Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Moving on again

Thank you for your interest in my blog. I want to let you readers know that I have moved this blog to www.johnwoodring.com/teacherbytes. Thank you again for reading Teacherbytes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Virtual Weekend

If you had seen me running this past Saturday morning you would have thought I was running alone, lost in the music of an MP3 player. Normally you would be correct. In reality I was running in a 10K race against over 86,000 people from around the world.

The event I participated in was the Nike+ Human Race 10K sponsored by Nike. This was a virtual race around the world where people could sign-up and run anywhere they wanted. All you had to do was sign-up for the race. Then on October 24th run 10 kilometers measured with Nike's Nike+ system. Once you finished your 10K you synced your iPod or Nike+ armband and the results were posted on the Nike Running website. I believed I finished 17,522nd achieving my goals of finishing the race and not finishing last. Not bad for someone who battled injuries during the last month.

This was not the only virtual event I attended in the last few days. Friday, I was asked to assist a District consultant as he did a Web 2.0 training session for Media Specialists and their assistants. Half of this group met in Hilton Head (where I was located) and the other half were in Beaufort. This was the first chance we had to use our district's new video conferencing system. It was interesting watching this man attempt to work with the group in Beaufort.

You could tell he was not used to using a video conferencing system. I warned him doing virtual training could be disconcerting before we started. This was based on on my experience using WizIQ for some training sessions I conducted. For one thing, our consultant liked to move around and was not used to using a TV camera. If you use a video camera you have to be relatively still otherwise you might make your audience sick with the camera panning rapidly. Another problem he seemed to have is he likes to feed off his audience. With video conferencing or other distance learning you have to trust your group is with you. It was interesting (and amusing) to watch this unfold.

As technology progresses we will have to learn to work in a virtual world because all of our students will not be located in one physical location.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Parting Thoughts From SC Ed Tech 2009

I am tired but happy to be back with my family after returning from the 2009 South Carolina Educational Technology Conference in Myrtle Beach. The last three days have been a whirl of learning, connecting with old friends, and making new ones. Here are some of my thoughts and observations of the time I spent in Myrtle Beach in no particular order.

The biggest trend coming over the horizon is the use of mobile phones in the classroom. While this might not be a new idea, I believe many educators are rethinking their stance on their use. Okay, it not breaking news that almost every student has a mobile phone these days. However, instead of taking them away maybe we need to look at how we can use these devices in the classroom. Today's cellphones are essentially mini-computers. They can access vast amounts of information from the Internet and kids could probably type essays using their thumbs faster than writing them on paper. Of course rules would have to be set governing their use. With budget cuts reducing the availability of more computers in the classrooms this is an idea with more study.

Speaking of budget cuts and the economy, attendance was way down this year. Many of my friends around the state were not able to come. Vendors did not have the usual cool "schwag" you usually see at the conference. This could be a blessing in disguise. I had the pleasure of meeting many new people who I now communicate with over Twitter. Since the vendors did not have much to offer, there seemed to be more participation in the sessions.

I have challenged people to show me a serious educational use for Facebook I would consider it. Nobody took me up on my challenge until I saw how a USC-Sumter Economics professor used Facebook groups to extend class discussions to the popular social network site. The professor also used her groups on Facebook to give out class information too. I was so impressed I created a Facebook group for my school.

Congratulations to my good friends Mary Ann Sansonettie and Chris Craft on receiving the Making it Happen Award. This award was deserved to two educators who are passionate about using technology in teaching. Both educators are a great inspiration to me personally.

Hopefully, I will be back next year to help solve the great mystery which will be the theme for next year. Until then, I will be exploring many of the things I learned at this years conference. I hope to see everyone in Myrtle Beach next year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Pace of Technology

This morning I arrived at the 2009 South Carolina Educational Technology Conference in Myrtle Beach armed with my usual array of techno toys. Last year I lugged around a heavy laptop which cut into my shoulder by the end of a busy day. After that experience I vowed to get a netbook computer which I did after the first of the year.

Not long after getting my netbook I got my BlackBerry. Today, the only reason I am carrying my netbook around is because I need it for a presentation on Internet Safety for Teachers. I use my BlackBerry for everything else. From e-mails with my school to Twitter and Facebook apps to stay in touch with friends here. During the keynote today I was using a BlackBerry Evernote app to take notes. I am even writting this blog post using my BlackBerry via CellSpin.

The point is that when I made my netbook vow, I could not imagine it would be quickly replaced by a device that fits in the palm of my hand. Who knows what I will be using next year? Maybe a BlackBerry app that will run a presentation. The year after? The phone might have the projector.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bittersweet Adieu

When I uploaded our Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test scores to the Northwest Evaluation Associates (NWEA) after school today it marked my last official act as MAP Test Coordinator. This means the end of days stressing over computers working in one of our labs. Making sure teachers get their classes to the correct lab to take the correct test. Chasing down the seemingly endless list of students who need to makeup their test before the window closes. Trying to explain to our Instructional Science Coach who feels slighted as I explain Science just is not considered a top priority and may not get tested because we don't have enough time in the window. Teachers hounding me on why they can't have computer lab time or why they can't see test scores on Test View. Having our School Secretary quickly tell me all the test proctors have been pulled for sub duty in classrooms then duck under her desk for fear she may have done this one too many times and I will snap. Finally, trying to hunt down that one computer in our building still running Test Taker and preventing me from uploading the day's scores keeping me from going home at the end of a long day.

It will be great because it will give me more time to get into classrooms to work with teachers and students on integrating technology into learning which is what I get paid to do. Also, one might think I would be elated over the end of a duty that would make my doctor put me on industrial strength blood pressure medicine if he took if he checked it on a good day and put me on industrial strength anti psychotics during a bad one. However, I had a little bit of sadness one gets as one chapter of their life closes as another begins. The reason for this feeling is that I understand the importance of MAP testing in the educational process.

MAP testing is an adaptive test which means as a student correctly answers questions it will get progressively harder until the student misses one. Then the questioning will take a different tact. At the end of the a test the student, and teacher, receives a score. However, the real value of the test is going into NWEA's reports website to see exactly where a student is strong and where he or she is weak. This information is valuable in predicting how he/she will do on South Carolina's PASS test at the end of the year. Teachers can then tailor instruction to help students improve. Even better, this data can be accessed within a day or two of the student taking the test.

While I would gripe and complain about the problems that always came each MAP testing window, I would say I put up with it because I understood this importance of the test. MAP is probably the only type of standardized testing I actually like. However, General George S. Patton said "The moment you become so indispensable is the moment I fire you." With this in mind, it probably was time to move on. Our district placed greater importance for Instructional Technology Coaches to get into classrooms which meant MAP had to go. As I move on though I can look back with pride about be involved in a process to help our students and look forward to the sympathy I will show to the one unlucky enough to take on this vital but tough duty. MAP testing, adieu.