USN Lower School Technology!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Last Post for 2009-2010

It's been a good year, and as I write this we are sneaking up on the last hour of the last full day of the 2009-2010 school year. Since this blog is specifically for communicating what is going on in the computer lab, I'll lay it to rest for the summer with this post. THE SHORT STORY is that we are at each grade level exploring Free Choice Options, as they are amply documented in earlier blog posts. So many class parties and field trips are making class attendance in the lab so hit or miss that I believe that's the best course. The party's over, ya'll.

So what am I up to this summer? What follows should serve to inform:

I am a "Core Volunteer" at the International Society for Technology in Education, having become acquainted with that now 100,000+ member organization the summer of 2000 as I attended my first "National Educational Computing Conference, its annual convention, in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then I've attended nearly every year, presented multiple times for groups as large as 300, and gotten involved in their innovative "virtual environment" community in Second Life. Last year, I was motivated to create an official "Special Interest Group" for Virtual Environments, and that was recognized and instituted (as one of the only 20 SIGS) in October of 2009 with me as the chair, president, leader, or, as I have designated the role, "Poobah." It's fascinating work and it takes up a great deal of my discretionary time, though I am always mindful to keep that work secondary to my work as Technology Coordinator.

That said, I have benefited greatly from interactions with educators of like mind, many of whom believe that the education of the past, while it offers elements we must not discard out of hand, is no longer meaningful and that we we must look to the world of the future, and beyond reform to revolution. "Innovation is hard," says Sir Kenneth Robinson in a talk just released this week, "because it means doing something that people don't find very easy for the most part. It means challenging what we take for granted, things that we think are obvious." My work with ISTE led me to Quest Atlantis and Scratch, and to my use of those tools with our kids. Recently, this work along with other contributions resulted in my being honored by the National Association of Independent Schools as a "Teacher of the Future."

This summer I will lead a group of those like-minded educators in activities designed to help others understand the potentials of 3 dimensional virtual environments for learning and teaching. This will take place in Denver, Colorado from June 25 to June 30 at the ISTE 2010 Conference and Exposition. I'll frame that effort with several days before it and a week after with my extended family, vacation with loved ones and fun in Colorado.

I also hope to spend a few days in Boston at the end of July, at the Apple Learning Institute for educators that is part of the Teacher of the Future program award.

Finally, I learned just yesterday that my grant proposal for USN's Quaker Hill professional development grant won me the funding for self-designed travel to "exemplary and comparable schools" to observe K-4 technology program curricula in other locations. Though I am pleased with what I do in the computer lab, I feel that it could be more tightly and intentionally designed and less reliant on my own sometimes whimsical and playful approach to learning. Out of obligation to my students, your children, I am seeking ideas that will inform redesign of our technology curriculum to bring it even more in line with best practices, as demonstrated in programs that profess to "get it." Wish me luck. It's going to take some sorting out. I'll report back in the fall.

A few housekeeping notes:
  • I have had to remove Boowa and Kwala from the Webliographer. This is a long story but basically the new owner (no longer my friend Jason in Mauritus) refused to respond to my request that they remove inappropriate advertising from the non-login site. I regret this, as the blue bear and his lovely little koala buddy have been staples of my work in the lab for years. I feel it is the appropriate response, though. I'm good with it.
  • Keyboarding for Kids accounts will remain open all summer. If your child should finish all 64 lessons during the summer, please email me and I'll set up a new account for them so that they can keep up their practice and improve even more. PLEASE make sure that they are practicing with home row key position, using the correct fingers for the correct keys.
  • Quest Atlantis accounts will also be kept alive during the summer. I'll check in at least weekly. I have some questing to do myself, and it's incumbent upon me to fulfill my duties as mentor all summer long. If you have questions for me, don't hesitate to email. smerrick @ is the address.
  • 1st grade Kerpoof accounts will remain open for rising 2nd graders. The login "Nickname" is the child's first name (duplicates in the grade level have the first two letters of the last name added, as in "SarahJo") and it is capitalized conventionally. The Password is 10r13 for the student in Ms. Roth's class sitting at computer 13 (the 10 is for the year 2010), and the Class Name is K747. I sent home login slips but if you've lost those you can also email me.
  • If your child is using Google Buzz, I highly encourage you to help them disable it. Go to your gmail "Settings," click on the Buzz tab, and disable Buzz. 'nuff said.
  • Keep your child's computer use public and monitor the browser history once a week. That works.
Have a safe and fun family summer, ya'll. I'll see you and your wonderful kids in the fall of 2010.

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