Teaching by Example

It was not long ago that I was in a discussion about literacy. The discussion started off with more of a technology twist and then steered towards language arts as we got rolling. The main idea that we were discussing is that all too often teachers view themselves as the experts on the subject and therefore are the only ones who can do the work or activity or perhaps interact with a particular tool. The example that came up was about students editing.

Rather than teachers viewing themselves as the only one who can edit pieces of writing, why not teach the kids to be good editors? After all, we want them to grow up to be good editors, right?

I was reminded of this as I was going thru some old files on my computer. I came across a picture that I took of a field trip slip that my daughter brought home one day.

Field Trip Slip Fail

Field Trip Slip Fail

I thought this was a good example of how even the experts can fail to take time for editing, especially when we are in a hurry. If we want our students to be strong academics – then we should be the role models and be sure that we don’t send home things like this. If we want our students to be good at going through the writing process, we need to show evidence of having used the writing process ourselves.

Working With Free Stuff

Wow! I have to apologize for neglecting the blog for so long. Things have been slightly hectic lately. I have recently started a new position as a network administrator and IT consultant and have been busy getting my feet wet in that role.

Enough of my excuses!

Anyway, I have always been intrigued by the open source market. now I realize that the term open source does not equal free but certainly this is the way that we have come to use the term. When someone says “open source” they mean that it is free as opposed to referring to the fact that one has access to the source code for their own modifications. OK – I will admit that I am guilty of using the term that way myself – it would seem that the terms open source and free have become somewhat synonymous.

I recently decided to install Fedora 11 on an old desktop I had at the house as a means of testing how well it might work for a home computer. So far I have been pleased with how well it seems to work. That being said, it was not easy to get set up. While much of the software was pre-installed like Open Office, Evolution Mail, Totem, and Rhythmbox – any additional things to install were a bit more complicated than the standard Windows install package. For example, installing Flash player involved way more than clicking ‘Download and Install’. It meant using the command line to login as root and type in additional instructions to complete the work. Certainly not a task for the average home user.

What I really like though, is that it works. The desktop environment is sharp looking and easy to navigate. I can browse the net, play CDs and movies, enjoy a game or two on Facebook, and open files created with Office 2007. If someone handed me a computer that was completely configured with all the necessities, all open source, I could still get the job done.

The question is – What is the potential for free and open source computing in our K-12 schools? Will the state of the economy and tight budgets have more IT staff thinking about these alternatives? What types of open source software are you using in your districts? I would love to hear more.

Moodle and the Gradebook

I recently gave a workshop to highlight the features of Moodle and then focus specifically on the gradebook. The gradebook feature is a very powerful tool at your fingertips for those of you that have access to Moodle. There are a number of nice functions…

  • Assignments that you create are automatically added to the gradebook for you
  • Quizzes will automatically grade and enter into the gradebook
  • SCORM packages will interface nicely with Moodle
  • Categories can be created to better organize your grades and assignments
  • Categories and grades can be weighted
  • Formulas can be created for complex grading schemes
  • Semester and quarter grades can all be kept together but output for each of them separately
  • You can export to Excel
  • You can set up parent access to student grades so that they can monitor progress

As with any piece of software, it will take some time to become familiar with the tools and the interface but I think that the benefits you might get from using the Moodle gradebook will outweigh any hassles.

Have you started moving any of your lessons online? If you have, regardless of which course management system you use, it is important to ensure that students have a way of being informed of their progress and of viewing their feedback.