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At long last... This Wednesday will complete a two year journey in my life with the last class in my master's program.  Yesterday saw the completion of my capstone project/website which...

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The Kids Are Ready As a conference closes, you start to reflect on your takeaways.  And often, if your school paid for it, you get asked by the principal what those takeaways are.  And answering...

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GoogleDocs=Great LiveBinders=Great GoogleDocs+LiveBinders=OMGAWESOMEWOOOOOO “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” – U2 That is how I felt when looking for a way to organize Web 2.0 tools for the teachers at my school. ...

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Why are we using standardized tests to justify technology? I have drunk the Kool-aid on technology in schools.  So far as I’m concerned, it should be as ubiquitous as pencils, papers, and desks; textbook funding should be funneled...

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Tech Tips for Teachers Introduction I wanted to create some quick tips for teachers who are new to bringing technology into their room in a 1:1 setting.  Some of these may be “well, duh!”...

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Classroom Applications Rss

At long last…

Posted on : 11-12-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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This Wednesday will complete a two year journey in my life with the last class in my master’s program.  Yesterday saw the completion of my capstone project/website which can be found here – maddenr2.wordpress.com  If nothing else, at least check out the video I made as my final reflection -



Thank you to all who have helped me through this journey and who will continue to help me as I enter the next chapter of my career!

Veteran’s Day rememberance

Posted on : 11-11-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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At my first college I was a resident assistant. One of the benefits of being an RA is that you get your own room. This, however, was not the case for me. My roommate turned out to be a 32 year old ex-Navy Seal. Sounds intimidating, right? At first, yes. But he turned out to be a really great friend during a pivotal point in my life. While I have many memories from that time that involve him, my Veteran’s Day memory tends to stick out more than most.

I walked into our room after a long day of classes and saw him watching the evening news. Bill Clinton was presiding over a ceremony at the tomb of the unknown solider. My roommate made some sound of disgust. The following is the conversation that took place after that sound in its entirety. But like so many conversations with my roommate, it wasn’t the length that mattered.

Me: “You don’t approve of a draft dodger talking about veterans?”
Him: “No. I just think it’s a shame you have to be a dead veteran to be a recognized veteran.”

The New Converts

Posted on : 11-10-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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Two months.  Two months is how long the district and our school have been going back and forth on getting Google apps accounts.  I know that my tale is not the longest or hardest or most harrowing, but two months is two months is two months.  By Tuesday of last week the accounts were all in.  By Friday I had the access I needed to verify all students who needed an account had an account.  By Sunday I was able to easily pull records and quickly make the verifications (Thanks Beth!).  And then today, I was finally able to indoctrinate…er….welcome a group of students to the Google fold.

I am fortunate enough to have a colleague at my school is 100% on board with the whole Google thing.  She was almost as inpatient as I was to get these kids accounts.  We decided on Monday that our best plan of action would be to teach a small group of kids who we could then use as leaders in her classroom to help facilitate once we brought the whole class into the equation.  I got those names this morning and met with them at 10:15.

The kids had no idea what they were in store for when I strolled into their room, asked them to get their netbooks, and then follow me.  I sat them down in my office around the kidney table and gave them a brief overview of my qualifications as a Google Certified Teacher (one of the students in the group was born in Seattle where I got my training!) and the fact that we were asking them to be leaders in the room as their class went Google.  Their anticipation and excitement at the opportunity to be leaders was significantly raised, even more so when I told them they got usernames and passwords.  And with each revelation it got higher and higher.

“You mean we now have an email account?”  (Yes, but remember, it’s a school account)

“Will we get to use that chat function?” (Hopefully to ask each other questions without having to get up out of your seat. Very enthusiastic “Whoa!”

“So, I could keep a calendar on here and add stuff like my birthday?”  (Absolutely.  You can do that during any free time you have.)

And that was just as I went over the menu of applications.  After asking them to open docs and write a short biography there were even more thrilling revelations as my young apprentices tipped ever more dangerously to the Google-side.

“We don’t have to worry about saving?”  (One of the girl’s eyes got so big from this one, I could have eaten dinner off of them.)

screen cap of google menu“You mean we can share what we wrote with people?  And it shows up on their screen?” (My answer in the affirmative was followed by a flurry of everyone making sure they were sharing with everyone in the room.  Until I popped my docs list up and it was woefully empty.  The kids felt terrible for having left me out of the fun and quickly reopened their documents and fixed it with no prompting from me)

“You can leave comments?  How?!?!  SHOW US!!!!!!”

As I told Beth in chat, it was like Christmas had come in October.  Each revelation a new and fascinating present.  I passed several of them in the hall at different times today and all of them had big smiles on their faces.  They’re hooked.  And I know there will be other roadblocks to overcome.  I get that.  But today was exhilarating.  To see the smiles, the focus, and the enthusiasm made the two months of frustrations vanish.  And it really brought home who all this is for.

Me.
Duh.

Sacrificing less students at the altars of pedagogical ignorance

Posted on : 03-09-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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This afternoon I had a group of second graders in the computer lab about to be the second group that day sacrificed at the altar of my pedagogical ignorance.  Earlier I had a group of first graders sitting in front of me that were unsuspecting victims of my first excursion into the world of primary mathematics.  In their hands they held a page with three empty rectangles to create their own math word problems which they would then transfer to Lego’s excellent comic creator.  I showed the students how to fill in all three boxes, explaining what I was doing the whole time, but without really stopping. As a consequence, I did not give them the requisite thinking time and the first graders thought I was randomly putting numbers in the 3 vertical boxes instead of realizing that I was adding the two numbers from the first two boxes and putting their sum in the third box.

After chastising myself for a mistake I should have foreseen, I quickly came up with an alternative plan for the second graders awaiting their turn.  Just as with the first graders, I showed the second graders how to fill in the first two boxes.  This time, however,  I allowed them to do the same before I explicitly showed them how to fill in that all-important third box.  Instead of only three students getting it (as was the case in the 1st grade class) I had all but two students get it.  Can some of this be attributed to the age difference?  Absolutely.  But I know had I been more explicit with the first graders, I could have easily gotten half of the class, and probably more, on board with me.

When I look back at the early part of my career it seemed I didn’t even know what mistakes I was making let alone how to fix them.  Even just two years ago, this pedagogical breakdown might have stymied me, but now I’m getting to a place where I’m diagnosing and fixing practically on the fly.  This is not a diatribe against those who think teaching is nothing more than regurgitation, although it easily could turn into that, but instead a question: Is there a way to help teachers early in their careers become better at self reflection?  I understand that what’s really needed is time and experience, but I wonder if those of us who have had time and experience rely on that answer as a crutch to shirk of our responsibility to help teachers new to the profession.  Is there a way we can better pass on our experiences and thought processes to our less experienced colleagues?

All of this calls to mind the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher” But doesn’t it really comes down to how we reflect on our experiences? Making mistakes and learning from them is part of life and learning, and especially a part of teaching. While I think about those first graders who left my room as having lost an opportunity, I am truly thankful they were the only ones.  If I was a newer teacher, how many other classes would have lost that opportunity as well before I finally figured it out?  Students will always be sacrificed at the altars of teachers’ pedagogical ignorance; it’s just a reality of our profession.  But we owe it to the students of our less experienced colleagues to find a better way to pass on how we reflect on our experiences and make them more meaningful.

A post in which I depart from writing about technology to write about writing

Posted on : 20-08-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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“Because destiny, John, is a fickle bitch.” – Benjamin Linus  from LOST
“What is the student but a lover courting a fickle mistress who ever eludes his grasp?” - William Osler
The last time I posted something to this blog was three weeks ago.  That is by far the longest stretch I have gone without writing since the re-imagining of this site from being about tools to being about my thoughts on technology education and my journey as a technology facilitator.  I sat on my couch writing that post for three hours completely oblivious to everything going on around me.  I had to get it out.  I needed each word, the flow, the rhythm, the word choice, everything to be exactly how I wanted it.  How the post would be viewed by those who read it was certainly in my mind, but at the end of the day even if Beth had not given me the okay to post it, I would have been fine with that because I had crafted a written expression that perfectly captured that moment in time for me. As a writer, I was very appreciative that it was not only well-received but seen by my audience exactly how I wanted it to be seen.  But the truth of the matter is, I was really writing for myself.

And that brings me to the fickle nature of writing and what it means for us, as teachers, and for our students.  Who are our students writing for?  Are we teaching them how to write or are we teaching them how to be writers?  Or, instead of teaching them, should we simply allow them to be writers?  This last question in particular strikes a chord with me.  At no point during that three week stretch did I ever doubt that I would get back to writing for this blog.  Granted, some of the reason for the three week stretch was because life, particularly the beginning of the school year, has gotten in the way.  But a significant part of it was “recovery” from having written what I think is the best piece I’ve ever written. Not that I write these posts to be great pieces of literature, by any stretch of the imagination, but that previous post was, in my opinion, the best piece of writing I’ve put up on this site and probably the best piece of story-telling I’ve ever written.  How does one follow that exactly?

But what if one of our students went through a three week stretch without writing?  Would we allow that?  Granted, I have built up a store of credit and established myself as a somewhat prolific writer by churning out a new blog post once a day for weeks at a time.  And I get that one has to write to get better at writing.  But too often we hear that thought expressed as “The only way to get better at writing is to keep writing.”  That thought is so pervasive that it took me two minutes to figure out exactly how to word it otherwise.  There is a difference a mile wide between those two ways of looking at writing instruction.  Yes, you get better at writing by writing, but it is not the only way.  Nor is it always productive to keep writing.  To me, the only way to get better at writing is to keep living.

Writing, like destiny in the first quote at the top of this page, is fickle.  Inspiration comes and goes at a whim.  How to express an idea with the written word can elude you for minutes, hours, days, or even longer.  And like the second quote at the top of the page, we are asking our students to grasp this fickle discipline and try to embrace it every day.  Oftentimes we do so by giving them a set topic or confine them with a range of topics or a genre of writing.  I am reminded of Princess Leia’s quote from Star Wars about the Empire,  “The more you tighten your grip…the more [they] will slip through your fingers.”  The more we tighten our grip and try to control our students’ writing, the more likely the point of writing and what it means to be a writer will elude them.


I am not advocating the dissolution of all structure when it comes to writing instruction.  I am simply asking for us, as teachers, to recognize the fickle nature of writing and allow our students some leeway.  Maybe what they need is the chance to literally stop and smell the roses.  And, yes, occasionally they will need prodding.  One of the central themes of my previous post was the “gentle” nudge given to me by Beth.  And while this post had been percolating in my head for the last week or so, it wasn’t until Jayme Johnson suggested the idea on Twitter that finally coaxed me to put fingers to keyboard.  Certainly, there is a place for teachers in the writing lives of their students.  But I think there is also a place for writing in the writing lives of our students and for each student it will be a different place at different times.  We, as teachers and writers, need to recognize that.

(Thanks to Jayme Johnson for the nudge)

It’s the people, stupid

Posted on : 31-07-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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Some of the Google Certified Teachers wearing google shadesStupid Beth Mossholder.  Not five minutes ago, I had finished eating dinner with Randy Kolset, one of my roommates from the Google Teacher Academy at Washington (GTAWA) and was now sitting with my back against a pillar so I could have my phone plugged in while sending out last minute texts and Tweets before the flight home.  Randy was the last member of my GTAWA cohort I would see before returning home from the unbelievable two day conference. After letting go of that final handshake and turning away towards Gate A-5, the conference was at last over.  Being a Google Certified Teacher herself, stupid Beth Mossholder wanted to relive her experiences vicariously through me, so as requested I had been sending her updates throughout the conference and now that it was done I sent my final one: “Starting to decompress now that I’m ‘alone’.” Yes, even though I was surrounded by people at the airport, I was finally/unfortunately/seemingly alone.  To which she replied: oh good. blog it out if you have to. :) Kyle Pace and Adam BellowBlog it out.  Blog It Out? BLOG IT OUT?!?!?!?  How does one blog about what is probably the most amazing professional experience I’ve had a mere 5 minutes after it ended?  How does one sum up 72 hours of being around amazingly innovative and passionate educators?  Stupid Beth Mossholder has no idea what she’s talking about or what she’s asked me to do.  Didn’t she go through one of these herself?  Isn’t she supposed to KNOW?  Didn’t she say herself how drained she was at the end of it? It was at that moment that I decided stupid Beth Mossholder was indeed stupid and that I was going to follow my original plan which was to sleep on the plane.

But while stupid Beth Mossholder is indeed stupid, she is, lamentably, not completely ignorant of how my brain functions.  Whether selfishness to read about my GTAWA experience or actual compassion to help her friend get some perspective drove her to suggest blogging it out, I’ll never know.  What I suspect, however, is she knew the idea of writing would be the proverbial pea under the mattress of my airplane seat.  Because the plane was full, however, my laptop was 6 rows ahead of me in an overhead compartment and that would require way too much energy and I wasn’t about to give in so easily to stupid Beth Mossholder.

The Fresno contingent from Google Teacher AcademySo what could I do?  I needed something that was low on cognitive load. BTW, thank you Ramsay Musallam, the REAL guru of flipped teaching, who was also in my GTAWA cohort for that wonderful phrase. It’s not like I have seemingly endless energy reserves like Alice Keeler, the spunky math teacher and my constant companion from Fresno.  It’s not like I could review my notes with no connection to G-docs, and even if I could there’s no way they could match the thoroughness of Julie Crozier’s whose notes were unbelievably inclusive of everyone’s ideas.


As my head kind of lulled on the airplane, it made me jealous of Jayme Johnson, the refreshing,  outgoing and humorous ed. tech specialist at a charter school just outside of Los Angeles. Jayme had to leave before the un-conference, but not before we had a nice walk to and from the Space Needle the night before the actual conference.  I’m sure she already had a good night’s sleep under her belt. Of course my current state of exhaustion was my fault for staying out so late the night before and partaking of Mark Wagner’s excellent hospitality and Dave Childer’s, Wendy Gorton’s, and Sean Williams’ fun and energetic company.  Greg Renaldo (great guy who I needed to talk to more) and Aaron Svboda, although a bit quieter, were also there joining in our late night festivities with humorous jabs of their own.  After all of that, though, it was really nice to sit down that next morning for a quiet breakfast with Aaron.  Totally different type of exhaustion than when Karen McMillan and I sat down for lunch after our walking tour of Pike’s Market, the first Starbucks, and Olympic Statue Park (I really am sorry Karen, thought you were a walker like me).  Also different from the exuberance of having just finished the GTA and eating dinner and having a great conversation about technology coaching with Mike Lawrence from CUE.

Three Wild and Crazy GCT's

Speaking of exuberance and exhaustion, how is Patrick Green not exhausted after coming from Prague?  That guy knows how to light up a room and while he’s so talented, he’s so giving as an educator.  Kind of reminds me of Jon Corippo in a way.  I imagine Jon is one of the few people who is able to have a meaningful conversation about Columbine in a hotel room with someone he just met after 5 hours of sleep.  Then again, Rich Colosi, my other roommate was able to give me some great insight into what happened mere minutes after the YouTube Teacher academy.  What is Rich’s profile pic in Twitter?  Huh, can’t remember.  But Kyle Pace’s, however, no doubt I can recall that.  How could I not?  While some people LOOK like their profile pic, Kyle IS his profile pic. Always smiling; very warm and open.

Speaking of warm, I was really grateful to Dana Nguyen for having her session on becoming a Google Certified Trainer outside.  We needed to be outside, and Dana always seemed to be very in tune with her audience and the glowing sun just seems to suit her so well.  Which reminds me, I didn’t really get to know Allison Merrick at all.  Or did I?  Although, Allison wasn’t in the spotlight, she always seemed to be in tune with Dana and Mark and the consummate teammate.  In fact, all the lead learners seemed to work well as a team and none of them came off as thinking they were above anyone else, even us newbies.  In fact, I really enjoyed talking with all of them.  Especially when I was trying to sell my team’s lead learner, Erica Hartman, on the idea of taking her family to Yellowstone on vacation.  Silly Erica, stuck on the idea of going in an RV instead of camping in a tent.  I’m sure Ken Shelton would appreciate camping at Yellowstone  Or at the very least he’d appreciate the idea of getting up really really early to get the best wildlife and landscape shots.

More GCT's in front of the banner

That makes me think about the river just outside of the Google office.  I remember watching the boats on it while eating lunch and singing 50 nifty United States with Kristi Berry (yes, I really am that sarcastic, except when I’m totally sincere), Joan Brown (love how you ask questions and want to soak up as much as possible), and Wendy Gorton (you  get mentioned twice because I want to take this opportunity to plug Gilmore Girls Season One to you. Again.).  Of course singing makes me think of Chris Walsh showing off his karaoke-fu.  Or was that Chris Walsh up there? He seems like a fun enough guy to do it, but it’s all blurring together now.

Oh crap!

I need to write it down.

I have my phone.

But no signal.

No signal=no Google docs.

Ah! Note taking app.


Colette Cassinelli=eye candy
Adam Bellow=no nonsense, passionate; says what he means because he believes it and believes it needs to be said
Molly Schroeder=love her enthusiasm and the toys she showed us. WONDER WOMAN
Gwyneth Jones=more like Caring Librarian, am I right?
Jen Roberts=really sweet and loved having dinner with her and her husband at Laredo
Will Kimbley=is this guy ever not smiling? Every time he makes eye contact he smiles at you
Jim Sill=Tons of know-how, loved his YouTube stuff and showing additional calendars. A master of self-deprecation
Cory Pavicich=HAVE to use his google docs idea on building a story to show it off to my teachers
Lisa Highfill=Love her insights on Twitter
Andrew Schwab=Nice to have simple conversation at end of un-conference with him and Patrick Corbin
Robert Miller = Glad to connect with someone from back in FL
Stacey Behmer=awesome chrome extensions and very upbeat personality

Google Teacher Leaders at top of the worldBut there’s more.  There’s more memories, there’s more people.  The people.  UGH! Why did I take notes on the sessions and NOT the people?  I didn’t get to know all of them, and the ones I did get to know I didn’t have enough time.  Stupid Beth Mossholder even warned me of this. All I can do is write and hope I remember as much as I want.

After 30 minutes of flashing faces and furious swyping, I finally turned my phone off.  And as my head once again lulled to the side so I could finally go to sleep, I remembered stupid Beth Mossholder’s last words of advice four days earlier when I said I was getting a bit nervous about going to GTAWA: Don’t be. Always remember, these are your people.  She was right.  Beth was right about everything.  These are my people.  And I will remember them.  Always.

Letting tangled cords lie

Posted on : 27-07-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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“I wanted this job, right?”

That’s what I texted to my wife while about halfway through detangling cords on my fourth netbook cart of the day.  My back was aching and I had full knowledge that when I closed my eyes to go to sleep that night, all I would see is tangled black power cords with “Spiderwebs” by No Doubt running through my head.  This was quite the juxtaposition from the rest of my summer which was spent matching wits and intelligence with some of the finest educators this country has to offer.  Rarely, if ever, do we talk about the dirty hands-on, off-the-clock part of the job.  Oh sure, we make glancing references to it like, “Just another thing to add to ‘other duties as assigned’” or “we do what we have to do”.

I think of these things as time-suckers.  I spent the grand majority of two full workdays doing an inventory and making sure that the number of netbooks in a room matched the number of power cords and was within +/- 1 of current enrollment.  Oh yeah, that’s two full working days that I won’t see a dime for, but are absolutely necessary if I want to get any sort of co-planning done during pre-planning.  But then I take a step back and ask, how necessary is it?

Will it make life easier on teachers and students that the cords aren’t tangled in the cart, are all properly connected, and the right amount exists?  Absolutely.  At the same time, though, I believe things like that can get in the way of doing what will REALLY help students and REALLY make a difference in their lives.  And I believe many of us recognize that point.  But how many of us stop and change directions at that point?  How many of us are willing to leave the cords behind  in a still-tangled mess and meet with a couple of teachers to help plan a well-thought-out meaningful project?

The job I wanted wasn’t untangling cords.  The job I wanted was the one where I’m working with kids and teachers on stuff that matters.  It’s not that I don’t see the value of untangling cords.  And yes, there are some cord tangles that we simply cannot ignore. But I can’t help but think that a lot of burnout, frustration and stagnation comes from our inability to let the cords go and focus on what really matters.  If we truly believe that we’re teachers because we want to help kids make meaningful connections and products, then we need to be sure that truly is our priority and show it through our actions and our words and leave the tangles alone. Besides, they’ll only be tangled again two months from now.

Response to: “The Real Game Changer in Education”

Posted on : 20-07-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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At the heart of Josh Stumpenhorst’s fine piece “The Real Game Changer in Education” is the following idea: “As I have said very publicly, I am a huge fan of technology and the power it has to transform learning for our students. Yet, I still think it comes down to the user and not the tool. I would rather define game changers as individuals who choose to use the best tools available to better learning for students.”

For many of us who have used and will continue to use technology this is nothing more than a “well, duh” statement.  Put very well, mind you, but for those of us who have struggled with the issues of how best to integrate technology into our classroom it’s more than glaringly obvious, it’s as much a fact of life as breathing.  Yet with that being said, it’s another perfect example of a wonderful blog post that will rarely reach the audience it needs to.  It’s up to us in the Twitter-verse to be sure it does.  Re-tweeting it is one thing.  Sending the link in an email to your non-Twitter colleagues and saying you found out about it on Twitter is another.

As for me, I’m going to be doing just that to the staff I coach because I want them to realize just because I’m coming in to help them improve their technology integration doesn’t mean I don’t value them as a teacher or that I believe in any way shape or form that they are replaceable by a 10 inch screen, 104 keys and a fast internet connection.  An 11 inch screen maybe.

I would, however, like to add a small addendum to Josh’s piece.  While technology may not be a game changer on its own in the grand scheme of things, it is certainly the game changer in my career. I am finally able to realize ideas and beliefs I have held about teaching and learning for years because the technology has finally created situations that facilitate their implementation in ways I could never have imagined without it.

I am totally on board with what Josh is saying: unless it was me in the driver’s seat implementing those ideas and beliefs and driving the change, then the technology would be nothing more than a Lamborghini shaped paper-weight. And yes, I am a firm believer that a well-thought out and well-practiced vision of technology implemented on two dusty old desktop computers is better than a class-set of netbooks being used as game/listening stations. But sometimes people need a spark, something to inspire them and light that fire to make them see possibilities they were otherwise unaware of.  While I fully appreciate and endorse what Josh is saying, I still think that spark is more likely to occur with the Lamborghini that is Web 2.0 and a class set of netbooks as opposed to the bicycle that is the dusty old desktops and Word ’97.

A huge thanks to Josh for immediately getting back to me about representing him accurately in this post.  And thanks again, Josh, for writing such a meaningful piece.

Putting it together – Creating a resource site that teachers will actually use

Posted on : 17-07-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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screenshot of connect and collaborate section

As I’ve said in my last couple of blog posts, the beginning of next year has been at the forefront of my mind these past couple of weeks.  And with teachers reporting back at the beginning on August, it will continue to be.  I can not begin to say how grateful I am for all the wonderful stuff I’ve learned these last two months through Twitter, TIE 2011, countless blogs, and engaging conversations.  Which brings me to figuring out how to begin passing on all I have learned on to the teachers at my school without sending them into information overload.

After several starts, I think I finally have something that seems to balance my desire to pass on all I’ve learned without overwhelming the teachers and is somewhat coherently organized.  Because it isn’t finished yet, I won’t be revealing it yet for public consumption, but I did want to share some of my thought processes in creating it for those of you who are looking to do the same.

Overall Organization - There are hundreds upon hundreds of useful tools out there.  How does one organize them all?  I’ve tried by learning mode (visual, audio, text, video and text, etc.).  I’ve tried by subject.  I was even going to try and do it by goal/guideline at one point.  Regardless of how I tried it, some lists ended up having around 30 tools, which is simply too many on one page.  What I finally settled on were broad categories around my goals, without actually referring to them: Connection and Collaboration tools (Twitter, Skype in the Classroom, Edmodo, etc.), Content Creation tools (Wordle, Dipity, Scratch, etc.), Google Tools, and Additional resources (dedicated to pointing teachers at places to find other tools).  So far, I’m liking this structure and I think it will help point teachers in the direction they want to go.

screenshot of content creation sectionContent Creation - What kept bothering me about this section was how many tools to include and how many of each type.  I finally settled on a compromise of sorts.  The first part of the compromise was to only include one tool of each type (for example Timeline creators), unless there was an overriding reason to include two because of unique features.  One such tool type would be “talking” avatars.  Voki and Blabberize do essentially the same thing, but in unique ways with Voki offering create-a-character and Blabberize offering the use of ANY image you can find.  The second part of the compromise was that I would link to my LiveBinder page at the top and clearly state that there were PLENTY of more tools where those tools came from.  This way, teachers have the option of asking me or going to the LiveBinder to see if, for example, there’s a graphic organizing tool that might suit their needs more than Cacoo.

Information to include with tools: This is a tough one for me.  I always feel like I’m walking a fine-line between spoon-feeding teachers and not giving them enough information to be helpful.  So rather than put a bunch of text with each tool, I compromised again by including links to resources that they can follow-up on on their own.  I also wanted to be sure those that needed real basic information could get it, whereas more advanced users wouldn’t feel talked down to.  Here’s my entry on Glogster for an example:

Glogster

Description: Poster creation site with multimedia elements. You can get 50 student accounts with one teacher account w/free version. Have to log-in to individual accounts to “police”, though.
Video: Tutorial

With this set-up, I like to think I’ve included enough information to help those that need hand-holding without insulting those who are more adept. At least, that’s the theory.

So, now it’s all about finishing to fill out the sections and get it ready by the first of August. As I said earlier, I will definitely post a link to it here and probably include some other reflections on its creation. A huge thanks goes to Beth Mossholder who has been kind enough to hold my hand and give me feedback and encouragement during this project.

Authentic Typing – Ten Alternatives to Typing Exercises

Posted on : 14-07-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized

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As someone who believes in a constructivist account of learning, I want kids to experience typing as authentically as possible which means avoiding the repetitive, dull exercises I was subjected to my senior year in high school. This is not to say that there aren’t some wonderful typing tutors online. In fact, many of them are fun and based around real words instead of nonsensical strings of letters and I’ve linked to several on this site. While I’m not a huge fan of isolating skills like that, the beauty of isolated exercises is they don’t overwhelm kids the way having to type two or more pages of hand-written text can. But at the end of the day, with technologies like Swype and greatly improved Speech to Text algorithms, I have to wonder how much longer keyboarding as we think of it will be around.

With all of this in mind, I’ve come up with the following list of ways to incorporate typing in ways that are more authentic than repetitive exercises for my elementary studetns. My goal with these activities is to make students familiar with the keyboard layout to the point where there is less hunting and more pecking while not overwhelming them with walls of text that take up the whole class period.

1. Type progressively longer responses (one word up to two or three sentences) to questions on a classroom blog.
2. Type responses into open-ended survey questions in a Google Form I’ve created for the class.
3. Type captions to accompany pictures in a slideshow on a project they’re working on in their regular classroom.
4. Type dialogue for a comic strip
5. Create a Google doc so kids can collaborate with another class as pen pals.
6. Hold a class “caption contest” for a funny picture
7. Have kids bring short sentences to class to type and then play with the font/color/size settings
8. Type spelling words to create a Wordle (might be interesting to have them make their most difficult word the biggest for extra practice)
9. Create a greeting card
10. Create and type an invitation to a school event.

I’d like for the first 5-10 minutes of each 45 minute session to be dedicated to typing. Some of the above ideas would fit that bill quite well. Others can be woven into other class projects. The real point, though, is that while none of these are your typical typing exercises they still work to make the kids familiar with the keyboard layout without overwhelming them (not to mention that many of them are working other computer and digital citizenship skills as well).

Please feel free to steal any of the above ideas and DEFINITELY feel free to add your own ideas in the comments below.