What was that “whoosh”?

That “whoosh” was the 2008-2009 school year whizzing by. For better or for worse, it’s a wrap. With great chagrin I have realized that this blog site has been gathering dust since the end of 2007, and so I will use my reflections of the past year as my microfiber dust cloth. (Since real cleaning has not yet begun in my real house…virtual houses are so much easier to maintain.)

I suppose the test of whether or not a school year is successful really comes down to the students themselves. Did they learn? Did they realize they learned? If so, was it enjoyable? I do not necessarily mean FUN…but was it satisfying for them? (And, what’s so bad about fun anyway? ) Did they have a sense of accomplishment? Do they better understand the tools at their disposable and how best to use them?

Well, to be honest, I don’t really know. Perhaps I should have asked them instead of just surmising. I could be way off the mark. I assume they feel a sense of accomplishment at creating a digital story, taking it home on a CD to share with the fam, although for some it seemed to be a real chore. Digital story writing has been going on in our school for a few years now. Hopefully we improve each year, and the students are more engaged each year. Thankfully I have no projects to finish with the promise of mailing them out. That was a disaster when I promised that last year.

What did I try that was new this year? I learned to use Jing, and created how-to videos for students to watch in my absence. That is definitely a tool I would like to continue using, and encourage the other teachers to use. The faculty had a session on how to use the free program, but to my knowledge no one but myself really did. Chalk up one failure on my part as tech coach. The horses are just not drinking the water.

We did more blogging using classblogmeister.com (a terrific site, thank you David Warlick), taking it down to fourth grade, and the feedback from both students and parents seemed to be positive. I hope to get more parents, as well as the outside world, to comment on student blog posts. By inserting a Clustr Map I hoped to show the students the power of their words and that their audience could conceivably be global. (Thank you to my dear friend Marco in Sicily who agreed to visit our class blog so we could get a red dot from Italy!) Our dots will increase little by little, but we have kept pretty much to ourselves and so that is an area for further growth.

Mrs. C. and I worked out a great 8th grade project integrating health topics and technology. I hope we do that again next year, learning from our mistakes this year of course. Hopefully the students will remember the difference between a good PowerPoint presentation and one that is positively awful when they have to make presentations in high school. We finished off by using the info presented in the slide show and turning it into a podcast. I have done podcasting myself but this was my first attempt at getting the students to do it. It wasn’t easy, mainly because of our lack of the proper recording equipment. They carried on their conversations each recording into their own headsets, the Audacity file was converted to an mp3, and I merged the mp3’s into one audio track. Four groups done and about four to go. Hope I remember my user account on Gcast so I can upload. I would love to have an omni-directional microphone rather than doing all the individual tracks (I believe that is what my friend in the broadcasting world called it.) But in Catholic school we learn to make do.  If the genie stops by, one of my three wishes would definitely be a classroom set of microphone headsets of good quality and all the same kind. the second would be the omni. And the third, would be for three more wishes.

The third grade video is posted on our school website and students in grades 5 though 8 are now comfortable using wikis. More teachers are using Discovery Streaming and Google Earth. The classroom laptops are more in demand than ever before.

What’s next? Lots of work to do this summer, since the purchase of a new server has to be investigated… updating the network, the website, the billion Microsoft updates that will need to be installed, untangling about 5000 feet of Ethernet and electrical cables in the classrooms, and trying to wade through a stack of professional journals looking for the latest and greatest in tech tools for schools, attending PowerSchool update sessions and doing the many PowerSchool tasks associated with a rollover.  I will hang out with the Discovery gang at Den in Second Life, meeting new people and gleaning many new ideas. And I will listen wistfully to their tales of how great it was to be at NECC. I almost thought I would get there this year since it was in D.C. Oh well. (Hey, Genie!)

Did I hear another “whoosh”? Yep, that was the sound of summer flying by. I am determined to take some time for myself this summer. Then maybe I won’t mind hearing that sound when August rolls around.

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