New Job…

I was leaving for lunch break on Monday when my upcoming school year took a dramatic twist.  I was offered the Instructional Technology Specialist position at MacArthur High School in Irving, TX.  After some contemplating and talking to the MacArthur principal and my previous principal I accepted the position.

It’s a really fast transition and I’ve got to learn a lot in a short period of time.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that Irving is a 1:1 district.  We are provided with so many resources it’s hard to know where to begin sometimes.  If you have any suggestions of tools available or great web 2.0 sites I could show my staff, please share them!

I’m very exicted about the opportunity and looking forward to the upcoming year.  Wish me luck…



My VP sent me a great article this morning. Saving Young Men With Career Academies (as published in The Washington Post) is article about how schools like mine and other so many others like us are changing the way we educate today’s students.  The article details a study done by the MDRC which tracked students admitted to career academies and those that weren’t. The MDRC started following a group of over 1,700 students in 1993. The majority, 55%, were admitted to one of nine academies, by lottery, in Maryland, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and the District of Columbia. The remaining 45% were the not admitted to one of the academies and became the control.  They continued to be tracked for eight years after graduating high school. The results were shocking.

“The Career Academies produced an average increase of $311 in real monthly earnings for young men. This amounts to a 17 percent increase over and above the average earnings of $1,792 per month of young men in the non-Academy group. . .”

We know it’s not all about the TAKS scores.  Of course those are important, but those aren’t what is going to make a person successful in life.  Being successful in life is about taking care of your family and being a productive member of society. Career academies are there to teach those skills that can help students get a job and support their future families. The data proves the career academies are doing just that! As great as it would be to see happen, not everyone is going to go college. We need to reach out to those students who aren’t going to attend college and teach them a life skill rather than shove Shakespeare down their throat and then send them out into the real world.

“They (career academies) produced young men who got better-paying jobs, were more likely to live independently with children and a spouse or partner and were more likely to be married and have custody of their children.”

This is a powerful statement! It truly validates we these types of schools are trying to accomplish. Of course, knowing Algebra, Geometry, Physics and the like are important to many students. But if we focus on those subjects only, aren’t we going to lose a great number of our students. Many students in high school are working to support their families while trying to get an education. Shouldn’t we be focused on helping them learn a life skill rather than if they know how to do Punnet Squares.

Next time the local media starts talking about TAKS scores and how the world is ending, remember that passing that test doesn’t really show all of the skills a person learned in school.  That’s what I think anyway…

It’s hard to believe…

…that school starts in just over a month! For those of us who take on the challenge of summer school, summer break is basically non-existent. But I do know I’d be bored to tears if I was sitting at home though. My summer school students are piloting a new online World Geography course my school is offering next year, so it has allowed me some planning time and opportunities to check out and find new websites to use this upcoming year. Ones I have come across thus far:

  • Wetpaint: an alternative to Wikispaces, pbwiki, and the like, this site so far seems very user friendly and has many more design options than the others.
  • Timetoast: This site allows students and teachers to create timelines and share them out with others. A great alternative to programs such as Timeliner.
  • CreateDebate: This site allows teachers or students to post debate questions online and have others in the class post arguments in favor of or against while voting each other’s arguments up or down on a point system. This is a great way to get those quiet kids involved in the class discussion!

If you have found or know of any great sites like these, please comment. I’d love to see them and be able to share them with colleagues.

Another thing I’ve been working on this summer is planning for next year. I’ve set up a wiki, at Wetpaint of course, that I’ve been working on. Please check it out and leave feedback if you have some ideas to offer. It is very much a work in progress right now.

Roles in Teaming…

The new school year is approaching quicker than I’d like at this point.  I’m presently doing summer school (by my own choice) but I don’t see myself getting much break this summer.  In my down time, I’ve been doing some brainstorming about team roles on our campus.  I am the team leader for the 9th Grade Advanced Technology Team, which will most likely consist of myself (World Geography), two Algebra I teachers, an English I teacher, a Reading teacher, an IPC teacher, two technology teachers and possibly one to two more teachers as all the logistics have yet to be worked out.  I want to do a better job this year of utilizing the teacher’s skill sets and giving them as much ownership in the teaming process as I can.  Last year we had set roles that teachers volunteered to do at the beginning of the year but as the year goes on, we oten times lose focus of our roles and tend to let things slide.  I think we are all guilty of this…

Last year’s roles included a recording secretary, two awards coordinators, a budget coordinator, tech coordinators, and two tutoring coordinators.  All of these people did a great job but this year I would like to have more and different roles for my team members.  I wonder if some of these can be eliminated or even better expanded upon.  I want to make sure that all team members have a role that will add great value to our team and their experience on the team.

Those of you out there that team in your schools, please let me know what roles, if any, you assign your team members.   I think teaming is the way to go to best reach our students…I just want to make sure I’m doing the best job I can!

Google Docs Neophyte!!

I must admit that I’ve never been a big user of Google Docs in my classroom before because I don’t know that I always saw the point. I was always perfectly content with my MS Office products (which I still love by the way). But this summer has thrown me for a loop. We are using some of our districts older laptops for Summer School and the students cannot save directly to the hard drive. So to work around this problem my students and I have started using Google Docs. There are some great features to it such as the ease of sharing work with the students and them sending the work back to me. One problem I’ve had is that when I share a document with them that I want them to edit, they must be sure to save a new copy of it otherwise they are all editing the same document. And we all know how students are…they don’t listen to every word we as teachers have to say. So it means I’ve to repeat, show, re-repeat, and re-show them numerous times on how and why they must save a new copy of the document before the edit it. Now…if there is an easier way I am all ears!

In the end, I must say that I like Google Docs, but I’m sure that I’ll go back to my Office next school year, but I do think I can find ways to work in the Google Docs on some occasions.

Classroom Blogging–Your thoughts

First off, I must issue my apologies for being gone so long. I’ve been busy with school lately and nothing has really struck a chord with me lately to make me write.

I’ve been thinking about having my students blog for a while now and I’ve talked to various colleagues about it, but I never get the same answer to my questions. How to do it and what to have them write about.

One of my initial thoughts was to have them write about current events articles they’ve found and how they relate to our World Geography curriculum. I’ve also thought about giving them topics and having them write. The next question was how often to have them do it. We are on a six weeks grading period and I was thinking maybe three times per six weeks, but I wonder if this too often or not often enough.

This time around I need to know what you all think! Give me some ideas please! I’ll be looking forward to your comments. 🙂

Now the fun begins!

We’ve just finished two weeks of laptop training.  And as of today all of my students at The Academy of Irving ISD have received their laptops.  Now the learning really begins.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my students to get out of the laptops this year.  This is a powerful piece of equipment we just handed them and while they are in school to learn, should we continue to give the same old typical assignments to them?  Are we really making proper use of the technology given them that way?  There are many articles out there about whether laptops raise test scores or not.  Like this one.  Or this one.  To me it’s not about raising test scores.  It’s about giving them a skill to help them gain a competitive advantage over students who went to high school without laptops.

In addition to the standard laptop training we give our students, I like to spend time talking with them about the responsibility that goes along with the laptops.  There are always going to be critics to what we are doing and why we are doing it.  Teachers can talk and talk about what we are going to do in our classes and how we’ll do things differently but in the end the only ones that can silence the critics are the students.

Irving ISD spends a great deal of money purchasing and maintaining laptops for our students and I for one am happy they do.  That’s what I think anyway…