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.