Tuesday, May 18, 2010

End of School Thoughts

Wow! Is it really possible this school year is already over? I can't believe how fast it has gone and how busy we've been.

Although my students did not work directly with the grant equipment, my classes worked all year on learning the new Mac applications and then created very interesting and awesome projects such as an iMovie about themselves which they then attached to their iDVD project and burned it. The second semester they worked with their digital images in Photoshop and then included them in their DVD cover they created in Fireworks. Since my classroom computers have the high school software, I had the kids move in to the advance applications to begin familiarizing them with the universality of the tools and layouts since these are the business standard software professionals use on a regular basis.

My classes were very different this year in that I had all 3 grade levels mixed together. And although I did not have a large percentage of 6th graders in my classes, I feel the ones I did have contributed greatly to the projects the other teachers were doing such as with Mrs. Hoy's last entry on the movies the kids made. And even when Mrs. Rivera's kids made a movie on the PC netbooks, having completed their iMovies did assist the kids in the basics of how a movie application works. And Mrs. Hoy's comment on how the kids helped each other out makes me proud since we work on reteaching others in my classes regularly!! Way to go Knights!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Final Thoughts

I've been fortunate enough to have the netbooks in my room more often this semester and it has become easier and easier to seamlessly integrate their use into regular class activities. For example, rather than doing a traditional foldable about the different types of spacecraft today, I was able to let my students make ActivStudio flipcharts about it. A couple of groups asked if they could make a movie about it instead and so I was able to get a couple of great videos as well. It has also helped that they have been seeing technology in their other classes, since I didn't always have time to teach them how to use the programs. It was great to see how excited they got about their movies and how independently they were able to complete them, asking the other students for help most of the time instead of coming to me right away.

I just recently found out I'm going to be switching grade levels and will have a lot of the same students again next year which should be fun. I will definitely be expecting some even more awesome projects from them now that they have a good idea of the basics!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

So we are all trying to get through the rest of the year.....I am reflecting on how I want to use the I-touches during the next school year....

The students seemed to all enjoy using the touches...many of them had their favorite apps and would play against each other.

During TAKS testing I moved the touches into Val's office and with them being gone I feel like there is something missing in my classroom. The cart has become such a part of the class..

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Final Thoughts on the Power to Learn Grant

It's hard to believe it's been a year since we started writing the Power to Learn Grant. Some of our original plans were redirected as we looked for ways to get the technology use focused and in the hands of as many students as possible. The iTouch devices we ordered were never used in my classroom as they were assigned to other subject areas. I did have opportunities to use the netbook computers on several occasions to supplement the computers in my room. The students love to use then and will choose them over the older desktop models even knowing that the netbooks do not have some of the capabilities they may need to do the work asked of them.
The drawbacks I found with the netbooks in my Journalism class were pretty basic problems. First, because they do not have the Microsoft suite installed, students are unable to access work they have already begun on the desktop models in my classroom. Second, the size of the netbook makes them cute and easy to transport, but it also makes them too small to be effective for a Journalism class to view photos or yearbook pages. Third, we did experience connection issues every time we tried to use the netbooks. On any given day at least five of the computers would not connect to the network. Thanks to comments at a grant meeting from another school, this was normally resolved by hardwiring the computer during start up. This did however cause a major backlog in getting started as there was only one additional "hot" port in my room causing students to wait turns to try to get started.
The positives I found to the netbooks were: the students love to use them no matter what the assignment; they seemed to stay charged longer than our older COW laptops; they were easy to locate around the room without bumping into each other on desks and tables.
The other device that was used in my room was a MacBook computer. The students also loved to get opportunities to use this even if the programs did not match with the PCs in my room. It has performed flawlessly and seems to be a good size to complete the work needed in my class.
The student e-mail accounts assigned by the district were a problem. If we want students to use online tools such as Google docs then we need to find a more efficient way to get students email addresses and ensure they are working. It took each class two class periods to get their email addresses and get logged on. By the time all the students had finally accessed their accounts they had forgotten their passwords and were starting all over. I would advocate keeping passwords as ID numbers or something much simpler and/or allowing students to change their password on first log in to the same log in they use for the computer. We ended up never using our email because it was too difficult to access. Students were not willing to go through the school technology page to get access to their email. They need accounts they can easily access from anywhere on the Internet.
I think the Power to Learn grant was a positive thing for our school. The teachers involved seem more aware and willing to use the technologies with their students than before we began this process. Hopefully with the district technology roll-out, we will continue making improvements in both staff capabilities and student use.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Continuing the process

It's good to see our teachers working to use the new technologies and get them incorporated into learning experiences for the students. We have started an after school club because the students wanted more chances to use the iTouches we purchased with the grant. Gaining access to all the new library equipment has stirred interest around the building. My students are asking for a turn to use the iTouches in class. The word has spread.

I have found several apps I would like to add to the iTouches for my own programs, most notably an app that shares and has quizzes on using Photoshop, a program I use constantly with my Journalism students. I have also located several good apps for my Electronic Experiences classes.
This year, I will be continue focusing mostly on using the Netbook computers with my class due to the schedule we have decided on to get the most students access and get the technology incorporated into the core area classes. Those are particularly useful in my class for students to create our school yearbook online. We use them when they are not needed in the core classes. The students continue to love using the Netbooks.