Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
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
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
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
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.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Yesterday at my son's cross country meet I grabbed my iPod Nano to time his race. While I was fooling around with the iPod I got to thinking about what the device meant to me personally.
The list of ways the iPod affects my life include:
Entertainer with music and movies.
Informer with podcasts
Literary device with audio books (Treasure Island yesterday)
Gaming device (yes the Nano can have games)
Motivator with my Nike+ workouts
Coach with Nike+ again. I can download programs that can help me run a 5K to a marathon.
Companion on long trips.
I am sure many of you have done some, if not all, of the above list. Also, there are some things I have left off the list. I hope you would please share.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Last night a thunderstorm hit Bluffton. In the midst of the storm the power went out in my house. About the only thing working was my Black Berry. I went to Tiny Twitter and Tweeted what was happening with the weather and what happened with the power. Not too long after this Tweet I got a message from a friend on Twitter saying she heard about me on the news again. Apparently, WSAV anchor Holly Bounds or producer Gabe Travers saw my tweet and passed it on to the meteorologist on the 6:00 news who relayed my plight to the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire. Since I am sitting in a house with no power I miss the whole thing. The power is restored in time for My Lowcountry 3. I had twittered my power has been restored. As I watch the show, guess what? The viewers of the local news show are assured that my power is back on.
As I tweeted here and saw it come out there (WSAV), I had a greater understanding of how disconcerting Aaron Altman felt. Except Altman was a professional journalist and I am an educator. Then it struck me, I and people like me are the future of the news media. Newspapers across the country are going out of business. Reporters are losing their jobs faster than auto workers. The news media industry is at the point it needs to change or die. The change? Find a cadre of citizen journalists (knowing or unknowing) and let them break the news. The professional journalists will then come behind and develop the story.
How better to do this than to use social networks such as Facebook or information networks such as Twitter. Follow what people are observing and see what could become a story. Major networks such as CNN and Fox News are inviting people to submit story ideas. Local outlets are doing the same thing. My Lowcountry 3 always has a question of the day on Facebook and relays the responses each night. This binds shows with their audiences which creates a loyal fan base while saving some money for the organization. Nothing wrong with that as long as both parties agree to the relationship. I did not mind my power outage plight being shared so no harm no foul.
Another example of how journalists are adapting to the new media is how Island Packet Sports Reporter Justin Jarrett uses Twitter. Justin used to cover my soccer team during my coaching days so we became as friendly as a coach and reporter can become. He did a in depth report on what area athletes were posting on social network sites such as MySpace so he understands Web 2.0 Out of respect for his talent, professionalism, and past history I followed him as soon as I saw he was on Twitter. He has not disappointed me. Not only does Justin give you short updates of the events he covers but he brings his personality into his tweets. He comments on just about anything with an insight you don't get by reading his stories alone. Justin's tweets make me want to read his stories in the paper because I will get a better understanding of what he is writing about. Another thing Justin does is he interacts with readers in a way you rarely see. This can only be done through apps like Twitter or Facebook.
Will the news media come out of this recession the same way it entered it? The answer is no. However, the news media will not die but must and will change and adapt to the new conditions. Holly Bounds, Gabe Travers, and Justin Jarrett are showing what the news media will look like in the near future. The lesson for educators? Journalism, like education, has been plodding along with its traditions and attitude of this is they way it is always done. Many educators have this same attitude. Education will change too. The big difference will be the pace of change between the two professions. Watching journalism change can teach us how to handle the inevitable change to come.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
· One of the things I like about FIRST coopetitions is the creativity teams show with their uniforms. There is some creativity shown in these. Another thing I think is neat is the tradition of teams creating buttons not only to wear but trade as well. Something I learned the hard way in my team’s regional competition. We had buttons but nowhere near enough. We remedied this when we went to the state competition.
· One act that shows the spirit of coopetition and gracious professionalism is how one American team helped a foreign team with parts and tools to build a new robot when the foreign team’s robot got stuck in customs. Time and again I heard members from one team looking for another team to share batteries, parts, and tools. Very cool!
· FIRST needs to get ESPN to televise this thing. The worldwide leader in sports already televises the National Spelling Bee so educational events is not out of their scope. Add the hard hitting action and strategic planning it could possible draw in the football and hockey crowd. The increased exposure would inspire more students to get involved. Finally, while NASA TV televised the event, ESPN could bring more money to FIRST to spread out to teams in need and calm their fears about what the economy could do to programs.
· Speaking of money, it takes a lot of it to be coopetitive at this level. One former FRC coach told me $50,000 would get you a very competitive robot. Yikes! If I was on the board I would be worried too about how the current economic situation would affect FIRST.
· I know FTC was created for programs that do not have the kind of money or technical help needed for FRC but it is kind of treated like a minor league. While not intended, this attitude might prove counterproductive in the long-term.
· Now speaking of technical expertise, all six finalists came from large industrial or technology parts of the country. In fact almost all of the teams had either been champion or been in the final four. Two programs were hall of fame. Five of the six teams were from around the Detroit, Michigan area and the other one from Silicon Valley. They can draw on adult mentors who eat, sleep, and breathe advanced engineering and science. With this current setup these teams will always have a big competitive advantage over poor teams from rural areas. There is a lottery draw that allows teams to come to the championships but the $5000 entry fee, travel, food, lodging, and shipping costs are a big barrier to entry for some teams.
· General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford all sponsored teams and FIRST in general. Therefore, I guess we can say the U.S. Government besides NASA and the CIA (you read that right) are heavily involved in FIRST. One organization I did not see as a sponsor of any kind was the United Auto Workers. Because they don’t seem to want to give on helping the auto industry they need all the good will they can get. Also, with five of six final teams from around the Detroit area it is a good bet the children of good dues paying UAW members are participating. Don’t tell me the UAW doesn’t have the money. If the union can sponsor a NASCAR race every year they can sponsor some FIRST teams. These kids could help save all those union jobs in the future.
· Instead of sponsoring the finalist teams, General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford should hire these kids – NOW! Apparently they can design, engineer, and build machines that can kick the rear ends of foreign competition. Something current designers and engineers at the big three auto makers seem unable to do. Again, maybe these kids can save the American automotive industry.Either volunteer with a team or start a team. If you are unable to do that then volunteer to help at a regional, state, or the international competitions. It is hard work but also a lot of fun and you will meet all kinds of interesting people.
FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The program was founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen as a way to show practical uses of math and science. Teams from all over the world come to Atlanta every year to see what team of middle and high school students can design, build, program, and drive the best robot. However, this is not just a competition; it is a “coopetition” (it’s trademarked) in which students are expected to display “gracious professionalism” (trademarked too). Teams are expected, no required to show teamwork with other teams to reach their championship goals while displaying good sportsmanship.
FIRST robotic coopetitions are broken down into three levels. The FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) or “Big Bots” is high school teams who design and build large, complex robots. Three teams make an alliance and must work together to score points so their alliance can win. These robots compete on a playing area with a trailer attached to the robot. The object is to put as many scoring “rocks” or soccer ball-sized balls into their opponents trailer while preventing “rocks” from getting into their trailers. In the last 20 seconds of a round, there are balls called “super cells” that are worth more points if they are placed into an opponent’s trailer. Rocks can be delivered by human “payload specialists” who try to throw rocks into trailers or robots collecting rocks then dumping them into a trailer. Teams are required to complete some form of community service project and expected to mentor other robotics teams.
The FIRST Technical Challenge or “Little Bots” is designed for high school teams who do not have the money to compete in FRC or just getting a robotics program started at their school. These teams design and build smaller robots using the brain of a Mindstorm and Bluetooth enabled controllers to operate their robots. The coopetition requires teams to work as allies of other teams to complete tasks on their playing grid. This task is usually taking objects to a scoring area while preventing their opponents from doing the same. The alliance with the most points after a round is the winner. Teams are also required to perform some type of community service and mentor teams in elementary or middle/junior high schools.
The FIRST Lego League (FLL) is middle school or junior high teams building robots using the Lego MindstormLego parts. The coopetition consists of programming a robot to carry out a variety of tasks on a specially designed playing field. Playing fields are changed each year depending on the theme of the competition, this year it was “Climate Connections.” Along with the robotic challenge, teams are also required to present a research project based on the theme. I was fortunate enough to have been part of the first place team in Research Presentation for South Carolina. Teams are also scored in teamwork and robot design to determine the winner. robot kits and any official
My original intent was to participate in conference holds in Atlanta along with the competition. However, the FLL coach and fellow Instructional Technology Coach I work with asked if I was willing to volunteer. Somehow I knew I was going to say yes but just to get back at her, I had her explain the switch in plans to my wife who was holed up at my sister-in-law’s house in Snellville. My wife was not happy but agreed to my volunteering. FIRST coopetition volunteer coordinators must work in the personnel branches of the military. You can request a certain position but they are going to put you where they think FIRST needs you. I, with one season of FLL under my belt, was assigned to FRC, about as far away as you can get. My colleague must have bribed someone because she eventually became a FLL Field Resetter. Like the military, I was given the task of handing out safety glasses then promptly switched. On Wednesday evening I helped check-in FRC teams as they delivered their robots to the pits located in the World Congress Center. Then I was told to check back with the volunteer coordinator in the morning. Thursday morning arrived and after prayers of thanksgiving for not having been killed in Atlanta morning traffic I reported to the Volunteer Coordinator. Forget safety glasses, I was sent to the Curie Field to be a resetter.
When I and the other field resetters reported for duty we were introduced to Matt, our team leader. Matt gathered us around and asked if any of us had never seen a FRC match? Everyone stared at me as I quickly found out my hand was the only one up. I tried to gain some credibilty by stating I have only been working with FLL bots. The continued looks told me while FIRST may be one big family, FLL and FRC don’t usually mix. Still, everyone, including Matt, was nice enough and answered any questions I had. For the benefit of the one of me Matt quickly went over the rules and what the duties were.
Thursday was practice rounds and for some reason beyond my comprehension someone scheduled 44 of them. To make sure teams were getting their money’s worth they tried to squeeze 2 matches per round. We didn’t even come close to 88 matches but we did get the 44 in plus some. All during the day Matt must have been fulfilling a secret wish to be a drill sergeant. He kept after us to work faster and faster trying to shave a minute off the turnaround time. Actually, Matt was very positive while working us like galley slaves and pulled his share of the load and helped teams get robots connected to the network. By the end of the day I was exhausted and could barely stand much less walk. Eventually I made it back to my Sister-in-Law’s and collapsed in the bed.
Friday was much better. I guess the coopetition brought the energy level up for everyone involved. Also, I knew I was only working half of the day because I had to head for home. Another thing was Matt was far more positive than the day before. He actually called us a “machine” which I am sure was as good a compliment as we would ever receive from him. As the matches went on, I found myself becoming more and more of a FRC fan. It does not take long to get acquainted with the rules and strategies of each team. Teams scout each other as much or more than any athletic team I have been associated with. Some teams come into a match with an offensive game plan or try to dump as many rocks into an opponent’s trailer as possible. Other teams play more defensively by either avoiding offensive robots or jamming the offensive robots into corners and not let them out. It became so addicting I was glued to my computer at home on Saturday watching the finals which were webcast. I really wished I could have stayed though the finals on Saturday just to experience the excitement firsthand.At the end of Saturday the champions were crowned and other awards were handed out. Teams shook hands and congratulated each other demonstrating gracious professionalism. That night Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta was host to an after event party. I am sure kids swapped e-mail addresses and promised to stay in touch. Others made vows to return next year and win the overall championship. Still more started planning for next year’s robot incorporating what they learned from this experience. Through it all, two things were in all participants’ minds Saturday as the fireworks exploded in the Georgia Spring sky. One, science and math do matter. Two, it was fun!
Monday, April 13, 2009
I agreed to the interview but I must admit I was skeptical. Years ago, a television reporter for another station did, in my opinion, a brutal job of editing some comments I made about a controversial topic which got me into trouble. I learned a hard lesson about TV media which I later put to use in the classroom and won an award for but that is another story. Through Twitter, Holly and I set up a time for her to come by the school which turned out to be the day before Spring Break. At least I would be in a good mood.
Now I was expecting Holly to be one of those divas since she produces and anchors her own show. I envisioned her coming in with entourage in tow. Make-up person constantly fussing over her appearance like I see right before "Fox and Friends." A personal assistant with one hand holding a phone up to one ear and texting into a Black Berry with the other. The rest of the entourage would consist of the camera operator and sound engineer. What I saw when she came really surprised me. Holly was lugging a camera and tripod on her own. Could you see Katie Couric jumping out of a CBS car in Alaska and carrying her own equipment to do her interview with Sara Palin'? I know I am not a Vice Presidential candidate but anchors never carry their own stuff or so I thought.
When I enquired about where the camera and sound people were, Holly replied "I'm it." Just to prove I was not behind the times, I saw a crew at the ETV conference a couple weeks earlier shooting an interview. Holly later told me she also has to do her own editing for her show. Talk about a 21st century learning moment, I bet journalists didn't learn much about videography, sound, and editing in the past. The interview with me and our principal went well in my mind. I offered to be on Twitter when the show aired in the evening which Holly said would be great.
Now comes the fun part. I heard stories about how crazy live TV could be. I even experienced this when an attempt to produce a school show through UStream went awry as it spiralled into failure. Well I was about to get a dose of it on a whole new level. One of the features of My Lowcountry 3 is they try to get the views to participate via Twitter and Facebook. Actually, all reporters at WSAV are required to have both a Twitter and Facebook accounts. Questions are posted each day so viewers can give their opinions with the best read over the air. A very social networked show. Today Gabe, the show's studio producer, decided to try something new. After checking in via Twitter and about 10 minutes before airtime I get a message asking if I had a webcam. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach because I knew where this is probably heading. Live interview from my home.
We agreed to use Skype after I replied yes. Little did I know this was the first time Gabe used Skype to broadcast an live interview on the show. I had race and change out of my old t-shirt and into something more presentable while booting up my webcam equipped netbook. A similar scene had to be played out in the studio. People flying all around trying to get this stunt to work with Holly on set maintaining outward professional composure but probably screaming in her mind, "YOU WANT TO DO THIS NOW!?"She may have to carry her own equipment but Holly, I'm sure, has some professional pride as an anchor. Fortunatly everything worked without a hitch. Actually, it must have worked so good they had me on for two segments. Take that Karl Rove and James Carville. I'm sure Sean Hanity and Keith Olbermann don't give you two segments too often if at all. It was an exciting experience I will soon bore more people with.
Lessons to be learned from this experience? One is more practice talking on podcasts or videos. The ahs just kill me when I do too much. The other lesson is build a set in your spare room or garage because you never know when you may have to do a live television interview in your home. At least Holly liked my wife's china pattern.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
I have known about Photo Story for awhile but never really thought much of it. That is until I actually used it or better yet used it with kids. I had jumped into new media with both Movie Maker feet and thought Photo Story a rather obsolete cute program whose time had passed. Who would want to use photos when they could have full video? What an arrogant fool I've been.
Last year I attended a workshop where the presenter had participants create something using Photo Story. I had some photos I had taken of the Cowpens National Battlefield with me so I created my own narrative of the battle. When I had finished I could not believe the powerful story I had created. Way better than a Power Point I had created for a job interview.
Later, working with our school robotics team, there was a debate over how best to present the project the kids were working on for the competition. It was suggested some form of video be created to take pressure off of the kids when they had to present their research findings to a committee of judges. We actually saw other team's videos for the same purpose after an Internet search. However, time was running out so I suggested using Photo Story because it would be quicker than shooting and editing video. Our results are embedded in this blog post. The team with well researched content and photos they had taken on a field trip to the Waddell Mariculture Center and other photos gather from other sources put together a Photo Story video that took second place in the regional competition, enough to help us make the state finals. At Clemson University the team won first place in Research Presentation.
Without Photo Story and its ease of use it is doubtful we could have achieved the results at the state competition. So Microsoft, please bring back Photo Story if not in a Vista form, in Windows 7. I know it seemed like a logical thing to merge it with Movie Maker but Movier Maker can be a bit dauting for teachers and students trying to do some form of video for the first time. The ability to add photos, script, add music, and the Ken Burns effects with a few clicks of the button could benefit many classrooms. If you can should add any feature make insert video clips provided it does not complicate things. The judges privately told us after the state competition that we should consider putting our video on ETV and other media outlets. See for yourself if Photo Story is a worthy program.