Sunday, August 7, 2016

Google Classroom in 12 Slides

A short presentation about Google Classroom for folks new to it. Please feel free to use, but please give me credit for it. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spaces -- Google's new group work space

When I saw a Tweet from Larry Ferlazzo (@larryferlazzo) talking about a new product from Google, I quickly jumped in the water to try it out with the members of the old KIS EdTech team: Ben Summerton (@bensummerton), Steve Katz (@stevekatz), Art Shultz (@artshultz13), and Chris Bernhardi (@chrisbernhardi). The first few minutes of use was enough to convince me that it would be a very useful collaboration tool. Imagine that Wikispaces and Ning got married and had a child together -- that would be Spaces. The UI is very clean and dead simple to use. I have included two screen shots to help show what Spaces can do. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

18 Months of Free Energy -- Thanks Best Sunshine!

We still have $64.20 in credit with the CUC thanks to Best Sunshine.
When Best Sunshine wanted to received the blessing of the people of the CNMI to open an casino on Saipan, they were promising to make a positive difference in the lives of the people and the island. Many people were opposed to the casino and it was placed on the ballot. Before that important election, Best Sunshine gave the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation $10 million dollars to distribute to residential customers. At the time, our share was $635.71. It was placed in our account back in October, 2014 and the election was in November the same year. Since that time, we have not had to pay for our power and we still have some credit left. We are leaving island in June and I'm actually not sure we will finish the $64.20 we have left in our account. We rarely use the air conditioner (known as aircon on the island) and we shower at Club Elan in the Hyatt because we are members. We basically run two fans and a couple of lights in the evening, which translates to not much power usage as you can see in the photo of our bill. Some people said that the money was a bribe to buy the election. They could be right; they could be wrong; all I know is that we haven't paid for power in 18 months. Will the casino ultimately be a positive impact on the island? Only time will tell us that story.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Twitter in Educator Professional Development

First, a short historical perspective on this survey. Back in 2011, while part of the EdTech Team that developed the Fish Bowl, I wrote a blog post on the same topic. Unfortunately, Posterous shut down and that particular blog post was lost in an internet blackhole. I do, however, roughly remember the data gathered, but not exactly. What I do clearly recall from 2011 is that I received about the same number of responses (30), but the percentage of educators who felt that Twitter was a part of their professional development (70% in 2011) and the percentage of educators who felt that Twitter was a useful tool for professional development (50% in 2011) have both jumped in 2016. Second, there is an obvious bias that should be mentioned up front. Bias: I sent this survey on Twitter, which automatically means people who use Twitter are going to respond more than anyone esle. I did also post it on Facebook to an educational group I'm part of (Apple Educators), on LinkedIn, and on Google+, so other nets were cast into the vast ocean of the internet, but Twitter users were clearly more likely to respond.

With those items out of the way, here are the results of the survey.
Question one: I use Twitter as part of my professional development. Of the 30 respondents, 93.4% chose Agree or Strongly Agree.

Question two: I find Twitter useful as a professional development tool. Of the 30 respondents, 93.3% chose Agree or Strongly Agree. Although this question is similar to the first one, there is a subtle difference between the two questions. Question one asks if it is used by the person in professional development and the second question asks if the person finds it useful. This points to the users not doing it because they are being told to use Twitter, but because they personally find it useful. This once again help us to understand that Twitter is a grassroots form of professional development that educators use and enjoy, as opposed to a mandated form of professional development.

Question three: The third question didn't exist on my original survey back in 2011, but I thought it would be good to begin to understand exactly what educators do with Twitter that makes them feel that Twitter helps and/or empowers them with their professional development. The results showed that most (96.7%) share links to content. 80% engage in discussions and following hashtags on topics of interest. 70% use Twitter as a tool to curate content and 43.3% answer surveys (thanks to those people). 13.3% engage in "other" activities. Next survey, I will begin to catalog what "other" activities educators do on Twitter.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Educational Leadership: 5 (Good) Ways to Talk About Data

The November issue of Educational Leadership was titled Doing Data Right. Of course, as educators we should be doing our best to improve instruction and assessment with data informing our choices, but it is a much easier thing to say than to do. One of the featured articles (5 (Good) Ways to Talk About Data) in the issues dealt specifically with how to move a school in the right direction with regard to working with data. The research that has been conducted about professional learning communities suggests that this five components are necessary to have data drive instruction and assessment of student learning.

  • Component 1: Students are the shared responsibility of everyone.
    • All of the students go to the same school, no matter the age -- take ownership and be involved. In my experience, this matter can be dealt with by vertical teams. The more teachers from various grade levels know each other, the more they seem to feel joint responsibility over all students. In the article, it was specifically pointed out that a team should take responsibility for everyones success and failure. This helps build trust.
  • Component 2: Conversations about data include healthy disagreement.
    • The key word is healthy. People need to be able to talk about what the data means and how it should be used. These discussions will involve differing opinions, but everyone must act professionally and with trust. 
  • Component 3: Conversations about data engender trust rather than suspicion.
    • Principals and teachers need to work together. The data shouldn't be used to point the finger, but to better understand how improvements can be made.
  • Component 4: Data teams take a solution-oriented process.
    • Focusing on the solution, rather than the problem. Looking at the data and asking, "What can we do better?" "How can we teach or assess better?"
  • Component 5: Data teams know what they're expected to accomplish.
    • Clear guidelines for what needs to be accomplished, but also room to explore the data and the conclusions. The article pointed out some examples where they witnessed teams trying to complete all the questions, rather than really thinking about the answers/solutions. On the other extreme, there were some teams that didn't seem to have any clear guidelines on what should be done. You need to have structure, but not so much that it becomes busy work for teachers.
Datnow, Amanda, and Vicki Park. "5 (Good) Ways to Talk About Data."Educational Leadership Nov.     2015: 10-15. Web.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Run Away Train -- The Second Semester

The fact of the matter is that the second semester of school is filled with too many things to do. It is a simple truth that has been made worse this year because of typhoon Soudelor. Yes, I said it! The typhoon from August is still having an impact on the school year. Some activities that were usually in the fall have now found themselves located in the spring semester and the spring semester was already over booked. It is amazing to me that something that happened clear back in August is still lingering in the background of our lives on Saipan. Although some activities got move to a full spring semester, some other things simply got canceled for the year. The MISO Soccer season has apparently fell victim to Soudelor; they have canceled it for the year. Many seasons for sports have been reduced or cut for the year.

Our spring semester at SIS looks like the following list of activities:

  • January: Beginning of the second semester
  • February: Health Heart Walk and NHS/NJHS Induction Ceremony
  • March: End of the 3rd Quarter and Spring Break
  • April: Prance (prom) and the Spring Musical
  • May: AP Exams, SAT10 Exams, Graduation
  • June: Grade 8 Promotion and End of the 4th Quarter.

During these months there is also middle school girls' and boys' basketball, high school girls' and boys' basketball, (usually) soccer, and Track & Field. Also the academic competitions of Mock Trial, NFL/NJFL, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Math Court, and Junior Achievement are happening. And to top it all off, we are heading into an accreditation cycle with WASC.