Already planning

The school year isn’t even over yet and I’ve already been planning for next year. I do this every year; I try out new stuff at the end of the year that I want to implement fully the next year. The IT department has been after me for a couple of years to do away with the Mavis Beacon typing program that I use and to find one that is web-based. I have half-heartedly looked, but this year I found one that I hope will fill my needs – Custom Typing.  The 30 day – trial allows for 30 students so I set it up for my 8th grade computer class only. They liked the change from Mavis Beacon, and I think it has enough flexibility to meet the diverse needs of 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

For the past few years, I have drifted away from teaching my students the fine details of using Word and Excel to doing more projects that integrate those programs and doing more ‘fun’ stuff, like digital stories with PhotoStory and Movie Maker. I don’t want to abandon the ‘fun’ stuff, but as I was working with my Reading kids on typing and printing a book report, I realized that they do not know the basics of setting up a document. I told them what margins and line spacing they needed to have and most of them had no idea how to change those settings. I think that next year I’m going to have to go back to teaching the basics and maybe even testing those skills. I do only see about half of the 6th and 7th graders each year (one class of 20 – 25 students in each grade four times a year – and probably 50% – 75% of the 7th graders had my class in 6th grade) and then I only have one class each year of 8th graders (about 25 kids). It is entirely possible that I could have kids in my reading class that have never had one of my computer classes. But it still made me think about what I was teaching in my computer classes. I have to admit, too, that I have become lazy in those classes; pretty much everyone gets an A. But that makes me think that I’m not challenging the kids enough. I AM exposing them to new technologies, which I intend to keep doing, but somehow I need to work the basics back in. In a 9-week class thats tough, though. I added an Online Safety component a few years ago too and that takes a couple of weeks. I usually end that unit with a digital story of some sort. After we’ve done all that ‘fun’ stuff, the kids don’t want to sit still for boring Microsoft Word parts of the screen and how to set margins and line spacing. If anyone has any ‘fun’ ways to teach that, I’d love to hear ideas!

Way Too Long

Wow – I knew I hadn’t posted in a long time, but I didn’t realize it’s been 3 months!

I decided to finally look closely at Open Office today for the first time. I have recommended it and I knew it was great, but for some reason I had never downloaded it.   I also found out that there is now an online version – check out Ulteo.

Anyway – I took a Power Point that I created as a pre-reading activity for a novel we’re abotu to start – The Maze by Will Hobbs. It takes place in Utah and since we live in Florida, I figured my students needed a lot of background info. Below is the Power point saved as flash using Open Office Impress.


Looking Ahead

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted. I’ve been meaning to, but I guess life got in the way.

On Wednesday, I’m heading to FETC. I have been to FETC 4 of 5 times in the past 7 or 8 years. I love this conference; every year I find something new to use in my classroom. Sometimes it’s just a great idea and sometimes it’s something that costs money. I’m lucky that I have an administration who believes in technology and usually these things I find are purchased for me. In the past few years I have received a Mimio for my whiteboard and software to monitor all the computers in my classroom.

For the past few years I have toyed with the idea of being a presenter at FETC, but I never know what to present. It seems that the things that I know how to do are ‘old news’ by the next year. However, looking at this year’s offerings, maybe not. They may be old news to me, but there are so many teachers out there who are just learning about some of things that I have been doing in my classroom for years. One of the things that I like best about FETC is hearing how other teachers use technology, and one of the things that I like about teaching is hearing how other teachers teach the same skills and concepts that I teach. Hearing a new perspective is refreshing and makes my job more interesting.

While in the shower (don’t all great ideas come to us in the shower? 🙂 ) I thought of a way to combine both of those collaborative ideas. At my school we have bi-weekly in house training sessions with the curriculum specialist. We have tried to make these trainings into a best practices sharing activity, with the principal’s blessing, but they are still more teaching than sharing. What I would like to do is to set up a wiki or blog page for teachers to share best practices and possibly infuse some training into the process.

If it was a blog, teachers could post what they did, or are planning to do, in their classroom, and other teachers could post comments on ways they have done that same thing, or give advice on how to improve on the lesson. If someone did a lesson that went really well, they could post that so that other teachers could try it too. I’d also love to see teachers giving advice on how to adapt lessons for other subject areas. Just this weekend I was talking to a math teacher who was saying that the short, full staff training we had last week that used a reading passage wasn’t helpful to her. I pointed out that the training wasn’t about the reading passage, but about the process and then proceeded to tell her that it was a process she used when teaching math (Modeled instruction, guided instruction and independent practice). She totally did not see that until I pointed it out!

If it was a wiki, then teachers could add to the posted lessons, but I’m almost afraid they would change someone’s lesson too much, and we’d lose the process of helping someone, or sharing best practices. If one person liked the original lesson, but then someone else changed it, the original lesson would not be there any more.

I would then like to present the process and outcomes at FETC 2009. I would get teacher responses to the process, either on video, in the form of quotes or even as a panel to present with me.

This is obviously in the very early stages of planning and I have a lot of thinking to do, but I’m kind of excited about it already. I need to think it out more (though posting here helps me do that – and already has [blog vs. wiki]) and present it to my principal. I could pilot it at the end of this year (after state testing) and then continue it at the beginning of next year. Piloting it this year would let me know if it would work and give me data and samples for the FETC proposal which is usually due sometime in July.

If there is anyone out there still reading this blog, I would LOVE to hear ideas and input.



Yikes! I just looked at the school calendar and realized that Interims for 2nd quarter go home a week from tomorrow. That means that I will have to have the grades entered into the computer program by Thursday afternoon. I am so far behind on grading (my biggest weakness as a teacher). I have brought a bag of work home each weekend for at least the last three weekends and not touched it! I do get some grading done at school; sometimes during class while the kids are working independently (computer classes mostly) and I will stay after school to get stuff done. I do tend to work better under pressure, so this week will be a pressure-filled rush to get everything graded 🙂