Texas Bluebonnet Writing Project Blog

Monday, March 26, 2007

Can Technology Affect Administrators?

I think so.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

PD or not PD

Geoffrey Fletcher's commentary in the March, 2007 issue of THE Journal is a great read. His article focuses on professional development offered for technology integration, or the lack thereof. "Educators give lip service to professional development, but they don't spend money on it," one vendor is quoted as saying. Her thought as a vendor is that schools want the training for free like they do with textbooks. "They said textbook publishers give free training, [so] the technology guys should do the same," says one tech coordinator.

According to Fletcher's research from Market Data Retrieval, PD spending in the United States classrooms hovers between 5 to 8 cents for every dollar spent on technology. Recently, after increasing the demands on schools for improving student technology literacy, the federal government turned around and cut the educational technology budget in a huge way. So where are our priorities as a world power? In technology preparation and funding, I would say we have become a developing country.

Why do I bring this up? As educators we all know there is never enough PD on technology, and cost is but one of the factors. Time is another. Then again, for us to have time, it costs money to either offer stipends, comp time, or quality subs in the classroom to allow us to attend. No, the reason I bring this up is that the Long Range Plan for Technology adopted by TEA says that 30% of the total district budget on technology needs to be spent on professional development. That means thirty cents for every dollar spent on technology in your district will go toward offering (hopefully) quality PD with technology topics. The focus is a 24/7 PD offering to allow educators and administrators the chance to learn when it is convenient. What I see is districts either creating new positions for curriculum developers or stipends for tech savvy staff to develop it after hours.

Have you tried taking PD with this type of presentation? Maybe it is downloadable modules or online coursework with an asynchronous discussion setting. Or it could be a video online where you answer some questions at the end and then print out a certificate. ATPE has piloted a program on their site where you read articles online and then answer questions and then print a certificate. This is great for those who have to renew their certification every five years and need alternative ways for PD credits.

David Warlick and others have discussed a personal learning network (PLN). It is your own design in your area of interest where you challenge yourself through reading and interacting with your peers. You choose the sources as well as the times you interact. Blogs, RSS aggregators, and podcasts are important in this area to help you out. While there is no proof of your work here other than your improved performance as a professional, TEA still allows this style of PD to count toward your PD requirements for certificate renewal. While I have a lifetime certificate, I still choose to have a vast PLN made up of great educational thinkers like Will Richardson, Miguel Guhlin, David Warlick, Jennifer Wagner, Wes Fryer, Eddie, BWP bloggers, ..

I guess I am posting on this to flesh out my thoughts as to what is already going on as well as hopefully get feedback from others about their learning preferences in this arena. BWP offers top notch, in-person professional development. We are in the process of designing online PD offerings. How would you prefer to receive it? Do you need the deadlines of a time length, syllabus-based course offering? Or do you prefer the ability to log-in and out when it is convenient, work at your own pace, do some type of summative activity for proof, and then print your certificate of completion?

The one thing we cannot create for educators is time. We can make any PD offering you need. We can even offer it in differing formats. We just need to know what you find the most convenient and purposeful to you and how you would like to access it.

Be thankful Texas is finally taking the lead in long range planning in technology. The forethought to mandate funds (albeit not new money) toward professional development will only serve to benefit educators as a whole. If we are benefiting the teachers, the kids are going to reap the rewards. That is what this is all about, right?

Technology is a great tool. But, like most of the tools in my garage, if they are not used they are useless. We must provide the training necessary for teachers to efficiently and effectively utilize what the district is providing (and a few things you can get for free on the Internet).

By the way, with our move toward digital and online textbooks, are the tech companies going to change their feelings on providing free training to accompany adoptions? Or will they just jack their cost of the product and act like the training is free (like textbook companies do). Either way, it needs to be offered. I recently had this same thing happen with a new technology my district adopted. While it was provided free through the state technology materials adoption list, the company wanted $1500 a day for training. In a district my size (needing only 8 staff members trained) and limited funds anyway, I told them thanks but no thanks. Our district did not have that budgeted. I would do the best I could to figure it all out and train our staff. Is that the best method? No way. It is financial survival. But in the end common sense prevailed. The company realized that for us to get the full potential of the technology to be able to brag about it to others, they needed to provide the training using their own folks. So they did. For free. Just saying.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Piggy back Google

Greetings, Check out this elaborate plan to build a life supporting center/city/habitat in space. It's very well thought out. This is a cool writing response topic! Katherine


Thursday, March 08, 2007

What on Google Earth?!

No, we have not been so overrun by Google that we are now renaming our planet...yet.

Thanks to a post by Will Richardson, I am excited to share with you a website dedicated to mapping (or offering maps of) literature; GoogleLit Trips. Studying the Odyssey? Great! Have your students visit the places traveled within the novel using FREE Google Earth. MacBeth? Covered. Aeneid? Good to go.

The only downside is there are only a few right now (targeting high school students), but the great news is that it is wide open for us to create our own and add to the literary experience for students.

The files (KML) do not seem that difficult to create, so if you feel lucky (or confident or skilled or just plain rebellious) map out your favorite piece of literature and share it with everyone. You can even upload images to go with each location as well as your own descriptions/explanations for each location. Just Google some phrases like KML tutorials or KML how to and find a tutorial you like to help get you started. Once you create a file, all you have to do is open Google Earth and then go to File and Open. Browse to your file and there you go.

Make sure you use this blog to share what you find, what you create, and best of all, the process you went through to get there. It is how we all learn.

Individually, we can read a book. Collectively, we can live it.

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Lincoln's Sword

Due to its regularly scheduled airtime on weekday mornings, I cannot listen “live” to The Diane Rhem show very often, but the episodes are podcasted and I try to catch up whenever I can.

This morning in the car I was very pleasantly surprised by the second hour of this episode from last month, discussion with the author of Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words. Book link here.

The material covered was wonderful—the importance of writing on critical thinking and Lincoln’s composition styles, to name two—practically a Lincoln-esque sermon on the role of words in history. I highly recommend it!

Egg Roll, anyone?

Jennifer Wagner is at it again. This seemingly tireless educator is about to kick start a new collaborative, online project. This is for all of you who need some math and physics with a dash of technology tied into your curriculum.

It is (begin using loud, booming, announcer voice here) The Great Egg Roll 2007. Registration starts March 19th, so find a way to fit it into your lesson plans and realize that the hands-on application of skills will prepare your kids for TAKS better than drill and kill (not to mention they love it a whole lot more).

So here are her highlights:
Welcome to the 7th Annual Great Egg Roll Online Project sponsored by

Registration for this project will open on
March 19, 2007!

Each registering classroom needs to pair up with one other classroom at their school with whom they will be
rolling their eggs. Together, you will be gathering averages, adding measurements, and more!
(It does NOT need to be the same grade level, so feel free
to roll with your "buddy" classes!)

All eggs will need to be 2" plastic eggs filled with
3 Level Tablespoons of White (uncooked) Rice!! You are welcome to start
filling and gluing your eggs now for this project!

The project dates will be from
March 26 - April 13, 2007.

Jennifer Wagner
Technospud Projects Coordinator

If you are going to participate in this, leave a comment here so we can all follow your students and you through the process.

And if you want to know more about her other projects, visit her project site.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blogging is for grown-ups. Right?

During our Summer Institute we spent a lot of time blogging our thoughts and reflections about our experiences. We waxed poetically about our presentations and the work they entailed. We even used it to collaborate with those not in the immediate area of UTA (like me). So we know what we are talking about when we say blogging is just something kids do not fully understand. Right? Consider this:

Click on the image to get a better read of what it entails, but basically it is a mindmap about what blogging does for the author. These are just a few of the gems it lists:
I have increased my vocabulary.
You can think outside of the box.
It's like making your own books of thought.
You can smell the million dollar aroma of words.
It's like you are reading a blogging dictionary.
You paint stories in your mind.

And the list goes on very impressively. So what educator, purveyor of thought, wisdom-sharer of the masses could compile such a list? Eddie.

Yes, Eddie is the mastermind behind such an incredible graphic and thought provoking list. So, who is Eddie you might ask? I have very little idea. But what I do know is that he is in the 5th grade! His class blogs as well.

Take a look at what these ELEMENTARY students are doing with their individual and class blog spaces. There is no reason we cannot have such high expectations with our students as well.

Thanks Eddie!

By the way, I have my own blogging and podcasting project coming up. It is a full-bore pilot program to integrate the technologies into our school district. I wrote a grant. The superintendent offered to cover half the costs if the grant providers would cover the other half. He told me yesterday that I did not get what I wanted. I got more than I wanted. The grant providers offered to pay it all ($8000) as long as he kept his half available for me to use for expansion of the program. They see it taking off like crazy. It will be the largest grant they have ever given to any one person or group. I am honored that they have that much confidence in what I am wanting to do.

I plan to blog the process (here and on the school blog once created) that I go through including the costs and limitations of the equipment we buy and use. It will all be centered around an Apple server (oh the horror). Stay tuned. The first blog/podcast group out of the gate for us will be elementary special education (grades 3-5). Then, band has some awesome video podcasting ideas they have already started on. Journalism at the high school is also ready to take flight with Journalism I students and blogging. So this is going to be an awesome ride the next few months and into the summer. White Oak ISD will never be the same again.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

What do cereal, St. Patty's Day, Google Earth, and NASCAR have in common?

Sponsored by TechnospudProjects.com - PreSchool through Third Grade Students all over the world are welcome to join in the fun as we use the contents of a "General Mills Lucky Charms" 14 oz size box of cereal! Registration is now OPEN!! There will lots of great activities, as well as St. Patrick Ideas, which will help to make the week of March 12th through 16th, a fun filled -- EDUCATIONAL -- week!!

St. Patrick's Day -- Online Project 2007

If you happen to be in school next week (and you teach PK through 3rd), you might take a look at what Jennifer Wagner, fellow educator and NASCAR fan has working over at Technospud. It is a world-wide collaborative event that has over 600 educators and 12,000 students in it right now. Jennifer has everything laid out for you already from national standards to worksheets. You just need some kids and some Lucky Charms and get registered by Friday, March 9th (Awesome math and technology tie-in here!). So go on over there and register and join in the international fun. It is gauranteed to be magically delicious (lame slogan theft, I know).

Oh, the NASCAR fan part really has nothing to do with the project. I am just glad to find a female educator that enjoys watching cars go around in circles and run into each other as much as I do (or even at all).

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ecologies, Digital and Metaphorical

Hello all, I hope that you have been keeping up with Barbara Ganley's insightful blog recently!

This post on "ecologies" caught my eye--"learning ecology" is a topic that Jeannine and I have been discussing and presenting about, but definitely one we both want to explore further.

A quick search for "classical" works on the topic comes up with the usual suspects such as George Siemens and John Seely Brown, and this summary by Aaron Campbell pretty much nails the concept, I think.

There are many metaphors for teaching and learning, but that of an ecology has a definite resonance.