Tag - naesp

Nashville redux

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed if you’ve been reading my blog lately, I’ve been in Nashville attending the NAESP conference. Great city, great conference, and this is a great opportunity to check out the new WordPress gallery feature.

Some of my Nashville photos, after the link … click on any to see larger versions (and again to get a full-size version.) Oddly, the multi-file upload feature promised in WordPress 2.5 did not work.

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James Carville and Mary Matalin

I just attended a keynote in which spouses James Carville and Mary Matalin shared center stage – what a treat.

They’re at opposite ends of the political spectrum, of course, but as Mary said, politics makes for strange bedfellows. Very entertaining, very interesting, very insightful – it was a real pleasure. Plus, they offered a lot of insight into what is happening right now in the US political battles.

In their opinions, these are unprecedented times for American politics, and all the rules are being rewritten.

Live-blogging: Hi-Tech Communication, Lo-Tech Principal

I’m liveblogging a NAESP session by Tod Harrison from Durant Intermediate School in Oklahoma. Should be interesting.

Problem: getting information home
Just not getting there … and not much budget to play with. Also, many parents not available during the day. But they needed to get information to parents.

His assistant principal is not tech-challenged … and neither is Tod. But if he tells that to teachers, he’ll be doing tech support all day long. So … they’re looking for solutions that don’t involve them doing it all themselves.

But, found out that 60% of parents have email (at library, work, school). So, they started a weekly email newsletter. No size limitations, and no paper wasted either. Teachers started a section: Teacher Brags, in which teachers brag about how well kids are doing.

First week – hundreds of responses. Parents loved it. Interesting … his assistant created it in Word and converted to PDF to email. Don’t use an HTML email format or anything like that.

Evolving the idea
After starting, they then added podcasts, using a Mac server and Audacity for recording. Their podcasts are now publicaly available at Durant’s site.

They’re now using Macs with Garageband to capture podcasts. They’re doing enhanced podcasts with photos so that essentially you’ve got a presentation.

Now with kids
Now they’re getting the kids involved … 5th grade class did a video for presentation for the staff Building Leadership Team meeting. Took them about 20 minutes a day for 2 days, plus some editing time, I presume.

The kids know this … it’s simple for them, and teachers need to catch up.

Bumps along the path
There are some challenges they’re working through …

  • It’s technology … so there are still some bumps along the way.
  • Plus, it costs a decent amount of money.
  • Need to learn the programs
  • Takes time
  • Teachers have some technology fear

Interesting … I asked whether he’s had any pushback from parents who don’t have email. Not really, he said – he’s got 75 new email addresses in the last month. So more parents had email – or just got it – than he knew of originally.

. . .
. . .

Now we’re just all chatting in the room, and the principal (Steven Puckett from Indian Land Elementary School) sitting next to me mentioned they use ConnectEd, which can send messages in multiple formats to multiple groups of people automatically.

Live-blogging: LMS in Elementary?

I’m currently in a session at NAESP on using Blackboard, a Learning Management System, in elementary schools. This is interesting, because LMSs or CMSs (course management systems) are almost always only used for high school and higher education, and sometimes in middle school. But elementary is almost unprecedented.

Betsy Jones, an administrator in Greenville, SC, uses it for:

  • sharing info and resources
  • formative and summative assessment via surveys & tests in Blackboard
  • self-directed learning
  • collaborative learning experiences
  • 21st century skills
  • parent involvement
  • activities for early finishers
  • differentiation for different types of learners, and learners who learn at different speeds

She teaches a few students to use the system … then the students teach each other. Interesting! Then students start playing with what they’re seeing, and sharing what they’re learning.

Even more interesting, she had requested students with major discipline problems, and so filled her class with kids like that … and saw huge improvements in learning and behavior. Betsy attributes that almost entirely to student engagement.

She had one student who was a “problem” introduce Blackboard to the teachers … a huge bonus for him and also a major boost to teachers using technology – if this 5th grader could do it, they had to be able to do it. Teachers were scared to use tech … but the students helped them along. Betsy even had some students attend professional development for teachers when the school acquired SMART boards.

… currently getting an overview of Backboard functionality … fairly standard stuff.

A teacher in the group pipes up and talks about how she uses their LMS to post the weekly schedule every Friday night, and updates with announcements every morning.

I asked Betsy if she lets students use discussion boards. Some classes yes, some classes no. When she does, she gets parents trained at the beginning of the year with students, and they sign an “acceptable use form.” Has worked very well, even in a high-poverty area where only 2 of her students had computers at home. Some parents even started coming into school with their kids in order to use the computers and get on the class site. Very cool.

For spelling tests, she recorded words and then had kids listen to them, writing down what they thought the spelling was. She had 5th graders post notes from Math classes to Blackboard so that they could access it at home later when they were doing homework and needed to refresh their memories.

Overall, she felt there was much more student excitement and engagement … resulting in much improved student learning