Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Back to School (finally)

December 6, 2010

I am finishing up my masters degree this semester through the CTER program.  I guess in about a week it will all be over.  As I am writing my last blog postings as a grad student at the University of Illinois, I realized that this is the first time I have done any work on campus. I dropped off my wife and kids at the Nutcracker Ballet at Krannert tonight and hopped over to Espresso Royale to get some work done.

I’m a little disappointed that I kinda missed the whole campus experience.  Don’t get me wrong, I love online classes, and many times it has been advantageousness.  I’ve gone to class in 4 different states (geographically, not mentally – I guess mentally I’m not sure), I’ve taken care of my kids while my wife goes to work, and I’ve been able to work at weird hours that work for me.

I’ve started to wonder what is the coffee shop of an online campus.  It quickly came to me – online social networks.  The more I’ve been in school the more people I’ve friended from the program (in one way or another – facebook/google/skype/etc.)

At night (or sometimes early morning) when I’m online I can quickly chat with classmates in the same way I would bumping into them at Espresso Royale.

Perhaps it’s not the same, but it’s a nice way to feel part of a cohort.  I wish I had worked harder at building an online social community throughout the program.


Donors Choose

December 6, 2010

After hearing about DonorsChoose (again) during class I decided to give it a go.  I have had an idea about a GPS triangulation treasure hunt for a while and now I have start.  It was very easy to set up an account and get it going.  I just had to write a short description about the project and the students that is was affecting.

The most impressive part of the process to me was how they automated and linked everything.  I was able to choose my high school from a drop down menu after choosing my state and county.  They had the school data so it automatically showed that I was teaching in a low income school.

The other part that was easy was shopping.  I’ve received other grants before and one of the most time consuming parts was finding the best product, then finding out if our school was able to buy from this organization or if the grant would be able to pay in some other way.  DonorsChoose has a number of online stores that it deals with and you just search for products through their website.  I never left DonorsChoose to complete my shopping list.

The only drawback is that I was limited to the shopping selection that they had and I’m pretty sure DonorsChoose takes some money off the top for organizing the whole thing.  I guess they have to make some money too in order to stay alive.

So far I have three donors.  One is an old friend from college, one is a graduate from the high school and one is an anonymous person who liked my idea.  I’m hoping the “giving” season will also help me along in the process.

Ready to DONATE! (Thanks!)

DimDim Review

November 9, 2010

I have been able to take a look at Prezi and used it for a few presentations in my class.  I even got a student to change their Spanish presentation to a prezi.  I have been using Camtasia a lot lately so I felt like I didn’t need to take a look at jing.  SlideRocket at first seemed like just another powerpoint but I there is actually a lot more to it.   So I used SlideRocket to create a presentation about what I would like to do with DimDim.

I practiced DimDim with my wife to see how the screen would work.  As it turns out you can write fairly well on the whiteboard if you have a tablet.  This is important if you are working on math problems, especially geometry.

My plan is to run a review session for students the night before tests.  I would assign questions for review and be available to help if they were having trouble working at home.  Here is a presentation explaining how this would be done:

Embed wont work so here is a link


September 20, 2010

I have created some screencasts before for my classes.  I use them if I know I am going to have a sub and I have enough time to get them set up.  I have always had a dream of recording every class and uploading it that day.  There is usually some time that I spend up at the board explaining something.  Even if it is just a two minute explanation of what we are going to do that day I think it is important to have it recorded.  This way parents can see it, students who are absent can see it, and I can reflect on it to improve my teaching.

This past week I knew that a lot of kids were going to be gone to finish a test from the day before so I took the opportunity to record the class.  I would normally record something like this  at home, but I think it took on a new life with a live class.  Questions were asked, and students responded to make it more  of a real class being recorded.  I think this would be more beneficial to everyone who is going to view this in the future.

I think this is the way to create screencasts, even for online classes.  If students can get that in class feeling for an online class that would make the whole experience more enriching.  Even if it’s just me casually asking someone to sit down or give someone permission to go to the bathroom, this would make an online class a different experience.

2025 Learning Environment

August 29, 2010

From a students perspective in 2025 I envision an online presence that has all of their resources and portfolio entries.  From any access point the student will be able to get to specific e-textbooks that have been assigned to him/her.  They will also have personal wiki type repositories for all of their work, notes, and projects.  There will also be a link collection system such as to keep there important links in order.  All of this is accessed by the student through a iPad like touchscreen device.  This gives the student something that can be modified and updated all throughout their k-12 school years and then be a useful resources going into college.

From a teachers perspective I envision a working wireless network to allow learning to move around.  Rooms of different shapes and arrangements are part of the school.   In each room are access points, smartboards and alternate projection screens (if necessary.)  The students can access the network on their touchscreen device, and the teacher can access work on the students device during class.

Collaborative learning is a main theme throughout the school.  Groups will be formed in class, groups will be formed across different classes, and other groups forms across different sister schools.  Discussions will go well beyond the classroom.  In math class and art classes the SMART board will be used extensively for students to share, save, and discuss their work.

Troubleshooting 4

August 9, 2010

This week was all about moodle.  I needed to solve a lot of issues that I had in creating a quiz for students.  On was to make sure that the answers were coming out to reasonable answers.  I wanted the problems to be challenging but it helps students gain confidence if the answers are not all over the place (like crazy small decimals, or really big numbers. )  This was solved in the final page of creating a question where I could analyze numbers and answers before adding them to a question set.

The big problem I had was formatting.  I was almost thinking of forgetting about the whole project because of how algebra problem look when the get a little complex.  For example 1/2 does not look very nice on one line of text.   Neither does anything to a power like x^2.  Then I found out that I can put all my questions into LaTeX.  I of course had to take my usual troubleshooting route through forums that lead me to a LaTeX cheat sheet so I knew all the code.  Now all my questions are turning out just as I like!

Troubleshooting 3

August 2, 2010

This week I had a tough time with moodle.  I needed to figure out some things that I knew could happen, but didn’t know how to make happen.

In general I needed to create quizzes that were graded on such a way that it didn’t matter which one students took, that would be their grade.  I knew that there was probably some way to manually change grades, but I needed a way to make sure that all students were fairly scored automatically.

This was in the grading section of moodle.   I knew that there might be a way to cancel out individual quizzes, but I had to find out a way to do this consistently.

One my my first actions when I got stuck was to check the forums on This is generally my fist stop. I searched for different ways to grade assignments.  As it turns out I was able to create a category in the grading system, and then only take the top grade from that category.

This has happened many times in my dealing with a moodle.  There is a function that I am pretty sure that it can do, but I first need to find out something completely new about the moodle framework before  I can even solve to issue.