Thoughts Going Into the 2011-2012 School Year

As I get ready for the 2011-2012 school year here are some thoughts I have bouncing around my head.

Computer Technology 7: This is the course I really worked hard on since, in all honesty, last January. I have notes scribbled across three or four Livescribe notebooks, four notebooks in Evernote, one Livebinder site, and one blog post on this website. It was written across three states over the summer. I consulted PhD holders, Media Specialists, administrators, and people working in the technology field. Probably put my job in jeopardy by begging, pleading, arguing, debating, and discussing the course's needs with district Instructional Technology gurus. The only thing I have not done yet is threaten anyone’s life but the year is still young.

There are still some last-minute compromises left to do with the other Computer Technology teacher and it should be ready to go. I can tell you how it will look. The course is building off what students learned in Computer Technology 6 which was how to create basic digital text, audio, and video media. Now the seventh grade students will need to take these lessons and apply them to a variety of tasks designed to share their knowledge of cybersafety. For example, a student may research the topic of cyberbullying to create a presentation in Prezi. Once the presentation is create, he or she will do a screencast giving the presentation which will be uploaded to the student's Livebinder page.

After all the media options are done then the students will be introduced to computer programming using Scratch. I already have the ebook, Shall We Learn Scratch, by Jessica Chiang loaded on Edmodo for the students to read. This is the first time I have worked with an ebook with students and I am looking forward to the experience. The things I will closely watch is how well students like using an ebook and if any of them download the book onto an iPad, Nook, Kindle, or other device. Students will work through the problems in the book to get comfortable with writing programs. Then the students will create their own original program. If there is time, they may even write apps for Andriod and iOS devices.

While I have tried to foresee every possible problem, there are still about a million things that can go wrong with this course. Also, would someone please let me know where I can get a job that allows me to be a whinny, spoiled, overpaid teacher who only does this to get the summers off. I worked my tail off to create this course and did not receive one penny for the effort. Still, it had to be done if I wanted to make sure my students have a great experience.

Apps and gadgets I can't wait to use: This year I really want to test how mobile devices can work in a classroom setting (one of the things that can blowup in my face). I am going to set Edmodo to send me a text message whenever a student has a question. This would allow me to help students in turn, force the students to send proper messages, and inspire the students to use a social network as a collaborative tool. Students will be told to ask questions on Edmodo while they are working. I will encourage the class to post an answer to the question if anyone knows the answer. If a question is answered correctly before I get to the student who asked the question, the better off students will be. I plan on making use of my new tablet as well. One thing is to determine if a tablet will be good enough for a student to complete most of his or her assignments. I wrote about Socrative earlier but I am really can't wait to try this out with my students. This app is a web-based Student Response System and is much cheaper than makers of the so-called "clickers" that Promethean, Smart, CPS, and other vendors make. Apps can be downloaded to iOS or Android devices and works pretty good. Once an assessment is completed, the teacher will receive a spreadsheet report by email. I plan on giving Edublogs another chance this year. When I received emails saying no emails would be needed and there was no more advertising it made me one happy camper. While Kidblog is a great blogging app, the way it requires teachers to administer the blogs got to be a chore. Also, it was easy to accidentally delete an entire class's blogs. I still think Kidblog is a good blogging tool but probably more for elementary or some middle school teachers who may take care of only one blog per class or really does not care about creating tools students can use as they move from grade to grade. Finally, I hope I can get all of my team on Google+. The ability to communicate with each other using this platform has lots of potential. Also, if Hangout works, if a teacher is missing a meeting  or needs to talk face-to-face it can be done relatively easy.

Renewed focus on reading and writing in United States History and Social Studies in general: Last year I heard, to my dismay, that some high schools were telling history teachers to stop writing and only focus on preparing for the End of Course exam. This troubled me because I knew that this approach would not prepare students for college and the worship of test scores had gone out of control. This year reading and writing are put back into the curriculum. Teachers will be expected to have their students read primary sources, answer document-based questions, and write essays. Theodore Roosevelt and I say "Bully!"

Working with the adults: I am really excited to hear about the number of teachers who are willing to give Edmodo a chance when they realize Computer Technology would continue to use it. There are more teachers in my school willing to use technology and they would like something to help make the task easier. Attempting to use the school's network and website for communications, collaboration, and exchanging assignments is not getting the job done. Plus they like the fact that most of the students already have accounts and are trained on how to use it. Another thing I would like to do is gather a group of teachers who are willing and attempt to take charge of our own professional development. Two things I would love to work with a group on is creating and delivering better presentations. Another learning opportunity I would love to do is start looking more at brain research and how we as teachers can use it to help our students. One of the things I learned over the summer is that countries that outperform the United States had true professional teachers who were expected to research or get training the latest techniques then share them with the rest of the faculty. I wonder how many teachers will want to give this a try too.

Alright, here are my main thoughts as we start the 2011-2012 school year. It will be interesting to see how things progress over the course of the year. To all of you who will soon have young faces staring up at you as school starts I hope you have a great school year.