Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BYOD of One (so far)

My school is considering a BYOD program. One parent requested taking part early because her student has trouble keeping up with assignments. (What middle school student doesn't have that problem?) So we have a test group of one individual, but so far it has some promising results and some challenges. The first week of the BYOD experiment the student had to be redirected to use the device for instructional purposes. I haven't heard of a problem since then. The student wanted to be able to print some documents to turn in. So we downloaded an app for our printer, but it still wouldn't connect. Our IT technician determined that the app wasn't designed for an enterprise environment where there were 12 of the same printers on the network. So we abandoned the search for a printing solution and decided to go paperless. So far teachers are reporting that the student emails his assignments and it is working fine.

I hope this is the start of big things for us.

  1. More BYOD - I presented the next steps of the BYOD program to our PTSO Board last night and they were enthusiastic. I will present to our faculty next week. We are waiting for a filtered, open wireless network to start a larger pilot.
  2. Less Paper - We use a ridiculous amount of paper. Perhaps if a few teachers experience carrying assignments home on their laptop, phone or tablet we can have more paperless assignments for all students!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Teens & Video

I have a budding videographer in my family.  She has tripods, cameras, sets, lighting, and props.  She has her own YouTube channel.  She is a middle schooler.  So I was very interested in this article about Instagram and Vine from Common Sense Media.  Instagram is a photo and video sharing app.  Vine is a video only app.  In keeping with the techno trend for ever more compact content, Instagram videos are up to15 seconds long and Vine videos are up to 6 seconds.

Some of us over 30 don't quite understand all the issues with many of these new social networking sites.I didn't realize you could share video with Instagram.  Nor did I know that Vine is owned by Twitter - makes sense - 6 seconds is so Twitterish.  I hear the middle schoolers around me talking a lot about Instagram.  I know one twelve year old who has an Instagram account, but her mom won't let her have a Facebook account yet. 

That brings up the issue of appropriateness.  Technically, twelve year olds aren't allowed to have Instagram or Vine accounts according to their user agreements.  However, we all know that doesn't stop tweens and younger kids from joining. 

Just like YouTube, there are videos on Instagram and Vine that will make you blush. There is content you wouldn't really want your young teen watching.  I recommend having an open conversation with your child.  If they are under 13, consider telling them 'no' for now.  Take it from a middle school teacher, there is a difference between 12 year olds and 13 year olds. Regardless of your decision, talk to them about privacy.  You wouldn't invite the world into your home, so don't invite them to see your personal footage. Talk to them about cyberbullying. They should tell an adult if it happens and block the offending 'friend'.  Stay involved and ask to see what they are sending and watching.

Today's teens relate to each other largely through electronic media so as today's parents we have to actively participate and guide them.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Grammar Snobs TXT 2

I am a stickler about grammar, but I love to text. I use abbreviations and incomplete sentences when I text, but not when I write more formally.  I think there is a place for both.  Last week model Kate Moss said she doesn't like to text.  She is a stickler for grammar, so she says texting takes too long because she attends to the grammatical details of her messages.  I think she is forgetting about another important writing rule - remember your purpose and audience.  Your audience when texting is normally a close friend or family member.  My children know that I can spell the word "too", but I can type it faster in a text as "2".  My purpose in a text is to convey my meaning clearly in a brief message.  So cutting corners on spelling and grammar is acceptable.  However, I would never use that informal, abbreviated style in a work email.  The audience and purpose are totally different. Last night on the John Tesh radio show he mentioned the importance of grammar in the work place and blamed texting for the declining grammar skills of our nation.  I do think we should all be precise in our formal writing.  I do consider myself a grammar snob and enjoy reading Grammar Girl's posts, but I don't think that means I can't text my friends using a different set of rules.  KNIM?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

School for Creative Studies - Tech Perspective

The School for Creative Studies just opened in Durham.  Its a magnet school and is decked out with technology from what I have heard.  Each student has a Mac book of their own.  I was talking with a student recently and she was very excited about the technology.  I was intrigued by the things she mentioned.

Teacher Web Pages
She is thrilled that her teachers all have Web pages.  I never thought students would really be interested in this.  I thought of teacher Web pages in middle school as advertising to parents.  The student I talked to said it will make keeping up with her homework easier.  Some of her teachers post notes on their page too so if she missed something in class she can go back to it. 

Laptops Stay @ School
She was disappointed that students don't get to take their laptops home. Of course we would all like to bring cool toys home I thought.  This student has plenty of access to a computer and the Internet at home, so I didn't think it really was a big inconvenience to her.  She mentioned that on the 6th day of school she is already growing accustomed to using her school email for her work.  While she could access her school email from her home computer, I think her underlying concern was not having access to the school computing environment at home.  I see how this can be an issue.  Cloud storage can help with some of the most common problems of file access, but there is no substitute for having your "own computer" in your hands when you are working.  She also mentioned the students who don't have computers at home.  I think this is a big issue, but in the current budget and legislative environment in North Carolina, I don't think we will be able to address the Digital Divide at home. 

I am excited to see how this experiment at School for Creative Studies proceeds and it renews my hope for getting 1:1 computing for the students at Lucas.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Two clicks from impatience

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier and streamline processes. I just got a new dryer and that definitely streamlined the laundry process!  I sold a text book on Amazon this week and got a nice chunk of change back. I never would have been able to connect with a buyer in Tennessee without the Internet and Amazon and Paypal and the USPS Web site. I was pretty impressed with how quickly the whole process went. I posted my book on Saturday morning and it sold by noon.  The book is now in her hands 3 days later or at least in her mailbox according to the tracking info. 

However, there are times when a little glitch in the system makes the whole process VERY difficult. With my new enthusiasm for online merchandising, my daughter got in in the act and bid on a toy through eBay. She won and was anxious to complete the transaction. However I saw that it had an old credit card - before last year's fraud, but that is a story for another day. I wanted to change it to a different card. So I had to end the transaction and login to my Paypal account, add the card, verify the completed transaction which required logging into my credit card company's Web site and then delete the old card. By the time I did all that my lunch was cold and my daughter had lost interest. I know  it was still faster than driving to the store and back but . . .  And now the Pinterest app won't let me login because I have some setting wrong between Pinterest and Facebook but I have no idea where the setting is. Sheesh! I might have to walk upstairs and use my computer instead of my phone. How inconvenient!  What has technology done to my expectations?  And what does it mean for our kids who are growing up this way?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

JIT Videos - Thanks DiscoveryEd


I was listening to my daughter explain what they learned in science this week, when we came upon a challenging term in her notebook, mid-ocean ridge.  I asked what it was and she couldn't tell me so I pulled my smartphone out of my pocket.  She wanted to go to Google, but I insisted upon another approach.  I figured Google would send us to Wikipedia and while the answer would be correct, it wouldn't be very accessible to a 6th grader.

I logged into DiscoveryEd (thanks Durham Public Schools!) and typed the word into their search.  And sure enough several videos came up.  This one, http://app.discoveryeducation.com/player/view/assetGuid/3EB61358-BE93-4E30-99C6-F106C2CC4D8B, was the best.  It had two experts explaining the term and showed an animated globe with a mid-ocean ridge.  It was under 5 minutes long.

I learned in my videography class this week that short segments are helpful because students don't lose focus.  Score!  So after Hannah and I watched the video, I emailed the link to her science teacher so the whole class can watch on the data projector!  I was delighted!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blogging with the Beavers

My Little River colleagues are blogging with me. I learned how to post with the Blogger app on my phone.