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My Next Adventure Awaits »

I do not know where this will lead me. Hopefully to bigger and better things. Is it selfish of myself to think that my talents are being wasted at where I’m working now? Or could one say that I have too much of an ego? (Ok, those that REALLY know me know that one thing that I’m not lacking is ego). I’ve worked very hard over the last year to get me to this point, where I can say that I’m finally starting Graduate School!

I’ve had many conversations with fellow educators, both ed tech’ers and non, about which avenue I should take with regards to grad school. I look at what my new principal is going through now. She’s been on the job since January and she’s already been hospitalized and is being sued by a former employee that was just let go this past spring. DONG! There goes Ed. Leadership from my thoughts. No way do I want to go that route with all that hanging over my head possibly. I talked to some curriculum people. It all came back to this, how can I possibly go on a learning path when I truly don’t believe in the way the educational system is being run. Maybe some day. Just not today. Besides, as much as I would LOVE to bottle up Chris Lehmann and replicate him, I don’t see it happening any time soon. That left something in educational technology.

I looked at several schools, but it came down to one thing. Name recognition. One thing that I know for certain is that Full Sail University has been at or near the top with regards to quality technological learning for quite some time. And, they were local to me here in Central Florida, just in case I had some sort of desire to walk and get a diploma. As of Midnight last Monday, I am enrolled in the Education Media Design and Technology program. It is a 12 month program so the next year will be quite interesting, not to mention exhilarating.

In my usual fashion, one of our first assignments was to create a simple 30 second to 1 minute autobiography of myself using iMovie. Me being the overachiever that I am, I used Adobe Photoshop and Keynote to create some slides, Garageband to create voice tracks. I laid all of those down into Final Cut Pro, added transitions and exported the project out as a Quicktime. Seems simple enough. As I read what others did to complete their project, simply sitting in front of iMovie and talking, I started saying to myself, “Did I do too much?” Oh well, we shall see. Hopefully the professor will see that bringing all of these great programs together is something that I truly like to do.

Week 2 officially begins Monday at Midnight. I’m certainly itching to get going again. This starting for a week, then having a week off doesn’t sit too well with me. Until next week…

Tom.

Learning is …. fun?? »

I truly get amazed at times when I’m walking my campus completing my tasks for the day. It’s days that I see and hear things that makes me miss the classroom and my old job teaching Social Studies. I promise I will leave the diatribe I would LOVE to give regarding social studies and how it is being taught all throughout my district, as I’m sure around the country as well pretty much.

It’s when I hear things like I heard today that just boggles my mind. I’ll paraphrase as best as I can as it’s been a long evening of watching basketball. “Now that testing is done, we’ll do fun things like this more often!” This was followed up with a spattering of “YAY!” and “Awesome!”. And it wasn’t even that it was a highly intensive thing that was going on in the lesson. But here’s the question I posed to the teacher, “Why isn’t learning fun every day?” The teacher really didn’t have a response other than, “Well, there’s too much to do to get ready for the test to have fun, they need to focus on what they need to know to do well when it matters.”

I’ll let you all chew on that for a little. But here’s where my education as a Physical Education Teacher comes in. Why is it that my old students could remember rules to all the games that we played? However could they remember all the little mnemonics I used to remember the mechanics of throwing different types of objects? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s because they are having fun while doing it. I bet if you take a poll at the end of the year on an elementary campus as to who their favorite teacher or subject was, 8 out of 10 will probably respond that PE was by far their favorite. Who couldn’t resist a game of Scrabble Dodgeball (ok, not so much these days as the “D” word is taboo). But back in the day my old school had pull overs shirts with letters painted on them. As teams got other students out, they would come to far side of their court and they would have to put together words and got points based on the letters and words they used (the shirts were numbered similar to how the Scrabble tiles are numbered). I’ve been out of the PE field for a while, and I’m sure I could come up with some sort of modification of this (say a tagging game instead so as to not have the beaning aspect that dodgeball brings), but I remember this one as beeing one of their favorites.

Just think if more teachers would realize that fun = engaging.

It’s been a LOOOONG Road….but to where? »

In looking at my past posts, it looks that August 2008 is the last time I sat down and actually typed something, that was I guess worth writing. Where have I been? That’s a discussion for another time. For the longest time, I just had no desire to be a part of anything.

Part of it is a disconnect. Alot of it is from apathy. Not just mine, because for the longest time until recently I ceased feeling like I made a hill of beans difference in the lives of the students I came into contact with. Alot has changed since then. I’ve been showing my face in and around Twitter alot more in the last few weeks (although I still can’t get into using it on my iPhone yet). Here’s hoping I can keep up with my random musings. I’ve missed it, and I’ve missed some of the conversations I’ve had with many of my old readers. So I promise to start out slow and we’ll see how it goes.

I will finish with this thought. I can say that this has been probably the most positive last 2 weeks or so I’ve had professionally in a long time. 3 teachers begin their blogging experience with their classrooms this week. I’ve also spent some time in a 6th Grade classroom teaching them how to use Photostory/Digital Storytelling. Maybe that itch that I have to get back into the classroom might just be a full blown epidemic? Time will tell.

I remember one thing that my good friend Jen Wagner and I used to say to each other way back when as we embarked on this journey together into new roles (hard to believe it was almost 3 1/2 years ago now Jen), and I guess I’d forgotten our own advice: “Baby Steps”

Time to get back to the Basics

Seeking the Wisdom of the Ages

The Grand Old Games »

Howard J. Lamade Stadium Oh the sounds of summer…The crack of the bat (or ping if you’re talking about Little League). The pop of a ball being caught in the pocket of a leathery glove. The swishing sound of feet gliding across orange clay. These are sounds I grew up with for 15 years. My true formative years. Memories that to this day I can remember very vividly.

How many of you remember going out and “playing catch” with your dad? Or kicking around that soccer ball with your brother or sister in the backyard? Better yet, how many of you played whiffle ball or cup ball with your friends at a park, on the street or even in your swimming pool?

I for one can say yes to all of the above. I so cherished the time I was able to spend time with dad to play catch in the side yard. He would get all gussied up in the catchers gear that we had as part of my Little League team. As I got older, the more equipment he seemed to put on. By the time I was in the Senior Division (14-15 year old) in Little League he was in full catching equipment and double batting gloves under the catcher’s mitt. I’ve even had the true cool experience to play softball as a 19 year old with my dad and grandfather on the same team for two seasons. Nothing cooler than having 3 generations of Turners on the same field at the same time. We get to do that occasionally for golf, but the frequency is alot less now that my Grandfather’s Parkinson’s is really prohibitive these days.

The point is, I’ve been blessed with the fortunes of living a very active youth (we won’t mention how its gone downhill from graduation now will we?) The question is, where did this love of playing come from? Where was the spark? Sure, my parents encouraged me to play Little League. Heck, my dad was my coach from my 6 y/o Tee Ball first team, all the way to my 15 y/o Senior Division Team.

No matter what activity it is, the ability to succeed at these activities requires 2 things. Repetition and Practice. The two go together. How often do you see a big league ball player hitting in the batting cages? Pretty often I’m sure. I know when I was playing ball, I practice everyday. The routine is still etched in my head. We did infield/outfield fungo drills, followed by baserunning drills, then hitting practice (cage or game type situations or live bp) finished up with cardio/strength training exercises.

Again, I had the luxury of being able to practice extra to hone my skills. But where were the primary skills taught? Where are these primary skills taught today? What individuals are in charge of teaching our young children these life skills of being active and learning through sport and play? Those physical educators that you see coming and going with the nice sun tan, floppy hat and the sun glasses hanging either from their neck or sitting on their cap. I have a very soft spot in my heart for PE teachers. Little known secret, my initial teaching certificate is in physical education from the University of Central Florida. I’ve had to deal with for years being told that I took the ‘easy’ route to becoming an educator. “PFFFT”, I tell them. I won’t get into the ins and outs of what a physical education major program looks like at the college level. You can do your own research on that.

Back to the kids though and their PE curriculum…

I’ve shared at length my desire to see more gaming in the educational setting. The same can be said for the physical education curriculum for an elementary age child. We lived by a motto/creed at UCF. “Monkey See Monkey Do, Children Learn the Best as they are Doing.” The goal of any PE curriculum is to have the children actively engaged at ALL times. Movement, movement, movement. Active, active, active. Two things occur when this sort of engagement is not occurring: there is no retention of the activity that is being learned and there is a HIGH probability that the children will begin to misbehave.

Does this result sound vaguely familiar? All to often I’ve walked into classrooms where students are proverbially ‘bouncing off the wall’. It is not in my place to tell these teachers how to do their job. However, it is well within my role as a technology integration specialist to offer suggestions for engaging students. Why then do we not see as many brick and mortar classrooms being run similarly to those out on the PE fields?

My mind is swirling now that it is 2 am in the morning. I’ve been churning this topic in my head since I returned back from New York last week. I think it’s high time for me to hit the sack and return to this on Saturday when I return home.

Seeking the Wisdom of the Ages…

Tom.

photo courtesy of: jimmywayne22, “Howard J. Lamade Stadium.” Flickr. 27 July 2008. 1 Aug 2008 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/61278305@N00/2706681401/>.

My NECC ’08 San Antonio Experience »

Ok….so it’s only a few weeks late. But I was able to truly let what I gained from my NECC 2008 experience sink in while sitting on a boat in the 1000 islands and enjoying family time while in Niagara Falls. It is a shame that vacation will come to an end for me tomorrow, as I fly back to Orlando tomorrow at noon. (ok, so I started this on Monday and finished it tonight)

As with last year, I spent most of my time in the Blogger’s Cafe’. It’s always nice to see many of the people that I feel are like-minded in our zest for improved student learning. I did have HIGH expectations/hopes leading into NECC with regards to sessions and the learning that I was about to embark upon. Being the procrastinator at heart that I am, I did not do any pre-reading of the conference schedule. That would have made too much sense, i.e. that’s not me. I started reading the conference schedule book received with the registration packet and was quickly dismayed. Like my FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference) experience in January, I found that many of the sessions in my opinion were geared for the mid-ranged adapter to newer adapter. Please don’t misunderstand, there is a need for these types of sessions, however, they are not for me. I saw myself quickly going back to presenters that I’ve seen in the past, and enjoy learning from (i.e. David Jakes/Dean Shareski, David Warlick, Hall Davidson, Chris Lehmann). Not sure if this makes me a gomer or a homer or guilty of living inside a professional development bubble. I just know that many a session I snuck in on was not compelling.

My large goal for NECC this year was two-fold: How can I create better professional development opportunities for my teachers and how can I become a better TV Production Coordinator. I think I was successful on both ends. Having been told pretty much that PD for my teachers will be at a premium (read: non-existant), so I will need to be creative in my approaches. I will definitely be keeping to my working with specific teachers that express willingness to take the step towards tech integration. Through the DEN pre-conference event at the Enchanted Springs Ranch, I learned for the first time about Mogulus. Seeing it for the first time BLEW my mind away. What a way to have PDOD (professional development on demand). I’d been toying with a way to create an anthology of PD webcasts/screencasts of myself in front of my laptop and using screen capturing software to demonstrate concepts. This website takes it to the next level. Actual demonstration, rather than screen captures. And it can run continuously if I so choose.

The second great PD idea I’m going to borrow is Kevin Honeycutt’s Web 2.0 Keychain he gives out to his teachers. What a novel idea and a way to have not only web 2.0 tools, but traditional websites at the fingertips. I’ve started to create my own and will definitely share when I’m finished.

I was able to attend a session on building a better School TV production show on Monday morning. Still trying to get my hands on a copy of their resource cd, but did use google docs to type up some GREAT ideas that I can take back for the start of the school year. This will be my first foray into tv production of this sort, so it should be a VERY nice challenge for me. Heck, it’s already paying dividends, I was able to get out of my morning duty to work with the students during this time. YAY!

I am already looking forward to next year’s experience in Washington DC. Looks like the wife might be coming too. That should be a fun time definitely.

Seeking the Wisdom of the Ages…

Tom.

Gaming/Play – A worthy part of Education Pt. Finale »

Strong MuseumWhen  looking at our goal in education, what is it that we are there to do? Let’s take a look at my school district’s mission statement: “To ensure rigorous, relevant learning experiences that result in high achievement for our students.” To what point is learning rigorous and relevant? By whose standards? The  FDOE, State DOE or local school boards? Relevant to what? Standards that are in place  to allow success on benchmark testing?

I hear all the time when walking into classrooms and breakrooms on campus that there is not time for the ‘fluffy’ stuff that I’m there to help teachers with. The stuff that the students need are all in the text books anyways. Who has time to create a wiki or blog? Where would I fit into my day the time to tape my students creating video books to share with other classes and grade levels? Heaven help us all if learning turned out to be fun in any way, shape or form!

What type of games are out there that would allow students to learn and *gulp* and have some fun? I’ve compiled a list of a few that might work.

  1. Webkinz – I’m not going to rehash this as I wrote about this earlier this week. Still find that it would be an invaluable tool in the classroom.
  2. Roller Coaster Tycoon (or any other Tycoon based game) – I love this series of games. I remember playing one of the first versions of RCT that came out years ago, and how addicting it was to try and get more and more people to show up to my theme park. Creating a roller coaster of your own can be interesting. Can’t get the cars to go back up the rise of tracks? Hrm….sounds like a physics issue there. Better get Newton’s Laws of Physics out for a lesson.
  3. Sim Tower Sim City or Sim Theme Park – Old school versions of RCT and that genre. I’ve found Sim Tower online through ebay and have contemplated buying it again. Between these 2 games and RCT, what better life and math lesson is there than to have to create your own parks/cities. I remember in Sim Tower creating shopping malls on the top floor of the tower (about floor 100 I think) and it not doing well. Then tasked my daughter with creating a tower similar but choosing to put the shopping area in the basement and she was quickly making money to create more types of shops and condo units.
  4. Sid Meier’s Gettysburg, Civilizations Series, etc – What a greatly cool thing to do to learn about historical events, then to recreate them via software. Don’t like the way General Robert E. Lee performed at Gettysburg? Just think of the possibilities that can be explored by allowing General John Bell Hood to perform a flanking maneuver on day 2 instead of the assaults on Little Round Top. Might have a different  result possibly.
  5. World of Warcraft or other MMORPGs – I know what might be going through your heads. Tom, you are a WoW-head of course you are going to espouse using such a thing. One thing that I’ve noticed in my lifetime of gaming (going back to Advanced Dungeon and Dragons days using pen/paper) that there is a THRIVING economy in these games. Since leaving San Antonio I’ve been enjoying the family vacation up here in Niagara Falls, NY, yet I’m still able to log into World of Warcraft and complete some minor tasks that does NOT involve any killing. Yet, I’ve still been able to make about 300 in gold by performing these tasks (usually creating food that other players consume and selling off items that other people can use to cook) Sounds like a math lesson in there somewhere to me.
  6. Fantasy Sports – I LOVE my fantasy football and baseball. Can’t go a football season without having at least 2 football leagues that I’m a part of. Dan Flockhart created a math curriculum to go with fantasy sports and mathematics. I saw this about a year and a half ago on ESPN and is definitely worth taking a look at if you are a math teacher.

Notice a trend there? Alot of math. In my most humble of opinions, alot of emphasis is placed on reading (rightly so) but sometimes I feel it’s to the detriment of mathematics. Right now the GLS conference going on in Madison, WI. (Gaming + Learning + Society) I’m hoping some literature or webcasts come from this conference to sink my teeth into. I know Kevin Jarrett and David Jakes are there. Here’s hoping they have something they can share with everyone.

Seeking the Wisdom of the Ages…

Tom.