Project Communication and Collaboration with Sway

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I had the honor of being a guest blogger once again on the Microsoft in Education blog.  This time I wrote about how the students and staff of Wissahickon Middle School are using Sway for project communication and collaboration.  As of today, the post was not only posted on the Microsoft in Education blog, but also their “Firehouse” blog, and today, the Microsoft in UK blog.  In addition, I’m feeling the social media love for the post as it has circulated around the Twitter and Facebook circles.

Check it out below!

What to do when you can’t be there

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My district is running 3 training workshops this week for the teachers who have eClassrooms – Smartboard, Macbook, speakers, cameras, wireless internet. Yesterday we trained the teachers who are just getting their boards this year. Today we are training the teachers who got them last year (with the newbies invited too), and tomorrow we are hosting a “potpourri” of multimedia tools for their eClassrooms.

I am not the main trainer for yesterday and today’s sessions, but I was there to introduce the session, our new Professional Learning Network, and to be around in case of emergency (Smartboards are finicky with Macs sometimes :P) Anyways, yesterday went great and I was all geared up to go in today and have a fantastic day.

Then the puking began. Not mine, my 5 year old son’s. At 10:30 pm, fever of 103.5 (yikes!) and ruined bed. Needless to say, I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to work today. Which really bothered me because I was always one of those teachers who felt that they couldn’t NOT be in school because I had to teach my students and I was doing them a disservice to leave them busy work with a sub. I feel even more strongly now that I’m teaching adults. They are giving their time to be there voluntarily, I should be there to teach them.

So, today, I made my first Ustream recording to do the Ning network introduction. It’s not great because I recorded it at 7 am or so, and the quality is really bad when you blow it up. My intention was for the trainers to show the video on the Smartboard, but I also advised them to have the participants watch it on their macbooks.

So here it is, my very first Ustream recorded show and an introduction to our Professional Learning Network!

Live video chat by Ustream

“We want Macs!”

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The students of Wissahickon High School have had the opportunity to be involved in not only the Classrooms for the Future Grant initiative, but also the very first pilot 1:1 high school classroom, with Mr. Jim Shoemaker. The students in Jim’s American History classes have been using the MacBooks almost daily since school started in September. I went in and interviewed Jim’s students a few weeks ago to gather their reflections on using the MacBooks in Social Studies and their feelings on having MacBooks available to everyone in their school. The following video is the result of those interviews. Watch, listen and smile as you enter the minds of teenagers and their thoughts on technology in school.

a whole new day

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Tuesday was the first day that I realized that I really do have a new job now and a new way of looking at the world of education. Tuesday was the first day that I did not set foot in the high school but I was on school property. I was at work, as an Instructional Technology Specialist, not as a French teacher or even a CFF Coach. I must admit that it was bizarre but a great day!

As I enter the world of Central Administration and exit the world of Wissahickon High School I am beginning to notice and learn many new things. Life is different across the street and working primarily with adults is proving to be an interesting but enriching adventure. I am no longer in the world of bell schedules, discipline codes, lateness policies, and crowded hallways. Now my working world consists of meetings, conferences, work sessions, professional development, and trainings. I, along with the Director of Technology, and the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, have been charged with the training and support of 350+ teachers, administrators, secretarial staff, and community members in the area of instructional technology.

“Am I ready?” “Can I do it?” “Do I have it in me?” “Am I really qualified for this job?”

I’ve been asking myself these questions often over the past few weeks. Now, as I embark on a whole new job and a whole new way to spend my day, I think I am ready to respond with an enthusiastic “YES I AM!” 🙂

One of my first tasks at my new job is to lead in the construction of an “eToolBox” for our district that, when complete, will be a list of software and online resources that our teachers should strive to learn and use with their students. Although far from complete, I have begun the eToolBox wikispace and have invited the rest of the team (Curriculum Department & Staff Developers) to help build this resource that, if completed correctly, will be invaluable to the stakeholders of Wissahickon School District.

“Can I do it?” “YES I CAN!”

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The New Year

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As the new school year rapidly approaches, I am constantly thinking about how this upcoming September will be quite different than the 10 previous ones. Here’s why, and how I think I’m going to cope…

Firstly and most importantly to me, I will have new tools. My classroom now has a SmartBoard 680i and I now have a new macbook. I also have a new 30GB video ipod and a recorder for it. I can’t wait to use my new tools! However, innovation takes much motivation, thought, time, and effort. This I have already discovered in my hours’ worth of work for one day’s lesson plan. I realize now that I will have to spend a LOT of time if I want to take the units and lessons that I have created over the years and change them into meaningful learning situations for my students. Luckily, I have already started this transition in the past few years, but now I have the tools to REALLY make the shift. I am ready, but are the 49 other teachers in my district who are also starting this new school year with the Smartboard? I hope that they realize that they are now responsible for changing the look and feel of education in my district. I hope that they are ready to embrace emerging technologies and work to integrate them into their curricula.

Another difference this year is that every single teacher in my district will have a macbook. This will absolutely change the way we communicate and operate on a daily basis in school. In-service presentations can now be hands-on workshops. Department meetings can now be collaboration sessions. Meetings can be held online and communication can be instant and constant. Again, I am skeptical that the general faculty populaton will be as motivated to use the tools as I am. Some people just hate change!

Yet another difference will be the impending decision on whether my school has received the Classrooms for the Future grant. If the grant is awarded, we will receive funding for 7 1:1 classrooms in the building. This change would be HUGE for the students and for the teachers. Although I could not receive one of the 7 classrooms from the grant, I cannot wait to collaborate with the teachers who are chosen!

What else will be different? Clear Backpacks! The students are already outraged and school hasn’t even started yet. I just can’t wait to see what they will be up to once school starts…