Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where Are You, My Wonderful PLN?

Ah, my PLN...what would I do without you? Where would I be without you? Where are YOU??? That last question is really the one I'm looking for help with right now. In February, I will be giving a presentation on Personal Learning Networks and sharing with the teachers in attendance how to develop their own PLNs and why I think it's an invaluable resource to have.

My presentation is called Teaching 2.0: Connect, Communicate, Collaborate. In order to show the "Connect" portion of my presentation, I'm creating a Google map to show just how far-reaching my PLN really is. And I'm hoping to get all of you to "Collaborate" with me on this to truly show the power of the network! So, if you wouldn't mind helping a McTeach out, could you add your placemark on the map below? If you're on Twitter or Plurk, please feel free to add your username as well. I truly appreciate your help...with this and with so much else!

Please note that I will be adding this map, once completed, to the wiki I'm creating for this presentation. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.


View My PLN in a larger map

Thursday, December 17, 2009

St. Boniface Day

Each year at this time, something very special happens at my school. The San Francisco Police Department arrives, sirens blaring. We prepare for their arrival by encouraging our students to buy lots and lots of gifts! But the gifts aren't for the police officers who drive out to our school from the city. These gifts are destined for the people of St. Boniface parish in the Tenderloin, a district with significant poverty, homelessness, and crime.

The "Giving Tree" Project for St. Boniface Parish

For the past twenty years, our school community has participated in the "Giving Tree" Project. From the flyer that goes home to parents:
Each year St. Boniface Parish (near St. Anthony's Soup Kitchen) in San Francisco enlists our help to share our gifts with the many less fortunate and/or homeless children and adults in the parish and beyond. This is the third year that the San Francisco Police Department has been able to pick up and deliver all the gifts to St. Boniface Parish.
I'm not sure who gets more excited to see the SFPD arrive with lights flashing...the students or the grown-ups. And this year the caravan included the Bomb Squad! This definitely got everyone's attention today:


It garnered almost as much attention as the police dog and this:

The officer who talked about the Bomb Squad's robot, affectionately called Wall-E by many people this morning (all of them grown-ups), informed us that it cost about as much as a Ferrari. I wonder if it's as much fun to drive.

It's an amazing experience from start to finish. The officers leave as they arrived, lights flashing and sirens calling out to the entire neighborhood. I do have to say more than a few of us wondered what the neighbors might have thought seeing several police cars and vans as well as the Bomb Squad drive onto our campus. Perhaps they would have understood if they happened to see the cars leaving stuffed full of beautiful packages that we hope will make someone's Christmas a little merrier.

Wherever you are, whatever you celebrate, I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.




Monday, November 16, 2009

To The Polls!

It feels like forever since I've posted anything here. I blog almost every day, but it's all over on my teacher blog. I really need to write more on this one, however. It's a good place for me to process what I'm doing in my job and share ideas with my wonderful PLN.

Today, however, I'm going to ask for help from my PLN. In the last 24 hours, I have created two very different polls. If you're reading this, my seventh graders and I would love your help in gathering some information.

My seventh graders and I recently returned from a week-long trip to Camp Caritas in Northern California. I asked them to create Google Doodles based on their camp experience and what they turned in to me was amazing! I knew right away that we needed to do something more with these pictures. So, I've created a poll and am asking you, gentle reader, to choose your two favorite Doodles. I warn you...it is most definitely NOT easy! Here's the link: Great Google-y Moogly.


Our second project that we could use your help with involves National Geography Week. If you wouldn't mind answering a few questions, could you please take our survey about where you live? We'll be taking the information we gather and plotting it in a Google Map (the kids don't know that yet). National Geography Week Survey.

I'll be sure and share the results with everyone when we complete our projects. Thank you so much for your help. I don't know what I would do without my PLN!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Week to Simplify My Life















According to the folks at OnlineOrganizing, today is the first day of Simplify Your Life Week. I need this. I really need this! So I've set myself this challenge: find one thing each of the next seven days that will help me become better organized or, at the very least, make things simpler for me.

Today I am working on email. I don't know about you, but my email is out of control. Actually, I think I aspire to have just "out of control" email. I'm not sure there's an expression that properly describes the state of my email inboxes (yes...plural! "inboxES")

I've read a few articles about dealing with email:
And now I think I'm ready to get to work.

Where Did These Come From?

I don't even remember signing up for all these e-newsletters. I find it fascinating that teachers receive so many different emails from vendors trying to get us to buy their product. Um, hello?! I'm a teacher. My money is spent on exciting things like food, rent, and books. So, bye-bye vendor emails! My first chore is to unsubscribe from any and all e-newsletters. This may take some time...but it will definitely be worth it, especially once the school year begins.

Now, I should say that it's not that I don't like these vendors or any of the newsletters I receive in my emailbox. I actually enjoy several of them. However, this is information I can go get from their websites, most of which I have bookmarked.

Where Did I Put That?

The next step is to create folders for my incoming emails. I haven't actually decided how I'm going to set this up, but I have the rest of today to figure it out (remember, one organizational tool per day...that's my goal). I would love to hear what others have done in regards to email folders or, even better, see some examples. Anyone care to share?

Timing Is Everything!

The first thing I did in regards to my email was to change the retrieval setting. Do I really need to know every five minutes if someone has sent me something I probably don't have time to read anyway? No..I don't. Right now it's set for 30 minutes, but I'm working up to not even having my email open at all. I need to set a time each day which I can devote just to dealing with email; then and only then will I open up my email account.

I may have to work up to that.

Those are my goals for today. How about you? Care to join me in simplifying our lives? You don't have to start with email, I'm sure you are much more efficient when it comes to email than I am. So, check out the ideas on the Simplify Your Life Week page, or go to Organizer's Toolbox for a list of tips to help you be more productive and live and breathe easier.







Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I was only five years old that day, and I really don't remember the event first-hand. But I still think about it every year on the 20th of July. Our entire family does, actually. You see, the lunar landing will forever be connected for us with my father. Today is not only the 40th anniversary of man's arrival on the moon, it's also my dad's birthday!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

While I don't remember July 20, 1969 as well as I would like, I am able to relive it today in the 21st century as if I were there. And it still gives me chills!

Right now, as I'm writing this post, I am listening to the conversation between Mission Control in Houston and The Eagle in real time via the website We Choose The Moon. This past Thursday, July 16th, 2009, Apollo 11 "launched" via this website and has allowed us to follow the first trip to the moon by listening to the communication between Mission Control and the Apollo 11 crew as if it were happening today. Currently, I'm listening to the conversation as the lunar module begins its preparations for the landing. I am amazed!

Of course, what would a 21st experience be without Twitter!? I am seeing the most amazing tweets come through my Twitter stream right now. Here is just a sampling:

Before McBro calls me a "dork" (something I actually love to hear from him), I know I'm a geek and I am very much reveling in my geekness today! I mean, seriously...what an amazing time to be living on this planet! Or out in space. Because while I am watching these Apollo 11 tweets come through the stream, there are also REAL real-time tweets coming from space via space shuttle astronaut Mark Polansky, known to us on Twitter as @Astro_127.


I do think Commander Polansky needs to update his profile, however. His current location is most definitely NOT Houston.

If you'd like another way to celebrate the 40th anniversary today, head on over to YouTube. Actually, you'll want to start with this post from the kind folks at Mashable: "Apollo 11 Moon Landing: A YouTube Timeline." In this one post, author Ben Parr has managed to capture the race for the moon in a total of twelve videos, including one with those famous words:





As a history teacher, I feel I should also point out that 1969 can be remembered as a year that saw a number of amazing stories. Remember these:If you'd like to see a wonderful visual representation of the year that was 1969, check out this photographic presentation from the New York Times: 1969. If you'd like to learn more about the Apollo 11 mission, you should head on over to the blog I discovered just this morning: A Year of Reading. Today's post has several good books to recommend about the mission.

Not to be left out of the loop, Google is announcing today the release of the Moon in Google Earth. Now we will all be able to travel to the moon (and elsewhere in space) and investigate the lunar surface. Of course, today just wouldn't be complete without this:


As I've been working on this post, a few more important tweets have come through the Twitter stream:


It may seem strange, but as I sit here listening to the "live" broadcasts from the Apollo 11 mission, I feel like I'm experiencing the same - or similar - emotions to what my parents must have felt that day forty years ago. It's been exciting and even a bit nerve-wracking. And I can still feel that sense of history in the making. I'll say it again...what an amazing time to be alive!

Last week, the Boston Globe celebrated the anniversary in pictures. The Big Picture includes a number of remarkable images, many of which are now iconic, a few of which I'd never seen. I sent this link to my dad when I saw it because I knew he would enjoy seeing the pictures also. He sent the following email back to me:
Karen

So do you remember exactly where you were when Armstrong stepped on the Moon on July 20, 1969?

Dad

I couldn't help myself. I responded:
Dude! I was five! I'll have to ask mom and get back to you.

So, Dad, what do you think? Pretty cool for everyone to celebrate your birthday like this today!

Happy Birthday!
Love,
Karen (I'm the one on the right):

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leadership Day 2009

Scott McLeod has challenged bloggers again this year to participate in Leadership Day 09. While I didn't get my own post written, I did very much enjoy reading the thoughtful - and thought-provoking - posts of others today. I started to think it might be useful to save these wonderful posts in one central location, if for no one other than myself.

But, that's not how things work in this EdTech web 2.0 world. We create things knowing that we will, at least at some point, share them. Perhaps that is the one thing I would want our educational leaders to remember: today's world, educational and otherwise, can be amazingly collaborative. We have all seen the wonderful work of teachers and students collaborating with their peers all over the globe. We've heard them talk about the amazing things they've learned, and it's not just about the technology. They learn from one another. They learn that a twelve-year-old in the United States can have the same joys and sorrows as a twelve-year-old living in a far different country. They learn what it means to be human in another spot on this earth.

I would invite any administrator to sit and learn from our students. They'll tell you who they are and who they want to be. How could anyone sit and listen to them and not want to give them the tools they need to get where they're going? That includes encouraging all teachers to catch up to their tech-savvy students. You can't teach them if you can't reach them.

As I said, I spent most of the day reading and compiling these wonderful posts. I've collected them in two places, a Google spreadsheet and a list in Diigo. Enjoy!

Leadership Day 2009 Blog Posts

My Leadership Day 2009 Diigo List

Saturday, July 11, 2009

World Population Day 2009




Today, July 11th, 2009, marks the 20th celebration of World Population Day, an event designed to raise awareness about the impact our increasing global population has on us and our world. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) believes the world's population will reach 9.1 billion people in the next forty years. That's an increase of nearly 36%. It makes one wonder what the impact might be on poverty rates, world health, and our climate. [It is my understanding that this estimate of 9.1 billion is based on a decrease in the current birth rate in developing countries from 4 children per mother to 2. If that decrease does not happen, the population will be even greater.]

This year's theme focuses on an idea to help prevent such a tremendous population increase in our world: educating girls. If you watched the video above, you probably noted the staggering statistic:
Of 900 million illiterate adults in the world, 2/3rds are women

Investing now in the health and education of women around the world leads to a ripple effect that starts with a girl's family leading eventually to their community, their country, and our world. I love this quote from Ms. Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations:

"The world is paying a high price for not allowing women to live up to their full potential."

My question is what can we do about it, other than donate money to this, that, or the other fundraising organization? I would love to do something with my seventh graders this year to promote the education of girls around the world. But what? I'm thinking this would work well as a service learning project, but that is as far as I've gotten. Have you any ideas or suggestions?


Saturday, July 4, 2009

We Hold These Truths...


Happy Fourth of July! Like many people in our country today, I am spending time with my family. We'll be partaking of the obligatory Fourth of July BBQ later today...hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and plenty of watermelon. [Quick side note: I asked my five-year-old nephew this morning how many hot dogs he could eat in one minute. Ten? Twenty? Fifty? His response: "One. Nobody should eat fast." Wise words from one so young.]

As a history teacher I feel it necessary to reflect today on the very beginnings of our country. What a remarkable thing our Founding Fathers did, creating a new country in a new fashion. They were willing to risk everything for freedom. Everything! Today I ask myself: "What would I be willing to risk for freedom? What would I give to live free?"

The Fourth of July is more than just a reason to get together with friends and family, eat, watch fireworks, and wave a flag about. It is a celebration of all that is unique about country. It is a means of reminding ourselves that we enjoy, and should be quite grateful for, freedoms that many others in this world do not have. Today I also ask myself: "What of them? What is my responsibility as one who enjoys such freedoms to those who cannot?" Surely the Founding Fathers would have wanted us to share the ideas they crafted into our Independence.

Let me be clear. I am not saying we should send our military out into the world to force independence upon every nation that does not have it. Our nation's Independence began with an idea that no one man (or woman) should hold control over a country without care or concern for the people who lived there. That idea spread by word of mouth and by the written word. It was a slower process back then. Thomas Jefferson did not have a Twitter ID (I wonder what he would have chosen for his screenname. @TJefferson? Too easy. How about @DecOfIndieWriter? Or just @DecWriter?) Thomas Paine was unable to use an iPhone to send Common Sense to the press.

But look for a moment at this amazing thing they created! And it all started with an idea. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

All men. All people. Everywhere on this beautiful planet, all people are "created equal" and are entitled to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Why is it some in our world think they are entitled to more? That they can possess that which belongs to another by birthright? And what are our responsibilities as Americans to those in our world who do not have the freedoms we sometimes take for granted? Do we have any responsibilities to them?

I have no answers for you today. I have only questions. It's often how I teach my students...I ask more questions than I answer. I'm curious by nature; I hope to pass that along to my students.

One more question: What do you know about the holiday, Independence Day? How did it come about? I highly recommend reading this article, "The Invention of the Fourth of July" by David Waldstreicher. The first paragraph sums it up quite nicely:
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, as it has come to be known, is perhaps the most and the least American of holidays. It is the most American because it marks the beginning of the nation, because it rapidly became an occasion for expressing what America is all about, and because it is locally and voluntarily observed. It is the least American because it was created mostly out of English material.

"Mostly out of English material" but now uniquely American. So, wherever you are today, or this weekend, stop for a moment and ask yourself: What is freedom worth to me?





One more note. If King George III had had a Twitter account back in the day, this is what his tweet for today might have looked like (courtesy of one of my favorite websites, Historical Tweets):




Bald eagle and flag image from: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, June 29, 2009

NECC 2009 From Where I Sit - Part 2

As I've done each summer, I plan to do a lot of learning this summer. NECC always presents a great opportunity for learning, even if it's done from a distance. To harness that learning, I thought I'd experiment with something else I'm learning this summer: PBWorks.

I've enrolled in the PBWorks Summer Camp; we're just starting the second week. The main reason I signed up for the camp is that PBWorks (formerly PBWiki) has always been a bit confusing for me. I think it's just the way it's laid out; that sidebar is quite different from the Wikispaces sidebar that I've grown accustomed to. But I'm adjusting! I'm actually feeling a lot more comfortable with PBWorks now that I'm through the first week of camp. Actually, I'm thinking it may be an even better solution for me with my organizational challenges. The use of folders to hold your pages is tremendously helpful!

So, how am I combining PBWorks and NECC? I've started a wiki to collect all the information that all of my friends are sharing from the conference in Washington, DC. I add to it throughout the day, so be sure to check back and see what other wonderful things we're learning.

McTeach.pbworks.com

You'll notice the wiki has other folders that don't have much information in them...yet. I plan on using this wiki to help me process all of my learning goals for the summer. Up next: Understanding By Design.

One other way I'm keeping track of all the information coming out of NECC is through my Diigo account. I've created a list called "NECC 2009" and use that to save links to as I get them. Feel free to check it out:

NECC 2009 List

Saturday, June 27, 2009

NECC 2009 From Where I Sit

It's been quite awhile since I've posted anything here, and what better time to write something than the start of NECC 2009! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find the funds to go myself this year, but I know I'll be learning plenty in the next few days as I read, listen, watch, twitter, and plurk from the comforts of my own home.

With all of the information that will be coming out of Washington, D.C. during the conference, I decided to try my hand at creating a Netvibes page with feeds coming in from several websites (Delicious, Diigo, Flickr) as well as a number of blogs from the folks I follow on Twitter and Plurk.

It is definitely not easy to keep up with all of the information that comes out of NECC, so I've got a couple of other ideas I'm working on. One idea is a wiki to use as a collecting spot for all the links that will be coming out fast and furious starting tomorrow. I don't know if that will be the best way to stay on top of things, but it might be at least a bit better than the mess from last year. (Don't ask!)

I'll be sure to share as I go, and if you have any other suggestions, please let me know.

For now, if you have a Twitter and/or Plurk account, be sure to follow the hashtag #necc09. Or, if you're like myself, you can also choose to follow #notatnecc09, a hashtag that @marierush came up with this morning for those of us who were unable to make it to NECC (in case you couldn't figure that one out on your own). To search for hashtags, go here:

Twitter Search
FriendFeed Search

For a Twitter search that updates in real time, you have to try TweetGrid! I'm sure it will be moving fast and furious tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Votes Are In!

The votes....or more accurately....the vote...is in! In case you've been waiting with bated breath (might I suggest a mint), the winner of our middle school Earth Day Google Doodle contest can be found on the McTeach wiki:

The Winner Is...


For more inspiration...or voting practice...be sure to stop by the original Google Doodle contest and vote for your favorites.

Vote For Your Favorite

You have until May 18th to vote for your favorite Doodle in each of the grade categories. The winner will have their doodle on the Google page on May 21st. How exciting that will be for the winner!

What keeps me going as a teacher? The fact that my students continue to amaze me!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Earth Day Google Doodles

For Earth Day this year, I had my seventh graders create their own Earth Day Google Doodles. They decided we should have a contest as to who could create the best Doodle. Why they thought I would ever be able to choose just one "best" out of this incredibly talented class, I have no idea. But I agreed. Silly teacher.

Later that day...the eighth graders had a lengthy social studies test and I didn't feel like making them start anything new afterwards, so I invited them to also create their own Doodles. Before I knew what had happened, the eighth graders had challenged my seventh graders to a contest to see who could do the best Doodle out of both classes. They decided I should choose one from each class and then ask our Principal to choose the overall winner. Once again, I agreed. Crazy teacher.

Well, I have been unable to choose even a top five from each class. The best I could do was a top ten (David Letterman would be so proud). And now it's your turn! Please help me by voting for your favorite doodles, one from each class. (Right now I'm crossing my fingers that this will work, as I've never created a poll before. Crossed fingers makes it more difficult to type!)

Please visit the McTeach wiki to vote. Thank you!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Earth Day Animation

On Earth Day my seventh graders created their own Earth Day Googles and were quickly challenged by my eighth graders to a contest to determine the best Google Doodler in middle school. I have no idea how I am going to choose one Doodle from each class...there is just far too much talent in both of these classes! Wait...I know...I'll make my PLN do it! Phew...what a relief.

I'm working on a poll for everyone to take to help me determine a winner, and once it's finished I'll post it here (and on Twitter and Plurk and my teacher blog and my new Wordpress blog...and anywhere else I can think of).

Until then, here's a cute cartoon with an environmental theme. I actually chuckled!




If you'd like to check out more educational videos from notebook babies, be sure and visit Tony Dusko's website, Notebook Babies. Just scrolling over the little creatures on the home page had me chuckling again (if you don't have your sound turned on, you might think I'm a bit off).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fast Food Humor

Ah, spring break! I know I will spend most of my break creating new and fabulous lesson plans and attempting to conquer Mount Grade Me Now. But first...a little humor. My thanks to Alec Couros (@courosa on Twitter) for this video. I watched it shortly after waking up this morning (to discover it was almost 9:00 AM...Yikes!), and quickly found myself laughing with ease.

Be sure to watch the video all the way to the end. Big time kudos to the Taco Bell dude!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Daylight Savings...Really?

Do you know why we "spring forward" and "fall back"? Have you ever wondered if it is still a practical measure in today's world? Well, sit back and watch this video from the Fast Draw Team on CBSNews. Then ask yourself those questions one more time.


Now, let me see...is it lunchtime? dinner? Wait...did I have breakfast? Oh, heck, just bring on the caffeine!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Just for Fun

M13 C T - marble E cAfe C14 h-025

One of my seventh grade boys keeps trying to call me "Miss McTeach." And while I find that fairly amusing, I still need to command at least a modicum of respect from my students. "Let's stick with my real name, okay?"

That being said...how cool is this!! My nickname created with images from Flickr courtesy of a website that is being shared on Twitter this morning (I'd like to give credit where credit is due, but I've seen the link so many times today that I just can't remember where I saw it first). Spell With Flickr is the creation of Erik Kastner. You just type in the word or words you'd like to spell using images from Flickr and Spell With Flickr does the rest. It's just too much...

Copper Lowercase Letter f U Wood Scrabble Tile N

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fear Not!

This video of a four-year-old girl named Kylie working on her laptop is absolutely priceless! While the video is part of Microsoft's "I'm a PC" ad campaign, it's also a perfect video to show those teachers who are reluctant to integrate technology into their curriculum (and into their lives).

Shall we start a new ad campaign? "If Kylie can do it, so can I!"


Kylie uses Windows Live Photo Gallery

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Catholic Schools Week

Catholic Schools Week began today with a lovely mass (our new choir sounded beautiful, Mrs. Alonso!) and then Open House right after. I take a great deal of pride in the set up of my classroom, and I must say that it looked outstanding today! 

Our CSW theme this year is Catholic Schools Celebrate Service. One of the ideas that we Catholics celebrate as part of our faith is the need to serve, not only our church, but the community and our country also. Last week I asked my students to write a few paragraphs about what serving others means to them. Here are a few highlights:

"Serving others is just one of the many things that we can do to live the way that God wants us to."

"Remember that we are servants of the Lord, and our charge is to be stewards and stewardesses of His creation, including our fellow humans."

"Serving others is important to me because it shows respect."

"Every time you serve someone not only do you benefit from the experience, it makes your community a better place."

"Albert Einstein once said, 'Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.' That's what service is: putting others before yourself, thinking before you act, and executing random acts of kindness whenever you can."

I think Katie's quote comes closest to my feelings:
The world may be a big place, but really there aren't that many of us who really dedicate themselves to serving others. Isn't that why we are all here? To help a neighbor when he is in need. Or to lend a helping hand to someone who has nothing. Again I ask, isn't that why God sent us to Earth? To help each other be the 'best possible versions of ourselves'?
We will be talking a lot about service this week in my classroom and as a school community. So I would like to ask my incredibly wise PLN the following question: What does 'service' mean to you? Feel free to add your comments here, and I will share them with my students as we move through our week.

One last thing...my favorite picture from this weekend is the seventh grade's answer to the question "Can we change the world?":


Sunday, January 4, 2009

It's a Sad Story

As embarrassing as this may be to admit, especially for a technology addict like myself, I feel I should come clean in the hopes that it might save someone else from the painful reality I am now faced with. [Yes, this grammar teacher ended that last sentence with a preposition...moving on.] It is a sad story I will call "From Memory to Senility."

You see, my home computer, a PC, once had a lovely memory. It held onto everything for me: photos of family, friends, students, and pets; household documents like tax information and addresses, both email and home, of friends, family, and clients (I am also a massage therapist); and, of course, school documents: lesson plans, unit plans, handouts, research, flipcharts for my Promethean activboard. You name it (because I can't remember everything), it was on there.

Did you notice the use of the word "was" in that last sentence?

Wait. Let me back up a bit (because I can't seem to remember to do that when I should).

I spent a lovely few days over Christmas at my mom and dad's house in the California foothills. We even had a white Christmas! My first in many years. I took my laptop with me because I wanted to do some organizing of files, and my dad is the King of Organization when it comes to All Things Mac! (he's a really cool guy, that dad of mine! Something I don't think I've ever told him.)

Dad and I spent some quality time in front of my MacBook, and he gave me lots of wonderful ideas on how to organize my files and photos. He also reminded me about the need for regularly backing up EVERYTHING! I've always been really good about backing up my laptop; well, at least since it crashed last year and the hard drive had to be replaced. Lucky for me, that our school computers are regularly backed up to the school server. But, after that experience, I went out and purchased an external hard drive which I use with my MacBook on a weekly basis.

The same could not be said for my PC. While talking to dad, I made a mental note to purchase a second external hard drive to use with the PC. The Sunday after Christmas I went down to Fry's Electronics (I love that place!) and purchased a 500-gig external hard drive. When I got home and started looking at my severely cluttered desktop, I thought it would be best to unclutter the desktop and do some organizing of files, photos, and various other documents.

I spent a good deal of Sunday afternoon doing just that, and was actually feeling pretty proud of my work. But it wasn't quite finished, so I shut down for the night and planned on finishing the clean-up Monday morning, after which I would hook up that lovely new hard drive.

Any guesses what happened next? I woke up Monday morning, turned on the computer, and stared at the large Windows icon on the screen, the one that's supposed to stay there for about two seconds while Windows is starting up. "Hmm," I thought to myself. "Why is it not moving past this screen?" Now, I wasn't quite awake yet, and I was in desperate need of caffeine, so I didn't quite process in my own internal hard drive what was happening. "Must just be slow today."

Unfortunately, it wasn't the computer that was slow...it was me. Slow on the uptake, slow on the back-up. My computer is currently back at Fry's, where I purchased it, waiting its turn in line to be serviced. I'm fearing the worst: loss of everything not backed up recently (I would define "recently" for you, but I'm already depressed). My brother suggests looking at this as an opportunity to start anew with a clean, fresh hard drive. I could do that.

OR...
[Yes, that's me...back in the day.]

I guess for now I'll just share my sad story with you and leave you with one question:

Have you backed up lately?
P.S. As Alice mentions in one of the comments below, Cheryl Oakes has a wonderful post on the techLearning blog called It Is Not a Matter of If...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

2009 is here and with it new opportunities for growth, both for our students and for ourselves. I'm not usually one to do resolutions; the word has become synonymous with "failure" for me. Instead, I'll set a few goals for myself and my students for the remainder of the school year.

Let's start with adding even more technology to our curriculum! We've just started blogging and I've set up a class account on Diigo so I can teach my students how to bookmark online. I am currently making plans for working with wikis, but I also want to incorporate a little bit of techy fun for my seventh graders.

This morning, one of my Plurk buddies sent out a cartoon from a website called FunnyTimes. I decided to check out the site and discovered you can also create your own comic strips there using their playground. I'm thinking this could be a really fun way to have my students use their vocabulary words! Check out what I created this morning for the word "apathy":

Game Time by McTeach, funnytimes.com

There is also another website called ToonDoo that is much more elaborate that I would love to explore. It has a few characters available to choose that aren't quite appropriate at my Catholic school, but I could definitely see using ToonDoo to create stories or summaries of, for instance, a current social studies chapter. I know most of my students would love it!