teaching with the tools of a digital world


Goal 11: Ask, Perhaps You’ll Receive, iPads and Conference Fridays

My 18 month old son playing on my iPad

This goal has been a long time coming. I came up with the idea for this goal way back when I started the 30 Goals Challenge (and it has taken me much longer to get to this point than I expected, but soldier on!). The item I have decided to ask for is a classroom set of iPads. I have my own iPad and really enjoy it. I also think that I could leverage the power of the iPad in my classroom in valuable ways. The biggest thing my students complain about is the log in time for our laptops (partially the laptops fault, partially the nature of the beast). Turns out my Technology Integration Facilitator has had the same plan as I have. We are definitely getting a classroom set of iPads to test out, one for the middle school and one for the high school. However, we are writing a grant for 1-to-1 iPads for all students in the high school. This would be a big commitment and a big undertaking. It would be coupled with virtual machines to make up for the “missing Apps.” For my science class this would include LoggerPro (a program for analyzing student collected data).

The second item in this goal that I have asked for has to do with a change in the schools schedule for next year. As mentioned previously we are a small rural district where a majority of the student body participates in athletics and other extra-curricular activities which regularly takes them out of the classroom, especially on Fridays. Due to this, the district is moving to a 4 1/2 day school week. That 1/2 day is the point of this post. It has been decided that there will be no progression of content because of the number of students out of class. Which left us with about 28 minutes in each class to not do much other than review. This led our principal to ask for ideas from the staff.

A group of teachers and I, built the idea of “Conference Fridays” (the name may not stick around…). The idea is that Fridays will become much more like a conference (think also of Google’s 20% time). Staff will propose and present cross-curricular extension activities, not tied to a specific course or grade level. Students will be able to choose which “conferences” they attend and will have a month to attend the proposed conference. Each conference will culminate with a student product and a student presentation, the venue can vary from the school board, a local company, science fair, art show, etc. There are many teachers and students very excited about this idea (including me)! The best thing that as a first year teacher I have had the opportunity to spearhead this effort because of a administrator and staff members who are able to rely on each other and open to each others’ ideas.

I am presenting this idea to staff members tomorrow morning, I will also embed a copy of the presentation which explains the idea in greater detail. Wish me luck!

Leave a comment

Make a Connection Goal 10

Google Teacher Academy was great! It was great to be in Australia, but even better to be able to connect and become a part of such a resourceful group of education leaders. I was able to connect with a number of new Google Certified Teachers, past and present, and meet, in person, a number of others In my PLN. Though GTA was fast and furious I felt like I gained a number of new ideas and uses for Google products in my classes. Most importantly, however, it was a crucial example of of how to facilitate and share Google products with other educators.

I hope to be able to take what I learned from the experience and share it with other educators to help them inspire them to try new things in their classroom. I already have three PD’s planned on Google Apps for Education and it is great to have an amazing example to follow and from which to learn.

Leave a comment

30 Goals Challenge: A Little Behind

So life has happened and I have fallen behind on my 30 Goals Challenge, but no excuses I am pushing forward and working on them again. The last week was pretty busy I was at school for only three days. During those three days I helped my Earth Science kids build a wiki on the Geological Timeline. They have made some good progress but we still have some work to do to get it up to par before we are going to share it here. I used my bike generator in Chemistry class for our “Off the Grid” day which went pretty well. On Wednesday I loaded up an excursion and headed two hours away to the Math and Science Teacher’s Conference.

It was a great conference that lasted until Friday evening. I presented on my bike generator project, “Off the Grid,” and encouraged others to try building a bike generator of their own to engage students in learning about energy, electricity and efficiency. It is a great project that draws lots of kids into my classroom outside of regular class time. It also draws many students who would be happy to sit back and do nothing into the fray of learning. I use it to different levels and degrees in all of my classes. I am also taking it this week to the elementary school with my physics students and on Thursday to present at the school board meeting. At the conference I also had a chance to listen to and watch Steve Spangler a few times. He had a lot of good ideas for motivating and exciting students about science and learning.

This leads me to goal #8 of my 30 Goal Challenge “What’s Your Personal Theme Song?” So it’s difficult to pick one song, but I figured I would stick with my favorite band. I chose Grand Canyon by Sister Hazel.  This song (and most songs by Sister Hazel) help to motivate me to do just about anything, it is a great pick me up.


Leave a comment

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: 30 Goals (#5,6 & 7)

Student Attendance from a Friday (student names erased)

I spent the time to go and update all of my online profiles (at least those I could remember having). It was interesting to see what outdated information I had on there. I was also impressed with all of the ways to link them all together and connect them with each other. These seem like powerful tools for networking that I am not currently using! I also joined a few new networks that I hope will prove valuable, one is a new Facebook fan page. I’m looking to keep this goal going and add a few more “professional” items to some of my more commonly used profiles.

I set up Google Alerts for my name, blog url, and usernames. It is always a little interesting to see some of the things that end up getting sent my way with my first name being London. It both provides a powerful net of diversions and noise if someone is trying to find information on me. I guess it just means I have to do more to make positive things more visible.

My goal for “Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone” is to adopt paperless Fridays. I did this Friday and it went pretty well. I emailed each student their assignments and they were able to have continual access to them there. I haven’t decided if Google Docs would be a better alternative (less likely to get deleted) or if I will stick with email. I would like to get my students more in the practice of checking their emails regularly so that I can use it as a more viable way of contacting them outside of the classroom. Hopefully paperless Fridays will help. “Paperless Friday” also helped with another unique aspect of our school. We are a rural Wyoming school with a small (~220) but very active student body and students can need to travel great distances for sporting academic, and club activities. This usually makes Fridays a very sparse day at the school. I regularly adjust my teaching plans throughout the week as I figure out the numbers of students that will be absent on Friday, luckily the district is considering a 4 1/2 day week. If managed properly I think this could greatly help both teachers and students. Anyway, paperless Friday made it so I could assign  and notify students of their work while they were absent. I’m looking forward to using this more in the future, in fact I would love to go entirely digital with my students but I currently don’t feel like the computers I have in my classroom would allow for this. I proposed a classroom set of iPads to my Technology Integration Facilitator, she said she would look in to it… stay tuned! (with your fingers crossed…)

Leave a comment

Goals #3 and #4: Start an Adventure and Support a New Blogger

Today was the first day back to school with students I am excited for the new semester and a chance to get back to trying new things. I’ve decided to implement digital portfolios in all of my classes. They are going to be based around a set of five goals that each student will set regarding my class and others of their choice. This is the biggest thing I am changing/adding and looking forward to this semester. There are still a lot of questions of how this will all work out but I have spent a fair amount of time researching and thinking about this so I hope that will pay off.

As far as my two goals for the last two days (Start an Adventure and  Support a New Blogger) here they are! For my adventure I decided to start a class, luckily this is very much a at my own speed course (I actually have started two! and I am working on finishing another – I seem to always have this problem.) The first course I have to finish is the Earth and Environmental Science Podcast by Dr. Christian Shorey from the Colorado School of Mines. I am about 70% done with this and have been at it for a couple of months. The other two course I have decided to start are a Quantum Mechanics course from the University of Oxford. I’ve always felt that my Bachelor’s in Physics Education was lacking the Quantum Mechanics course that I wanted. I have decided that I will give this a shot. My hope is that it will be a conceptual Quantum Mechanics course as a mathematical based course will be difficult with audio only.

One of my other passions in life (aside from my family, teaching and technology) is photography. I have been taking whatever photography courses I could since I was a young teenager. I really enjoy photography and I am also looking for ways to expand my experience and knowledge. I have signed up for a course titled Sensing Place: Photography as Inquiry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Courseware (got to love it!). Each one of these courses comes from either an iTunes podcast or an iTunes University course.

As far as supporting a new blogger I have posted a comment on a edublog that I wouldn’t necessarily call a “new” blog, but it is one that I follow and found a post that I felt good commenting on. It is definitely a boost to realize that someone has read your post and thought it was worthwhile.

Leave a comment

Starting the Year Off: Goal 1 and 2

So it is two days into the new year and I am two goals into my 30 Goals Challenge. I’ve started my own personal journal on Penzu and I will continue my blogging/journal here and at my districts edtech blog that I started last month, Going Digital at HSCSD. I have really enjoyed the experience of blogging and I have learned a lot! I hope that this will continue throughout the new year. I learned more about my own teaching practice through reflecting and it has given me an additional incentive to continually try new things each day. I have basically had a record (albeit short) of at least one post/week. I hope to be able to up that a little bit and the 30 Goals Challenge will help with that I am sure. I hope to post updates on my goals as I accomplish them at least every other day.


For my second days goal (Contribute to a Blog Carnival) I submitted two of my posts (Poll Everywhere and QR Codes) to the education buzz blog carnival. I think I was able to find a pretty good resource and a chance to make some more connections with other educators out there. This also highlights a goal of mine to get some more readers and subscribers to my blog and making my post worthwhile for others to read. This will require me figuring out exactly what I am able to contribute to all of the sources that are out there. My plan is to blog some more and see what gets noticed and what interestes people.

Let the new year begin!