Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Once in a while, not terribly often, we will have problems with our server or internet connection or some such thing on a school day, but generally only for a short period of time before the IT people figure out what's what and we get back on track.

This time was different. This time we lost our connection to the outside world for around twenty-four hours. Nor could we get into school systems from the outside. I had a pretty free evening last night because the things I needed to do required connecting to either Moodle, our school grading system or school e-mail, and none of that was possible. This morning we traded stories about the effects of the deprivation, much like people do after a power outage.

During the day we could not get to outside websites, but we were able to do all the things I mentioned above within the building. So I got somewhat caught up. In classes then, I used actual paper for a handout some students couldn't get to on Moodle for some reason. And instead of going online to research saints, we used more old-fashioned resources, which worked fine.

But we were all glad, I think, to get our connection back. Some of us have become more dependent on it, perhaps, than we had realized.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More about Photostory

I like Photostory for Windows very much. Animoto is cool, and easier, but Photostory gives more control.

A couple of weeks ago I shot some photos of my two freshmen classes, and very quickly that evening put them together into a Photostory to show classes the next day, just to introduce them to the program.

They loved it, of course.

The frosh project

My second-semester freshman turned in their projects about Jesus yesterday. Well, most of them. Technical problems are being worked out in a couple of cases. It's sort of like a take-home essay test because I structure the content fairly rigidly. But they're free as birds in the case of format. I don't teach the tech. I tell them to choose something they are comfortable with (everyone can do Word), or something they want to explore.

There are many Word documents, but several in Publisher, too. I'm impressed at how easily ninth-graders who have never used Publisher can figure it out and turn out beautiful products.

I have at least one video, and I haven't watched it yet, but I look forward to it. It's supposedly about eight minutes long, partly because John the Baptist (a student's dad) took his part and ran with it. Or so I'm told.

Photostory is a little less intuitive than Publisher, I guess, but I have at least one of those to look forward to once the kinks are worked out. The variety of formats helps to make the grading process less tedious for me.

Detroit projects update

The "Detroit" group met yesterday to discuss current projects. Not everything is "CBL," but it's good stuff. Students in a short story class interviewed people who grew up in Detroit or live there now to hear their storied and, I think, to incorporate them into their own writing. A Spanish teacher plans a field trip to talk to people in the southwest part of the city where a largely hispanic population resides. Our group talked about how there is a fear of the unknown among some suburban families, and providing opportunities to connect with people they might not otherwise meet could make a difference in their attitudes about the city.

As for me, the course I'm planning for is not in my schedule again until next year, so I have only ideas swirling around in my head for now.

Not my CBL update

Last week I got an invitation to be part of a panel to listen to the presentation of previously mentioned AP Gov students of their project on health care. Other panelists will include folks in the fields of health and insurance. It's on a Sunday, and it's beyond my job description as a Monday-Friday teacher, but I am happy to go. I want to support what these students are doing and learning, yes. But I think I will learn some things myself!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Not my CBL

Today I sent a link to an article in today's local paper to some students, just in case they might find it useful for a project they are doing. I've done things like that before, but the difference is, the project is not for my class.

As our school moves forward trying to incorporate CBL into the curriculum, there have been some "hiccups" to be sure. But there has been growth, too. One area has to do with conversations and collaborations taking place among teachers of different departments and even staff members who do not teach. Because I have been very aware of the current AP Government CBL, I have asked some of my students about it when it became clear from their conversations that they are are part of the effort.

To be truthful, not every student is entirely filled with enthusiasm, as was the case in my own venture last semester. But when the spark of learning catches fire, it's a great thing to watch.

Another student is not currently in my own classes, but asked to interview me because of my own experiences with her issue. When I saw her again later, she was excited to tell me some of what she had planned in the way of research. She was positively effervescent about the learning experience she and her group had taken charge of. Her enthusiasm fanned the flames of my own curiosity, and I've already told her I would like to see her group's presentation down the road, since the class is during my prep period. I already know that the teacher will welcome me into the class.

Department lines are getting blurred just a bit, as our faculty and staff begin to see we can encourage our students' learning even beyond our own areas.