Sunday, June 8, 2014

15 More Days

As I go online and see all my friends talking about summer trips, sitting by the pool, relaxing, I am still working every day.  School doesn't end for us until June 26th, the day before ISTE 2014!  So I teach on Friday and fly to Atlanta on Saturday morning, in time for the Global Education group Saturday afternoon.  
It is particularly difficult this time of year with the heat, the graduation practices, the excitement of summer to come.  So I spend my time trying very hard to find the joy in school, even as we pack up for the summer.

My friend, Donna Roman, wrote a blog about what her students remember about the year and their teacher.  You can read it here. I decided, while I had my kids write about each other, I would ask them to write about me.  You see, each year I give my students a certificate with traits on it from their classmates.  So I have each child fill out a form with a line for every student.  They have to write a complimentary trait and give an example.  I turn that into a certificate.  

This year, I added a line for myself.  Thanks, Donna, for the idea.

Here is what they will remember about me:

"The BYOD policy always makes me think she is the best teacher yet."
"She likes cats and I do, too."
"I will always remember all the hugs."
"She always smiles when I look at her."
"She is the nicest and funnest teacher in the school."
"She teaches us in fun, understanding ways."
"She taught me how to write essays."
"She loves us to interact with others."
"She is very accepting in work and always cares about feelings."
"She always tried to fix my messy handwriting."
"She connects all over the world."
"I could always make her laugh."
"She loves technology."
"She always cracks us up with her corny jokes."
"She never gave up trying to help me."
"She has lots of fun games to play."
"I will always remember her love for the world and wanting to help fix it."

This really did help motivate me.  I always wonder what they will remember.  My corny jokes, fun games, smiles, hugs, and caring about the world....hmmm....I can live with that!  What will you be remembered for?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

SMART Amp and Collaboration?

This week I had the chance to attend "Exploring Education, Collaboration and Technology: Thought-Leader Panel and Live Remote Classroom Collaboration."  This was really a press release from SMART Technologies to introduce, to the educational press, new software, SMART Amp software, that allows collaboration within SMART Notebook. I was offered this opportunity by Tall Grass Public Relations, who was hired by SMART to get the word out.  I commend Tall Grass for asking a teacher to attend.  Just about everyone else there was in the media.

Now, having said that, I do want you all to know I had a wonderful time, learned a great deal about what's coming, and made some fabulous connections. Here are my take-aways.

  • The Panel
    • SMART coordinated a panel discussion with Angela Maiers, Education Writer/Speaker/Teacher, Clay Shirky, Social Media Theorist, and Cristin Frodella, Google Global Education.  This group of education heavy hitters was the best part of the presentation.  They had an honest conversation about collaboration.  
    • Key Points:
      • Collaboration and technology enables introverted children to have a voice in the classroom, without being interrupted by the extroverts.
      • Collaboration must be taught.
      • There is a difference between collaboration and cooperation.  Cooperation requires only one leader and everyone else follows.  Collaboration requires all members of a group to work together toward a common goal.  
      • Collaboration teaches empathy and assertion.
      • In collaboration, children challenge each other to be better.  They learn about the ethics of contribution (who does what and how much).  They find out they are smarter together.
  • SMART Amp
    • SMART Amp is a cloud-based software.  So children can work on projects anywhere, anytime. 
    • It was built on Google's design.
    • All devices can be used to access Amp.  So a BYOD classroom would have no issues with compatibility of different operating systems.
    • The cost is $9 per student per year.  There was indication, though, that discounts would apply to districts and schools to bring the cost down.
    • Anything pulled into the Amp project shows up visually.  A video pulled in will be a small window ready to watch.  A website pulled in is a small, clickable box ready to use.  
  • SMART Amp Presentation
    • The presentation of SMART Amp encompassed two classes, one right in the next room and one in San Diego, working on a biomes activity together within the SMART Amp software.
    • Key Points about the Presentation:
      • The project that was set up for the children was not a collaborative project, but, rather, a cooperative project.  The children worked together to complete a teacher made assignment projected on the SMARTBoard within the Amp Software.
      • The children worked on the same project but on two different graphic organizers.  Their work did not come together until the end, when they had to complete one graphic organizer together.
      • The software is very visual and easy to use.  One student even said, "I call this magic."
      • The teachers from both class said they were surprised and delighted by the active engagement and the sharing of ideas.  They liked that the room was not static.  Instead, the children talked to each other, moved around, and worked together.  They also both said it was easy to move from whole group instruction to small group instruction within the software.
      • There is a button that allows the teacher to lock the program for the students, so if they are working and you need their attention, you can just shut them down.  Not sure I like this idea at all.  It means, for me, that you are, ultimately taking control of the project, which lowers the excitement and enthusiasm for the students.
  • My Bottom Line
    • There is no communication tool built into the Amp.  So no chat room and no video conferencing.  All collaboration is done with the person in the same room with you.  SMART set up video conferencing separate from the Amp software, for the children to use. I did speak with Giancarlo Brotto, the SMART Technologies Education Solutions Consultant, who hinted that a chatroom was on list of things to add. It is a plus that, as they add new features to the Amp, teachers won't have to pay for updates.
    • I did not see any way to share the final project with anyone who doesn't have Amp software.  I know it is difficult to share SMART Notebook presentations.  You can turn them into PDFs but all the bells and whistles don't go into a PDF.  I believe Amp is the same.
    • When I told my class what I was seeing, they were excited.  "That sounds perfect for us!  It is what we do."  
    • I am going to be trying it out in my classroom for free.  I will have my kids work on and will try to get another class to join in. Stay tuned!