This is the last week for teachers, and tomorrow (Wednesday) is the last day for students. It is a hectic week, with an endless mountain of paperwork and last minute things to do. As the person in charge of report cards, it is also a critical time for me in that I must get all our teachers to finish and submit their grades so that I may print 1,200 report cards on a razor thin timeline so that they can be filed on Friday before teachers leave.
So, of course, I got sick this week.
And not even a little sick. After missing two days of work I broke down and went to the urgent care, where I was diagnosed with bronchitis, given an immediate breathing treatment, and sent home with four prescriptions.
I am feeling a little better tonight (but still not awesome), but it’s almost irrelevant as I simply must be at scholtomorrow to start wrapping things up.
When teachers talk about being emotionally and physically exhausted and how they’re ready for the end of the school year, this is the kind of stuff they’re talking about!
Next Wednesday is the last day of school for our students, and Friday is the last day for the teachers. We are all exhausted
I needed some motivation to spruce up this website, so I decided to use it for a project in my graduate studies. Look for a new theme, the return of pages, and more.
Ever since it was first announced, I have coveted the Microsoft Surface. With its slick metal kickstand, magnetic keyboard, and running Windows 8, it seems right up my alley–the perfect complement to my daily computing habits and a welcome couch companion.
But the price is ridiculous. The most basic model is $499, doesn’t run legacy Windows applications, and only has about 16GB of internal space once the OS is installed. The magnetic keyboard is an additional $130. That’s almost $600, which is how much I paid for my laptop.
It also seems out of touch with the revolution around smaller, less expensive tablets, like the $200 Nexus 7 and the $329 iPad Mini. The rumor is that Microsoft is working on a small version of the Surface, but it won’t be ready until later this year.
And therein lies my dilemma: which imperfect solution do I want? The Nexus 7 looks great and would serve me well. But I’m heavily invested in Microsoft’s ecosystem, so anything with greater connections to Microsoft is a plus for me. But Windows tablets are expensive. The iPad Mini looks pretty cool, but I don’t have any Apple anything right now. Android tablets like the Nexus 7 are very affordable and offer good performance, but they’re essentially big phones, and I have less and less Google in my life lately.
So I’ll wait. I’ll wait until the next Nexus tablet, the next iPad round, or until the rumors about a smaller Surface pan out. An abundance of choices is a great problem to have! I look forward to this summer’s technology news.
I’ve been working on setting some things up for next semester’s iteration of my class, and one of the things I have been looking into is setting up a learning management system (LMS) for my students. Both my undergraduate and graduate schools use(d) LMSs with us, and I enjoy having course information at my fingertips. A good system is also important if I decide to go the flipped-class route next year. I’ve been spending a good deal of time playing with the options for LMSs, and each has its pros and cons. It’s made the decision-making process difficult for me. Here is a little bit of what I’m thinking about three of the choices I’ve looked at so far:
Pros: Appears to be the trendiest option available. Edmodo is currently in favor with a large number of teachers and schools. My own district has an Edmodo domain, though they do not require anyone to use it. Edmodo bears a strong resemblance to Facebook. It’s widely praised for its ease of use and setup. You can provide parents of students in your classes with view-only access codes, so they can see what their child is doing in your class. Edmodo also offers good mobile support. Students who use Edmodo generally seem to really like it, which means they’re more likely to look at it.
Cons: Edmodo is a third-party company. There’s always a chance they could simply fold and go out of business, taking you and your class down with them in a blaze of glory. There’s also a chance they could require paid subscriptions in order to use their site. And that’s not a remote possibility, either; I heard it happened with Ning and a lot of teachers who used that site were upset. You can’t enroll students in Edmodo yourself; you have to give them a code and let them enroll themselves in your class. Edmodo also seems to lack in structure. I was not able to locate an option to set up my content in modules or anything similar. Edmodo also has terms and conditions that contain the following statement, which appears to indicate that Edmodo can use your content for whatever it wants:
You understand that by posting information or content on the Website or otherwise providing content, materials or information to Edmodo or in connection with the Services (collectively, “User Submissions”), Edmodo hereby is and shall be granted a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable, and transferable right to utilize and exercise all rights with respect to such User Submissions…
Pros: Moodle is an open-source LMS with a surprisingly wide adoption at all levels of education. You can host Moodle on your own server, which avoids many of the terms-and-conditions issues Edmodo raises. In my case, my hosting company offers a “one-click install” where they set up Moodle for you. Moodle is very sophisticated and offers a ton of features. It is highly structured, with the ability to create different forums and modules to break up your content as you see fit. Students can be manually enrolled, and an e-mail address is not required. Moodle has a very high level of customization available to the person designing and running the course.
Cons: Running Moodle on your own server means that you alone are responsible for fixing it when something breaks. There are companies that will host your Moodle class for you, but that requires payment. Unless you get heavy into the customizing and templates (requires some web design knowledge), you may be disappointed with the default themes available. My Moodle looks a little bland and industrial. I doubt students would find it visually appealing. No mobile support that I’m aware of, and I didn’t see any options when I set up my self-hosted account. There is a learning curve involved, for teacher and students. Unlike Edmodo, Moodle looks nothing like Facebook.
Pros: New to the game, Canvas tries to strike a balance between Edmodo and Moodle. For the most part, it does a good job. Visually, it has an “Apple” feel to it. Canvas lets you pick and choose the features you want to use, which is nice. Canvas offers some type of mobile access, though I couldn’t find out exactly what that meant. This is the first LMS I’ve seen that offers wiki pages that students can create and edit together. Canvas does not look too complicated for middle school students to use.
Cons: At only a couple of years old, Canvas is relatively new to the came, and isn’t exactly proven yet. Other users report there are bugs still to be worked out. No ability to generate parent codes for access, though it appears you can set them up as “observers” in your class. Requires a student’s e-mail address to add them to your class (same for observers). E-mail is not ubiquitous in my student population, which could be a problem. Still not as visually appealing as Edmodo.
It’s such a close call. Because they all have different pros and cons, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of which one is truly “better.” I think I have mostly eliminated Moodle from the competition. As much as I like it, having it depend solely on me to function is not a great position for me to be in. Edmodo vs. Canvas is a more difficult decision, which may take some time.
If you’ve got experiences in different LMSs, I’d love to know your opinions.
I had a handful of teachers ask me how to use our student response systems. It was nice to be able to actually work with teachers, see how excited they were, and help them get inspired to do new things in their classes. This is what I wish I could be able to do every day! I left feeling highly motivated and with a little bit of my faith restored. I’m hoping to build off of this experience and get a little momentum going!
Today was almost a 100% win for me.
No rain and nice weather in the early afternoon was a great improvement over yesterday. This is important because I stood outside for bus duty for 30 minutes.
Class was good today. Ethics seems to interest them, which is good, because early release days often interest them more!
I managed to leave soon after the students, which brings my win/loss record against early release days to 1-9, snapping my long-running streak of meetings and other activities after school.
Could be a good week after all!
It took me until this, my third year of teaching, to realize that early release days are a trap.
It sounds like a sweet deal: In exchange for staying late one day (presumably meeting with parents), you may leave early the next. As long as you work close to your normal number of hours over the two days we have early release, you’re good.
I have yet to have that happen. On the day I work later, no matter when I plan on leaving, something always comes up, and I end up leaving later. On the day I leave early, something else happens, and I end up leaving pretty much when I normally do.
That’s one of those things they don’t teach you in college!
I fought back and forth with myself about attending #flipcon12 virtually this week. I’ve never done a virtual conference before. What if my (generally poor) internet gives out, and I end up watching two days of “Buffering…” messages? What if the conference ends up not being what I wanted–or needed? What if I’m the only one watching? I had a hard time deciding if $100 was worth it on a gamble.
Then I came down with bronchitis.
Being to sick to work or go out means you will be subjected to days of the worst programming daytime TV has to offer. Even with my high fever (102.6!) and being fully medicated, I whipped the Visa out.
And I’m so glad I did. The conference was fantastic and far exceeded my expectations. The streaming video was just about flawless, and I hooked my laptop up to the flat-screen TV to watch it even bigger and louder. The sessions were excellent and the presenters definitely knew their stuff. All of the keynotes featured exceptional speakers and engaging presentations. And not only that, the sessions are archived until December, so not only can I go back and watch the presentations again, I can even watch the sessions I didn’t get to see! I had a great time Tweeting and learning with everyone and its pretty much a slam dunk that I will be participating virtually next year.
Whether or not I will be able to successfully implement flipped-classroom practices in my classroom next year remains to be seen.
First, the physical location of my classroom is very much still up in the air. I was expecting to be using a computer lab for my one class but I was assigned a regular room with just one student computer. I plan on asking for a hybrid room that has 8 computers, but who knows how that request will turn out. If I have identified any weaknesses in flipping, it seems to be access to technology at school, and this could be big.
Second, the tasks associated with flipping are no joke. I am not an experienced video editor and I prefer not to be on-camera anyway, but I understand the advantages of doing this now so I will be learning Video 101 myself this summer. Flipping your class seems to prompt a full review and overhaul of your lessons. I’m creating this whole course from scratch anyway, but that’s still got to be factored in.
And then there’s the time factor. I am only teaching one class every other day next year and will be keeping all of my regular duties as technology coordinator. How much time do I need to be spending going over the top on what is, bluntly, not my job?
The Flipped Conference helped me understand these questions but I know enough to know that there are no easy answers! Oh, and we start back on July 31, so time is slipping away! I will be thinking hard about these questions in the coming weeks.
Note: I wrote this whole post from my phone, so please forgive the occasional typo.
Last night’s #edchat topic was:
What makes a bad PowerPoint presentation and how it hurts learning. Is it the fault of tech or teacher?
There are a few things that concern me about the topic itself:
The pursuit of shiny objects: I had a feeling a topic like this would show up one day, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. The topic’s bias against PowerPoint (and, by extension, Microsoft) reveals what I consider to be a growing problem in educational technology. Why are we after the website of the moment? Will we now begin thrashing about every six months, trying to import our Prezis into this website that does all the same things, but in 3D? I made several Prezis this year to try it out and I was extremely disappointed. It took me much, much longer to put together a presentation(the path!), and in the end the information was about the same. I fail to understand the educational value of explaining to students the fine art of drawing a path in Prezi. And the students who use PowerPoint are just as excited about their work.
What’s our role here?: Are we as teachers really preparing students for the future by making them prepare Prezis? The current worldwide standard for presentations is Microsoft PowerPoint. I know it’s not trendy or cool to be a PowerPoint person, because everyone can do PowerPoint, but isn’t that exactly the point? I don’t know why we’re not focusing on exposing our students to the software that is the current global enterprise standard.
Content: Is it all about the content? Shouldn’t we be focusing on creating great presentations anyway? PowerPoint 2020 may not look the same as the 2012 edition, but I’d be willing to bet the underlying principles and ideas are the exact same. Look at Office 95. Very similar in basic design to today’s product.
“Is it the tech or the teacher?”: This implies that there’s a possibility that the technology is to blame for poor decisions by users. It’s also the oldest trick in the book: you don’t want to learn how to do it right so blame it on the technology. It’s PowerPoint’s fault the templates are worn out (even though you keep using them). Something is wrong with your laptop (you forgot your password). I see plenty of it, enough to know that really the tech is only as good as the person behind it, and is not autonomous or really to blame for decisons made on it.
Where I’m going with all of this is that I’m afraid there’s been an element of groupthink in the chats I participate online, and it worries me. Everybody jump on the Prezi bandwagon because that’s the new, hot presentation thing. Everybody jump on iPads in schools because that sounds awesome. Let’s bust out e-textbooks as fast as we can because e-everything is absolutely what we want 100% of the time, no holds barred. I would like to talk a little more about this, but it’s 12:20AM where I am, and I have to be up in six hours for a conference, so I know what I’ll be writing about tomorrow!