Sunday, October 19, 2014

Comic Life @SIS

Comic Life 3 from
The folks at Plasq, who make Comic Life, have helped us out by providing a nice deal on Comic Life 3. We were able to purchase 35 copies which means the SIS computer lab has it on all computers and every faculty member can put it on his/her computer. If you aren't familiar with Comic Life, you really are missing out on software that is inexpensive, but very powerful in the learning environment. It can be used for a ton of different student products from storyboarding to science labs; a truly multipurpose tool in education. I've personally been using it for years. Back when I first started at KIS, I came across Comic Life online. I downloaded a copy and knew within minutes that I had something magical in front of me. Rich Boerner, the high school principal at the time, came through my room on a walkthrough and saw what I was doing with students. Later that week, he had purchased 500 copies of the software for the entire school based off what he saw in one lesson. I've been forever thankful for that vote of confidence from Rich. Over the years, several teachers at KIS found interesting and creative ways to make use of the program and now I have a chance to offer the opportunity to my SIS faculty. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gathering Learning Artifacts with Comic Life

Comic Life by Aysem Bray
The G5 students have been doing presentations about different countries in Ms. McRoberts (@amie_mcroberts) class. The presentations take most of a lesson to do, because the viewing students are required to take notes; at the end of the presentation, there is a quiz created by the presenter. With the action moving pretty fast and Ms. McRoberts providing support and watching to assess the presentation, there isn't much time left to collect evidence about the learning environment. Later thinking back, a teacher struggles to remember the details of the presentation. Students forget who presented what and when. Wouldn't be nice if there was some simple way to archive what happened during the presentation? Something that didn't require expensive equipment, a large amount of storage space, or excessive time. That is where our EdTech Coach comes into play. Mrs. Bray (@aysem_bray) stops by the room to take photos of the environment, to capture the learning live. Then she puts together a poster in Comic Life to demonstrate what was happening in the classroom. This provides Ms. McRoberts a great artifact to use during Parent-Teacher conferences; plus, it is a great memento for the students and parents. A nice item for the scrapbook to look back on 20 years later and remember when you loved learning in Ms. McRoberts G5 class.
Comic Life by Aysem Bray

Friday, October 3, 2014

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences are right around the corner for Saipan International School (October 14) and this year we are using SignUpGenius to schedule appointments for the secondary teachers. It is very simple to set up and allows parents to schedule their appointments when it fits their needs during the day. In the past the school used MySignUp, but I found the UI to be very poor. There was no easy way to correct a mistake, so you needed to get the entire schedule correct the first time or begin again. Terrible! In addition, it looked like something out of the 1990s, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, I remember the 90s fondly, but times have changed and signupgenius allows for different themes that can fit a variety of school uses. Signupgenius was easy to make and correct. Plus, you can easily track who has signed up by checking the account or having updates sent to your email account. Nice! The free version is robust enough to handle our needs as a small school, which means no fees. My wife, Aysem Bray (@aysembray), created two simple to follow tutorials for parents on how to sign up and how to edit their schedules. If you are interesting in giving signupgenius a try, feel free to use these tools with your parents. You can also contact either of us for advise, help, or support.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Laptops are coming!

Thanks to Title 1 money that the Saipan Public School System (PSS) generously shares with the private schools, all of our students from grades 7-12 have laptop computers. This is a great example of public and private schools partnering to make education better for all students. We should drop the idea that public and private schools are competing with each other, because they aren't and shouldn't. The idea is to share the resources and share the improved learning, not hoard it. PSS has a large amount of resources, but because of government regulations and the large size, it is difficult for them to implement change quickly. Private schools, because of their smaller size, can implement innovation and change quickly and share their success and failure with PSS. Then when PSS wants to move in a direction, they can with confidence after seeing what worked in the private schools on the island. I want to thank Herman Guerrero, Chairperson of the PSS School Board, for his support of the private schools. I would also like to thank Tim Thornburgh, who is in charge of the Federal Grants program, for his continued support as well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sharing the Wealth

Photo from
When I was hired to be the new Headmaster of Saipan International School, my contract came with $2500 toward professional development. I was happy for the access to this money, because continually developing myself and learning are things I enjoy doing. I had made early plans to travel to Malaysia and attend the EARCOS leadership conference. Once I was back on the ground in Saipan, however, I realized that the entire school faculty needed access to professional development; we currently have no funds dedicated to PD. After some careful consideration about options before me, I decided to use my $2500 for the entire faculty. Improving the leader will help the whole, but improving the followers does it more effectively and efficiently.

Step one was to join the ASCD website. For those who aren't familiar, an ASCD membership is a great resource for professional development. They offer online courses, Educational Leadership magazine, and hundreds of educational books from the best minds in learning. In addition, I ordered some books about differentiation and supporting ELL students in the regular classroom, which are areas we are working on improving through our WASC accreditation process. Step two, I provided the entire faculty a short article on the power of feedback in the learning process from our new Educational Leadership subscription. I want to encourage the faculty to begin reading journals for their own improvement and growth as educators; plus, by sharing articles, we can have educational discussions about a common theme with a common language.

We have about $2200 more to spend on PD, so I'm thinking and exploring what other options could work for us. When you share, you can make a little go a long way and help everybody. Didn't a famous guy once say something like that...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Apple Scam Floating Around -- Beware!

I receive an email from "Apple" today. The first red flag was that it came to an account that I don't use with Apple. The second red flag went up when I followed the link and the URL was not at Complete scam, so please beware!