Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Still Doing 4 Jobs but Hoping for 1 to Rule Them All

Still trying to find the balance of the many hats I must wear as the #1 tech person in the building. I'm glad I now have a title: Tech SPOC, at least I can point to it and when asked what's your job can say, "That's me." Though truth is the true definition of the job is simple the person to contact when dealing with tech in the building and the amount of time I get to try and make that tech work for teachers and students is completely dependent and defined by the principal. Right now that means I have a schedule where I get 3 periods each week to do Tech / Coverage, (coverage meaning I cover other classes if needed which turns out to be about 50% of the time) while the the Tech part means I do SPOC related things like help with tech issues in classrooms, (yeah I fix printers jams and reset proxies, but I also get IWBs working again or up the ram in a iMac so it can use Chrome) and order NYSTL hardware and software, act as contact person for DoE network upgrades, create a staging area for tech that is being disposed, updating the computer lab / the X serve that connects to all student accounts, help with the library tech, and laptops (140 MacBooks / 51 Chromebooks), teach myself how to use new tech that we received but got no PD, and figure out how to get our Google Education domain so we can really become a Google for Education school. There's other stuff too but you get the idea. Since I get a fair amount of calls from teachers with tech issues I have a couple places where I take notes to remind myself what I need to work on, but mostly the reminder is an Excel sheet I created and/or a Google Sheets I share with all the PS11 staff. My school now has 900+ students, with each classroom having a teacher iMac and a Mac Mini connected to their Promethean or ENO IWB. 

It's getting kind of crazy trying to coordinate all this in between teaching two kindergarten classes, four 1st grade classes, four 2nd grade classes, two 3rd grade classes, five 4th grade classes, and five 5th grade classes. I wish the DoE would step-up and mandate some time for SPOCs, at least where the population and the amount of tech is large. And then there's also supporting teachers with tech beyond repair and on to tech best practices / Digital Literacy: My school has a Lit Coach and a Math Coach, I believe there should be a tech (Digital Literacy) coach too. 

Let me be clear: I LOVE being a Computer Teacher, I love being Tech Support to teachers whenever I can make the time, I Love being a Tech SPOC even if it's undefined, I'd love to be Tech Coach if the system would support (give the time to me and the teachers). In the computer lab where I teach my 20 to 25 classes a week I get to introduce students to coding with Scratch, MicroWorlds, and I enjoy exploring topics and showing students how to use Internet resources and then showing students how to show their understandings by using all types of multi-media presentation formats to publish (Kidspiration 3, Keynote, Powerpoint, HyperStudio, Scratch, MicroWorlds EX, even Kid Pix 3D). And I enjoy coordinating with teachers / students school wide to help all learners use all these amazing tech tools to bring their understanding to a place where they are loving the learning. Tech teachers, at least from what I see in K-5 environments are teachers who instruct students, coordinate the best use of school wide technology, and coach / support all the other teachers using tech throughout their school.  I'd like to see that notion of Tech Coordinator be a more balance focus of my job instead of fit in after I've taught all my classes in the computer lab, but even if I don't get one period a week I'm still going to support by offering to repair and coach whenever a teacher comes looking for help. That's why I'm an educator, to guide and support you (Student, Teacher, Admin) to a place where you can explore, discover, and empower yourself in the joyful expedition of learning.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Can't Go to PBS Digital Innovator's Conference Because NYCDoE Schools Get Out June 26th

I can't go to the PBS Digital Innovator's Event because it is scheduled durning the last days of NYCDoE's school calendar.  On Thursday I'm helping with the 5th grade "Moving On" ceremony, For the last ten years I've been making a slideshow using iMovie, (something I have integrated into my computer lab lessons) to let them know it won't just be them missing us, but us teachers / staff missing all of them as well. But I SO want to go to this conference and so many more, and the feeling I get is that the people this kind of conference is scheduled for are the admins, the private schools, the charters, the politicians, and of course the money, in PBS case the corporations that pay the bills.  Sorry, a little on the cynical side, I know there are a Lot of good folks at PBS looking to give students / teachers / schools the resources needed to succeed, but just the other day I was looking at a PBS video in school that was funded by the Koch Brothers, whose major interest is not in supporting low income students throughout the country.

And this is not the first conference that I have not been able to go to because it conflicts with the important last days of school here in NYC, example though this year ISTE is after school lets out, YEAH, the Logo Summer Institute 2014, another part of my computer lab curriculum, comes right at the end when there is no way to take days off for PD, (no worry about money controlling this choice, but running an Institute in NYC that would be SO beneficial to NYC Public School teachers and you can't find a way to hold it when we could attend?)   Just a small change in schedule, a little earlier, or later and finding a way to work with the DoE / school principals so that teachers could have this worked into their schedules and their budgets would seem so beneficial.  It would also be nice if this kind of PD, (using Coding, Digital Resources, Integration of Hard, Soft, and Cloud Based Resources) was something the DoE / school admins wove into my schedule so that I could key-turn this throughout the school.  Right now I have to squeeze in any of this on my own time / funds because there is no person at my school that has the job description of coordinating technology (My job title is Common Branch Teacher (CBT), though I have to thank the DIIT and their creation of a title for me of Tech SPOC just this year 2013, though it has not given me any time dedicated in my schedule to do all the tech coordination actives that need to be done at the school level) - teaching students, coaching teachers, supporting use of all tech resources, helping choose and organize tech resources for the whole school (Can you imagine running a business with around a thousand employees - the current population of the school students and staff - who all NEED to use technology to succeed, and you don't have a coordinator of that tech in the building.)  But deep in my heart I am an optimist, would have to be wouldn't I  to keep coming back as an educator who wants every student he encounters to have every opportunity to succeed, and as a Tech Coordinator I do imagine a day when teachers and students are the first people ones considered when scheduling a conference meant to "enhance your digital classroom."

Okay here's one of my fav cartoon's of all time that seems appropriate,
by ‘New Yorker’ cartoon editor Bob Mankoff:
In case the prints too small it says:

"No, Thursday's out. How about never - is never good for you?"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tech PD at Conference

I was at the the UFT Spring Ed Conference which I signed up for in hopes of getting some interesting Tech PD.  They had a two workshops that sounded great: Digital Tools for Instruction: Engaging All Learners (K-12) and Using Apple Technology to Transform Classroom Learning (K-12). Now before I say anything else two things: 1) I know my use of technology in an elementary school setting is FAR from perfect and criticism is easy, offering solutions HARD; 2) UFT should be applauded for putting on a this very engaging conference: I really enjoyed listening to Randi, Mike, Carmen, and even Mayor Bill talk about how this is the time to take back public education. But I have to say after the workshops my feeling is the presentation of using tech in schools is not at the level that it could / should be in order to help teachers bring their classrooms into the 21st century. Almost Three and a half decades ago Seymour Papert published MindStorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas.  The notion that technology could allow students to construct their understanding still seems too difficult for the producers of the hard, soft, and cloud based tools to find their way to. Yes I enjoyed Apple's presentation on iTunesU and course manager resources, iBooks, and iBooks Author as a tool of empowerment, but the tools being put in the hands of teachers are still more presentation based than creation based.  Okay, that's a bit overstated and Apple is absolutely more about making verses feeding and testing but as I watched my fellow educators listening I wondered how many of them would really come away from this ready to turn their use of tech on it's head and have their students using technology to construct their understanding of anything and Everything.

Only last unrelated yet somehow it comes up in my head as being very appropriate for this post, I want to go to workshops that help me take tech use in the schools to the next level.  I want to hear the presenter at my next workshop talk like Jacob Barnett.  I want them to put something in my hand that I will walk into class on the next school day and say to my students, "Here, have fun with this!"

In the 1st clip it says Top Learning Art Thinking.
Top Learning Art Thinking

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Google Just Right for Constructivist Tech Lessons

How many of you have been aware that Google has a contest every year that lets students compete to make a doodle for the Google logo?  The contest Doodle for Google always has a theme (something in relationship to helping) and is open to any student, whether home schooled, private or public.  This year Google added an educator's page, (you can find the link on the home page for Doodle for Google, and of course you can Google it) which includes videos of the Google doodle team talking about what this kind of creativity is all about, and videos of the team talking with classrooms who are making their own Google doodle, and even lesson plans for teachers to do a unit on D4G, broken down into three lessons, for four different age groups: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12.  As an elementary tech coordinator who also teacher K-5 classes in a computer lab these lessons really hit the sweet spot for me.  First I don't teach typing or skill/drill in my lab.  I know there's a place for it but with only 50 minutes a week with them, and that usually only for half the year, teaching them the joy of using tech to explore and discover, to empower their learning experience, to construct their understanding is my priority.  We hardly ever play games (even problem solving ones) in the computer lab, except when we create them ourselves using a coding program like Scratch or MicroWorlds, but I still want my students to come out of class saying, "that was fun."  And the lessons from Google really seem to be on that constructivist tract that I believe is paramount to making tech learning engaging.  I particularly liked two parts of two of the lessons, ones that I could apply to more than just the D4G unit.  The first was about getting students thinking about what inventing / creating, coming up with ideas to invent something.  What I loved about this idea was how it showed that sometimes simple ideas can be great.  Often students are dismayed when they have to complete something that seems overwhelming to them, but when I say I invented something that will make the world a better place, healing people, staying off infection, making them feel better, and then I hold up a bandaid, explaining how it was invented, I almost always see that light go on, with students creativity being unleashed.  Other part of one of the lessons I am using is about how students can help each other refine what they've created.  Using the acronym TAG, standing for Tell them something you like, Ask them something about, and Give them a suggestion, students can help each other edit their work.  Since having come across this and using it in the D4G unit, I have found most students respond really well to "TAGing" their friends for almost any work they are producing in the computer lab.  Since so much of what we do in the lab involves them being creative / constructing something, the TAG moment really helps to take their work to the next level. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Trying Again

This entry is going to start with an apology: I have not been keeping up with posting new information on this blog and that is really not right.  By creating this blog I have committed to sharing and hopefully hosting a space on the world wide web for those interested and involved in coordinating the use of technology in the elementary school environment.  Though some illness in my family has taken up a fair amount of my time I have decided posting regularly here is not a responsibility I choose to shirk.  So here is the first of what I hope will be from now on regular posts pertaining to being a tech coordinator for elementary schools.

Again: Why all schools with multiple classrooms need a tech coordinator.  How much of our life now involves tech?  As I wrote these words I thought, well almost everything, and then of course I wanted to know, "there must be someone who has done a study to show how much of our daily life, work, home, play, is influenced by tech," so I Googled it.  Didn't get the definitive answer I was looking for but I did get the statistic that 90% of American households have some sort of computer device in their house.  Ten percent of America lives without a computer?!?  Everywhere I go it's tech: Doctor's office, stores, schools, they all so rely on tech at their location and to connect to the rest of the world.  Being comfortable with tech has become a requirement of our society, especially if we wish to rise above the menial labor choice, and isn't that what as teachers we are trying to do: Give our students the opportunity to choose what they want to pursue? Teachers need the resources that allow them to integrate tech into their classrooms: Tech that works, bandwidth consistency, pd in the use of new tech, ways to weed through the plethora of choices out there and then access to the tech that will work in their schools, and someone to help coordinate all of these needs.  They need a Tech Coordinator.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Mayor of Tech Interest

Going over some old pictures I stumbled on one from an eChalk workshop where I was asked to show Bill de Blasio, the new city Public Advocate of NYC our school web site:  We had a nice conversation and unlike many politicians I have encountered he showed a genuine interest in how we were making a student and community connection by way of the pages of our school site.  Hopefully as he settles into the mayor at the center of the world he'll not forget the importance of tech in schools.  Coordinated use of technology throughout the NYC city system can't just be left to the administration in individual schools, but supported continually and consistently so that every student has an equal chance to use technology in every area of study, in every classroom environment.  Mr. Mayor we need Tech Coordinators in all our schools.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What's Old is New Again: Teaching Coding (Programming) in Elementary Schools.

As a teacher who uses Scratch and MicroWorlds software in my school on a regular basis I am always looking for programing / coding tools.  On facebook I ran into Play-i, a new company creating a robot toy to teach the very young student how to code:  Play-i "Delightful Robots for Children"  I really like this product and from what I can see it's absolutely on the right track: A) Teaching coding (when I first started teaching we called it programming -- what that means today is nicely explained in this Edutopia article 7 Apps for Teaching Children Coding Skills | Edutopia),  B) Constructivist learning (Hands on Exploring, Discovery, Empowerment), C) Problem Solving strategies that aren't bound to only one right way to do things, D) Debugging, (answers aren't a straight line, and when you're moving from point E to F, or V to W, it's there where you make the really amazing discoveries).
And they really seem to have done their homework, the two robots that they show in their video seem really on the cutting edge.  Of course this idea is not new, Seymour Papert created a robot to run his Logo programming back in 1967 (The History of Turtle Robots) and it reminds me of how I started my tech-ed career in 1983 thinking, every school in the world will be teaching programming / coding and having robots before we reach 1990.  Well that was a little optimistic but if Play-i can get us back to that original idea of Papert: Mindstorms, Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, (still a GREAT read) I want to get on that train.