Think Before You Post!

Earlier today, I was presented with a link from my PLN to a blog that talked about parent/teacher interactions. I think this is a very important topic that should be discussed openly. So I proceeded to follow the link to be presented with a blog entry that was an email conversation between a parent and teacher (names were removed, of course).

I had to pause. Did this teacher really take an email from a parent, directed to him, about that parent's child and post it on the internet? Not only that, but said teacher-blogger also posted his response. And talked in some detail about that student's behavior and his views of an issue that should remain private between the parent and the teacher? Said teacher-blogger's name is posted on the blog. No contact information is provided. So if I want to discuss this situation with the teacher-vblogger, I would have to search to find contanct info or leave a comment on the blog. This post should not be on the internet as it is, and I certainly don't feel a discussion with this teacher-blogger should be public, either!

Right now, I want to reach through my screen and knock some sense into the teacher-blogger. Unfortunately, I think said teacher-blogger will be in for a surprise when he is called into the principal's office in the near future. I understand that we all need to blow off some steam from time to time. You can do that in the teacher's lounge, or in a blog post that is never published. Or in a much more hypothetical situation, even! But this post is now out there for anyone to read. If I were the parent on the other end of this situation, I would be livid.

As an educator, I have to constantly remember that I am a role model, whether I want the label or not. As educators, we are all in the public spotlight, whether we are at school, walking the dog, in the grocery store, driving down the road, etc. We need to always be aware of what it is we are doing, especially online. Venting about parent/teacher interactions is not just counter-productive, but potentially harmful to one's employment and certification! As human beings, we all make mistakes. We must also learn from those mistakes, as well as deal with the repercussions of those mistakes. I hope that this teacher-blogger can avoid anything too harsh.


The Continuing Discussion of Cell Phones in Schools

Even though Classrooms for the Future (CFF) has ceased to be in any form it once was, one of the great collaborative areas for the former CFF Coaches (many are now Instructional Technology Coaches) is our listserv. Today, a question arose as to whether allowing cell phones in schools would violate CIPA arose, as many districts want to ensure that they can obtain as much funding as they can. I can assure you, allowing cell phones does not violate CIPA. If the students are not using their phones to access the schools network, then it is fine (it is necessary to have classroom management skills to allow their use, though). If a student is using a cell phone to access the school's network, well, the network should already be filtered anyway!

But this led to another discussion about allowing them or not as devices period. As many of you know, this is an issue that I hold close, as I feel students should be allowed to use the devices in school and have had success integrating the technology into my classroom. But I did enter into the debate on the listserv, and realized that my argument on there could be very useful to other educators trying to bring cell phones into their districts. Below is part of the conversation:

There is a modicum of responsibility that will always rest with the student. If they are properly using the cell phone for educational purposes, then there is no issue. It is only when they move outside of the area of "educational purposes" where the issue arise, as with any other tool. If a device is being used inappropriately, then it needs to be addressed thusly. However, if we are just saying "No" to a device due to possible disruptions, we are only inviting more disruptions (students WILL have cell phones with them, regardless of the rules).

But a question I bring up is, "Do we want the 'inmates' running the 'asylum?'" I no longer need public school for my personal gain. I have a job in a public school, but this institution is not here for me. It is here for the education of the students who walk the halls every day. We should be providing them an environment that suits their needs and desires. They have expressed again and again that they want to be able to use their cell phones in school, both educationally and socially. Yes, there are potential issues that could arise, but I think I could come up with a similar situation for any issue that does not use a cell phone. We have dealt with those issues. We can do the same with cell phones.

Since I have started using cell phones in my classes, there have been fewer phones confiscated from those who are students in my classes. As we are using the devices, we are also discussing appropriate uses, etc. I even model how to react to a ringer going off during class by leaving my ringer on and having a friend call it while I am teaching. It rings, and while continuing to teach, I just reach into my pocket and silence the ringer. I don't make a big deal. I don't fumble around. I just go about as if nothing big is happening (I do have to say that my classroom phone rings much more frequently than any combination of cell phones in my classroom during lessons). After going over my lesson, I have a small discussion with my students about how to react (or not react) to a disruption of this sort.

Two weeks ago, a situation arose where my students were tested. A student forget to silence her phone (we all make this mistake), and it went off in the middle of a lesson. She quietly and calmly silenced the phone, I kept teaching, and not a single student reacted in any other way to the "disruption." The lesson got through to them. Now, had I followed the rule to the letter of the law, I would have confiscated the phone on the spot. I would have had to stop the lesson to ask for the phone, possibly argue with the student that didn't want to part with her device, and then get the class back into the lesson. Which, I ask, is more disruptive?
I hope an argument like this can help more districts allow the use of cell phones in education. There are so many things that can be done, but only if the ability to use the devices is there.


Another One Bites the Dust

As I was finishing my preparations for my cell phones in education presentation today, I was checking my QR Codes, and I found out that he site I had been using for generating my QR codes has ceased operations. This also means that the QR codes I had created to show do not work anymore, as they work through the site snappr.net (don't go there, they have been shut down). While I understand that services such as this may not be able to survive in the current economy, it would have at least been nice to have received some notice about their impending doom (they did get my email address when I registered). But that's neither here nor there, and I appreciate that they did exist at one point in time so that I could become aware of QR codes.

So, I am now in search of a new QR code generator. The first one I am going to check out is Kaywa. I hope it works well. If you have any suggestions for other ones to check out, let me know!


Reflections on a Math Day: November 17, 2009

I don't know why I don't take the time to reflect more often. I may think some of the things in my head, but once that thought has passed, what else can I do with it? I could come up with excuse after excuse as to why I don't do this more, but that's not productive.

In my Integrated Math 2 classes, we have been working on distance, midpoints, and slope. As a math teacher, I feel that these are relatively easy concepts to work with, and many of my students have expressed that they know what slope is, blurting out "y = mx+b!" Of course, slope is only a part of the slope-intercept form (which we will cover later this chapter), but it gives me some insight into what my students know, and what they think they know.

Now, with my Math for Standards class, I have them blog about what they think they know before we begin a unit, and then have them reflect upon what we covered at the end of the unit. It helps me to better adjust the unit to their needs, and it allows for them to see their growth through the unit. (Visit my class blog here, student blogs are linked on the right). I also plan on using the blogs more with my Integrated Math 2 students as we move through the year.

Hearing the students yell out the slope-intercept form when we are only looking at slope gave me the idea that my students had indeed learned about slope before and knew a way to apply it. Yet, when I asked them what slope actually was, they stumbled. So we did some math calisthenics. We discussed how slope represented the ratio of change in vertical distance to change in horizontal distance. Of course, many of us teach it as "rise over run." So, from their seats, I asked them to run across the room. Of course, they all started by rising first, so I stopped them. Right there, they realized that before they can run (horizontal), the have to rise (vertical) when dealing with slope. The light bulbs came on.

Today, the Integrated students were working on a graded worksheet on distance, midpoint, and slope. One of the students (who, coincidentally had not completed the practice problems assigned for the concepts) looked at the midpoint formula and noticed something. He raised his hand, saying, "Mr. Lamb, there's a comma in this formula!"

"Why do you think that is?" I asked him.

He paused, thinking about what we were covering, what he was trying to find, and what was given to him in the problem. He was not coming up with an impulsive answer. I could tell he really wanted to understand this. "Well," he replied, "since we're looking for the midpoint, that means we need a point, and a point is given as an ordered pair. And, the midpoint is in the exact middle of the other two points, so if we know the distance between the points, we just cut it in two, so that's why each part gets divided by two!"

He had a smile on his face. Can you imagine it? A student enjoying understanding math! We continued our conversation (which also happened to be loud enough for the rest of the class to hear) about being able to understand the formula. I asked if he'd be able to choose the correct formula from a series of formulas, and he was confident he could, as he now understood why the formula worked.

I wish I had more time to have these types of discussions with my students. This is where the real learning occurs for some of them, and the boost in confidence on one skill can go a long way in the classroom, especially for students who feel they cannot do math.

One other change I have implemented is with the comments I place on report cards. I was sitting and typing the comments last week as I always have: "Timmy should..." or "Mary needs to..." when I stopped. Something hit me, and I had to ask myself, "Who am I writing these comments for?" I have always written them as if only the parent would see them and directed them to the parent (And yes, I am a firm believer that a parent/guardian should be an active participant in a student's education). But I want my students to realize that, ultimately, they are responsible for their own education. So this year, I am writing comments for the students, not about them. I have already gotten input about this from a few students, as they seem to be thankful that I am talking to them.


Google Wave Invites

I received a Google Wave invite not too long ago, and to go along with it, I also received some invites for some friends so we could all try it out. I posted on twitter and quickly got responses for all my invites, but then others rolled in after I passed them all out. I felt bad, as I only had so many.

So, this week, I received twelve more Google Wave invites. I first reached out to those I didn't get the first time, and two of them still hadn't been invited, so they each got one. This left me with ten more to pass out, and I wanted to be a bit more fair. The solution I came up with was to ask for the best reason why anyone should get the invites. I received fifteen requests from people I know, plus 8 from spammers and people I don't know. I am posting the ten best responses now. If one of these responses is yours, watch your inbox for your Google Wave invite (or check your twitter/facebook for me asking for your email so I can invite ya)! Spammers, you can ignore, because I'm not inviting you to Google Wave!

Top Ten Why I Should Give You A Google Wave Invite (in no particular order):

  1. Yes, please! ...b/c I need to contact this Nigerian Prince to complete the transfer of my life savings.
  2. Because in 1 year I went from using little tech in the classroom to embracing Moodle, wikis, Twitter, and the like. Bring it on!
  3. As tech coach at GS, I want to share the possibilities with my teaching staff. Giving it to one will inspire 75.
  4. Um - I'm not gonna feed you a load of BS. So putting it simply... Cause I really want to play around with the technology :)
  5. I finally had chance to research what Google Wave is and it looks awesome!!! I am in a technology department at work, so always looking for new collabaration tools. If you have any invites left, please send one my way :-)
  6. One word...KINDNESS :)
  7. Send me an invite and I'll try to figure out what it is. I assume something to do with the tides or hairstyling.
  8. three things: 1) i played EP soccer and i was on your dad's indoor team with your sisters 2) I will use google wave to somehow feed starving children 3) you know that hole in the ozone? I know who's causing it. now, unless you want al gore on your [butt], you should probably invite me.

    Plus, i know who the jelly bricks are, lol, and that makes me worthy of google wave
  9. because you saw me get drilled on the side of the head with a softball? Does that work?
  10. I would like to petition you for a Google Wave invite, but for my boyfriend, not for myself.

    Christmas is coming up, and being a broke grad student, it is unlikely that I will be able to get him (or anyone else, for that matter) a gift this year. This makes me sad because he is very nice to me, and always does nice things for me. He even takes out the trash without me having to nag him.

    I know he wants a Google Wave invite because he is a Sys Admin and I have heard him lamenting his lack of Google Wave capabilities. He would be ecstatic to receive an invite.

    So that is my plea, Jimbo. I would like you to give me one of your invites so Ben can have it. As an early Christmas present. Because free is the only price point I can swing right now.
So, there you have it! Sorry for those I couldn't get this time around. If I get more, I'll ask you again!


Cell Phones In (and out of) the Classroom


Paperless Business Cards

I stumbled across this one the other day and decided to sign up and check it out. You can now create a business card that can be accessed by texting a message to 50500 through contxts.com. Try it out: text MISTERLAMB to 50500 to receive a text with my contact info. Once you receive the text, you can store the information in your phone and transfer it to your computer. No longer do we need traditional business cards.


It was bound to happen. Thankfully, we have Yodio!

I remember the days when the only way to record yourself through your phone would be to call a friend and have them hit "record" on a tape recorder on their end (or why not just use your own?). Then along came Gcast and gabcast. They were great! You could call a toll-free number, enter a PIN, and record to your heart's content! This was great for classrooms, as now there was no need to have any recording software or laptop. All that was needed was a phone (which pretty much comes standard with any classroom) or a student or teacher cell phone. Great!

Unfortunately, Gcast and gabcast are businesses, and they need to make money. Through gabcast, you can purchase minutes ($.10 a minute...reminds me of old Sprint commercials) for use for recording from your phone, and Gcast will be charging a $99 yearly subscription fee for recording phone calls (Edit: uploading audio you already have recorded is still free). It was bound to happen. I wish Gcast would have given more than a week's notice, as I was planning on using their service for a class project in two weeks. I can't really afford to spend the $99 out of pocket for a subscription at the moment, so I needed to find a new way to record from a phone. (Edit: Gcast is offering prorated subscriptions for educators through the remainder of the school year.)

Luckily, someone found another way, and it is known as Yodio. Currently, it is free to record from your phone on Yodio, so I think I will be trying this out with my Advanced Algebra classes later this month. I am going to see if there is a way to allow kids to record from their cell phones or my class phone and then funnel them into one page for listening, and I think there is a way. It seems that I can search for recordings by unregistered phone numbers while also including a PIN, but I guess we'll wait and see.

Aside from still being able to record for free from a phone (how long until Yodio switches to a pay plan, I wonder?), Yodio has another feature that could be very helpful in extending digital storytelling. Not only can I use audio in Yodio, but I can use digital pictures that I (or a student) uploads to help share my thoughts. Then, it can be embedded and emailed, as well.

In the end, it could be a blessing to the quadratics project I am having my students do to be able to use Yodio instead of Gcast, as I was planning. I was more familiar with Gcast, but part of being a lifelong learner and teacher is to be able to try new things, and this is yet another opportunity.


A Great Day

Today was the kind of day that all educators dream about. It started this morning with a trip around to various teachers to deliver some converted audio files for Envirothon and to register for a CFF Exploration day for our social studies teachers, where they will be given the chance to work on creating a 21st Century lesson plan with social studies teachers from throughout our IU. See this site to check out lessons from our science, math, and English day.

During my Advanced Algebra classes, I saw some of the enthusiasm from students I thought I had lost. And we've been working on a difficult topic: factoring quadratics. I knew that if I could get them past the initial frustrations that they would get some of their confidence back. But I wasn't expecting what I saw: students who wanted to do the math, with smiles on their faces, eager and willing to do more. So I finally was getting my students back. Even students who hadn't done homework all marking period completed and understood the homework, AND volunteered to do problems at the board!

I could hardly believe it. I passed out a worksheet that is going to be graded, and all but one student immediately began working on it (I need to find a way to win that student back). They were asking questions. They were helping each other out, pointing out mistakes and actually enjoying the math.

Over the next hour after my classes, I had math students from all throughout the school stopping in my room for help. This is during the time where I should be doing my CFF work, but I just can't turn away a student. What kind of educator would I be if I did that? I was helping two, three students at a time in three different subjects. I would give one a problem, get them started, then jump to another. It's like we finally have the Math Lab that we've always wanted, but it's starting to be at the expense of my sanity and ability to get work done.

Next thing I knew, it was time for my Math for Standards class, and I knew I was going to disappoint this class. I had scheduled for them to play review basketball, but as they had not completed all of the work I had assigned, I was taking it away. As they filed into the room, I was getting ready for the backlash.

"We are not playing review basketball today," I said. "Instead, you are going to work on the work you still owe me." Ok, here it comes. I was ready.

"YES!! I need to get these done!" "Sweet!" "Alright!"

Wait, what? This group didn't want review basketball? They wanted to work on their old worksheets? I think I stood there for a moment with my jaw hitting the ground. Then I picked it up and went to work with them. They each had a notecard with their current grade and what they still owed. They got their worksheets out. If they had lost them, they printed out new copies from my wiki. Again, students who I thought I had lost were all of a sudden apologizing for not doing their work earlier and doing what they could to catch up. One was a student I had gotten quite upset with in class over his lack of trying. Since then, he has been really nice to me, and seems to really want to make me happy now. I hope I can get him on track better. He is smarter than he knows.

After that, I had a few minutes to get some CFF work done, then it was an outside soccer practice! After a Nor'easter came through Monday and freezing temperatures the last two days, we were hoping today would have been nice enough to get outside. The forecast was for a high of 41, so we all prepared to bundle up. Then, we step outside, and it was be-yoo-tee-ful. It had to be at least in the 50's. I was ready to bundle up, but shorts and a long-sleeve tshirt were perfect. And this year's group of girls is enthusiastic, they want to learn, and they're willing to listen. And we have a large, young group, so even though this is a "rebuilding" year, I think we'll surprise some teams, and we have a good future.

By the time all the girls get picked up, I gather work from my room, and eat dinner at home, it is 7:30. Wow, where has the day gone? Well, obviously the day is over, right? Nope! I sign in to AIM, and students are there ready to ask questions about the worksheet and other lessons we had gone over. So, instead of sitting down and grading and lesson planning, I have been working with students online for the past 3 hours. And they're learning. They're getting things to click. It's great.

And I'm tired. I am so far behind on my work. I have to do laundry. But you know what? Today was so worth it. I hope tomorrow is just like it.


OPPOSE PA HB 363: A Letter to My State Representative

As you may have heard from any number of educators earlier today, a few Pennsylvania State Representatives have introduced PA HB 363 on February 11, 2009, (the final day of PETE&C) in an effort to ban cell phones from all facets of education, including allowing students to carry these devices with them at ANY school sponsored activity, including dances and sporting events. I urge all Pennsylvanians to contact your State Representative and tell them to OPPOSE PA HB 363! Here is the letter I sent to my State Representative:

Today, I was forwarded information on PA House Bill 363, which proposes to ban student cell phones from schools. As an educator, I cannot support this idea. Cell phones are no longer just devices for making phone calls. These are devices that teachers across the state are integrating into their classrooms, and it is highly engaging to out students. I have begun integrating into two of my classrooms to great success, and the students in my other class are now demanding that I do the same for them. As an educator, I have to make sure that I am able to reach my students in a way that will get the most out of them, and the students in my school have let it be known that they want to learn how to be productive with these devices. They want to learn how to be more productive with cell phones, and believe it or not, they do care about learning proper etiquette for use, as well.

I have been a huge proponent of cell phones in education and have spent a good portion of the past year promoting the benefits of allowing these devices in schools. I have been collaborating with educators across the country to provide uses for these devices. There are man great plans already out there, and educators are being more and more innovative in their integration every day.

Recently, I have presented at a tech director's meeting for IU 13 and at the annual Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C) about the issues that have been brought up from allowing cell phones in schools. Almost every single issue can be narrowed to a problem with structured use, not with cell phones. When calculators were first introduced into education, there was a lot of push back, but now you cannot have a math class without them. Computers were considered to have no place in the everyday classroom. Today, we have made the biggest strides in our classrooms that to the Classrooms for the Future grant. Both of these devices were met with trepidation, but it was structure and innovative educators and leaders that have turned those tools into must-haves for all students.

This same issue exists with cell phones (and other portable electronic devices such as iPods, mini-camcorders such as the Flip, and PDAs). Yes, they can be distracting. Yes, there could be issues with improper use. However, with the proper structure, these issues will become non-issues. Not only that, but as educator, I have a responsibility to provide the best education to each and every student. If I were to restrict their learning environment, I would be cheating them out of their future and limiting their potential.

I urge you to oppose PA House Bill 363, which proposes to ban these devices from all school functions. Not only will this be limiting what teachers can to best educate our students. You will also find that many parents will oppose this bill. At Annville-Cleona, we have a more lenient cell phone policy which allows our students to carry them as long as they are turned off, and allows teachers to allow their use within a structured environment. However, we have had to deal with many parent complaints that they want their kids to be able to send them messages during the day, such as at lunch. Our parents want their kids to have their cell phones with them at all times. On top of that, the bill is banning students from carrying the devices at all school sponsored activities. This would include sporting events where students are spectators, and even on buses on the way back from participating in sporting events. As a soccer coach, I like the fact that my players can call their parents when we are 10 minutes away from the school so that neither the parent or student is waiting for the ride home.

I am more than willing to continue a dialouge on this issue, and am willing to even come to Harrisburg to speak with any number of Representatives that may have questions. I know there are educators just like me statewide that feel the same way, especially my fellow CFF Coaches. Many of us have been sending letters today already. Each Representative could easily find CFF Coaches in their own district to speak with about this issue.

Again, please oppose PA House Bill 363.

James Lamb, Jr.
Annville-Cleona Secondary School
Mathematics Department
Classrooms for the Future Coach
717.867.7700 ext. 4213
Skype: jimbo.lamb
iChat/AIM: MrLambMath
twitter: misterlamb
delicious/diigo: misterlamb

Cell Phones in Education: An obstacle

I have just been sent a link that may provide a huge obstacle to my passion of integrating cell phones into the classroom, and it is called PA House Bill No. 363. This bill is being referred to the Committee on Education to amend "the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14)" which banned student pagers from schools, with the exception of emergency workers and medical reasons. This bill is aiming to apply the same restrictions to cell phones. Here is the proposed wording. Italics are new wordings, while [brackets] are removed wordings.
13 Section 1317.1. Possession of [Telephone Pagers] Electronic

14 Devices Prohibited.--(a) The possession by students of

15 telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers,

16 cellular telephones and portable electronic devices that record

17 or play audio or video material shall be prohibited on school

18 grounds, at school sponsored activities and on buses or other

19 vehicles provided by the school district.

20 (b) The prohibition against beepers and cellular telephones

21 contained in subsection (a) shall not apply in the following

22 cases, provided that the school authorities approve of the

23 presence of the beeper or cellular telephone in each case:

24 (1) A student who is a member of a volunteer fire company,

25 ambulance or rescue squad.

26 (2) A student who has a need for a beeper or cellular

27 telephone due to the medical condition of an immediate family

28 member.

29 Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
I urge each and every educator in PA to contact the Representatives that introduced the amendment to the bill, as well as the members of the Committee on Education to inform them of the immense mistake it would be to apply this amendment. Inform them of the great things that the educators in this state are doing with cell phones both in and out of the classroom. Remind them that the devices are not the problem, but the improper use is, and that we cannot continue on in education ignoring devices such at this, both as educational tools as well as the need to make sure today's youth are being taught proper use of these devices for their own safety, as well as proper etiquette and use.

Here are the names (click for contact) of the Representatives whose names are on the bill, as well as those on the Committee on Education.

Angel Cruz, D, District 180
Rosita C. Youngblood, D, District 198
T. Mark Mustio, R, District 44
Thomas R. Caltagirone, R, District 127
Douglas G. Reichley, R,
District 134
Harry Readshaw, D,
District 36
John P. Sabatina, D,
District 174
John J. Siproth, D,
District 189
W. Curtis Thomas, D,
District 181

Find contacts for all State Representatives here. Find yours and tell them NOT to support banning cell phones in education.

Committee on Education (including contact info).

Also, sign this virtual petition.

Spread the word. Let educators decide how to run their classrooms. We need our students to have access this technology for the sake of our world!


Passion: Reflections on PETE&C

Wordle: Passion

I have learned quite a bit about passion over the past five days here at PETE&C. Passion has been one of the best things to think about as I moved through Keynotes, sessions, meals, the exhibit hall, and connection with my PLN.

It started on Saturday, with the CFF Coaches preconference. We met Steve Sassaman, who gave us so many things to think about as we return to our districts and set out to continue working with our teachers. And Steve had a passion for what he was talking about. As he was talking throughout the afternoon, I couldn't help but think about how I could make changes to what I do to better communicate to the staff at school as to what I could do for them. Just from the opening skit where he and Suzanne Loftus (CFF Coach from Council Rock) demonstrated how words left unsaid can lead to misconceptions about both parties, I was able to realize that whatever it is that I mean to say, I should say it how I mean it. I can't assume that others will know what I can do unless I come out and say, "This is what I can do." Steve had us for almost 4 hours, and there was a short break built into his time, but I did not find myself counting down the minutes to break. The time came, he let us decompress for the break, and when it was time to get back to his presentation, we all sat back down and got right back into it. He had us because he had passion.

Sunday, our school helped to host the preconference sessions. I went in to school to assist with any issues that came up, as well as to complete my sub plans for the rest of the week. I saw people presenting 6-hour workshops on things they were passionate about. They shared freely, knowing that they were sharing their passion. This passion will lead to new uses in new classrooms, leading students to new knowledge, and hopefully, new passion.

Monday, the main conference began at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. The opening Keynote didn't really appeal to me. I think this was partly due to the fact that Jason Ohler seemed to be speaking more toward the elementary audience, as opposed to things I was interested in. I'm sure that when I go back and review his Keynote materials that I will find things that I can identify with, but his presentation didn't connect directly with me. However, I couldn't help but notice his passion. The zeal with which he spoke, the energy that he exuded, his willingness to share, that's what I got from the Keynote.

Throughout the remainder of the day Monday, I wandered from session to session, collaborated with those in my PLN, and spoke with vendors, and in each, I experienced a different passion. In the sessions, I saw passion for allowing students to become school leaders as part of a student tech team. There was passion for making sure we were providing students with an education of safety while being part of the online community. On the exhibit floor, I saw passion toward providing new, innovative solutions to old problems. I saw passion for services that were being offered. Passion towards providing a higher education to our teachers so they could provide a better education for our students. And from my PLN (twitter friends, CFF Coaches, new connections), I saw a passion for advancing education. I saw passion toward being the innovators that are willing to share, educate, take risks, make connections, collaborate, give credit to others, learn, and be the leaders in education that make our schools something that we haven't seen before.

I was able to share one of my new passions. I took the lead in a Birds of a Feather session, where I facilitated a discussion on cell phones in education. I could go on for hours about what these devices can offer us. The discussion went for an hour and a half, and then I was approached after the session and continued to have the discussion with others over the next hour (and the next two days). I had a few educators ask if I would be willing to speak to teachers and administrators in their area in the future. Of course I'm willing! It's my passion!

Tuesday we had Daniel Pink as our Keynote, where he shared his passion for education, but from an outsider's perspective. The biggest thing I got from him was that we need to find ways to join the two sides of our brains. We need to find ways to be logical and creative to find new ways to solve the problems that are presented today.

Today was a Keynote from Rafe Esquith, and it was one of the most powerful presentations I have seen. I can't even begin to describe the passion this man has, but I can say that there were numerous times where he and his students brought the audience to tears. I know he reached every teacher in the room when he talked about how we often don't know the difference we may make in our students' lives. And we continue doing it for less pay than we deserve. And each year, we continue to improve our methods in the hopes that we can offer more and more for our students. And we do it due to our passion.

I know that I will continue to do what I must do to improve the things I do in my classroom. I will continue to fight for a full-time position as a technology integrator in my district so that I can provide the support that our teaching staff needs to best meet the needs of our students. I will continue looking for new ways to include cell phones and iPods in education. I will remain connected to my PLN at all times, no matter where I am, not because I can, but because I need to in order to drive my passion.

And here I am, reflecting on PETE&C. The conference at Hershey is over, but the new and existing connections will continue. The passions we all have will be shared. More innovation will be introduced into education and we will all be there to support each other. And when we think we might be done, we'll all sit down and realize that we have just begun, no matter how much we have accomplished. And it will be our passion that drives us to continue.

LIVE: Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow, Today

I will be doing a Cover It Live blog of this session at PETE&C. Check here at 11:00 to take part in the conversation.

LIVE: Students’ online behavior? Are they at risk?

I will be doing a Cover It Live blog of this session at PETE&C. Check here at 9:45 to take part in the conversation.


Short Cell Phone Post

Today was a day of cell phones for me. It started this morning when I attended the IU 13 Tech Coordinator's meeting to talk about cell phones in education. My main focus behind the presentation was to discuss why we block the use of cell phones and why we should allow them to be used in a structured environment. I have a feeling that I will be going through the presentation again and posting it as an enhanced podcast (possibly on the soon-to-be-opened IU 13 iTunes U page).

As I expressed many of the concerns that I have heard over the years as to why we should ban cell phones, I countered with statements that showed those same concerns were there before cell phones, and that the cell phone was just a new medium that we have to create the structure for use. After all, if teachers don't teach these necessary skills to our students, who will? Isn't that our job?

I moved into showing some examples as to how cell phones could be used by demonstrating Poll Everywhere through this poll, this poll, and this poll. I talked about how this tool is a mean to gather information for a teacher to determine whether the class understood the material, as opposed to waiting until the next day after a failed homework assignment or on the quiz. Then I demonstrated Gcast with a podcast I had recorded the previous night through my phone, talking about how they could be used to record observations on a field trip.

Of course, I had to talk about iPhones and iPod Touches and the Apple App Store (while mentioning that other smartphones were getting similar stores) and the educational apps that were available at their fingertips, many for free!

I finished my presentation by discussing things we have already dealt with in schools. We made the switch from slide rule to calculators, but there were those that said they would never catch on in education. Today, they allow educators to focus more on interpreting data and delving deeper into what the mathematics can tell us as opposed to medial, repetitive tasks. Sex education was once a highly discussed issue. We all hope that our children and students will abstain and wait until they are mature and fully ready for sex, yet at the same time, we know that many will have sex. But we don't just teach abstinence. We teach safe sex because we want our students to protect themselves and make smart decisions. Are we going to tell our students to abstain from cell phone use, or are we going to step up and teach them how to properly use them?

Later in the day, after I got back to school and was preparing materials for my substitute the next day, I noticed twitter messages about Flight 1549 going down in the Hudson. Of course, my first reaction was worry for those who were lost and how this would bring back fears of flying and worry of terrorist attacks.

But then I tuned into CNN to view the coverage and saw a plane floating in the water, with ferries and other boats swarming to and from it. It was a spectacular site seeing how quick the response was and the willingness of everyone to help. And as I was watching CNN, they kept showing photos from cell phones of the rescue process. As the place went down in New York City, there were potentially millions of witnesses. This potential tragedy has now turned into one of the greatest real-world learning experiences we have ever encountered in aviation.

Think about this. The pilot was able to basically land the plane safely in water, keeping the plane intact, for the most part. The flight crew and passengers acted immediately to open doors and work on getting out of the plane. That in and of itself is highly beneficial for the airline industry in training of their employees.

But the thing that could be most beneficial is the abundance of data that is now available about what happened. Every single person who used their cell phone to snap pictures of what was going on, or everyone who call 911 when they saw the plane going down has helped to contribute data to learning how to deal with other similar situations. Had this happened ten years ago, we would not have been able to share anywhere near this much data.

So I continue my quest to promote the positives of cell phones in our society. I will continue to fight on behalf of allowing the use of cell phones in education (in and out of the classroom) and our need to take charge and teach proper use of these wonderful devices.


The Top 10 edtech Stories I Would Like to See in 2009

Here it is, almost 5 PM on a Wednesday and I'm still in school getting work done, and it's not the work that I had planned on getting done. Oh, the jobs of being a part-time edtech integrator. I guess I have to find time somehow to reflect and grow in this position, but isn't it going against an earlier post of mine?

As I embarked through my 21st Century reading pile (I have a 20th Century reading pile that consists of magazines. This "pile" consists of tabs open in my browser) in preparation for the CFF Collaboration day tomorrow, I came across this list on eSchool News. It gives the headlines of
the top 10 edtech stories from 2008. And I am highly disappointed by the list.

First off, I do want to say that I have not yet read the articles that go along with the headlines, so this is just a reaction to each of them. With that said, why is this list so negative? As a school that has been part of the CFF initiative since it first began, I like to think along the lines of all the positives that edtech is bringing into our schools, chief among which are the opportunities we are providing our students to be better prepared for life after school. (On a side note, I think colleges and universities are falling further behind, as I held a twitter conversation with my CFF mentor last night about a FULL COURSE being offered on Microsoft Word. Really?)

Yet here is this list, and most of these headlines are negative. Well, with that said, I think I will take the time to edit the headlines into something much more positive. I think I will call them:

The Top 10 edtech Stories I Would Like to See in 2009

10. Students use cell-phone cameras to record and analyze photos of math being used in the real world.

9. JuicyCampus turned into a leading site to connect college students to worthy causes; changes name to Campus4ACause.

8. Students fight back against hackers, new technology for protection against identity theft developed .
7. Online video better enables teachers to reach students.

6. Cyber-bullying eliminated, students take back the web.

5. RIAA underscored by new 21CRAA (21st Century Recording Artists Association), collaboration with campuses on file sharing and growth of industry.

4. U.S. students get laptops aimed at children in all schools and countries.

3. With TV signals on the digital spectrum, free broadband internet offered throughout the U.S.

2. Industries invest more in schools, realizing the best way to save the economy is to educate everyone.

1. President Barack Obama's new education policy offers full funding from government.

What headlines would you like to see?