Monday, September 1, 2008

Goals met (at least partially) and Smart Board reflections

Got up early this morning and really wanted to go on a bike ride, so I pumped up the Cannondale, got in the saddle and off I went. It was an absolutely perfect morning for a bike ride. I headed north and found myself on highway 7 before long, then I headed west. Next thing I knew, I saw a sign that said "Lafayette 6; Boulder 17." I smiled and decided to make the trip to Lafayette. It didn't take me anywhere near as long as I thought it might; an hour or so after I left my house, and I was in Old Town Lafayette. I hung out for a while, then made the trip back for a total of 28 miles in roughly two hours. I was pretty psyched, and it's most of the way towards my goal of riding my bike to Boulder. Since I was roughly 10 miles from Boulder, I definitely know that it's within my reach to finish it out to Boulder. I have to admit that I was glad I turned myself around, even though I was tempted to finish it out to Boulder. I like to finish out the last half-mile or so to my house on a dead sprint, but that just wasn't going to happen today. About five seconds into the sprint, my legs gave me a very firm "Nope, not gonna happen, buddy" response, and I decided instead to do a nice, easy warm down ride instead. Heh.

I've been using the Smart Board quite a lot now, and it's been working out fantastically. We were working on the 11-sentence paragraph in class last week, and what could have been dry and boring ended up being a lot of fun. We spent some time filling out the graphic organizer together on the Smart Board, and I had 100% engagement for 100% of the time in all of my classes; not bad for a Friday afternoon before a long weekend.

I think I've actually perfected the podcasting, too. I recorded each of my classes on Friday, and I'll be uploading and linking them on my class website later on today. (I also plan to upload and link the Power Point presentations I used, though I will likely upload them as .pdf files since not everyone may have Power Point or even Microsoft Word, but Adobe Acrobat Reader is free.) Initially I was going to do all sorts of editing of the podcasts and only upload the "best," but the principal encouraged me to just upload them as they are and let the students fast forward through them as they need to.

Of course, there are some definite implications around doing that, not the least of which is that my classroom walls are definitely going to disappear and there will be full transparency, particularly since not only my students can listen to the podcasts, but their parents can as well. I told my students not to worry... I know how brilliant they are, and now their parents can hear it as well. :-) I do plan on emailing the link to as many parents as I have email addresses for, and while it seems a little scary to open myself up like this, I don't see it as a bad thing at all. I'm really excited about it.

I've gotten most of the students logged on and blogging already, and that has been a fantastic experience so far. The students have the option of blogging or reading during independent reading time, and it's not unusual to have a line of students four to six deep waiting to blog. So far I only have two desktops in my room, though I'm trying to get more put in. If you go to the class website, I've linked to the students' blogs there, so anyone interested can read and comment on their blogs. There is still some tweaking to do around the blogs, but they've gotten started, so the biggest part is done. I'm planning on working with my reluctant colleague after professional development this week and want to have her up and blogging as well.

I hit upon a bit of a flash as well around sub plans. What I hope to do on days when I know I'm going to be out is to upload my lessons as Power Points and record what I want to say in advance, along with a notesheet for my students to fill out and email back to me, then email links to the Power Point and podcast to my students, along with the notesheet to fill out. Then, on the day(s) when I know I'm going to be out, I simply reserve the computer lab for my students, the sub takes them down there, where they then log in, and can watch the presentation, listen to the podcast, and do the work there. Chances are I'll let them work collaboratively, but certainly any student that wants to work alone could... I guess it will depend on the nature of the assignment. I can even check in on them while I'm wherever I am and address issues/questions as needed. They really CAN have class 24/7! Of course, making sure I have access will be an issue, but I think it's one I can resolve (I hope).

The implications for all of this on my teaching is mind boggling. How on earth did I get anything done in the classroom before?? ;-)


  1. Todd,

    First, congrats on your bike ride. Be there in no time.

    Second, super impressed with what you are doing with your students. It must be at least a touch daunting to open the classroom up so fast. It is really cool that you are doing this podcasting and you are going to invite parents to the party.

    Third, the sub plans! It will be a model for the future.

    You should cross-post this entry over at the GL blog. I think some of your colleagues are only going there right now and they should really see what you are up.

    Thanks, Joe

  2. Thanks, Joe. :)

    Just cross-posted it at your suggestion... happy to oblige and share with my colleagues!