Dream Scenes, complete

The deadline for students to complete their Dream Scene digital story projects came yesterday and, with me shouting out “20 minutes” and “seven minutes” in my teacherly count-down mode, every single student (except one) finished up their projects on time. Phew. That’s about 80 digital stories, with me scrambling around on my flash drive to get a copy of them all.

I decided to use my classroom Flickr account to host the videos, since I can put each class into a set, and then the sets into a collection, and then embed the sets right into our classroom blog for parents to view, and for classes to see each other’s dreams.

Here, I gathered up some of the music-themed dreams, since I have a soft spot for budding musicians.

Peace (in the dreams),

Some results of my State of Technology Survey

Thanks to everyone who took part in my sample State of Technology Survey yesterday. I am working on a survey for my students as part of a year-long inquiry project that will be examining how young people may be using technology out of school and if they bring those skills to the table when composing and creating inside of school.

There were 92 people who took part in my survey, mostly via Twitter and my blog, but also through my network of National Writing Project technology liaisons. So, the results are somewhat skewed in favor of us techies. What I wanted to know was whether the survey w0rked and if folks had any suggestions for improving it (they did — thank you).

A few things jump out at me. First, unlike many of our students who use cell phones and mobile devices as the source of their technology (this is something I want to find out from my own survey), we adults still are mostly straddled to our desktops/laptops for our technology. Second, not too many of us are doing online gaming, which is a huge part of technology in the lives of some kids (and a lot of boys). Finally, we spend more than three hours per day with the screen. If you think about that, that is a lot of time.

Here are some of the data graphs:

I also asked an open-ended question about why one would use technology. There were plenty of answers around ease of use, and being connected, but here are a few other responses that jumped out at me.

* Technology opens up my options for expressing myself.  I like options so I choose technology.  I would probably use technology that I feel comfortable with, in order to get my point across more clearly.
* I’m more efficient in conveying my thoughts via technological tools, and since most of the school I’ve taken lately has been via distance, I prefer to collaborate on projects online (via things like GoogleDocs) than in isolation. Also, I like the social nature of doing projects with technology, with a wider sense of authorship and audience.
* Using technology makes my projects come to life. I am not an artist, but I can do a project with tech that lets me be creative in other ways than the typical projects that are assigned- which you need to have artistic skills to do well on.
* I’ve worked in technology use since 1984. It provides me a common language with many students. Though other purposes and ends may be met, technology is a guaranteed end of the world they will inhabit once they leave my classroom
* Why wouldn’t you use technology?  Technology allows me to write, edit, revise and display information in a very unique and professional way.
* It makes sense to have the tools in the palm of your hand (especially when using perhaps an iPod touch or iPad). It keeps me connected with the rest of the world, and mostly it is how I do business.
* I can’t imagine doing anything without a computer these days, be it word processing, research, getting feedback, the visual component you can add, the interactivity available using different technologies…
* Technology is exciting. When I went to school we did not even have calculators. Students today will be using technology at work not even invented today. We have to make them aware of everything that is out there. How do we prepare them for the real world otherwise.

Peace (in the data),

Get Paid to Write about Tech/Ed

I want to pass along this note from my friends and colleagues at Instructify, where I write reviews of educational tech sites and apps. I often tell friends that my work writing for Instructify pays for a few date nights with my wife, and it does.  I also learn a whole lot from both the writing, and the reading, at the site.

Do you have a great instructional technology idea that you want to share with your fellow educators? Are you a good writer? Instructify is looking for practicing teachers and media specialists to write feature-length (1,500 word) articles on technology integration. If you write something we can use, we’ll publish it on Instructify and LEARN NC, and pay you $200 for your trouble.For full details, please see our feature writing guidelines.

Peace (in the writing),

Dot: the world’s tiny stopmotion movie

This is pretty neat: the world’s smallest (so they say) stopmotion movie made with a tiny microscope attachment to a mobile phone’s camera. The movie is called Dot, and there is a behind-the-scenes video of the making of the movie, too. I love when they do that. The character of Dot is just 9 millimeters tall. She’s tiny!

Peace (in the little world),

Dream Scenes, Nearing Completion

Dream Scene: Vet from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

It seems like with every digital project, there comes a time when the teacher has to crack the whip and tell his young composers: the deadline looms, so stop chatting and get working. I made that statement yesterday, letting my sixth graders know that the end of class on Monday is our deadline for completing their Dream Scene digital stories.

Thus, a few projects began to trickle in yesterday, and I am quite pleased with what I am seeing so far. The aspirations are terrific, and the digital stories are coming along quite nicely. This year, I am really pushing the editing of the music levels with the narration levels.

I am trying to see if I can create an Animoto of a collection of Dream Scene videos and will share that out when it gets done, if it works. I am running into the problem of Animoto requiring music underneath the video, but I don’t want that: I want to use the narration/soundtrack of the kids. Hmmm.

Peace (in all of our dreams),

Tending to the (Answer)Garden of Dreams

dream answergardenMy students are in the midst of creating a Dream Scene Digital Story Project (which I can outline another day) and yesterday, as they were making the transition from creating an image in Paint to trying out Photostory (not one of my 80 students has ever used it before), I had them add their “dream or aspiration” to an AnswerGarden I had set up at our classroom blog.

AnswerGarden is a word cloud site that collects words and phrases. I noticed some new features at AnswerGarden that seem new to me. I can now create an administrative password and get the information sent to me via email. I can remove any words from the cloud (a source of concern for us teachers). I can now even send the final information over to Wordle, and let it create one of its beautiful word clouds with the AnswerGarden information (wow — I love that connection!)
dreams wordle 2010
We all got a kick out of how many budding chefs and musicians are in our midst, but I also loved seeing words like “doctor” and “architect” and “lego designer” in there, too.

Peace (in the rich earth),

Defending Public Education (by my principal)

My principal, Bill Collins, delivered this address to the entire faculty of our school district at our Convocation just a few weeks ago, and then it was printed in the newspaper yesterday. I asked his permission to reprint it at my blog because I think the message of the value of public education is worth sharing. Bill points out that we take on a wide range of students, and educate and nurture them. He notes that a colleague in a class he is taking is at a private school, and often scoffs at his public school colleagues. But Bill will have none of that. He stresses the role of a leader as a “mirror” to the “candles” around him, and that our task and passion is for keeping all students, whatever their background and ability, in the forefront of our teaching and caring.

He gave me permission to share this with you. Thanks, Bill.

What motivates, rewards, and challenges me to work in public education? The easy answer is that I want to make a difference.The deeper answer is I am an idealist. I deeply believe in the art of possibility. I believe that any child can grow up to be president. I believe that our nation’s founding fathers were on to something. I believe in being a part of something larger than the sum of its parts. I believe that the seeds we sow today will be reaped some day, even if we are not around at harvest time.

Back when I was first a middle school guidance counselor, a troubled boy was assigned to me. I struggled to help this student get back on track. I failed miserably and so did he. The principal gave him a social promotion to high school. Late December of the following year I was working after school finishing up at the end of the term before the holiday break, when who should appear in my office doorway but this boy. He had come to show me his report card, for he was passing his high school courses. I told him I was proud of him and do you know what he said? You were the only one who never gave up on me. So yes, I am an idealist.

I became a principal with the hope of having an even greater influence; I wanted to make a bigger difference. I came to the Norris School with the notion of influencing the culture and upon reflection I am amazed at how much the Norris culture has influenced me.

I believe in the art of possibility because I have repeatedly witnessed it at Norris. I have seen the seemingly impossible become possible. I have met some of the most generous and selfless people that I have ever encountered.

Recently, a Southampton student with special needs didn’t qualify for summer camp and his parents couldn’t afford to send him. Do you know how he attended? Two Norris staff members personally financed it.

Edith Wharton once said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” I see myself as a mirror who is surrounded by candles.

I have returned to school myself in the hopes of expanding my influence. I have the ambition to one day become a superintendent of schools. I am about half way through a doctorate program. In my group there is an administrator from a very exclusive private school. This classmate is always saying, “Come over to the light – where there are no special education issues, few behavioral or disciplinary problems and almost no fiscal constraints.”

I have given his repeated invitation much reflection because it irks the heck out of me.

I have concluded that public education is a noble profession and Massachusetts is its birthplace. It pleased me to see that Superintendent Craig Jurgensen’s back-to-school letter referenced our state constitution. It may surprise you that in Massachusetts there is not a right to education but rather a “duty to cherish.” Interesting phraseology.

There exists a bit of a debate about whether public education exists to level the playing field and provide every individual with the opportunity to succeed or if public education exists for the common good to have an educated citizenry to preserve the democracy, not leaving decisions in the hands of a privileged few.

I think it was the latter but has evolved to include the former. Whether it is one or the other, or both, it still makes those in our profession the great equalizers who do not limit access by wealth or religion or race.

Even as an idealist, I recognize that there are other countries that do a better job of educating some of their students. The operative word being “some.” No nation does a better job of educating all of its students. We recognize that parents are sending us their best students (they are not hoarding the good ones in the cellar). We educate them, all of them, no matter their economic status, whether they don’t speak a word of English, the color of their skin, their religious convictions, their level of disability.

No matter if the private schools have invited the students to unenroll, we at the Norris School say “bring ’em on!”

— Bill Collins, principal of Norris Elementary School, Southampton, Massachusetts

Peace (in the sharing),

“Comic” Book Recommendations

I started using Bitstrips for Schools this year and there are a lot of things I like about it. I’ll write about that another time. But one activity I did over the last few days was to ask students to volunteer to create a webcomic book recommendation. Most took me up on it. A lot of them were writing at home. The comics are pretty basic and you can see they are still tinkering with how to use the site. Still, I liked the range of books being recommended and that gives me a bit of insight into what they like to read.

And they got to make comics, which they just loved. Particularly the boys. it seems. The girls got bogged down in creating their own characters. This, I think, is interesting.

Peace (in the frames),