Resources

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Flock on Windows XP

Flock is really an interesting blogging editor. I have several blogs, and trying to keep them current, is a real challenge. Now, with the aid of Flock, the process is manageable. I am going to try one of its features called Drag stuff to blog it! This is a window that users can add content to a blog post on the run. This feature is a perfect example of Web 2.0 enhanced tools. When I work with my students on blogging ideas about science topics we are covering in class, this Drag stuff to blog it! feature in Flock will be popular. I can see them dragging the image of the lab observations, field trips, digital storytelling, and their favorite photo of the latest rims for their Pimped out Ride. Sometimes, they have to blog stuff that is relevant to them. This really a great editor.

Now, will Flock work with David Warlick's ClassBlogmeister? I am going to try it this weekend and blog my results.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Symposiums at NWA




This week in our weekly teachers meeting, our teachers decided to all try to help expose our students to literary terms. We have a list of over a hundred terms. While surfing the Internet during our Spring Break, I came across fd's flickr toys, which is a third party plug-in (I guess that is what it is called). I never thought my students would like using it as much as they did. However, they experienced several issues trying to locate images that illustrated the literary term they wanted to work on. Each Friday, we try to team teach our middle school students so we can have a block of time to work on projects that just can not be started and stopped without cleaning up. Our school has both middle and high school students using the same classrooms and we have not time between class changes to reset up, so by blocking our 8:30 - 11:00 into one class, we have been taking advantage it.


I have posted some example images from our students. We (Genie Palmer, art and social studies teacher and me) facilitated these activites. The most recent project: Literary Terms editied to look like Motivational Posters.







Below is a mosaic of some of the images of models of fish our students made.



Middle School Fish Model Projects



Bobby, NWA Student with Fish Project, 2. Fish Project, 3. Fish project, 4. Marcus, NWA student with his fish project, 5. Fish project, 6. Fish project




Below are a few examples of how our students animated mitosis cell division in another one of our Friday blocks. Maybe we need to call the learning lab activities, or Friday Symposiums-- oh, I like that! Dang that sounds important.



Claymation - Mitosis Cell Division



1. AOC claymation activity 2006, 2. March at NWA, 3. March at NWA, 4. March at NWA






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DIALOGUE






DIALOGUE
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.





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ALLITERATION


ALLITERATION
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.

DIALOGUE


DIALOGUE
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
Tenisha drew this artwork.

HYPERBOLE


HYPERBOLE
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.

Irony


Irony
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
involves surprising interesting or amusing contradictions

SIMILE By TEVIN


SIMILE By TEVIN
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
Comparison between two unlike things using like or as.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Motivating Middle School Students with Technology


ADVERTISEMENTS
Originally uploaded by shay_beach.
Yesterday, in our weekly teachers meeting, we brainstormed some ideas for strategies we might implement the last few weeks of this school year to prepare our students for their End-of-Grade tests. One idea was to have other teachers review a list of literary terms. Earlier in the week, my students had been learning about how to use social software in science class. So, today, I asked my middle school students to give this activity a try.

My students, all over age 13, had created their first Flickr.com account. Then, they used fd's Flickr Toys, and a feature called Motivational Poster. Several steps are required to create the fd's Flickr Toys poster, but my students really got into the process. It was a real challenge to them. Not just a spelling bee, or flash cards or a worksheet. I knew I had their attention when one of my students who already has given up on himself. This school year has been a total waste for this child. He came into my class late this morning and immediately put his head down to fake being sick or act like he was sleepy. All the other students in the class already had their laptops fired up and we logging into their Flickr account. I just calmly walked over to the desk of my student that had his head down and asked him if he was interested in having fun. He perked up and replied, "sure, what ya doing?" I almost passed out. I was so tickled that I almost shouted YeeHaw!

I have included one of his three posters in this post. More than most of the students in the class. We will be working on this project for a few days. Basically, until they get tired of working on them. Our art teacher and I will be team teaching a session tomorrow, Friday, in which we plan to have the students sketch and paint their own images for their literary posters. I am not sure exactly how to really make this project work better, but the most difficult part of the activity is having the students searching for image to use in their posters. I thought about having the use our digital cameras to photograph object that would work to illustrate the terms. This would take forever. I tried having the use the terms as part of a Google search for images. This worked for some of the terms. That is until they got to the term allusion. One of my students pulled up an image of a artists figure. They sneakered and one said- "oh Mr. B, this is nothing compared to what my mother gets on her computer when she is trying to search for stuff for her classes in nursing school." I am not real sure this activity will be one to share, but it worked with my students- until that search. Tonight, I am looking for alternate image resources for my middle school students.

Using Google Video


Using Google Video
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
This is working, for now, and I am very tickled with how well it integrates video into eChalk.com. Our district uses eChalk.com's email and web hosting services. I have been experimenting with several strategies so we can display video projects our students have created. We liked .MAC because it is so easy to post the videos to their server and the .MAC servers load and efficiently play-back the videos.

I like having our videos hosted on Google video, because once they are uploaded, all I have to do is copy the code generated automatically by Google Video and paste it into a page on our eChalk website. Our content filters do not block this embedded HTML code. Basically, it works!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

NWA Magazine Cover - First Edition


NWA Magazine Cover #1
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
Here is a neat activity for the day you return from spring break. Have your students use a digital camera and take a group of images of a classroom activity or have them write a short paragraph of what they did during their break. Then have them exchange their paragraphs in class and ask the student that read the paragraph to come up with a headline for a magazine article. Use a picture that the students judge as the best one of the ones they take in class, and use that for the cover of the magazine. Follow this link to fd's Flickr Toys http://flagrantdisregard.com/flickr/ and let them create a magazine cover and print it out. Collect them and post them on your classroom door. Make sure they did not slip any profanity or gang signs into the mix. Note the gold fronts one of my darlings is sporting in the example. I will not print this one out. I will display this one on screen as a focus point as they enter my classroom using the digital projector.

Element Video Project


My creation
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
As my students begin to learn how to create video/digital storytelling projects, I ran across this rather interesting publishing tool that works with flickr.com. As students begin to shot their video footage, their teams will be assigned a poster like this one to create. I threw this one together to give them an idea of what they will look like. We will print them out and have the students post them in our school. At lunchtime, students can view the videos.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New Meat Eating Dinosaur Discovered: The Mapusaursus

Huge meat-eating dinosaurs roamed in groups in Argentina, scientists say. News resources are showing some video clips of a sketch of the huge meat-eater's skull. THe article states that the Mapusaurus found is around 40 feet long. The remains of Sue the T-Rex measures 42 feet. The coolest idea uncovered so far is not the size but how it hunted. Scientists think that Mapusaurus could have hunted in groups. Now that would make an awesome movie. A pack of Mapusaurus stalking King Kong's son and his blonde girlfriend. As you can guess, I watched the King Kong DVD. That is another story. Loved the movie until the part where they cut back to New York and the biplanes flying around the treed Kong. I thought they missed the perfect time to end it when they captured Kong on Skull Island. Lost me after that. Well, it is true.

read more | digg story

Google Earth Image ATL


Google Earth Image ATL
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
In a recent podcast, I think it was Tony Vincent's or maybe it was Wes Fryer's (sorry, I listen to so many, I forget who said what) anyway, the participants were sitting around exploring Google Earth (GE). I was jogging on the treadmill, and missed a lot of the details on what they were doing. However, during my Easter Vacation from teaching, I finally got around to downloading the new OS X version of GE I works fairly well. After downloading and installing the program, I searched for sites that I had read about. This is so interesting to me. My question- will my students give it a second look? My guess is-- no. My students are so dependent on being spoon-feed facts that they forget within a day or two, this type of tool would be like play time. 3D modeling is neat, but specific learning tasks and how to assess student mastery might take time to thrash out.

One topic in earth science that would GE's 3D modeling will enhance is landforms and mapping concepts. I need to find some lesson plans or work on some myself to use these tool.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Born to be Wild

Found this old photo of myself made back in 1968. My brother is on the back, my dad is standing behind us. The motorcycle is a Honda Dream model.

With gas prices heading higher and higher, maybe I need to get a motorcycle. I wonder if this one is down at the barn?

To Block or Not to Block...That is the Question(?)

From Around the Corner, M. Guhlin's blog he quotes Bonhoeffer and suggests these steps to over turn school's efforts to control their computer networks and protect students from inappropriate web content:

1) Speak out and ask authority if what they are doing is legitimate and according to their original responsibility. Ask them to recognize if what they're doing is legitimate. As educators, we must question, speak out and ask if banning/blocking web sites, controlling and locking down computers, is really what we started out to do as educators. But the questions are broader than technology issues. We also need to ask if we're really going to allow K-12 education to be destroyed while charter/private schools are built-up. Is this what we really want to allow?

2) Help those affected by the rules. We give succor to those who are hurt by the Authority, help them and mitigate the effects of the danger, of the wheel that is crushing them. For me, this means helping teachers and administrators in any way possible, to help them find some way to engage students. For me, this includes efforts like digital storytelling, blogging, problem-based/project-based learning, and other initiatives that involve students doing work that cannot be easily tested, that requires authentic assessment.

3) Jam a spoke in the wheel. This last is active, work against the Authority that is abusing its authority. This is political action, the type of action that EFF, GlobalVoices.org encourage in fighting back. We must jam a spoke in the wheel that is crushing K-12 education.


One might ask "What planet is this guy on?"

It's all fun and games until you become an administrator and parent phone calls, dealing with rouge porn printers (Last year, our students were printing out porn to network printers for fun.), network security spyware, viruses, DOS tools, being compliant with the Feds to get e-rate dollars, and on and on. It never seems to stop.

In a previous post, "They occasionally come across a thumbnail." Come on, middle school and high school students are not that stupid. These "digital natives" go out and try to find porn using every trick in the book to circumnavigate blocking software. Our students learn how to write Perl scripts and cgi proxy servers as fast as any professional. They all know that they can use their email links to access MySpace (not any more) using Hotmail or Yahoo mail's SMTP. Most of them do not have the search skills to find information on Google, but if just one student finds the "hack", the instructions on how to beat the system spreads by word of mouth like wild fire.

Our tech department deals with teachers calling them up all the time and request sites to block something. Reasons vary, but here is an example: "because Johnny(student) was wasting time on that site while she (teacher) was giving a lecture." It doesn't matter if the site was harmless. Teachers want it blocked. This happens on a regular basis.

It would be fun to sit around and blog playing armchair adminstrator, but in small school districts where every dollar counts, free-range grazing is not an option like it might be in Texas. (Wink Wink) We have to keep our cattle inside the fence and our limited bandwidth must not be drained by students listening to music on their MySpace page while creating a database in their computer class. Students see it as multitasking, our network sees it as a resource hog!

It would be nice to be able to say there really isn't a problem. Go free speech! But.... we are K-12. We are not a university where students choose to be. (Although some universities censor.) We are a underfunded K-12 district. If we didn't have any censorship we would need lots of money for parent lawsuits, more protective technologies for subversive software, and money to replace the funds we get from grants and the Federal Government.

Adminstrator have a difficult position and are accountable to different forcecs. It is easy to call administrators or district policies Nazi-like administrators or district policies for being wrong when they don't present a solution or present a solution that is not realistic.

For those that say K-12 schools should not block sites, it is like those that say: "If we don't like gas prices, don't drive." Schools need the Internet, we do not need the threat of legal action on the part of parents of students that object strongly to porn being printed on our network printers and blog posts that bully or victimize their fellow students, teachers or administrators. There are not simple solutions to the problems and challenges that face safe educational use of technology.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Are search engines making today's students dumber?

In a recent classroom assignment, I noticed that students really do not understand how to use search engines on the Web. One example, the phrase "royalties agreement". When asked to define this phrase and give an example, my students immediately copies and pasted the words into the online dictionary search window and while yaking at the student beside them about the upcoming Prom, they noticed that no entry could be found. Hands went up and they began to become off task even more. When asked what their problem was, the students just shrugged their shoulders and said, "this ain't on the Internet", I can't find it." I could feel the blood beginning to boil in my head.

Teachable moment? Or time to get out the worksheet and textbooks and turn off the computer? That is why teachers do not want to use the Internet/computers in the classroom. Kids are more interested in their social lives and personal issues-- aka family, entertainment, etc. Than they are about learning new skills. The moment that student could not find the words she typed in, was when she gave up on "finishing her task". I learned a lesson. Looking up definitions on the Web does not help students learn what they mean. It is just doing old task in a new way. I need to find a better way to get them to learn about ethical issues in digital media. So, my question about the article below is what are they really measuring?
n December, the National Center for Education Statistics published a report on adult literacy revealing that the number of college graduates able to interpret complex texts proficiently had dropped since 1992 from 40 percent to 31 percent. As Mark S. Schneider, the center's commissioner of education statistics, put it, "What's disturbing is that the assessment is not designed to test your understanding of Proust, but to test your ability to read labels."

The "Higher Education Supplement" of The Times of London reports that a British survey also finds that the ability of undergraduates to read critically and write cogently has fallen significantly since 1992. Students are not just more poorly prepared, a majority of queried faculty members believe, but less teachable.

While some blame reality television, MP3 players, cellphones or the multitasking that juggles them all, the big change has been the Web. Beginning in the early 1990s, schools, libraries and governments embraced the Internet as the long promised portal to information access for all.

At the heart of their hopes for an educational breakthrough were efficient search engines like Google and those of Yahoo and MSN. The new search engines not only find more, they also are more likely to present usable information on the first screen.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Classroom Management 101: Claymation Project


claymation
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
I have been trying to use claymation animation in my science classroom for several years. Reflecting on exactly why the projects never got off the ground, I realized that I needed some help. While surfing the Net for experts, I ran across this site that I had seen before: www.myt4l.com I must have been asleep the first time. The materials I am previewing are worth every penny. The materials are highly effective. When I say effective, I mean that students understand the instructions, and the resources provided in the lesson plans provided exactly the level of reading and visual information needed. The image included is not the best, but is an example of how myt4l.com integrates writing and drawing.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Positive Behavior Support


My creation
Originally uploaded by The Blake Slate.
This looks like a cool tool for us to look at to help motive our students here at our school. I can't wait to share it with my students on Monday.

Each week, our school takes a different character trait and teach what that trait means to our students. There are many different parts to this program, and it is past time for me to turn off this computer for the day. I will post the reactions of my students.