Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Korea is Only a Click Away

A student of mine is in Korea right now. We are exchanging e-mails. She has gone to our classroom website, watched the screencast of today's lesson, and is downloading the freeware software application so she can work on her assignment (Pivot - the stick figure animation project) in Korea. I just marked some of her work in my secure "hand in box" at my website, and now she is checking her marks.

It boggles the mind! It is not hard at all.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kick a Ginger Day

Who thought this was a good idea?!?! Someone started a facebook group ""National Kick a Ginger Day, are you going to do it?" got about 5000 members for the purposes of coordinating attacks on red haired kids on Friday, Nov. 20th. This is based on a South Park episode. Let me just say this:

I have seen this episode. I watch South Park. I also have (had, actually) a Facebook page. So who is to blame? South Park or Facebook?

Neither. It's the kids that kicked another kid in the hall because they thought they had strength in numbers on their side.

Watching South Park doesn't make me want to kick people with red hair, any more than it makes me believe that if I can't find a pair of my boxer shorts it is because gnomes that have taken them.

Reading something on the Internet, even if its on Facebook (insert sound of sarcasm dripping from my voice) does not make me immediately believe it to be true. Or even a good idea.

It's the kids who depend on others for thinking, decision making, and moral judgments that are to blame. The kids that hurt people if they think there's a chance they can get away with it. Hold them accountable. Let them know that they are mindless sheep who hurt people for fun. Let them know that the kid they kicked will never forget that they did that. Ever. Then find a suitable consequence and levy it without second thought. Like deleting their Facebook account. Seems a bit harsh? Consider this - if I as an adult went up to another adult and kicked them, I could be arrested for assault.

Kids who are so easily swayed by things on Facebook should not have access to it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

EA - Electronic Arts and Careers for Kids

I just had the most interesting conversation with a guy who make games for a living. Computer games. He was a programmer who helped create the FIFA series of video games. He recently left EA, and I asked him why leave Electronic Arts? They are among the biggest and best in game design. They make NHL, NFL and FIFA video games just to name a few of their big titles. He replied "to start a new company."

I asked him what advice he would give to younger kids looking to get into game design. While he didn't specify any particular school subject, he said math was a strength of his, and there is lots of math in programming.

What he emphasized was that kids who want to make games should take some programming courses, and then complete a project. It doesn't have to be fancy. They have to start something and take it to completion; The ability to finish what you started.

Also he said you need to have communication skills. These games are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and the team for FIFA had about 150 people working on it. Communication skills and teamwork are key.

Finally when I asked how he felt about the future of programming and he thought it was really good. Games are semi-recession proof. They provide a lot of entertainment for only a little money, and people are always buying games.

Food for thought.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reason number Umpty-Billion to Twitter

If you haven't heard about it, Twitter is a great web application where people write very short posts for the world to see. What do people write about? Rather than tell you, I'd rather show you:

I keep in touch with other teacher twitter-ers. My twitter name is jagill. The ideas other teachers post are like springboards for my own thinking. And now very smart companies are twittering.

Lately I have been blogging and tweeting (making posts on twitter) about Jing, the screencasting software. Today, someone from Jing started following my posts. This also happened with Voicethread (the great online presentation tool). So this time I turned around and started following the person from Jing so I could send him a direct message on twitter. In only a few minutes (5 or less) I got two well worded responses that solved my problem.

Thanks TechSmith (the company that made Jing). Thanks Dave McCollom. You have made it that much easier for me to teach using tools that save me time and effort, and help me reach more students.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Librarian Takes Leap of Faith

My librarian has an exhausting job. We are the biggest middle school in the province, and Karen Ferguson has a lot of kids coming through her doors each day. Each week she is teaching entire classes new skills, such as research skills, reading skills and writing skills. She is tireless.

However this is not to say she doesn't get tired. Having to teach the same lesson over and over again has a cost. But, then I realized she could save herself time and effort by using Jing.

As I mentioned in previous posts, Jing is free software you can use to make a narrated video (if you have a microphone) showing how to do something on a computer. It records your mouse, and everything you click on and show on your screen. Karen had been teaching lessons using a computer and LCD projector. So I suggested she "Jing It".

Today she spent 30 minutes playing with Jing, getting a little frustrated, but then finding great success, and she created her first Jing video on how to use the library online catalog. As she was recording it, a teacher asked her if he could bring his class in next block. She said ok, finished her recording, put a link to it on her library website, and voila! Now she can show the video she made, and walk around monitoring kids learning while the video plays. It saves her time, and saves effort.

I applaud Karen's adventurous spirit, because she could have given up in the first few minutes, but she didn't. I hope that this small investment in time has a big payoff for her in the months and years ahead.

Creative Commons License
Librarian Takes Leap of Faith by James Gill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at gone-digital-native.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Marketing and Education

Marketing works by telling a story. I was watching Seth Godin speak to Google employees (probably their marketing team) and he said that unless you are selling them (consumers) food or shelter, what makes a person buy something is the story. Man I thought education was as important as food or shelter. And it is. But maybe my "clientele" don't think so.

So, what is the key to delivering good education? Maybe it's the story behind why kids need to learn "XYZ" (whatever you are teaching). If you can find the story, and if you can deliver the story with feeling, and if the student can see themselves in the leading role in this story, then they will commit themselves fully to learning.

Anyone who believes they are "too old to pretend" should analyze why they bought and continue to buy a favourite brand of cologne or perfume. Or jeans. Or swear by a car manufacturer. Or a brand of cat food - I mean come on, cats don't buy the food - you do! We all are buying the story.

On Wednesday, and on every day that follows I will tell a story where I get my students to picture themselves using kind of thinking and skills I am teaching. The story will have characters, a plot, themselves as the hero, and they triumph because they have learned how to ...(you fill in the blank here). And I have to deliver it all in about 2 minutes or I will lose my audience.

Maybe being a vivid storyteller able to deliver a story in a short amount of time will define what makes an impactful teacher in the future. Maybe it always has.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Jing is worth 15 minutes

Today I saved myself about 15 minutes. Rather than write out in detail a computer lesson (which may or may not be understood), switched on my microphone and did a screencast with Jing.

For those who don't know, a screencast is a recording of your screen and your mouse's movement on the screen. It also records your narration.

Wait, wait, there I go again. Click me.

There. That's one use I have for Jing. I have another... I began working with a team of teachers from another school who have formed a "Technology Learning Team". I will be the facilitator, which means I will help keep the conversation between them going and focused. I will help them set goals, and reflect on their progress. I also suggest ideas from time to time.

One of the ideas I had involved using Jing on their tablets. They use tablet computers to demonstrate math concepts. Tablets are so cool - laptops you can draw on! I thought that perhaps they could make a screencast of their lesson on their tablets, and then they could post it to their classroom website.

We can't always send textbooks home with our students in elementary school. What if they get lost? Parents often complain that they don't know how to do "new math", but with a screencast to demonstrate math techniques on the classroom website, they can support their children at home if they have trouble with homework.

Teachers are already teaching the lesson from the tablet. Jing is free to use. Let's put the two together and make "lessons to go", or save some lessons from year to year. Save time. Save money.