The First Week of School: a reminiscence

Well, the first week of school with students is now over.  My ambitious Student Technology Orientation Plan is behind schedule, but I am adjusting well.  Somethings are out of my control, such a s schedule changes, pep rally schedule, Gaggle emails, and class sizes, I just work around these issues.

Day One was the worst day of the week, I handed out my classroom rules and expectations and reviewed them with all six classes…ARGH!  It was tedious and mind-numbing, even with variations and exaggerations, but necessary to review with students.  I did not hand out the iPod Touches on this day for two reasons.  I still was upgrading the software and adjusting the apps on the iPods; over the summer I loaded all of the apps I have tested on the iPods for some conferences and workshops I presented at.  I also had students in and out of classes with schedule changes, so I thought it best to show them the cart and explain the sign out process before trying to accomplish too much in the 40 minutes I have for each class.  We did manage to break the monotony a bit by having some students use the hand-held mini Eno Board to control my Macbook from their seats.  I survived the day feeling much like a zombie after the mindless repetition of the day.

I had some students approach me asking for help to use their own devices for learning.  I gave them a list of free apps that can be used for educational purposes, as long as it is not in a classroom, since it is against many school districts’ policies.

Day Two was another story.  The students were called up one at a time to sign out the iPods, initialing next to their name on a class spreadsheet.  We worked on double checking the ID number on the iPod they use.  It sounds silly, but it is important to make sure they are signing for the correct iPod, they are after-all responsible for its well being during class.

The directions for the day were projected on the Polyvision board, I use the RM Easiteach notebook software to organize my lessons. Students were directed to open up the Safari browser and go to Edmodo.com, which is the platform I use for my online classroom.  The process was helped along in the 11th and 12th grade classes by some unofficial student mentors who have worked with the technology before in class, either iPods, Edmodo, or both tools.  In the two 9th grade classes none of the students had never used Edmodo or iPods in class, but they were smaller classes which makes working with them easier.

The students either signed into Edmodo or created accounts, then used the 6 digit code to join my class.  They students are grouped by subject, then I created small groups for each period.  This will help with class management of information and allow for greater collaboration.  An explanation to how Edmodo will be used can be found on a previous post.  Students were urged to help each other out while the Edmodo class was projected up onto the Polyvision board.  I directed traffic by modeling what do do on the board and floating around the room, once again we used the mini Eno board to control my Macbook. The students introduced themselves to the class by posting a note in Edmodo and then answered a survey question in Edmodo.  They were able to see the live updates on the vote and posts on the Polyvision board.  We wrapped up each class a bit early to sign the iPods back in.

The only hitch was in my last class when the Edmodo site went down.  Fortunately there are a number of students in ths class who have used Edmodo and were already logged in when the site stopped working.  They were directed to work the classroom, showing others how Edmodo looks on an iPod, while I used the static image on the Polyvision board to explain some things.  In the middle of all of this organized chaos I put out a question through Tweetdeck to see if anyone else was having Edmodo issues and a quick Skype message to Edmodo co-founder Jeff O’Hara about the issue.  I had replies from both sources within 30 minutes, but I was too busy to respond back to them.  By the evening Edmodo was back online.

The students enjoy watching me fumble around with the mini Eno board while others tried the board and showed me up.  It is important for students to see that everyone has a learning curve with new ideas and tools.

Day Three began almost the same as Day Two and the students were becoming quite comfortable with the process much more quickly than I had hoped for.  Sign-out the iPods, go to Edmodo, and the assignment is right there.  Today’s assignment was to click on the link in Edmodo to jump to the class wiki and request to join.  I explained that Edmodo is how I push information out to them and the wiki is their platform to collaborate and publish their work. Students who needed to finish up yesterday’s assignments were given time to do so.  They were also encouraged to look over the wiki and the various iPod apps to become more familiar with the tools.  My last class of the day worked on getting caught up with the other classes, they joined the Edmodo class and began posting introductions and completing the survey.

One other difference in most classes was the use of my Livescribe pen.  I received a Livescribe pen at the KTI Summit this past summer.  The pen records sound and pen strokes then uploads them to a computer.  You can push the information out to the Internet to share with others.  The plan is to have students take turns taking notes in class then push the notes out to Edmodo and the wiki as an additional resource.  At this time I am unsure about using the audio recording feature in class.

Day Four followed the previous patterns, students took the Livescribe pen to make a file of record for what we did, students signed out the iPods, logged into Edmodo and looked for the assignment of the day.  There have been a number of schedule changes in all of the classes, so the students were directed to help each other out and get all of the previous tasks completed.  While they were doing that, I handed out the directions and parent sign off sheet for Textmarks.  This will allow for parents and students to sign up to receive text message updates for my classes.  The students worked on getting each other caught up and used to the iPods.

Day Five had shorter periods, we had our first pep rally of the school year.  The students signed out the iPods and logged into the Edmodo classroom.  Each class then followed the link to a Google Form that was embedded into the class wiki.  They were asked 8 questions, such as name, period, what tools they were comfortable with, which ones they weren’t what tools would they like to learn about.   This will give me some basic information as to how they are adjusting to the new tools in class.

Once they finished filling out the short form, they were directed to the Evernote app on the iPods.  Students were to create accounts or log in and we worked with typing on the iPods.  I also modeled how Evernote works on a computer, by projecting the process onto the Polyvision board.  Students practices taking screenshots on the iPods so they could upload them to Evernote, it seemed to be a very productive day, except for my last class.  The announcements for the pep rally interrupted the class, so we stopped signing out iPods and discussed how the week went.

Overall the week went well and we seemed to accomplish a good bit of basic work.  the students are catching on quickly, so we can start getting into curriculum sooner rather than later.  I did not want to overwhelm students by tossing them into new technology and then dumping curriculum on top of that right away.  It would be unfair and many could shut down and be lost for the year.  As for signing the iPods out and back in, we are down to 7 or 8 minutes in my larger classes, not bad considering I have around 30 students in some classes, to under 5 minutes in my smaller classes.

There are a few more basic tools to be introduced next week, along with the first Blog assignment of the year using the iPods, but that is another post for another day.

Posting from the class iPods: I think I figured it out!

I played around on the Keystone Commons this evening using my iPod Touch. I wanted to see how the site would work with my class iPods. I was able to access and work on the entire site, including the blog. I had to jump from the visual editor to the “HTML” editor tab to type into the main body of some areas.

I had a mini enlightenment and jumped here to Edublogs to see if the same would be true…it is! My students will now be able to use Safari on the iPods to come directly to the class blog, log in, and add to their own secure area. This is a major breakthrough for my classes, although it may be no big deal for others. I am looking forward to trying this out in my classes.

Blog Booster: another free iPod app

Okay, Take Three!  This is the third try using this app on my iPod Touch and I am actually writing on my Macbook.  I froze the iPod twice, once when the app tried to sync my blog posts to the iPod, and the second time because I hit the buttons incorrectly when trying to take a screenshot.  I was pushed out of the app and upon returning the sync process froze the iPod once again.  I also lost most of the post, well everything except the title and tags.

I am trying this app since I could not find a way to log out of my blog on the free WordPress app.  Personally it is not an issue, but with six classes sharing iPods, it becomes an issue.  I need them to be able to log in and out, or at least have separate log ins.  Blog Booster seems to allow that.  I will have to try it out in my classroom to know for certain.

The app allows for adjusting text with bold, underline and some other features.  Where I get my iPod hung up is when the app tries to synchronize my blog to the iPod.  I can jump out of the app and do other things, however when I reenter the app, it goes back to the frozen sync screen.  I will e-mail the app creator, 6taps and see if they can enlighten me on this topic.  Hopefully they can help and I can push this out to my students.


BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Blogging from my iPod Touch

This blog is being written entirely from my iPod Touch. Previously I had toyed with blogging from the iPod, but had limited success. I could log in and create a title and look around, even type excerpts, but could not write to the body of the post.

I e-mailed Sue Waters at Edublogs support about the issue, she has been super-fantastic in helping me with the site. She was away, but I received a response from Ronnie B. at Edublogs. He Advised me that others have used the free WordPress app with success. I decided to try it and here I am…posting successfully from a mobile device.

To post, open the app by tapping it, then type in you blog URL, no need for the http. Type in username and password, then you are inside and ready to blog. All of my categories were pre-loaded,so I added tags and started writing.

You can type from the standard position, with the “home button” at the bottom of the iPod, or spin the iPod on it’s
side and have the expanded keyboard much like a cell phone keyboard. If you forget something in your post just scroll through and tap the screen where you want the cursor to be. It is so very easy to use.

As I experiment more with the app I will update or add more posts. I do believe my students will be able to do this much easier than I am currently. They can text without looking at the phones…as the phones are in their purses or pockets in our classrooms. This will be a cakewalk for them!

Posterous: I think I got it

Last week at the KTI Summit, I was shown how to use Posterous.com to create a social media blog feed.  It is easy to use and allows you to post in multiple ways.

I think I figured out how to use the web-clipping tool to work straight from my FireFox browser.  I am still having trouble using the Posterous add on that I downloaded for the main FF toolbar.  I could not get it to load into the toolbar.

I decided on plan B.  I went to this link in Posterous, and just did a click and drag of the icon to my toolbar.  You can see the image below.

Click and drag the icon to your toolbar.

Click and drag the icon to your toolbar.

Once you place it in your toolbar, all you need to do is find something you would like to write about.  Once you find something, highlight it and click on the button in your toolbar.  The highlighted image will be clipped and imported into your Posterous blog.  You have the option of adding your own comments, which is highly recommended. See the image below to see the tab in my toolbar.

Posterous Bookmarklet in toolbar

As I mentioned in a previous post, you can set up your account to automatically push your post out to other social networking sites you have.

Setting up your account this way, with the toolbar tab, allows you post in seconds.  NICE!

KTI 2010: Some things I learned last week, Edmodo

I presented on Edmodo last week at the KTI Summit, but that is not why I am posting this.  I worked formally and informally with many people at the summit on how to incorporate Edmodo in their classrooms.  We worked in the small group sessions, open labs, and even in the dining hall discussing uses and “how to’s.”

I will be using Edmodo as my main classroom platform this year in school.  The main page looks much like a Facebook page, which makes it easy for my students to navigate.  The mobile app for iPods looks like a Twitter feed, it is streamlined and easy to use on mobile devices.

The one plus I brought up in my presentation was the ease of setting up an account and classes.  In a matter of a couple of minutes, you can create an account and classes.  You give your students the class code and they create accounts or log in with existing ones, then they just type in the code and are in your class.  Even if you only run one discussion board a year, Edmodo is the tool to use.  You do not waste time importing students and setting everything up.

Now, back to what I learned at the Summit.  We played with the “public” tab in Edmodo, this allows for any note, file, link, etc. to be pushed out to a public URL, which can then be viewed without logging in to your classroom.  This feature gives me another tool with which to keep parents updated on class events. I can push out my class calendar and any file I feel parents need access to, while keeping other information secure from strangers; all with the click of a mouse.

Another idea we came up with was to group students into general classes, then create sub-groups by period and as needed.  This allows for discussion and interaction between students in different periods, but also gives the teacher the option to push out information to specific groups without everyone else getting it.  This functionality happens by just giving the students your classroom code so they can enroll themselves into your course, then with a couple clicks of your mouse, you can group them as you wish.

I embedded my 30box calendar, that is on the front page of my class wiki, into my Edmodo classrooms, this will allow me to update in 30boxes and show up everywhere I have it embedded.  I can also do the same with a Google calendar or any calendar that embeds in a web page.

Edmodo just enabled the use of folders on the site.  This new development will allow me to better organize all of my links and files.  Instead of having to build a master class for organizing my curriculum, I can just upload everything into folders with detailed names.  This will allow me to open and close information to students as needed, without any hassle.

Last, but surely not least, I have communicate on Twitter with one of Edmodo’s co-founders, Jeff O’Hara on numerous occasions.  He has always been helpful with advice and quick to respond to any questions I have had.  Jeff has also asked for feedback from my students and others to make Edmodo user friendly.  This rates high in my opinion and is the main reason I talk up Edmodo as often as I can.

I have used Moodle, BlackBoard, and Web CT, they work great, but for overall ease of use and free cost, Edmodo is the way to expand your classroom beyond the traditional walls and times.

KTI Summit 2010: Some things I learned last week, Posterous

I have been reflecting on my experiences last week at the Keystone Technology Integrator’s Summit at Bucknell University.  I picked up many new ideas and worked on refining some strategies and tools that I already use in my classroom.  Today’s topic will be Posterous.

I have heard of Posterous before, but never really worked with it.  Posterous is a blogging/social media site that allows you to post various forms of media online and coordinate your posts with other websites you may use, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Here is the link to their FAQ page.  When I got home from the summit, I created an account and in minutes I was up and running.  The site is extremely intuitive to set up.  I created an account, linked my other accounts to Posterous, updated my profile, and found friends who are already using the site.  I have not posted yet, since I have been getting caught up on life after being away for a week at the KTI Summit.  Kristin Hokanson showed in her preso at the summit how to I am looking into the mobile app for Posterous, it may be usable on my iPod, even though it is designed for an iPhone.  The Firefox Toolbar add on is also an item I am looking forward to using in the near future.  The concept is that you can instantly grab web-based articles and information and create a post to be pushed out to other sites.  I will discuss this tool more once I use it more often.

iPods: The new OS 4.0

I recently updated my iPods operating system to the new OS 4.0 and I have only one word to say…..UGH!!!!

The premise for the software upgrade is great, you will now be able to run several apps at the same time, one in the foreground and others in background, which could not happen with the old OS.  The issue is, previously when your iPod went into rest mode the battery life was fantastic, the iPod “slept” and the battery was not affected.  Now I have to re-teach myself a entirely new method of iPod upkeep.

Previously, I could just tap the “home” button, see yellow arrow in image below, to jump out of one app then choose another I would like to use.  I did not have to formally close the application I was using.

Yello arrow points at home button.

Yellow arrow points to home button.

The new software allows for apps to continue which means, even in “sleep” mode the iPods runs, thus draining the batteries.  At the KTI Summit last week, I discussed the issue with Dianne Krause, another iPod/iPhone guru and she assured me that others are having the same issue.  It was nice to know that it was not something stupid I was doing or that my iPod suddenly was having critical issues that were going to shorten its effective life span.

My short term fix to address this issue is to completely shut down the iPod when I am not using it, instead of letting it go to “sleep.”  I used this strategy for the last week or so and it works. The power button is on the image below, a pink arrow is pointing to it.

The pink arrow is pointing to the power button.

The pink arrow is pointing to the power button.

You may say, “So, what’s the big deal Einstein?”  Well, the big deal is, I have to manage iPods on a classroom scale, a cart of 25 which may be used 6 periods a day this upcoming year.  I need to find a stable process to keep the iPods charged and usable for every period.  I proved last year that once you ingrain a technology into your classroom culture, everyone becomes extremely dependent on it.

The long term fix is going to teach my students and myself to formally close out of each app after we are done using it.  After almost a year and a half of use, it will take some time to adjust.  I am hoping that by combining the two fixes I will have a system in place to keep the iPods consistently functioning and reliable for the upcoming school year.

Minor changes like this keeps my understanding of the need to constantly adapt clear.  It also lets me understand why others in education may be weary or leery of making the leap into technology with their students.  Change can be nerve-wracking, I am adapting well with technology, just please don’t ask me to change my pizza toppings.

KTI Summit 2010 part 1

This year was the second year I was able to participate in the Keystone Technology Integrator’s Summit at Bucknell University;  the first as a member of the Summit staff.  My goal after last year’s Summit as an attendee was to become a member of the staff…I achieved that goal.  I watched the long hours and extensive effort last year’s staff put in to make the event a success and wanted to contribute back into the system.  So as soon as last year’s summit was over I began prepping to make the staff.

I presented at various conferences about tools and methods I used in my classes and listened to the feedback, good, bad, indifferent, and ugly about how the presentations went, or were perceived to have gone by the attendees.  I refined and adapted materials accordingly, and kept up to date on the ever changing tools my students and I work with.  Sometimes my students learned of the changes first, and our roles of learner and mentor were reversed.  That’s is fine by me…in today’s world the roles need to be flexible.  I learned that from my PLN, which continues to grow.

As a member of Summit staff, we had many virtual planning sessions, formal via Elluminate, informal via Skype and e-mail.  The staff finally met face to face as an entire group the day before the summit.  There was buzz in the air as we greeted each other and started the on-site preparations.  I was expecting a long, exhausting week, that would grind me down, yet re-energize me from being surrounded with almost 100 innovators in education.  My expectations were correct.  Attendees and staff members alike pushed themselves over 12 hours a day in sessions, both formal and informal sharing ideas and building networks of support.

On top of all of this, my daughter needed medical attention back home.  She was fine in the end, but not being there for her added tons of stress and anxiety to my life.  I would like to thank the staff and attendees who helped support me through those two days.  My friends all jumped in to help me get through it, like I knew they would.  I also had many people who I hardly knew, or had not yet met come up to me and offer support.  I can honestly say, I was not too surprised by this, because of the nature of people who attend the summit, they are there because they care and support others.  Their efforts made a rough situation manageable and was I able to finish my work on staff.

We finished up the summit yesterday, Friday July 30,2010, and most if not all the people I talked with had mixed feelings.  It was great to be going back home to our families, but leaving such a dynamic event, tiring as it could be, and all of the people involved was a bit of a downer.

I hope I was able to contribute helpful information and methods of teaching and learning through my presentations.  I know I learned many new techniques to use in my classroom, even with tools I currently use.  I also strengthened my PLN and made many new friends, whom I am sure I will keep connected too, even if only virtually.  I am hoping to continue attending the KTI Summit in the future, and urge new and past KTI’s to continue their participation in the network.  With so many voices in the conversation, there is no obstacle we can’t overcome to successfully transform education to meet the needs of our current students and those who we will have in the future.