Saturday, December 26, 2009

What has changed?

I recently read a post on Will Richardson's blog reflecting on the last year in education. What has changed, he wants to know.

I expect that the changes were not earthshaking. Not yet. Little things here and there -- a district with some new policies, a teacher here or there who sees education in a new light. At some point, changes will start to snowball, and educators will look back and marvel at the difference, but I don't think we're there quite yet. For the longest time, Paul and I had an e-mail address but hardly anyone to send messages to. For a while it probably seemed that there was no communication revolution in the making. And now, e-mail is practically passe. Same with cell phones. Each family member has a cell, something I would not have predicted when I bought my first one maybe ten years ago. And by the way, I have absolutely no interest in the fancy smart phones. At the same time, I acknowledge that some day I might have one anyway.

What has changed for me personally as a teacher? Quite a lot, if I think about it. Here are things I had little or no knowledge/experience of until just over a year ago, but I have implemented or at least played around with since:

RSS and Google Reader (it's a mess right now, but never mind)
blogs (I have two now)
wikis (using the Moodle ones more successfully)
Twitter (I never would have guessed I'd go there).
Diigo and Diigo Education
Google Docs/spreadsheets/presentations
Google Forms
Google Sites
Moodle quizzes
paperless handouts (I had done this before, but not as much)
backchannel in the classroom
TodaysMeet (I conducted one department meeting from a bagel shop).

There might be things I'm forgetting, but I think it's clear that I am headed in new directions as a teacher. It's not the tools, but rather what the tools can accomplish. I am looking for more collaboration, less paper, more sources of knowledge, more ways to get students excited about learning, and more ways to assess what students have learned.

I know that I have much to learn, but I think that 2009 has been a pretty good start.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Books still work.

A student was giving me a number of reasons why she couldn't get her assignment completed. Her internet was not working. The verses of the psalm she was working with were on her phone, which of course she was not able to pull out in some earlier class.

I was confused. "How about using a Bible?" I asked. Her response: "You have a Bible?"

Well, it is a religion classroom. And even with all of our nifty technology, books still work.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More backchannel

Rather spontaneously, I decided to have my students on TodaysMeet again as we started a video about the Eucharist. I like it even more for movies than for presentations, because Ron Rolheiser isn't actually there to be distracted by students typing their thoughts as he speaks.

Thoughts (and some non-thoughts) range from silliness ("oh whadup") to comments and questions that show attentiveness to the words of the speaker and a curiosity about his meaning. I was able to answer a couple of questions on the spot, and a couple more I will take up before we continue the video at the next class.

I don't mean for this to replace our face-to-face, vocal discussion, but I hope rather that it will help to facilitate it. Time will tell as I continue to experiment.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More on wikis

In the past I've considered Moodle wikis to be a bit clunky, but they're growing on me a bit. It's better to use group pages, because different groups trying to upload to the same page just takes too long.

Having the groups auto-generated seemed nifty, but then I got to a class and discovered that four students who were not shown as absent on the computer were on retreat, and the groups were lopsided. I didn't have time to reconfigure the groups. I only needed to move one student. She was not on the right page anymore, so her partner did the uploading.

Students explored websites of organizations to make connections between their work and themes of Catholic Social Teaching. I told them that if they had time they could "make it pretty" and upload photos, and most groups were able to do so. We then viewed each wiki page while the group explained their findings.

Not bad for a period's work.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What's a wiki?

Of about 50 students in two predominantly senior classes (the ones who have carried laptops around for about three and a half years), I would say that about ten raised their hands when I asked who knew what a wiki is.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Google Forms

Two responses to my query on Twitter about getting feedback from students. Moodle has some kind of feedback module, apparently, but I don't know if we have it. I had not seen it when I went poking around earlier, and my e-mail to the Moodle administrator was not answered. So I went with Google Forms.

And it is great.

I made up my questionnaire and e-mailed the link to all my frosh. I wanted to know about certain aspects of a project that I had done in a new way recently. The responses have already started, so I know some of my students check e-mail on the weekend!

There's a spreadsheet that shows all of the responses together, and a summary page that has bar graphs and percentages.

I think I need to transfer the course evaluation to this format.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I didn't even know the word "backchannel" a year ago.

Last year during the presentations in Catholic Theology I had the students who were listening take notes. I was trying to encourage paying attention while their classmates presented, but at times it seemed that students were more focused on writing than active listening. They were almost transcribing, and copying down PowerPoint slides that were too wordy (despite my guidelines).

So, a bold experiment (for me). First, following Germaine's idea, no text on the slides. Just graphics, and the titles of their subtopics. And, I had the class on a chat website during the first presentation day. Write at least one comment, or ask a question, I said.

Some of the comments were simple affirmations ("I really like the slides" or "that story was AMAZING"), and while I had hoped for something a bit more substantial relating to content, I think the speakers probably appreciated those when they got a look. But there were some other comments that were closer to what I was looking for, and there were some good questions. It's possible that some of the good stuff came from a couple of students who are not usually very vocal in class. It also helped spark some of the conversation after the presentation.

I asked for reactions. They seemed to like the idea better than note-taking, anyway. One student said that it helped her to focus on what was being said. That is perhaps counter-intuitive. I used to think that the idea of a sort of conversation going on while someone was speaking was a bit... rude. So it was a bit of a leap to try it. I think we'll continue the experiment for the rest of the presentations.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Angels on Moodle

Okay, have a couple of links to articles on angels posted to Moodle, that expand a little on what we discussed. And, started a forum: one question about angels and another about "church," the topic of the chapter we are on. I'm not assigning it for now. I want to see if students will make use of it anyway, just because they want to share opinions. I don't expect that, really, based on past experience, but they looked interested when I introduced it.

Too bad we're doing a hardware upgrade this weekend and the site is inaccessible until at least this afternoon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

Yesterday in a freshman theology class, someone brought up the story of the angel Gabriel and the announcement to Mary about Jesus, and then, based on whatever I said in response to the question, there were yet more questions, about angels. A teachable moment, right? A topic in which they are genuinely interested.

When all was said and done,I had a sense that some were not satisfied. The thing is, I don't know everything there is to know about angels. And the information I supplied them with just left a couple of kids wanting more. I am pretty certain. But we moved on.

Here's the thing. Every student had in front of her a laptop connected to the collective consciousness of the world (you know, the Internet. I'll dispense with my Borg analogy for now). You get the point. Information at their fingertips. I am not the repository of all knowledge. So why did I feel I was the only one who could answer their questions? Why did we ignore those machines sitting on their desks?

There are issues that raises, like whether freshmen can find good information on the web. Oh, right, if they don't learn that here, where will they learn it?

So, I'm just brainstorming here. Provide some links to good websites? Talk about filtering all that info on the web on day 1 of the class? Every student getting the Diigo toolbar on day 1 so that they can share what they find of the things they are interested in?

Yesterday was a teachable moment. But not as much for the students as for me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Moodle madness

Oh, what a tangled web we weave... when we try to do everything on Moodle. Moodle is good, don't get me wrong; I use it extensively. But I have an assignment where each student records a podcast, and two other students listen and evaluate according to a rubric, as well as do some summarizing. The original assignment gets points, and the listening gets points. I had the girls submit their evaluations on Moodle. Some are Word documents, some PDF's because they could not open the Word version. Now I can't get some to open for me, AND, I can't figure out a good way to get each student's evaluations (submitted through two other students) back to her.

I believe I will have to give up "paperless" for this one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Passionate about teaching

According to blog posts I've been reading lately, I as a teacher am supposed to be pursuing my passion through social networking. Fishing, or birdwatching, or basketball, or whatever. I know at least one teacher who does that.

But I'm already investing hours into reading tweets about ed tech, and chatting online about ed tech, and bookmarking, sometimes skimming, blog posts about ed tech, and planning lessons that integrate ed tech. Then there's my daily life, and once in a while I squeeze in some minutes to read a novel.

That's it, I think! Only so many hours in a day. I think we're going to have to call ed tech my passion for the moment.

Teaching tech?

Alison wandered into my office the other day to ask, "When you did that podcasting assignment with your classes, did you ever get to a point where you felt like you were banging your head against a wall?"

She has a way with words. And she spent more class time than I did explaining what to do. I just gave them videos and instructions on Moodle and sent them to the tech guys. But there were plenty of problems. The answer was yes.

At points I feel like I am a tech teacher and not a religion teacher. If the content is taking a backseat, something is wrong. The tech part should be seamless, some of my Twitter colleagues have said. I don't teach the tech, a colleague says. They teach each other.

It has also been said that the kids are all tech savvy, and that is just not true. Some are, to a point. Some of them don't know any more than I do, and some know less about certain things. So how much class time is it reasonable to give up?

I don't have to teach my students how to type, or how to construct a decent sentence in order to have them write a paper. Do I need to be the one to teach them how to download Audacity and LAME? (Assuming I have figured it out for myself?)

Just wondering.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Staff in-service

Thought my colleague Larry did a great job planning and presenting. He presents other places, too, and preps all that in addition to his classes. Amazing.

I'm sure some folks are overwhelmed by all the information. I am to a certain extent myself, even though I was familiar with much of what was shown. Being familiar is not the same as making use of the full potential of something. And some things Larry talked about I haven't touched yet. There is so much out there.

I hope that staff members don't feel they have to immediately do everything. Pick something that looks interesting or useful, and explore.

And, if we started to utilize just one of the tools presented today to communicate more within the building, that alone would make the day a success, I think.

Looking ahead

Next semester I want to focus on making some connections outside the classroom. I'm not sure yet how I will go about it! In Catholic Theology, the chapter on "church" seems ripe for that, and maybe for a project of some kind.

In Peace and Justice (new prep), I want to do that for sure. What better way to get up-to-date information on the issues we will cover than through the internet and through people to whom my students can connect through the internet? That's the class where I plan to launch into student blogging in some way, too, though my plans are modest.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


What's the deal with students who are "forbidden" to enter a Google site I specifically invited them to? There's a lot of that. Now I have had students e-mailing me things which I then upload to the site. But we have to fix the problem, or they won't get there to see what their classmates have done.

I have these sites closed right now because I'm worried about privacy concerns, and in some cases, copyright issues. But I want to do some of that differently in the future. I want the students to have a wider audience for their work.

What about these .aup files? what happened there?

Why is one freshman pair's photo story over the limit to upload when at least three others chose that format and had no difficulties? It doesn't seem so much longer -- maybe the effects they used?

I'm thinking of dumping the paper/presentation for Catholic Theology all together for next semester, and designing a project or two tied more directly to the material we cover. The topics are so... random, with some overlapping what we cover in class but others not. A lot of energy expended, and maybe better spent elsewhere.

I'm happy with the results that I've seen and heard so far from these assignments. Just have to work out the technical issues, because they take away from attention to the actual product.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More on the podcasts

Just checked my school e-mail and answered about a half-dozen e-mails from Prayer students on the eve of an assignment due. They were supposed to listen to two other podcasts, and they can't find them all. Days after the things were due, we're still figuring out stuff, or students are absent...

I have to say that last year with Gabcast it was nothing like this. Very smooth. Hopefully I will learn enough to do it better this way in the future. Because Gabcast now = $.

Funny how I would never think of letting students disturb me at home after school hours on the phone. But e-mail is okay. I like that I can be accessible this way.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Four Google sites. Open to the class, not the public. Prayer students uploaded mp3's. Got a .wav or two, and a couple of .aup's. We'll try to figure that out during an off day tomorrow.

Frosh: some difficulties getting into the site. Some already had Google accounts but with e-mails other than the school e-mail, so the website did not recognize and authorize them to enter. Maybe some other problems, too.

I am very, very much in favor of having frosh set up Google accounts with their Mercy e-mails at orientation. If we're going to use this technology and these laptops, let's just get one step out of the way. I'm not the only teacher using Google apps.

One student couldn't upload her photostory because the file was too big. "It's really long," she said. And truthfully, I don't even know how much my Google site will hold and whether the various projects will fit. A little bit of trial and error here.

So, not everything is uploaded yet. But what I've got so far, I like! I gave a choice of formats because I hoped the girls would pick something they are comfortable with, and could be creative with and have some fun. And in many cases, I think that has happened.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A department chat

Yesterday because I took the day off but was free at the time of our scheduled department meeting, I decided to try to meet online. Had the five other dept. members log on to our Ning. The chat in Ning is erratic, we have found out. You might find yourself listed as "offline," and no amount of clicking on the icon will bring you to online status. Locked out. No fun. (I tried to e-mail Ning folks for help with this the day before, but no response so far). So we went to Today'sMeet instead, and everything was relatively smooth from there on out.

I'm not sure everyone liked it, but I'll find out when I get back to school Monday. But "chat" was new for some, and I thought it a good idea to introduce it. We probably will not need to do that again, and just as well. Chat is a very good tool when you need to get people together who are far apart, but it's not as good as the face-to-face meeting, of course.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Glitches here and there with the Prayer podcasts. Some had trouble downloading Audacity or LAME, some with uploading to the Google site that would not give them "privileges." I heard from a source that there was some grumbling. In the classes I apologized for the cumbersome way I went about it (another teacher sacrificed a class period to have them do it together and help one another) but not for the assignment. I think knowing how to create an audio file could be useful someday. My daughter has had to do at least one in college, for example.

Anyway, I went to the sites, and most are there. Can't wait to start listening. But I might not even listen to them all. They will be evaluating each other, a thought that comes directly from a lunch line conversation with Will Richardson last November when I told him I had too many students and too much grading to do to take time to try all the tech stuff.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Have I talked about the Prayer class podcasts? Students are hopefully downloading Audacity successfully. In the meantime, I had trouble finding where to attach the future MP3 files on my Google site. But thanks to Lynn for showing me how!

The 10 point quiz

I gave my second ever Moodle quiz ever today, to a group of frosh. It was better than the last one because every single student was able to log in and take the quiz. The quizzes are already graded and the students found out immediately how they did and which ones they got wrong. Lovely!

It was matching, which is no where near as cumbersome to set up as the multiple choice. The only deal -- there were 14 questions, and I had intended a 14 point quiz. But Moodle decided it's a 10 point quiz and converted the scores accordingly.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More about conferences

Sometimes, usually in the spring, traffic dies down toward the end, and teachers get restless. Once in a while someone will get up and go over to chat with another teacher who has no parent to talk to. It wasn't quite like that last night, fairly busy until the end, but some of us had no line. Since I had my laptop, I checked to see who was online, and began conversations with about four teachers through the instant messaging in our e-mail client. Doing the same thing as always, but electronically. The only bad part was that I did not get to stretch my legs!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Even though I've been keeping grades with some sort of computer program for maybe fifteen years or more, today is the very first time I went to parent teacher conferences with no printout of grades, just my laptop. I think in the past I was afraid it would take me too long to find the information I wanted. But I experimented with the PDF of individual reports, and it seemed relatively quick to click on a certain class and click the arrows (I know, I am demonstrating once again my lack of tech savvy!) to get to a particular student. It was not ideal. Sometimes I couldn't remember whether a student was in 2nd hour or 3rd hour, and it was sometimes difficult, too, to pick out the correct class among five overlapping on my desktop.

Then our dept. went to dinner, and Joe told me his system: all the students lumped together, not by class, and using the search function to find the name. When I had a little break with no parents in line, I ran the new report. So with 45 minutes to go -- I did it Joe's way, and wow! It worked great.

More paperlessness. Although, I might still be tempted to run copies as a backup in case my battery runs low or something.

More on collaboration

Some of my frosh wanted to pick their own partners. I decided not to let them, partly because it's so early in the year. Some girls came with friends or have made friends, but for some it would be awkward to have to find a partner.

So one girl, in a class that is almost entirely on Facebook, wanted to know how she was going to work on a project with someone who might live 25 miles from her house. Well, there will be some face-to-face time in school. But I reminded them that they are connected in so many ways over the internet that they should be able to work together pretty well. "Skype!" I heard from someone at that point.

Looks like the first lesson in the "Story about Jesus" project was not about Jesus at all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


So, we have this expensive software that someone gave us a grant for. It has some cool features, monitoring, sharing control of what is projected on a screen, group work without moving from seats. I don't think I'd like to use it all the time, but today's staff meeting was a start in melting my resistance to it all.

Most of the time when students are in a class, working together face to face seems better than anonymous collaboration. But it might be good for some things. And I don't want to be stuck at a computer or with PowerPoints all the time, but sometimes on note-heavy days it might be good.

One student did tell me that having all the notes there without her having to write them was less effective for her learning. But there are different interactive things that can be done.

I can see that someday blackboards will be a thing of the past.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

About the workaround

1. Tech help at Gale suggests way to find "persistent" URL.
2. I can't find what she is talking about, but discover it in another place.
3. I e-mail her back to say what I have done.
4. She asks me to call so she can "walk me through it."
5. I call, and she finds out I'm on a different "product" than she thought.
6. She directs me to the exact spot I had already found.
7. My workaround was the right one.
8. If my students are using the resource I think they are.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A workaround

With help from tech support at Gale (though I didn't do exactly what she said) I figured out a workaround to get stuff from Gale to bookmark successfully into Diigo. Hurray! Major hurdle in using Diigo, because the Gale stuff is a rich resource.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Photo Story!

Did I know that something similar to my colleague's little Mac video masterpieces could be done PC? Did Microsoft steal the idea from Mac, as someone in my household suggested? Don't care. Photo Story 3 for Windows is loaded onto my laptop, and it's cool. That kept me going on Saturday when I was really done and could have been on to other things.

Revising assignments

Spent entire Saturday afternoon and into the evening modifying two assignments.

1. Last year's Prayer students did an audio file instead of writing one particular assignment. But I relied on a free podcasting website that became not free right as they were to begin. Not fun. This year they all have computers with Audacity, so I had to rewrite everything, pointing them to directions for LAME that I don't even understand. Still have to work on that. On the understanding part.

2. The frosh thing. A story about Jesus. Partners now. Four options for presenting content. Can't wait to see how this works out.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Collaboration is one of my mantras this year. I'm retooling a couple of assignments to include that.

Next up is a frosh project that replaces a test. They write a sort of magazine article about Jesus, with specific topics included -- kind of like a take home essay test, although I don't call it that. It's just a fun assignment, right?

I have briefly mentioned it as an upcoming thing, and a student asked if they could work with others on it. A legitimate question, but my first thought was "of course not," because I have thought of this as a kind of "test," and for me tests are pretty much individual affairs. But now with my new mode of thinking, well, why not?

I am redesigning this project anyway. They will have a choice about how to present the information. I think I will have them work in at least pairs. I cannot take time to learn or teach all of the options available, so they will have to pick something they are comfortable with or want to explore, even if it turns out to be the usual Word document. But I think they will appreciate having a choice. I am hoping some of them will surprise me.

Rolling along

The teacher frustrated with Moodle and Ning is starting to get the hang of things.

Still working out problems with Diigo and Gale research. Also with Diigo, some things do not seem to show up all the time. Still puzzling over that.

New bookmark deadline Monday, and already all day Friday the bookmarks were rolling in. Not all last minute! Of course, I did not much appreciate that a couple of them happened... during my class.

The other day, talked about paraphrasing and plagiarism. It would be easier to just not have them write at all -- just do the presentation -- but this is stuff that I feel they really need to practice. Maybe someday no one will write formally anymore. But we're not there yet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Frustrations of the day

Trying to help a co-worker navigate Ning. It's not intuitive for her. She's frustrated, which makes me frustrated, because I'm trying to establish a method for us to communicate as a department between meetings. I think it will work out eventually.

On Diigo, meanwhile, I was having trouble seeing the girls' sticky notes when I went to their profile pages, but tonight it was all good. Still can't access the actual article, but not worrying about that right now.

It's exciting to see the research in process. The ones who are taking it seriously are doing well.

Chat and Twitter

I love "chat" online, and I'm not sure why! It gets crazy trying to follow the thread of conversations, have intelligent thoughts in response and to type fast. First #edchat on Twitter tonight, lots of good thoughts. Should read the transcript to see what I missed, but that's more reading! Lots bookmarked that I haven't gotten to yet.

Twitter has been a trip in itself. Slowly building up a PLN, but it's still confusing at times, and time consuming. Overall, valuable.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More on bookmarks

The problem does indeed seem to be with the Gale database, which seems to support sharing to all kinds of places, but not Diigo. We can't access the article from the bookmark. If the girls highlighted healthy sections, then that's pretty good, but if they were planning to go back to the article, not so good.

It's tempting to just say we'll use the web, which I know will work, but our school is paying for this very nice resource with things that are not necessarily out there in internetland. A bit of a disappointment.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Diigo guy

Feeling the pressure to actually say something once in a while on Twitter (I have 27 followers, you know), I mentioned the work with Diigo in class, including some "glitches." That brought an e-mail from Joel, a guy at Diigo who has to be scanning Twitter and other places for mentions. Pretty cool to get a response; I wasn't actually complaining or anything.

And I think my problems are with Thompson Gale, anyway!

Friday, October 9, 2009

It begins

We're down to the nitty gritty now, with students required to bookmark two sources by Monday. Of course, most had not started yet with a week's notice.

But a couple had, so we had to work out glitches while others got going in class. Don't forget to check the box that says "share with group." Some problems with Thompson Gale, though; not sure about that yet. Some documents came up with error messages.

Some students are confused still, I think. I told them they need to see me for help, not wait until deadlines and say they don't understand...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Floating sticky notes

Diigo, please get rid of floating sticky notes. I have yet to see a useful conversation with them. It feels like an invasion of my space. I can remove them, but why should I have to take the time? Today I had to explain to students how to remove them. One girl was "creeped out" by them, understandably.

Cool things

Just signed up for an educator account with Also, recently learned about on Twitter, and went nuts with that for a couple of days. I'm not sure how I might work these things into classes, but I will be thinking about that. I think they're pretty cool.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I was asked by my co-worker and school tech guru Larry to help present Diigo as part of a faculty in-service coming up next month. Cool. Because I happen to like Diigo. Well, I do so far! We'll see how I feel when this project is behind me!

Problems, solved

I have been trying to put a PDF onto my department Ning. A couple of Twitter followers tried to help. Finally found the "paper" icon when I added "blogs," so I was able to put it on a blog.

I wanted students to be able to write on worksheets that I post on Moodle. But the Moodle version of Reader seemed to missing the necessary component. I was trying to have students save to their computer to use the school version of Reader, but that was not working. BUT, a freshman figured out a way: copy and paste to OneNote. Voila. We can now write with our stylus on worksheets.


After reading an article (a blog post?) about the value of inquiry based projects, I added another step to the CT project: each pair needs to list at least five questions they have about their selected topic. It's lame, not the same as what the article talked about, but I thought it worthwhile anyway. It worked well as a starting point for Morality projects last year.

I pointed out a resource that our students have on "information literacy" and the section on developing questions. I hope it helps. One student told me right away that she has no questions about her topic. "Do you mean that you already know everything there is to know about marriage in the Catholic Church?" "Yes, pretty much." Which is worse, that she thinks she has nothing to learn, or that she chose a topic about which she thinks she has nothing to learn?

Monday, October 5, 2009

First due date

Have due dates on Moodle. Research first. Two bookmarks per student on Diigo due in one week. Highlighted. At least one annotation each. Looking forward to seeing their research in progress in this way.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sometimes I'm dense

I've been scanning things on our big workroom copier for a year or two. But what I learned from the first demonstration did not stick, so it's been trial and error. How to get it to actually send to my email. Remembering to change to PDF, which seems to work better than TIFF -- that's all a mystery to me, but in the midst of a hectic day, I don't care. I just want it to work.

Yesterday, a breakthrough. I actually read the sentence that is always on the screen that tells me what to do when I have more than one page. I can now do a multi-page document! Duh.

Still can't figure out how to get my PDF's on my Ning. Tried on "Notes." Tried adding an "image." That's what it is, right? Didn't work. It was one of those broken icons. I'll have to get back to that later.

More frustration: I tested a PDF to see if there is a way to write on it with the tablet stylus. Yes! Then I put a it on Moodle, opened it, and I see a different, scaled down toolbar. No sign of the "review and comment" that I had just experimented with. No way to write on the document.

I have some research to do.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More on calendars

We have a room that we call our "hermitage room." Students in the Prayer and Spirituality class sign up to spend a class period (when they are unscheduled) in the room for prayer/reflection. For some it's a rare time of solitude in the midst of busy days. A staff member says a prayer of blessing both before and after the experience. This all involves some coordination.

In the past I have had students sign up on a calendar that I have prepared, and I would notify teachers of when students were scheduled. But this semester the most tech savvy teacher in my department is sharing the class with me, and she's just all over the calendar thing. So now we have a Google Docs calendar that everyone can reach easily.

For the teachers, we just have to figure out how to remember to look.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Updating the parents

I have sent a letter home to parents in Catholic Theology explaining my plans and asking for permission for things like having the girls sign up for Google accounts.

At Parent Night last night, I had about 10 minutes to try to explain the tech stuff along with other things. A few nods, but a lot of blank looks. No objections. I think mostly they will trust that I know what I am doing.

I just hope that I know what I am doing!

Hmmm, maybe I should have gone the tech route like my co-worker Larry.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A beginning

Got everyone into Diigo, and explained about topic sign-up. Last year I used a Moodle wiki and that worked well, because they can sign up whenever, and they can also see which topics have already been taken.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Alison, the most techy person of the department, is teaching Prayer and Spirituality along with me this semester. She decided that there must be a better way to schedule students into the hermitage room than on paper, and explored some websites. Finally we decided on a Google calendar. Kids will have to sign up for Google, but that doesn't seem a big deal; some might have already, or might need to for other classes. So here we go. Another thing ready to launch.

Password problem

Tried to take a look at Diigo with the students today, but even though I had signed up the whole class as an educational group, I could not figure out how to get them in. I kept looking for a screen I had seen that had their passwords. We wasted twenty minutes this way.

Then I remembered that I had not just seen the screen, but printed it and had sitting in my printer at home the ready-to-cut-apart sheets. Dumb.

We'll try again tomorrow. In the meantime, if Germaine is going to do this project in the same way, we have to find the time to walk through this together.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yay for Moodle

I don't do too many letters of recommendation for college as a religion teacher, but some. It's not an easy thing for me, remembering a particular student's strengths after months have passed by. I teach a hundred or a hundred and a quarter each semester, after all. But here's what's been a help, since I started having a lot of assignments uploaded through Moodle. I can add a student back into a course, and view the work that she did last year. Some of it anyway. It helps me remember. Yay, Moodle!

The little problem, only bigger

Well, it was a Monday. 5th hour Prayer class, many seniors, comes to class with no apparent recollection that they were supposed to have their laptops. Half the class, maybe. Meh.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Random assignments?

I wrote a reading assignment on the board and one freshman asked if I was going to have an assignment calendar online. I said no, that I would be giving the assignments in class (which is what I have been doing for many, many years, both verbally and in writing on the board). "So, we're just going to get random assignments?" she wanted to know.

I found her choice of words interesting. If it's not on a calendar, it's "random." For a while I resisted the idea of putting homework assignments online because I felt that students would not feel as though they have to listen in class if they can just see it later. A couple of years ago I tried posting assignments on Moodle, but it felt like a great burden to remember to do that.

I might have to revisit that. Right now students can see me or email me to find out about missed assignments, but it would be more convenient for all if they could just go online when they are absent. More thinking needed on this one.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A little problem

The Prayer class has a lot of seniors with tired laptops that don't work much of the time (batteries, for one thing), that they don't use all the time and that they would much rather not carry around. So, even though I announced at our last 7th hour class that they needed to be sure to bring laptops today (I do not use them every day in that class), a quarter of the class or more did not have a functioning computer.

And I didn't get back all the paper Bibles I lent out, either.

It has gone a little better with my junior-heavy Catholic Theology class, where I use computers more often.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Teachers learning

We had a look at Ning at our department meeting, and talked about ways it might be useful. I'm still not sure it's the best tool, but I want to give it a try.

Poor Germaine has problems whenever it's time for a group to log in somewhere. Her e-mail not recognized (though she is already a member), error messages galore. And earlier today she could not show her PowerPoint to a class because the data projector acted up. These are the kinds of things that can easily turn people away from using technology.

But then Mike, the self-described "resident Luddite," has learned about and recorded several podcasts by using Atomic learning. I was quite impressed.

Assignments through Moodle

A couple of disadvantages to having students upload through Moodle (some advantages, too). Here's one that has bothered me: I write comments, students don't read comments. They just go to PowerSchool to see what the grade is.

Writing the comments on PowerSchool would be too clumsy and time-consuming. I have sometimes delayed recording just so that they would have to go to Moodle and click on the assignment to see how they did.

So now that they all have their laptops, and assuming they are ready from the get-go (not necessarily a good assumption), I will try to get in the habit of telling them at the beginning of a class, while I take attendance and such, to go to Moodle and check the grade and comments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our fling with Ning

I have created a Ning for my department. I like the sound of that, as though I did something more than type in some words and click the mouse a couple of times. Voila!

I thought it could be a way to share and to converse between department meetings. We are somewhat scattered, physically, in the building.

But it hasn't exactly caught on. Neither did the two FB groups I tried with students or former students, although both of those were joined with great enthusiasm.

Nobody is talking.

We'll be walking through the Ning at our dept. meeting tomorrow, to get familiar with it. And then we'll see how it goes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

First semester

Catholic Theology ssignment makeover:

Years ago, it went like this: Students wrote a 6-10 page paper, divided into sections for subtopics, and then gave a "seminar," presenting information to the class, and in theory, engaging the class in discussion about the topic. They had to have a poster as a visual aid.

I taught the class for the first time last year, kept the project, changed "poster" to optional PowerPoint. One student out of thirty did the PowerPoint. I took out "optional."

I also experienced "death by PowerPoint" many times over.

Proposed for this semester, to do with Germaine, a colleague who will teach the same course:

Pairs collaborating on the paper, with Google Docs. Each girl responsible for a certain number of sections, but they can proof each other's work.

Everyone signed up with Diigo so that research can be shared among partners me.

PowerPoint. In other classes, Germaine has established the rule of no text. Only headings. I like that. Find me graphics, pictures, things to make the presentation interesting. But don't write your paper on the PP.

I wanted to drop out the bibliography, since we'll be able to see their (annotated) sources. Germaine says they'll need that skill for college.

Germaine isn't sure about the paper. Focus on the presentation. But I think they will need to write for college, too.

Goals I have in mind: collaboration, research, familiarity with Diigo, Google Docs, PowerPoint. And of course, knowledge of the chosen topic.

Another blog?

This will not be like my other blog about nothing in particular, where I try to organize my thoughts somewhat before I send them into cyberspace.

It will be about a particular thing, trying to implement technology in my classroom, one baby step at a time.

These will be my notes, written on the fly, and maybe not even in complete sentences. It will be my record, so I can go back and evaluate what has happened, and tweak from there.

But I might as well do it here as anywhere else. Feel free to peek over my shoulder as I report on what takes place or jot down thoughts and questions, muddling my way through some new ways of doing things. Comments, as always, are welcome.