Research Assistant

For students and others writing research projects the task of creating a properly formatted bibliography can be a chore. I showed students in my Computer Technology class how to use Microsoft Word's ability to create bibliographies but what if you cannot use Word where you are doing your research? There are some Internet-based apps such as Son of Citation Machine but it requires the input of information before producing a bibliography. Then there is EasyBib which makes creating a bibliography as easy doing a couple of clicks. Recently, the people at EasyBib asked me to try out their premium service to see what I think. I used it to help organize my resources and notes for an upcoming blog post.

I first learned of EasyBib a few years ago when an English teacher told me about showing the site to her students. I was impressed on how easy it was to create entries for a properly formatted bibliography. Improvements have been made over time to make the site even easier to use. For example, all one needs to create a citation for a website is copy the URL of the website then click Autocite. A form with much of the website's information entered is created. Just fill in any missing information if available, then click Create Citation. Just enter a title, ISBN number, or keyword for books, magazines, or other materials to create the citation. There is an outlining application in the notes section to help organize your thoughts on the project. When you are finished you can save the bibliography formatted in one of the popular styles as a Word or Google Doc. This allows you to copy and paste the bibliography into your paper. If you are a premium subscriber, you can save your work as a project and come back to it later. To help the research process, premium subscribers can also create notes that can be linked to citations. The cost to be a premium subscriber is $4.99 per month; $14.99 per 6 months; and $19.99 per year. K-12 schools can provide the service for $165 per year.

EasyBib makes the process of gathering and citing research materials, well, easy. However, there are a few issues with EasyBib. First, while the price for subscriptions is not very high, cash strapped students and schools may still balk at the costs. Considering the number of research papers K-12 students every year, EasyBib may be a luxury that can be done without. To make well-earned money advertising on the site could be sold, then sell subscriptions to do away with the advertisments. Another thing I think would help would be a crude word processing application which allows researchers to write drafts of their paper which can be copied and pasted to a word processor for final editing and publishing. Finally, there needs an EasyBib mobile app for iOS and Android. This app can capture website information and save it with the click of a button. Also, barcodes of books, magazines, and other sources can be scanned by the camera of the mobile device and a citation be automatically created and saved in a project. Smart phones and similar devices are growing with popularity with students. Plus, there are other apps that can do similar tasks I described so a mobile app is almost a must for EasyBib today.

Overall, EasyBib is a good site to help create bibliographies and organize research in the cloud. The easy way of imputing information makes it a great time saver for anyone doing research projects. Being able to save your projects is helpful if you cannot carry a laptop between the library, coffee shop or home where a paper can is written. While the price is not terribly high, it can dissuade students and schools who must watch their budgets in these difficult economic times. Finally, a moblie app is needed for iOS and Andriod phones, tablets, and other devices that can scan barcodes to create citations on the go. If you have to write research projects then EasyBib will prove to be a valuable research tool.

SCETV is more than ferrets

Mr. Ferret, RIPphoto © 2006 Sarah Marriage | more info (via: Wylio)
This past week I had the pleasure to give two presentations at the South Carolina Educational Television Spring Teacher Technology Workshop.  Teachers from across the Palmetto State come to Columbia to learn technology skills that will help them grow as educators and look for new ways to improve classroom instruction. For many teachers these workshops are the only way they are able to get any technology training. Some districts are so focused on giving priority to training that will help get test scores up. Other districts have spent lots of money on technology but failed to budget enough money for training or had to cut that part budget to save money. You have to applaud these teachers for taking their own time to better themselves. Unfortunately, more budget cuts at the state and even federal levels may may eliminate these workshops and the other valuable educational related services provided by SCETV. These are the things the majority of South Carolinians do not see. Unfortunately, when many people (and legislators) look at SCETV they only see Barney, Big Bird, and ferrets.

Ferrets? Barney, yes even if many adults want to do evil things to that unfailingly cherry dinosaur. What adult has not grown up learning how to count and recognize letters by watching Sesame Street? But ferrets? Yes, ferrets. A recent Facebook discussion I was privy to started when someone criticized SCETV of wasting taxpayer money because of a show about ferrets. The discussion became somewhat heated as those for and against SCETV weighed in on the topic. Here is a newsflash, the ferret program was not paid for by taxpayers. It was paid for by donors and foundations which includes individuals who may only give maybe $20 or corporations who may give millions. What the taxpayers pay for, according to an SCETV brochure, includes the network’s infrastructure such as towers, transmitters, buildings, and employees to make it all work. What the brochure did not mention is the many other things SCETV does that is not seen on regularly scheduled television and radio programing. So I thought I would mention a few of the SCETV programs do to help schools and teachers besides the technology workshops that most people outside of education did not know existed.

Teacher training: While I have already mentioned the technology workshops SCETV puts on twice a year, SCETV has two trainers who crisscross the state giving workshops to schools and various educational conferences. The dynamic duo of Debbie Jarrett and Donna Thompson work tirelessly to show teachers how to use the tools SCETV provides teachers to make instruction more informative and enjoyable for students. Debbie and Donna not only talk about SCETV services they also teach teachers how to use technology tools such as Microsoft Movie Maker, Photostory, podcasting, and other media creation tools to create digital storytelling projects. They are so good at their job, in a legendary tale, they went into a training session and did not know it was about the new Movie Maker Live but did not miss a beat as they showed how to make it work. For a private trainer to come and do the same thing it would cost $200 per hour or more.

ETV Streamline: This has to be one of the best things for teachers by far. This site has thousands of hours of free programing for teachers to copy and use in the classroom. Lesson plans with assessments can be created using the site and the programing is broken into clips so time is not wasted watching parts of a program that is not relative to a lesson. Students can access these clips for viewing at home and take online assessments. In my opinion this is a very underutilized tool in a teacher’s toolbox. If private companies provided this service they would charge each school thousands of dollars for this content. Actually, they may not want any copying of video due to piracy concerns.

Media Share: This is part of Streamline that is so good it deserves its own mention. Teachers and students can create and share online any media they create for viewing only by other Streamline members. This provides security for students if they produce audio or video projects for school. Teachers can select who can see the media such as school, district, state, or national. This is a great resource for sharing great teaching ideas or developing training materials that are school or district specific. There is YouTube and it has great content but do we really want to send students looking around there?

KnowItAll: A web portal for K-12 students, teachers, and parents to search the Internet safely. This includes appropriate videos, games, curriculum, assessment tools, websites recommended by the South Carolina Department of Education and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. There are other web portals out there but to make money they collect Internet surfing data to sell to marketers or do outright advertising. This SCETV site brings all of the SCETV Internet offerings for educators into one easy to remember place. All of the resources I mentioned above are only a click away and I only have to remember one website to visit. Definitely worth its weight in gold.

Discovery Educator Network: Here is a great example of public and private working together and depending on each other. DEN is a network of teachers who collaborate and share instructional ideas with each other about technology, media, and other practices used in the classroom. SCETV promotes its services and hosts events for DEN teachers to gather and share ideas face to face. There was such a meeting at the technology workshop where member teachers showed off their favorite technology gadgets, websites, or ideas in a fun “American Idol” type forum. I came away with some ideas to use in my class and items on my wish list. DEN also has the Star Educator program which is a network of teachers who conduct trainings at their school or district on using Streamline or other Discovery services. SCETV provides help and ideas to assist this special group of technology savvy teachers.

There are more services SCETV provides to educators and other groups as well such awareness of our natural resource but there is only so much time and space to list them all. If people would get past the ferrets and could see what SCETV does for the schools alone the taxpayers of South Carolina would see they are getting a bargain. Of course there is great programing on the channels too and it is not all about ferrets. Speaking of ferrets, I like ferrets and wished I had seen the program. My son had two ferrets and they provided our family many hours of entertainment as we watched them play around the house. Ferrets need love too and I am glad SCETV was there to provide it!

The Rapid Rise of the E-Book

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting e-publishing to the Island Writers' Network of Hilton Head Island. While I resources were gathered since booking the engagement in the summer, I must admit I didn't put the presentation together until a week before the event. I was glad I waited! If I had done the work even a month ago I would have had to delete most of the work I had done and almost start over. The reason is e-publishing is evolving so fast it is leaving me in an almost state of shock.

I know many who just love the feel of a traditional, paper-bound book but I also noticed the increasing number of people carrying e-readers. A couple of days ago a Facebook friend asked if she should buy a Kindle or a Nook. Local retailers are starting to carry up to five different e-readers. E-book sales are now overtaking hard copy books, something I thought would happened in another five years. Companies including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, and Smashwords are making publishing to e-reader formats as easy as uploading a document to their websites. The companies do all the conversions and you just wait for the money to roll in from sales (well not that easy a task).

This explosive growth in e-publishing should be great news for beleaguered students weighed down by heavy bookbags. Barnes & Noble just made things interesting by announcing the Nook Color. The latest Nook is a full color touch screen device that will run the Android operating system. Barnes & Noble says the Nook Color will be able to show videos and surf the Internet, what e-textbooks need to be effective. The $249 price tag makes it a compelling device to purchase over the iPad if all you want is an enhanced e-reader. A big drawback is users will not be able to add any Android apps but Barnes & Noble plans to offer their own app store. Even if the Nook Color does not fit the e-textbook bill it is a major step forward. With the rate e-readers are progressing, it won't be long before better devices will enter the market. Note to IT leaders: you better figure out how to integrate Android or iOS into your networks. It does not look like Microsoft is doing too much in the tablet and e-reader areas.

Let me know what you think about e-readers. In the meantime I am going to curl up with my Nook and catch up on some reading.

Tech Course for Everyone!

Dr. Dereck Rhoads, new principal of Bluffton Middle School, outlined his vision for a technology course to be offered to 6th and 7th graders of the South Carolina Lowcountry school. The reason Dr. Rhoads gives is "As technology revolutionizes our world, schools must seek ways to prepare and equip students with the skills to compete in an ever-demanding global economy."

Here are the features of Dr. Rhoads' vision that are extrodinary:

  • Every student at Bluffton Middle School will take this technology course and create a digital portfolio. 
  • This technology course will be based on ISTE NETS and the South Carolina Internet Safety Standards.
  • Wants students to use Web 2.0 applications to create assignments for core academic classes to demonstrate the practical application of the tools.
  • Students will learn how to evaluate information found on the Internet and use it appropriately. 
  • Wants students to understand what Media Literacy means and how to decode its messages.
  • Stress cyber safety to students as they use the technology. This will include how to use Social Networks, such as Facebook, properly and maintain privacy that will prevent problems later in students' lives.

I know there are other courses in technology that may incorporate some of the points above. However, I have never heard of a course that incorporates all these points. Whoever takes on the task of creating and teaching such a course will have a big job ahead of them. Dr. Rhoads will need to find someone creative enough to make his dream a reality. If anyone has any ideas on what should be included in this course please share them in the comments. 

Click here to read Dr. Rhoads' blog post on the technology course at Bluffton Middle School.

Writing on the Wall?

One of the rights of passage for students was the seemingly endless practice of handwriting skills or cursive writing. All those loops, making j's, q's, z's over and over. Those who have seen my handwriting wonder if I skipped school on the days my class had cursive practice. Earlier this week my principal shared an email from a parent who expressed concern there was no focus cursive writing instruction and her daughter could not do a good job signing her name. This got me thinking, is cursive writing one of time-honored skills that is about to be pushed aside by technology or other forces in education today?

More and more, students complete assignments requiring keyboarding skills. Essays are now written using word processing, presentations are completed using PowerPoint instead of poster board. Even if poster boards are used, information is typed on paper using a word processor then glued on the board. Many students are all thumbs with their writing as they use mobile devices to text, share snippets of their lives on Facebook, or compose a rare email. As more and more computer devices get in the hands of students, it will be keyboards that will rule as text input.

What about pens as in penmanship? Pens are getting smarter too. Smartpens are slowly making their way into classrooms and offices. Livescribe, a leading manufacture of smartpens, just released the Echo to go along with the Pulse. Smartpens can record information written down then transfer it to a computer. After syncing the information, you can use MyScript for Livescribe to turn what you write into editable text you can copy and paste into many other applications such as Word or blogs. While MyScript did convert a sample of cursive writing I did as a test but the results were not as good as when I print. 

Finally, is there just not enough time to teach the art of cursive writing anymore? Teachers are squeezed by the pressures of high stakes testing mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind laws. The main focus is for teachers to devote as much attention to reading and math as they possibly can. Only so much can be done in a school year so instruction like cursive writing instruction is cut back if not eliminated altogether.

Should more emphasis be placed on teaching cursive writing or is it a skill that is no longer necessary in a rapidly changing world? I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Thoughts From SCETV Summer Workshop

This past week I had the pleasure of attending South Carolina Educational Television's Summer Technology Workshop for teachers. Donna Thompson and Debbie Jarrett kept me busy by having me conduct sessions on Digital Portfolios, Social Media in the Classroom, and Using Mobile Phones in the Classroom. It was a great time and it seemed everyone got something useful as they had a great time. Here are some of my thoughts of my time in Columbia.

Edmodo: The more I use Edmodo, the more I like it and can't wait to use it in the classroom. Participants who used it signed up with little trouble. Edmodo allowed everyone to share and collaborate during the session at a level I have never seen. Hopefully, this will work for students too and I will keep you posted on how this works out.

MightyMeeting: Although I planned to only use this app in my sessions on Mobile Phones, I quickly uploaded my other two presentations. It was nice to be able to roam around the room and control the presentation from my iPhone. MightyMeeting allows you to do just that. Also, you may invite others to join in by providing your Room ID number. This allows presentations to be given over distances when used with voice communications such as Skype. A chat room provides a place for back channel discussions which can the iPhone app allows participation. 

Using mobile devices such as phones, iPods, and iPads in the classroom is coming sooner than I thought. Augmented Reality and QR Codes have led me to this conclusion. Tongues started wagging when I covered these topics. Guess what? I was only scratching the surface with what I shared on the possibilities of what mobile devices can do.


After giving presentations on using social networks in education there is still a need to promote cybersafety to education professionals.

It is always to gather with friends and professionals who share the same passion I have regarding education technology. A group of us gather for dinner at the Carolina Ale House. During the gathering, Chris Craft proposed we try something I have read about, an unconference. The idea is intriguing and I think it would be worthy of continued study so it can be tried to see how this would work. The gatherings allow educators to gather for unplanned, unstructured discussions on whatever topics individuals wish to lead discussions on. Participants just pick and choose what they want to participate in.

Livescribe: I keep finding more uses for using my Livescribe Pulse smartpen. This time I used the pen to take notes on my research as I prepared for my presentations. All I had to do was sync my pen to my computer and run Myscript for Livescribe to get text that I copied and pasted into PowerPoint. This became a big time saver.

Finally, South Carolina Educational Television is a valuable for teachers. Imagine trying to teach without OnePlace, Streamline, ITV, and other media resources available to enrich your lessons. Also, SCETV is one of the few networks that provide experts to help work with groups on a variety of topics at no cost. Also, SCETV provides teacher technology workshops in March and July each year. These valuable services and more are at risk of being cut due to budget cutting mood of the South Carolina Legislature. Please contact your legislators often to tell them how much you value SCETV. If you do not know who your legislators are you can find out here. Also, consider either becoming a supporter of SCETV with a financial contribution or volunteer your expertise at a technology workshop. 


Raising the Bar

Yesterday, I conducted a session on on Creating Digital Portfolios for the Beaufort County School District's Summer Institute. For the first time I did a technology training session for the BCSD that was targeted to teachers intermediate skills. Participants really worked hard on creating real digital portfolios.

I set up a series of activities for participants using a blog, PBWiki, and Edmodo. The session started with me showing a wiki page with a series of instructions on what needed to be setup (blog, wiki, and student Edmodo account). I would have a brief discussion then participants were given an activity to complete. After completing the activity, we would go over their work. Occasionally I would have to show how to do something such as embed a video into a wiki page.

It excited me that most of the participants we able to set up their accounts and do their activities with little or no assistance needed. There were a few who considered themselves as new to technology and had a harder time. These participants were either assigned a peer-tutor or helped by me.

Just about all of the feedback after the session was positive. One beginner told me later that she was pushed out of her comfort zone but too much and she liked it. She went on to explain she realizes she needs to learn more on how to integrate technology into her classes and yesterday was a positive first step. This feedback excited me a tells me it is Time to raise that bar.

Moving to the Suburbs

Currently I am writing the curriculum for technology course for 6th and 7th graders. As I evaluate Web 2.0 applications to use I must walk a thin line between achieving educational objectives using Web 2.0 tools and ensuring student safety. This is a dilemma anyone involved in educational technology must deal with constantly. The questions asked not only include what applications to use but should students be allowed to use personal computers on school networks? What access should students have? How do we keep students from accessing inappropriate websites? Should students be allowed to have email accounts? The list is endless.

Why do we have to fight this battle? Leo Leporte summed it up nicely on his netcast TWIT when he compared computers connected to the Internet like going into a big city. You can find almost anything you want but you can also easily end up in places you should not be too. Leporte went on to claim devices like the iPad is like the suburbs. You don’t have as much choice but it is safer. Apple’s Steve Jobs echoed this sentiment recently claimed that PC’s are like trucks, which obviously have multiple roles, and tablets are like cars, serving a more specific purpose. Should schools move to the more suburban-like tablets because they are safer and easier to operate?

Tablets based on the iPhone OS, Android, or WebOS will only do certain functions. They are considered information consumption devices with a limited creation capabilities. Only apps approved are allowed on the devices (except maybe Android). I know from experience only certain apps will work if the network allows the app to work. Students could jail-break their devices or run off of wireless carriers but apps may not work as well as they could on a Wi-Fi network. Bingo, extra security. Apps for things like Measure of Academic Progress assessments or other testing can be made into apps and allowed to work on tablets. To me this seems like a better solution, especially for K-8 students, than allowing them into the Internet guarded with poor grade chicken wire. Should schools move to the technology version of the suburbs? What are your thoughts?

Chris Craft Your Country Needs You!

General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said of the above slide, “When we understand this slide, we’ll have won the war.” Marine Corps General James Mattis claims that “PowerPoint makes us stupid.” Something evil is afoot here that poses the greatest danger our nation has ever faced. I am sure al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives have infiltrated our military and is feeding our fighting men and women countless PowerPoint slides for the purpose of causing the inhuman death by PowerPoint. You think the Iranians are trying to build nuclear weapons? Think again, the nuclear weapons thing is a ruse to detract from their real production of weapons of mass destruction, PowerPoint slides.

Imagine where our country would be if Washington had to endure a PowerPoint presentation by Alexander Hamilton before he crossed the Delaware to surprise the British at Trenton? Drinking tea, eating sheppard's pie, and arguing about the Boston-New York cricket rivalry. General George Patton would have slapped his staff silly and shot both the projector and laptop with his ivory handled pistols if he was shown a PowerPoint presentation before the Battle of the Bulge. Our old Soviet Russian enemies are probably slapping themselves silly for wasting all that money spent building weapons which caused their economy to collapse. PowerPoints would have been much cheaper. Would Theodore Roosevelt have charged up San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders and Buffalo Soldiers if he had to watch a PowerPoint presentation first? Well, yes because TR was too hyper-active to set through a PowerPoint briefing.

We now need someone who can save our brave fighting men and women from that cruel, inhuman form of torture known as “Death by PowerPoint.” That one man who can save our nation is Chris Craft. Chris has traveled across our great nation extolling the virtues of simpler presentations. He believes carefully chosen pictures and phrases are much better at communicating an idea better than placing every word on a slide. This less-is-more approach is just what we need to save our nation. Chris, if you are reading this, you need to catch the first thing smoking to Afghanistan to root out the evil that threatens to turn our brave fighting forces into zombies who will do our enemies’ bidding. Do this and you will return to take your place in the Pantheon of Great American Heroes.

All kidding aside, I have seen PowerPoint slides, Smart Notebook pages, ActivInspire flipchart pages, and Keynote slides in classrooms almost as complicated as the one shown above. If General Mattis believes PowerPoint is making our fighting men and women “stupid” imagine what it is doing to our students? Students who are active and engaged as students are necessary for our national survival as they compete with students from other countries in the future. Teachers, check your presentations and simplify them. Then simplify them some more.

Chris, your country needs you now more than ever!

Big Honor, Many Thanks

I was informed earlier today that my website and blogs was selected as one of eCollegeFinder's Top 50 Educator Innovator Award winners. I could not believe who the other 49 winners were! This list is a virtual who's who of educational technology leaders. To be on this list with them is a very high honor. This also means I have to step up my game as an advocate for educational technology and cyber safety. While I am humbled to be chosen for this award, I am sure my district supervisor or principal (or both) will have someone follow me around repeating "All glory is but fleeting." I am grateful to eCollegeFinder for giving me this distinguished award. 

Here is the complete list of award winners. I highly recommend you checkout these websites. You won't regret it.

Go Where?

FourSquare and Gowalla Pictures, Images and Photos

It can be disheartening to read how budget cutbacks are affecting education overall. If you have not been hit with layoffs then you may be furloughed. While your job may be secure, you probably will have to make do with less materials and opportunities to help your students. One thing that has surely been cut down to nothing is field trips. In Beaufort County, South Carolina there are many historical places for teachers to take their students to learn about how our area was involved from colonization to post Civil War Reconstruction. No matter how many videos and photo slideshows you can show it is not the same as being there. 

Here is where one of the hottest trends in social media can possibly help out. In location-based social media, such as Foursquare or Gowalla, members check in at places they visit during the day. The person and location are shared with their friends on smartphone applications or Twitter or Facebook. Points are given for checking in with Foursquare which are tallied on scoreboard with your friends. With Gowalla, you may find certain items to collect or share. Using location-based social media teachers could setup field trips students can do themselves or with their families. Here are two examples of how this can work.

We will use Foursquare in our first example. A teacher goes to each location he or she wishes to include in the field trip. The site can be registered if needed by the teacher if they have a smartphone such as the iPhone or Android phone. The teacher would enter a Tip about the place. This tip could be a bit of trivia about the place or an assessment question that can be answered by learning something during the visit. Teacher gives the list of places to students who writes up a report in a blog and sends back to the teacher who evaluates and grades the work. In our Gowalla example, our teacher could post a notes with questions about the sites students would visit. However, the neat thing is the teacher can actually create and post a "trip" which can be shared with other teachers along with the students. Students would blog answers to assessment questions found on the application for the teacher to grade.

There are some downsides to these field trips. First not every student has a smartphone to use the applications. Next, not every student could possibly take these trips for whatever reason. That is why this could be part of an extra-credit or a choice for a student or team project. The upside is that you would have students taking charge of their learning as they go through a guided discovery process. Plus, these are activities entire families can engage in which is always nice and keeps them safe too. If you have a smartphone then download and register for one or both of these applications and see what you can do with it.


Going Through the Door

I have been thinking recently that educators and parents are staring at an open door called Technology Integration. Both waiting for the other to step through first but neither are volunteering to take first step either. Educators don't want to go first because of fear of parent complaints of not having the means support educational technology assignments at home or unwillingness to find ways for students to get to computers. Parents are unwilling to step through because they have not seen schools assigning technology-based assignments, so why should they go through the expense if it is not needed. While both sides stare at the opening students continue to suffer because they are not exposed to some great educational opportunities.

Two recent projects I worked on with teachers and students showed both sides they can enter into a wonderful experience much like Alice did falling down the Rabbit Hole or going through the Looking Glass to get to the Wonderland Lewis Carroll wrote about. The first project had students creating wikis about Alaska for a sixth grade reading class. The other was a blogging project that was part of a larger cross-curriculum eighth grade English-Science research paper. Both teachers reported their respective projects were more successful than they believed possible. Even better, the teachers and their students want more.

While this feedback from the two teachers would be considered great news news, there is more. In both cases the projects were done with minimal computer lab use. To accomplish the assignments students used computers at home, in the classroom, public library, and friends' houses to get the assignments done. Why no computer labs? There were none available. This proves something I have been saying to teachers for the last few years: With enough creativity, ingenuity, and determination a technology-based project can be accomplished successfully without a computer lab. Now I have anecdotal proof to show it can be done whenever a teacher says it can't. Parents now see teachers are giving the assignments and will make the necessary investments to support their children. The welcome mat is now out so both parties may now enter into a wonderful new world.

A Student's Point of View

One of the things I like to do whenever I visit a classroom is the try and sit as far in the back of the classroom as I can. From this vantage point I can see if a teacher has prepared their Flipcharts with all students. When I go over observations I make a point to tell teachers to always to to farthest point a student would sit and look at whatever was prepared. I sometimes think teachers don't always think about the function for the end user whenever they want students to use technology. The greatest content in the world is no good if a student can't see it or use the tools effectively. 

This past week I got to be a student in a SIOP training course our district is presenting. The presenter/facilitator is doing a great job of keeping everyone engaged. He has the usual laptop/projector/PowerPoint combination and the slides are viewable to everyone. However, I was using one piece of technology that our facilitator did not think of: my Livescribe Pulse smartpen. Of course I am not going to bust him for not thinking of the smartpen because I can count the number of people I know who have one on one hand. The experience of using the pen in a class setting was very enlightening.

The method I tried to use during class was to jot down the main ideas and let the recording of the lecture do the rest. That way all I have to do is tap on the main point I want to review and listen to the lecture at that point. This is how the pen is supposed to function and it did it's job very well. The problem I had was quickly figuring out when he was at an important point, tap the record button, then write down the main point as the facilitator talked about it. What I found out was by the time I got the record button pushed and the idea written down the explanation is halfway done. I could record the entire class but that would waste valuable memory on audio I don't need. What would would have worked better for me and the technology is for the facilitator to have an outline or list of topics to cover on the screen. I could copy these down, leaving space for a few additional notes, then make a mark when the facilitator started on the topic. Even if I have to tap the record button this method would make it quicker. 

This experience gave me some insight to help teachers think more about preparing their lessons to fit the technology they expect students to use. Students will be bringing and using more technology in the the classroom both officially and unofficially. Teachers will have to realize changes and accommodations will need to be made for students to get the full benefit from using technology.