Thursday, July 17, 2008

K12 Online Conference Final Reflections and Project

K12 Online Conference Final Reflections
I took the K12 Online Conference as an online course for graduate credit for several reasons. First of all I wanted to ensure that I would make the time to check out a majority of the sessions that were offered. I also wanted to use the course as a way to increase the size of my personal learning network. Lastly, I wanted to start blogging on a more frequent basis. I’ve made progress on all three personal goals through taking this course.

I now have completed all 5 keynote presentations and 16 of the various other sessions that were offered. I found all of the presentations to be tremendously valuable. I have pointed co-workers and students to some of the materials in the conference as well as have used some of the presentations in courses that I teach at Saint Joseph’s College and the University of Southern Maine. This conference is creating a tremendous online vault of great ideas and thoughts about teaching and learning using technology. Unlike a traditional vault these presentations are openly available to anyone who wishes to view them.

As I have taken this course I have continually added to my network. I have subscribed to many of the presenter’s blogs and Twitter accounts. This has helped me get further connected and help keep me as current as possible. My use of Twitter has really skyrocketed through taking this course. I started using it heavily after NECC 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. I now follow 275 people (and growing). I’m not sure how many more people I can add and still be able to follow what is going on. I find that the flow of information that comes from Twitter with my current network to be manageable. I’m trying not to let it get out of control.

Taking this course got me to blog much more than I have in the past. To accomplish this I set up a Google Apps account with a custom domain that I purchased ($10/year for I’m surprised that more educators are not taking advantage of this incredible deal – especially bloggers who are already using Blogger for their blogging engine. While I have written more this year in my blog through taking this course and other writings, this is the area I want to continue to work on most. I need to use my blog as a place to post my thoughts, ideas, and reflections. This will turn out to help my own professional development and get me involved in the conversations. I have been a lurker of the conversations for many years now. I want to become more than that. Taking this course has put me in the right direction for this to take place.

Final Project
I teach in a middle school that serves students in fifth through eighth grades. My seventh and eighth grade students work in a one-to-one environment with Apple iBooks provided by the State of Maine. Our district purchases laptops for all students as they enter high school. These laptops are used for each student’s four years of high school. My middle school and the elementary schools are now benefiting from these laptops trickling down to us. This influx of laptops is getting me closer to having my students in fifth and sixth grades working in a one-to-one environment as well.

My school had two labs filled with 25 eight year old iMacs. Due to space issues I needed to give up one of the labs for classroom space. I saw this loss as an opportunity to do something new in my building. I wrote a proposal to empty the second lab as well and replace the old iMac computers with 10 new iMacs that could be used as a multimedia lab set up in more of a studio style (inspired by Clarence Fischer) than a traditional desktop computer lab. I want to see more work done in my school with digital video (inspired by Brian Crosby’s keynote and Dr. Tim Tyson) and podcasting (inspired by Cheryl Oakes, Bob Sprankle, Alice Barr, and Jen Wagner).

As a result of taking this course I have decided that I would like to delve into the world of podcasting as my project. I am going to assemble a group of students that will create a news-style podcast of happenings in our school. I want to learn more about this with my students. I plan to start out simple and just do an audio podcast show. As our skills improve, I wish to move into video. I’ll use the knowledge I’ve gained from using Blogger as my blog engine for this course to set up a blog that will be the home of this new podcast. We will house our episodes on servers located within our district.

The idea I have for the implementation of this project is to take advantage of a last period study hall that all seventh and eighth grade students have that do not take band/chorus. I’ll recruit students who are interested in being part of this group. We will develop our own professional learning community to learn the skills we’ll need to make a quality podcast. I’m sure our episodes will improve dramatically as the year progresses. It is my hope that the inclusion of seventh and eighth grade students will create a training cycle after this first year. I would like the eighth grade students to help get the new seventh grade students trained in upcoming years.

It is my hope that this becomes a student-driven production. I want to see the students take ownership of this project. I truly feel that it will only be sustainable and successful if the students take pride in their production of this show. I hope to slowly back off and be seen as merely an advisor as opposed to the focal point of the production. I feel that I’ll know this project was a success when this happens. So keep your eyes (and ears) open in the fall for the Frank Harrison Middle School Podcast. I want the students to come up with the name of the show and domain so I’m not sure where it will be located, but a link will be provided from our school web page.

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