Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crowdsourcing Collaboration Ideas

I am presenting on our classes' Scratch collaboration with Gary Bertoia's class in Vietnam at MACUL in March. I would like the presentation to focus on how to have a successful collaboration and not just on what we did. A resource that I thought would be useful to participants is a spreadsheet of ideas from other teachers. So if you have done some kind of collaboration with another classroom please share your project in this form. If you know someone else who has done something interesting please share this post with them also. Thanks for sharing!

Here is the link to see what everyone has shared

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wave videos

by Today is a Good Day
7th graders in my Tech. class are making videos. I am working with the science teachers in my building on this project. Each pair of students has picked a sub-topic under "Waves" which they are studying in science right now. They are making 2-4 minute videos to present back to their science classes.

The first task was for them to brainstorm by making powerpoint slides for each section of their videos. Although I showed some similar videos from mathtrain to give them ideas the students had a hard time understanding what I was asking them to do. I was throwing a lot of new stuff at them as I gave them multiple tools to use (my wikipage of resource for the students). We have Camtasia Studio 7 on all of the computers in my lab thanks to a great grant from TechSmith. So the students will put their end product together in Camtasia.But they have many options to make it with including screencasts of PowerPoint, my Pulse pen, online whiteboard, webcam, microphones, music, and even Stykz. I encouraged students to use multiple methods of presenting which they will combine in Camstasia. I will write more about some of these tools after students finish, but I will just mention the online whiteboard is a very nice tool that students can email to each other and both write on the same space at the same time.

We have used this opportunity to talk a lot about creative commons and open source. This topic is very foreign to them. For their entire school career they have gotten full credit for plagiarizing from their textbook by "cutting and pasting" the answers to the questions at the end of the chapter. Then teachers get mad at them when they do the same thing on-line. We spent considerable time talking about copyright and the rights of artists. I also demonstrated repeatedly how to use tools like and Flickrstorm to search Flickr for creative commons images. But Flickr is not a good source of pictures about many of the types of waves they were researching so I also taught them how to do a creative commons search in Google and used and wikimedia commons which have more scientific images.

We also talked about slide design in Powerpoint. I showed them how to make a set of slides based on interesting pictures instead of text-heavy with bullet points, clip art, or animations. All of this took much longer to get started actually making the videos than I anticipated, but I think we have learned about many important principles along the way. This week they will get busy making them and hopefully have some great presentations by the end of the week.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scratch Revamped

This is the second year of a collaboration between Gary Bertoia 's South Saigon International School in Vietnam and my classroom. Again the students are working in pairs and designing their own video games using Scratch. Last year we tried this with some bumps in the road.

So we are trying a few new things this year. First of all I have some new tools. This year I am piloting Google Apps at the middle school for my district whereas Gary's class already had them last year. Also our filter has been opened up which was a problem last year as my students had trouble downloading the game files. This has made the project much easier.

Next we had the students make introduction videos so they could get to know each other. They are posted on the blog we are using so students can view them. Hopefully we will get a chance to make more videos as we progress, but it feels like we are under time pressure to finish.

Problems that I am starting to notice is that it is a huge jump for the students to move from creating games from step by step powepoint instructions to designing their own game from "scratch." The instruction games were for students to learn how the program works, but it seems to be difficult for most of them to translate what they have "learned" to a new situation. I am thinking about how I can facilitate this transition. We are really just getting started so if you have any great suggestions let me know.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why I don't like teaching technology class

I have a philosophical beef with "Technology Class" because I feel that technology should be used appropriately in all classes rather than as a stand alone. Truth be told I would like to get rid of all "classes" and "integrate" all classes into each other not just technology.

But I defeat this philosophical problem by trying to make my class project-based integrating all other classes into mine as much as possible. Therefore students do not spend every class in front of a screen, but also build and create things. In the process they write, calculate, research, collaborate, and present. In many ways I think this approach could be a model for how to set up a whole school. Now I do not always do all of these things with every class and I do not always go as deep as I would like either. Which leads me to the title of this post ...

I do not like teaching technology class because it is a nine week class at my school. At the end of every quarter we wrap it up, ship 'em out, and bring in a new group the following week. I find it difficult to teach using many tools/methods I would like. For example blogging and Google Docs. It takes a lot of time to set up the accounts and show how to use them properly. By the time students are really getting the hang of them my class is over. Also if I want to have a long-term collaboration with another school it is not enough time to really invest in the relationships.

Last year I got to teach one 8th grade section for a whole semester and it was great. Unfortunately there were a lot of scheduling issues and my class went back to quarters this year. Which leads to the other reason I do not like my nine week class. It is hard to get to know students and build relationships with them. I feel like I am just getting to know my students and they are gone. A few drop by to say "hi" from time to time, but my classroom is isolated in one corner of the building away from almost all of their other classes so I may not even see most of them in passing for weeks.

So when I read other people post about long-term projects and building relationships with their students, I get a little jealous. The best I get is to have the same student for one quarter for three years in a row. How do other teachers with constant "shift changes" build long-term relationships with students?