Monday, January 31, 2011

Rebel U 2011 Planning Underway!

"Innovation Through Collaboration"

The planning has begun! The Technology and Media Team have started planning for Rebel U 2011 and working to provide a dynamic professional development day. The theme for Rebel U 2011 is "Innovation Through Collaboration." We hope that as a district, we can provide collaborative support to one another to build learning environments where students are engaged, empowered, challenged and foster a love of learning.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Managing Technology with Patience

This morning, I saw that Chris VanderSlice tweeted out a link to a blog post he wrote about being patient with technology. He also included a link to a clip of Louis CK on Conan entitled, "Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy" (video embedded below). His post made me think more about how technology has become such an integral part of our daily lives that we often take it for granted or become frustrated when things do not work as expected.

In education, we often rely on technology for many daily tasks - taking attendance, recording grades, presenting lessons, student projects, etc. Each day we expect that the tools necessary for carrying out these tasks will be available, properly functioning and run smoothly without any problems or errors. As those of use who rely on this technology know, this scenario only exists in a perfect world where technology is infallible and all solutions are simple and can be resolved in just a few clicks.

So, what should you do if you rely on technology for instruction or other daily tasks and it is not working?
  1. Take a deep breath. Getting all worked up, instantly frustrated and annoyed is not going to solve your problem.
  2. Ask yourself, "What is the problem? What did I do before the problem occurred?".
  3. If an error message pops up, make note of the error message. This is helpful information for the Technology staff if the issue needs further attention.
  4. Try restarting your computer - This often solves many problems you may have with your computer.
  5. Ask a student. Many students aren't afraid to speak up and provide assistance (when given the chance). Sometimes they may often provide a different point of view that you haven't considered before.
  6. Use the situation as a learning opportunity for you and your students. Your students are always watching and use the situation to model how to handle unforeseen circumstances.
  7. Contact your friendly district Technology support staff with your problem. (Calmly) provide them with specific information. Remember, they weren't there when you encountered the problem.

Some other useful resources for support when technology is less than cooperative:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teacher Spotlight: A Student’s Idea Gets a Chance to Shine

This post was written by Melissa Gill, a 6th grade Reading teacher in the Godfrey-Lee Public School District. Melissa is an enthusiastic teacher who thrives on collaborating with others, using technology as a tool to enhance students' learning experiences and learning about engaging and relevant learning techniques.
The 6th grade students in our 6th Grade Campus have been working on fractions for the past month.  I co-teach with the Math teacher and were trying to decide that morning on what to do as a review for dividing fractions. We decided to do a relay competition, with little preparation on our part and great review for students.  Within each class, groups of students competed for the best group of that class resulting in four student groups that will then compete in a tournament.  The best part of the tournament was the winning student group will then compete against teachers for a trophy.  Teachers competing were non-math teachers of course, to even out the playing field.
Later that afternoon a student was in my room playing with a microphone headset pretending to be an announcer.  He approached me and asked if he and another student could broadcast the upcoming math tournament.  Pleasantly surprised, I told him to ask his friend if he would want to announce the tournament live and if they both were both in agreement, I would do what I could to make it work!
I got an immediate response that they wanted to do it, so I in turn reached out to our Technology and Media Integration Specialist for help.  She suggested using UStream and gave me a crash course on how to use it.  We were both excited about having the students take control of the project.  Two days later, the morning of the tournament I showed the “hosts” how to record the broadcast and then stepped back.  The students took control and practiced how things were going to go; camera position, who was saying what, order of questions, etc.  They were pumped up!  Then it was time for the real deal!

Everyone was all set.  Hosts ready, competitors ready, the rest of the 6th grade patiently waiting in their classrooms watching the projector for the broadcast.  The hosts pressed record and nothing, closed out and tried again, nothing.  This was when I jumped in to help and found UStream decided to go into maintenance when we were ready to broadcast.  Now I started to sweat and my brain starting going through other options if I can’t get this to broadcast.  Thankfully, the Technology and Media Integration Specialist jumped in and mentioned trying another account, Live Stream.  She logged in and got it running in a matter of minutes and the show was on!  Later she told me she had never used Live Stream for a live broadcast before (only having used the chat feature previously) and had no idea if it would work.  I was glad she kept that piece of information from me until afterwards! (The recorded stream can be viewed below or here.)

Watch live streaming video from godfreylee at

With no scripts only their quick wits, the student hosts took charge and did a fantastic job.  They did not need me or any adult to help them host the tournament, they were naturally good.  And yes, these student hosts are also the students that are always talking before, during, and after class.  Their commentary was natural and relaxed with jokes and narrative, proving that they have been paying attention in language arts.

During the last round of the tournament, I had to go into another classroom while those teachers were participating in the tournament.  I was able to experience what the audience was experiencing.  This broadcast was a hit!  The 6th graders were loving every part, laughing, cheering, gasping, clapping.  Instead of watching the broadcast on the screen, I caught myself watching the students watching the broadcast and came to the realization that what I just helped do made a huge impact on these students and their thoughts of what school can be.  This project started from one student’s idea and all I did was provide the means to make it happen.  Now the students are asking to do more competitions in different subjects and to host the next broadcast!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is RebelNet?

RebelNet is a platform used by Godfrey-Lee staff and students to access several district-provided network resources from any device, any where, any time. It provides users with a simple web page where they can log in and see a personalized, customizable web desktop with icons and links to familiar web applications.
There are three types of applications that can be accessed through RebelNet: private, hosted, and public applications.

A private application is one which is managed by the district and runs on district-owned servers. Examples include Infinite Campus (our student information system) and Moodle. These applications can only be used by Godfrey-Lee users. RebelNet provides a secure portal to these applications from inside or outside of the district’s network.

A hosted application is one which is managed by the district but runs on servers belonging to entities outside of the district. The primary example of this is Google Apps for Education. The district manages Google accounts for all staff and students, but everything is stored on Google’s servers. RebelNet provides easy access to these applications by logging you in automatically so that you don’t have to remember an additional username and password.

A public application is one which is completely managed and operated outside of the district. Examples of this include, but are far from limited to, Glogster, Prezi, and VoiceThread. Users must create their own separate accounts on these websites in order to use the applications. RebelNet provides links directly to these applications and can store your usernames and passwords in order to log you in to them automatically.

On top of the different types of applications, RebelNet also provides web-based access to personal and shared files stored on district-owned file servers.

RebelNet provides a single point of access for all of these different types of applications and resources whether you’re on a district computer, a school netbook, a personal laptop, a public library computer, or even your smartphone. Just go to

RebelNet is built on a product called Stoneware webNetwork. For more information on RebelNet, including how-to documents and screencasts, go to

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reaching Beyond the Classroom

For the 2010-2011 school year, our 6th grade is piloting a 1:1 Learning Initiative. As the Technology and Media Integration Specialist for the district, I work closely with these teachers to help them integrate Project-Based Learning and 21st Century teaching and learning models into their learning environment. As this learning model that allows teachers to move away from large-group, teacher-delivered, control-based instruction, there is significant time spent on collaborating, researching and developing resources.

In meeting with the team of 6th grade teachers, we identified some areas that the team wanted to research further - one being the question of, "How do we find resources to use with our students when there is so much out there?". To model a teaching approach, I came up with an idea that would help the teachers find relevant resources, immerse them in the research process and allow me to model some teaching methods that they turn could use in their classrooms. For this activity, I created a wall on LinoIt and asked each teacher to look online and find at least 2 web sites that were relevant to their content area and technology and post them on the wall. The Reading teacher (who co-teaches with the core teachers) and myself found a web site that pertains to each subject area. You can see our collaboration wall below or click here to see it full screen.

This "homework" (as they called it!) was given on a Thursday and we gathered again as a group on the following Monday. We spent time exploring the links that everyone had posted and talked about the process of the activity. In discussing how the teachers found the resources, it was interesting to hear the different approach that each teacher took to finding resources relevant to their content area. Some of the responses I heard:
  • Using the Edmodo forums to see how other teachers are using Edmodo in their classroom and resouces and tips they found helpful.
  • Using the district Delicious site to find relevant sites specific to the standard that is being taught.
  • Use Google as the main search tool to find web sites and resources. Teachers that did this found the choice of keywords to use for their search was important otherwise their search results were too broad.
The teachers found this to be a worthwhile activity because it exposed them not only to resources that were meaningful to them, but to resources that were of interest to their team members. As I continue to meet with the 6th grade team, we hope to continue these open discussions and collaborative work time to learn about how Project-Based Learning and 21st Century teaching and learning methods look within our school.

What are different approaches to embracing a new teaching method and learning style that you have found successful?

Welcome to Our Blog!

Welcome to our blog!  The Godfrey-Lee Technology and Media Team will be using this blog as a platform to share information as it relates to technology, education and all things interesting!  We hope to provide you with an unique perspective on the technology environment within Godfrey-Lee Public Schools and how we strive to build a web-based environment for our staff and students allowing access to resources anywhere, anytime with any device.

We encourage you to leave comments - we enjoy hearing feedback from people!

 The Godfrey-Lee Technology and Media Team


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