Saturday, March 10, 2007

Documenting chaos

I don't know as I start out here where this post will end up. However, I feel somehow it's important for me to document the chaos (some good, some not so good) in my working life - and this is just the tech stuff - the past couple of weeks. In no particular order then, here goes:
  • For the past week I've been setting up donated PIV's for my students to use in the classroom, from scratch, one at a time - while at the same time the kids continued to use the PIII's they are replacing. Over 20 cpu's in the classroom, some towers on top of others - yikes, good thing we didn't have an earthquake. Yesterday after school I moved them (all but one of six) into place. They are cool - and speedy! I am so grateful to the parent who donated them!
  • I'm still constantly frustrated by the relentless taking away of student permissions on my classroom computers - and all the student computers in my school. The more permissions are taken away, the less the computers are being used in the classrooms. It's a real clear relationship. So far, the new computers I just set up are still working the way they need to, but I fear it's only a matter of time before they will be rendered nearly useless again. I have not found the time nor energy to defend and explain the educational justifications for every little permission I need (that we'd had for the past ten years) to non educators making the decisions. I try and chip away at things one at a time via email and whatever, but it's a big mountain to reclaim. And I am getting nowhere. Huge frustration.
  • The parents in my classroom just came up with a large chunk of money so I could buy flat panel monitors for some of the 12 desktop student machines in my classroom! I had tried other funding sources, including our PTSA, and had got nowhere. Then I started asking for donations of used flat panels (15" ok). Next thing I knew, my parents were organizing donations to the cause, matching funds, and they came up with this amazing gift. I was, and still am, just blown away by this!!
  • Then a couple of days later, I was awarded this pretty hefty technology grant for computer equipment in my classroom. Talk about an unexpected long shot coming through. I've never won competitive grant before (not like I've tried a ton, either), but holy crud, this is amazing. So now, with an embarrassment of riches, I am figuring out how to handle it all. For a guy who has scraped and created everything in his classroom on his own, out of his own pocket, well you could say it's about time - but it does feel a little - I don't know. It's so foreign , I can't even think of a word.
  • The Earth Day Groceries Project is underway again. I've got the announcement out to several lists, and, as usual, lots of email is coming my way with questions and requests. I love coordinating this project, but it takes so much time. And I need to find corporate sponsorship for the project, or I won't have the bucks to pay for the database development for this year... I am always so far behind.
  • Last is an event that almost didn't happen - and may not - but is still real exciting to think about and plan for. I was invited to present as part of a Preconference Institute (Using Technology to Develop and Extend the Boundaries of Literacy) at the IRA National Convention in Toronto this May. Just to be included in a group that includes Don Leu as a keynoter blows me away. Having found no local funding to finance the trip, I initially sent my regrets - and added a long shot ps about presenting virtually. Now it seems that may actually happen (via Skpe video). It's on a Sunday, so I'd luckily be at home (Skype is not allowed at school anymore). I'm in the process of preparing my piece and writing the abstract. Very exciting.

Looking back over what I just wrote, the chaos is mostly good stuff, for sure. It's just that it's all happening at once. This weekend I can relax and start in on report cards - ha.


Sarah said...

How awesome your parents and the grant $$. It's so true when given funds, what to do. I have about $3000 to spend for art but can't do it. I'm afraid being saving is in my blood now. I have to order some supplies fast.

My computers literally sit as so much can't go on though they did unblock a few things. When this blocking went into effect you couldn't even nail down who decided. It was clear they disabled the entire way of looking at teaching, as it coincided with explicit Directed instruction, mandates, scripts I saw it all as a way of removing teacher control but it might have had more to do with liability issues. Hard to know as not much is openly dialoged.

I have to check out your project.

You sound so busy...Sarah

Mark Ahlness said...

It has to do with removing teacher control - under the guise of concern over liabilies. Now, go spend that money!

Unknown said...

I hate to look dumb but, what is a PIV?


Mark Ahlness said...

Sorry Amy - I probably should have written P-IV. That's a Windows type computer with a Pentium-Four processor - Mark

Sarah said...

Oh the grocery project is wonderful. I had no idea. You are a superstar. I always have loved Earth Day...I'm going to do this and stop off tomorrow to get bags plus I'll nag Jack to get his District and some classes at my school.We will be involved. I'm teaching the after school art project so we will do it there too. Wonderful. A plus. I need to think, I think we'll draw dragons, or no, peacocks.....thinking. And use Prismacolor pencils. Wow I'm excited. I love this. Beautiful idea.

Anonymous said...


I am so excited that your presentation at the IRA conference is possibly happening. I gave them your name, talked to you and then heard nothing more about it! I hope it works out.