A Teaching Checklist

(This is probably like some chain letter, as I borrowed it from my friend, Maria. I’m not much a Jeff Foxworthy fan, but this list had me smiling.)

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE A TEACHER?
by Jeff Foxworthy

1. You can hear 25 voices behind you and know exactly which one belongs to the child out of line
2. You get a secret thrill out of laminating something.
3. You walk into a store and hear the words ‘It’s Ms/Mr. _________’and know you have been spotted.
4. You have 25 people that accidentally call you Mom/Dad at one time or another.
5. You can eat a multi-course meal in under twenty-five minutes.
6. You’ve trained yourself to go to the bathroom at two distinct times of the day: lunch and prep period
7. You start saving other people’s trash, because most likely, you can use that toilet paper tube or plastic butter tub for something in the classroom.
8. You believe the teachers’ lounge should be equipped with a margarita machine.
9. You want to slap the next person who says ‘Must be nice to work 7 to 3 and have summers off.
10. You believe chocolate is a food group.
11. You can tell if it’s a full moon without ever looking outside.
12 You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says ‘Boy, the kids sure are mellow today.
13. You feel the urge to talk to strange children and correct their behavior when you are out in public.
14. You believe in aerial spraying of Ritalin.
15. You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.
16. You spend more money on school stuff than you do on your own children.
17. You can’t pass the school supply aisle without getting at least five items!
18. You ask your friends if the left hand turn he just made was a good choice or a bad choice.
19. You find true beauty in a can full of perfectly sharpened pencils.
20. You are secretly addicted to hand sanitizer and finally,
21. You understand instantaneously why a child behaves a certain way after meeting his or her parents.

The Writer (in film)

This is a nice montage of writers in films.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/u4_twvj5HJg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Just for your entertainment. (I like the quote: “It must be wonderful to be a writer.” )

Kevin

Day in a Sentence: The First Words of 2008!!

Matt Needleman has graciously agreed to guest-host the first edition of the Day in a Sentence feature for 2008. Matt and I have connected through some shared interest in the use of video and moviemaking in the classroom and he has been a regular contributor to Day in a Sentence.

Please head on over to Matt’s Blog and post your Day in a Sentence and let’s get 2008 started on a wall of words. (The way it works is that you capture your week or a day in your week in a single sentence, post it as a comment on Matt’s blog, and then he will collect and publish them all on Sunday. Everyone is invited to join in.)

Day in Sentence Icon Peace (and prosperity in the new year),

Kevin

Matt’s Video in the Classroom Site

Happy New Year!

Matt Needleman is re-launching his Video in the Classroom website and if you are interested in exploring this world with your students, this site is a good place to begin. Matt has pulled together examples, links and ideas on how to get started. The site is still under construction but it remains a place to visit and learn from.

(disclosure: Matt has profiled me and the work of my students at his site, including this podcast that Matt has put together with three teachers who do claymation in the classroom. The podcast is great and Matt gets at the inside of creating a clay movie with students in the classroom from a variety of viewpoints. I got some nice tips on using tinfoil on the inside of the clay figures to keep them from falling over — we call it the “melting” of the clay.).

Thanks, Matt, for sharing your resources with the rest of us. He is also launching a Blog Carnival and seeks your submissions for blog posts or articles related to video in the classroom.

Also, Matt is going to be this week’s host for the Day in a Sentence feature and more information about that will be coming tomorrow.

Peace (in sharing),
Kevin

The XO Mesh Network

I am still moving slowly on my XO Computer but I am intrigued by this concept of the “Mesh Network” system, which builds wireless “clouds” between XO users. This means that not only can XO laptops connect with each other but as long as one XO in a mesh has connection to the Internet, then every XO in that mesh has the same access. This has interesting ramifications for classrooms where wireless connections may be few and far between.

And, even if there is no wireless access, the mesh allows XOs to connect with each other anyway, and share resources and collaborate on projects together. The software “creates” a virtual wireless network for the classroom. Isn’t that cool?

This video does a better job explaining it than I ever could do.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/nBLiz4fmglM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

And this is interesting, too — looking at the XO as an e-Reader and considering ways to get books to children of the world.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/HpXplMK7OQA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in XOs),
Kevin

The XO in Action

I am sitting in the Starbucks in downtown Northampton, a place I almost never visit because of the high cost of a cup of Java. There are cooler places just a few doors down. But I am writing this post on my XO (known in my house as the Green Machine) to see how easy it is to post to the blog.

The XO is connected to the Web via a free Hotspot account through T-Mobile that is available to XO owners (for a year) and the hub is here at Starbucks. I connected with incredible speed (faster than my Dell laptop) and I was browsing in seconds.

I am curious to see if anyone asks me about the XO as I sit here at a community table. So far, I have gotten a few curious looks but that is about it.

OK — this tiny keyboard is killing me — I keep making mistakes and moving back and forth with my text. I am a fast typist so the slow progress is frustrating the connection between fingers and brain.

This morning, I was at home with the XO open and one of my sons was incredibly interested in what I was doing, so we opened up the TamTam program and played a little music. (You use part of the laptop keyboard as a virtual piano keyboard). One of my first goals is to learn the various TamTam programs and compose and record a little piece of music. I realize that I need to take this thing apart (not literally, of course) one program at a time. Music seems like a good place to start.

For now, in Starbucks this morning, I am going to use the XO as an e-Reader for some draft chapters for the book I am co-editing on technology and writing and assessment in the classroom. I have the files on a flash drive and in Google Docs, and I want to try both options for reading.

By the way, one of the things I already love about this machine is its portability — it is light, easy to carry and colorful.

Peace (in XOs),Kevin

Chalk — the school mockumentary

My wife and I invited a few teacher-friends over to our house last night to watch a DVD of the movie, Chalk, which has been sitting on our counter for about five weeks now. This low-budget flick is in the great tradition of Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and others that shine a humorous light on some aspect of society (rock band, theater group, dog shows, teachers) while also bringing to the surface some truths about those worlds.

The director, Mike Akel, was a teacher and gets inside the school in a way that you don’t see in many of the heart-breaking, heart-warming movies about education.

Chalk examines the lives of some young teachers at the start of their career in an urban city school as they stumble, mumble and groan, try to engage their students, plot their way to winning a teaching award, and just make it from day to day with their sanity intact. The main character — Mr. Lowrey — is a former computer geekwho took two aptitude tests that told him that teaching would be a good fit and here he is, losing complete control of his classroom. Other characters include the pushy PE teacher yearning for some personal life, a teacher-turned-administrator who now only interacts with the behavioral problem students and misses the classroom, and a third-year teacher who wants to be Teacher of the Year more than anything.

My friends and I were laughing through most of it as we saw ourselves, and our colleagues, in the characters and situations.

Chalk Poster

One sequence that we enjoyed was a twist on the Spelling Bee, called a Spelling Hornet, in which teachers took park in an event where they had to correctly spell various slang words used commonly by their students. The nerdy, nervous teacher wins, but only after getting some real education from his students. (And later, he kicks out a little rap rhyme for the class after being urged on by his kids).

Chalk is worth the rental and bring over a few teacher friends and have a party, and be glad that your first year of teaching is behind you.

Peace (in humor),
Kevin

PS — I just found the trailer for Chalk on YouTube (where else?) and so here it is:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/WwyLP6KKPKE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

“Living Your Life in Hyperlink”

A few weeks ago (probably as he was compiling his web-famous Top Ten Lists), Larry suggested that I go through our Day in a Sentence archives and cull out some of the better sentences for an End of Year Review. That’s more difficult than it sounds. There were so many good sentences and who am I to judge the quality of the sentences or the stories behind the words?

I decided on something I call “emotional resonance.”

As I went through the many wonderful sentences and read them aloud to myself, I was searching for that tingle inside of me that meant the words had touched me emotionally. I recognized that some of these same sentences were still very familiar to me, even after a few months time. (I also did not choose any of my own sentences). There really are some wonderful, reflective writers out there and I am thankful they send their words my way (or the way of our guest hosts) every week.

So, here, in no particular order at all, are the sentences that resonated with me this year:

  • “This week I learned that a friend whom I haven’t seen for a long time is quite ill and probably dying, which put into perspective the whole rest of my week, and made another comment I read stand out for me, which was that ultimately the only problem is isolation, and the only solution is connection, leading me to ask myself this week how each activity led to either connection or isolation, and to choose the ones that led to connection, and I have to say that the thing I (still) love most about being online is that it’s one vast complicated web of connection!” — Marian Thacher
  • Write this for her, write that for him, write this other thing for someone else, will there be time to write for me?“– Karen
  • On a Sunday morning when gray skies promise snow and light winds sift through barren branches, inside, with warm scrambled egg bellies, we read newspapers and listen to the humming that emerges from a newly built fort of blankets on chairs.“ — Tom
  • “As a former community organizer turned teacher, I’ve been reminded this week of the old organizer adage that taking shortcuts will bring you to detours, which in turn will lead you to dead-ends.” — Larry
  • This week’s resounding applause from parents and students at parent teacher conferences reinforced my belief, as unpopular as it may be to many, that you can reach them best if you are courageous enough to step into their world!“ — Sue
  • There’s nothing more satisfying than connecting people with people and opportunities that support their passions, their great thinking minds, and their vital voices; it’s like living your life in hyperlink!“ — Susan
  • Swimming in a murkey sea of curriculum and meetings, I grasp for moments of bouyancy, clarity, levity; a lifeboat looms ahead, providentially named NWP Annual Meeting, and I strike out for it, suddenly energized.” April
  • Time trickled slowly through meetings while outside, leaf-fall turned the grass into sunset.” — Diane
  • Sometimes it’s okay to leave your guilt bag at school for the night and focus on other things.” — Jeff
  • This has been a peaceful week as I move into conference mode next week for two action-packed weeks that I will be sharing with great friends of collaboration but first I have to get rid of a head cold and get my guitar ready to go more public to get my hands to stop shaking when I play for the world beyond my safe walls of my home.” — Bonnie
  • Monday-8:35 am-ready for the week, lesson plans set, bring em on! Monday 3:24 pm-Can I stay home tomorrow and not grade papers and not plan lessons and not read the novel we will be starting in a few weeks and play on the computer all day and watch all my Tivo’d shows and just be a kid again????? Huh, can I?”Ms. Q
  • Contemporary medicine said it wasn’t possible, but mother nature proved them wrong: my wife is expecting.” — Joe

And I leave you with this sentence, which still has me wanting to know more:

  • Everything came crashing down, but in the meantime my students and I got to murder a man.” — Mr. Murphy

Peace and please contribute (or keep contributing) in 2008,

Kevin

The Puppet Show Website

Yesterday, I wrote about my investigation into video, particularly as it pertains to sharing and showcasing student work with families via the Web. (In this most recent case, it is puppets. But later in the year, it will be claymation and animation and other projects). The following website is the result of that exploration. I would appreciate any feedback you may have, since I have only been able to view it from my home desktop computer.

Head to the Norris Puppet Show Website

Peace (in the world, please),
Kevin

My Long Journey into Video Streaming

Just over a year ago, I decided to try to move deeper into the convergence of video and the web (see the Collaborative ABC Project for one aspect of that investigation). When doing class projects with students, I have often burned the videos onto DVD (time-consuming when you have 80 students) and worked to share them via our class websites and weblogs (yes, we have a school website and two different blogs — one for daily homework assignments and one for showcasing work from my writing class). In doing so, I have relied on either YouTube (although almost never) and GoogleVideo (more commonly) or TeacherTube (sporadically). My concern is always the links that bring my students eyeballs to inappropriate places. (With TeacherTube, it is has been a frustration with the buffering time).

So, after filming 24 different puppet shows last week and wanting to share the videos with both students (they never get to see their own shows as they are behind the puppet theater) and their families, I decided that I wanted to find a way to host the videos and stream them myself. This way, I have complete control.

It hasn’t been easy, partly due to my own lack of knowledge about web hosting and video conversion, etc. But I think my perseverance has paid off.

Here is my journey:

First, I took videos of the 24 puppets shows on my digital camcorder, and then used MovieMaker to create small versions with titles. But the files are still huge and really not in any state to embed in websites. One thing you learn quickly about video is how huge the files are going to be if you want any sort of quality.

So, I posted a query to the Classroom 2.0 Ning Community, asking about advice, and some folks were very helpful. It was here that I began to realize that I needed to convert my movie files into a flash or Shockwave format. This makes for better streaming. I experimented with YouConvertIt and it worked but it was slow. So I bought a video conversion program called SoThink video encoder, which is very flexible and allows for converting videos to different kinds of formats. Thus began much experimenting about size of files to be created and formats. I went through a whole process of creating flash movies before I realized that shockwave is better for streaming (I am trying to cut back on the buffering as much as possible).

After converting all of the files to a SWF format (shockwave), I then thought about how to host the files. At Classroom 2.0, some folks suggested using my school server (not an option for me for both space reasons and for access reasons). I tinkered with using my Box.Net account, where I host my podcasts and store important files as a backup, and that worked but it ate up a lot of my alloted space. So I turned to a video hosting site called 4Shared Video and paid for a Silver account that allows you to embed video that you have in your account.

puppet1 (7)

So, after many hours of uploading the videos, I now had to figure out how to embed the files. I used Google Search and came upon a site called (ahem) Free Video Codes that will generate html code for embedding video files being hosted elsewhere. It was very handy and easy to use.

So now I had my videos stored somewhere, and I had the code to embed, and now what? I needed a way to showcase the movies. I tried out a variety of different things. I embedded some of the videos into my school homepage but found the buffering of multiple videos just too much. Someone at Classroom 2.0 suggested using my Wikispaces site, and I did try that but found it wasn’t what I wanted.

Once again, I turned to Google again. If you have a gmail account, you have access to something to Google Page Creator, which allows you to create websites under the Google umbrella. I realized that the site now allows you to set up multiple domains, which is nice since I could not establish a website just for the puppet shows. I then created a title page, with links to an individual page for each movie. So the entire site is now 25 pages.

puppet1 (3)

I know some students and families are going to want a copy of the puppet show videos, and I am in no mood to burn DVDs. So, what I did now was uploaded the video files into my Box.Net account, made a download link, and placed that link below each of the movies on the websites. Now kids and families can watch the movies on the web and download their own versions.

Tomorrow, I will share the actual Puppet Play Website.

I suppose that is enough informationfor now, but I hope it will help others who may be thinking along the same lines as me and want to know a path to showcasing student videos without the use of a hosting source. (Of course, you could just use YouTube or GoogleVid or TeacherTube and make things easier for yourself).

Peace (in puppets),
Kevin