Saturday, September 27, 2008

Finding beauty and wonder

You know, sometimes we need to move outside where we spend most of our time, in order to find some sanity. At work, people only see that part of us. But we are all so much more than our jobs.

In my spare time I love to go birdwatching. It's so different from my teaching, and computers, and technology - well, mostly. I also subscribe to an email list called "Tweeters", an unmoderated group of about 2,000 birding enthusiasts from western Washington.

Today, a venerable voice from that group posted something off-topic, a no-no that we've had frequent list spats about. He sent a link to this article, which explains and includes the video below. Nothing about birds, but plenty about beauty and wonder. Enjoy:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blogging, Personal Politics, and the Classroom Teacher

In my 28th year as a public school teacher, I never thought this would be a problem: keeping my mouth shut about presidential politics. Now over the years I've pretty much kept my presidential preferences to myself as most teachers do, and I have not shared them with my third grade students. I won't share them directly again this year (although they always beg to know who I'm voting for).

But things will be different this time around.

I've struggled with whether to not to express my personal political views on this blog. I am a public school employee, after all, in a fairly large school district. On the other hand, this is my own personal space, and I work on it on my own time. Four years ago, I had this blog, but I wasn't using it. What a difference four years makes.

Recently I've noticed a couple of high profile classroom teacher bloggers getting out there with politics. Doug Noon, from Alaska of all places, has been putting his view out there. Just today I noticed Clarence Fisher has a couple of political links (Canadian, of course) on his blog sidebar.

But I'm not seeing a whole lot more out there on classroom teacher blogs. Which would not be a problem for me, except that I feel this huge need, this very strong desire, to say something. Political. I read so much these days. I'm a big fan of the Huffington Post, subscribing the the news feed for all posts coming out of there - can't possibly read them all, so I cherry-pick. I've got to say a couple of my favorites recently have come from entertainers: Barbra Streisand and, of all people, Jamie Lee Curtis.

I did venture into this a couple of days ago, with Power and Politics. My students will eventually figure it out, when they walk by the teacher lounge and see the Obama/Biden car magnet on my bicycle (arriving any day now, I hope). And they may know by reading this blog, which is linked from our classroom blog, our school web-wiki, and they can get to just by typing in I did all this to make getting here easier.

But I've got to make it worthwhile, getting here. I'm not going to go over the top with banners, ads and tasteless rants, but if I have even a small group in a corner of a very large room, I will not let the opportunity to make a difference pass me by. Not this time. The stakes are way too high.

So, dear readers...

I would very much like to hear what you think. What's your opinion on blogging, personal politics, and the classroom teacher? If you have examples of teachers writing about this, expressing political views on blogs, in forums, or any other arena - please share them in a comment here. I'll add links to this post as appropriate - yes, from both political sides :) Many thanks.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Power and Politics

It is a very intense time, for everyone in the US, and also for my classroom.

Solar JudeYesterday I brought in a solar panel to power one of our four XO laptops for the year. I chose Jude to be our solar XO, for a couple of reasons. First, because it is the newest XO we have, in terms of power on/off cycles, so the battery is the freshest. Second, because it came from a place where there is a lot of sunshine, Colorado. Lots more sun than Washington, for sure.

I felt so very happy, riding my bike in to school yesterday, with a solar panel tied on to my backpack. I wish somebody had a picture of that. I would have looked like a solar powered cyclist or something...

The solar panel is now set up in my classroom, and my kids get it.

In the classroomI had three of our XO's plugged in to AC power via their classy green power adapter cords. I pointed this out to my class and then walked across the classroom to our fourth XO. I noted that it had a black power cord. Then I picked that cord up, traced it back through the plants and other computer wires, until it ended up at a 15 1/2" by 20" board. I held it up and asked if anybody knew what it was. Three or four hands shot up immediately, and told me it was a solar panel.

They are 8 and 9 year olds, the ones who recognized that solar panel. They knew the power came from the sun. They knew that power would recharge the XO battery. They looked at per cent battery life left display, and they began to understand percentage. How cool will it be if we can use only solar energy to power a computer in our classroom this year?

This arrives amidst a firestorm of fear and lies in the US presidential race. As I experiment with, learn about, and teach about an alternative energy source, a couple of recent posts from Tom Hoffman struck a chord:
So much written and read, hopefully. Therein is my hope for our future - that people fully understand what my third graders see so clearly.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

XO Solar

XO Solar 1
Originally uploaded by mahlness
A solar panel arrived today for the XO laptops in my classroom. How many packages come to your home held together with GREEN packaging tape? Testing over the weekend at home, to school next week.

XO Solar 2

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Too much, too fast, too soon?

Time will tell.

Today was day three of the 2008-09 school year in my third grade classroom. Every year I see kids coming in with more computer skills, and this year is no exception.

Type to Learn 4On day one, we started using Type to Learn, a touch typing program. The kids did great, several of them making it through the first three lessons in a 20 minute session.
A time out, to explain our situation. We have 12 high end computers in class. Five wireless laptops and four xo laptops round it out, and we have not even touched them.

On day two we continued with another Type to Learn session, and I showed the class a little Internet stuff - i.e., their classroom blog.

Type to Learn 1Day three was the bite that night have been too big. After Type to Learn, day three, I talked more about blogging, introduced the Blogger's Contract and safety, gave them their individual passwords, showed them how to log in - and name their blogs.

So we made it - an entire classroom, not going to a computer lab, just using what we had in our classroom of eight year olds.

Type to Learn 2As I planned these days, I had wondered if I would be asking too much. A couple of years ago the skills required of the kids to do what they did just now would have taken several days longer. Right now, no sweat.