Monday, October 25, 2010


I am at heart a wannabe computer programmer. I dabble in programing, especially in HTML and PHP code, but I really just know enough to do damage rather than create anything. But programming logic just makes sense to me. One of my favorite things to teach and work with is Lego Robotics, and I specifically worked a good deal with the Robotics Invention System (RIS) 1.0 & 2.0. When I heard that the MIT Media lab (who had collaborate with Lego on the RIS) had created a programming language targeting k-12 students that had the same type of drag and drop blocks that RIS has, I was dying to work with it. But as with most things, it was pushed to the side and I didn't get a chance to really dive in. This summer I made it a priority at ISTE to take advantage of the workshops on ScratchMitch Resnick, the creator of Scratch at MIT, held a BYOL session at ISTE that was one of the best sessions I attended.  We did some pretty basic programming in Scratch, but I could see the potential.  Now, I just needed to find a faculty member who would be interested in trying out Scratch in their classroom.  Luckily, I didn't have to wait too long.  Dr. Micha Jefferies came to me asking how we could take an existing project she used with her elementary education students, creating a board game, and using technology to create the game. This was the perfect opportunity for students to use Scratch to create content-based games.  The purpose of our technology integration was not to learn how to program, but how to use this technology to teach a specific content.  I plan on posting a series about our project and how it is developing this semester.

Monday, October 18, 2010

When technology works....

I have a few blog posts in my mind trying to get out and while I am at EDUCAUSE (see previous post) I will be trying to finally post them. Yesterday, I needed to be in two places at the same time, and I was able to pull it off. While I was here on the West Coast I needed to present at the Friday Institute in Raleigh on social networking and yes, I was able to pull it off. How was I able to do it, you guessed it video conferencing, and it worked :)
This week the Friday Inst is hosting the Teacher Leadership Institute with a focus on teaching in 1:1 schools. It is one of my favorite workshops to be apart of and brings a great group of people together. Unfortunately, this Fall it occurred at the same time as my trip to EDUCAUSE. I was able to be part of the planning team, led by the wonderful Joselyn Todd and Sherry Booth, but I wouldn't be able to do - what I think i do best - teach and facilitate. Once again technology not only came to the rescue, it allowed for us to demonstrate what we have been encouraging our teachers to do, innovate and use technology to transform the classroom experience. So instead of having to be in Raleigh in person, I was able to video conference with Skype and give my presentation as well as ask questions.

So here is my foolproof guide for Video Conferencing on the fly:

1) Nothing is fool proof :)  Have a back-up plan. In my case I created a screencast of my presentation that could be used if we had technical issues. I provided a high quality video to the team leaders, and also placed a version online to be embedded in the institute wiki.

2) Test and test often. One of the downsides of VC on the fly is that I couldn't accurately test the ability to Skype until the day of the seminar.  So we did the best we could by testing the quality of Skype in the room that would be displaying the VC and then I tested in the conference center the first opportunity I could.

3) Don't announce the VC until you are sure you can pull it off.  We never promised a Skype session, so if it didn't work, we wouldn't have to backpedal.  The Skype session was a bonus.  Now this isn't always possible, but in this case it was better to underpromise and exceed expectaions than over-promise and disaapont everyone.

All in all I feel that we really did get to showcase the best of both worlds and I got to be apart of both!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


After my ISTE experience this summer I was a bit disenchanted about conferences and how much  I"get out" of attending. I was hoping that attending a different type of conference would be more rewarding and inspiring. I am currently attending EDUCAUSE a higher education tech conference. For the first time in a long time I am traveling with colleagues.  Instead of traveling alone and looking forward to meeting old friends, I am traveling with a group and no one I know (either in person or online) is planning to be here. From a traveling experience it is much more enjoyable and I am having a good time in the evenings. However, I have yet to attend a session that has inspired me or showed me something new. I had been hoping that a different perspective on education would reveal something new and innovative. I made the mistake the first day of going to not only sessions that interested me, but topics that I knew something about. This may seem backward, but I don't want to hear the rehashing of topics I already have heard and seen before, I made a rookie mistake. So today I will be going tosessions I know nothing about, but have a vague interest in. I have high hopes for today and will see what comes......