iPod Touch in the Classroom

I have a wonderful idea, and I know I am not the only one. When the iPod Touch was released, I thought it was pretty cool. It was basically the iPhone without some of the features. Now that they have released some of the features of the iPhone, it is so much better.

There is so much you can do with this little computer. It would be cheaper than an XO Laptop or an Asus Eee PC, and it would have about the same functionality, but with a little more. Here is the setup:

In my desk drawer, I have a rack that holds 35 iPod Touches (sp?), those are all connected to a series of powered USB 2.0 hubs that slim down to one USB cord that goes to my computer, allowing me to sync new content onto all of them at once. With webclips and the customizable home screen, all the stuff we need will be right at our fingertips. Each student will have a Google Apps account for their email, document publishing, calendar access and editing.

Each student will also have a personal wiki where they can post their assignments, and other stuff that interests them. There will also be a class wiki, much like what I have now, only hopefully better, where they can get assignments, complete assignments, and take polls/surveys, and tests. Hopefully, we will also be able to integrate Moodle and hopefully we can access that easily on the iPod Touch.

We will use the stocks widget and have the students check stocks every day that they have "invested" in and "comprehend the informational text" (one of our core standards).

This is just with the stuff that is already available on the iPod Touch. With the SDK coming out, there is really no end to the possibilities. There are tons of apps out there for the educational Mac, and the SDK will give them an opportunity to make apps for the Touch.

Some Potential Problems

Battery. I don't know how the battery life is on the Touch, but I think that it could make it through a whole day being used, especially if I had a prep period in the middle of the day to give them a little extra time to charge.

Misuse. We have computers that kids probably mess around when they use them. Our district does have a filter that is not computer-based, so that will help. The biggest concern is cyberbullying. If that happens through chatting, email, or the wiki, that would be very bad. Hopefully, I can teach them to avoid that lame stuff.

Right now, I can't think of anything else, but if you can think of anything good or bad, let me know.

If anyone knows of a grant I can write, let me know about that, too.

Have a good life.

President Gordon B. Hinckley Dies at 97

Here are the links. I saw President Hinckley speak a few times. I ran the teleprompter for him once at BYU-Idaho. Other than that, I haven't had any personal contact with him. I do know this, though: Gordon B. Hinckley was a prophet of God, just like Moses, Adam, Noah, Peter, Nephi, Lehi, Mormon, and all the other holy prophets in the scriptures.

Have a good life.

Teacher of the Month. WOOT!

So, I was the teacher of the month at my school for December. I wasn't actually planning on blogging about it, but I thought it would be a good time to draw attention to what my students are doing, since they are the ones doing all the heavy lifting. I realize that much of this probably is not that exciting to someone who is not in my shoes, but I am very excited about it. In December, I found out about a girl's blog in NY. I talked about her desire to make a difference in others' lives. She challenged a classroom to do the same. I talked with my students and they came up with some great ideas, and then we implemented two of the three best ones.

The first idea was to have a day set aside where the students could go to freerice.com and see how much we could donate. We donated over 750,000 grains of rice. We used almost all the computers in the library almost all day long and had 12 other teachers participate with their students.

The second idea was to create a wiki page for our team. This has been the most exciting because it got me started in with another teacher in Kansas doing a collaborative wiki for the Primary elections. Some, not all, of my students really took this idea and ran. I am very impressed. One girl has been editing a page called "Fun Stuff" pretty much every single day since we started. That is a big deal for a 7th grader. Of course, I finally post about her dedication the day she misses changing it. ;)

Anyway, my principal said that although I had only been at the school for a short time, I was already making an impact. I hope I really am. I hope these small accomplishments really do help my kids learn and make an impact. Otherwise, who really cares?

Have a good life.

Some great uses of Twitter

Somehow, I ended up at this post by a guy named Jared Madden. He talks about Presence Applications (PA) and how they are the new media and around to stay.
PA’s ‘bridge the gap’ between platforms and allow you to ’subscribe’ to a information source (be it a person or company).

So, PAs like Twitter and Jaiku allow you to use a cell phone, the web, a mini-app on your computer, or something else to subscribe to what (people) are presently doing. So, you can follow not just people, but also, oh, I don't know, what about fire departments?

This is amazing. I already follow a company, Woot.com, on Twitter so I can stay up to date with the great deals they offer. I follow a guy who is a tech job headhunter here in Utah, just in case ;). And I have my regular network of edutechers: educators that use technology and push for more technology integration in schools.

Imagine in the emergency services world, you call 911, and they can autosubscribe you to a specific twitter feed regarding your call. You could get live updates of where the ambulance or fire engine or police officer is.

Imagine a news outlet creating specific feeds for a particular developing story. I am sure this already exists to a certain extent, but I just don't know about it. Imagine notifying people of the election results in nearly real-time via Twitter.

There is a group that does a Twitter Story, called twittories where people contribute to stories in 140 character increments.

Basically, the world is open for new ways of communicating. Although it can be scary to imagine that, it is also very exciting.

Quick quote from @arthus on Twitter as I am writing this:
Actually, student implies there is a teacher and teacher implies that there is a student. Learner can be self-directed.

Educational Software Review: Planbook

Sorry, this article is not available here anymore, you can find it on The Apple Blog.

I Can't Believe I Didn't Post This!

We won!!! We had a great time doing the activities for the Freerice.com marathon and making our Wiki. Here are some pictures of the activities:

The SWAT team wiki has turned out to be an amazing experience. Students are much more excited about doing work at home. Also, we now have 16 pages on the wiki with over 300 revisions of the pages. It is very interesting to see how much they use it. I plan on using it more in the next quarter. There will be a learning center assignment due where about 60 kids will be using the wiki to track results of the Super Tuesday. I am pretty excited about it and I hope it will go well. I will post more after we get the video call with the NASA scientists. Wish us luck.

Twitter and a Mini-poll.

Let's get right down to it. I would like to request some comments for my Political Aspects of Education class that I am taking right now. First question is:

What are the major challenges facing American public education right now?

The second questions is for Utahns and other informed parties that know what happened here last year with school choice and school vouchers.

After the voucher vote this last year, do you intend to vote for different legislature members this year?

Please respond to these two questions in the comments. You can post anonymously, if you feel so inclined.

Now on to the good stuff. I have been using Twitter since the middle of December. To be honest, I don't know how I got started on it. I think that it might have been from my friend, Chris, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it was about the same time that I started using Facebook. Facebook mostly helped me get better at Scrabble (and connect with some old friends, I guess). The best thing about Twitter is that I have been using it a lot to help me get ideas for teaching. I mostly just read what other people mention, and I have met some really neat people and learned so much I don't even know where to begin.

I am collaborating with another middle school teacher in Kansas on a wiki for the presidential primaries. I also got connected with some other edutech bloggers here in Utah, in my district even, and that is really neat also. I have felt so alone recently because I don't feel like anyone in my district, even the tech guy at my school, is very social web literate or even interested in it. I just recently learned that one other person at my school does have a blog, but it is private and I have not received an invitation. I also have found other middle school teachers on twitter and that helps also because I can bounce ideas off of them as well as get brand new ideas from them.

I am so impressed with how kind the community has been in helping me out and using it as a tool to help others. I enjoy knowing that many of my questions are answered without too much waiting.

PLCs and Technology

One thing that I have been having a hard time with is integrating technology into teaching and having a PLC. I found two blogs that have mentioned integrating the two (I admit, I haven't looked too hard). Doug Johnson at the Blue Skunk Blog posted about it last May, before I started reading the blog. He was kind enough to let me know about it today. The other one is L. Gaffney's personal blog. I think Gaffney is in the same position that I am. My problem is that in my graduate school courses, they talk ad nauseam about Professional Learning Communities, but never about using technology. In all our school meetings, we talk about PLCs, but never about using technology. All the people in my education/tech network (blogs I read, Twitter network, Facebook, etc.) never mention PLCs. It seems that there are two forces pushing through the education world that I am exposed to and they are not together or linked. This really bugs me, because I really like both the ideas. I think that collaboration (a major component of PLCs) is extremely important. When I was in college, I was the academic activities adviser, and my sole purpose was to get academic classes and colleges to collaborate with other people. I think one of the best and most efficient (and sometimes most effective) ways to collaborate is by using technology. Technology here can be defined as email, instant messaging, blogging, wikis, using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any other number of things that would help us collaborate.

So, Jethro, what are you going to do about it?

Great question, I am glad you asked. Doug Johnson's blog post made some great suggestions for how to integrate technology into PLCs. The only problem, though, is that I think he went too big for what I think teachers would go for. This is what I want to do. I want my team that I collaborate with to use technology. I want to be able to access the worksheets, handouts, and everything else we use on the web. I think this is important, because if I can access it on the web, my students have an opportunity to as well. I already try to do this on my own here. I want all my students to be able to do the assignments when they are absent, and I want my students' parents to know what is going on and be able to take their part in helping their children succeed. With my team, I want us to be able to meet without "meeting".

My Goals for My Team:
  • I want us to be able to update each other on the fly with how a certain concept was received with a certain teaching style or approach.
  • I want us to be able to work collaboratively on documents (worksheets, common assessments, lesson plans, etc.) in close to real-time without having to set up a meeting time after school.
  • I want us to be able to have a place to store data so that we can access whenever we need it.

Doing a wiki would make it so we could do more than just our one-hour weekly meeting. Finding other resources on the web would allow us to be more innovative and resourceful. Blogging about our experiences would help us know what others are doing that could help our students learn better. Using Twitter with other English teachers could help us find more ways to teach what we need to teach. Using YouTube would help us record instructions for class assignments so that students could watch us explain what to do. There are many more possibilities. As Doug pointed out (or someone on his blog pointed out), the point is to use technology as a means to accomplish a goal, and not as the goal. We want our students to learn, let's do everything we can to make that happen.

So, what am I going to do? I am going to make a wiki for my 7th grade team and then invite my team members to add to it. As of right now, they are both against the web stuff, but I will work on them. Wish me luck.