Podcast of the Week: SMARTBoard Lessons Podcast

June 14, 2008

As part of my still being formed routine to get back into the habit of blog writing, I am making it a point to publish a review of a podcast once a week. I do this for several reasons. Once of which is that i am addict of audio. I play jazz while I teach and I always have either iTunes or the TV playing. I cannot handle silence. Another reason is that two years ago my school began actively integrating iPod technology into our classrooms. By this I mean that we have issued iPods to our students and are actively working with our teachers to open to the all possibilities that this technology permits.

Another technology that my school actively promotes are Interactive White Boards, specifically SMART Boards. For this reason I cannot think of a better way to connect these two technologies than to make my first podcast review one that combines these technologies.

SMARTBoard Lessons Podcasts

The SMARTBoard Lessons Podcasts is engaging, entertaining, and educational. Podcast hosts Ben Hazzard and Joan Badger provide great lessons plans, links, and music. The lesson plans are often geared toward specific disciplines; however, they can often be adapted to various courses. At the least the lessons demonstrate tools and tricks that a teacher can use or have their students use to make the IWB more than just a projection screen. Joan must spend as much time on the the internet as I do, not necessarily a good or a bad thing, as she always has a couple useful link for teachers to check out. The links are always helpful and often are some type of Web 2.0 application that can be combined with the IWB. The two hosts work great together and provide an entertaining product. Regardless if you are a teacher looking to improve your SMARTBoarding skills or an educator considering the purchase of such a board, this podcast should be a regular part of your iTunes download.

Favorite espisodes include:

Episode 126 Cause and Effect Commercialism
Episode 121 Combining SMART Recorder and Voicethread
Episode 99 Which gave me a Jeopardy Templete

I realize that these are all recent episodes, but i promise I have been listening to this podcasts since the first ten episodes. I’ll blame it on short term memory.

Keep up the good work Ben and Joan.

Enjoy your day,

Another yearly assessment–room for improvement

May 7, 2008

As another school year comes to a close I have the opportunity to reflect. My first reflection is that I did a poor job or keeping updates on my ideas and project on this blog. This is due to several reasons, primary of which is that I was teaching two new courses this past year while trying to adjust two courses I am teaching for the second year. While I have plenty of ideas and notes from the current school year; I also have a new plan. As I look toward reaching my goal of being a more reliable publisher of ideas I was able to make a more organized plan.

The goal is to publish three entires a week divided into three specific categories. Two of these categories address specific goals and tools my school currently uses: SMART Boards and iPods. The third entry will address various thoughts based on my readings for the week. Additionally, I aim to publish one entry reviewing a podcasts and one on a tool or application.

As with most people I enjoy the pressure and my rationalization for procrastination is that I thrive under pressure. That said, keep after me. Feel free to email or nudge me on Twitter if you feel my thoughts are valid and I seem to be dropping the ball.

Enjoy your day,

iPod as an education tool: year one reflections

June 13, 2007

Our school has recently finished the first year of our iPod initiative. This program issues iPods to students for use in classrooms and for educational purposes. I had my perceptions and observations of the program, but felt that it is important to get the perceptions and observations from the students. As the first year of the program we only issued the iPods to Freshman students and during their English classes the Freshman completed a survey I created with the recommendations from others in our technology department. The survey has multiple goals; primary of which is to assess the students ease of use and type of use. This is because the success of the program is for the benefit of the students. The second main goal was to understand the level of use by the various disciplines. After all, the success of the program is dependent on teacher incorporation. In general the results were positive, reassuring, and helpful in planning for next year.

Student previous technology experience and growth of knowledge:

In breaking down the program the first item of my concern is student technology knowledge. Prior to the start of this program my assumption and perception of student technology knowledge is that students already know how to use such technologies and can figure out programs through repeated use. I based part of my assumption on my perceptions of the students in my classroom. I began using podcasting and blogging as a tool for education two years ago. I consider myself a digital native, I grew-up with Apple IIe, Oregon Trail, and the original Nintendo. I taught myself how to use the websites and software commonly included in Web 2.0 applications. When I introduced these applications to my class, it never occurred to me to teach the students how to use the websites. It took a short time for my students to became proficient in these application and shortly after that other teachers became curious about how I my students used such tools. I noticed that with many teachers the first question was how long it took me to teach my students how to use the sites and applications. It was only then I reflected on my assumption and actions, or lack of.

Based on these experience I held the same assumption with the iPods: students know how to use such technology and with time they will figure out more practical uses through experience. The results of the student survey supported my theory. The average student response was in agreement or strong agreement that they previously have used an iPod or MP3 player. While not as high statistically, student response was also between agree and strongly agree for comfortable using various technologies and instant messaging. Students also supported my belief that repeated use allows for comfort in applications. It is no surprise that the viewing and downloading of video and audio files received a high comfort rating. What is encouraging is the increase in comfort in using the flash drive component of the iPod. Previous technology experience identifies flash drive use with a 3.81 rating our of 5. In the growth of technical knowledge category using the iPods as a portable flash drive earned a 4.18 rating out of 5. While this is not a statically substantial increase, it shows that positive growth occurs. As a school that prides itself on the student technology use, the growth of student technical knowledge in the Freshman year is a step in the right direction.

Types of use in the classroom:

More important to me was how students use iPods and in what classes. The top five uses, according to the ratings, are 1) viewing presentations and/or images, 2) portable hard drive, 3) view text or written documents, 4) listen to audio for foreign language classes, and 5) as an audio recording device. All of these scored above 2.75 out of a 5 point scale demonstrating regular use over the course of the grading period. The use of the iPod as a portable hard drive and to view presentations, such as Power Points, scored on a regular monthly use. These results mirror those aspects the students feel are most beneficial. An overwhelming majority felt the using the iPod to view presentations and as a portable hard drive is a benefit. A majority of students also felt listening to educational audio and viewing text is a benefit. Surprising to me, recording audio did not meet a majority level as a benefit, but I feel that is because of the lack of awareness by teachers on how to use this tool rather than anything else.

Year two:

Our school has already taken the steps to prepare for the program next year. While the students demonstrated how they feel an iPod is best used in education and that they are comfortable with the technology, they also relayed to us that not all of the teachers are comfortable. To educate the teachers and increase a comfort level for them our school is offering two training session this summer. I will present the first workshop next week, before NECC, and one after the conference in the middle in July. I feel that summer training sessions are great for several reasons. The first is that excuses are more difficult to form when the stress of lesson planning and grading are absent. Another is that optional, summer sessions allow those willing to take the time to prepare for the success of such programs to demonstrate this desire. I hesitate to require such sessions, because then you often get people who do not care about the program. We will be following up on these summer sessions during our in-service week prior to the start of school and with sessions through out the school year as well.

I have created a wiki, password is education, to aid these workshop and I will keep you updated as to the results of these workshop. I would love to hear your comments on using iPods as an educational tool and invited you to contribute your ideas to the wiki.

GeoTech Keynote–David Rumsey

March 5, 2007

This weekend our school held the 18th annual GeoTech Conference. This year’s session proved to be the most interesting of the three I have attended. David Rumsey, President of Cartography Associates, presented the keynote. As I found out during the dinner the night prior to his keynote, Mr. Rumsey is more than just a collector of maps. He is someone who is on the forefront of technology. Through Luna Imaging, Mr. Rumsey is able to share his extensive collection of maps with everyone. Even better, it is free. Mr. Rumsey received offers from prestigious institutions such as Stanford and Yale to house his collection, but after understanding that few people would have access to his collection he declined. While currently only ten percent (a number just under 15,000) of Mr. Rumsey’s collection is available on-line, it is the software that is most impressive. Those familiar with Arc View or the klm files for Google Earth will appreciate Mr. Rumsey’s hand in pushing those applications to new limits. Those who are new to these features, enjoy the tour of Lewis and Clark’s expedition. For me the biggest treat came during the Friday night dinner. During his brief talk Mr. Rumsey outlined the process of scanning such historic maps. He mentioned his goals for the future, including a collaborative project with Flickr. Seriously? This guy is one of the top men in creating digital images of historic maps and he wants to work with Flickr to see that more people can find a use for his collect. I think that is pretty cool. Enjoy the audio of the keynote. I am working on mashing the audio with his presentation and hoping to make that available soon. Thanks to Mr. Rumsey for the book and a great presentation. To listen to the presentation go to iTunes and search for Final Curve.

Enjoy your day,

Utopia High and the power of blogging

February 28, 2007

Recently our Freshman Pre-AP class finished reading selections from Plato’s Republic and applied our new knowledge. To apply our knowledge we outlined the guidelines for a new high school, Utopia High. Following our discussion of the selected book, the student outlined their ideas in groups, supported their ideas in a class discussion and finally wrote about the new school. The areas cover include the following:

Categories of people at your high school (e.g. Students, teachers, etc.)
School schedule
Extracurricular activities
Facilities (e.g. Libraries, labs, etc.)
Admission requirements
Causes for expulsion

Coincidentally, Edutopia published and article outlining futurist Alvin Toffler’s idea on the future of schools. I noticed this article in reading my wife’s blog, Musings From the Academy. After conducting a Technorati search on Toffler I found another blog posting on the article at CreativeClass.org. I pointed out the other blog posting to my class and they proceeded to extend the conversation outside of the walls of our class by leaving comments on the Musings blog. Angla noted to the CreativeClass audience of the discussion and expanded our audience again. When I explain to the class how many people were now involved in the discussion they were amazed. Just another example of the power of blogging. And yes, I realized following my posting of my comments of the typo.

Enjoy your day,

Revival of ideas

January 15, 2007

The start of a new year brings with it the revival of ideas. For me this means an opportunity to reflect on lessons from last semester; this to come in future posts. With the change in leadership of various political groups this means legislation. In Texas new leaders in a few arch-dioceses and at the Texas Catholic Conference have organized a rally in Austin on February 7th to demonstrate support for school vouchers. The idea of school vouchers is not a new idea, but often misunderstood by the general public.

The origins of school vouchers are found in the writings of Milton Friedman. Friedman, an unapologetic advocate of free markets, repeatedly wrote about the backwards organization of public education. Friedman wrote that the deterioration of schools was the result of increased centralization. He believed that this coupled with the new technological and political revolutions will widen the differential between the wages of high and low skilled labor. Friedman continued in his 1995 article to the Washington Post that free education markets would be the only way to weaken the current education establishment and salvage the education of future children.

A common misconception of school vouchers is that this system will force public schools to close because of a lack enrolled students. It is this idea that is central to Friedman’s position. Look at the structure of higher education in the United States. Colleges and universities operated on a system that is similar to school vouchers. The system of free market is what forces universities to maintain a competitive edge. It is this system that allows for new ideas in public institutions and new educators to maintain a system that is second to none in the world. If only the same were true for K-12 education.

It is a myth that school vouchers will force public education out of existance. What it will do is force under-performing schools to change or disappear. Is this such a bad idea? Open markets in the mail system has allowed for corporations such as UPS and FedEx to improve the package delivery system, yet the USPS still exists. E-mail and fax changed the way consumers use daily correspondence, still the USPS has not disappeared. These are only two examples of how private organizations have improved previous government monopolies.

While in college I spent a semester researching the effects of school voucher programs in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Washington D.C. Unfortunately, or maybe not, I am unable to locate my final draft. However, my research demonstrated that in all three of these cases school vouchers did not eliminate good schools. What it did was provide students at under-performing schools an option. I concluded my study the winter before the Supreme Court ruled that voucher programs did not violate the separation between church and state. The reason is that in the programs studied the voucher programs are open to both public and private schools, a true open market.

The principle of voucher programs underline the fact that voucher programs, or school choice already exists for affluent families. The current system of school districts allow families to relocate to a better neighborhood if they do not feel their school district is properly educating their children. Those who disagree with this right of families could then explain to me why in every house listing the school district holds as equal weight as the size of the property or the number of bathrooms. Sometime more.

The bottom line is that students who are not from elite families and are not able to move to a new neighborhood the way middle class families can are punished under the current system. Free markets have provided every industry in this country the opportunity to prosper to a point that the United States economy is the standard for foreign countries. Why then would this be a bad idea for education? Americans complain that low skilled jobs are being shipped overseas with the flattening of the world. Why then do we continue to allow an education system that prevents the children of these low skill workers to enjoy the American dream of a better life than their parents?

Iliad Project: The study of characters and heroes

October 10, 2006

Our English I Pre-AP recently finished presenting on various books from The Iliad.  The focus of our presentations has two ideas:  1) the major characters from the book and their affect on the plot of the individual book 2) the view of heroes.  In analyzing the characters we research the purpose and meaning of the names of the various characters and their role in the plot.  In understanding the meaning of heroes the groups expressed their view of a here and compared this to their interpretation of the ancient Greek’s view of a hero, based on the groups selected book within The Iliad.


To view the presentations go to our class page on Wikispaces:


If you would like to listen to the presentation subscribe to our class station on iTunes.  Search for “KStevens English I”.