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Creative Communication

I’m going to be co-teaching a class for our county’s administrators on creative communication. The idea is basically that email is boring and often ignored so spicing things up really helps for important communications. You can check out some of the work of my co-teacher, Jen Maddux, below (a few more of her movies to follow later).

12

A Moment of Zen

I’m watching the Grammys and was moved to tears by Ludacris and Mary J’s performance of Runaway Love. It was about the hard life for girls in the ghetto. There was so much truth in the lyrics. I see it in my classroom. Their performance was followed immediately by James Blunt singing You’re Beautiful. Blunt’s ballad about a girl he sees once and immediately falls in love with is pure romantic fantasy. I could see nothing but two very different worlds in these songs. Placed back to back, they flooded my head with the faces of my students. These two worlds collide in my classroom everyday. We sit on a fault line where some students take a week for vacationing while others take a week for fighting. The dynamic is both exhilarating and exhausting. This week I was found by a former student. She is 25 and thinking about a life of teaching. She wanted to know the truth, so I told her about the planning. The days where I never see the sun. The inspirational speeches. The glimmering eyes. The students failing because of their homes–not their heads. The rigged-up, shower curtain projection screen. The conversations about which foreign language to take or what it means to be a real man. The first time they laugh at my stupid […]

Mac Apps Roundup

I don’t believe I have publicly professed my devotion to Mac here, so this will make it official. After a week of tweaking our blogging presentation, I finally sat down in front of NewsFire to dig through my subscriptions. I found a few jems I would like to share in the software department: First is Think from Freeverse. I realize our students love to multi-task, but there is value in being singularly focused at times. Think is a little app that blackens everything on your screen but the window you are working in at the moment. My first thought when I encountered this program is that it would be great for freewriting in the classroom. No distractions, just write. It may also be a tool to keep you kids from jumping between programs when you are not looking (seems harder to hide a screen while running Think). Next is Pukka, a Delicious client. This little jem is my new favorite app. Pukka is an alternative interface for posting to Delicious. It gives you the freedom to manage multiple accounts (thank GOD), and caches all the tags from ALL accounts. If you highlight a section of text before clicking to post, the text is automatically copied into the description window. I modified it with Growl so I’m notified of the successful […]

07

Welcome EdTech 2007 Participants

Welcome participants of Community Idea Stations’ EdTech Conference. If your looking for blogging resources connected with our presentation “Bob on Blogs,” you will find it here. Feel free to look around and comment while you’re visiting, and make sure you subscribe to or bookmark the blog. We update it several times a week.

The Outsiders Vocabulary Blog

I know how tedious vocabulary can be–I’m an English teacher. I have a list of 60ish vocabulary words for the novel The Outsiders (Do it for Johnny!). In previous years I have handed out the list, sorted by chapter, and asked the students to define them. I would put a selection of words on the test to ensure the kids did the work, and hoped that the words would stick. I’ll be honest with you, we would be lucky if they remembered a third of those words. I wasn’t happy about this. This year, I decided the vocabulary needed to have more value. I asked Tom to talk through it with me, and we came up with The Outsiders Vocabulary Blog. The students had access to create posts–as opposed to simply commenting on my posts. They drew one word out of a hat and completed a word study on it. The posts were sorted by chapter and part of speech. The result is a comprehensive vocabulary database for the students, and another vocabulary tool for teachers. Two classes worked together to create this glossary. They began to see the benefit of collaborating. By breaking the list down, they were able to get more out of the work. Along the way the students received mini lessons in citing sources, scanning a […]

Audio Book Reviews

Way, way back in May of 2005 I had the following idea- Audio book reviews- This is something Steve Dembo of Teach42 and I discussed. I’d like to see short podcast book reviews attached to the school library database and in RSS feeds. How cool would it be to look up a book and be able to listen to the reviews of other students. Having a RSS feed for various types of literature would also be good. This would seem to encourage both more reading by listeners and more reading by those wanting to make podcast reviews. That idea is (at least partially) coming to fruition now. Mainly because our librarians and another teacher I work with frequently came up with it on their own and got me motivated. It’s odd how circular somethings are. We’ve started a Byrd Books blog with audio, video or text reviews of book submitted by students. The posts and thus the books are also rateable by other readers through a neat ajaxy star system. I’m going to work on creating dynamic pages and feeds based on book type and reviewer so you can subscribe to just the book type you like or to the reviewer of your choice. I also need to install a tagging plugin. I’ve been really happy with the flash player […]

04

Tagged- How Do I Write?

Pete Reilly (tagged by Miguel Guhlin, who was tagged by Brian from Bump on the Log) tagged me with the “How do you write?” meme. It’s been a long time since I’ve been involved in one of these (May 24, 2005 to be exact). I’d say I write based on glimpses I see of possibilities- mainly ways to make aspects of learning fun and interesting that I’ve seen taught (or have taught) in ways that bored both the students and teacher. I get them from boingboing, podcasts, rap songs just about anything. While I don’t have Pete’s eloquence, why I do this might be a little more interesting. That’s what these memes are really about after all, a deeper look at all these people who are your friends, collaborators and colleagues but who you often know surprisingly little about. I have a decent IQ. I test pretty well. There were lots of reasons I should have excelled at school. I didn’t. I did middle of the road work and took middle of the road classes. In high school I mostly slept. My mother was constantly asking me why I didn’t take more advanced courses if everything was so boring and easy. My reply was that I was not in the market for a greater quantity of boring work and that […]

Organization in a MetaData World (Part 1)

Jim’s finally found a home for his kind of organization I am a swine. I can say this because my mother regularly told me I was “living in a pig sty.” I have struggled to reform myself. Dayrunner (in the bottom of a dusty box). Elaborate Note-Taking Systems (codes never seemed intuitive enough to stick). A Handspring (I think I left it in a library–we never met again). My biggest victory in my (I kid you not) 15-year quest to feel some sense of organization in my life is a Moleskin. A year ago I forced myself to start carrying one everwhere. It has been a blessing. When I came across a post about hacking a moleskin, I was intrigued. This was my ingress into Getting Things Done (GTD), an organization system created by David Allen. I followed the rabbit and discovered KinklessGTD and The HipsterPDA. Kinkless is intriguing, but that fact that I don’t carry a PDA around would mean trying to compensate with my phone or other awkward hacks. Having already established my moleskin routine, the hipster seemed the more logical choice. I considered DIY Planner’s 3.0 Edition as a mod, but there were so many cards that didn’t fit my life as teacher, technophile, and truthseeker. I became frustrated and did what we all do in our […]

Attractors

Attractors A fun way to get kids thinking about orbits, gravitational pull on comets, electrons around the nucleus etc. It is also strangely addicting so remember you’ll have to get them off by force. Even if you have no use for it educationally it’s worth playing with.

IMSafer: Helping Responsible Parents

My wife and I were talking about personal responsibility last night. It was the age-old debate about who to blame for the state of the world. More specifically, the state of children (we are both teachers). We both recognized that there are companies actively marketing products, services, and entertainment to teenagers that is clearly inappropriate for their age. As most of these conversations go, we both agreed that in a free-market based economy, the people still have the power (whether they use it or not). We can always vote with our money and time. Parents have the added burden of keeping tabs on their children and the choice they make. I encountered IMSafer a couple weeks ago and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The site/software monitors chats and notifies you via email if something fishy seems to be going on. I worry about parents who keep such a tight grip on their children that the kids end up more deviant. IMSafer has the potential of being used in an abusive way. I suppose it would depend on how you went about using it. Looking at the product information, the site claims to have talked with law enforcement officials about how inappropriate relationships are initiated and maintained. The monitor can even pick up […]