Saturday, June 22, 2013

Digital Handwriting and My Paperless Classroom

As I am working on my presentation for ISTE13 on The best Digital Tools for Writer's Workshop I have spent much more time than I would have guessed reflecting on what I have tried in my classes, what worked well, and what I wish had worked out better.
By AndrewBuck Wikimedia commons
I find that when I look at tools and strategies from a strictly pedagogical view, the value reflected is different than if I look at things from my own point of view.  There are significant differences between what I like as a writer and a tech user and what will best benefit my students.
  Digital Handwriting seems to fall into this category.  The more comfortable I get with Tech, the more I look to use my Ipad or SmartBoard to capture my own handwriting.  Even though my penmenship has always been a challenge to read, I refuse to give it up.  In fact, I find that when I need to write more complex documents or ideas, I still draft them out longhand.  The fourth chapter of my dissertation was a hopeless mess until I wrote it out in my journal.  Recognizing this in myself, and feeling the cognitive difference between composing in handwriting versus typing has kept me committed to keeping handwriting in the writing process for my students. Now I am beginning to wonder if I am completely misguided and if I am paying too much attention to how I learned to write and not enough attention to their reality.
Created in Paper53 app by Sam Patterson
  At the conference I will be talking about the power of Evernote to make handwritten notes searchable, this is not OCR because the writing is not being converted into editable typed text, this is a visual recognition that makes images of handwriting searchable.  As a person who has filled countless notebooks and never looked at them again, I am intrigued by the idea of creating a database of my notebooks where I could actually FIND things again.  In fact I will be working on creating a digital archive of my handwritten work starting in a month or so and I will share that work here.  While this is a great thing for me to do I am no longer convinced it has a benefit for my students. As I look at the tools I want to use as a teacher, handwriting will be in the mix.  I need to be able to write on the board, or an IWB, or a Whiteboard app.  The writing makes a difference, it carries something different than just typing.  My students are much more interested in using a distinctive font than in handwriting anything.  I want them to become writers in a community of other writers.  I want them to create, share, respond, and revise.  Once I am teaching in a 1:1 environment I think this internal debate will be over.  For now I have to acknowledge that I have an emotional investment in handwriting texts, but it is so much easier to read and respond to texts that they type.
  Thanks for reading this post, I would love to know what you think about handwriting and technology, is it a choice we have to make?  Is there room for both?  Maybe this will be a future #PATUE chat topic: the pedagogy and technology of handwriting.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Starting a Writing Class with KidBlog

So this week I am super-excited to be sharing my passion about writing with a new group of students.  I spent today setting up the KidBlog.org site for the Dawson College bound writing program.

I love blogging with students and while I cannot yet share the site with you, here is the content of the first post.

credit: Mike Licht
Welcome
We will be writing together this summer in this space, the Dawson College Bound Blog. You will be asked to write about your learning, your understanding of the world, and your developing understanding of yourself. This is a special place and here we are all writers. No matter what your previous experience in writing is here you will experiment with new ideas and develop the skills you need to be a successful writer no matter what your interests are.

Why Write?
A writing teacher of mine told me to "write to discover what you think." This seemed silly to me at the time. After all, don't I already know what I think? But I did something important, I trusted her. She asked me to write to discover and explain, to explore, she pushed me to write more than I wanted to, and it changed my world. We write to learn about the world and ourselves. We write to share what we learn with others. Writing is a way to allow your ideas to move beyond you. We are blogging in this class because we are going to learn how to use words to connect with the world outside of ourselves and our community. As we work together this summer and beyond we will share this writing space. You will learn how to write and you will learn how to respond to the writing of others in a compassionate and caring way. These skills will make you a valuable part of any community you interact with. Having mad skills at math is great, being able to write about math to share your mad skills with the world is life-changing. Some people would argue that in this age of texting and snap-chat writing is dying. It is true that we have an increasing number of ways to communicate with different audiences, but writing still remains a powerful medium to share and develop ideas. Writing is power. Together we are going to build your power. #WriteOn

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The End of the School Year and Data Portability

You Look Marvelous!
Just as I learn that my blog has been named as one of Ed Tech magazine's must read blogs, a serious honor to be included on this list of power bloggers, I also realize I have not posted to this blog in a month.
Not that I haven't been working, many of you know I host the weekly edtech Twitter chat #PATUE and recently have been building out the PATUE.org  website.  I have also been working to keep up with my EDUawesome co-hosts on the TechEducator's podcast, now available on Itunes.  And last but not least I have been prepping to shift to a different school, and a different laptop platform.
The end of the school year is always a slightly overwhelming tsunami of papers, response, and packing.  My classroom is always repurposed over the summer.  This year I have to pack up everything in my office as well, and to make things interesting I am starting a summer gig in Las Vegas the day after graduation at the school in Palo Alto.  Drive time between the two school is 8.5 hours.
One of the biggest challenges has not been packing up over 10 boxes of poetry, literature and photography books, it has been finding and retrieving all of my files fromt he school server.  So just when you were sure this post had no useful point, let's talk about data portability.

Data Storage, what needs saving?

A confession: I am a data pack rat.  I have over 100Gb of word files on the school server some of which date back to my previous job, some go all the way back to college.  I don't ever look at these files.  I don't use them for anything, or at least I have not used them YET.  and Yes I have 7 linear feet of binders and notebooks of my past writing I also never look at.  
While I acknowledge that my unwillingness to through my past work away might qualify me as an EDUhoarder, this is not about to change.  My only compromise has been that I am not saving the source video files from the video I made this year, as they were over 200 GB on their own and if I haven't created a produced product out of them yet it just isn't going to happen.

To Cloud or Not to Cloud?

So my files are landing in one of 3 places, Google Drive (5gb), Dropbox (6.5 GB) or my Seagate GoFlex Drive (1TB).  How do I decide what goes where?  Here is what I have settled on.  My Dropbox account is full to capacity with video I need to process, mostly from this weekend's animal rescue fundraiser with Sounds of Silent Spirits.  The Dropbox is an active working location.
Google Drive has all of my active text files, from english assignments to chat scripts most of everything I have been working on this year is already in Gdrive.  I am trying not to mess with this too much, but I will also be migrating the non-video files on my laptop over to Drive.
Everything else I am parking on my Seagate 1TB drive, almost 300GB of I don't know what, pulled from my yearly backup files on the school server.  A quick glance tells me I might have 2 or 3 copies of many of these files.  I hope to find a program to help me audit this drive over the summer.  If you know of a good way to do this, I am all ears.

The particulars of formatting my external drive and moving back to a PC after my year of living on a mac will make a great post of its own soon.  I have to wrap this up as my last 9th graders are finishing their last English final, so I have more grading to do.  Thanks for reading.