Support Your Local Jethro

I sold my car the other day so I could buy a new computer. I decided that I could make a better living by working on my own business from home, and so I decided to quit my job, effective immediately. Since I no longer had a car, my friend had to drive me to buy this new computer. It's icy out there...That is the premise for the movie I made a couple weeks ago. I made it to enter it into a contest online. There are not that many other movies, and the best 9 movies will be chosen from the top 20 as the winners. Judging by my competition, I think I have a pretty good shot. Here is the video, watch it, sign up for an account, and vote on my video. There is a good privacy policy, so you don't have to worry about them selling your information.



Mozy is the company that is sponsoring this contest. I use the company for my online backup. They provide 2 GB of free backup for anyone on their home computer. It is automated, so you tell it what folders or files you want backed up, and it will upload them to the backup servers every night. I like that because I have all my work and grad school files backed up, and then I don't have to worry about losing them. If my hard drive fails, I won't lose all those documents. Here is a referral link, click on the free 2 GB link on the right side of the page, and you will get 256 MB free on top of your 2 GB.

Technology Pains



The above video clip is a public service announcement about the Digital TV transition that will take place in February, 2009. Since the clip is from Hulu, I don't think you can view it if you live outside the US.

I can't say I know how that woman feels, but I have seen this problem a hundred times.

Have a Good Life.

Questions about the iPod Touch

In the last post, Lynda asked a bunch of questions about the iPods. I want to answer them here, because it will help me reflect more.

1) How many students are sharing these 3 iPods?
The students are arranged into guided reading groups of 5 or 6. They rotate to different stations around the room, and they use the iPods and share them during that station. So, two people share an iPod.

2) What apps are loaded on the ipods?
eReader - an e-book reader app.
Stanza - another e-book reader app.
Wurdle - A Yatzhee-type of word game.
Word Whirl - You get seven letters and you have to make words that are from 3 to 7 letter long.
World Wiki - A wiki for every country in the world.
American Heritage Desk Dictionary - Apparently a pretty popular dictionary. Who knew?
Declaration and Constitution - Some historical documents that most people feel are pretty important.
iFlipr Lite - Flashcard app.
Flashcards - A good flashcard app that allows you to add pictures and photos to the flashcards. Very much worth the $2.99
Kid Book Envi - This is a cool app that allows you to read kids' books. Very cool.
There are a lot of great apps and I will probably buy more, because there are so many neat things.

3) How long is an ipod "session"?
They get 10 minutes at each station, so 10 minutes on the iPods.

4) How do you decide who uses the ipod? Is there a schedule? Is it time-based, or project-based?
That is, does a slower student get more time than a quicker student?
This is a good question, and I think that the students feel the best about the situation when they all get equal time on the iPods. One of the apps on there is a book reading app, and I may use that more in the future with the guided reading.

5) Is time on the ipod used as a perk or reward?
This is a touchy area of using technology. Technology is a privilege, not a right. I really want to use technology, and it is easier and more enjoyable for me, and so I try to not take it away. Well, these guided reading groups are not really easier, but they are worth it. I have had to take away the reading groups from one class, and I made that the punishment, not taking away the iPods.

6) What is the ideal ratio of students per iPod?
Ideally, I would want to have 1 student per iPod, but I don't think that is the best way to do it. I think having 2 kids on each iPod is good because they keep each other on task.

7) Does the student do work on the iPod? On a computer? On paper?
They do work on all three. Most of the work on the iPods have been watching instructional videos, where I am teaching something that I recorded previously and loaded onto the iPod.

8) Do you download podcasts from the iTunes store?
I have downloaded a movies from iTunesU that relate to the book that we are reading, Freak the Mighty. There are a lot of useful things from the iTunesU K-12 section that I will use, I am sure.

9) Are the students creating their own podcasts? If so, are they audio only? Video?
They eventually will create some sort of podcast, but that probably won't be done on the iPods unless I can get some microphones that work.

I hope these answers are satisfactory for you. If anybody has any ideas, feel free to let me know.

Have a Good Life.

iPod Touch in the Classroom

Due to a grant by our PTSA, I was able to purchase 3 iPod Touches for use in my classroom. I was going to do some unboxing pics, but I was too busy watching Heroes last night to worry about totally geeking out. But, I did get a chance to snap a picture of the three iPods.

Last school year, I talked about my dream of having these in the classroom. I still think it is a good idea, and I think that it will be beneficial for my students.

I bought a bunch of applications, though most of them were free. I have a few that I have been thinking of writing myself (shh, don't tell my wife, she thinks I have too much on my plate already) but I probably won't ever get to it, because it takes so much time to learn something so new to me.

The cool thing is that the kids love it. They would do any assignment I asked of them, just because it is on an iPod. So, where does that leave me?

Here is my philosophy: I don't know what it is yet.

I am bouncing around a few things.
  1. Students should use technology to do things that they would do anyways. For example, my students do a quickwrite every so often. Today, they entered their quickwrites in a form on our wiki and all their stories are in a spreadsheet on Google Docs.
  2. Students should use technology to do new things that they haven't done before. In other words, this should change the way I teach and the way they learn. For example, I made a video and put it on the iTouches for them to watch, and they received instruction by watching a video so that they could perform their next task.
  3. Students should use technology so that they are engaged and that is the only reason why.
I am amazed at how my students have reacted to the technology in our classroom. They love it. They are much more willing to do what I ask when they get to use technology.

I enjoy their enthusiasm for the technology, because it is something I share, also.

Will you help me clarify my philosophy about technology?

Have a Good Life.

How I Use My Document Camera


As part of the Engaged Classroom project that our district is sponsoring, we got a sweet document camera, the AverVision 300AF+.







It is perhaps the best piece of technology that I have added to my classroom. Here is why:
  1. It is easy to use
  2. Everyone can use it at the same time (by looking at it, not directly touching/using it)
  3. It allows me to model
  4. I can record videos
  5. I can take pictures of what the camera is seeing
  6. The students know exactly what they need to write down at each stage of an assignment
  7. Students (in Language Arts class) can receive immediate feedback from all students on their work
  8. It is easier for students to keep up and stay engaged in the lesson
If you go to my school website, you can see some videos that I have made of reading strategies. They are pretty boring to watch, but my kids love it when I am doing it live.

I did a small, very unscientific test, to see how well using this worked. In one class, I just gave instructions on an assignment with the document camera, and the students understood, had fewer questions, and paid attention for the entire time. With the other class, I delivered the same instruction, but didn't turn on the document camera. That class was more distracted, had more questions, and did the assignment at a lower quality.

The document camera is a simple thing, but it makes a big difference in student understanding.

Anybody else use a document camera? How do you use it? How can I use mine better?

Have a Good Life.

I am Officially Official



After two long years of slipping undergrad courses in with my graduate classes*, I have finally obtained my Utah Educator's Level I License. As Staci says, I don't need a piece of paper to show that I am a good teacher. (While that may be true, I do need a piece of paper to keep my job, not necessarily good teaching skills. Is that backwards? Yes.)

Anyway, I am glad to have my license, so only three more years of evaluations and I will be able to be a "career" teacher. Yippee for job security, if I make it that long!

*For those of you who don't know, I graduated with my Bachelor's degree in English, with an emphasis in professional writing, and a minor in Russian. After graduating, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, and so I went through Alternative Routes to Licensure. The program lets me take a bunch of classes while still having a real teaching job. Personally, I learned far more on the job than I ever learned in the classrooms, and I think I am a better teacher for it. Someday, I'll give my ideas for what a real teacher preparation program should look like.

My Daughter Ate My Homework


Dang! I can't discredit this excuse anymore. 10 months old and she is full after just 1/4 of a paper.

Guided Reading in the Middle School

Twitter version: Guided reading is the best thing I can do to help my students. How can I do it better?

This summer, not only was my internship amazing at helping me prepare for my future job as a school administrator, but it also taught me how to be a much better teacher. My classroom management skills have increased so much, I didn't know I could be this good. My desire to be a great teacher has increased, and my ability to do the same has also increased. I am more dedicated and more professional. I work harder and smarter, and I am able to do some amazing things. Thank you Mrs. P.

The Philosophy

One of the things that I saw at the elementary school was guided reading. Guided reading is where a teacher takes a group of students who are at about the same reading level, and reads with them to help them become better readers. The teacher helps with fluency and comprehension. Seeing guided reading in action changed me. I knew as soon as I saw it that it could be the single most important thing I could do as a Language Arts teacher. I had heard of it, but I thought it wasn't that big a deal. As soon as I watched a great teacher actually do it, it was amazing, and I knew that I had to do it, too.

The best benefit is that I would be able to know how well my students are reading. I would be able to focus some time on each kid, if only just a little time, and help them read better. I sold it to the kids like this:

"You guys must read well. If you don't, your whole life will be miserable. If you can't read well, you will have a harder time finding a good job, and you might never get married! [dramatic pause] If you can't read well, you will not be able to understand the love notes that your boyfriend or girlfriend writes to you, and they will stop liking you!"

Maybe that is not entirely true, but to a bunch of 7th graders that are just learning that the other gender is attractive, this statement set off a round of giggles and sideward glances that made my heart happy.

Guided reading works really well in elementary school where you only see 35 kids a day. It gets harder in middle school where you see 35 kids six periods a day. Taking time to read with all your 200 students in one day is impossible.

How it Works

We did our first round this week. I spent the entire period Monday describing how the rotations would work and stressing the important things that they needed to remember as we rotated on Tuesdays and Wednesdays:
  1. The guided reading part with me is the most important
  2. We will rotate through the stations quickly and effeciently
  3. Everyone's best behavior is required, no excuses
  4. Each student will bring a book

After stressing each of these things for a full 46 minute period, the students understood how serious I was about it. As I explained, we rotated every couple minutes so the students could understand how it worked. Spending that time on Monday was vital to the success on Tuesday and Wednesday. The kids knew what was expected, and for the most part, everyone behaved appropriately.

To help it run smoothly, I invited the parents of all my students to come and help. I got quite a few responses, and some really great parents showed up and were invaluable helpers.

The hardest part of this is the work that goes into it. It always bugs me when teachers go home with a ton of stuff to correct and spend their entire lives working. My workload this year is way more than it ever has been, and I am trying really hard to get everything done at school. It doesn't always happen. To help me find balance, I go home and make sure that I play and read with my kids each night, and after I put them in bed, I stay up pretty late getting everything ready and organized.

This first week was probably the easiest one to prepare. Having parent volunteers every week is the only way I will be able to do this all year. Those kids need someone else there to help guide them along and keep them on task.

We had seven stations. The first station was reading with me. That was pretty much it this time, because I wanted everyone to get an idea of how it works. After reading with me, they work on a worksheet relating to the book that they are reading. Then the third station is our technology station. This week, they just played some language arts games online, and jumped on freerice.com for a little bit.

The next station was an introduction to the iPod Touch. I got a grant from our PTSA that bought me three of them, and so I wanted the kids to know the basics, so we watched the guided tour (more on this later, because it is going to be awesome). After the iPods, they work on a writing assignment that we are doing at the time. The sixth station is another writing station, where we will focus on elements of writing (smiley-face tricks, 6 traits, figurative language, etc.). The final station is where the students read to get ready to meet with me.

The Challenges

Each rotation is only 10 minutes, so the kids have to really get on task right away. My challenge is creating something worthwhile for them to do for ten minutes that will teach them what they need to learn, and also allow them to create and learn something worthwhile.

The time challenge is fitting all that preparation time into my one 47-minute prep period. It is not easy, especially considering my other responsibilities (tech committee, steering committee, redesigning the school website, engaged classroom, and more). I certainly am not complaining because I love everything that I am working on right now.

The skill challenge is that I don't know how to do this guided reading stuff. I don't have a reading endorsement (though I will start on one as soon as time permits). I am majorly lacking in this area, and I didn't even know what this was until the 2nd to last week of my internship! I do have a great language arts consultant or specialist or whatever she is at the district level. She came out and gave some great suggestions about some things I could do, including having the kids read a driver license exam and talk about strategies for reading that difficult text. I will rely heavily on her.

The Question

What can I do with guided reading to make it more effective for my students, easier for me, and more beneficial for everyone? I am open to all suggestions.

Have a Good Life.

I did it.

I have been on overload the last couple months, and everything seems to be adding up. When you get overwhelmed, you sometimes need to take drastic steps. Well, that is what I did. I whittled my 274 Google Reader subscriptions down to just 15. I wish that I would have taken a picture when it was so many subscriptions, but you get the general idea from the screenshot above.

Since I still write for the The Apple Blog, I had to keep a lot of feeds that I use for that, and I put those on NetNewsWire, so it is a different place and a different mindset for me.

In other news, I downloaded this cool program called slife from slifelabs.com. This program tracks what you do on your computer throughout the day. It keeps detailed records, allows you to set "productivity goals," and even can track what you do and where you go on the internet. This sounds a little Big Brother-ish, but I don't mind being my own Big Brother. I think that is important. Slife Labs says that they don't report anything back to them, and that it all stays on your own computer. I am going to use this program for a couple weeks and see what things look like. My wife is also using it, and it will be much more telling for her, since this is the only computer she uses.

Have a Good Life.

That was Anti-Climactic

Last week, I found out that Senator Howard Stephenson would be coming to my classroom today. Each day, it seemed that the number of other visitors changed. I wasn't sure at all what would actually happen, and neither were the district people that were closer to the situation. Everything was shrouded in mystery.


Yesterday, a rep from the audio enhancement company our school uses showed up to make sure that my microphone would feedback whenever I talked. I had turned down the high end because it was feedback city, and that took care of the problem. He came in (as a professional) and turned up the highs and seemed satisfied when it made the awful high-pitched scream. Silly man. I turned them back down in preparation for today's meeting.

Senator Stephenson came into my room and observed with 5 or 6 other people. I was hoping that we could get my teacher evaluation out of they way today, but that was not meant to be. They sat there and watched me teach about online safety, and then left. They didn't ask me any questions, or interrupt my lesson, or anything. I wasn't expecting a highway being named after me, but I was expecting something. There was nothing. I almost took a nap during my prep period immediately following the visit.

The sad thing is that they missed the best part. The kids made a KWL chart about being safe online in Google Docs on the wiki, and now we have a big list of everything that they know and want to know about being safe online. That part really was neat. It was hard to get my kids on task, because they were psyched out to be using the laptops.

For a different view, you can read Darren's take on the whole thing (with a picture, even).

A Learning Experience

A couple months ago, I commented on how great it is when learning is frustrating. Well, it is still great, but sometimes it is not that great. As you may have noticed, I took off all the posts from my internship this summer. My principal made a good point, she said that I was privy to a lot of information and that I didn't realize how much trust I was given.

I know that I make mistakes and that I am not perfect, but I sure don't like being told about it.

The feelings that I experienced when she told me were very conflicted. I was sad, hurt, offended, suddenly aware of the weight of that job, and extremely grateful that she told me how she felt. It is not fun to be called out, but it is sometimes needed.

Thank you Mrs. P. for a wonderful internship, and helping me learn something that was hard to swallow, but needed to be said.

Have a Good Life.

The First Day of School

I must be getting excited for school to start in three weeks, because I had a dream about the first day. The best part was that I got a sub for that day because I have been too busy to do anything for my school this summer.

Have a Good Life.

Guest Post: 6 Tips for Motivating Your Students

This article is contributed by Heather Johnson, who regularly writes on the topic of grants for graduate school. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal email address: heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

Motivating your students can be the most challenging aspect of your job. The factors why a student isn’t particularly responsive on a given day are vast. You’re not going to have the magic potion to make all your students alert and attentive all the time. This is a fact you’re going to have to live with. However, there are a ton of ways you can try to turn the tide in your classroom. Not all of these will work for you as there is an ebb and flow to your classroom. Here are six tips to consider the next time you feel your class isn’t putting forth an acceptable level of effort:

1. Make sure your classroom is comfortable. Sometimes the problem can be as simple as having an uncomfortable environment. Make sure the room temperature is at a level that is comfortable for you and your students. Check the lighting and air circulation. These are details that can often be overlooked but can be the key to maintaining a steady level of attentiveness.
2. Pay attention to strengths and weaknesses. Reward students for excellence and work on bringing up their weaknesses. When the student sees that rewards are out there for solid work, they’ll usually take the onus on themselves to strive to strengthen areas that are weak.
3. Relevance goes a long way. Come up with ways to make your material that you need to cover relevant to your students’ ages. There are ways you can make the driest material interesting to your students. This is a key you have to strive for when you’re trudging through the mundane.
4. Keep moving. When you’re lecturing, move around the room and stay energetic. Even if the material you’re covering isn’t the most exciting stuff your students will pick up on your energy and be more receptive to the material.
5. Show, don’t tell. Straight lecturing will bore your students to no end. They need you to give examples when you’re presenting material. Keep the phrase, show don’t tell, in mind when you’re in front of your class.
6. Let your sense of humor shine through. Students will connect with you if you can use your sense of humor as a teaching tool. Exhibiting a sense of humor will forge a greater connection between you and your pupils. Don’t be too silly as this can lead to a loss of control of your classroom, but using some wit will make your material not so dry.

The Engaged Classroom Training

I just completed the Engaged Classroom training: a four-day course that covered a book and a bunch of social/web tools. It was pretty intense, and I think that a lot of people are overwhelmed. Below is a picture of the stuff that we got (I used Delicious Library 2 to get that all organized).



I am so excited to do this. I have the tools now to do stuff. That has been the biggest hurdle for me.

I am required to train two other teachers to use these tools: Matt and Melinda. Matt is a self-proclaimed technophobe, but he is coming along. I think my biggest challenge with him is the actual implementation of the tools. I think that if I work with him over the summer, he will be good to go. He just needs to start using these tools.

Melinda is pretty savvy, and I think she will need direction to find what is good for her class. She is still new, and teaches a heavy curriculum, but I think that she will come along nicely, as well.

The best thing is that I really like both of them. Matt and Melinda are awesome, and I am very lucky that I get to teach with them. They are both very accommodating, eager to learn, and flexible. I am really looking forward to this Engaged Classroom program.

The biggest concern that I have is the time that it will take to teach the students to use these tools. Some of them will "get it" and some won't. Some will be so engrossed I will have to pry the technology away from them, and some won't care at all.

I think the key is to make sure that I am not forcing them to use the tools, but making an environment that will be conducive to them learning with a lot of failures will be crucial. I think I am up to the task.

This is not going to be an easy thing to do, but it will be worth it, I think.

Have a Good Life.

The Message didn't Stick

I am participating in a program by our school district called the Engaged Classroom. I (and two other teachers) are going to have a mobile lab with a bunch of other technology to use for the year, and hopefully create some good projects and learning opportunities for our students. This is exactly the type of thing that I have wanted to do for a long time, so I am glad that I now have the opportunity.

Kelly and Darren are doing a great job teaching a very technologically diverse group of people about the different tools we should/will be using. They are experiencing what any other person teaching about technology will experience: sometimes, people just don't get it. Even if they say, "Yes, teacher, I understand what you are asking and I will do it from now on just like that."

After learning how to use Diigo (which I finally kind of understand now, thanks), Wikis, Google Docs, and plenty of other collaborative web apps, one student wanted to share a link with another student. So, this is what she did:)



You gotta love that. The image is backwards, and it is because I took it from Photo Booth and didn't have the energy to mirror the image so it came out right. Call me lazy.

Honestly, the worst thing in the world to me (not really, but a close second to getting stung by a jellyfish) is writing out by hand URLs. Talk about torture!

So the real question is, what is this person going to do with what she has "learned" this week? I am most certainly not mocking or poking holes in the wonderfully developed program. They have done a lot to make sure that they are following up; we must make a portfolio, attend monthly meetings, and teach others about the same things we are learning. This is a large beast to tackle for them, and I am excited to be a part of it.


Have a Good Life.

Reflection: On Arguing


Twitter Version: I don't argue.

At the end of last year, I did a couple reflection posts. Now, it is time for me to reflect on some things I learned this year.

My first year of teaching, I spent a lot of time arguing with my students. At one point, the VP came and talked to one of my students outside my classroom with me. I remember so vividly the way she handled that situation. He had done something wrong, and she was lecturing him. He started a weak protest, and she said, "Sir, this is not a time for you to argue, you will listen to me now." That sounds like a harsh and unhelpful way to talk to a student, but it is really quite effective. I know there is a lot of talk about how we should treat students--they are people too, after all. I think there is a fine line you have to walk in these situations. You need to treat people like adults when they deserve. Not all students deserve that treatment, especially when they are just arguing for argument's sake.

This is how I handle situations now. When a kid is goofing off or doing something wrong. I very firmly and authoritatively tell them to leave the room. When I get outside, I ask them questions like:
  • Why are you out here?
  • What is causing you to act like this?
  • Why would your behaving like this make me upset?
  • How would this behavior cause problems in the classroom?
If, at any point during our conversation, they want to argue, I immediately interrupt them and tell them that they are not permitted to speak right now. They are out here to answer my questions. I never raise my voice or get angrier at them. If they continue, I calmly say something like, "M., we are not here to argue."

If they still argue, I repeat the above and say, "You did X wrong, and it has created a big enough problem in class that I need to come out here to talk to you. You will have your opportunity to say your peace after you answer my questions." Invariably, their peace is, "I understand that what I did was wrong, and I am sorry."

Nearly always, I give them an opportunity to say or add anything else. My belief is that if they answer my questions, I should answer theirs. Usually, this consists of them saying "Someone else started the problem" or "Why didn't you get so-and-so in trouble?"

When they ask those questions, I focus them on themselves, and talk about what they did and say that I will deal with the other student as needed. Usually this works pretty well, because it is almost always the same kids that do something wrong. (Hmm, that sounds like a whole other blog post.)

This method has been very effective for me this year. Students have behaved better, and even though it is the same kids goofing off, they have been goofing off less this year, and problems have been resolved quicker, and with less administrative involvement.

Have a Good Life.

Image: Busted (my title). Crop of IMG_2994 by Mr. Woo

Google Reader and Sharing


I love using Google Reader. I loved it even more when they introduced Sharing items with people that you chat with. All the time, though, I wanted to add comments to what I shared with people. Google implemented that feature a couple weeks ago. It is wonderful. I got connected with a slew of people when Google announced sharing to begin with, but I would like to get connected with more people. If you read my blog and use Google Reader, please add me to your chat list, so that we can share things we read in Reader. My email is jethro dawt jones at gmail dawt com. You are not required to chat with me, but I do love reading what people share!

Have a Good Life.

Why I Won't Use a Typepad blog

I have been using Blogger as my blogging platform of choice for two and a half years. It is very easy to use, pretty fast, and I don't have too many complaints. My biggest complaint is that it doesn't host files. That frustrates me, especially when I try to help teachers use it for school, and they can't attach their files to it. You can use Google Docs, but I have found that Google Docs requires a paradigm shift for most people that they aren't quite willing to make.

When I write for The Apple Blog I use Wordpress, which many people have mentioned is much better than Blogger. So far, I do like it a lot. It works well if you know a little more about computers because you can customize it much more than you can Blogger. Blogger is much more simple, and that has its own appeal as well.

Do you know which platform I refuse to use? Typepad. And here is why: their comment system stinks! Whenever I want to post a comment, I click the submit button. The Web site sends the request to show me a page that says my comment has been submitted, so I think it is all done. Well, that is wrong, because this happens every time: about 20 minutes later, I browse through my tabs to see what is open, sometimes to see if anyone has responded to my comments. When I do this on a Typepad blog, I get the screen below:



It is still waiting for me to put in the correct Captcha letters/numbers. Despite the fact that I hate these things, I always mess up the Typepad Captcha. In the picture above, can you see where I messed up? I sure can't. But, sure enough, I had to enter another response to this Captcha. So this happens every time I post a comment on a Typepad blog. I don't think I have ever entered the Captcha correctly on the first try. By the third try, I just give up. Typepad makes it so hard to leave a comment, it is just ridiculous.

If they make it so hard to leave a comment, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to even enter a post! Typepad can do some things to make it a better system:
  1. Have the anti-spam question, Captcha, or whatever it is, on the page where you leave your comment. Don't make us think there just isn't one.
  2. Change the Captcha system. Perhaps it times out after too much time. It is easy to let it sit there for a while when you expect your comment to just appear.
Just these two changes would, I am sure, increase the amount of comments on posts. Am I alone here, or do you share my feelings?

Have a Good Life.

Skypin'


The last couple weeks we have been doing Skype video calls with another 7th grade class in Oregon. All we have been doing is reciting poetry, but it is still fun. My students have been really nervous, which is cool because they are able to perform in front of a real audience. I blocked out the faces of the students. We have been working with a class in Oregon. I think that it is so much fun to do this.

Today, we did a video call with a fourth grade boy and his teacher. The boy, D. asked a bunch of questions about Utah. It is part of a big project that the whole class is working on.

So, here is what I think of video calls with other classes. This can be a great way for people to learn more about other places and other people. I would really like to do some video calls with some writers since I teach English. It would be very beneficial to be able to learn from them, and use their knowledge and experience to help my students. Maybe my 7th graders are too young for that. I don't know. I do have one friend who is an author, but we just haven't had an opportunity to talk to him, though, thankfully, he is willing. This is something that I want to keep doing next year. The good this about this is that you are not putting anything on the internet, your kids' identities are protected, and you meet new people in the process.

Have a Good Life.

Twitter Backfires - One Week Later

I have received a lot of great comments on this post, and I figured I should respond in the comments, but then the comment kept getting longer and longer, so I am just going to do a blog post.

I understand what most of you are saying. I think what I am still struggling with is that this class really has been my worst. When they are here, I have a sick feeling. This is my fault. I have been so fed up with their attitude, passive-aggressive behavior, backtalking, and all the other things they have been doing that I just don't know what else to do with them. It was not a motivational thing. I motivated my students with negativity a lot last year, but it is not effective, for me at least.

The real benefit to this all happening is that they have actually listened to what I have said since this incident. They are not just blowing me off. I think that we listen to each other more. This week we have been doing state testing, and I was not looking forward to dealing with them while those who finished early goofed off and weren't respectful of the other students. But they have been doing a really good job. I haven't had that sick feeling this week. I know that kids can and will be kids, and I am okay with that. It is the over-the-top aggression and disrespect that drives me nuts. I said it before, do I deserve respect from this class after calling those girls out? They certainly have not thought so.

Image Credit: Road to Well Being


Paul, great link! You are right on as usual. Both the students and myself had a blind spot. They were blind to how they were making me feel, and I was blind to how they felt about me. Now that something is out in the open, we can start to have a conversation about what is going on. Hopefully, it will lead to something productive. This class has been much better this week. I don't think that it is because they are trying to please me. In my opinion, they realized that I am telling other people about them, and they don't want to spoken ill of. (And that would be bad, talk about losing trust!) Either that, or they realized that I was serious, and they don't want to be "the worst" at anything. Or maybe, I just got it off my chest, so now I am not as annoyed. Who knows?

Have a Good Life.

Collaboration Does Work

I have mentioned that I am impressed with my school this year. I enjoy being in a place where most teachers respect and have concern for others. This year we filled out a rubric to see if kids qualify for Foreign Language in 8th grade. My big problem with the rubric is that it tends to put all the good kids in Foreign Language and all the bad kids in Reading. That is not a good combination. I raised a question about it, and although those who I asked seemed to say, "Well, we know more about the situation than you, so stop making waves" they were supportive after I persisted in expressing my concerns. It led to some quick changes to the rubric, and they were able to change things to be better. I suggested we have an application for the students to fill out that would help them decide if Foreign Languages were right for them. This is what it looks like. I am glad that these teachers and counselors are willing to work together to come up with something that is hopefully better.

Have a Good Life.

Jigsaw Planet

I don't know where I found this, but it is pretty cool. You make online jigsaw puzzles. No signup required and it is fun. Give the two below a try and let me know what you think. I think I could make a few of these and use them as some sort of learning object in my class. It would at least be a fun way to kill the last five minutes of the day on those days.

Fro - online jigsaw puzzle - 63 pieces



If you want to try one that is really hard, try this one:


Have a Good Life.

Twitter Backfires!

It all started two months ago when I caught three girls cheating on a test. I made a poor decision and ripped up their papers in front of the class. Those three girls have been inciting the rest of the class for a couple months to near rioting. This class has been very difficult to deal with despite many long talks with many students. It is very frustrating. These students know exactly how I feel. Well, they should know. On Friday we had another talk about how they should behave and what is expected of them. Yesterday, I posted this on Twitter:



Whenever my students need an assignment, I direct them to my website and tell them to print things off my calendar. I have found out that a lot of them get to my Web site via search engines. What do you suppose is one of the results when you search for Jethro Jones? It is not my Twitter page. Nor does it rise to the top when you search for my name and Twitter. But somehow, the above Twitter post was one of the top results because one of my students asked me today, "Mr. Jones, why do you think we are your worst class?" I asked why she thought that, and she quoted the above Twitter post nearly perfectly and told me that her mom found it when trying to find my website. My class was surprisingly good for the fire drill, even though I didn't expect them to be that good. So, one other girl asked why I hate them, and after being corrected, asked why I dislike them. I made sure that those were their words. I explained that they are my worst-behaved class. It doesn't mean that I hate them or dislike them, but it does mean that they drive me crazy and that they can be very annoying. I told them this. I have not kept it a secret from them before now, and I have not tried to hide it from them. As I said, we have had many long chats about this. This girl's mom was not upset or so the student said. She thought it was pretty funny, actually. The students were good today after another long chat. They also were much better at keeping the others on task.

Now that you have the background, here are my thoughts. First, Why were they so upset about this despite the nearly hundreds of times I have talked to them about it? They all knew about the Twitter post before they came into my class, because this girl probably told them all about it in first period. I think they were upset because it was public on the internet, and people could find it. They knew they had the fire drill yesterday, and so they finally understood that I thought they were my worst class (despite the fact that I have been trying to tell them that for weeks). Second, it is hard for these seventh graders to disassociate negative things. Just because they are my worst class does not mean that I hate or dislike them. They don't understand that (hopefully) adults can separate the two feelings. I told them that they annoy and frustrate me, but that as soon as they are doing what they should, those feelings go away. Third, how in the world did she find that. My website was above all the possible Twitter statuses even when I searched for "jethrojones twitter". I guess she could have found her way to my blog but I don't know. Crazy. Fourth, this has definitely reminded me that what I write is available and can be found. I need to remember that. I don't usually post anything controversial, but even things like this, that can be found by the mom of a student in that class, are fair game.

So, the real question is should I protect my updates so that I can't be found on Twitter or searches?

Have a Good Life.

TechnoThursdays and PD

Darren Draper, my hero, posted a great thought about Professional Development. He runs a great program called OpenPD. He just finished his third session, and reflected about it. I suggest you read it to fully understand my comments here. Darren asks these questions:
  1. How do we transform OpenPD so as to attract the kinds of teachers that aren’t the most technologically savvy?
  2. How do we garner the participation of additional groups of teachers? Sure, individual participation from wherever you may be is fantastic, but a class of multiple classes would be ideal.
  3. What can be done to provide OpenPD participants with local district credit - enabling additional rewards other than the intrinsic?
  4. Considering question 3, are such extrinsic rewards really needed or would they only taint the enthusiasm for such an endeavor?
@Clay, How can you say RSS is dead? You just said the other day that this is too new! Perhaps RSS is dead to you, but that doesn't mean it is dead to others.

Darren and Sarah: Teachers and any other professionals hate PD because it is PD. As my professor this last semester said about a hundred times as she lectured us with the same style of PowerPoint without letting us interact, "The days of a one-stop-dog-and-pony-show Professional Development are over!" When we tried to participate in that discussion, she ignored us and lectured more about the need for collaboration in adult education. (Pardon me, I got distracted by hypocrisy.)

If we call it PD, people are going to hate it without knowing anything about it.

Also, I have mentioned numerous times that if you want OpenPD to attract normal (non techy) teachers, we need satellite groups of teachers to start inviting other teachers at their school to participate in technology sessions or experiences. My TechnoThursdays has only been successful because they are developing professionally and they don't even know it. It is not even that successful, there are only 4 or 5 people that show up each time. But if you think about all the middle schools in our district doing that, that is nearly a hundred people participating in professional development while enjoying it and not knowing that they are being duped! But it is not about duping them, it is about creating a safe environment for teachers to explore technology and learn new tricks. If they can learn about it at a safe place, they can feel more comfortable trying it out on their own.

In addition, we might have some better success if we are not focusing on the bleeding edge of technology. This goes back to Clay's idea that RSS is dead. Maybe since it is dead, some teachers will start using it. Maybe we should look at teaching them how to properly use Excel or their grading programs or some other type of software. My biggest takeaway from TechnoThursdays is that I need to teach relevant topics, and go s-l-o-w. This should be part of any PD.

TechnoThursdays went so well today because we talked about a way to specifically integrate technology into their different subject areas in a way that made their lives easier and more productive. That is what gets them coming back.

Have a Good Life.

Student Work: By K.

Update: My student just came to me with her addition, a couple lines at the bottom, in red.

My student wrote this poem for an assignment with very little instruction: You need to write a poem that is at least 20 lines long and then tell me what the main idea of the poem is and tell me what emotions you are using or feeling in the poem.

I present it here with no editing, and it will annoy me to death, but that is how she explicitly wanted it. I tell my students (especially in poetry) that it is okay to break the rules as long as 1) you know what rule you are breaking and 2) you know why you are breaking it. She knew the what and why, so here it is:
Many people say I hate my life,
Why can't someone else be in my
place? Why not live life while you're
alive! Think, do you want to be some
helpless cat dead on the sidewalk. As you
see, lightning is most peoples' killer anger. It roars
to life & it stays for a while. If
you die, many people feel sorry for you, but
isn't death what you wanted? So death is
what you got! Once you die or kill your-
self there are no second chances, you feel
angry & stupid for wanting to die all
you do now is sit down & cry! You wish
u hadn't but you did, now u wish you
still had lived. There are so many things
in life to live for so step back and try to
ignore. People want to bring you down
just look at them and frown, frown, frown.
You will be a clown if you want to die
So don't do it just sit & cry, cry, cry.
Your life is over, it was your choice you
shouldn't have killed yourself, instead spoke
your voice.
I think it is a pretty good poem, and I like that it has an anti-suicide message. This girl has always bewildered me, and I like that she is showing herself in this poem.

Have a Good Life.

Student Work: by A.

Before I taught persuasive writing, I had the students write a persuasive essay about iPods at school (they are forbidden here). Here is A.'s essay (I corrected some grammar and spelling, but not much):
I think that iPods should be allowed in school.

I believe that if we had iPods in school, then we would work when we should and we would be more successful.

I also think that if we had heavy metal rock on it then we would not be able to concentrate therefore we would have to be limited to certain songs and/or artists.

I think that it would be a problem though if the teacher needed to say something or the bell rings because we wouldn't be able to hear so as a solution think that we should only be allowed to have one earphone in.

I know that there are some rough spots that would have to be worked out, but I still think that it would be better.
This essay is pretty indicative of the essays that I got back from my students. There are a lot of problems with this, and I left some of the mistakes in. Each paragraph is only one sentence long and then it is time to move on to something new.

The students wrote their essays about iPods last week. Then, I taught them how to write a persuasive essay. They wrote one as a group, and then they wrote these yesterday on their own.
I gave the students this topic for a persuasive essay: "Should 7th Graders Wear Deodorant?" Look at how much better A. did on her first essay after learning this strategy (I corrected some grammar and spelling, but not much):

Have you ever sat by someone and they were the stinkiest person that you have ever smelled? Some people believe that seventh graders don't need to wear deodorant...but we know better. Seventh graders must be some of the stinkiest people in the world! (Boys in particular.)

One reason seventh graders must start to wear deodorant is because they have just started to hit puberty, and I don't think that they realize that as you get older you start to smell worse. For example, have you noticed that your grandmother or grandfather smell all musty? That is because they're old. It is possible that you are saying, "Well, what about babies? They stink, though." But that is only because they are not potty trained, but imagine that if they were they wouldn't be so smelly.

Another reason seventh graders should wear deodorant is because if they ride the bus they they are permanently out of friends. For example, the bus doesn't have any air conditioning and then they start to give off deadly fumes and the worst part is that you can't just get off the bus because then you would just end up walking home when it wasn't even your fault.

In addition to hitting puberty and being smelly on the bus, seventh graders must wear deodorant because when they sweat, the salt in the perspiration will dry and make your skin flaky, and the rubbing of your arms as you walk will chafe the skin in your pits, therefore, you have to buy medicated lip balm to soothe the pain and ease the chafing. This is a much more expensive alternative rather than buying a cheap stick of deodorant.

As you can see, puberty, being smelly on the bus, and sweating show that it is a matter of life and death for both the seventh grader and those who are older to slather a destinkifying white stick, commonly known as deodorant.
This essay is not perfect, but she did a pretty good job of staying on topic and following the outline I posted previously. For seventh graders, organization is a very difficult thing to do. This second essay is way better than her first essay. This is great! You see, seeing students achieve something that is so much better than what they did before makes teaching worthwhile.

Have a Good Life.

Yeah, I'm Pretty Good at that!

One of the more important things that I teach my 7th graders is persuasive writing, and I think that I do a pretty good job, considering my lack of experience and skill. The way I teach it really seems to make sense to my students, and I know that it makes sense to me.

First of all, I go to this website called PocketMod, which is basically a place where you can create and print out your own mini-book that needs no staples or tape to work. You can even convert PDFs to this small form factor and have your reading fit in your pocket (I must admit this came in handy when I had to read so many PDFs for a few of my grad classes). I make a book like the one below and print it out.




This method requires half a period (our periods are 45 minutes) to teach introduction, one whole period to teach supporting paragraphs, and half a period to teach conclusion.

I have the paper above on an opaque projector (or as a transparency on an overhead) and write on it just like they do. That way, they can see exactly where things need to go. I tell them they only have to write what I write on the paper like theirs, so all our other discussion and comments don't go there. They get a very specific formula to follow.

I give a blank one to each of my students and pitifully try to explain to them what to number the pages. I do this so that they can have a point of reference for the next steps, which need some reference points.

When this book is folded, each page represents a new paragraph in a persuasive essay (also known as a five paragraph essay). These are 7th graders, so they like it simple and wrapped in a nice package. The anticipation of being able to eventually cut the paper and fold it kills them. I do everything I can to delay that gratification. It is good for them, right?

So, on each "page" I take them through what is required for each paragraph in the essay. I let them do most of the teaching--that is, they call things out and I write it on the board off to the side while we discuss what should go where. Some of them have some background knowledge so this is a good way for me to get an idea of where they are at. Typically, though, we move through this pretty quickly. They give suggestions of what should be in each paragraph, and then I eventually tell them what should go there, and they suggest what should be written. It is all pretty straightforward, and they can easily make sense out of the words that I give them. They usually give an answer very close to the "correct" answer (correct in this instance means, worded the way I like it to be worded).

The other thing that makes this work well, is I give them a guide for what they can use when they are writing papers for me. I give them keywords and key phrases that trigger what is supposed to come next.

Key for the image below:
Black text: The important parts that will be in every persuasive essay they write until the day they die!
Blue Text: The explanation of the black text, just in case you ever forget.
Red Text: Keywords they can use to start that section/sentence/paragraph/whatever.

Why do I teach persuasive organization like this?
  1. Simple plug-and-play types of writing that are different enough (as this one is) will help them score well enough on their big important writing tests.
  2. Middle school kids are all over the place when it comes to organization (and I am sure that has something to do with their out-of-control bodies).
  3. It is much easier to grade them for their organization skills when they all follow this same pattern and use the same words.
  4. It is much easier for them to focus on the other five traits if organization, the trait that can hold them up, is very easy to do.
  5. I enjoy seeing them feel like they are writing a good paper (even if it is not) because it is well organized.
  6. This works. My students' writing scores were much better last year than the year before, and I had a lot of ELL (or ESL or LAL or whatever other names there are for kids who don't speak English at home).
  7. When they know what goes where, the rest of the good writing practices will come
  8. It doesn't take that long to teach, and the rest is just practice (it takes 2 full 45-minute periods, but I do the intro paragraph on the first day, and then have them write two or three to practice their hooks--then the middle paragraphs on day 2, and about 15 minutes on the conclusion).
I do really enjoy teaching them to write a persuasive essay in this manner. This method gives them enough help that even the really poor writers can write a decent paper at the end.

If you have anything that I should add to the lesson, please let me know so I can include it for next year.

Have a Good Life.

TechnoThursdays Session 5

TechnoThursdays went great. We didn't have as many people there, but I think that I got the video to work better this time. We talked about blogs and everyone was able to keep up well. One of the other teachers couldn't make it, so she watched the session today. Last week I talked about going slow and providing something useful. I didn't plan as much today, and I think that made it a lot better. I took my time and didn't feel rushed.

I enjoy seeing everyone posting to their blogs. Right now they are just posting assignments for students, but someday I hope to get them more involved in the blogosphere. We will see.

Have a Good Life.

YES!!!!!

I love the semi-colon! This rocks! Though, I don't know if this really makes much sense.




You Are a Semi-Colon



You are elegant, understated, and subtle in your communication.

You're very smart (and you know it), but you don't often showcase your brilliance.



Instead, you carefully construct your arguments, ideas, and theories รข€“ until they are bulletproof.

You see your words as an expression of yourself, and you are careful not to waste them.



You friends see you as enlightened, logical, and shrewd.

(But what you're saying often goes right over their heads.)



You excel in: The Arts



You get along best with: The Colon



Have a Good Life.

Leadership: Tarantino Style

Taylor the Teacher posted about leadership today, probably because she feels her leadership is this way. This is definitely an authoritarian approach, and sometimes the situation warrants this kind of leadership (of course without the cutting off the head part). Sometimes, you really need to chop down on this. I remember one experience that I had as a leader where I needed to be strong. There was a topic that we could not talk about. If we did, it would have eroded our unity and all that we had worked so long and hard to make. This was the same basic approach that I needed to take with those that I led. I laid down the law and said, "We will not talk about this."

Here is the clip Taylor used (Warning: It has bad language and a guy gets his head chopped off.)



I haven't ever seen this movie, but I like that Taylor related this clip to leadership--very clever.

Have a Good Life.

Johari Window

Pete over at LeaderTalk posted a good example of how important it is to be aware of what you are doing right and what you don't even know you are doing. I have experienced similar problems where people around you get upset about something and you don't realize that anything is wrong. The Johari Window explains this situation very well.

Image Credit: Road to Well Being

I think Johari's window is pretty self-explanatory. The "Not known to self" section is what needs to be uncovered. You can uncover this by surveying other people, doing self-inventories, and studying. I hope that as a leader, I will be able to uncover the things that are currently hidden from me.

Have a Good Life.

TechnoThursdays Session 4

TechnoThursdays wiki for this session.

You can watch the video at the link above, if you choose. Please fill out the survey, too.

This week's session was way better than last week's. I felt really rushed last week, and the class didn't go very well. I think Google Docs takes a mental shift. I don't think most of them were ready for it. I am frustrated with myself for not being aware that it would be difficult. I should have known.

This week we did blogs. We set up blogs so that the teachers could post updates to their blogs each day about what they did in class. I think this is a great because they can make their lives easier. Students who need assignments from the previous day can get it there.

What made tonight's TechnoThursday really successful?
  1. I was very prepared.
  2. I was teaching them something they could use right away.
As a teacher of adults, I need to be prepared. As a teacher of adults, I need to teach them something that they can meaningfully use right away.

Have a Good Life.
I had a spiritual experience in my first period English class today.

We read Touching Spirit Bear in my 7th grade English class this quarter, and I didn't think the students were getting much out of it. It was my first time teaching it, and I didn't do a very good job teaching it. They mostly read it by themselves with little discussion about it. I should have done a better job. I will do a better job next year, Department Chair.

For the totem pole assignment at the end, the kids needed to draw a totem pole and write about it. I didn't give my first period class much instruction about it, and then gave the other periods more instruction. The things these 1st period students turned in were amazing.

One girl wrote about how her dad used to be an alcoholic and how he has not had a drink for 3 years. Then she started crying. She was not crying because she was embarrassed, she was crying because she was so proud of her dad. She let me read the rest of her paper later, and she had so many great things in there.

Another student read his, he drew the World Trade Center and told about how they thought his dad died there. Then, he said his dad didn't die, but friends did die there. Then he said, "I just want to ask God to bless all those heroes and victims of 9/11." It was so heartfelt and honest; it was not part of his written explanation.

These two students were just part of the whole class doing an amazing job. I didn't think that they really understood a lot of the book. They showed me that they did.

Have a Good Life.

Meeting the DuFours!



Last week my principal came into my room to ask me if I would be interested in attending a Principal's Academy conference with him where Rick and Becky DuFour would be speaking. For the uninitiated, Rick and Becky DuFour are the big names in Professional Learning Communities (PLC). A PLC is a collaborative community of school personnel that works together to ensure that not only does every child learn, but also that when they don't learn, there is a systematic process in place to help them learn. Aside from technology integration in schools, this is what education should be all about. I would even say that if I had to choose between the two, I would take PLCs without even thinking about. When I served as director of Academic Activities at BYU-Idaho, I started on this path. Though I didn't have the same words for these ideas way back then, the idea of a PLC and collaboration amongst teachers is what pushed me over the edge to become a teacher. If you would like more info about PLCs, please go to AllThingsPLC.info.

Rick DuFour has a great sense of humor, and it showed in his book, and in this presentation today. He jumped into different accents on numerous occasions and told humorous anecdotes to get his point across. I would try to reproduce one verbatim here, but I would only butcher it, and if I can find a recording or even the written anecdote, I will certainly post it.

Briefly, he talked about an eye surgeon giving his sister a painful and dangerous operation to fix her vision that would take a year to complete for both eyes. Then he wanted his eyes fixed just 7 years ago. The doctor had Lasik eye surgery by then and said he would be zapped a couple times with lasers, and then be at 20/20 vision in just 72 hours. DuFour said that if the doctor had done the same procedure that was done to his sister, he probably could have sued him for malpractice, since the technology and skills and best practices had been discovered by this time. He likened that to teaching: the research shows that collaborative teams show significant gains in student achievement--as a teacher, do not commit malpractice by not doing what research shows is the best thing to do to help kids learn.

Here are the Big ROCKS that I got from the meeting today:
  • Teachers need time to stop and think. (Much of the following will come if teachers can actually stop and think about what they are doing.)
  • What we teach is the same across our grade level team
  • How we teach it is and must be individual
  • Intended curriculum is what the state (or other body) wants us to teach
  • Implemented curriculum is what actually gets taught. There is a difference!!!
  • Teachers need to commit to being actively involved and doing what needs to be done in a PLC. (In the words of my principal, "we aren't just going to have people 'mail it in.'"
  • Say NO to averages
  • Extra help and tutoring for struggling students is no longer optional (build it in to the time they are at school. No more after-school tutoring! AMEN!)
  • Celebrating is like voting: do them both early and often.
  • "The one thing leaders of any organization must know to be effective is the importance of clarity--communicating clearly and consistently:
    • the purpose of the organization,
    • the primary clients it serves
    • the future it is creating
    • the indicators of progress it will track, and
    • the specific actions members can take immediately to achieve its long-term purpose and short-term goals." -Marcus Buckingham
At the end of the conference, my principal asked, "Are you truly willing to let this impact your classroom practice and be a leader and an example to others at our school to push us the rest of the way toward a PLC?"

Yes, I will.

Have a Good Life.

TechnoThursdays Session 3

Below you will find the video for session 3 of TechnoThursdays. It is about 30 minutes long. We are talking about Google Video. The first part is muted, since we were watching a video, and it would just give an echo loop if I didn't mute, it, so push play here, then go watch this video on YouTube.

During TechnoThursdays, we talk about how to make our lives easier as teachers. Sometimes, I feel like I am just confusing the heck out of everyone there. This was a really rough week for me. I had a LOT of stuff going on with school and work and work and family and church (yes, work was repeated twice on there, remember, I got a second job!). I didn't get to plan for this session as much as I would have liked to, and that frustrates me. I felt rushed the entire time. The majority of people did say that they didn't want TechnoThursdays to last more than an hour at the most, so I was trying to keep it relatively short. I had a lot to get through, and I think that it was difficult for them to keep up, because I was really going fast. I need to remember to slow down and make it useful for them. If I don't, nobody will want to come anymore.

For the first session, I took the time to put myself in their shoes and tried to figure out the questions that they would likely ask me. This week, I just didn't do that. I forgot to ask a key question, and that made it very difficult. One teacher requested that TechnoThursdays help her use technology to more effectively teach math. When I read that comment in the survey from the first session, I thought about it briefly, but didn't put the time in that I needed to. I need to take the time to adequately prepare. (Hopefully, she doesn't read this and see that I am screwing up already!!!)

Next week I am going to talk about blogs. I am going to talk about them as a way for teachers to update their students, or remind their students what they did in class. My team science teacher has a blog that she updates regularly for her students. I will use that one as an example. I am going to suggest that they include some extra credit assignments on there to help kids get in the habit of checking. Blogs also function as a great communication tool with parents. Parents could leave comments on the blog and ask questions or make a mockery of the teacher (let's hope not, right?).

I will also mention using blogs as a reflective tool, like a journal. I don't know which is harder: writing a blog as a journal, or as an informational piece. What do you think? I use this blog as a reflective journal, so I am not surprised at all if nobody reads or comments. I do believe that a blog can be a very effective way for a person to reflect. I think that putting it out there where someone could stumble upon it forces you to think about what you are writing.

Well, here is to wishing that session 4 will be better than session 3.

Have a Good Life.

Creepily Realistic Robot

A 2nd Job to Support My Habit

I got another job again. This one is better than delivering donuts (which I did last fall). I am the newest member of the gang at The Apple Blog. I will be writing articles that relate to Apple products. If you subscribe or visit this blog often, please consider visiting and/or subscribing to that blog. I will try to give an educational slant to most of my articles over there.



My first article over there is about TubeTV--a program that downloads and converts online videos for iPod, iPhone, and AppleTV. I really like that program and I use it all the time. It is especially useful for teachers.

Thanks for supporting me here (and there), and don't worry, I will continue this blog.

New York Public Library

So, another cool thing I found on the BzzAgent.com Frogpond is the New York Public Library website that has digital prints of thousands of pictures. This would be great for Matt! who is always looking for more stuff that has to do with Utah Studies. I didn't look through all of them, but there were 8 pages of images from searching Utah. Here are two that I got from there. Very cool. Visit New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Great Salt Lake, Utah. Digital ID: 55069. New York Public Library

Interior of Mormon Tablernacle... Digital ID: 1160528. New York Public Library

BookCrossing.com

I just joined a website called bookcrossing.com. I found out about it through the BzzAgent.com frogpond. It is basically like geocaching, but with books. You place books at different places around you and you can find other books that people left as well. If anyone has any experience with this, let me know.


Visit Book Crossing

Friday Fun Pi

It's cool to vandalize public property if you are teaching math!

TechnoThursdays Session 1

First of all, thanks to Pamela, Matt, Marcia, Jeff, Kara, Angela, Linda, and Pam for coming to TechnoThursdays today. I enjoyed working with each of you and I hope that you enjoyed learning some new things.

We talked about RSS. I showed the Common Craft Show video "RSS in Plain English."



Here are my thoughts. There were seven people there: that was a great number. Not too many, not too few.

I love technology, and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to use it to help me be a better teacher. Of course I get frustrated when things don't work, but I understand that sometimes it doesn't go as planned. My biggest fear with doing TechnoThursdays is that people will be put off by the learning curve of new technology. It always takes a while to learn new things, and if you don't have the commitment to seeing it through to make sure that it is or is not worthwhile, it is very easy to give up.

How can I help these teachers push through the learning curve and make it through?

Right now, I don't know, but I have a few ideas:
  • I need to help them see how it is useful. They need to see that kids are achieving better because of what I am doing. This is a hard one to measure. In language arts, it is difficult to see. I need to find/create some assessments that will show that what I do helps my students.
  • I started the session by showing them the things that I have done this year with technology. I went through those examples very fast; I thought I might overwhelm them with everything that I have done. I didn't even get to all that I have done. If I go a bit slower, talk about one thing, and let them ask questions about it, I think they will like that better. They can go on their own time and get a brief history on the wiki. I need to be there to talk about the experience.
  • I need to show them that it helps them. RSS brings websites to them. This will save them time, help them get new information (through sharing, which we also set up), and do other things. I helped a teacher set up student of the month nominations through Google Docs new survey form, and I really hope that it will make her job easier.
I hope that these three simple things work. If you have any other ideas for me, feel free to leave them in the comments.



Have a Good Life.

Senteo Clickers

I use iClickers in my Politics class down at BYU, and it they are pretty nice. Last week I learned about SmartTechnology's Senteo system which is pretty neat. The video below will give you a taste of it.



The nice thing about it that there are so many possibilities with it. Here is a video of the action with my students participating. So, here is the neat thing: at our school, we are supposed to give assessments and analyze the data. They want us to do really in-depth data analysis. This spreadsheet shows what Senteo exports. This is great because if you make these lists (which I am not sure how to do) you can show only those who missed certain questions, or those who got certain questions right. It is really neat.



With these spreadsheets, you can see how well you teach certain topics, see how you need to improve, see if a question is throwing everybody off. You can also find students that are doing really poorly, and figure out how to differentiate instruction for them.

Have a Good Life.

Courageous, Collaborative Leadership


Yesterday I attended the Utah Middle Level Association Conferece entitled "Sailing the Rough Water Years: Straight Jacket or Life Jacket?" I know, I am all conferenced out. My wife is sick of me going to conferences on Saturday also. I attended the session by Patti Kinney with the same title as this blog post. The really interesting thing about the session was that it was geared toward administrators and so the makeup of the room for the double-session session was about 1/3 old people (near retirement, if not past it), 1/3 experienced people, and then 1/3 very young people. One thing that Kinney talked about was the four generations in the workplace: the traditionals (b. 1900-45), the boomers (b. 1946-64), the Xers (b. 1965-81), the millenials (b. 1982-2002). So, to put it in her terms room was about 1/3 traditionals, 1/3 boomers and 1/3 Xers. I am so close to being a millenial, and I am pretty sure I was the youngest person in there. But, alas, I am a gen Xer, apparently, though I don't know what that means--but according to her graphic I have spiked hair, a spikey choker, earrings, and I stick my tongue out all the time. Who knew?

There are three things that I want to talk about regarding her presentation: first, pay attention; second, courage; and third, a research project.


First, I posted about a video last year sometime and I will embed the updated version here:

Kinney showed this video in a session with a bunch of administrators who are not typically into technology. Karl Fisch created this video to talk to his faculty about incorporating technology into their teaching. It was very interesting to watch it with a bunch of admins. Very different way to look at it. After it was over, she had us discuss in small groups this question: What does this mean for what we are teaching our students? Nobody mentioned technology, but they did mention teaching skills and not just feeding them information. I tied informational and technological literacy into that as well. We must also teach them how to teach themselves. They need to know how to learn on their own.

Second, she talked about how leaders need courage to lead. There are many times
where a leader needs to exhibit courage even when it is not the most popular course of action. Courage is derived from the French word couer which means heart. She said that at the heart of every school there needs to be a leader with courage...or something like that. As I will most likely be a vice principal before I am ever a principal, I think that it will take a lot of courage to disagree with my principal. Sometimes, there are things that a principal feels strongly about but just don't work. It is important to have the courage to say, "This sucks!"

Marzano, Walters and McNulty did some research and published it in School Leadership that Works and Kinney spoke very briefly to that research. There are 21 leadership responsibilities that impact student achievement. The top three are situational awareness, flexibility, and discipline. I have a hard time believing this. I am also concerned that this is not what I am learning my ed leadership classes. I find it hard to believe that those three are more impactful than some others like monitoring/evaluating, culture, communication, or some of the others. As I said, she only talked about it very briefly, so there is a lot that I was missing. Maybe I should read the book ;).

All in all, I thought she did a pretty good job presenting, and hopefully I can use some of this stuff.

Have a Good Life.