Archive for connectivism

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.


Quest Atlantis, Skype, and My Son

Posted in classroom tools, Educational, Personal with tags , , on February 10, 2010 by Mister A

QA Henny

A vice-principal came into my classroom today.  My students were working on a unit called “Ingolstadt” in a muve called Quest Atlantis.  She watched them for a few minutes and said, “Man, are they ever ENGAGED”.  I have a friend that calls virtual games like this and the activities they contain, “Behaviorist Pedagogy“.  I, on the other hand, prefer labeling them as Experiential learning.  I am not certain which of us is more correct.  Perhaps we are equally correct, but I do know a couple of things for sure.  My students are engaged, 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 MUVE’s like it definitely hold a very strong place in the future of education.  If you would like to see a video about Quest Atlantis described by its creator, you can click HERE or just watch it below.

Sasha Barab Video


On a personal note, my son is one of my students when I teach school on this side of town.  He was ill today and had to stay home.  The computer in my kitchen has Quest Atlantis and Skype loaded on it.  During my last class of the day, I skyped home and my son was able to attend my class and talk with his classmates as they worked their way through the Ingolstadt mission in Quest Atlantis.  My son, a seventh grader at one of the middles schools where I teach is at an age where I think he does not appreciate me as much as he did when he was younger.  However, I think he liked the fact that I was able to help him come to school on a day he was too sick to make it past our kitchen computer.

End of Year…still blogging

Posted in Educational with tags , , , , on December 29, 2009 by Mister A

Students Playing Quest Atlantis

I haven’t written a blog post in nearly two months.  I guess learning my new job has been a little bit overwhelming.  I am enjoying my new position; but I believe any time you start a different teaching job, the learning curve can be a bit steep.  I need to remember why I started to blog, if I am to continue blogging. It is because it helps me become better, both as a teacher and, I believe, as a person as well.  Even short blog posts, like I am certain this one will be, are important for me.

I have learned a lot over the past four months about the gifted and talented population.  Mostly, I suppose, is that the majority of these kids seem to have parents who truly care about academic success.  For the past seven years, the majority of my students and their parents cared little about academic success; and for the most part, their grades showed it.  There were exceptions, but they were few and far between.  So far those who argue that the biggest predictor of academic success in the classroom is “the teacher”, I would disagree.  I believe it to be parental involvement.  Intrinsic motivation is rare among middle school students…Parental motivation is NOT.

One of my bicycles

On a personal note, I am regaining my passion for cycling and hope to start racing again in the spring.  I forgot the amount of dedication it requires to be really fit, but it is very slowly coming back to me.  I have not been in really stellar health since I started working towards my master’s degree a little over three years ago.  That stupid piece of paper seemed to really take its toll on my health and on my checkbook.  Hopefully I can use the machine pictured above and some better eating habits to regain the health I possessed in my pre-master years.  Thank God for New Years Resolutions!

My Wife Gets Skyped

Posted in Educational, Gaming, Personal with tags , , on March 29, 2009 by Mister A

My Global WoW friends and I

Web 2.0 applications will not make sense to people until they touch them personally.  Earlier this year I was working my way through a World of Warcraft instance with several edutechs and teachers in New York, one in Portland, one in Florida, and a guy from Great Britain.  We were connected on a SKYPE conference call so we could discuss what was happening, teach and learn from eachother, joke, and converse like we were all in the same room (and in a way, we were).  My wife came into the room where I was and asked what I was doing so I explained it to her.  She said,  “neat…could you move your feet so I can vacuum…”.  It was no big deal to her that I could be working my way through an instance while conversing with people 1000’s of miles away.

The significance of the impact of Skype and similar applications did not become apparent to Joanie until she was out of town one day for work and she was able to utilize Skype from her laptop in her hotel room and our computer at home in our kitchen to enjoy her regular morning routine of visiting with our two children while they ate breakfast and prepared to go to school that day, even though she was 115 miles away in Havre, MT.  It was that same day that Joan called me with the news that Skype was the most fantastic invention of all time, as I reminded her she could have Skyped me for free.

In most cases, adults won’t “get” web 2.0 tools until they touch them in a PERSONAL way.  They are a lot like students.

springfling1On a personal note, the basketball team I coach, the Great Falls Crashers, recently ended their season by winning the Spring Fling Hoop Thing basketball tournament in Missoula, MT.  They are a fine group of 6th grader boys who always work their hardest and were playing their best basketball at the end of the season.  They made coaching this year FUN…so…thank you Conner, Reid, Zach, Cody, Lukas, Bostian, Kam, and Edin (and Adam – the manager)…You guys ROCK!!!

Wikis, My PLN, and Connectivism

Posted in Educational, Personal with tags , , on September 21, 2008 by Mister A

I teach a class called math lab for middle school kids who struggle a bit in mathematics. I have five 48 minute periods of seventh graders on even days and five 48 minute periods of eighth graders on odd days. I have created a wiki for each grade that I have been using to manage classroom activity and also to create links to some fun math sites. Feel free to check them out by clicking the respective grade levels above. Any feedback that is given is greatly appreciated. Those two spaces are public but only members can edit the pages. I have not yet let kids set up accounts or create their own pages on these wikis and I do not know if I am going to do that without a very clear purpose. I have created some other spaces that I plan to utilize for specific units…the first being a unit on fantasy football. It is so convenient to be able to edit lessons as I, or my partner, Mr. Swartz are teaching them and also have a copy of what we worked on for absent students.

In our middle school we have a class called homebase that meets four days each week, two of which are club days, for a little less than 25 minutes each day. Homebase time is usually spent doing planned activities like cleaning out lockers and binders. So, after all is said and done, I probably have about an hour each week with my homebase kids to teach them about how to utilize the web for reflective thought and journaling. My homebase wiki is private although I have invited a couple of people from my PLN to comment to the kids and let them know what they think about various journaling my students do. In the past, by the end of each year, Homebase has become somewhat of a boring place for me and students I have had as well. I am attempting to change that with the use of the wiki and letting the kids decide how we will organize our homebase. Part of this has been to get a class pet for our room (check out turtle’s page). Currently we are reflecting upon a challenge proposed by a group to remember Rachel Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine shooting. The five components of the challenge can be seen below:

We had an assembly last week about Rachel’s Challenge and I believe that it gave us a great place to start as far as reflective journaling (blogging) went. I have created several wikispaces for utilization in my classroom and I felt I had better let my PLN know what I was doing with my wikis so they could provide me with some suggestions. I had an excellent twitter conversation with Paula White about wikis and critical friends and she actually joined my homebase wiki and we started communicating and discussing some suggestions she had for me. My homebase students who have parent-signed permission slips, have begun identifying goals and role models, and reflecting about Rachel’s challenge. Those without permission slips signed and returned, have started journaling the old fashioned way. Some of the planning, goals, and reflections have been thoughtful and well written, but more importantly, they have shown me aspects of my students’ lives and personalities that I would never have ordinarily been made aware of. I have been given numerous opportunities to begin developing relationships between my students and their peers that I wouldn’t have imagined possible only a year ago.

The final wikispace I am developing is for a new club at East Middle School. It will be private as well as each student has begun creating his or her own web page and getting familiar with the wikispace platform. The wikispace will be used to record the activities of our new computer club including work in in a program called Quest Atlantis. I was trained in QA over the summer and continue to learn about it as I implement it into my practice. See my Quest Atlantis post from earlier in the year, or better yet, see Scott Merrick’s post from earlier in the month. Besides the wiki, and another blog I created, my plan is to utilize a group that Dean Groom created for my students on a ning called Teen Second Classroom. They will have the opportunity on that ning to collaborate and discuss virtual worlds and virtual education with students from the other side of the globe. I am very excited by the possibilities that this school year has presented and if any of the people who read this blog, people whom I consider to be members of my PLN, have any suggestions, criticisms, or evaluations of anything you see me doing, I would gladly welcome them.

On a personal note, I am beginning to realize and understand that I am not writing this blog for any other reason but to improve professionally. This blog gives me a venue to let my PLN know what I am up to in my classroom and in my professional life. People who read this blog know more about me and what I am trying to accomplish in my school than anyone in my school does. I think that is what CONNECTIVISM is all about. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I am connected to some mighty fine teachers from all over the world via twitter, second life, several nings, gtalk, plurk, Skype, and this blog. Mighty fine teachers who I like to call my PLN. I think that is what Connectivism is.