Lost in IT

Adventures in Instructional Technology

Time for a reboot


Spring is in the air! Time of rebirth and renewal and time to start writing again. I was challenged by a recent opportunity share how your school was surviving in times of the pandemic. Part of the recommendation from the site was to focus on a particular teacher or student story from your school. Here’s the problem, I couldn’t do it. I could not pick only one story. Our story is made up of hundreds of examples of people going above and beyond for each other and most importantly for the kids and the families we serve. I could not tell just one story when I knew I could fill a entire blog site with our stories.

Wait a minute… I have one of those. A little dusty from years (and I do mean years) of neglect. Too busy, with things to do in the real world, etc. A million excuses. In the up coming weeks I will attempt to tell as many of those stories that I can. If anything, it will be good for me to sit back and reflect on them later; like it was to re-read my posts from 10 plus years ago. How much we have learned, how much is yet to be learned. There are still impossible things to do in this world.

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What to do with all that white space


In design, too much white space is a bad thing. It makes things look empty and unbalanced; or you could look at is a blank slate waiting for inspiration.

Our classrooms were recently redesigned with white boards added to every available wall, plus a SMART Board in the center. The goal was to create learning walls around the room to provide opportunity for students to share more of their thinking.

Now that there is no “front” of the room, how can you effectively and efficiently inspire student learning? Some teachers chose to use the extra space for inspirational posters and quotes, some posted student project work. Here is a different perspective – a thinking wall. The concept behind a thinking wall is that is an open space with a single question for students to contemplate. One that challenges the best and the brightest, even the teacher will not know the answer. Most likely, as with all good questions, there is not one right answer.

A question is posed related to the current topic of study for the month, semester, or year. Throughout the defined time period the students contribute their thoughts to the wall in forms of writing, articles, pictures, drawings, equations, experiments, etc. Each idea feeding off of another one so there is complex web of critical thinking. The goal of this is a primitive form of crowd sourcing or systems thinking. In other words, you get multiple individuals to provide their input into solving a complex question. The group develops a solution independently and collaboratively.

Thinking walls should not be an “assignment” to be graded on a weekly basis, or have distinct time devoted in class. Rather, it should be an organic and natural extension of what is going on in class. When inspiration hits, the idea gets added then and there, by the author of the thought. There is no pass or fail and the question may never truly get answered.

Take a risk, give it a try, and see what transpires.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Special thanks to the Tweets from @stumpteacher and @AngelaMaiers for the inspiration.

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Power in Numbers


One of the big questions in launching an eBook program, especially in private and parochial schools, is who purchases the book?

Back in the day of printed books, my school had all the students purchase their textbooks from the bookstore. Sometimes it was on campus, sometimes from bookstores, and then eventually through online bookstores and resellers. The problem with this model is that students either had to purchase a used book, or shell out a ton of money for a new copy. In the case of AP courses, this was typically over $100 per title.

In researching eBooks, I discovered several money saving features. First of all, eBooks were on average 30-40% cheaper than printed texts. Without the additional production costs and shipping the overall costs were much less than traditional texts. On top of this, I checked into bulk pricing. I discovered that across the board, buying eBook codes in bulk would drop the price to our families even more. Here was the issue; I would have to manage all the ordering, codes, and distribution. Then, I would have to develop a budget on what to charge as a fee to cover these curriculum needs. (This whole adventure will be another post.) At least I didn’t have to worry about where to store the eBooks.

Long story short, parents loved the idea of paying a flat fee and then getting all the material their students needed. They no longer spent their summers worrying about where to get the best deals, tracking down the correct editions, and hunting through used book stores. Also included in our “eBook” fees are funds that cover everything needed for the classroom from beakers for science class to paint for art.

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