same thing as me - thanks to dmcordell for sharing some of her favorite Library Media Specialists who are on Twitter. I'm looking forward to learning from them.

5. Helped me make contact with a classroom in Tennessee so some of my students could video chat for the first time via Skype with Teryl_Magee's students. This was much easier to do thanks to Twitter.

6. Made me more aware of UStream. I watched my first broadcast hosted by Ryan Bretag. Ryan also sent me my first DM.

7. Decreased the amount of time I'm blogging. I'm finding myself checking Twitter too much, resulting in less time to blog and do other things.

8. Run up the total of text messages I got on my iPhone (yes, I went over my allotted amount). For a short time period one day, I set up Twitter to send the Tweets to my iPhone. Little did I know that I would have about 100 messages in less than a day. Needless to say, I had to turn off that feature. Good thing I can still get to Twitter via the web browser on my phone.

9. Made me wonder if there's any educational use for this for elementary students - probably not yet.

10. Allowed me to read great blog posts recommended by others. I really like the fact that someone can simply say - "Hey, read this" and then provide a quick link.

11. Helped spread the word about my blog. I don't have many subscribers to my blog, but I'm able to post a link to a new entry, like I will this one, and more people may visit. Perhaps conversations will lead to more learning.

12. Made my wife a little unhappy. She's always telling me - get off the computer, put the iPhone down! It's not as bad as it sounds, but sometimes I don't want to miss anything.

13. Made me wonder how long some people spend on Twitter. It seems that some people are on quite a bit. How do they manage this?

14. Made me realize that some people have over 1,000 followers and also follow hundreds of others. How in the world do they do it? Is there a number that is simply too many?

14. Increased my eagerness to learn more. Not only about Twitter and what others are doing, but more about Web 2.0 technologies.

By the way, if you're not already, follow me - you just might learn something.

There you go. I'm looking forward to continued learning. If you have other thoughts, experiences, questions, or comments about Twitter, I'd love to hear them. Perhaps you have some tips for me, I sure could use them.

Widgets Widgets Widgets

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 | | 1 comments »

How many widgets do you have on your blog? I have a couple, but think there are a lot out there that are cool, beneficial, and are liked by others. As I look around at the various blogs I read, I notice a lot of widgets serving different purposes. Some are a little more educational than others. Some are simply entertaining.

Here's my question - what's your favorite widget? Please leave a comment and a link to where the widget can be found. I'd like to see if we could put together a nice little list of recommended widgets!

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