Tag Archives: EdTech

A Failed Experiment

child's storyWhen I stand up at the front of my intro class and tell them they’re not getting regular grades on their writing, they look worried. When I show them the revision system, they freak out a little more.

If I put a grade on a kid’s paper, they’re done. But I don’t put grades on the papers. I use check plus, meets all objectives; check, meets most objectives needs correction; check minus, needs revision; X, needs tutorial session because there’s a complete disconnect with what’s supposed to happen and what happened.

Students must revise until they reach a check plus.

I usually end up with a lot of As in my intro class because of the system. They do until they do it right.

Last semester I added a new component to the system. I required the students to use Google Drive to create documents and turn them in. It seemed like a no-brianer. Moving to paperless was a responsible decision, students wouldn’t lose their work, we met in a computer lab so technology wasn’t a problem. Yay Google Drive.

Enter the real world of constant connection. Two big things happened. One, students were easily distracted by the Internet. That’s relatively easy to address, but it required constant supervision. If that were the only problem, I wouldn’t be revamping for this year.

The biggest problem I found was kids did not respond to Google edit comments the way they do to written comments. I thought they would love edit comments. No more worrying about my handwriting because the comments were typed. No more forgetting to address an issue because the issue is clearly marked on the paper.

What I found was students did not respond the same to edits on screen as they did to edits they can touch. They did not respond to my words as something I clearly took time to work on. Even when I added notes to the bottom of the page and did individual conferencing after each writing assignment, the process felt cold.

In the end, last semester’s intro class did not perform to the level of past classes, and I worked a LOT harder.

I’m going to use Google Drive again this semester. But instead of having them turn the story in there, I’m going to have them print the story and I’ll comment the old fashioned way. I’ll still have them share their stories with me while they’re in the creative stage, though, because I can see the work in progress. The class will help come up with consequences for Internet distraction.

I thought about throwing Google Drive out for the intro class, but I don’t think that’s the right answer. It didn’t work, but instead of tossing it, I’m adjusting the system. Students NEED to understand Drive. It’s part of the world we live in today. They NEED to know how to work on the computer without getting distracted (Shoot, I NEED to learn this!).

We’ll see how it works. 🙂

It’s going to be a GREAT year!

I’m Voting Yes

I just left the community town hall meeting the board and superintendent did to give facts about the bond and to allow community comments. The meeting cemented my choice to vote yes in May.

ImageThis year for the first time I’m worried about my students’ competitive chances after they leave Rider. My students are not receiving a 21st century education. Their peers across the state have access to technology that should be common but isn’t in WFISD. It can’t be without spending a ton of money to improve our infrastructure. That ton of money doesn’t exist. The district has spent money trying to update our old buildings to work with the increasing technological needs of students and teachers, but we haven’t been able to keep up with the demand. Computers alone won’t fix this problem. Our techs work tirelessly trying to update an already antiquated system. We’ve reached the point where we can keep pouring money into the old buildings and still have the old buildings that can’t keep up or we can invest in new. In Texas investing in new means passing a bond.

I keep hearing people say we could pass a “different” bond at a later date, but the bond I’ve heard floated is one that the majority of voters have said they would in no way support. It’s too expensive. Saying no now only delays the process. It takes three years to open a school and this proposal has already been in the works for two. We can’t afford to wait.

The May 10 bond isn’t perfect, but it’s the right direction for students and teachers in WFISD. If we don’t do something, we’re going to lose students to surrounding area schools (we already do; that trend will grow), and we’re going to lose amazing younger teachers to districts that can offer higher pay and 21st century facilities.

I love the tradition in Wichita Falls schools. We can bring those traditions with us to the new campus if the bond passes. This bond is right for Wichita Falls. Change is never easy, but it is essential for growth. If we don’t pass the bond, students and teachers lose. The city loses.  I’m voting yes to bond and build.

 

 

 

J-Teacher and Proud of It

21010_84342_0(There’s a request for comments at the end of this. PLEASE comment!)

I love my job. It’s stressful, crazy, political, time intensive. It’s teacher, counselor, motivational speaker, cheerleader, project manager, classroom facilitator, photographer-photography teacher-camera man, advertising manager, marketing director, technology guru, technology support, Adobe Genius, Apple aficionado, sound checker, light checker, mic checker, school supply-battery-Duck tape-Sharpie-supplier, Mom  all rolled in to one.

I’m sure I left something out.

But still,  love my job. In spite of 12-15 hour days, in spite of summer months spent at camps without being paid for the time, in spite of meals missed and mad momma phone calls and a $0 budget, I love my job. To me it’s the best job in the world.

Here’s why:

Yearbook and newspaper and AV are outcome-based products, produced collaboratively by students for students using project management, high tech, and problem solving skills. Students leave journalism programs strong writers with an eye for design and the ability to use professional programs that get them real world jobs right out of high school and paying jobs on college/university staffs. They know how to work in chaos–probably the most underrated skill learned in the newsroom. Remember dorms? Me, too. If you can’t concentrate on the work in front of you even though there’s a tequila line outside your door, you’re in trouble.

Our kids learn note-taking skills like one other. They learn to discern the important stuff and read between the lines and question authority RESPECTFULLY. They learn ethics and editing and how to be on a crazy-insane-OhMiGodI’mGoingToDIE Deadline and survive SUCCESSFULLY…even if it’s done at the very last second.

Our kids learn how to manage commercial budgets and sell an invaluable product to a community to make that budget happen.

Our kids learn how to produce quality products in 45 minute classes and time spent after school while learning Elvish or Spanish or Sonic-ese on the side. And they learn the difference between analysis and news, unlike most people today.

Media literacy problems? Not with J-kids.

Our yearbook kids produce the ONE thing that stays with the school forever. When anthropologists look at what teenagers were like in 2013, they’ll look at yearbooks because they last forever. Technology can’t compete. DVDs are almost passe, and my kids don’t even know how to use the boom box in my classroom, but they can go to that 1962 Rider yearbook, and they totally know what to do. THEY LOVE THAT BOOK. It’s the first Rider book and it tells the Rider story. It’s the only thing that can.

Our newspaper and A/V kids serve as the voice of the students body, the defenders of the constitution. When I tell my kids that, they think I’m kind of crazy until we start talking about it, and they realize how absolutely essential they are to a quality school environment.

J-classes are some of the most important classes on a campus. It’s why when you look at the 21st Century Classroom description, you can line it up next to a J-class and check, check, check…all the way down the list. We are cutting edge. We are forward thinking. We are the 21st Century Classroom, which is funny since I’ve been in the high school newsroom since I was 15…back in the day of cut and paste and lightboards and headline counts from hell. But you know what? Back then we were cutting edge 1980s technology. (We even had a computer that worked with something other than C:    )

That’s the nature of high school journalism, and it’s why quality schools have quality high school J-programs.

Yep. I love my job. And I’ll fight for it forever.

If you were on your high school J-staff (yearbook, newspaper, broadcast), tell me how it impacted your life in a positive way whether you’re in the industry or not OR drop me a line at marybeth AT marybethlee DOT com. I’d love to be able to show people why my classes matter.

THANKS!

Trying Something New #edtech #MyWANA

21st-century-learning-wordleYou know that moment you hit play on the presentation you spent HOURS working on and the technology doesn’t work? I’m hoping I don’t see that today-Saturday in the newspaper classes I’m teaching. Fingers crossed.

I’m going paperless.

The classes include youtube clips and hyperlinks to stories and discussion points. I’m using Edmodo for assignments and twitter for questions. (THANK YOU MyWANAs and Kristen Lamb. I’m taking your twitter lessons and applying them to my day job, too!) In my mind this is the best thing ever. I mean I can stand up at the front of the class and say “Like Stephen King says, if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write,” OR I can click the play button and Stephen King can say it plus some. I know which of those I’d rather see. 🙂

I’ve used video clips in my classes at school for a full semester. My students told me they LOVED that part of the class. Hopefully the kids at camp will, too. And hopefully they’ll like that they can access the Keynote complete with clips and links via Edmodo. PLUS there’s no way I can cover everything in the few hours I see them, so I’ve included several other folders of information I use in the classroom.

I’ll let you know how it goes. #

Dead Girl Walking

Freedom Worth Fighting For

So I’m sitting in my classroom after school working on my lesson for tomorrow when all the sudden BAM! I’m nearly in tears, which would be totally uncool since we’re on deadline and I have a classroom of kids working right now.

All week in J-1 we’ve focused on the first amendment and we’ve looked at video clips and photos and discussed Hazelwood, Tinker, Bong Hits for Jesus. We’ve looked at Tiananmen Square and talked about student protests and communism and how horrible the massacre was and then we looked at the US and the Civil Rights protests and the kids are totally into it and so am I. These have been AWESOME days.

This class responds well to lecture with technology (NOT a POWERPOINT!), but clips to emphasize points or photos to start discussion. Tomorrow I’m going to tell them about the study released in 2005 that said:

“When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.”

And we’re going to talk about how many students believed at that time that the first amendment caused 9-11, which brings me to the BAM.

I planned on showing the Sept. 12, 2001 newspaper front pages while I lectured. I wanted the point to hit home. And then I wanted to let the screen go black and talk about the first amendment and the rights it protects once again. But when I loaded those pages onto Evernote, I suddenly found myself right back there in those days after the terrorists attacks.

I live in Wichita Falls, Texas. I didn’t know anyone personally hurt by the terrorists that day. But I watched the news non-stop from the time the planes hit the Towers. I’m a media teacher, and we had the news on already that day. I slept with the news on, waiting, hoping, praying for some kind of miracle, and then praying for peace for those directly impacted and praying for internal peace to move past the anger and hatred toward those who committed the atrocities. All the while the news played in the background until we finally couldn’t watch any more. I didn’t realize what I’d done until a few months later when I found myself waking up sure my daughter was dead. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d get up and go check on her to make sure she was okay even though I knew my fear was ridiculous. After a few weeks of that I broke down and told my doctor what was going on. I was so embarrassed! She told me she believed I’d given myself a form of PTSD from watching the news too much after the attacks. I took the medicine she prescribed for about six months then weened myself off. I haven’t had a problem since, really.

I don’t watch the 9-11 specials. I feel guilty about that in a way, but I can’t. I went to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close because I didn’t realize it was a 9-11 movie. I almost walked out when the answering machine message played the first time. I’m glad I didn’t. It’s definitely one of those movies everyone should see at least once. I was shaky for a day after the movie, but I never went back to that dark place from 2001.

Today though, when I scrolled through those Sept. 12 pages, one after another after another, I had to turn off the iPad, move away from my presentation and sit here and write and pray and tell myself to focus on the good instead. On the light. On the resiliency of people. On the power of the first amendment and why people have been willing to die for it over the centuries and why people have been willing to die to TRY to get something close and why it’s essential I teach it in my classes every day. Because in 2005 1 in 3 students thought the first amendment gave too many freedoms and I think sometimes that number’s gone up and that’s scary, so scary, so absolutely terrifying because if we let that thought process continue without fighting it, the terrorists won that day.

I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow for the visual during the lecture. Maybe now that I’ve written this all out, I’ll be okay showing the front pages. Maybe I’ll use a still image. Maybe I’ll plug in my iPad and let the class watch while I talk with my back to the wall. Whatever I decide, I know what every student will have in their hands. It’s that piece of paper I handed out the first day of class. And on that paper are the words that matter most:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Wow! I didn’t expect that! BYOD success

Today is J-1 we concluded the first of my 1s Amendment discussions. Without explaining the meaning of each of the rights, I have the kids give one of the six up. Then we split into right groups and debate and discuss. I give the kids a chance to choose a different right if they want. It’s fun. In the end, the kids always discover that the first amendment is all or nothing. THEY learn the lesson. I just facilitate the discussion. Like always that worked. THEN I lecture them on each of the rights given in the first amendment and a little of the history behind that right. This time I told the kids if they had an iPad, they could take notes on it instead. They asked if they could use their phones instead.

My initial reaction was no. This is a new class. It’s giant. I don’t know them well enough to tell the difference between texting and taking notes. They solved that problem by saying they would show their notes/audio/video files at the end of the lecture.
And so we started down this new path.

The kids were 100% attentive to my lecture. They typed in their notes, they recorded me, they continued to ask questions.

I was still reluctant. Until the end of class when they showed me their notes. HOLY COW! They had taken tons of notes, and they’d organized the information along the way. I didn’t have the kids take notes on paper before, so I don’t have anything to compare to, but the notes the kids took today were far more detailed than I usually see.

I’ll definitely try this again. 🙂

Lesson Learned: 1 Kid, iMovie, Google and a Transformation

Today was one of the best days of my teaching career. It’s like God screamed, “Girl, I put you in the classroom for a reason.”
I have a special needs child in one of my classes. This child is amazing and wonderful and all year we’ve worked on him learning how to log into the computer and how to make videos. The videos he totally figured out. He can use a handy cam to shoot the video, upload it to the computer and use iMovie to make his own projects. Or he can use photo booth to make music videos of him lip synching and dancing.
If I ask him to remind me of something, he will every time. But he has the hardest time associating letters and words. So, every day, when he comes to class, we walk him through how to start his music on groove shark. He loves Justin Bieber. All of the kids help him out, never complaining. They love him. The end.
Today, class started and he said, “Mrs. lee, Mrs. lee. Come here and let me show you.”
I was going through 90 pages of yearbook proofs and thinking how stressful my job is, so I didn’t have the best frame of mind when I headed to his desk.
But then he started Firefox, opened Google and showed how he’d learned to search for yahoo and start his own music on yahoo music. When his videos were blocked, he browsed to yahooligans on his own to find his music.
Every kids in the class cheered, clapped, gave him high 5s. We almost broke out in a dance party.
It was one of the greatest moments of my teaching career.
It reminded me that what we do in the classroom every day is so very important. That we don’t even know when we’re making a difference. It reminded me that I love my job and moments like these make the 90-page deadlines worth it.