Time for an update

by Beth Knittle on March 31, 2014

I have been looking at my blog recently and it is in need of an update. The theme is several versions behind and I need to clean up my links and remove outdated material.  Now if I can just find the time.  But first I’ll procrastinate a bit more by reviewing a variety of other blogs and see what inspirers me.

Are there any blogs or formats you think I should explore? I am open to suggestions.

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Finding the Right Tool

by Beth Knittle on March 31, 2014

Many districts today struggle with finding the right tool for the right job, in teaching and learning there are different jobs; with the advent of PARCC, a computer given assessment, the need for schools to acquire new technology is great.   There is vigorous debate about what that tool should be.  If you do any reading along this line you know people are passionate about their choice of device.  

Honestly the device is last thing to be considered.  Just like with teaching you need to start with the objectives, what do you want to be able to do?  Schools need to define these objectives, prioritize them and then determine how far their money will go.  If your goal is to increase the number of devices available to administer the PARCC test that may lead you to purchase a different device then if your goal is to facilitate the creation of interactive media rich material.  Different schools are at different places when it comes to the level of technology integration and therefore would require different tools. You cannot make the general claim that one tool is better then another. Current discussions revolve mainly around the iPad vs. Chromebook.  Many districts in my area have invested heavily in iPads. But any good Ed Tech Dept should always keep an eye on things, in technology the landscape changes daily.

We have been using Google Apps for about 5 years now with students and staff and are quite familiar with the standard suite of tools. Our tech department is trying to encourage “device agnostic” formats in documents, files and products. We have explored a variety of devices; traditional Windows and OS computers and laptops, android and surface tablets, netbooks, iPads and chrome books. We have dabbled in a lot of devices and operating systems. Changes occur in both applications and hardware in a heartbeat and it is hard to keep up.  We strive to find the right tool for the job.

When it comes to teaching and learning we want our technology to support our staff and students to be able to do the following;

Create and share video

On an iPad we use iMovie. In a chrome environment wevideo but at the rate we would use it it would be an additional cost. Tablets seem our best bet here with both a front and rear facing camera.

Create presentations

These presentations should include images, video, narration and handwritten input. Currently we use Explain Everything on an iPad or a PC/Mac – with bamboo tablet and applications such as PowerPoint, and Keynote.  Though students and staff do use Google Presentation – it is not as media rich as we would like and adding narration is not an option as far as I can tell.

Access and create eBooks

eBooks (ePub) with video and interactivity not just text, links and images). Currently we use Mac OS iBooksAuthor, various iOS book creator apps and iBooks. What would the alternative be on a chrome book?

 Improve Accessibility

We have many students who have eBooks, web sites and documents read to them using various assistive tech screen and eBook reading applications. These capabilities are built into iOS.

At this time our students and staff are immersed in a rich environment with our PC, iPad and Mac devices. They are not limited in their ability to create and access interactive, media laden content. This level of richness is not yet available in cloud-based computing.  Stand-alone, non-cloud based, single-use applications can offer functionality cloud-based applications cannot.  Yet, we still benefit from Google’s open source, cloud-based, collaborative applications suite. As Google and 3rd party developers improve cloud-based applications the ed tech landscape will change once more. In a couple of years we will likely be exploring new options.

I’d love your feedback.

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Be Different, You Are Different!

by Beth Knittle on February 21, 2014

I am tired of talking about standards, assessments, averages and classifying students. I don’t want to read about combating bulling and tolerating differences.  I want to celebrate the individual and all their “quirkiness”.  It is the people who did not fit the mold, who are not average or, more importantly, those who did not see themselves as one of the crowd who have made the biggest impact in art, science, business and literature.

I spent most of my life trying to blend in, to follow the rules, to be unnoticed. I was the “good girl”. I am not going to do anything special, because I can not see myself being able to do anything special. I’m average.  I don’t have anything unique to offer nor am I able to take risks because I do not want to stand out. Intellectually, I know that is not true but in my heart it is an obstacle.

We seem to set our children on a common path with similar expectations. Everyone needs to be good at math and language arts.  We are expected to study similar subjects, work and learn at similar rates. We sit in rows, we complete the same projects. We praise conformity and admonish those who standout. As a result our students find themselves on the paths set for them, in the box thinkers and do not easily see their unique gifts, talents and what makes them different from others. We teach our children to ignore, put aside and tolerate each others differences.

But we are different, we are individuals.  It is our different interests, points of view, passions, and abilities that shake things up and allows us to create and innovate.

I have been asking people, what’s you gift, what’s your passion, what’s your quirk, your talent, what makes you different.  Sadly the most common answer is ‘I don’t know” or “nothing really I am just like everybody else.” But that is not true.

The easily distracted student in your class who sees themselves as a poor student is an individual with an active mind, following connections, exploring random thoughts, analyzing their potential.

The day dreamer is a storyteller and inventor in the making.

The talkative one is confident and social.

The student who takes apart everything an engineer.

The argumentative individual is only able to have an argument because they hold a different point of view.  We need different points of view, we need to encourage this.

The student who learns  more slowly is seen as a struggling.  They may be more reflective, make deeper connections and retain their new knowledge for a much longer time.  The quick learner may have a great short term memory and the slower learner a better long term one. Our system favors the former and punishes the later. Each is valuable and important.

Our children see themselves as good or bad as it relates to school. The good student follows the path, is compliant and moves along at the rate expected. The bad student takes the circuitous route, is disruptive and learns when and what they want.  These are the children who are seen as different yet these are the ones that will likely change the world.

Just look at the great creators, thinkers, artists, inventors and entrepreneurs and you will find that most did not fit in nor take the expected path.  They were disruptive, they were different, they were quirky.

Be different, know your difference and celebrate it!

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Happy New Year

December 31, 2013

As a teacher we are blessed with 2 starts to a New Year, one where the calendar rolls over and another the start to the school year.  At each juncture we return to school after a break with an opportunity to regroup and start a fresh. Wishing you all a wonderful start a wonderful new [...]

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An Hour of Code

December 5, 2013

Next week is Computer Science Education Week, and to celebrate many are participating in an Hour of Code. The focus is to identify how computers and code is almost everywhere from the obvious mobile devices to your toaster and microwave and to “demystify” code. Some one needs to create these devices and develop code.  yet computer [...]

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How do we Teach the Complexity of Truth?

November 30, 2013

One man’s truth is another man’s fiction. Wikipedia starts off with a pretty good definition of truth then goes on to a lengthy discourse on the philosophy of truth and its relative nature.  It is one of those funny terms we all know what it means yet we don’t seem to be agree on what [...]

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Getting into Gaming

November 3, 2013

My son is a gamer he plays all types of games (card, board, live action and computers). He knows he wants to do “something” with computers when he heads off to college in a couple of years.  To help him figure it out he is taking a course on The Foundations of Game Design at [...]

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