Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Watching the Curiosity Rover Landing With Friends on Twitter

Sunday night I talked myself into staying up for the live coverage of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars.  I was up watching the Olympics anyway so why not stay up until 1:00 AM to see a little history.

I started up my Twitter feed and started watching the tweets about Curiosity.  Some were using the #NASAsocial hashtag and others were sharing links to websites with videos and information about the rover.  Some were commenting on the hairstyles of the engineers in the JPL - it was sort of like watching it with a group of friends at a local bar.

A tweet came across mentioning watching it live on the NASA app so I downloaded it on my iPad and started watching the broadcast live while I followed Twitter on my phone. It was educational.  It was historic. It was fun.

I know a lot of people that don't get Twitter.  My dad is one of them.  I have tried to explain it to him and he has tried to understand but he still doesn't really see how it is productive.  I was one of those people before I jumped in about 5 years ago and it started to click with me.  It doesn't really bother me when other don't get Twitter.  In fact, a part of me thinks it might be better if everyone doesn't get it because it would probably be less productive in some ways. 

For me, however, this little network of people that I talk with on Twitter and share ideas with does matter to me.  It means a lot to me and it has changed the way I think and experience things.  I watched a historic event on Sunday that I could have watched by myself but instead watched with others and it was a richer experience on Twitter.

After all the cheering and high fives at JPL calmed down, a tweet came across my Twitter feed.  I'm sorry that I didn't favorite it at the time but I thought about it a lot as I finally went off to bed for the night.  Someone said that it was interesting to see the difference in Facebook and Twitter.  During the Curiosity landing their Facebook feed was crickets and their Twitter feed was a party, hopping with comments and information.  I thought about that comment a lot since.  Twitter is something different. I'm sure that Twitter will exist in a completely different form two years from now so it's not about the tool but it is about how we are using the tools to share.  

Thanks to everyone who shared the moment with me as we all cheered a rover touching down over 350 million miles away and the men and women who made it all happen.  It was something I'll remember for a long time and it reaffirmed my belief in the power of Twitter.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

My Six Goals for the 2012/13 School Year

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post at the start of the school year with several of the goals that I wanted to focus on during the upcoming year.  I'm doing the same this year as we turn the calendar over to August and the first day of school is less than two weeks away.  The first day for Liberty School District students is August 15th.  I think it helps to write down your goals, it adds a dimension of responsibility.  I could probably come up with a list of about 100 goals but these were the first six which came to mind as I sat down to write this post.  This will be my 19th year in the classroom and I want it to be the best ever!

1) Learn names of students quickly

This is a huge one for me and those that teach with me and know me are aware that I struggle with names.  I appreciate the power that occurs when you see a student in the hall and call out their name to tell them good morning.  I struggle with this often and it is not just students, I also struggle with remembering the names of adults and coworkers.  In the past I have taken pictures of students on the first day and made flashcards but it hasn't made a huge difference in my ability to remember names.  Last year I had around 170 students and this year I will likely  have about the same or more.  I am open to any tips that other teachers have used in the past to help with similar problems.

2) Reduce the amount of paper used in my classroom

I don't think it is realistic for me to go 100% paperless since we are not a 1-1 school and I can't guarantee that my students will have online access at home.  I do think that I can be a little smarter about making copies for my students and what is important enough to print a copy in the first place.  I think I can identify times when I can print a class copy of 30 and reuse them throughout the day in each period instead of giving each student a copy.  I have also played with the idea of asking students if they would rather not have me give them a printed copy and instead e-mail them a copy or just make sure there is a digital copy on our class website.  I don't have data on the amount of paper I have used in the past but will try to keep track this year and see how much we use.

3) Connect my students with outside experts on regular basis

I am a big fan of using video chats in the classroom like Google Hangouts and Video Skype and over the past five years have used this resource in my classroom with authors, other classes and museums.  I want to really step it up this year though and make it so that it is more of a common event in our classroom. I think the power to connect with outside experts for free is underutilized and is something I want to do more of this year.

4) Include contents of entire unit online

I try to post a copy of all our resources, assessments and links on our classroom webpage so that students can access it 24/7.  This is also very helpful to the special education teachers and paras that I work with so they can access it.  I also receive e-mails from teachers throughout the year asking for copies of notes, lessons and handouts via the webpage. I'm pretty good about getting all these things posted but there are times it doesn't happen 100% of the time.  This year I want to try and get closer, if not reach, that 100% mark.

5) Transform my iPad into my take home computer

For the past several years when I pack up to leave school for home, I throw a way over filled backpack over my shoulder and then I pack up my full size laptop and carry that home as well.  Many nights it is probably at least 30 pounds of stuff that I drag home. This is ridiculous and it needs to stop.  This year I hope to leave my laptop at school unless there is a special project that uses a program I can only use on that device.  I have had an iPad for about a year and half and I use it a lot at home but mostly as my "couch computer" - check a little e-mail, catch up on Twitter, read some news or watch a YouTube video.  I have tried to really adapt to typing on the touch screen but I guess in that regard I am still a child of the 80's.  I recently bought a wireless keyboard to make it easier for me to type more and so far I've been really happy with it. I'm using it right now in fact.  So this year I hope to just bring home my iPad and a light backpack most nights.

6) Work more efficiently, work smarter

I tend to take on too much and try to do too many things.  This year I will try to focus on doing the best I can in the classroom but being more efficient about it. One of the pitfalls of teaching is that there is always more to do and if you try to do everything you will go crazy.  I want to find ways this year to be more efficient with my time. There are some things I can have my students do in class which will eliminate me from spending an hour or two doing the same thing.  The important aspect of this is not doing less, but rather doing the same or more in less time by being smarter about how I use my time.  I need to devote a little of my time in the afternoon to working out and taking care of myself physically.  

These are my goals for the 2012/13 school year.  Will I accomplish some of them or all of them?  I don't know if I don't have a goal I'll never know.  I will try to give myself a grade on each of these areas during the winter break.  

Do you have a goal for the upcoming school year?  If you do please share with a comment to this post.  Thanks.