It’s Been Awhile…

Where to start?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. My apologies to those of you who do check in regularly. I’ve thought, at least once a week, of something that would make a great topic for a post, but then life rushed me right past it before I could pull it out of my mind and onto the ‘new post’ window.

Here’s what’s happened in the last two months to prevent me from posting:

#1. Report cards. I’ve been teaching for 14 years and I still haven’t figured out how to do reports without the rest of my life coming to a complete standstill. Any ideas?

#2. Presentation to colleagues on Using Web 2.0 Tools To Build and Maintain a Personal Learning Network for the district non-instructional day in November. This was really a long, detailed Tech Corner designed to spread the word about the great potential for learning connections using technology.

#3. Twitter. Wow. I said that in August, and I’m still saying that now. In only six months I’ve sent 636 tweets, decided to follow 302 people and I’ve picked up 195 followers along the way. If you want to be connected in the world today, you have to be on Twitter. It’s just that simple. It does come with a price though. It’s taken a fair chunk of my computer time away from this blog but because it’s microblogging, I still think I’m moving forward with my online pro-d.

#4. Christmas. I think for the first time in my life, I managed to pull off a wonderful, organized, fun-filled family Christmas without tiring myself out. I made it a priority and I maintained balance which meant that some things, like blogging, just didn’t take place. But this is some of what I did accomplish:

  • 8 batches of gingerbread cookies (my specialty)Christmas Baking
  • 4 batches of sugar cookies
  • 2 batches of shortbread (secret family recipe)
  • 1 batch of krumkake
  • 1 gingerbread house
  • several Christmas movies, complete with treats, blankets, pjs, and other comfy movie night necessities
  • a beautiful Norwegian Christmas Eve dinner, etc., for my husband’s family

#5. I joined a book club. My first, actually. A wonderfully inspiring colleague asked me to be a member so I couldn’t refuse! We’re reading Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen. The coolest part so far was a conference call to Eric himself (turns out one of my colleagues knows him, what are the odds?!) after we read the first chapter.

That’s my update! I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I do plan on posting more regularly. More to come…

Tech Corner – Wordle

At the start of every staff meeting I present a short (~5 minute) agenda item called Tech Corner. During Tech Corner, I introduce something related to using technology in education. My overall purpose is to advocate for the transformative integration of technology into the school. With a positive approach, I show items of  interest to colleagues to get them thinking about how they could use technology to enhance the learning in their classrooms.My Wordle

The last Tech Corner focused on Wordle.  I’ve used Wordle in my blog posts before, but after seeing it used at the local elementary school I decided to share it with colleagues.

Using the laptop and LCD projector, I started with a quick demo introducing the Wordle website. I then showed two different ways to create a Wordle: paste in a chunk of text or type in a URL for a webpage that has a RSS or Atom feed. I then shared a few examples, some from online sources (Obama’s speech to students at the start of the school year) and some from students in my own school (a colleague had used it for the first time earlier that day). Ever the art teacher, I finished off with a quick demo of how to change the design using choices of language, font, layout and colour. It was a typical Tech Corner – lots of info through visual examples, some demonstration and me talking through the whole thing.

I often wonder about how Tech Corner is received. Do staff really enjoy and learn something useful from my five minute technology blitz? Or are they tuning out and marking while I talk?

This time, I learned very quickly what the teachers at my school thought about the Wordle Tech Corner. The next day, a teacher came into my classroom because he was having difficutly using Wordle in one of the computer labs. We soon discovered that one lab has Java installed on the machines so Wordle works properly, the other lab has machines without Java and with Deep Freeze, so installation is a problem.  Although we had to solve that problem, I was thrilled that he was using the website with his students!

In the next few days, a Wordle sensation spread throughout the school. A bulletin board appeared with student Wordles all over it. The secretary called me in because she needed help creating a Wordle for a card for her brother (brilliant idea actually – she brainstormed words about her brother to create the Wordle and made it into the front of a card for him). Another teacher asked me questions about it. And students in my classes asked how to use the site and started creating their own Wordles out of curiosity!

This Tech Corner had a positive impact on the students, teachers and secretary at the school. I wonder, though, why this one was more successful than Tech Corners of the past. Was it the striking visual impact of the Wordle itself? Perhaps it was the use of elements and principles of design that only an art teacher would know about? Was it that the non-stop Tech Corners at the start of every staff meeting for the last three years have opened up people’s mindset? Was it that the staff are becoming more receptive to using technology over time?

My graduate diploma mentor said that quality learning often results in more questions than answers. Although I’m on the teaching side of Tech Corner, I’m obviously still learning, albeit with different outcomes than everyone else.

Wordle above of this blog post and courtesy of Wordle