Monday, October 31, 2011

A Question for Classroom Teachers

I started reading a new book today and I plan to discuss some of the things I am reading in it later. But the book starts off with a question that I want to ask our teachers now. I am curious to know what their answers will be.

What works in the classroom today?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Piloting iPad Mirroring

This image bothers me. We have invested a lot of money into SMART Boards in our classrooms. The teachers like using them. The kids like seeing what is projected and interacted with on the screens. We are still adding these boards as we can for teachers who are using them.

We have iPads rolling out at campuses and they are taking off like wildfire as well. But the biggest question we get about them is "how do I project my iPad up to the screen?".

We haven't had a good answer to connect an iPad to a screen because of cording. A ceiling-mounted projector makes it difficult to connect the Apple VGA cord up to and the cord is only 3-foot in length. It immobilizes the instructor. We sort of do it with a document camera but the video isn't always high definition and lighting is difficult.

We looked at pico projectors but then you may have 2 projectors in a room and that seems very wasteful.

But some educators are finding some ways to make iPads work on a projector that is ceiling-mounted using an AppleTV to connect wirelessly. AppleTV has an application for iPad2 and iPhones that lets you broadcast to an AppleTV box using an app called AirPlay. The box then broadcasts to a TV or projector.

There are some costs because AppleTV only broadcasts out in HDMI format so you have to buy a conversion box to change the signal to VGA which is the plug our projectors use.

So rather than bemoan how technology changes so much and how hard it is to keep up, I want to report that we have ordered these components and we are going to test them out in multiple locations. We want to see how to mirror an iPad in a classroom to see how this really works. We also want to see how this could work in meeting spaces as an alternative to funding adding SMART Boards to non-instruction rooms.

In other words, we have started a pilot program. We call this Operation Mirrorball. More details to come as we only ordered all cording today. Let me know what you think of this.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Google Docs Updated!

It has been a frustrating week here with email up and down. I was planning to post about that turmoil but decided that it is too depressing to write about. I didn't have a positive thing to say and I don't want this place to be about griping. So I decided to post about something just announced from Google!

For years, we have been talking about and using Google Docs with the presentation tool for making online "Powerpoint" presentations. But the templates have started getting old and the lack of animation/transitions made it something people just weren't thrilled with.

This week, Google updated their Docs system with a bunch of really cool features including the ability to add animations and transitions. They also have more contemporary templates to choose from. 

There are new features for sharing with collaborators including the ability to have someone comment without having the ability to edit. I also appreciate that they changed their system to work with readers for visually impaired visitors. 

Here is a list of all the Google upgrades to Docs.

If you want to be using Google Docs more, use our online training site as a step-stone. Also, contact Joel and access the Google Apps for Education account he already has setup for you or try it yourself by entering your morning login and password to access your account!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

TEC-SIG and State of KISD address

I am writing this from my hotel room in Austin, Texas. Today and tomorrow are the TCEA's TEC-SIG Fall Meeting and since I am the President of this group, I have been putting these days together over the past few weeks.

TCEA is the Texas Computer Education Association and it is the largest state organization for technology in education. TEC-SIG is one of several Special Interest Groups (SIGs) under the umbrella of TCEA. Our function is aimed more toward technology coordinators, instructional technology leaders and other administrators to advocate for instructional technology in legislation and the TEA. 

Last year I was voted in as Vice-President where I served a year before moving into President. Next year, I will be simply "Past President".

Each year, our SIG puts on 3 meetings where we have breakouts, sometimes a keynote speaker, updates from within our SIG groups, updates from TCEA and updates from TEA. We have a 2-day meeting in the Fall, one luncheon meeting during TCEA convention in February, and another 2-day meeting in the Spring.

We also have a listserv where each day, any member can post a question or idea to share with the group. We collaborate and share ideas. We help each other out. We nitpick sometimes with each other. But generally, we are family because we are all trying to push the giant boulder of technology in education up a very steep hill.

Our meetings are great not because of keynote speakers or fancy door prizes. Our meetings are great because we get to talk to people with the same struggles who are coming in from all over the state. The time we get to spend chatting with people at the same table is time well worth coming to such a meeting.

I write all this to share with my Kerrville peeps because I want you to know that your CTO is putting on a great meeting with instructional technology leaders and sharing how awesome it is to be in Kerrville. We aren't bleeding-edge like some other districts who are doing 1:1 computing or BYOD or Open Source. But we are cutting-edge in that we are consistent in providing flexible infrastructure to support technology in your classrooms.

We are really supported well by district administration and campus administration in our district. And teachers are really spectacular in using technology for instruction in our district. They aren't forcing it or pushing themselves to adapt in a frenzy. Our teachers are working in stride to use resources that support their teaching.

So I am posting this blog to share this as our own micro "State of the Instructional Technology Department Address" for our district. We are doing great! Our AEC Committee is looking into BYOD and other interesting ways we can use new technology and save on funding. We are building a group of internal district technology trainers to provide more interesting (and fun) professional development opportunities. I am continually amazed by the number of invites I get to visit classrooms to see what people are doing and being greatly impressed by what is going on.

People are starting to share more with their colleagues about what they are doing. People are sharing ideas and working collaboratively in our district. And some people are using tools like Skype, Twitter, Google+ and other tools to work collaboratively with other districts in the US and around the globe. I am sure the people here are sick of me talking up KISD so much!

The meetings here are work so don't think I am goofing off while here and I have to get back to posting information for all the other members who may not have been able to come this week.  But I wanted to share that even while I am here, I am learning and adapting ideas to bring back with me to share so we can continue being on the edge.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Flipping Classroom

Tonight, I've been catching up on some "tweets" that I starred in my timeline to look into when I had time. Some of these are from September! It has been a while since I was able to go back and look at the various links, articles and blog posts I meant to check out over the course of the past few weeks.

Some interesting articles have been generated about education and the idea of a Flipped Classroom. Ever hear of that?

It is an interesting concept of flipping the tasks assigned as homework and the tasks assigned as classwork. The video below is from one of the founders of this idea explaining what Flipped Classrooms are. It is a fast-paced video but an interesting look at how teachers are changing the use of time in their scheduled classes.

If you don't watch the video, then this is the explanation: the teacher pre-records video of their lessons. All their lessons! The time students spend outside of class at home or wherever is time spent watching the teacher's lessons. A lesson could be a 15-minute video with animation for example.

Then the time spent in class is the work of implementing the lesson. What we used to call "homework". And the teachers can interact with the kids who are struggling because they are able to see how they are implementing the lesson they watched.

Sound interesting?

So what would this look like? Aaron explains that most English teachers are familiar with this because the setup for their classes is that kids read the stories and books at home and then discuss at school. But Aaron is a math teacher and he knew that math classes are different. Kids learn the lesson in class and then go home and struggle with understanding and implementing what they learned hours earlier.

By Flipping, kids watched videos explaining concepts and then come to class to apply what they learned in real-world problem solving scenarios.

So if you were to flip a class, what would that look like? What do you think about this concept? Is it realistic for our students? If not, what detractors are there to prevent something like this from happening?

For me, I would be interested to see what this would look like in professional development. How can we flip staff development?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Appy Hour

Today was our first Appy Hour. This was an event I heard colleague Carl Hooker from Eanes ISD complete with his staff.

Our group met at a local Sonic for some windy weather and throngs of middle school kids picking up snacks. There were five of us for most of it. We had four others who dropped in and out during the course of the event.

But we sure packed a list of recommended apps to share!

Quite a selection in our list - see our list link below.

Someone asked the group "how do you have time to find all these?"

Answer: Appy Hour. The event itself is to share apps and recommend finding apps.

I have to say I like this method of staff development that exists beyond our institutions of education. I want to explore this more by having professional learning take place in buildings or open areas not really associated with professionalism.

We had a good and very informal time talking and sharing. Some of us were strangers but we all left with the common bond that we had shared about the tools and games we enjoy using on all our devices.

And yes, we all lifted our stryofoam cups in a toast to Steve Jobs.

Our "menu" of Apps if you want to check them out.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is the device necessary?

Last week, Amazon announced new Kindles in the bid for taking over the mobile device war. Today, Apple announced a new iPhone and some changes to the operating system that runs all their hardware. And next week, Google will be announcing some new device and ever changing apps.

Many people are saying that we are in the device war. That this is the time when devices are battling for top reign in the market.

But I am someone who literally lives in the cloud. All my work and personal files are stored online. I don't have cable television but I keep current using streaming Internet media and online music streaming. Banking and personal finance are also managed completely online. I even have my voicemail accessible online if I lose my phone.

My dependence on a particular device is no longer something I am taking part in.

To me, the battle is on between the browsers because certain web applications run smoother in different browsers. And the device is just a conduit for browsing the web based on the browser that is fully supported by the device.

And that is the problem with rushing to buy the latest and greatest new devices as they are released. You have to consider the browser first.

What you do online and the types of sites you visit should dictate the phone or device you purchase.