Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Argggh! Geocaching and Talk Like a Pirate Day at Goodman Elementary

Carrie Donovan's 6th grade science classes (and one of Bob Stone's 4th grade classes too) enjoyed learning about latitude and longitude while enjoying the wonderful weather outside. The students used GPS receivers to find geocaches around their campus which instructed them to transform themselves into human machines. The students used iPads to scan QR codes, and then videotaped their "machines".

Goodman 6th graders Freddy, Milton, Mayra and Luis work together to create and videotape a bicycle.


Our best quote of the day... "It's like hard core Easter egg hunting!"

Friday, September 5, 2014

Canvas is coming!

Outstanding news!  Last night, the AISD Board of Trustees approved the adoption of Canvas, an innovative and robust learning management system (LMS) that will empower the work of both teachers and learners. 

Canvas (the product) by Instructure (the company) was recommended for adoption only after multiple rounds of evaluation and comparison with other industry-leading LMS products. 

What evaluators loved most about Canvas was its intuitive design, ease of use, and innovative and forward-thinking functionality.  It is clearly a tool that will help advance our efforts to provide learners with relevant, innovative, and rigorous learning experiences!

There will be a period now in which we work to integrate Canvas with our existing systems in order to ensure an easy work-flow for users.  Once the system is ready to launch, we’ll focus our initial efforts on supporting the innovators and early-adopters: teachers who can’t wait to utilize Canvas this year to:
  • Receive and grade student assignments, discussions, and quizzes with Speed Grader
  • Easily align assignments, quiz items, and rubrics to standards and/or learning targets
  • Utilize robust analytics to track student/class/course standards and targets-aligned data
  • Utilize web tools (like Dropbox, Google Drive, Twitter, etc.) all within the Canvas interface
  • Empower students to build eportfolios
  • Utilize mobile apps to instantaneously gather formative assessment data
  • Provide students with written, audio, or video feedback, peer-review and multiple revision/submission opportunities
  • Synthesize all work and course related events into one, drag-and-drop enabled, calendar
  • Push notifications to students with one click

Excited yet?  Canvas is coming . . .


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guest Post: Why Blog?

The following post was submitted by Dr. Harrison McCoy, AVID Teacher at Ferguson Junior High. Dr. McCoy using blogging as a personal growth tool for himself and his students. In this post, he is sharing his perspective on the importance of blogging. He also talks about Ferguson Junior High's new community driven 180-day blog which includes daily reflections contributed by various members of the school community.

With all of the tasks at hand for teachers -- especially this time of year -- why would one willingly  take on one such as writing a blog? I had to laugh just a bit to think about the request I got to write this blog post because it is quite literally a blog about blogging. When we think about our thinking, we call it “metacognition”.  Would blogging about blogging be considered “metablogging”?
Back to the original question: why blog? I’ll begin with the easiest answer. I blog because I am, by both trade and nature, a writer and I enjoy the creative outlet that it provides. At a more practical level, I use blogging for reflection. At a professional level -- as a technology trainer -- blogging facilitates and extends my efforts to help colleagues implement technology integration goals on our campus. My latest effort -- “The Final Campaign - A 180-Day Blog” is an effort process and help my co-workers positively process the fact that this is the final year of our campus’ existence as an AISD junior high school before the repurposing of our building.
I maintain two blogs at this point, although I only regularly contribute to one of them. The first --"theothereduguy". -- is a personal blog in which I comment on a variety of educational issues, including technology applications that I am finding helpful. The second -- "The Final Campaign"-- is our campus blog, of which I am for the most part only the editor. My co-workers join me in the daily posts to chronicle this school year as a kind of blogging scrapbook. A third effort -- a classroom blog for my students -- is on the drawing board, but we haven’t gotten to that yet.
Why would anyone blog? That was the original question, after all. I honestly believe that for the average teacher, a blog represents a chance to slow down and reflect, and that is clearly something of which we do not do enough. We understand the benefits of having students learn from their reflection about our lessons in the classroom, but do we really have any idea how much we could benefit by reflecting on those lessons ourselves? For some bloggers, writing takes on a much more personal mission when they open themselves up in almost a therapeutic sense to write about their thoughts, feelings, disappointments, and exaltations. One might actually discover a more mission-oriented reason for blogging, i.e., blogging to persuade or influence others about a particular cause.
The beauty of blogging is that it is personal. For most of us, we get to choose when we write and what we write about. That takes a lot of pressure off, and pressure might be one thing that holds someone back from blogging. I suspect that the ultimate thing that holds many back from blogging, is the the vulnerability issue. I mean, what if someone disagrees with me about something I write? That is an issue, I suppose. Blogging for an adult audience is very different from talking to students 45 years younger than myself. I had to deal with that, and honestly had to get over it the first time I clicked the “submit” button and knew that I was sending my thoughts out on to the internet. Allow me let you in on a secret: there is a delete button that allows me to delete any blog post I have second thoughts about. Aside from that, I have also learned that I don’t know everything -- not even about what I think. I have benefitted from having others disagree with me from time to time.  
Feeling connected is another reason for blogging. As an educator, I have an obligation to be the best possible educator that I can become. Connecting with other educators by reading their blogs and having them read mine makes me a better educator. Life-long learning is not just a catch-phrase. It is a way of life. Consider checking out this list of edu-blogs -- the top 50 to consider in 2014 -- at http://bit.ly/1rLbgAT
If you are ready to try classroom blogging, here is an excellent source http://bit.ly/1x7aWPk  from an educator who has spent a lot of time developing an
excellent model that includes lots of scaffolding for getting students to the place where they can handle a personal blog.