Archive for June, 2010

Quest Atlantis Teacher

Posted in Educational, PLN on June 22, 2010 by Mister A

Becoming a Quest Atlantis teacher is no easy task.  I recently began my work as a buoy, training new teachers in how to utilize Quest Atlantis (QA) in their classrooms. I created a dummy new teacher account, so I could review the things I went through two years ago when I first started the training and, man, is there some good resources in the initial professional development missions.  However, the initial tasks can be time-consuming, even for someone familiar with operating an avatar and navigating through virtual worlds.

Teacherville in QA

For fear of frightening new teachers away, I found myself minimizing the amount of preparation and work it takes to become a QA teacher for the participants at my recent workshop.  The first question many teachers seem to ask about learning new ways to teach is, “How much of my time is this going to take?”  Instead of answering, as I did, “Oh, not too much, we should get through the training pretty quickly,”  I should have responded, “It can be very time consuming and seem like a thankless task at times.  You will fight battles with tech people in your district.  Figuring out how to get QA loaded on computers and get them working is a job in itself.  Coordinating the permission slips across five states and understanding all the various features in the teacher toolkit can be daunting as well.  The learning curve is very steep for QA, but I hope you will stick with it because the benefits of being a QA Teacher far outweigh the drawbacks.”

I have been reflecting as I am preparing for my first group of teachers second meeting, and I have been asking myself, why have I invested the amount of time and energy in this new educational technology.  What exactly have been the “benefits” of using Quest Atlantis with my students?  For my students I believe there have been many.  I have heard many different questers say things like “This is SOOOOO cool!” on several occasions as they work their way through various tasks.  QA engages my students in a way that nothing else seems to be able to.  They learn self-direction and have fun when they are in Quest Atlantis.  They are learning to interact, communicate, and collaborate with others in an on-line, teacher-monitored, safe environment.  They are investigating Social Commitments and how to treat others respectfully.  All the while being invested in a standards based curriculum.  The more I see kids work with Quest Atlantis, and as I become increasingly efficient at teaching with it, the more I believe that MUVEs like it definitely hold a very strong place in the future of education.

QA Teachers at a Baseball game

Those are some benefits for my students, but what about me?  I have spent all this time in QA  and learned how to use it.  How have I benefited?  I believe in several different ways.  I have become adept at interacting with others GLOBALLY through the trainings that Quest Atlantis and Bronwyn Stuckey have offered.  Not only are my students learning how to interact with others in on-line environments, but I am as well.  My PLN has grown stronger through the connections I have made with teachers who also use Quest Atlantis.  I am on the cutting edge of new technologies, which is something I have always wanted to be, and I continue to learn how these new technologies can be utilized in my classroom.  And finally, I KNOW and have professional and social relationships with people ALL OVER THE WORLD, as a result of my work in QA.  Regardless of what happens in the future for Quest Atlantis, I believe those relationships have made my time working and learning there (in QA) worth way more than any of the time and energy I have spent learning how to use it.

Nineteen Years

Posted in Educational, Personal with tags , , on June 17, 2010 by Mister A

I have a student named Harly who is deathly afraid of speaking in front of her classmates. When those times came, where she had to speak in front of others, I have heard myself provide her (and students like her) with the following advice:

“You know, public speaking is the greatest fear faced by most people. For the majority of people it is even greater than the fear of death. But you know, the only way you will ever get over that fear is by facing it. Take every opportunity you have to speak in front of others and always volunteer to go first. If you do that, eventually that fear will decrease and perhaps it might even disappear completely.”

My wife was in my classroom when I gave Harly that advice on the day of our Dean Groom web conference at North Middle school, where Harly volunteered to present FIRST to teachers she did not even know as well as her classmates in a way that was TOTALLY new to everybody.

As I talked about my fear of presenting two workshops for teachers at a technology conference here in Great Falls, my big-headed wife reminded me of my lecture to Harly, and went on to talk about how I should take my own advice. And I guess I am taking my own advice, because I signed up to teach the workshops. I just hate it when someone else has to point it out…and I really wish the fear went away before I did the presenting.

On a personal note
, On Tuesday, my wife and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. It is because of conversations like the one I just described that we have as successful of a marriage as we do. We have problems, just like everyone else, but when all is said and done, I consider myself to be about the luckiest man alive when I get to wake up next to my wife, Joanie, each day.

2009 – 2010 Final Reflection

Posted in Professional Reflection on June 9, 2010 by Mister A

For my formal evaluation this year, I have recorded my experiences as a first year gifted education teacher here in my blog.  This will be my final reflection designed to explore successes, failures, and where I will improve instruction for my students in the future.  And since I believe a video can be as meaningful as a well written essay…I had one of my students create a news story about what we did this year.  I have embedded it below.  I also created an Animoto video to show what we did with the Grant money we were awarded last fall.  I might be pushing fair use a little bit, but I just love that piano song, and Coldplay never got back to me.  Thank you, Jane, Shelly, and Mary for all your support.

Lizzy’s News Story

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Mr. A’s Grant.wmv“, posted with vodpod

Qwest Grant Video

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “2009 – 2010 Mr. A’s Classroom79 tobymac“, posted with vodpod

More on Adobe Connect Conference #2

Posted in Educational, PLN on June 3, 2010 by Mister A

Recently, Dean Groom ran the second of two web conferences with my students at East Middle School in Great Falls, MT.  Several teachers who I consider to be in my PLN attended and provided feedback for my students.  I sent my students a wikimail asking what they thought of the web conference.  Here are some of their responses:

“I really enjoyed the opportunity that we had to be involved in the deangroom web conference. It was awesome to listen to other people present their creative story ideas. That and the fact that a whole bunch of people heard my voice and saw my computer! It was so cool.
I want to… no scratch that… I WILL be a famous author when I’m older. After I have written my stories, I will need to share them to hundreds of people. This was a great practice for me when I present. It was also great practice for me to get up and share my exciting mini saga. 🙂 Thank you for the opportunity Mr. A!” – Andi D. 7th Grade

“I thought that the web conference was really neat. I loved meeting a guy in Australia, and I don’t think I would have any other way. I love talking to people with accents, and it’s even cooler when the accents are real. It was interesting to have the pressure of “teachers all over the world” listening to us as we gave our presentations. This seemed like a very advanced program, and it was a great experience. I think the web conference has good potential to help people in the future.” – Amanda M. – 8th Grade

“I really liked presenting my story review to Dean Groom. I thought that it was helpful when he gave me feedback on my review and on how I presented. I also liked the sidebar where you could write and recieve comments from your classmates. I thought that was helpful because it was a quick and easy way for me to see what everyone else thought about my review. Those are a few reasons why I liked the Dean Groom web conference.” – Tara C. – 8th Grade

“I really liked how we got use new types of technology I didn’t know that computers could do that. Also I liked meeting dean groom and “getting” a free kangaroo.  Also I liked having the opportunity to see other people in ECS. Another way I liked was having a chance to hear other peoples stories. Some of the stories sound really interesting and I want to read them when I buy the book.” – Bailey B. – 7th Grade

“I really liked the webinar. I love how I was able to present to people all over the world. I thought that was pretty amazing. I thought it was cool how anyone else would ever care, especially. 😉 <333”                          – Kirsten W. – 8th Grade

“Last Friday, when we explained our stories at the web conference, I presented my paragraph. I thought that giving a presentation to someone not located in the same room as you was a good experience. Usually, students present to the class, or not at all but with the web conference, we could present to anyone around the world, and hear feedback about our presentation through the mikes provided.
If I had the opportunity to do this again, I would. It would be even better if more people were informed and could join in on the web conference. Another positive benefit of this is that it promoted our book, causing many people around the world to take part in reading it. I think that classrooms in America should do this more often.” – Anna L. – 8th Grade

“I thought that the web conference was very cool. It is pretty amazing that people from all over the world can listen to our web conference. I also thought that the fact that dean groom stayed up so long with us was pretty awesome, so I would love to be included in another one of these web conferences.” – Jared E. – 7th Grade

“I thought that the web conference was pretty cool because you can talk to people from all over the world. You also get to look at your story from other people’s point of view.” – Earl G. – 8th Grade

“I thought it was a lot funner then giving a speech in front of a class. I was kind of nervous but after it seemed fine. It was pretty cool though for talking about your story.”  Brandon B. –  7th Grade

“I liked a couple of things about the web conference. First, I enjoyed Mr. Groom’s feedback and his voice made me giggle. I liked how you could instantly receive feedback. I also liked how it helped me practice my presentation skills and I was instantly told I was talking too fast. Because of the real-time web conference, I was told to slow down and I could start my presentation over.” – Emma M. – 8th Grade

“I really really liked the web conference. I think it was amazingly cool that we could talk and a bunch of people who weren’t in our room could hear us and see what we were doing. It was a really fun way to share information. It made me think about how I presented my story because some of the people listening didn’t know me, or what my story was about, as is usually the case when we have class projects. It was cool for me as a writer to tell people about my book. I really liked the web conference. It was the most fun we’ve had in ecs all year.” – Zoie K. – 8th Grade

My classroom had no walls during that web conference.  I think the day is coming when classrooms as we know them will be much different.  They will be more like my classroom was on the day of the adobe connect conference.  I don’t know when, and I don’t know exactly how it will happen, but in order to teach and learn from others, you no longer need to be in the same PHYSICAL space.

Dean Groom is Real

Posted in Educational, PLN, Professional Reflection with tags , , , on June 1, 2010 by Mister A

My second group of students did their web conference with Dean Groom on Friday.  This time I invited several members of my twitter PLN and to listen in and also provide feedback for my students.  They included Gerald Aungst, Kim Harrison, Scott Merrick, Bronwyn Stuckey, Crista Anderson and Susan Wanke.  Although we experienced a few technical difficulties and it was a bit hectic having thirty students in my closet sized classroom, things went off very well.  The fact that I was able to increase my students’ audience to the extent that I did (with the help of what has become a very powerful PLN) may have been one of the coolest things I have ever done in my classroom.  I have tried to get teachers in my school district involved in Twitter and Second Life type virtual environments for this very reason.  It provides me with the opportunity to shrink the world for my students and show them that there are teachers in this world willing to truly go out of their way to help others.

In the first web conference Dean and I did, I didn’t ask a bunch of teachers to come, for fear that things would not go off well.  That was probably a mistake, but I am learning to take more risks with web learning tools as I see the benefits of sharing my students’ work with other teachers on a global level.  My students think it is so cool that not only did one Australian get to see their presentations and read their stories on our wiki, but other teachers around the world are looking at and evaluating their work.  If you would like to read their stories and comment in the discussion tab on our wiki, please click here.  Each chapter is linked at that page, and written on a google doc.