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July 2009

#mediacomputation Thoughts

We still have a day to go, but ....

I was sold on media computation before I got here, I just wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go in and how to accomplish it.  I'm still not 100% there, but I do want to use it. 

If I only have 1 student in AP Computer Science, which is what I suspect I will have, I may very well go with the Guzdial / Erickson book. He's a kid that will REALLY like the media computation and I have enough copies of that book that I can teach with -- I have at least two.  I may be able to get more copies if I need them.

I'd like to do it with the 9th graders I am going to have over the next two weeks, but I'm not sure I'm ready -- I still have that spinning in my head.

Here's the deal, I know what I did with Alice worked, and I'm not 100% sure what I will do with the media computation itself will work. 

I am thinking of pulling out Raptor for the PreAP kiddos, and doing a few weeks of Python with media computation instead.  I would probably do the "hello world" stuff with the pictures and video.  But I'm still in the thinking stage and I have some time to work that out.

I also think that doing a movie at the end of the year would be as fun as the pong game, but again, I have to work it out.

HOWEVER, here is the biggest thought, and maybe this should be it's own post.

The biggest problem with adoption of any new material seems to be the infrastructure supporting the class.  What I has hearing from my classmates is that they weren't sure that they could load the files needed for the course, because of their network standards.  That really sucks and I am getting more and more tired of seeing and hearing of problems being caused by the support staff.

It's just as bad to not be able to do something in a course because the network administrations won't support it, as not being able to hold class because the custodial staff won't turn on the lights.  Network administrators are SUPPORT staff and should never get in the way of the main mission which is to educate students.  If network administrators are in the way, then heads should roll in that department!

Oh, yeah, that's why I bought an air card -- plus I was sick of sucking the juice out of my phone and not being to use my phone because I was using it as a modem.

How TO Teach

Capping the TO on purpose.

I'm at North West Missouri State University in Liberty, MO (I think, the university itself is in Marysville but the workshop is in Liberty and I flew into Kansas City).

Media Computation by Mark Gurdail. Now he teaches the way I want to learn.  Still a lot of talking BUT most people need a lot of the background.  I've done both pictures and sound for a long time, and am comfortable with them, but I recognize that not all CS people are.  Comes from ham radio and some other of my hobbies, plus a couple of years of teaching engineering.

I've also done some media computation his way.

Here's what I like -- lots of hands on examples, just you can type and try as he's talking.  And stuff you can tweak.  Plus he doesn't mind that.

I've been doing that a lot today.

He also does some "homework" -- we had an hour in class to work each assignment and we've had a picture and a sound assignment.

Now doesn't get me wrong -- the Tapestry workshop is good and I'm still working on digesting that material. It's just that this style fits me well, and fits most of my students.

Of course, my teaching philosophy tends to be --> point in the right direction and stay out of the way until they get stuck.

How Not to Teach

It's staff development season for me right now, and it's time to learn how not to teach.

I've just been through one.  The Tapestry one, which was good, but could have been better, but they needed loads more time.

I'm going to one on Monday from the district on our 9th grade enrichment camp, and went to one before our 8th grade enrichment camp.

I'm going to one on Tuesday, which I am looking forward to, as they have already sent us the agenda and told us what software to load on our laptops.  It's done.  I'll be back Friday night and the internet set probably won't miss me at all.

Then I have the start of school staff development.

Here's what I absolutely hate in a workshop:

Sitting around waiting for someone to pour knowledge in my brain.  In other words, lecture type workshops.  It's worse when they read the power points to me.  People, I have a master's degree, please, I can read.  Okay, maybe most of the people in the room have their bachelor's degree, but I bet they can read too.

I also hate the fake activities.  At the 8th grade enrichment camp they played Simon Says.  Okay, that's a great game, but it had nothing to do with the content!

Another problem I have with workshops is workshops with group activities when they don't manage the groups.  I was at a workshop recently when I was put in a group where the group wasn't acting correctly and I was shut out of the activity.  That would have been a perfect time to show us how to manage that problem -- I'm not good at that myself, and it would have really helped me.

Oh, I'm betting that the giver of the workshop doesn't do a good job of that themselves, which is why the chaos was allowed to happen.

I give staff development myself, and here's how I do it:

I recently did a workshop on Camtasia, a program used to make movies of classroom presentations.  I spent some time showing the participants the Techsmith website, showed them a short movie I had made for my students and then showed them how to make a short movie.

The rest of the hour was spent with the participants making movies while I wandered around the room and helped.

By the way, that's exactly how I teach my students.  I spent 5-10 minute on the front end of the topic showing them the new topic, have them do an example program in the book, dig them out of their holes -- and I often broadcast their screen and let the class dig them out of their hole, and at the back end of the assignment, if they are having trouble, I'll show them my answer.

Maybe I need to call my sleep doctor and ask him to prescribe the restless leg medication he suggested ... I might need it over the next few weeks....

The Woman's Musuem

In an effort to continue with my vacation and contiue having fun i did some touristy things in dallas.

after seeing my chiropractor - and my old one deserted me! - i made my way to the Woman's Musuem at Fair Park. its very nice,good exhibits and good gift shop. i went because of their twitter feed and met their twitterer.

the i went downtown and headed towards the west end. downtown is harder to navigate with the trains. had lunch at favorite place spaghetti warehouse and gave my parking slip to the people who got my space when i was done.

i am hoping my waitress gets in touch with me, a cute kiddo who said she was interested in CS. i offered to help her and hopefully she will take me up on it.

i was good eating my protein first - okay i did have a few bited of sourdough bread first and had a few bites of spagetti and garlic bread.

now i am chilling and waiting for my sleep doctor.

Summer Gigs

This has been a fun and productive summer.

So far, I've taught summer enrichment camp -- girls going into 8th grade - Alice, Web journaling, and movies without cameras.

I've worked on the district final (Computer Science I VB).  We call them ACPs.  I don't know how many hours total I put into that, but will find out with the next check or so.  I think we wrapped it up today, but we might get called back.  I worked on that with another individual.  I was supposed to work with two, but she never returned my phone calls.

I went to a teacher workshop that paid money (I've gotten smart, they didn't take money out of the check for taxes, so I'm taking an extra $25.00 a month out for the rest of the year).

Monday I'm taking a training session for a camp that I hope makes. 

Tuesday, I'm leaving for a workshop that is free, plus $200 for expenses.

Then the summer camp I was just mentioning that runs from August 3rd for two weeks.

Not much time off, but I did take in Washington DC when I went to the first teacher workshop.

Love the extra pay!  It's not much but better than having to go through the process of looking for a job, though findiing a part time job that pays $20 a hour isn't easy, even when times are good.

AP Results

I have heard from both my students who took the AP Test – the AB student made a 3 – I wanted him to take the A test but you know teenagers….

My A student made a 5. That's consistent with the results I've been getting the last few years, I don't get a lot of students, but they do well on the test.

ATT Home Manager

Got an email yesterday morning that the ATT Home Manager was on sale for $99.99.  SOLD!  Seriously.

This is a system I've wanted since it came out, but $299.99 and $199.99 were just too expensive for what you get.  And you get a lot.  The base station, a frame and a handset.  But $99.99 is definitely worth it.

It's very easy to hook up.  You take the base station and plug it into your  network via ethernet, plug in a phone cable and the power.

Frame and handset are even easier.  They each have a base that plugs in to the wall.  It took a while for the frame and handset to see the system.

I also got an extra frame -- and it was missing the March update but got updated in the night.

And an extra handset.  You can add two more handsets so I am going to get them and completely replace my old system.

The frames are great -- they are a beautiful photo frame -- best resolution and quality we've seen. They also don't sound like a speaker phone and at $49.99 a piece a good deal. However, you can only have two frames on the system.

The handsets are good too.

There some things lacking -- until July 13th, you could sync your mobile phone contacts with the system but since it didn't work with the iPhone, ATT is eliminating the service -- that's a major fail.

It needs a web browser and a configurable RSS reader.

I would LOVE for it to do twitter and that's just a software thing.  Same thing with Facebook.

But for a wireless phone system, it's all good.

There is a name for what I do -- Backchanneling

However, I haven't actually done it with a participant and am hoping that the workshop I am going to next will embrace it, in fact I just asked them to.

What is it?  Backchannelling.  There is an article about it at and I would like to find a way to do this with my students.  I'll need to look at our moodle site and see if there is a way we can this.

Here's what I REALLY like to do at a workshop.  I like for the presenter's notes to be made available electronically and I like to put them in one-note and put my own notes along side.  I find it make easier to pay attention and be focused.

I will often put a note on the screen for the person next to me and have even handed them my notebook for a response, but wouldn't it be nice to have a "real" backchannel to discuss the goings on.

And yes when the talk is really bad, I'll go do something else.

Found via the USPS site this morning in an effort to grow up. i know i have been a member of a card service before but did not use it, but i did this morning!

i felt the need to send thank you cards to the workshop organizers and my mother. later realized i needed to do the same for the lady who hired me for sujmmer camp.

i am not organized enough for sending cards. it means buying them, keeping them, writing on them, addressing the envelopes, putting stamps on them, and dropping them in the post office box.

this site does the whole chore for a fee and personalizes the cards. better yet people dont have to deal with my handwriting.