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Monday, February 08, 2010

A Peek into Cool Cat Teacher's Classroom Right Now



Some really exciting things happened this past week. Just thought I'd share with you today about some of the things happening in my classroom in the hopes that there may be something to ponder here for you.  It is every day to me, so really, none of it seems particularly revolutionary... that is unless I compare it to what my room looked like about four years a go before my teaching model and tools transformed.

8th Grade Keyboarding
I still use the Old textbook my Mom used. (She founded this computer lab!) We don't use any video game or tools until the entire keyboard is learned. Here, five weeks into the semester they are about to have learned all of the keys.  They had their first timed writings last week and have already hit 49 words per minute as their average. This is largely because we teach in fifth grade (pre-puberty) although then, they average around 27 words per minute.

We do team goals and I have an excel spreadsheet to total everything. I reward the students when the class hits a 10 point mark (i.e. when they hit 50 words per minute, the class receives a reward.)  I find that this motivates everyone and helps those who may be slower see their value and stay motivated while those who are faster are also pushed to do more as well.

We will start playing Typershark this week and also have the typershark Olympics. (Where I split them into even teams and they compete to see which team can get the most total points in a class period.)  Typershark helps with accuracy.  (See: Keyboarding: The Hidden Giant of Web 2.0)

Keyboarding isn't "sexy" but when my students average 70 words per minute with the slowest around 40 words per minute - there is a huge difference in what we can accomplish.  After trying everything, the old fashioned book method is by far the best method for teaching typing.  They cannot look at their hands and I think that the software encourages this when used too soon.

9th Grade Computer Fundamentals
Students have been finishing up their Time Magazine cross-curricular project with the composition teacher and I'm preparing to take them into ClickSmarttm (my intuitive method for learning software that basically gives a method for learning ANY new software - hope to have a book deal signed on this method this week.) They are finishing up their online portfolios in Weebly and then we're getting ready to move to our private island on ReactionGrid.

I think I'm most excited about the new formatting of OpenSim private islands and had an amazing tutorial session this week with Robin Gomboy, co founder of ReactionGrid. The students in tenth grade have packed up their inventory for moving to the private grid. (Don't worry, we're still leaving Digiteen Island and other grids on the public grid on ReactionGrid for you to tour.) (See: A Tour of Digiteen Island)

But, here is the most amazing thing -- there are these things called Oar Files (Open Sim Archive) which basically pack up everything on a grid so that it can be transported. I shared some links last week to places where these files can be found. But this is what it means:  we can work on Digiteen Island one week, then I can take it and pack it up and save it on my virtual server (which I log into with Microsoft RemoteConsole) - then, I just unpack the next region for use the next day! 

So, what does this mean in layman's terms? OK, so you could build A Tale of Two Cities complete with avatars and actions (which could be packaged in boxes) and buildings - everything.  After you are done, you take it and package it up into a file (the Oar file) and then you save it somewhere or post it where I can download it.  I download it onto my server and then take a blank region on my grid and unpack it - -I now can take my students into a fully functional Paris and can assign avatars (they just put on the clothing and dress) and "bang" there we go.  I can share with you also!

Furthermore, if Oar files aren't enough - with hypergridding, there is a way to make these virtual spaces go public and linked to other worlds and then take it back offline again. I don't understand how hypergridding works but only what it does.  The beautiful thing is that with the prices and also with development of tools like Sloodle (Simulation Linked Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) - Oar Files, OpenSim, Sloodle and then companies like ReactionGrid making Opensim available with virtual server accesss - suddenly this all becomes very affordable and doable. When normal average educators (like me - I'd put myself in that category) realize how we can use this and what it can do I think there will be explosive growth!

Then, in the midst of this we will do some SAT prep (yes, in 9th grade learning to take "that test" is important.

10th Computer Science
We're working and planning the India Immersion project.This has taken an overwhelming amount of time, but the students are serving as support for our teachers in grades 2-8.  As Mrs.Betty (my curriculum director) and I take seven students to Mumbai for ASB Unplugged, each of us has an assigned classroom to email, voicethread, blog, and Skype with as we travel.

The students are going to immerse in everything India, from calculating exchange rates to mapping skills to science and history of the area.  We have guest speakers from India coming in to classrooms and these students are planning the technology support piece of this massive undertaking.The teachers are planning this and the students are supporting as the teachers need and request. This is in support of vicarious learning - or learning by watching others do things. This is powerful learning as discussed in Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.

One class is working on Skype - the other on Voicethread (for grades 2-5) and Classblogmeister (for grades 6-8.) Students have just completed their personal efolios on Weebly and when I return we will do some SAT prep as well. Our student project manager (PM) for this is also going to be doing some presenting as well. 

Also, one of my expert OpenSim students is helping me set up the new users for the new virtual private grid on ReactionGrid.  Talk about great experience!

This is an outstanding class that will be participating in NetGenEd project soon.

I have another class to share but right now, I've got to run.  Hope that the insight into what is happening.  All of these projects include deep learning experiences which not only include technology but leadership, organization, management, psychology, and some heavy problem solving.  The rubrics often have to be general in that each student may have a completely different task. I often feel like I'm back in the businessworld with many projects and tasks whirling around my desk -- meetings with student groups -- sometimes we are using my Ipevo skype phone to have "conference calls" with experts from around the world who are helping them with something. 

They know they are good and they are equipped to meet any technological challenge, however, it is so much more than about the technology but about the multitasking management mentality that will take them ahead in this complex world.



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