Starting Afresh / Being Bold

This week Nemaha Central High School and the Mighty Thunder started a new era. Nemaha Valley and B&B Baileyville have come together on this new adventure. Not only are we merging student bodies and staff but we are making major changes in our technology.

The faculty was the first to participate in these changes when over three-fourths of them were switched from the Windows platform to MacBooks in late May. Many of them spent the summer not only figuring out how to get around on this new platform but how to implement tech tools into their curriculum. This was very evident during our professional development time on Tuesday morning as staff members talked about these new tools and how they plan to implement them in their classrooms.

In addition to all of the above, several staff members want to implement Google Classroom and are waiting for it to be rolled out to our domain. There is also a lot of curiosity about how the new student ePlanner will work (which also hasn’t been rolled out).

nchs rollout_On Thursday, the students joined the staff on the technology transition train when each student was given a MacBook Air. During a 30 minute ‘roll out’ session on Thursday, we had the students verify they could login to their computers, to their Google account and to their PowerSchool account. We also reviewed the new Thunder Bridge page and resources available to the students thru that site. On Friday, we had another session where we added programs to the Dock, installed Google Chrome and configured Google Drive. We also reviewed the major points of the laptop handbook, emphasizing the need to take care of the computer and to use it appropriately. There were some ‘hiccups’ along the way including a major one this weekend. However, the students have been great to work with.

This has been a challenging, tiring week for everyone but it has also been a very exciting week. It is a joy to work with a staff that is so willing to explore and try new things. I look forward to working with and learning from the Nemaha Central students and staff as we venture forth into this new school year and learn together.

Together, We Can

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School Librarians Workshop

For the first time in a very long time, I will be participating in the School Librarians’ Workshop hosted by the Northeast Kansas Library System. Not only will I be attending, but somehow I got asked to present. I truly believe that what we are doing at Nemaha Valley High School isn’t any different than what is being done in school libraries across the state.

Kindles in Schools — Hear more about how one school district has tried checking out ereaders, including lessons learned,  what works and what didn’t.

AR Word Counts – Learn how Accelerated Reader word counts correlate with students’ test scores.  Recent studies show a strong connection between the two.

Transforming Education

Buried in a CJ Online article about Shawnee Heights’ proposed bond issue was a lot of information about how that district is trying to transform education to meet 21st century needs.

This process started with the use of personal learning communities. These groups working together to answer what USD 450 has identified as their 4 guiding questions:

  • What do we want kids to learn?
  • How do we know they learned it?
  • What do you do when they didn’t learn it?
  • What do you do if they already know it coming in?

These guiding questions and the answers to them are also driving the districts technology planning as they look to the future and

  • Implementation of Common Core Standards
  • Project-based student assessments
  • Need for information skills
  • Enabling students to be career ready

Whether you are a member of the Shawnee Height community, another school community in Kansas or even outside of the state, these guiding questions and the future needs are the same.

As Alan Beam, principal of Shawnee Heights High School says,

We’re preparing our kids for their future, not our past.

Tech Planning

 

The following web site looks at tech planning from a skills viewpoint.

10 Technology Skills Every Student Should Have

Many of these skills are incorporated into the 21st Century skill set and the NETS standards. Skills #1 and #11 are incorporated into the national library standards and even to some extent in the common core standards.

Because many of these skills will help a student be a life long learner and be able to adapt to changing technology, they provide a starting point for curricular and technology decisions.

Is There an App for that?

Today, I read the blog, How We Developed a Mobile App for Our School District, You Can Do It Too. The Judson Independent School District used Conduit to create a mobile app (JISD Connect) that aggregates several of their online sites. By using Conduit, the app pulls from existing resources such as Facebook, Twitter, Picasa images, RSS feeds, YouTube, and more.

Since the author claimed that I could ‘Do It Too’, I decided to try and create an app for the district. Right away, I ran into problems. The district web site does not provide RSS feeds. I could pull data from Facebook and Twitter — but those accounts are for Nemaha Valley High School and not the district. So, I started working with a Nemaha Valley High School app that would pull the Twitter and Facebook feeds. Knowing that there are great articles on the NVHS side of the district web site, I investigated converting the site to an RSS feed. I was able to do that with a trial account on Feedity. That allowed me to add the web site to the NVHS app — with some issues. Unfortunately, the ‘read more’ links at the end of article blurbs show up as feeds. Eliminating these detractors will take more time and possibly a more expensive account level.

 

Link to trial mobile app for NVHS: http://mob.conduit.com/e8fd1280-84df-4455-af21-cceb264110f5

My second trial at app creation was using a teacher blog or web site. Knowing that my blog had RSS feeds enabled, I experimented with it. I was able to add the blog and my twitter account to the app.

Link to app created from my blog and Twitter account: http://mob.conduit.com/00bda316-0a4d-4339-b53e-05b9a5e2353b

Since most of our teachers are now using Google Sites instead of the wordpress blog, my next experiment was to see if I could turn a teacher site into an app. I found one teacher, Kelly Williams, with RSS feeds enabled on two sections of his site. I was able to use those feeds to create his app — but it isn’t pulling the feeds from his home page.

Link to mobile app for Kelly Williams’ web site: http://mob.conduit.com/86513feb-8a6c-4c4b-97ee-2d6dde6b6d04

So, can we do it too? Yes — But. In order to make this work, we need web sites with working RSS feeds or access to a feed converter such as Feedity ($39), active Twitter accounts, active Facebook pages (not accounts), etc. We will also have to register to be an app developer for both Apple ($99) and Android (Google Play $25).

Thinking that I could easily create an app from the NV Forensics Facebook site, I played with that one only to discover that it won’t work. I’m guessing it isn’t working because NV Forensics is a ‘person’ that has to be friended — not a page.

Is this worth pursuing? YES! Even though there are issues, having an app for the district, building or teacher web site will be worth the time, effort and cost.

NV’s Hoppin’

Moodle, wiki, googleapps, tweat, netbooks — these are all terms being used by teachers and students alike this past week. It seems that the new netbooks (tiny computers) have been just the excuse needed to accelerate the integration of technology throughout the curriculum. By embracing the netbooks so rapidly, the teaching staff has demonstrated a willingness – no, an eagerness, for one-to-one learning. During some classes, one can find student desks neatly arranged with manipulatives and netbooks as the teacher demonstrates on the interactive board and the students practice on the computers.

Not only have the teachers embraced the new computers, but they are embracing various aspects of the Web2.0 to engage students. Mrs. Meyer is continuing to use a blog to post class notes from her math classes and Mr. Thomas has started to post notes from his math classes. In accounting, the students are collaborating to post class notes on Mrs. Baker’s class wiki. Mr. Hill’s art students are using Moodle to study art history, learn vocabulary and take quizzes. Mr. Wertenberger and Mr. Hermreck have gone paperless with their current projects. Mr. Wertenberger’s carpentry students have utilized their Google email to submit their recent essays. And only Mr. Hermreck could expect students to submit an essay on Moodle based on a bunch of random numbers. French 2 students are creating promotional travel videos using PhotoStory for Mrs. Enneking. Mr. Terpening is busy learning how to use the new flash movies for his anatomy class. This week also saw the posting of the first student produced YouTube video on our new YouTube Channel.

Even though we didn’t upgrade any servers or make other major changes to the computer network, several systems within the school have changed creating a learning hurdle for some (including me). We have replaced our photocopy machines with networked copiers in the hopes of reducing our printing costs. Another major change for the building was the addition of phones in the classrooms and voice mail. The main classroom area is also experiencing the trials and tribulations of a new computer controlled HVAC system as they fine tune the programming of that system.

Yesterday, the gremlins paid a visit to the school as several systems that had been working stopped working for some reason. During the day, we lost one interactive board, one projector, printers on the netbooks and the ability to print to the office photocopier. In addition, a teacher lost some but not all of the controls to his interactive board. Needless to say, the gremlins made sure I had plenty to do.

Although it seems like the library side of NVTekLib takes a back seat to the technology, the library has made some changes to promote personal reading. Over the past few years, a concerted effort has been made to purchase titles of particular interest to boys. Last year, we took the plunge and totally rearranged our fiction section. We had observed that students liked having the new books in a separate area. We’ve maintained that practice and actually keep two years worth of purchases separate from the rest of the collection. However, the big change was to arrange the books by genre instead of by author. Thus, we have sections for romance, young adult, humor, mystery, suspense, horror, adventure, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, sports, westerns and war. Although this arrangement makes it harder for me, the librarian, the students appear to like it since they migrate to a specific area and browse titles. It has been particularly gratifying to see guys open their library book when there’s just a few minutes left in class or lying on the floor during seminar reading.

The start of this school year has definitely kept me hopping – but  it has been a good start.