Packrat

Hello, my name is Dominic, and I am a packrat. I have been for many years, and although I admitted this before, I am finally working on doing something to “fix” the situation. The other day while working on some online tools for my students, my Twitter network, names will remain anonymous just so I do not become a name dropper,  ran amok with discussions on educators who have way too many paper files around the home and classroom. I jumped in whole-heartedly, gleefully if you will, at the thought than I now have evidence that I am not alone in my predicament. The issue was possibly a continuation of a post brought up earlier in the week when a contact mentioned that he was scanning all of his hard copy documents into electronic .pdf files.  The idea hit me that my attempts to convert my hard copy files by typing is a futile endeavor, I never paid attention in 9th grade typing class…scanning will be the way to go.

This is not a cop-out, but I have reasons for  being this way. I am a second generation Social Studies teacher, I inherited my father’s file cabinet and added a couple of my own. I was brought up seeing how Social Studies teachers collect information. Later in college, my professors embedded the concept of “you never know what your budget at school will be, so collect all you can while you can!” Reinforcement at it’s best…I am a digital immigrant, I remember my first stint in grad school, we took notes on this new tool, the I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T. In fact I know I still have my notebook from that class with my notes on how to search this new tool. It contains all of the helping and control words necessary to search correctly.

This brings me to something that made me laugh yesterday in class and unfortunately disrupt my intern’s class. I had a student cleaning out my book cupboard to make space for my Econ books. No big deal, student did not want to stay in study hall and asked to help. The student came across a notebook from 1986, it contained notes from when I was my fraternity’s contact for the homecoming parade at IUP. Names and numbers leapt from the pages, which brought back a bunch of thoughts I don’t normally keep active. They were great times, but it is not efficient to have those thoughts active with everything else going on in life…22 years later.

The last example I have is one I use with my senior Econ classes. It deals with opportunity costs and how personal the concept is. When I was around 6 or 7, my Grandpap gave me a little pen knife, maybe it is an inch or so long, along with one he got for working at U.S. Steel in Duquesne, PA for many years. It is about the same size. I was so proud of them until I hit adolescence, then they became just toys. I wanted bigger knives like my friends had so my Grandpap’s presents to me were relegated to a drawer in my room.

I forgot about them until much later in life. I did not remember seeing them when I moved to my own house. My Grandpap was much older and for some reason the thoughts of those knives hit me. At first I thought they were gone, one of those spiteful adolescent purges when told to clean your room. It took awhile, but after some time I found them. They were then moved to the bar my Grandpap gave me when I bought my house, it too had been his. After realizing how important those items are to me, I would not let go of them for anything in the world. When I tell my students about the knives, they laugh I could not even sell them at a garage sale for $1.00, but they mean a lot to me, even before my Grandpap left us a few years back.

Because of this incident I was unrepentant about compulsion to be a packrat. Now I realize I need to tier my compulsion, personal mementos, no matter how corny will be kept, information that can be digitized will be sent into the great digital cloud of information that now surrounds us all. My only question now is, what will I do with all of the flash drives I will need?

Next Year’s English Project…if I can get an English teacher to help…

I was watching “Classical Baby, All grown up'” with Arianna, my daughter this evening. They were reading poetry to images with some of the readers being the authors, others stars, and even children reading poems and giving their ideas on the poems. It was really cool, some of thekids were very young, but they seemed to get it. I do not know how much was scripted for them and how much was their own, but it was cool and believable. Next year I think it would be great to do something like that in our district, but expand upon it.

When I was Title I teacher in another life we had some of the better readers record stories for the not so good readers to use if they were reading on their own. I have no idea where the tapes went, but they were made. I think the Classical Baby” idea would be great with the expanded addition of original student poetry read over Ustream. The work can be archived and shared with the Middle and Elementary Schools. The original work can be from all grades since our District writes at most levels, the kids would love it. It is authorship beyond the classroom or school walls.

As for using published work by other authors, maybe private sites can hold the recordings for the younger students to use as a guide to reading. The kids like working with the other levels and all would benefit from the experience. I would have to look into copyright issues, but fortunately an associate I met on my online network at Eduwikius.wikispaces.com, has done a lot of research on the topic. Eduwikius is an entirely different post, for another time, but they are an excellent network of very helpful professionals.

Since I now teach Economics/POD and American Civics I would need to pull the English Department in on this endeavor. It will be much easier to accomplish if we get the Classrooms for The Future grant. I was chosen to be the coach and would have more time to help implement his idea if everything falls into place. Here’s hoping for the plans to fall into place.

Student fear of Internet

I can not figure it out for sure, but I have a number of students who are afraid to use the Internet for their 20th Century President Projects. I know they utilize the Internet for socializing, I see them on the ‘net looking up stuff during study halls. I have stressed that I am not taking points off for having trouble with the technology and offered full help in working with new issues that arise from the technology. Yet, I have a group that runs when asked to use the net for something besides surfing. Actually, adding to the class wikispace is easier than the other type of projects they could choose from. I have given them the option of anonymity or first name listing for credit. I have tried to make the experience workable for them, but there is still a good bit of resistance. I wish I could find a better way to motivate them than just force them to participate with the technology. I do understand that it is not about the technology, it is about the lesson, however I want them to become familiar with the tools they will more than likely be using in life in their future. It is an issue to keep working at defeating.

Today’s Wiki-work

The students seemed to grasp the ideas with the notes on the Executive Branch.  We worked as a class and I showed them how to fiddle around with some of the options we can do. They are allowed to edit the space, so they need to be able to do these tasks successfully. They seem to like the group setting and I use their ideas, we will see if it transfers to work outside of the classroom.

Wikispace Knowledge

I need to expand my knowledge of the wikispace universe. I learned a neat trick last week of imbedding video right into my pages, but I need to learn how to indent the students’ notetaking work. The students are learning quite a bit, so I need to stay ahead of the curve to better help them with the site. The tutorials are easy to understand, I just need more time!

Modeling in the Classroom.

I have been trying to model notetaking on my class wikispace with both my Freshmen and senior classes. I believe I am making some headway, but I can  not be sure. I use the LCD projector and we work cooperatively with the class to brainstorm and edit notes from class sources. I am hoping that by showing them the process and that mistakes can happen and they will understand not only the information but learning process better. Sometimes it doesn’t show, especially when I turn them loose outside of class, but some seem to be getting it.

Video Conferencing

I know I have been beating this topic over the head since the Polycom training, but I am fired up.  Several teachers have contacted me about video linking our classrooms for lessons.  I am working on several ideas which should be interesting to see how they turn out.  I need to brush up on my Technoman skills.  The first several attempts with my new webcam lead to fatal errors and my computer shutting down, but I believe I have that remedied!!!!  At least until the next time I forget to turn off the webcam programs when I log into Skype.  I hope to have some comments on my successful attempts and video conferencing here in the near future!