Blackberry Jam

I have returned to my Blackberry Alley blog site to introduce myself to my fellow learners in the Digital Media in the Classroom course at Wilkes University.  I say “returned” since lately I have been using my DEN STAR blog located at For this course I will post in Blackberry Alley. The name is derived from the narrow alley that ran behind my childhood home, and down which I trudged, at times reluctantly, and frequently late, to my little grade school.

For the past ten years I have been the technology coordinator at my school. What exactly is a “technology coordinator”? I wonder if there is an actual definition. At my school it means that anything remotely related to a computer is my responsibility.  In addition to teaching technology classes at my school for grades 3 through 8 (the librarian does K-2), and meeting with teachers to help plan the integration of technology into the curriculum,  I built and am maintaining the school website, do  the E-Rate applications, write and update the technology plan, serve as the PowerSchool administrator, train the teachers in after school tech sessions, upgrade and maintain all the PCs and laptops in the building (small school, just under 100 computers in all), manage the network and content filter, supply users with swipe cards for the security system, unjam printers, connect DVD players….you get the picture. If it has a plug, they call me.  For the past 3 years that is all I have been doing although for 7 years before that I also taught Spanish classes for K-8 in addition to the tech work. It got to be too much to say the least.

My classroom experience goes back 25+ years teaching grades 4 though 8.  I think I always was drawn to technology, though. Does anyone remember something called Systems 80? So old even Google didn’t have an image of it. 0826destinationI also begged to be the one to get the Destination computer in my classroom. Nod if that sounds familiar. I once did a summer internship with a major local business in their MIS department and one of my assignments was to use Lotus 123 on this new device they had just obtained, put in a little glass room all by itself…something called a “PC”. Sounds funny now, doesn’t it?

One of the ways I have grown as an educator has been to expand my personal learning network. The best way I have found to do this has been with the Discovery Educator Network. Since I became a STAR educator in 2006 I have learned so much, and made so many friends among educators all over the country. It is Vita Demina in SLwonderful to be able to share ideas and practices, to learn new things together, and sometimes just commiserate. I have become especially active in the Second Life group for DEN educators and am a recent addition to the DEN in SL Leadership Council. Besides it being a great vehicle for professional development it is also a lot of  fun and the tech aspects of it are quite appealing to the geek in me.

What I hope to learn in the Digital Media course is not only a more in-depth understanding of some of the digital tools at our disposal, but how to best make use of them by listening to the ideas and comments of my classmates and pondering the writings of some “experts” in the field, though we are all experts at some things and beginners at others.  The DEN slogan is “connecting teachers to their most valuable resource – each other” and I think we will learn far more from each other than we can from any textbook. Let the games begin!

P.S. A shameless plug, but if anyone wants to visit our classroom tech blog, we would love to see more red dots on our Clustr Map. I keep telling the kids that, “Yes, people do read what you write. It does matter.” They will begin next week and will be excited to see how the map has changed since they left in June.

Second Life Experience

I have been involved with Second Life since the beginning of August. Due to the frequent chatter about it among Discovery Educators and the fact that they were planning to have meetings there, I finally dusted off the old avatar I tried to get going in February and finally got her through orientation. There was a bit of a learning curve, but once I put my mind to it, it was not so bad after all. ( How I started out as a fox I do not know. I look much better now.)

It has been great fun to meet with other DEN members at DEN Headquarters. The members of the leadership council have worked very hard to organize informative sessions such as getting around in Second Life, podcasting, and digital storytelling, as well as fun events such as a Halloween party and walking tours of the island. I think by far the most awesome experience I have had, however, has been the opportunity to meet and become friends with people from all over the world. Chance encounters shopping for shoes or striking up conversations with someone you land next to after a teleport can open a world of opportunity in communication. It does help that I can speak Spanish of course, and most of Latin America is in a reasonable time zone for communication. But I have friends on my “friend list” from England, Ireland, Spain, France, Israel, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and USA. Some of them have become very good friends. It is also humbling to see how many of these people around the globe speak excellent English. I actually have only 2 friends with whom I can only communicate in Spanish. I am embarrassed at my limited language skills in comparison.

It can become somewhat addictive at times. I actually wonder what my friends are doing and what I am missing when I am not “inworld” but all in all it has been a most educational experience. And the shopping and dancing are not bad either!