Saturday, May 17, 2008

Andrea's Not-so-Random Thoughts of the Week

• About the firefox/safari situation. Lo and behold, it's not just a habit to use safari. I actually prefer it to the point that I would rather use safari than have my comments picked up by cocomment. I hate the tabs in firefox and try as I might, I can not get them to go away. I am sure that I could figure it out with a little more searching, but it shouldn't be this difficult. I've restarted firefox, restarted my computer, chosen windows over tabs in my preferences, cleared my cache. I was reading the blogs in safari and then when I was ready to comment, switching over to firefox so that I could get my comments picked up by cocomment, but I've decided that it isn't worth the trouble. Guess who will not be winning any prizes in the comment challenge?!

• To "borrow" the name of a great blog: Learning IS Messy!!!!!!! Practice and theory are different, and this blog is written (by Brian Crosby) from a place of pure practice, which I highly appreciate. The phrase "learning is messy" has penetrated my soul and freed me in a way, from worrying when things seem to be getting a little out of control. It is amazing, the power of a single phrase, my new mantra. 
I am working with our 5th grade class on an absolutely amazing project. The project was started by Brian and Lisa Parisi (and possibly one more teacher? I apologize if I missed someone.) I had read about the project from following Lisa on twitter and when I saw her tweet that she wanted to include more classes in the project, I jumped on it. 
The project is a collaborative writing project using google docs and skype to write stories based on The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. We are working with a 4th grade class in New York. So many things are happening around this: kids are really communicating with their partners and learning the give and take that comes with collaboration, the kids are excited about writing, the classroom  teacher is excited about the way we are integrating the technology to give the project more depth and the kids more motivation than could be done otherwise, the kids are frustrated when their partners can't get online, we've had to deal with communication meltdowns (minor) and a fire drill in the middle of a session that didn't end up happening anyway. And through it all, I've sustained myself with these words: "Learning is Messy". When the students complain to me about some little thing that's not working I tell them "Learning is Messy." I've explained to them that we are forging new ground with this project, that this is new for me as well as for them, that based on what we learn this time we will do it differently next time. It is such an example of real learning for them, and I see it sinking in. It also helps me let things be what they are and not feel that I have to judge the process all the time. So, I really want to thank Brian for getting into my head with that mantra.

• An exciting thing that happened this week: My students won first prize in both categories (primary and secondary) in the Tech4Learning Spring Contest. I absolutely love tech4learning's software, and they have great contests where they spark students' imaginations with an open-ended, creative challenge. What a great feeling it was for me to see my students' faces when they found out they won. 

• Another very cool thing that happened: My teen angels chapter presented about Internet Safety to two 4th grade classes at a local public school. They have presented to our PTA, as well as our 4th and 5th grades, but this was their first time presenting at another school. They were truly awesome! The students in the audience seemed so genuinely interested and asked a lot of good questions. It was a very proud moment for me. 
It also helped me see how very well my school is doing with technology integration. Often I find myself feeling frustrated. Things aren't moving quickly enough for me; I always feel like we are behind the curve. So it was a bit of a wake-up to see what was happening or rather what was NOT happening with technology at the other school we visited. I asked the students if they used the Internet often at school, and they said all they use computers for at school is Accelerated Reader. Outside their classroom, on the wall, I saw that they, too, had written stories based on The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Their stories were very nice, but I couldn't help to think of my students using the google docs to write the stories collaboratively. My students will also publish their stories on a wiki where other students in the project have published their Harris Burdick stories. In my mind, there is just no comparison. The activity that integrates technology seems so much richer in its potential for learning and personal growth. 

•In case you should think I am bragging, I feel compelled to include some negatives from my week. I had some students violate the school's AUP in a pretty blatant way. I came into school to work on my day off because we had a session scheduled with our collaborative writing partners and got yelled at by an irate parent. She was upset because her child's consequence for his actions was to be denied use of the school's network. She didn't seem upset by what he did, only by the fact that he might miss out on something. The worst part was that I felt unsupported by my administration who had decided the consequence in the first place. 
Learning is messy, right?
Lesson learned for me is that when I write the AUP for next year, I need to be more specific in describing the consequences. 

•Another frustration was that my assistant and I worked hard to come up with a survey for the teachers about the SMARTboards - how are they being used, what they need in order to use them better, that type of thing. It was neat because we used google spreadsheet and forms, first time I have used it, and what a great tool. We sent it to 10 people and have received two back. I would blame it on total apathy from the staff, but I am not completely sure if it is that or a problem using email to send and complete the form. 

I hope everyone had a great week!


nancyvonw said...

HI Andrea,

I've been on the Learning is Messy blog too and love that phrase. It should be a mantra because it allows us- teachers and students- to take risks and learn from mistakes.

I love the idea of having older students lead lessons on internet safety. Students get weary listening to the same adult faces- it benefits both the older and younger students. We also need to rewrite our acceptable use policy- with the changes in technology and read/write web it should be updated every year. When we do that, I'll remember to block out consequences as well.
I hope you have another great week!

joaquin said...

Hi Andrea,
Sorry to hear you are having trouble with Firefox and cocomment.
Please send me an emial with more details so we can help you.


Andrea said...

How do I sent you an email?
the problem isn't really with firefox and cocomment. Cocomment works in firefox, not safari, but I find that I prefer using safari over firefox because I don't liked the tabbed browsing in ff and can't seem to get rid of it. That's all.

Anonymous said...


Well, the fact that you prefer Safari over Firefox is not something we can influence I guess ;-)
However, you do not have to use tabbed browsing in Firefox: there is an option to open new pages in a new window, instead of a new tab. (Preferences / Tabs : New pages should be opened in.....)

Andrea said...

I did set the firefox prefs to open pages in a new window. However, whenever I re-open ff there are 5 tabs that keep returning EVERY single time, no matter how many times I close them, restart, etc. these tabs will not go away. I find it really annoying and is making me not want to use ff even though it really is more usable than safari.

Andrea said...

@nancyvonw thanks for your comment. It is true- students are much more interested in what their peers or slightly older kids have to say re: internet safety than an adult. The Teen Angels program that we joined was a great experience.
Hope you have a great week, too.

Anonymous said...

@andrea: this is very strange to have defaults tabs when you open FF. Do you have set the Startup preferences to a bookmark folder ?