Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mobile Observations in Education

Steve Katz (@stevekatz), Ben Summerton (@bensummerton), and I have all been out of the normal classroom for a year now. Not having a regular class has provided us opportunities to do more co-planning and co-teaching with our colleagues, but it does damage your street cred with normal teachers. In an effort to counter that problem, Ben had the idea of getting into as many classrooms as possible in the first three weeks of school to observe our colleagues. Of course being Ed Tech geeks, our focus is to observe how our colleagues are using technology in the classroom. We aren't observing to judge; we are there to learn. With the addition of two new members (Chris Bernhardi and Art Schultz {@art_schultz}) to the Ed Tech team at KIS, we have more time to do such observations.

Enter yours truly, I wanted to go one step passed observations and actually capture how the classroom feels --  the mood, the tone, the vibration of learning. I decided early on that I would pack my iPad with me to these observations and take photos, audio, and video clips. My first victim... Er... Um... I mean, my first subject was the amazing Jay Londgren, one of our band teachers. I've always admired Jay as a teacher, because not every teacher can take 50+ middle school students and keep them on task and actually accomplish some learning, but Jay does it every day. What I have come to appreciate about a seasoned 1:1 teacher is that they know exactly how and when to use technology to enhance learning; we can witness this subtle ability in Jay's lesson. In the photos, notice the projector screen is on the whole time displaying information for the class. It doesn't drive the lesson, the students were told to read the notice, but it was continually projected to reinforce the message, but it was only actually discussed briefly. The other use of technology was so natural to a music course, it would probably go unnoticed to the untrained eye. When Jay introduced a new piece of music to the class, he plugged his iPhone into his speaker system and played clips of the song for them. Not the entire song -- a clip and then they played the same section, a clip and then they played the same section. Students listened and then attempted over and over throughout the band lesson -- I loved it. Nothing reaffirms the love of teaching more than watching a master teacher do his/her job. There was one tech snafu involving a website where the audio wasn't working for the first piece of music, but Jay rolled through the issue quickly asking for my help and then testing another piece. Once he established that it was the particular piece and not the website, he moved on to having students play the piece. This all occurred in less than two minutes.
IMG_0357.MOV Watch on Posterous
sound_file_1.wav Listen on Posterous
These are only samples of the artifacts that I gathered. I actually have ten more photos, another 10 minute audio file, and several short video clips. I have published this with Jay's permission, which I thank him for a thousand times over.

Think of how observations could be done with mobile technology. This Posterous could be private and shared among administrators, department colleagues, or both. We could gather rich artifacts of teaching and learning and building digital portfolios for our faculty. I hope this post, and my future observation posts, will act as an inspiration to coaches and administrators everywhere. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

How does the KIS Ed Tech Stack Up?


I don't mean to boast, but the KIS Ed Tech team sort of rocks! They say that we are a pretty good department. Great work thus far gents! The teachers are happy and feeling supported, which translates into improved learning. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Customize Your Finder Toolbar in Lion and Mountain Lion

This is probably old news to many of you, but I learned it from Art Schultz (@art_schultz) last week. If you do a secondary (right) click on the gray area in Finder, you can customize your Finder toolbar. This is awesome, because I often use features that aren't on the original toolbar and now I can access them very easily and quickly. Hooray of increased productivity! It was one of those items I had to share, because there must be other people out there in the universe who didn't realize that you can customize the Finder toolbar. For those new to Mac, you can usually customize the toolbar in any program (Pages, Keynote, Numbers, etc.) from the View tab.

Monday, August 13, 2012



One of the great benefits of my job is the ability to visit classes and observe teachers in action. When Cassie Summerton (@cassiedorsett) stopped by the Ed Tech office and started telling us about, I was pretty excited to get a chance to get into her classroom to watch her roll it out to students. The UI of the site is easy to use and very similar to Facebook. Resources from the teacher are easily shared; scheduled events provide reminders; students have a dropbox for work; discussion boards allow students to share ideas and resources among themselves. It really is great and it doesn't feel as clunky as Overall I was quite impressed and Cassie's students dove right into using it without hesitation. Great job, Cassie! You found an excellent tool to help manage your AP Psychology course and thanks for introducing Schoology to the Ed Tech team!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Working WITH People, Not Against Them

One of the great benefits of being a teacher is the summer holiday provides a wonderful opportunity for self reflection. In many conversations with Aysem (@aysem_bray) during the summer, we talked about the 2011-12 school year as a great year of transition for Korea International School. Many people were on the move for the 2012-13 school year and many new faces have joined the KIS family this year. In looking back, I realized something very powerful about the previous year -- it was a perfect example of many professionals choosing to work with other people rather than against them. Not to toot my our own horns, but Steve Katz (@stevekatz) and I really had to show our team spirit and ability to work with people. The situation could have been very different had Steve and I not made some of the professionally mature choices that we did.

At the end of school year 2010-11, Bruce Roadside (@b_roadside) decided to leave the KIS community. Ben Summerton (@bensummerton), Steve, and I all applied for the Ed Tech Coordinator job which Ben was eventually given. Think about the situation for a moment -- three colleagues all applied for the same position, and one of them got it. Is the door not open to anger? Envy? Resentment? Bruised egos? You bet! But what do professionals do in this situation? You hope that they make a choice to work with someone rather than against them. But, how often does that truly occur? I've seen multiple times in my career where people chose to work against instead of with a newly promoted boss from their peer group. I'm happy to say that Steve and I were both above that. Early on in 2011-12, we both admitted to each other and to Ben that Stephen Cathers (@StephenCathers) had made the best choice. (We both even had opportunities to tell Stephen as well.) In addition, Ben made the choice to work with us as well. He truly proved his leadership abilities again and again by tirelessly working on PowerSchool and providing PD session along with Steve and me. Ben made decisions in a truly collaborative way and organized the department into a powerhouse within the school community.

So Steve and I made the choice to work with Ben rather than against him and the outcomes of that choice was amazing. It was my best year in education. As a team, I believe we pushed KIS forward. We provided PD opportunities to countless colleagues and supported the tech integration effort at KIS in multiple ways. Students, faculty, parents, and staff benefited from our efforts. Looking ahead to 2012-13 the future is bright and I'm looking forward to working with our new team members.