September Quick Hits

……………The school year is rolling along and we have started getting many visitors to the LMC’s labs and other spaces. As may have already noticed, you cannot book the LMC Labs 1 or 2 through the online iSchool site. This is because there are still a few details that we need to work out. In the meantime, please visit us at the circulation desk to inquire about space availability in the LMC. Lab 2 is currently being used for MAP testing, so be sure to sign up as quickly as you can if you need to use lab 1.

 ……………While we plan on expanding the number of workstations in each lab to 35, this will still mean that our resources will be stretched during certain periods. We have students enrolled in Virtual High School classes, and in Writing and Engineering courses that require computers, so please make sure to call us at extension 1143 before sending a student to the library.

…………….On another note, we are very excited that we have started getting in our book orders and among our new fiction are:

……………I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that we’ve been expanding our graphic novel collection. Many students come in looking for popular manga titles, but we just don’t have enough money to subscribe to all of those. Instead, I select graphic novels that may supplement our curriculum and also offer students who enjoy the visual medium a way to access literature they might not otherwise read. This year, among the titles we’ve obtained are:

……………Of course, I am also always looking to expand our non-fiction collection. Especially nowadays, when we have so many exciting things happening that are connected to complex scientific undertakings, I believe it’s more important than ever that we graduate students who are aware of, and understand, what is happening around them. Fortunately, nowadays there are a number of capable and accessible writers who produce books that are great reads and informative, to boot. Here are some titles, we’ve recently acquired:

……………I also wanted the readers of this blog to know that I am currently checking and updating all the major links to this site, as the internet has changed and evolved in the five years since I started blogging. Already I have discovered a number of broken and outdated links, so my apologies to anyone who has come here looking for something, only to arrive at a 404. I will be more vigilant in the future.

Hope you find something interesting and useful, and thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

A smart board in every classroom, a Mac Air in every bag

               .Now that every classroom has a Polyvision Board and every teacher has a Mac Book Air and the internet is at our fingertips, what are you supposed to do with all of this? I recommend that you start by checking out the VIDEO RESOURCES page which was recently updated. It’s a list of less than twenty links, but sometimes less is more when you’re searching for something that could be considered “educational”.

              .If you happen to have a bit more time on your hands, then may I suggest you check out Edudemic’s list of 100 Best Video Sites for teachers. Or maybe you only have enough time to read through their 50 Ed Tech Tools for Teachers. Fifty! Seriously, fifty? That list alone is going take you the whole year to investigate. Even considering that included are sites many of us know such as EdmodoSkypePinterestKhan Academy, Fun Brain, WordleYou Tube, TED-Ed, TwitterGoogle Docs … there’s still just too much. This is part of the “problem” with the internet. The overflow (and duplication) of so much information sometimes makes it unwieldy. Especially when you throw in our almost insatiable love of the new, the novel. (Is the iPhone 5 out yet?)

              .These two recommendations come from the same site, Edudemic, which I don’t remember how I stumbled across. It’s another one of those serendipitous finds I chalk up to “surfing”. This site is so ahead of the curve that there’s an article that says Learnist (a social networking site which is so new it doesn’t yet have a Wikipedia entry I could link to for more information) is the “Pinterest for Education”. I haven’t even checked out Pinterest yet, which means I am falling behind the times. Despite this, I found Edudemic informative and entertaining and among the other links I think teachers will find useful are “25 TED Talks perfect for classrooms” and “The 3 Biggest Ways Technology Is Disrupting Education Forever”.

              .Of course, the Polyvision board has many more uses than just streaming videos in class, but it does make for a great viewing area. No more bulbous 27 inch Sanyo TVs perched on top of wobbly and chalk covered AV carts. Because so much video is available online, our DVD collection is sometimes overlooked. Among the new titles in our collection this year are:

Closing Thought:

              .Ed tech has long been heralded as the panacea to many of schooling’s woes. There is a long and colorful history, for anyone who is interested, involving the integration of technology into the classroom. Imagine how excited people must have been when the phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. Suddenly people everywhere could listen to music from anyone in the world … who was recording at the time. Then in 1896, Marconi demonstrated how wireless radio transmission was possible. Suddenly in real time, people could listen to anyone with a radio tower. Imagine the excitement in the 1930s, when television became commercial. Now everyone could see all the things they’d only been listening to for years. At every turn, new technology has excited the masses into believing it could make learning that much more fun, that much more exciting, and that much easier.

              .Technology accomplishes the first two pretty well, but it doesn’t and can’t deliver on the third promise. As I see it, technology of all shapes and from all eras, are simply tools for the teacher and the learner. They allow the information to be packaged and repackaged, but the learning processes are internal to the learner. They require work from the learner that no external technology can substitute for or really assist. In the end, learning takes work and mastery takes practice. And good learning takes a skilled, knowledgeable, conscientious and thoughtful teacher manipulating all the technology they have (from chalk to smartboard) to lead the learner there.

              .Hope you find something useful or interesting, and thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

Welcome Back, 2012-13

Hello everyone, and welcome back! It has been more than four months since my last post; my longest absence/ silent period since starting this blog in December 2007. The reason for this, is mostly due to my own inability to balance all the demands of my life as a father/ husband/ teacher/ brother/ citizen/ person. Writer/ blogger comes in late on a long list of duties, but I expect to be able to squeeze in a full year of posts this time around

I hope everyone had a great summer vacation and that they feel reinvigorated for a new school year. As usual, I find myself anxious with anticipation and cautiously fearful that my good feelings won’t last. One thing that continues trending in a positive direction is the overall cleanliness and appearance of Haverhill High, the building. Improvements have been made both indoors and everywhere on the school grounds, from the parking lots to the pathways leading into the buildings.

This year, of the many improvements made to the school, perhaps the most welcome (and exciting) is the polyvision boards installed in every classroom. This new piece of technology is expensive, but promises to improve instruction and make classroom time more engaging.  Unlike regular whiteboards, smartboards can be connected to a computer and become large interactive presentation tools. The idea, according to proponents of the smartboards, is that this tool will make lessons more interactive and, possibly, entertaining.  We shall see.

For those who would like to learn more about how smartboards can and are being used in schools, (and whether or not they’re worth it) I’ve collected a short list of recommended reads online. Most of the titles speak for themselves:

While we don’t yet have a smartboard in the LMC, I am hoping that the powers that be recognize how much sense it would make to install one in Lab 2. Many teachers, including me, use that lab for demonstrations and talks that require a large interactive screen. As soon as I get to play with one, I’ll let you know what I think. On to other things …

Here’s a brief list of important dates for the LMC:

  • Tuesday, September 4th, teachers can begin booking time in the library. PLEASE NOTE that the LMC labs must be booked online, just like any other lab in the school. We are not responsible for any conflicts, but we will try to help in any way we can.  All other library visits (to take out books or use the pit, for example) should still be arranged at the circulation desk.
  • Friday, September 7th, teachers of Freshman English classes can begin scheduling visits for an LMC orientation. This introduction to the LMC’s rules and resources takes only one class period. Freshman orientation visits will be Monday, September 10th – Friday, September 28th.
  • Monday, September 10th, students who have a regular study period scheduled, can begin signing up for library study.  Students can sign up before first period or at 2:05, after the last school bell. Please call ahead of time if you must send a student or students for any reason to the LMC and ALWAYS send them with a pass. With so many people using the LMC at the same time for different reasons, it gets difficult to keep a track of who belongs there and who doesn’t. We appreciate your cooperation and thank you in advance for your assistance.

Random things that I want to mention:

  • Over the summer, Curiosity, a car sized rover, landed successfully on Mars, proving once again that even if we can’t go there ourselves, we have ways of “getting there” with our technology. Human beings have this amazing ability to imagine ways of doing things that seem impossible before we actually do them. I can’t wait to see all the high definition pictures and data that Curiosity collects over time.
  • I didn’t really watch the Summer Olympics because there was other stuff going on in my life, but I did see Usain Bolt run two races. I couldn’t help but be blown away by how powerful and explosive he looked, especially when I remembered that everyone behind him represented the very best of the rest of the world. This short video, comparing Bolt to every past Gold Medal Olympian, is both telling and incredible, and left me wondering where the upper limits of human performance are.
  • Hans Rosling is back at TED Talks doing the kind of interesting talk, combining statistics and storytelling, that I always find eye-opening. This time around, he explains what is happening in terms of world wide birth rates and why we should be planning for a world with around 10 billion people.

Finally, over the last few years, I have unfortunately been reminded of how quickly our time passes and how suddenly change can come into our lives. In facing these personal losses, I have had much to reflect on, and I have spent a lot of time reliving my days with those people; elders who carried the world on their shoulders for me, until I was ready to bear the weight for myself. I don’t remember specifically how these people, who are slowly disappearing from my life, taught me all the things they needed to teach me about responsibility or respect or love. I just remember that they made me feel special, protected and wanted. They believed in me and I knew it. As a father and an educator, I hope I can make my own children and students feel that way. I want to thank everyone who has supported this blog over the years and I want to encourage readers to leave feedback so that I know what interests you.

Have a great week and thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.