Laptop Program Info for 2012-2013 05/17/2012
As many of you know, Stevenson’s laptop program begins in Sixth Grade, and your student is required to have and use a laptop in the classroom from grades 6-12. Our technology team has managed it for well over a decade, working closely with teachers as they offer increasingly technology-rich lessons in the middle grade classrooms.
When you complete a post-enrollment survey this Summer, you are provided the option to purchase a Dell laptop that is available for purchase through the school. This laptop model has been carefully selected by our technology team, and include a 3-year warranty to quickly cover parts and labor. If your purchase through this program, the laptop would be available to you in late August before school begins, pre-configured with the necessary school software.
You are also given the option to purchase a laptop outside of the school program. Should you do so, here is a list of the required specifications to help guide your purchase:
Software is provided by the school, as part of a $100 software licensing fee included in tuition. We will install a suite of programs used at the school, including Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Adobe CS5 Design Premium Suite, Antivirus, and FirstClass email. While other programs are available through the school - please consider contacting me before purchasing any software in case we already have it available.
I will be configuring laptops throughout the Summer. If you purchase a laptop outside of the school program, please contact me so we can arrange a day and time for you to drop it off. I will need one working day (less in most cases) to install all software and configure the laptop to work as well as possible with the school network.
Regardless of how you purchase the laptop or what type your student chooses, please feel free to schedule time with me this Summer to talk about laptop use here at Stevenson, and even best practices for use at home. Part of my role at Stevenson is to ensure students learn how to use this resource in a responsible and productive manner. I'm happy to help with any of your questions and concerns.
Topher Mueller, Coordinator of Technology
831-626-5214 / firstname.lastname@example.org
This site is moving in June 2012 05/17/2012
In an effort to motivate myself to write more (and to help coordinate Science Camp and host more information than weebly can handle) - I'll be moving this site over the Summer.
So, more to come...
"Not many parents have written apps!" 11/08/2011
It's been a challenging - though satisfying - week, with open house and, tomorrow, our State of the School address to the Carmel Campus community. We'll cover our learning methods & teaching strategies, the toolbox training that we're implementing campus-wide, professional development for parents and teachers alike, and of course - technology updates.
Tonight, while browsing my favorite ed tech and social media sites (edutopia, readwriteweb, and gigaom to name a few), I ran across this presentation from a 12-year old at Manhattan Beach. It's a must-see. Granted, he's using self-taught skills to create apps for his age range and fun interests... think of the new levels he can take those skills if motivated by the right teachers, and how he can apply them later in life....
CUE Conference Reflections (www.cue.org) 10/28/2011
I arrived in Napa Co. last night at about 11pm - so that I could attend the Fall Conference for Computer Using Educators (http://www.cue.org) today and tomorrow.
I started out with a paid workshop for Google Apps Edu - sort of a preparation for future certification. We're already phasing in Google Apps at the campus, so it was a no-brainer to go for a full day workshop. It's been so worthwhile, especially learning more about administering the school accounts, but probably moreso creating and managing sites.
Currently we use www.weebly.com (the same site used to create this site and blog) for student portfolio and faculty sites. It's great, and so easy (in fact, if you need a personal, hobby or business site - Weebly is a terrific and free option). But given our transition to Google Apps, using Google Sites is, as they say, a "gimme".
What's been really fun: The 6th Grade class (that I would otherwise been teaching this morning) have been submitting their Google Doc assignments, and emailing me for help, during the workshop... much to the shagrin of the presenters I'm sure, but all of use (myself & the students) were all getting a kick out of my moderating the class from afar.
Also enlightening: The use of Google Apps Edu gives us access to a plethora of Marketplace items. This means that many 3rd party programs can be installed as part of our school-wide Google account - programs that we would otherwise pay for. Quality programs too... for free.
Part of the presentation today included information on obtaining certification. It's disappointing how inaccessible Google (and Apple, as part of applying as a Apple Distinguished Educator) certifications are. The application process is both complicated and creative - that's good. But, it's quite limited and therefore - kind of like tenting in front of a store so you can be among the few to score tickets for that next huge concert. Worthwhile? Maybe if I want a paper for my wall or graphic for my site. I won't need certification to train fellow faculty at Stevenson, and there are more innovative things to present about at future conferences.
Stepping off my soapbox - the day is done, so it's time to network for a bit and find dinner. I'm hoping to reflect on the smaller sessions tomorrow.
It's been a busy second month in Carmel - this tech coordinator is thankful that all the laptops, printers and other sundry gadgets are now playing well with the network and both students and faculty are self-sufficient at this point. We're off and running from the 'logistical stuff' to getting pretty creative:
Thus far, Stevenson has been very attached to Microsoft Office products (who hasn't). That's fine - the combination of it and First Class has been pretty seamless. But one can't ignore the buzz about Google Apps in organizations. A few of us got our feet wet for certain projects, and students basked in the glory of synchronous document editing for a little while. We've gone whole-hog now; the entire school has a Google Apps account. Most don't know it yet, as we slowly introduce it to certain user groups. For example, the 6th Grade class is dabbling with Docs and Presentations from Google for their current Tech and English projects (in Tech, they're writing and presenting, collaboratively, about the life of Steve Jobs). The fact that we have Google Apps available to us anytime for beginning use has been priceless - the idea of bringing an entire school in at once would be much... harder.
We're bringing another tool to the campus - iLearn - which is hosted at CSUMB and built on the open-source, popular learning management system (LMS) called Moodle. The Pebble Beach campus has been using the tool for a year while we've focused on our new Atlas curricula mapping endeavors. We'll use iLearn to promote faculty communication and reflection for professional development. It's also a great platform for building online courses for Middle Grades. The students will benefit from the experience of blended learning, while it's becoming more and more prevalent in high school and college. To be clear - the focus here is on the word blended: our intention is only to give the students the familiarity and skills needed to operate in an online course. NOT to replace any courses as online learning. Two of our Carmel faculty are already using iLearn in their classes.
Tech Tinkering (7/8 elective) is LOVING Microsoft Lab's Kodu program. And what kid wouldn't love making video games in school? We're learning logic statements tied to the characters in the game - it's a great introduction to programming. We're hoping to extend this program to more ages next year, as an after-school program.
An aside: A favorite presenter and author, Marc Prensky, writes in his book Don't Bother Me Mom, I'm Learning - about the coexistence of gaming and learning. My intention is that the students in Tech Tinkering have a chance to take what they know about video games and apply them to contextual object programming. In other words... programming the characters and objects in their own video game environment. It's very cool to watch in action.
Next we'll explore the world of Near Field Communication (NFC), which should dominate the mobile market in a few years - with a chance to program and scan our own labels and stickers around campus. We'll compare them against Quick Response (QR) codes so we can argue the pros and cons for each. Following that, I'm hoping to have the kids play with Arduino microcontrollers. I owe Pirate Parent Dr. John McEachen for the inspiration to look into Arduino. Word for word, from www.arduino.cc:
Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. The microcontroller on the board is programmed using the Arduino programming language (based on Wiring) and the Arduino development environment (based on Processing).
Last and certainly not least, TEDxYouth is coming to Monterey County in November. While there was little time this year to prepare - and, despite the limitations of the event really being geared to high school kids, we'll have a solid presence there, with three student ambassadors. Through student-led presentations and their own authored multimedia, we'll be practicing throughout the year to make an even stronger showing come 2012. Watch for more, as the Campus has already felt the energy around this event.
That's just a touch of the updates this month. I'm looking forward personally to a full-day course in iPad administration and learning at Apple next week, and a conference with CUE (Computer Using Educators) in American Canyon at the end of the month. Thanks for giving this a read, and hug your Pirate today!
iPad2 Coming to Grades 1 & 2 10/03/2011
After some delay in shipping - we're about to reveal the classroom iPad2 tablets to the 1st Grade and Kindergarten. Right now... it's a headache of logistics. Choosing the right software on a budget for example - and, keeping them secure in the classroom. The latter was accomplished by buying Big Grips (www.biggrips.com - GREAT educational discount!) and a laptop locker for each classroom that should allow for safe storage and charging.
As for the apps to install: It's not easy to vet hundreds of so-called educational apps. And, there aren't many schools successfully using iPads in the early grades. We know that we've knocked it out of the park with the apps we've chosen - from Math, Science and Grammar/Reading practice, to Spanish and Art apps to include drawing, photography, even instruments.
This begs for a separate page, or at least a post, to review the many apps that we're using. I'll follow up soon with that list. And - as I've added some SEO to this site, so that it appears on search engine results - hopefully I'll have some feedback. I can hope.
Last week we started our "Technology Tinkering" elective. The overall goal of the class is to introduce students to fun, innovative technology tools that they aren't exposed to on a typical day. Originally I hoped to cover a specific area - maybe alternative energy, programming, robotics, even gaming. Instead - I decided the class should be guided by the students' interests.
And what did we choose? Why, of course - from this menu of exciting tools... we chose dessert! We'll get to programming and solar power and robotics later. For now, we'll make our own video games, thank you very much.
Naturally, the students are avid "gamers" at home. We first talked a little about types of games... puzzles, mazes, obstacles, racing, role-playing, simulation, and more. Then - about the important criteria of a game. What are the ingredients? Characters... a goal... a challenge... "bosses"...
Microsoft Research introduced a service called "Kodu" a few years ago. The engine allows for students to take from a series of characters and build a world around them to interact with. Students have to program these interactions by creating a series of "WHEN" and "DO" statements. It's not only a great introduction to the logic behind programming - but it's something all the kids can relate to. There's also the benefit of shifting an avid gamer to a game creator!
The video below gives a good overview of Kodu and how it is used in educational settings. My hope is to transfer what we learn from Kodu to other programming and robotics. In the meantime, we'll publish our games and try all of them out. Nothing like a little healthy competition in the classroom!
Full-speed-ahead's the phrase, as we plow through the busiest Summer yet. The updates are countless: A full makeover for our "North wing" (Music, Art, Spanish and the addition of 5th Grade), including an overhaul of my office. With a little feng shui and creative shuffling, I should be able to store all things tech and more in this room. Including all my books.
Speaking of books, I've been tackling many over the summer - The Social Animal by David Brooks, The Man Who Lied to his Laptop by Clifford Nass, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins, Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon, et cetera.
But I digress - other updates include the awesome addition of pre-Kindergarten, a Learning Resource Center to store all sorts o' knowledge, artificial grass for the playing field... you get the idea. We went for the gusto. We've about equaled those changes in technology. More Macbooks come into play, so we now have one Macbook for every child in Grades 4-5, while Grades 2-3 still share their laptops. A big change comes to Grades K and 1 - iPads! With a plethora of age-appropriate activities and the intuitive touch-screen, we expect the kids will take to it right away. They can watch sight-words light up while a story is read to them, trace letters, explore with virtual manipulatives... we'll have a handful in each room, ready for centers.
Of course this equates to hours upon hours of preparation. Imaging Macbooks is really a piece o' cake (imaging is like copying one computer and pasting it to other computers). It's really just patience and lots of space. And coffee.
So while the assembly line hums away, I've also been planning out some curricula. Because, of course, there are new classes to tend to as well, and some exciting additions:
Robotics has long been a part of our after-school programs, thanks to some generous parents. The "First Lego League" allows students to learn the basics of robotics and even compete regionally (and our school's done very well, I must say). I'm working to enhance that program with a "Technology Tinkering" elective, where we explore many technologies out there - from programming, to robotics, to the ins-&-outs of computer hardware. We might even 'tinker' with solar power. Hopefully the class will work as a student-run elective, where they choose the topics and we simply get to work.
7th and 8th Grade also get a Multimedia elective, to include everything from moviemaking to podcasts and more. Hopefully these students will be the ones filming and editing the school plays this year.
Last but certainly not least - yearbook is "growing up" this year. We're going full-color! Plus, with yearbook as an elective - students will learn more about journalism and publishing, and we may even surprise the school with a digital accompaniment to the book. Stay tuned!
For now... it's back to the assembly line and the Mr. Coffee. See everyone soon!
Presenting in Forum @ CSUMB 03/07/2011
I had the pleasure of presenting at CSUMB this past Saturday in a "Careers in Technology" forum, alongside a network engineer for the County of Monterey (Rich). In the hour-and-half session we answered questions ranging from career paths to "what are employers looking for today". It was actually quite fun - if not difficult sometimes to think back on the varied careers I've had... from programmer, to schoolteacher, to ed tech consultant, to instructional support at a university, to instructional designer, web developer, and technology coordinator and teacher.
Of the most important questions: "What would be the most important quality for a new employee?" - Rich and I agreed that flexibility is key (for me, second to communication skills). I shared that no matter my position, for every employer, one of the key advantages has always been a willingness to take on roles that are outside of my job description or abilities. That includes professional development, training colleagues, or simply doing the unexpected. I'd think this is especially true in a market where employers truly need to stretch their resources. Specialty skills still have their place, especially to get "in the door", but I don't think we can rely on that anymore - and if we do, we limit both ourselves and our organization.
The best question though: Do you love your job? My reply - I've never loved one more!
Blurbs from the Digital Citizen Project 02/28/2011
As part of the project, I asked the 7th Graders to write a one-page essay in Word to explain what they learned. I was expecting hopefully some good tidbits to pull out to show their comprehension of the project, but I was surprised to see some really, really good replies: (note - I've highlighted some text in bold for when the students read this entry)
Something that goes on a lot when you text or on Facebook is joking. There is a major reason why this is not okay. For example, if you call a friend stupid while texting, they don’t know if your joking, being sarcastic, or you really are serious. You can’t hear the way they are saying it. ~ Anthony
People should also be good citizens because it is a responsibility for freedom. Citizens should be responsible for what they have put or downloaded because that is how we show that we are good enough to have freedom in the internet. Being a good citizen proves that we can have our freedom as long as we keep the rules straight. Internet is a cycle. If you paste good comments, good comments would come to you. But in opposite, if you paste bad comments, bad comments would come to you. ~ Junie