Friday, February 17, 2012

Putting the "Style" in Stylus

Notice, these pens have no point.
While most of the tech in my classroom is pretty advanced, one of my favorite tools is my smart board stylus.  Running any classroom requires flexible on-the-spot problem solving and this holds true for all things tech.  As a SmartBoard user, I have struggled with line quality and alignment.  These issues have improved over the years with updates to the software.  A source of ongoing minor frustration has been the pens that come with the smart board.  The pen tips become soft and ill-defined.

The "quill" actually has a brass tip, and was bought at Barnes and Noble
My first solution was to trim the pens.  I used regular scissors and gave the pens a fairly severe clipping.  This solved the issue for almost 2 weeks.  After that amount of time, the tips started to fan out again.  My new solution was inspired by the quill on my desk.   In the midst of class, I remembered that the Chemistry teacher had given the art teacher some feather from the turkey the chemistry teacher's nephew had raised for his 4-H project.  I sent one of my student's to get one of these feathers, and he returned quickly with the feather.

The calligraphy pen setting 
 The feather has become my favorite accessory in the class.  I love the quillish nature of how it interacts with the white boards "calligraphy pen" setting.   The feather is well-suited as a stylus.  It rests well in my hand, and the tip is great.  It is well defined, but smooth.

A fine tip makes a fine line, the rest is just putting the style in stylus

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My "Paperless" Classroom

My classroom is a model of connectivity. I can proudly say that I am in my tenth year of teaching and I have been working with a digital projector and a smart board for my whole career. There are many perspectives on technology in the classroom, and I take the position that the technology allows me to meet my students where they are already. If I have to go through a pair of ear buds in order to get into my students minds, I will do it.

This year I have expanded the tools I am using with an emphasis on digital text and the ereading experience. Armed with a new Ipad2 and a high end webcam/document camera, I stormed into this year determined to make better use of electronic texts and resources. don't get me wrong, I love books, but for my students, the paper seems to get in the way.

(although with paper-books (pbooks ?) I don't have to worry that my freshmen are trolling my blog instead of reading along with Julius Caesar)

I have made a number of video podcasts for class. They are unpolished and pragmatic screen and voice captures of segments of the class. I don't create daily videos, but for example I made one guiding the students through the process of crafting transitions for their Odyssey essay.

When my school adopted Schoology at the end of the first semester, I finally had an opportunity to make a true effort to create a paperless English class.