Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Resources, Resources, and More Resources

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Tim Wilhelmus
             I have to say that I absolutely love my job.  I truly enjoy helping and teaching teachers and students how to use technology in a productive way.  Another reason I love my job is that I get to work with many talented and incredible people.  One of my colleagues, Tim Wilhelmus, is just absolutely tearing it up.  I feel he really needs to be recognized for what he is putting together at the moment.  My plan is to help him with this endeavor, but he is already off to a terrific start. 

He is using the Livebinder tool to combine resources by subject area.  This is just the beginning for what is going to be a great alternative for textbooks.  Now these resources need to be tested.  Some may be champions and some may be duds.  If you have time to test drive some of them, please feel free to comment and tell us what you used, how you used it and if you would use it again or not.  I will keep you posted every few weeks at the end of my blog posts about his progress.  If we have not covered your subject area yet, it will be before it is all over.

Let me go ahead and give you some of these resource links.  This first one is for social studies teachers that teach U.S. History: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play/709426 .  This Livebinder is full of resources that contain digital content for U.S. History.

This next link is for social studies teachers that teach World History:  http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=711083&backurl=/shelf/my .

Here is the link for life science and biology teachers:  http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=718312&backurl=/shelf/my .

Here is the link for science  and chemistry teachers:  http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=713074 .  Remember, it is not black magic or Betty Crocker’s cookbook, it’s Chemistry!

Here is a link for webtools that are given to you by category on the tabs:

            Like I said, there are more links on the way.  You can find these and many more at my cool links webpage:  Here is the link for it as well:

            I would like to say thank you to all my readers and wish them a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

America, The Way I See It

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              I really don’t want to write this post.  I have really tried to avoid it.  It may cause me to lose some followers and fans, but I cannot keep watching my Twitter feed, my Facebook feed and keep silent.  Since last Friday when the tragedy happened in Connecticut, I have watched the media, listened to talk radio and had several conversations with teachers, principals, followers on Twitter, and my family members.  The problem cannot be blamed on any one thing, but a combination of things that I think have contributed to events like the one that occurred last Friday.

             First, let me say, what happened was absolutely horrifying.  Our emotions are at peak levels because young innocent children were involved.  As a father of two daughters, one still in elementary school, my emotions are soaring as well.  We all want this senseless killing stopped and want an instant fix.  Right now gun control is an easy target.  A gun happens to be the device that this 20 year old boy chose to take 26 lives and his own.  It could have easily been a homemade pipe bomb, like the boys at Columbine used. On 9/11 airplanes were used to kill many innocent people.  In Oklahoma City, explosives were used.  Charles Manson and his crew used knives.  Drunk drivers kill people with cars every day and I do not see any one out there that wants to put a ban on alcoholic drinks or cars.   

            What we need to look at is today’s culture.  Why are these acts of violence and the killing of innocent people happening more today than they ever have?  I say it is a combination of factors.  Lets start with what we are watching on television.  When I was growing up, prime time shows were Little House on the Prairie, Happy Days, Different Strokes, and MASH just to name a few.  When we watched these shows, my parents didn’t have the worries that I have with my children today.  Most of those shows taught me good life lessons like how to get along with people, how to laugh, solve a problem, and get through a difficult time.  There was usually a good moral lesson that that was the theme of the show.  Now I am almost embarrassed to watch any of the prime time shows with my children present.  They are consistently themed around sex, violence, and content that would have been in a rated R movie when I was a kid.  We tend to turn to the cooking channel and even then words are bleeped out.  Doesn’t anyone have any class anymore?  Do we not know how to talk without throwing a four-letter word in our sentences? 

I taught a group of 4th graders a few years ago and a question I asked them one day was about their favorite TV show.  I was shocked at the answers I got.  They told me they watched things like Jersey Shore, Bad Girls Club, and The Real Housewives.  4th grade, really?  These shows are not fit for adults to watch.  No one on those shows can solve a problem without getting into a cursing fight, which usually ends in a fistfight.  That is what the youth of America is watching and thinks that is reality and how problems are solved.  Well we are a far cry from Laura Engels, Fonzie and Ritchie Cunningham.   

We cannot ignore the violent video games that are out there these days.  I like them too, but I don’t want my 5th grade daughter playing Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto.  These are games that I have heard many 6th grade students and younger talk about playing.  When I was there age we played board games like Sorry, Life, Monopoly, Risk, and Payday.  We had an Atari that had Asteroids, Pac-man, Pong, and Pitfall.  These were fun games that did not put you in the middle of a war zone or have you carjack an innocent person.  I hate to admit it, because I like a good shootem’ up game now and then, but if a person sat and spent hours playing these games it could begin to cloud your mind.

In the last 20 years that I have been in education, I have seen a decline in social skills in my students.  I am a huge advocate for technology, but I believe it is a big factor in my students’ lack of social skills. The young people today communicate by texting, emailing, and chatting online.  They may even video chat on occasion.  All of these things are great, but it takes the human characteristic out of the equation.  Instead of heading out after school for a neighborhood baseball or basketball game where I interacted with real people, they now go home and connect online to play Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, chat on Facebook, or text on their cell phone.  They don’t have that face-to-face interaction with a human.  They are looking at a screen.  They say things in chat rooms, wall posts, and emails that would never be said face to face.  They don’t know how to talk through problems with each other without wanting to fight or shout four letter words.  The only kids that did that when I was growing up were few and far between.  Again, this kind of goes back to what they are seeing and hearing in our so-called reality shows.

Lastly, we cannot ignore about how much lack of religion we have as a country.  No one wants to talk about it because we might offend someone.  We say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.  We need to take down the 10 commandments from our public buildings. There has been controversy over “One Nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.  We have even have had talks of removing “In God We Trust” from our currency.  Even if a person does not have any religion, the 10 commandments are pretty good standards to live by.  Have you read them?  Thou shalt not kill.  Wow, what a concept!  Why would anyone want that taken down?  It sounds pretty good to me.  Isn’t senseless killing what we want stopped anyway?  Sounds like we have a lot more to change in our culture than just gun control don’t we? 

Friday, December 14, 2012

NETS and Extensions?

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            Earlier this year in one of my professional development sessions I was instructing a group of teachers on how to have their students upload a file to be graded.  I was telling them about how the file the students upload may be in the form of an Open Office document, a .docx, a .pdf, or even a .pptx .  If the file didn’t work properly with the upload and download, then the students could compress it as a .zip file, send it, and the teacher could unzip the file once they have received it.

            About that time, one of the teachers in my session said, “Mr. Tron, please speak English.  I have no idea what you are talking about.”  She did not understand what a .pdf , .doc or .docx was.  It was right then and there that I realized that I needed to do a different lesson.  I needed a prerequisite for what I was going over.  I needed to do a lesson that included some basic skills and file extension recognition.

            Along these same lines, students also lack some basic technology skills.  Now, I know that they understand how to use technology.  They can text, play games, chat, create Google Docs, send emails, and pictures, but most teachers say that students lack organization.  Students seem to have difficulty knowing where they have saved their files and how to create and name folders to save files in.  Students also lack online common sense, known as digital citizenship.  It amazes me that students can do the most complex operations, but struggle with what I think are the simple ones.
            Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a set of standards for administrators, coaches, teachers, and students for technology?  Well there is!  They are called the NETS.  NETS stands for National Education Technology Standards.  NETS for Teachers are the standards for assessing the skills and knowledge they need to teach, work, and learn in an increasingly connected and digital world.
As technology integration continues to increase in our schools and society, it is vital that teachers have the skills, knowledge, and know how to model behaviors of digital professionals. Teachers must become comfortable being learners with their students and colleagues.  This is really difficult for some of us, but remember we are all lifelong learners.
Where can these standards be found?  They can all be found at http://www.iste.org/standards  Here they have downloadable pdfs, files that can be opened by Adobe Reader, for administrators, coaches, teachers, and students.  These really need to be followed for successful 1:1 as well as any technology implementation and instruction. 

I also did a little research for some good, basic file extension lists.  This would be another great place for teachers and even students to visit so they know what file extensions go with certain programs.  That way if a teacher asks for a document to be saved as a .doc, the students will know how to save it correctly and  it then can be opened easily by the teacher.  Here is a link that explains some basic file extensions: http://goo.gl/LC2k0  You can do a Google search and find much larger lists, but this is a nice, short one to start with.  I hope you find these resources helpful.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Would You Enjoy Your Class?

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My daughters at the Walt Disney World Resort
            I have about three different topics that I was going to address for this post, but as I was entering one of my schools this week I decided to switch gears completely.  A colleague of mine has written a series of blog posts that explore, based on personal experience, why Disney World is so successful with getting people to come back year after year.  He then ties it into how our classrooms should also have a similar environment that creates a place that students want to keep coming back to.  He refers to these classrooms as playgrounds.

            Well, this weeks as I walked into that school I mentioned, I noticed how awesome it was decorated.  The cafeteria was totally decked out.  It had wreaths, a fully adorned Christmas tree, and a fireplace.  It reminded me of a hot chocolate shop at the North Pole.  Students had gathered in there to eat breakfast and to talk to friends before school.  They were smiling, laughing and seemed to be really enjoying themselves.  I am going to come right out and say it, “They looked like they were happy to be at school.”

Cafeteria at Perry Heights Middle School in Evansville, IN
            That is it!  That is what we want, not just in the cafeteria and the hallways, but also in our classrooms.  Is your classroom a place that creates an environment that your students want to come to each day?  Does it have the feel of a playground?  Who doesn’t want to go to the playground?  I do. 

            Our lessons need to continue that same theme as well.  Is your lesson one that you would enjoy sitting through?  Would it hold your attention and keep you engaged?  Is it one that would spark your curiosity and creativity?  Is the lesson one that would make you want to know more about the topic?  Is your lesson one that would make you want to keep coming back for more?  If you answered “No” to any of these questions, it might be time for that lesson to get an update, an overhaul, or a complete rebuild. 

            How can we expect students to come to school and do their best if they do not feel good about where they are or if they do not want to even be there?  The same is true about your workplace.  Perhaps you have had jobs or maybe even have a job now that you are not crazy about.  I would say part of the reason you do not like it is because of its environment.   This can include the way that everyone does or does not work well together.  For a school, this can include the relationship between administrators and teachers.  For students, it is that student and teacher rapport and relationship.  Do your students feel welcome?

My Colleague Tim Wilhelmus
    
 Back to my title, “Would you enjoy your class?”  This is something to think about and maybe make some changes.  If you are interested in reading my colleague, Tim Wilhelmus's blog, I highly recommend it.  His blog is http://playgroundadvocate.blogspot.com/  and the posts are in his September and October archives.  They are titled "Lessons from WDW."  There are five parts.  Please check them out!


Principal Charles Goodman
       


  I also want to thank Charles Goodman, principal at Perry Heights Middle School in Evansville, IN, for creating an awesome and inviting environment in his school.  He was also my 8th grade art teacher and my inspiration for writing today’s post.