Monday, October 13, 2008

Fremont 79 Goes Green!

I can't believe how proud a moment this is! Could it be that I'm teaching in one of the greenest school districts in the state? While I don't have trouble showing my environmentally green colors, my own Fremont District 79 is planning to power itself using sustainable wind power! This is Illinois, right? While we do have some green initiatives, we are no California or Vermont. One could probably count the amount of wind turbines in Illinois on one hand. Just to offer some evidence, this picture from Lee County, Illinois proves that turbines do, actually exist here.

The original report from the Chicago Tribune states that a recent "study of area wind patterns presented to the School Board... determined the breeze blows strong enough to provide energy for the school district, confirming what many had suspected. Estimates suggest the district would tap only 80 percent of the electricity generated."

You mean we'd actually have power left over? That means that Fremont would be able to sell that power back to the grid, and actually make money off of this initiative.

The economy is having troubles, if you haven't heard. While I'm excited that this district is reacting to economic issues in such a positive way, I wonder: is this the beginning of a "green economy" in America? I mean, instead of us worrying about whether or not we go into another depression, is it possible that, instead, we emerge from this economic stress utilizing green technology as a way to help us cut costs and save money?

This is certainly evidence that one district is taking matters into it's own hands, and leading a charge that could definitely cause a domino effect. How much does the Chicago Public School system pay in electric bills? Could we soon see the completely underutilized Lake Michigan as a haven for wind or water turbines? Wisconsin has been trying to build wind turbines on the lake for about 5 years, and that plight is highlighted in this Washington Post article. They still won't see any action on their plan until 2009.

Whether it be because of global warming or economics, the fact that Fremont and other districts are finally turning to alternative energies is a good, positive reaction from this economic stress. Now, maybe the lowly consumer can get a break- soon- with these alternatives.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How We Use Technology and What to Expect

We are using technology in a number of cutting edge ways in my classroom. One of the major differences than the "traditional" tech class, is that we're moving our work to the Internet.

Technology class in the middle grades uses, an online learning environment (OLE). This is revolutionary, in that 99% of work is done and also handed in online. For some of our younger users this concept has been challenging to grasp. Some students have come up to me in the first few weeks, and said "What do you mean, turn in? How do I turn in my work if it's on the Internet?"

This question makes me excited because this is all about "a-ha" moments. Once students submit an online document for the first time, they really become a part of the "future of education" and they get it. They realize that their classroom is completely mobile and their work can follow them to any computer that they choose to work on. To turn in an assignment or to see what their current assignments are, they simply need to go to their assignments tab, like it's pictured below.

The most important thing to remember about how we use technology in my classroom, is that we're using Web 2.0 tools. What does that mean? Web 2. is best defined according to as :

There is no simple definition for Web 2.0. Broadly put, it is a paradigm shift in the way the Internet is used. Web 2.0 involves a more open approach to the Internet, in particular user-generated content, Blogs, Podcasts, social media, review sites, Wikipedia, etc.

How Does it Break Down?
So in sixth grade we are using Web 2.0 tools like (social bookmarking tool) and (map making tool that uses satellite imagery). We are creating maps that are learning maps for other students and for the community of Fremont.

Also we are using, a Web 2.0 slideshow presentation tool that allows us to have conversations around images. This is a real good example of a final product for Storytelling in History, which is what we are creating in that class. Watch this:

Next, in seventh grade, we are podcasting using the Garageband software that comes with our Apple Macintosh suite of software. Our podcasts range in topic from sports to history to music. Students were given much freedom to come up with their podcast topics. Lately the tech room has been looking more like a recording studio! Once we are done, we'll create a simple web page and share our podcasts with the world!

Also in seventh grade we are using, but this time we are creating mathcasts. Our movies are all about how to do specific math problems. Students were asked to choose a math concept that they have difficulty with. Here's a sample of what our movies might look like when they are completed.

Finally, the eighth grade is focusing on transferring their writing to the social medium we call blogging. You can check out one of our eight grade blogs right here. It' all about his perspective of War. Click on J's blog.

Also, the other class is using wikis to collaborate on creating a Public Service Announcement. If you don't know what a wiki is, check out this video at the commoncraft show. We're using wikis to create a script that we'll use to direct our PSAs. We're learning about film techniques and the documentary style that PSAs require. At the end of the semester we'll have a mini film festival!

We're in the thick of it right now, and students are really starting to put their projects together. Can't wait to show you more of their work!

Thanks again, and have a good Columbus Day!

Mr. R.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grading and Progress Grades

Well, the time for progress reports is upon us, and right now many students are just starting to ask, "what is my grade?" It's interesting to hear this question because their grade has been posted to their account since the first day of school. Granted, we didn't have many assignments in these first few weeks as we learned how to use the edu20 learning environment.

Many of you, parents, are going to have questions about their grades in technology, and for that you just need to look at a couple of things.
  1. At, in their student account they have an assessment/ assignments tab. There they can check for any homework or quizzes they've had, or that they still have to take. If they haven't done the work, then they can do it right there. Almost all my work is handed in on
  2. If there are any students who still have grades that are lower than expectations by progress reports, don't worry. They'll go up. The skill that we're learning here for many of us is handing in virtual homework. Almost all my homework is paperless, and many of our students still haven't grasped that yet, especially sixth graders.
How is homework done in tech class?
At the assignments tab in I create many "freeform" assignments where students may just be asked a question, and they have to submit an answer or do a little Internet research first. They click on the Submit Answer button and type in their answer to the prompt. This is a totally new way to do homework for may students, but this will most likely be how students turn in work in high school and in college. So you can really see the value of this tool.

Procedure, Procedure, Procedure
To any parent who is watching their student struggle with this, be patient. Really what we're struggling most with is procedure: how to navigate their environment, where the homework tab is, what is my password (which many students seem to forget when they go home). These are all legitimate concerns that will lessen with more exposure. If a student didn't get a satisfactory grade during progress report, it's most likely simply a procedural problem that will fix itself simply by turning in homework or taking that darned quiz! That grade can go up with the click of a mouse.

Thanks for now, and, like always, let me know what you think!

Fremont Interactive Student Blogs On Hold

As you may have known, I started student blogs for each grade. Here's an example: These were meant to be student run blogs, more like an interactive year book. Right now, I've put these blogs on hold while I work out some procedural details, but for now, you can come here for any class updates that you need to hear about.

I was really excited because I wanted those to be an outlet for students to report like writers report in the real world. Blogging is the new newspaper, and even many of our popular newspapers are turning into blogs. Web logs are basically interactive newspapers that give the reader a chance to offer feedback. Blogs give the reader a voice, which is why I set this blog up. I want to hear from parents and have an ongoing discussion about how we are educating your child.

So, this blog will have to do for now. It's run by me, but it still gives a voice to the parents who want to see their student's education on the cutting edge.

Safety in the Tech Room

Here in the Fremont Technology Class, we use a learning environment called This link provide a tour of the tool your student will be using. This is the "Future of Education," as they call it, and I urge you to check it out. Students in technology will do their homework at this site, which is a very different behavior for many of our students. Most all homework submission is done here at this website. Students are allowed to create a limited profile, that is only viewable to other Fremont students. These are the main points of edu20:

Good Stuff:
  • •It’s private. Only teachers and parents can view student info. Parents are invited to view their students work and work with them.
  • It allows students to use modern Internet tools in a safe environment: Wikis, blogs, messaging, chat rooms, forums, and discussions: all of these are used by students in a transparent environment. We can feel safe about bullying because all eyes are upon them.
  • Everything is moderated. I can shut it off like a faucet, if need be.
  • It’s important for students to learn how to do these things responsibly. They should feel safe, and should feel like adults support this kind of learning. It’s all in one, and allows me to do a lot in one space, as opposed to getting them multiple accounts at many different sites, which could be a logistical and security nightmare.
  • It’s rooted in the National Technology Education Standards
Here's the Technical Safe Jargon directly from their site:

It's a Walled Community:
  • A walled community provides additional security for your students. Students in your school can only:

    • enroll in classes provided by the school.
    • join groups created by other members of the school.
    • have their profiles viewed by their parents or other members of the school.
    • receive messages from their parents or other members of the school.
You may have noticed a student's limited profile while looking at their work, but breathe easy knowing that that info is only available to you and us. It's good for them to be able to practice these tools in an educational environment first, and have these social skills be rooted in education, as opposed to pure socialization.

Thanks for reading the safety blog today. Keep reading, and I'll keep you all posted.