Three in One Office and Classroom Space

When I started working at ISP in August 2013, my office was in a small room in the elementary school, between the PK3 classroom and the elementary staff room. I shared the room with a library assistant/teacher assistant and a lot of books as it was the elementary school book room. It felt like we were in the basement because we had one tiny window that reminded me of a basement window. Our door led into the hallway, right opposite a door to the inner courtyard, which helped us remember that we were not in a basement, even though it felt that way.

As part of a school and department wide reorganization, I was moved to a different space. All three of the IT coaches now work in the same space. Our office is part classroom/part office, and called the Idea Lab.

My desk is the one with all the water bottles/travel mugs. The table behind it is part of the classroom furniture. I usually keep my water bottle a bit farther away from my computer, on the side cabinet.

As the elementary coach most responsible for elementary school, I generally attend meetings and support classrooms throughout the elementary school. I am usually welcomed into other people’s spaces. When I’m in my office, I’m usually doing desk work, which includes e-mail, blogging, working on presentations, preparing resources for teachers and classrooms, testing resources, conducting research, etc.

The desks for the IT Coaches are all in a line at the back of the room. It is a bit like we’re three judges, but it’s the most efficient use of the space.

My desk is at the back of the Idea Lab. The other two coaches and I have our desks all lined up to optimize our limited space. Most of the room contains moveable desks and chairs. The tables flip up, and the chairs stack, for added flexibility. A green screen is mounted at the front of the room. Along the sides, we’ve set up a laser printer, a laser cutter, and other maker space resources. The room is scheduled for classes taught by my colleagues, and available to be booked by other teaches. Sometimes, elementary classes come to the Idea Lab to work on creative projects, or middle and high school students come to work in a quiet space, or to use the resources available.

The worst part of my office is that it’s far from elmentary school. Since I moved, I have fewer spontaneous visits by teachers, and more email requests for help. I am often stopped when I walk around the elementary school, even if I have not received an email request for help.

The best part of my office is the proximity to my colleagues. This new office arrangement with all three coaches in the same place makes it easier to collaborate. We can help each other, share ideas, and plan events more easily than before. Often one of us is here to help colleagues even if the IT coach for that section is busy elsewhere. One of our collaborations is in designing the space. We identified the need for personal storage space, storage for consumables and tools, and storage for work in progress. We also determined the importance of flexibility in the space so that it could be use in many different ways. This room is still taking shape. One of our challenges is organizing all our resources, especially the robotics kits. We’re going to continue organizing the place over time to meet our needs, and the needs of each of the three sections of the school.

ES Robotics Kits: Dash, Wedo, and Lego Mindstorms NXT

Blogging Journey

Invitation

This post is motivated by a prompt, as part of a blogging club that started last week. As soon as I found out about the club, I signed up (today). If you’re interested in blogging more this year, you can still join the Blogging Club, which will provide you with a weekly prompt to get you blogging regularly throughout 2017!

My Life as As a Blogger

I started my first blog while I was working in India, sometime between 2003 and 2005. I lost years of posts when I transferred the blog in 2008. I had a back up and intended to upload the posts again, and had a page of pictures for a while, but never put in the time to re-upload the old posts. For that first blog, I would tag posts either professional or personal. In 2010, I decided to host a separate professional blog. This blog was born as a result.

Over the years, I’ve continued to blog off and on, but never consistently. In some of my positions in schools, I’ve had to maintain internal (walled garden) blogs. I should have/could have cross-posted on Journey with Technology, but didn’t do that until I moved to my current school. Sometimes, my blog goes out, but I invariably resurrect it from the ashes. Usually this happens because I am inspired to share in this format by a blog post that I’ve read.

Curating/Consuming Blogs

I read many blog posts. In my must reads list are A Learning a Day, Practical Theory, User Generated Education, Seth’s Blog, Techcrunch, The Official Google Blog, Langwitches, Never Ending Search, Detoxinista, etc. I subscribe to them using Feedly, and read them in Feedly on my laptop, or Reeder 3 on my iPhone/iPad. I am subscribed to too many blogs, and have been working on removing subscriptions to the ones that add the least value to my work/self development at the moment. One of the things that I’ve been working on is to make more regular comments to blogs, or to share the content with others. I often share blog posts or the content of blog posts with colleagues that I think would benefit.

Blogging in 2017

One of my goals for 2017 is to blog more regularly. Before I found out about this challenge, I had already created a goal of blogging at least once a week. Being part of this challenge will provide me with a prompt to help me meet that goal. When I get busy, my blogging time is one of the first things to disappear from my schedule. I will reschedule it rather than deleting it from my schedule when there are conflicts this year. I’d also like to work on my blog roll, and make sure that I regularly engage with those blogs, so I will schedule that on a monthly basis as well.

The advice that I would give my younger self would be to blog regularly, and to engage with colleagues, the community of bloggers and with twitter chats for ideas to blog about.

Seth Godin and Tom Peters explains why you should blog, and what they get from blogging (H/T to Dangerously Irrelevant).

5 Tips for Online Child Safety Over the Holidays

With lots of free time over the Winter Holidays, we can anticipate spending a lot of time using technology devices, be they tablets, smart phones, computers, Apple TVs and other streaming devices. Children may also be spending more time with technology. When I ask children about their activities at home, Google, YouTube, Minecraft, and various other tools are mentioned. In anticipation of the increased technology use that children will experience over the holidays, here are 5 tips:

  • Set clear, and firm guidelines for children’s use of technology, and establish technology free zones or times.
  • Incorporate technology with the physical world, using Robotics or other tools. Use Tynker or Tickle to program one of a variety of devices.
  • Turn on Parental Controls or Guided Access for your device. (Instructions for iOS, and Android)
  • Turn on Restricted Mode and other security settings or use YouTube with your child. (See instructions based on your device.)
  • For any apps or websites that your child uses, check whether or not it allows communication between users. If communication is allowed, ensure that communication is moderated/filtered, and that users have to have an account instead of being able to use the site/app anonymously. This will provide a trail for any issues of appropriate use, that your can report to moderators.

It’s important to help children be safe, and responsible online. Otherwise, the consequences can be mild or dire. Lost time that should have been spent doing homework instead of scrolling through Facebook is a mild consequence, while a child taking her own life due to online bullying is dire. Sometimes, we place too much of a disconnect between the virtual world and the physical world, believing that one is real and the other one is isn’t. As you talk to your children about their technology use, remember that technology is part of our real life. Be careful that the language that you use doesn’t enlarge the disconnect that exists between our online and physical worlds.

Read More on the topic:

Common Sense Media’s Parent Guide to YouTube

Using Online Images

I believe that it’s important for us to teach/remind students to make sure that they have permission before selecting and using an image that they find online.  Remind students that just because something is posted on the internet doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to download and use it.

My favorite website for children to use is Photos for Class. The reason that I like this website best, is because the photo source is automatically posted on the image, so children don’t have to do an additional step to site the image. This is especially great for children in lower elementary. Sometimes, however, children have trouble finding images on Photos for Class. This is especially frustrating for students who have done the same search at home, in Google Images, where there are many more results.

My second favorite search tool is Google Advanced Image Search. Google Advanced Image Search searches the world wide web. You can filter out explicit results, and narrow your results to images that  you are free to use and share. See the image below to find those settings.

advanced-image-searchOnce you find an image on the web, you have to check the permission images to see what is required of you to use this image. You are usually required to cite the sources, and sometimes, to hyperlink to the original image. Some images are in the public domain and do not need to be cited.

There are a number of other specialty websites that help you find images that you have permission to use.

  • Creative Commons Search lets you search specific sites or databases for images, and other multimedia that are Creative Commons licensed.
  • Wikimedia Commons is a collection of user submitted images that anyone can use.
  • Flickr Creative Commons lets you find images that Flickr users have licensed for reuse using Creative Commons.
  • Tech for Learning is a library of images especially curated for educational use
  • UN World Library is a collection of historical images from the Library of Congress and UNESCO about our world.
  • Prints and Photographs from the Library of Congress is a collection of historical images from the Library of Congress
  • Free Photo sites is a directory of images collected from the world wide web, free for non-commercial use. Attribution is necessary for these images.
  • Trek Earth is a website that encourages people to learn about the world through photography. Images are organized by locations where they were taken.
  • Realia Project is a collection of images and media collected by faculty for use in learning and teaching modern languages.
  • Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon is a selection of images specifically curated to support language learning. They bill themselves as “the source for authentic images for language learning.
  • Morgue File lets users (creatives) share photos for other people to use in creative endeavors. The website also indexes images from other sites.

Related Posts

 

Link Highlight – Ask Dr Universe

Washington State University has a great site called Ask Dr. Universe. The website invites students to submit a question, or look though questions asked by other children. Questions are categorized so that children can explore topics based on their curiosity.

You can use this website to spark children’s curiosity or to create and ask a question of an expert. This questions may derive from an individual student investigation or a whole class discussion. When children submit a question to an expert, they have to type in an email address. With younger students, e-mail replies are best filtered through the teacher’s email account. A feature that I really like about this website is that, instead of typing a question, students can upload their question with a video.

Here’s a short, official, video highlighting the tool: