This Week at Westwood: Horizon Evolves, Digiteen Begins

Sometimes I just like to share the things that are happening in my classroom. They may seem old hat to me (and my students) but understanding HOW these things work is tough for some people just learning what is happening.

1) Computer Science (10th)
This is the class that is participating in the Horizon Project. We're continuing the four week "handshake" period before the start of the project on April 15th.

Why a handshake?
We've found that the most difficult part of the project is helping the students meet or "handshake." This is also difficult because we have to help all of the teachers get up to speed AND there are a lot of holidays that happen around this time -- which vary all over the world.

So, during the handshake, we:
  • Join all the members to the wiki and Ning.
  • The teachers go through the Getting Started Checklist
  • We hold weekly teachers meetings in Elluminate and record it for those who cannot attend.
  • The teachers have a private google group that gets fired up and hot for our private communications and questions.
  • Students fill out a pre-project survey to ascertain their thoughts about working with people from other countries.
  • Students post their "introductions" -which we work hard to be personal but not too revealing. This is a tough balance.
Horizon's Blogs are Hopping!
It is very exciting to see what happens as we ask the students to start blogging. There is one particularly profound post from Crystal in Illinois:

" So to a certain extent, all of us on the Horizon Project 2008 are looking to change the world, even if just a bit. So I guess this blog is to acknowledge the problems of the world and things you would like to change about your surroundings/community or things that need to be changed in the world...."

She goes on to talk about what she wants to change. Other exciting posts to me are:

Jehan in New York has been appointed Assistant Project manager for a team and is "taking the bull by the horns." He says:

" As much fun as just socializing and talking about music is.
I have some work related news....According to the wiki. I am assistant project manager for the social operating systems group...Here's the link to the wiki team page in case you do not know what you are doing. Link

I'm gonna make the group for social operating systems. So SOS people should join."

We don't "officially' kick off until April, but we're finding that the students are organizing themselves if we just give them a little time. There is a lot of angst with everyone wanting to know who is on their team, and we've unveiled the teams today... perhaps a few will change but they are pretty set.

I really enjoy the insight into Easter from Jess living in Qatar and the really great responses that are emerging from the other students or Ali's discussion about hobbies and Aaron asking about when students sleep and when they do homework, Jamie T talking about the handshake period.

I am also impressed that the students have started self-organizing and creating groups and am very interested to see what is beginning to take shape in the group forums (I really like the group pictures!)

Meanwhile, we didn't get to "handshake" as much as I would like this week.. I had to finish up a module on computer hardware. When they had 10 minutes after their test Friday, my students were more excited about the fact that you can add photos in Ning comments and change the look of a Ning page with some pretty cool new templates. You can see this on my profile page.

Chris Morgan's class in Illinois is so excited about Ning, they are planning to get rid of their forum and set up a private Ning.

What is next for Horizon?
The teachers will be meeting again next week. We plan these ahead of time via wiki. We'll be working on the templates and are enjoying using the tags in wikis to help us organize what we need to proofread.

I've also had my students learning about the new features of Profiles in wikispaces. You can customize your page. Star pages that you're working on and use tags as well. Look at my wikispaces profile page (just click your wikispaces name to see yours) to see how I'm using it to manage my wiki work.

2) Computer Fundamentals (9th)
We're continuing the "handshake" period for the low-key DigiTeen project between Julie's class in Qatar, Barbara's in Austria, and mine at Westwood. We didn't publicize this just because we wanted to keep it small and manageable since we also have HORIZON!

We completed watching the PBS series "Growing Up Online" which is definitely for high school students. All of the students in digiteen are watching this and it makes for VERY interesting conversations.

My students have been finishing up their work in Excel, which has also included some work in Google Spreadsheets and will take them into ZohoSpreadsheets next week.

They continue to maintain their personal, public blogs and blog every chance they get... even when it is not an assignment. These blogs have become an extension of who they are.

3) Keyboarding (8th)
We've FINISHED UP THE KEYBOARDING! Last week our class average broke 60 words a minute and the students have done very well. They've already been taken into the private class Ning, where all of my classes communicate.

Embedding Files and Blogging
I've taught them how to embed files (which just got easier with a recent improvement to Ning) and they have been blogging as I teach them about Voice. (I have them embed videos from youtube and blog in first person as one of the people in the video.)

Introducing Video Making
I've taught them basic video capture with their logitech quickcams and how to upload video to the Ning. On Friday, we had a "Fun Friday" and I taught them how to use Animoto and embed it on their private Ning.

We talked briefly about licensing and needless to say, my students always HATE it when they learn that they cannot use the music on their ipod to make their movies. It makes them ANGRY! (But everyone else does it on youtube, is always their response. "But you're not everybody," is mine. "We do things the right way here and I hold you to a higher standard."

It is tough, but you cannot teach movie making without broaching this painful subject with kids.

What's next?
We'll begin work on efolios AND I have to delve into MLA papers and formats.

4) Senior Movie Making
We are working on Graduation and the Senior Slide Show. I have shared folders et up on the server for these students and now, they are just dragging the photographs that they bring in into our folders.

We have a definite system for working on these. (I have a "used" folder to which they drag folders after they've put a copy on their local hard drive to use to make the PhotoStory.)

I also have a student who is drawing some artwork for me to photograph for graduation. I'm excited about it because he is really good at it and it is his hidden talent! So, this class is editing movies like crazy. Creating special mixes of music in Audacity for the slide show, scanning, and filming.

It is a lot of fun to do the slideshow but it is VERY VERY hard work. I have an external hard drive of my own and secretly make backups of the photographs pretty often just in case something ever happened.

5) National Honor Society
While this isn't a class, I'm had a breakthrough there. Ihave a pretty big database that I'm about to abandon that tracks the student time. I'm about to go to a self entry system using Google Spreadsheets and a form and have them turn in the documentation. I'll just check it off instead of having to enter it. I'm not going to take hours to enter their time any more... they can do it!

6) 5th Keyboarding
I'm FINALLY done with this class -- whew! It is very difficult to teach 6 classes and have one planning period. I'm just getting caught up on Everything tech support now and am still very behind! I left the students with the knowledge of how to play typershark -- a cool game from that is wonderful (after you know the keys.)

My Week
This has been a very busy, crazy, and tough week. I won an award Friday but cannot tell you about it until next week.

I'll just say that I literally cried in front of the whole middle and high school I was in such shock. And for my students who know me... they know that I don't EVER do that.

Finally, after two years of this stuff.. the local paper HAS to include what my students and I are doing. And that in itself was enough to make me cry...

Have a great weekend.

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