Has the Digital Age gone to the dogs?

The saying ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ really hit home to me this morning as I began my usual routine of getting up early to get a jump on my day. As I was getting dressed, I noticed my wife’s cell phone on the floor in a peculiar place. Upon further inspection  I noticed that our dog had entangled himself in the charging cord and was about to take her phone for a little ‘walk’ of his own. I immediately thought to myself, ‘This has got analogy written all over it,’ and the pieces of the puzzle slowly slipped into place.

I’ve been meaning to add to my blog for several weeks now, but I didn’t know exactly what to write – that was until I saw it wrapped around the neck of our dog Diego.

Has technology really gone to the dogs? (Ironically enough, I used my computer to double check and make sure I was really using that idiom the way I was intending and sure enough ‘Gone to the dogs’ means that something has gone badly wrong and has lost all good things that it has had. (http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/gone+to+the+dogs.html)

Has the use of computers, technology, the internet, and mobile devices really benefitted our students or have those things become so much of a distraction that they no longer serve the purposes for which they were intented?

Well, here’s the answer. (Well, at least my answer.) Being involved in education since the 60’s (I know, you’re asking yourself right now, ‘How old is he?’ Well, I did begin my schooling in the late 60’s and I did have two parents who were in education, so I’m counting that too.) I’ve seen educational trends come and go. Something that is being introduced as ‘New and Improved’ is really recycled from a previous era, but with a new twist. Technology is quite a bit different from many perspectives, but I do believe it plays an important role. Here are my top three:

Number 1 – A Technological Future: As much as I enjoy playing the LP’s I bought back in the day, I don’t see too many of my students stuffing a record player in their backpack so they can listen to the newest boy band. Our students want to use the technology they have around them to learn about what is important and relevant in their lives. True, sometimes they tend to stretch how they are using it, but it is up to us as educators to blend their interest into the learning in our classroom.

Number 2 – Networking: Learning to develop a network of people who can make a difference in your life can be critical in shaping our attitudes, and might I also say, our personalities. Whether it’s a Facebook message from a friend, or conversation you read on one of your feeds, I believe the groups we choose to surround ourselves with can bring us up when we are feeling down and give us a perspective we often don’t have ourselves. As a teacher, the groups in which I belong (either virtually or in real life) are the ones I turn to for support, help, and even guidance. Our students should also have the opportunity to learn the value of communicating with others to help them in their daily lives.

Number 3 – Transparency: As I talk to my students about the good old days and education, the concept of ‘receiving a grade’ has never been more clear than what it is today. Both parents and students can determine exactly what the student is earning for a grade with just a few clicks of a mouse. In fact, if you have the correct notifications on your mobile device, you don’t even need to do that as that information can be directed to you as soon as a teacher has entered it into the system. Never before in education has it been so easy to see exactly what grade a student is earning.

Technology has come a long way in a very short period of time. Not everything we do with technology is as productive as the next thing. However, I firmly believe that the more we can demonstrate, share, and use technology to enhance our education, the better off we can be to prepare our students for a future where technology will be a huge part of their lives. In the next few blogs, I will address how I use my role as a computer teacher to reach each of these goals. I hope you will tune in and find out.

Have a fabulous week and feel free to comment if you have anything to share.

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Technology and ‘Meet and Greet’ Night

Greetings all,

I hope you had a great weekend. Let’s hope we can make it to school every day this week without the weather interrupting our schedule. 

Technology and ‘Meet and Greet’ Night

Although it is a bit short notice, I would like to invite you to a Technology and ‘Meet and Greet’ night this Thursday from 5 to 7 pm. Our two new administrators and I would love to give you an opportunity to learn a bit more about technology, as well as have an opportunity to meet them. Mr. Bill Richardson and Mr. Dave Sonnabend will be available to introduce themselves and to answer any questions you might have for them. I will focus on explaining the technology your son or daughter learns while in my technology class. (This is a chance for you to ask questions about all that technology your kids seem to know so much about.) This night is intended on being more like an open house, so if you can’t make it the whole time, just stay as long as your schedule allows. I’m also planning on having you try some of the technology out, if you so wish. 

Here are the details:

Who: Parents/guardians (and grandparents) and students of Shattuck

What: Technology and ‘Meet and Greet’ night

Where: Shattuck Middle School  600 Elm Street  Room C26

When: Thursday, February 6 from 5 – 7 pm

Why: To learn more about technology and have a chance to meet the newest members of our administration team.

Welcome to my Blog ~ Quarter 3

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Greetings and welcome,

This blog is meant to be the place to go to fill in the cracks between what is happening in my class and what gets shared with you by your son or daughter. (I know middle schoolers tend to clam-up and not share a whole lot, so if there is anything else you’d like to know, please write it in the ‘Respond’ button above and ask away!)

Well, the first week of the quarter is already gone and I guess I had better give a bit of an update. (If you’d like to investigate some of my earlier blog entries in the Archive or Recent Posts, you might see some similar posts that explain things a bit differently.)

Keyboarding – Students learned how to find and log into their Typingweb.com account. In addition, the students also learned how to go into the ‘Preferences’ and change the password so no one else can access their account. Students are greatly encouraged to use proper keyboarding skills to improve this life skill. This will be the last official time they can learn this skill at school. There are no longer any keyboarding classes at the high school.

Presentation – Students created their own account at Prezi.com and are currently learning how this website works. This is a very popular method of creating presentations. Not sure how well students can build their project using their iPad, but they can continue to work on this at home, provided they remember their log-in information and have internet access. This is a long term assignment, which won’t be due until the weekend before the last week of the quarter.

Vocabulary Terms – As I explain different parts of technology, I often use very specific terms. Therefore, I want to make sure the students understand what those terms mean. To accomplish this, I created a list of vocabulary terms, which they can access via a website address I provide for them. They can review the terms and also quiz themselves to see if they are prepared for my quiz. It’s super easy and super efficient. I hope your student will show you what it looks like.

21st Century skills test – Your student took an online pretest to demonstrate their understanding of 21st century skills. I use the results to guide my teaching, and the students will take the post-test at the end of the quarter to show their improvement. The tests are slightly different, so I will be discussing the questions throughout the quarter.

Edmodo and Schoology – Students began the quarter with using their Edmodo account, but will be switching over to Schoology soon. We have to do a bit of background work before we ready to make the switch, but we would like to use Schoology because it has some features that work better with other management systems. I believe it is the district’s goal to use just one LMS (Learning Management System). This way students and their parents can go to just one place and get updates from all of their classes.

First Class Email System – Many of the students know about or have an email account. We will look at the one that the district uses so students can learn and then demonstrate how to use some of the more important features.

That’s all for now. Have a great week and welcome to the Digital Frontier!

Dean Doersch

Second quarter in the books

Greetings all,

Well the end of the quarter and semester has come (and gone), and although life got a bit busy around the holidays, I’m very pleased to say that the students did an amazing job with staying focused and working hard to the very end of the quarter. I  hope your son or daughter had a chance to share with you some of the great things we accomplished. If not, here’s what we worked on before and after the holidays:

We used a combination of the Wiscareer website, Microsoft Word and Excel (spreadsheet) to create a document that will be used by our counselors to help your child in their future career pathway. We called it their ‘Snapshot’, and has been put in their guidance folder and will be used next year during a planning meeting between parents/guardians, the counselors, and the student.

We looked at the district’s Acceptable Use Policy and discussed appropriate online conduct and behavior. In addition, some students had a chance to explore a website called Powtoons as a way of demonstrating their understanding of the rules, but the cold weather cut this activity short.

We used the website CommonSenseMedia.org to review important digital awareness concepts and we learned how to use the Annotation feature to write on a PDF. If you’ve never visited the site, please check it out. It’s not only helpful for adults, but I’ve had students say they enjoy using the site too.

We also wrapped up our long term assignment (our Prezi from Prezi.com) and discussed how these kinds of projects could be created with online accounts and then shared through a variety of ways such as emailing or sharing the link through social networking sites.

Finally, the students took the post-test for their 21st century skills assessment. Each one of my four classes made significant gains in understanding and as classes they raised their averages between 13% and 17%. Below are the results of how our students compare to others in the state who also took the test. As a group, we did very well. As a teacher, I am proud of the success our students have on the assessment, but I also look at our weak areas, and I use that data to improve my teaching in the future.

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As we begin the third quarter, please know that you will continue to receive emails as reminders for my blog. You are welcome to keep reading them, but I’m sure there is a way of ‘unsubscribing’ if you would like. However, I will continue to offer new perspectives of the classes in which I will be teaching for the rest of the school year. It would be great if you continued to follow.

Finally, we are in the process of setting up a technology night in the very near future. Please look for an announcement coming out soon as we nail down a date. Thanks for all of the support you offer your child and us as teachers. I know it’s much more than what we are aware. Thanks and good luck to you and your child in your technology future.

Dean Doersch

Don’t Worry, Be Happy . . . Really?

I’m guessing many of you remember this classic song by Bobby McFerrin from the late 80’s. However, for many of us, this phrase is much easier said (or sung) than done.

Greetings friends,

As we enter the holiday season, I hope these next few weeks give you an opportunity to reflect and appreciate a few of the things of which you are thankful. Although many people look forward to this time of year, I remind my classes that it might not be the case for everyone. I ask them to be aware that for some families, the holidays can actually be quite stressful and filled with angst.

And so it is with this message, that I send my holiday wishes to you and your family. As you prepare for family time and get-togethers, please remember to take care of yourself and be reminded that there are people who need help, as well as people who can help. If you find yourself on either end of this spectrum, please do what you can. If you need help or advice, please seek it out at churches or synagogues, counseling centers, or at your work. If you have been blessed, please challenge yourself to be available to those around you who may need it. I think we would be surprised at how much the people around us care and are willing to help – if we are willing to ask for it.

Giving Thanks: I am thankful for the amazing staff and students I am surrounded with each day. I am truly blessed with teachers and administrators who work hard, day in and day out, to help students reach their potential. Some days are easier than others, but the concern and effort is there every day. Our students are amazing as well. They are truly a joy to work with and really make my job enjoyable and rewarding. Seeing them learn and share their knowledge warms my heart and helps me understand that there is hope for the future and what they are bringing to our virtual table.

Finally, I am leaving you with a gift. If you would like to know or learn more about technology, I am asking that you leave a comment and ask your question, or email me at dedoersch@neenah.k12.wi.us and ask away. I might not know every answer, but I will give it my best shot and help with what I can. I am also thinking of offering a ‘parent night’ in January so parents can learn a bit more about what we teach at the middle school and what your children are learning. If you would be interested in coming to a parent night, please let me know through the comment box.

Thanks, and have a blessed holiday.

Sincerely,

Dean Doersch

The Power of Adobe Photoshop

Greetings parents/guardians/students,

Welcome to our short week before the Thanksgiving break. I hope that the turn in the weather hasn’t caught too many of you off guard. After spending a good part of the weekend outside (and no, I didn’t get a deer) I am finding it so much nicer inside. Unfortunately, our back door wasn’t latched tight and now I have some repair work to do in order for  it to close properly.

Last week I introduced the students to a program that is a bit over their head – fact is, it is a bit over my head too! The Adobe Company offers 37 (if I counted correctly) different applications. However, these applications are a bit pricey and very professional. The reason I expose the students to the Adobe Photoshop application is to demonstrate two things to them: 1) how much can be changed or altered because of an application like Photoshop, and 2) to show them how to create a project that can look just as good as something they might buy in a store.

Part of our discussion for this topic is based around the idea of pictures that have been ‘Photoshopped’ to make them look better or worse than reality. To prove my point, I showed the students a video called ‘The Making of a Model’ from the Dove company. (Link.)

After we watch it, I talk to them about not comparing themselves or others to what they see on their screens, because very often, those people don’t look like that either. We discuss the importance of having confidence in your relationships and your abilities, not just your looks. I’m hoping to impress upon the students that what a person does is far more important than how they look.

The bottom line is that I want our students to understand (or at least be exposed to) what computers and technology can do to alter our perception of reality. Not that I’m supporting this company or ad, but you’ll notice that changing media isn’t limited to just still pictures. In this ad, Nationwide uses an application to change video to make the baby appear to be larger than life and to help us believe that our cars are just as valuable as our babies. Perhaps you’ve seen it. (Link.)

What do you think? Does it work? I’d love to see a discussion in the comment area, if you wouldn’t mind sharing your thoughts.

Have a great week. I will be sharing some of our creations after Thanksgiving break!

Mr. D

Moving Forward by Checking the Rear View Mirror

As many of you know, no matter how fast or careful you’re driving, at times, you need to check the rear view mirror (and your blind spots) to see if you are still safe to change lanes and continue on your journey.

It’s no different with technology. As I teach my lessons, I continuously keep in mind changes that may have occurred since the last time I presented the material, as well as learning about what went well and what didn’t.  My goal is to present the most relevant and important aspects of technology to our students, while keeping an eye on where we’ve been and what’s happening around us.

This blog is a wonderful case in point. Rather than repeat myself over and over again about important things like how students will earn their grade in my classroom or why I feel keyboarding is an important life lesson to practice in this class, I’ve learned that a blog can be so much more effective and informative. I only will need to write my message once, and then encourage you to look back at past blog entries to understand my point.

Therefore, if you’re wondering how your child will be graded in this class, I encourage you to look back to the blogs I wrote in October and find the one titled “Seventh Grade Computer Apps” and one called “The Importance of Keyboarding” to see why I teach what I teach.

Okay, now that that is covered, let’s proceed.

My students’ first major project is done using Adobe PhotoShop. This is a professional level application that can be extremely complicated to learn and use. However, I love to have them learn about it because it demonstrates the potential that software can have and it helps them understand that they don’t need to know everything in order to accomplish something. I will be guiding them through a practice project, but then letting them learn and explore on their own. Most students are thrilled to ‘build’ something that is uniquely theirs and then can be shared in a variety of formats. Putting this powerful tool into their hands gives them an added sense of responsibility, and they learn to appreciate what people can do when they have the right tool for the job.

More to come on this topic as we explore it for a few days.