Upcoming Activities

April 23-24: 5th Grade NeSA Math and Science

April 24: Golf @ Sandhills/Thedford

April 24: DARE Graduation 2:00

April 25: Community Clean-Up 5-12 Students w/ Chamber of Commerce (All Day)

April 25: LVC Music @ Broken Bow

April 26: HS Track @ Hershey

April 28-29: 4th Grade Trip to Halsey

April 28: NHS/NJHS Induction Ceremony

April 28/30: 8th and 11th NeSA Science

April 29: JH Track South Loup Invite; Arnold

April 29-30: 5th Grade NeSA Reading

April 30-May 1: 4th NeSA Math

Frequently Asked Questions

As I receive questions, via email, or face to face, I try to save those questions and their answers to share with everyone.  So here are most of them.

Imaging Wirelessly

What are you doing to replace the white macbooks?  Discontinuing them really makes it hard for us on our mobile labs so I can only imagine what that does for the 1 to 1 schools.

 We must have gotten in on the last round of MacBooks.  We purchased last spring for our 3 year rotation and got the white MacBooks.  When we needed 7 more in the fall we were only left with the option of macbook airs.  They were a pain to get done because of imaging issues.  They don’t have an ethernet port.  You can image through the air, but with regular network traffic during the day we had trouble.  I ended up setting up the airs each individually – it was  a pain.  Since then, I have learned about purchasing converters for ethernet capabilities, I have learned how to turn on the air capability for imaging (even though it makes me nervous for students to hold a button and get into this), and using remote desktop to push out directions for software updates all at once.

Evidently I did it the hard way, but we had to get done.

 

Standardized Testing

I think if you have the laptops you should find a way to use them for testing. Most of them have the lockout browser feature, so there isn’t much to worry about when it comes to cheating.

It might be easier to set up a separate account on the laptops (as part of your image) and then when they go to take the test with the person who knows the login and the password, that person can log them in and then watch as the students log out.  This separate account could connect to the server the same what that the lab computers do.  We use the separate account for testing with a lot of confidence.

We have not had any trouble with the NeSA tsting online, nor have we had trouble with the Terra Nova testing.  They both went fine over the wireless and had no glitches.  HOwever, we have had trouble with some online textbooks timing out and never getting to a place where they worked efficiently  Of course the textbook company said it was our problem, but they couldn’t get it to work either…

 

How Do You Train New Teachers

Because we have been in a laptop initiative since March 2006, we have different training issues than some schools.  I was recently asked how do we get our new teachers up to speed with technology?

Let’s start with a confession… we haven’t had much for turn over in our district for the past few years (since fall of 2006) so we did not have to deal with the technology training issues until fall of 2008 when a new kindergarten teacher started.  In her case, technology was not a major training issue for her because she was fairly tech saavy anyway, and kindergarteners didn’t use computers as much.  (That has since changed.)

This year, however, we got two new teachers in a staff of 18.  If this were a percentage of turnover, that would mean 11% of our staff is new.  One of the teachers is a first year teacher and one is a veteran teacher who is new to technology use in the classroom.  Let’s talk about them separately.

For first time teachers, they are more concerned about getting a classroom set up, decorated, getting familiar with their new textbooks and curriculum, learning new names, getting to know the rest of the staff, and basic survival for the first semester.  With this in mind, they attend teacher inservice days at the beginning of the year, and get overwhelmed with school rules, policies, regulations and other information from administration as well as any coaching responsibilities they may be handling as well.  This is not the time to “drop the bomb” on them and expect technology integration into daily lessons.  They need to come to the technology when they are ready.  They have to focus on how to keep up with grading and posting grades online before they can worry about designing a technology infused lesson that might last a couple of weeks.

Most professional development for first time teachers in “just in time” training throughout the fall.  We work with them on mission critical items like how to do online grades, accelerated reader, teacher web pages, posting lesson plans, etc.

Therefore, we postpone the in-depth technology training to January of their first year.  I try to take those new teachers aside and show them some project possibilities, go through their software installed on their laptops, and show them places to view video tutorials for the software that might be most usable in their subject and comfort areas.

For veteran teachers in a new school district, the trainings are a bit different.  We still do the “just in time” training throughout the fall as well, but we can schedule a once a week or once very two weeks sessions to get them up to speed faster.  Often it does not take long for the veteran teacher to feel comfortable and to find another teacher to mentor them with technology when they are ready to start integrating.  Then they can come to the January session also.

 

Handling Music Issues

How Do You Handle Music On A Kids Computer? Do You Do Random Checks? Do You Not Even Bother Checking? How is Discipline Handled?

We warn students about the lyrics in music.  We tell them explicit lyrics are not allowed.  If they are caught with explicit lyrics I delete their entire iTunes library (whether they have paid for it or not) and take away their iTunes privileges for 2 weeks.  The next time the punishment is longer.

Things to keep in mind when you are deleting their iTunes library, you might also be deleting their  movies, podcasts, recordings, apps for iPod Touch and iPads.

You can set the iTunes preferences to not allow explicit… but sometimes that is like the filter, it filters the wrong stuff and then you can’t use iTunes podcasts or iTunesU properly either.

Admin Rights To Laptops

I’m about to enter some… interesting… discussions with our district tech folks about computer admin rights for teachers and administrators. In a nutshell, the district argument is rights should be limited/non-existent and my argument is that educators need access to their computers to install updates and tools as needed. I know there are horror stories of educators installing malware (or something as simple as a Zynga toolbar into their browsers), but I hope there are more success stories that I can counter with.

Do you awesome peeps have any to share with me? Or any data?

Just as a random brainstorm, has anyone developed a “tech competency” rubric or test that someone could take and earn these rights? (longshot, I know).

Thanks (as always) in advance!

Best,

-Les Simpson

 

I give our teachers and administrators the admin rights to the computer for installation.  This is for several reasons:

1.  When they are off at a training and they need to install new software, updates, etc. they have to be able to do that while they are there to participate in the training.  Calling back to the tech coordinator to get the admin login and password is not the most efficient use of training time.

2.  They sign an agreement when they check out the laptop that if the tech department has to do something to fix their laptop because of a mistaken download/virus … it might mean imaging their machine to do a quick and fast repair.  This gets the laptop back in their hands quickly and they can synch to the server to get their documents back.  However, they might lose all of their music, movies, apps, etc.

3.  If you want your staff, teachers and admin feel like the machine is their own to experiment with, learn with, etc. they need the rights to use it to its full capacity. A lot of teachers use their own equipment from home (cameras, flips, etc.) and that saves the school a lot of money or the teachers spend their own money because the school cannot afford to buy it for them.  When they are using their own equipment they might be required to install special software or plugins to make them work.  If they don’t have the permissions to install this, then they can’t use their own equipment.   (With students this is a different argument, however I do give them just as many rights as I can possibly allow while protecting from hackers, etc.)

4.  Teachers are trained to use the security setting to put their laptops to sleep when they walk away from them (or it happens with a bit of time) to protect from students getting on and using their laptops.

Though this is not all of the arguments I have, one simple statement can be said that should mean a lot.  ”If you trust these people to educate the future of our country, don’t you think we can trust them with installation privileges?  They are adults and they understand consequences for foolish behavior (like downloading viruses) so they should be able to use their laptops to the fullest capacity.”

If I can help, or need to clarify anything, please let me know.

Do You Use Spector?

I have heard of it and I think Centura uses it or maybe Lexington.  If you are really interested, then you might want to talk to them.  I use a variety of methods to watch our students.  We use Remote desktop during the school day.  I have their preferences locked down to the point where they can’t delete their history in Safari and Firefox, then I can go look.  I also have a “super secret” method to see if they have been to sites that use Flash, but I wouldn’t want to send it over the internet.  I can share it with you over the phone or in person.

Spector is a good product from what I have heard, but with a school district of our size, we feel fairly comfortable with the methods above and we are publicly swift and harsh for punishment when it is needed so other students know that they can and will be caught eventually if they are breaking the rules.

 

Administrative Privelages

I give our teachers and administrators the admin rights to the computer for installation.  This is for several reasons:

1.  When they are off at a training and they need to install new software, updates, etc. they have to be able to do that while they are there to participate in the training.  Calling back to the tech coordinator to get the admin login and password is not the most efficient use of training time.

2.  They sign an agreement when they check out the laptop that if the tech department has to do something to fix their laptop because of a mistaken download/virus … it might mean imaging their machine to do a quick and fast repair.  This gets the laptop back in their hands quickly and they can synch to the server to get their documents back.  However, they might lose all of their music, movies, apps, etc.

3.  If you want your staff, teachers and admin feel like the machine is their own to experiment with, learn with, etc. they need the rights to use it to its full capacity. A lot of teachers use their own equipment from home (cameras, flips, etc.) and that saves the school a lot of money or the teachers spend their own money because the school cannot afford to buy it for them.  When they are using their own equipment they might be required to install special software or plugins to make them work.  If they don’t have the permissions to install this, then they can’t use their own equipment.   (With students this is a different argument, however I do give them just as many rights as I can possibly allow while protecting from hackers, etc.)

4.  Teachers are trained to use the security setting to put their laptops to sleep when they walk away from them (or it happens with a bit of time) to protect from students getting on and using their laptops.

Though this is not all of the arguments I have, one simple statement can be said that should mean a lot.  ”If you trust these people to educate the future of our country, don’t you think we can trust them with installation privileges?  They are adults and they understand consequences for foolish behavior (like downloading viruses) so they should be able to use their laptops to the fullest capacity.”

 ADMINISTRATIVE PRIVILEGES
 9/3/10

Classroom Rules

 Classroom rules are something that everyone needs to do on their own.  I am only providing some ideas to get your started.  When I make my rules, each year, I do it with the group of kids I am getting and change them as we get to know each other.

First teachers need to decide: what distractions you don’t want, what behaviors you do want, and realize that they will multitask…
(Keep in mind, these are only sample rules. They can be copied, changed, added to, etc)

  1. When I say “lids down,” I mean now.
  2. When in my class, work on my class work and projects. You should have planned ahead and worked on other class homework before this class started.
  3. Digital cheating is the worst kind. I give zeros for copying and pasting answers from the Internet. I also give zeros for plagiarism and copyright violation. I also give zeros for file sharing, which is just like copying a person’s paper, only worse. (You didn’t even take the time to hand write the answers forcing you to think a little bit about the material.) But I promise to change how I ask questions so that you are forced to think for yourself anyway. That way you won’t be tempted to cheat.
  4. Surfing inappropriate sites during my class will result in me taking your laptop away for the rest of the class.
  5. I allow you to use your music in my class, but with only one headphone in. I want you to be able to hear when I am talking to other students and answering questions. That is part of the classroom experience and learning opportunities.
  6. Just as I have always collected paper assignments at the beginning of class by passing them to the front, it is the same for submitting assignments digitally. You need to submit them (via email, dropbox, or printing) when I ask so they are time stamped during my class period, not later – you might forget.
  7. If you lose your laptop in my class, I will provide a paper and pencil option for doing my assignments.
  8. Internet safety is key. Never reveal your name or personal information on the Internet. Don’t even give any clues that could allow to lead to you.
  9. 2-1-0 earphone rules

Other Rules:

  1. There’s no such thing as a dumb question, or a dumb answer.
  2. None of us is perfect
  3. It’s ok to say “I don’t know”
  4. Take risks. Try new things.
  5. If you don’t understand, ask.
  6. If you don’t agree, say so, then explain your thoughts
  7. No teasing, put-downs or sarcasm
  8. Disagree with ideas, don’t criticize people
  9. Have a mind of your own
  10. Enjoy and learn.

Traditional Rules:

  1. I want to teach the behaviors I want to see. I punish harder for lying and excuses than I do for late papers. REspect me enough to tell the truth.
  2. There will be no leaving my classroom. My classes are so exciting that you won’t want to leave anyway!
  3. You may call me Mrs. B or Mrs. Badgley, and I will call you by your preferred name.
  4. No pseudo obscenities. We all know what you really wanted to say.
  5. No negative remarks. This is a learning environment, and people work better in a positive environment.

Classroom Policies

1. Being prepared is a sign of brilliance; bring your laptop charged everyday.

2. I appreciate manners; please close your laptop lid when I am talking.

3. Please leave your cell phones in your locker, we don’t need any distractions.

4. If you wish to listen to your iTunes, ipod or mp3 player, please only use one ear phone so you can hear what is going on around you during work time.

5. Please refrain from watching television shows, movies, and YouTube videos during the school day. It is against the school policy and simply a distraction to learning. I will take away your laptop for any infractions.

6. I am ready and willing to help you most of the time, but please don’t interrupt a class in progress to get help.

7. A messy desk is a sign of being overwhelmed with work. I would appreciate you not putting more on my desk, it could get lost. Wait and speak directly to me.

8. With the fear of ruining a laptop, no drinks will be allowed in the classroom.

9. I am interested in your education, so I prefer you use class time to work on schoolwork, not entertainment.

 

Grading Is So Subjective… And I Am Not A Huge Fan Of Rubrics… What Do I Do?

 My biggest challenge with using technology in my class is grading it. I’ve been having kids do digital storytelling and podcasting for several years. I usually grade them on a writing assignment I have them do before starting the project, because the paper is usually the springboard for the project.

As the English teacher, I always grade the content the heaviest (actually about 75% is the content and new learning they have gained and 25% is the creativity, participation, work ethic, and technology).

I consider the 25% a subjective grade.  This is more my own reflection of their process.  If the student is new to the district and doesn’t have the tech skills, then I give them a bit of “room” to learn in their grade.  If the student is challenged or qualifies for special ed, then they get the same “room” within their grade.  I definitely grade on the work ethic in class.  I keep simple checkmarks in my gradebook while they are working in class.  They only get a checkmark if they are not working hard enough.  I give them extra credit for going above and beyond the “cool” of the assignment (above the expectations).  This is usually because they worked at home to really make it their own.

As you use more project-based assignments in your classroom, you might consider keeping example of assignments that don’t meet the requirements/expectations, an example of something that does meet the expectations, and an example of something that “blew your socks off” so they have something to strive to beat!  I use these examples in my introduction to the unit, and when I explain their options to show me what they have learned, written, envisioned, etc.

I am not good at knowing how to use rubrics. What about effort? I have some kids who can do fantastically amazing things and others who work very hard, but can’t get all the bells and whistles added in the same way.  How do you handle that?

I am not a huge fan of rubrics for every assignment either because it doesn’t leave room for creativity.  If they are just trying follow the rubric and do the minimum requirements at each level (beginning, progressing, proficient, or advanced) then there is less room for creativity.  The students often struggle with how their own ideas will fit into the rubric, and therefore they opt to just do what the directions ask.  That is why I do the subjective expectation examples and talk about other possibilities that have been posed that I don’t have examples from.  The other ideas gives them options of other software to use to accomplish their own creative assignments.