Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Technology & Computer Update

Sorry for the lack of updates... life is super busy for me right now.  My family and I recently moved into our new house.  We survived without internet at home for about 10 days.  It's tough to compose blog posts without access to the web.

Here's the latest on our computer and 1:1 situation...
We received the Dell laptops a couple of weeks ago.  As the tech department started imaging them, they noticed the styluses were not working with the machines.  To make a long story a little less long, the 60 Dell computers were packaged up and sent back to the supplier.

Needless to say, my colleague and I were not excited to wait and see what solution was going to be laid before us.  It turns out our technology department was working two bids for the laptops, so they immediately called the company with the "losing" bid.  They were able to ship us their product within and week and now we have the Lenovo Yoga laptop with stylus.  After being able to compare both computers, we are happy with the way things ended up.

The laptops are here, imaged, and in our classrooms.  The tech guys installed a wireless access point right in my room and signal strength is excellent.  Today we officially rolled the computers out to the students and completed our first homework assignment with the computers.

We have one final hurdle to clear.  Our 60 licenses for Geometer's Sketchpad are needing to be re-activated by KCP because we failed to de-authorize the computers that held the licenses last year.  After that, we hopefully should be fully ready to go.  Finally.

I've got another post coming in the near future.  I plan to talk about some of the hidden benefits of team teaching.  I will also posts some pics of the students and our computers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Collaborative Learning

My team teaching partner Mr. Huntimer and I had great discussion today pertaining to collaborative learning.  We happened to be talking to one of the more experienced teachers in our department about allowing (or forcing) students to work in groups to solve problems.
Our consensus was this...
We live in a world very different than 5 years ago and very, very different than 10 years ago.  Because of changes in society and the increase in technology available to children these days, the students who walk through our classroom doors are very different than the students who walked through our doors a decade ago.
A large percentage of teenagers and young adults have spent the past three or four years being addicted to their smart phones and social media.  Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, some other sites that I have no knowledge of, and Facebook are the nicotine of the 21st Century to these students.  They're addicted and can't ever have enough.
Mr. Huntimer and I agreed to supervise lunch this year and our school has closed campus for freshmen.  Students are allowed to use their phones / devices between classes and during lunch.  It's amazing to walk through the lunchroom on a typical day.  Many times all eight students at a table are staring at their 5 inch screens with glazed eyes and blank expressions on their faces.  Sometimes students are texting the person they are sitting adjacent to!  There is minimal face-to-face interaction and even less awareness of their surroundings.

Our solution to this "lack-of-social-interaction" problem developing in our students today: FORCE them to collaborate in class.  We have students work in groups of two or three for many of our tasks.  For example, tomorrow's plan for geometry is for students to come to class with as much of the homework completed as possible.  (The homework was a typical angle relationships assignment - linear pair, vertical angles, algebra mixed in, complementary / supplementary.)  Then in class, their first task is to take 10 minutes are compare solution methods with their partners.  We expect students to have meaningful discussion if their answers don't match.  We expect them to discuss solution methods if their answers do match.  Regardless, they are expected to be interacting w/ each other for the first 10 minutes.  It should be a bit noisy, and we want that.  After all, our lunch duty is more like library duty.

I'll try to remember to post a picture of what that looks like.

Our computers have arrived!

We were delivered some exciting news today - our 60 laptop computers (w/ styluses) were delivered today.  Our tech department is in the process of imaging the machines and we should have them ready to go for next week!

In related news, our wireless network has been experiencing some serious problems these past two weeks.  Let's hope all the issues get resolved before our official roll-out.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Week 1 - with a whole lot of on-the-fly planning

Week 1 is officially in the books.  Here is a quick recap:

Tuesday was a very brief (10 min) back-to-school day for students are parents.  After telling all of the parents that Mr. Huntimer and I would each have 30 classroom laptops and we would be doing as much as possible paperlessly, we find out after school that the expected delivery date on our computers is now September 11.  Shell shocked, plan B was immediately hatched and set in motion.

We immediately went to our principal and expressed our frustration about the whole situation.  He contacted the technology director and were able to round up about 35 laptops that would be ready for our use by Thursday.  The laptops would not have a stylus for students to write with, so they aren't exactly what we need.  But they do serve as a band-aid until the shipment of our laptops arrive.

Wednesday was the first technical day of school.  We joined our classes together (Geometry Team Teaching) and used one of the mobile laptop labs to get all of the students signed into Edmodo.  The mobile lab had 25 computers that were working, so we had students partner up and share computers.  Many of our students had previous experience with Edmodo so things went very well.  We created a brief trial assignment for them to practice downloading and uploading documents for submission.  A few students had problems logging onto the network while others had problems staying connected to the wireless network.  All in all, it was an effective day.

On Thursday, our 35 band-aid laptops were ready to go and we again had the 25 laptops from the mobile lab.  Our biggest class (when combined) has 51 students, so everyone had their own laptop.  We again joined our groups together and demonstrated using the annotate feature in Edmodo so students could see the process of how we will be grading once our laptop shipment arrives.  We got all students logged into the Pearson online materials site.  We handed out textbooks and used a Google Form (linked through Edmodo) to collect book numbers.  After that, we talked about expectations, class grading policies, and other first day procedures.

Friday we decided to keep our groups separated and finally dive into some actual geometry.  As we worked through the first lesson (on points, lines, planes), we used the Pearson Interactive lesson and Virtual Nerd videos.  Our main goal was for students to see what type of resources were available to them, especially when absent.  We printed copies of the notes and homework assignment; typically we would send these through Edmodo.

Mr. Huntimer and I have decided we have no choice but to use paper for these first few weeks until our laptops with styluses arrive.  Students are missing out on Geometer's Sketchpad until then as well, even though we might supplement with Geogebra.  We anxiously await the arrival of the laptops.  Hopefully when we go 1:1 as a school next year our technology staff will order the devices well ahead of time.