Class Orientation Day Five: Getting caught up

Today, the last day of week one, we headed back to the computer lab.  The plan was to have the students go into Edmodo and check their grades, then work on any assignments from this week that they had not yet completed.  I had graded everything that they had turned in so far and placed grades in the Edmodo gradebook.

We discussed why some of them had submitted assignments but not received grades.  This meant something was not right, they may have submitted the wrong assignment, a name was missing, or I may have missed the assignment.  This process of submitting work through Edmodo will keep all of us informed as to the status of work and what we need to to do keep EVERYONE successful.

The students worked well, many went back and “officially” turned in assignments through Edmodo that they had completed but not submitted through the online classroom.  I was able to work more one on one and with small groups on technical details for Edmodo and Edublogs.

We did encounter an issue with Edublogs where some students could not log in and their password resets to Gaggle were not working.  I submitted the issues through the Pro Support tab in my dashboard and before the period was out I had the issues resolved.  Sue W. and Ronnie B. were the specific helpers in Edublogs support.  They did inform me that Gaggle disables the password resets from their site, but they were working to resolve the issue.

I had one or two students who were new additions to my classes and they were once again added into everything.  I was able to sit down with a couple of students who were behind and assist them with tasks.  As more students asked for help we went to the mentor approach.  Some students who were asked to mentor others were a bit surprised; they did not think they knew enough to help.  They were wrong, they did an excellent job helping others which made the day a success.

There were a few parent concerns sent in on the signed information sheets.  I was able to zip off email replies to answer their questions.  The main concern was about a lack of home Internet access and if it would affect student grades.  I assured the parents that time is given in class to complete assignments, and my room is open during the day for students to come in and work.  A lack of home access should not be a problem unless students are wasting time in class and not utilizing time during the school day.

Overall, the day was very productive and the students cleared out most of their due assignments, which left me with a ton of work to grade.  The pace was much more relaxed, which I greatly appreciated.  It has been a bit tiring this week, but the groundwork is in place for the rest of the year.  There are a few more tools that need to be rolled out, but they can wait until they are needed for specific assignments.

Class Orientation: Day Four Computer Lab

Today, my students went to the computer lab around the corner from my room…they experienced working on the iPods, now they needed back in their comfort zone.  The assignments that needed to be completed could be done more efficiently on a larger interface than what the iPods could provide.

We met in my room to review the lesson for the day.  We ran a quick overview of what needs done by looking at the assignments in Edmodo.  They saw haw to use the “Grades” tab to see what they have turned in, received grades for, or owed.  The Blog Expectation Parent Sign-off sheets were handed out, and I showed them the Dashboard of their blogs on the Polyvision Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). The last lesson for Orientation was also rolled out.  After the students post to their blog, they are to personalize their blog to their liking.  It is their blog, hopefully they will use it beyond mandatory class assignments.  They should be allowed to place their stamp on it.  There is a rubric for basic minimums required, it is their blog to personalize, but there still needs to be some requirements in place.  I shared a folder with links to a few widgets for them to use in Edmodo.

Once in the computer lab the students jumped into the assignments.  Some caught on rather quickly and became student mentors to others.  This helped me out tremendously; since there were still a few new students in some classes that needed put into the class system, Edmodo, Edublogs, and all of the previous assignments.  Once again I could handle the administrative tasks and have my students mentor the new students and get them up to speed. Once those were completed, I floated about and worked one on one or with small groups answering technical questions.

Overall the day was rather fast paced and a bit hectic, but very productive.  Two more days in the computer room and we are jumping into the curriculum.

Class Orientation: Day Three…Bring on the Blogs!

Today we slowed the pace down a bit during class orientation and let the ideas of this week soak in.

A student from each period logged into Edmodo and projected their view of Edmodo to the rest of the class.  It looks rather different on an IWB when compared to the screen on an iPod Touch.

We worked around the various functions as a review and the students were given instructions to finish up left over tasks from yesterday.  The students liked the notification feature in the top right of the screen, they saw how easy it was to keep informed of class information.

Next the new assignments were introduced; signing in to their individual blog,  changing their password, and if there was time they would start their Class Expectation Blog Post.  The first two assignments were short and sweet.  The third assignment made their faces drop at first…it seemed as if more than a few were expecting DOOM and GLOOM when the word BLOG was mentioned.

I then explained that instead of writing paragraphs and essay question answers on paper that would be possibly forgotten at home, in a locker, lost by one of us, and eventually thrown out or forgotten, we would complete most of our writing on the INTERNET.  Same writing they are used to completing, different platform for submission.  The mention of Digital Portfolio and Resume did not seem to resonate with them as I had hoped…I will explain that purpose again once they have more information posted online.

A student volunteer worked the Edmodo interface where the assignment, links, directions, and rubric are posted.  They pulled up the documents in a preview mode as we discussed the assignment.  They opened my example post on my Class Expectations for this year and saw what was expected of them.  Students who were in my classes last year added to the information.  Once they concretely saw what was expected of them they became more relaxed.  I suspect, and hope, the office will get less calls this year because, “Mr. Salvucci is making my child blog and I thought the class was about social studies.”

I know information being filtered through students to parents can become muddled or convoluted so I am sending parent information letters home to be signed.  This should help keep confusion to a minimum.  Unfortunately, I forgot to send them home with my earlier classes, so they will all be send home tomorrow.

A few students who were added to my class through schedule changes or being new to our school did not yet have accounts.  I jumped into Edublogs and used my Pro status to create blogs for them.  The entire process took about 30 seconds per student.  During Period 8, we had a slight “hiccup” and my students lost connection with Edublogs, but were still able to access other web sites.  I posted a quick tweet to @Edublogs asking about their status and received a timely reply.  The entire time of being unable to connect was only about five minutes and it was toward the end of class so we just wrapped up the lesson for the day.

In other events of the day, my two world cultures classes voted on dividing into sub-groups.  When the idea was brought up, I began to comment that I know what we can do…which was finished by one of my students from last year, “you are putting it to a vote with a poll.”  Some of my students know me and Edmodo rather well.  The results of the poll will appear later in this post.  Just as a note they were given the option of staying in one group or splitting since they are not an overwhelming number of students.

I have one class, a period 2 20th Century U.S. History class that is one day behind everyone else due to Junior class meetings on Monday.  They were almost caught up by the end of the period, with some students even to the point of logging into their blogs.  It was nice to see them jump right in and be comfortable with what we were doing.

All in all I believe we had a very productive day.

Rock and Roll by the Velvet Underground 1970 | John Larkin

Rock and Roll 0

by John • History, Life, News • Tags: , on July 16, 2011

“Rock and Roll” by the Velvet Underground. A remarkable film for a remarkable song.

I was too young to appreciate the Velvet Underground when they originally released their albums during the 1960s. Besides, I seriously doubt that they were given air time on Australian radio at the time.

In 1974 or 1975 my older brother Paul bought the album “Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal” by Lou Reed. During the concert Reed and his band performed “Rock and Roll”. I was hooked.

Later, during my first year at university I met a chap named Paul who was a fan of Reed, the Velvet Underground, Iggy & The Stooges, Radio Birdman and similar artists. Paul had an amazing collection of live recordings of these performers on cassette tape as well as an impressive collection of albums. He allowed me to borrow a copy of one of his Velvet Underground LPs and I heard “Rock and Roll” in it’s originally released form. It blew me away. You can hear it as the soundtrack to the short film in the YouTube video above.

The song was originally released on the Loaded album in 1970. I have since collected other performances of the same track by the Velvet Underground, both live and in the studio.

“Rock and Roll” is one of those songs that makes me stop. It takes precedence at that point in time. It defines the moment. It defines me.

Another fantastic post from an Educator that I follow on my social networks. Not only am I a big fan of this post because I like the Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, but John publicly shows the human side of educators. John often posts ideas on his blog that are not directly related to formal school learning, but fit more of a life experience/cultural genre.

As an educator in the United States we constantly hear from administrators, politicians, and unions to be cautious, even fearful, of social media. I myself am still guarded as to what I post on my sites; sticking mainly to straight educational tips and topics.

This needs to change, we as Educators need to show students, parents, and anyone who is watching that we have a human side. We need to use the forum of social media as an informal educational tool. Pique the curiosity of others by exposing them to ideas and concepts they may never otherwise experience.

Yes Charlotte, you can post to Edublogs from a Color Nook

Yesterday, May 19, 2011, we ran a little experiment with a Color Nook in our High School Library.  I had a couple students who were using the devices as eReaders test several tasks.  I should have tried this before, but it is sort of hectic right now.

The students jumped on the Internet using the web browsing app and were able to log into Google Docs and edit documents.  The next step was to log into Edublogs and post to the class blog, which was easily accomplished.  This creates another option for mobile technology in the classroom.  With ever shrinking, or straight out disappearing budgets in public education, the more options the better.

CoverIt Live and Current Events: Students’ Choice

This post was started on May 3, 2011, however life got in the way and delayed its publication.

My classes have been observing the events of the last few days and commenting on them through their blogs.  Today my Honors Civics class was given a choice before viewing videos of the recent events.  The first option was to view the videos and respond via their Edublogs accounts; while the second option was to comment while watching the videos using CoverIt Live (CIL).

Their response was unanimous in favor of live dialog. I quickly created an event through my CoverIt Live account and embedded the code for the event in my class wiki. This enabled me to archive the event and keep it public. The link was pushed out to the students through our Edmodo classroom. By pushing the link out this way the students do not need to type in urls, they only have to go into our classroom and click on the link.  This makes it easier for them when using our class iPod set.

Once the students were on the CIL wiki page, they typed in a short greeting as prompted and we started watching the news videos. There was no need to post any starter or ice breaker questions, the students jumped right in with comments. Several of my most even-keeled students were set up for approved comments without moderation, while most of the others had to have their comments approved. This was just a safety precaution, students usually get approved to post once they show they are acting responsibly. I walked around the room using the CoverIt Live application on my Droid X to moderate the debate.

Most of the students were commenting appropriately, they a a great group of Freshmen. There were several comments that needed to be adjusted, there was nothing inappropriate or rude about the comments.  However, some of the wording could have been misconstrued, especially the tone or intent when read later on the Internet.  The students viewed the comments, and rewrote them to get rid of any ambiguity.  Most of the students agreed with the rewrites, and understood how the misconceptions could occur.

The debate was rather spirited on the topics of the day.  The students were very opinionated about the world events, but respectful of opposing opinions.  This was the third time the students have used CIL in class and they are becoming much better at working on the iPod platform and commenting appropriately.  The students were also getting better at using “@” to direct comments to specific authors in response to their initial comments.

While writing this I now realize that I forgot to hand out the class iPad, which rotates to students in lieu of an iPod who request to use it.

Social Networking: Real-life example in the classroom.

Yesterday afternoon Edublogs.org went down for a brief period of time. Normally it would be no big deal, except my students had blog posts due by the end of yesterday’s classes. The outage created a panic among those who were trying to finish up at the last minute.

I decided to post a quick comment out on Twitter about the situation. I figured someone in my network would respond and I could judge if it was something to worry about or not. About seven minutes later a mention from @Edublogs verified that it was a server issue on their end, not a mistake on mine, and they are trying to fix it quickly. A second message went out to @Edublogs thanking them for the quick response.

In discussing the One Day on Earth project with my classes, the value of social networking was explained. The basic premise is that the network, group, or organization is only as strong as its membership. I believe that I have a fantastic PLN for support. I showed my remaining classes the Tweets from the incident and tied them together with the previous discussions. They understand the concept and saw it work in real-life. It is no longer just some comment my teacher made just to have something to say.

It was not anything Earth shattering, but it was a teachable moment that work. That just seems pretty cool to me, in my humble opinion.

Student Blogs: Day One

Well, today I introduced the student blogs to all of my classes.  What a whirlwind of a day, fairly painless as I look back over it…

Students came into class and signed out their iPods and went to the Edmodo online classroom.  It is becoming a standard part of their classroom routine to go straight to Edmodo.   I placed a link to their Edublogs sign in page on all of the class pages in Edmodo, this way the students do not have to type any URLs into the Safari browser, just click and go.

I popped open a page in my Class Orientation Easiteach file with an example of how their Edublogs log in looks.  All of my students know their school network log-ins, their Edublogs log-ins mirrors this format with one minor exception, which is not important in this context.  The point is the students were already familiar with their log-in information, this removes one obstacle in the process.

The students went to the Edublogs sign in page and typed in their Username, ready to proceed.  I had all of their Usernames and Passwords on a Google Doc, so I just read the generic passwords off to the students and they logged in to their account.  I should have just given all of the students the same generic password, it would have been easier.  I commented on this in an earlier post.

We had the Edublogs dashboard up on the Polyvision interactive whiteboard to show the students the process of changing their password and updating their profile.  They were shown how to type in the body of the blog using the “HTML” tab, as was discussed in this previous post.  Students jumped on the left dashboard buttons and began exploring the site.

The students were given the Blog Expectation sheets and the explanation of the assignment.  I chose a brief post where they are to introduce themselves along with a statement of what they would like to learn in class.  They were to pick two objectives on subject matter and two technology objectives and explain why the topics were of interest.  They have already done pieces of the assignment in class through our Edmodo discussion board and a self-reflection Google Form.  My objective is to just get them writing in an appropriate voice and published out on the Internet; consider this a “shakedown cruise” before we get into the curriculum.

Most of the students started their drafts and saved them online.  They are to direct message me in Edmodo when they are prepared to have their work graded.  They have a rubric of what will be looked at in the assessment process, including the appropriateness of language and grammar.  They were encouraged to have someone else proofread their post before  they formally submit it.  Hopefully they will learn how to write beyond texting and Facebook posts even though they are writing on the Web.

Overall, most students caught on quickly with the writing process on the iPods.  A few of the glitches occurred because of human error, either on my part or the students.  The students are great with adapting on the fly and working through issues we encounter as we try these new lessons in class.

A few students asked if there was an easier way to get into the blog so I explained about the free WordPress App and Blog Booster app for iPods.  One of my students is trying out apps at home on his Droid so he can use that device instead of his home computer.  I am interested in see how the apps work on that platform versus the iPods.

I plan on another post once the students complete this initial assignment, hopefully things will continue to go smoothly.

Blog Booster and Edublogs: Support Rocks!

I sent an email to 6taps earlier this week, on
Sunday, about an issue I had with their app. This morning I had a response from them with a fix. I had to go onto my Edublog pro account and change some writing settings. I followed the directions complete with screenshots and it seems to be working.

I also received a follow up email from Sue Waters at Edublogs to see if I was still having difficulties. You have to love this level of support! If only the rest of life had such a strong help network.

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