Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Week 7 of the 3rd 9 Weeks

Wow, it is hard to believe we are starting the month of March tomorrow. We are, though.

I'm glad to be back in the classroom(s) after losing a full week last week with pneumonia turning into bronchitis. I must have needed the rest, and it was mostly restful once Vanderbilt Clinic stabilized my meds; but I'm so happy to be back. I so appreciate my students and my colleagues here at McMurray Middle School.

We came back to complete introductions to moving around in Microsoft Excel. The task is to draw a squirrel (after getting virtual feet wet spelling one's name in "pixels," excel cells rendered into squares with a little trick--highlighting the entire document and dragging the A column into squares). Voila--pixels. A pixel, of course is the smallest element of an online picture, only having come into being in the mid 1960s when computer engineers needed a way to scale images on a screen.
courtesy Wikipedia
We partnered in pairs, with some students choosing to work alone, and we used a legend of coordinates with one partner calling and marking off and the other doing the cell coloring. Here're the materials we used, along with an example of the pixel art squirrel we were striving for.

Not easy! I'm proud of all the kids who put in focused effort and got 'er done! Here's one 7th grader working intently on his squirrel:
and some younger kids working on their names in the initial introduction:
Next up, we'll get into a little graphing by first recording our current grades in each class in the Campus portal, then making a quick spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. There are only two more weeks of classes with this cadre of students before we shift to the final 9 weeks of learning and a completely new group of students. Stay well!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Week 5 of the 3rd Quarter

Okay then.

That sounds like something I would say in the classroom. This quarter, of course, we experienced an unintended break due to the week of snow break, and last week was essentially the 4th week, which was lost. It's all about schedule, missed days, and remaining available days.

Report screen at google form
All that said, we are working on PowerPoint presentations in all classes these two weeks. It's a process. I want all students to work in Office365 PowerPoint because I want them to get used to going to their accounts to do schoolwork. Did you know that MNPS makes the whole Office365 suite of programs available for local download to all its 85,000+ students and 7,000+ faculty and staff? This is a beginning for most of our McMurray students, but be assured that it is something that your child will find valuable and even necessary over the course of his or her career as an MNPS student.

This weekend I will lay eyes on each and every one of my 170+ students' work, and I will leave notes about what might be needed to make that A on the PowerPoint project. Monday and Tuesday of next week students will access their PowerPoints and respond to my notes with changes or additions.

Report cards will be issued February 14, and I'm sure that most every parent will be proud of your student's grade in Computer (aka "Technology Lab")

Let's keep it healthy!
On the healthy student front, I have started regularly using disinfectant wipes on all headphones and computer mouses (the true plural, no matter what the squiggly underline says). Flu season is rampant, but we're doing all we can as often as we can to keep our students healthy!
Ask your student about BrainPop and how we have already taken two quizzes at that website, powered by videos about Computer History and Online Safety! We'll do more as the quarter progresses!

Thanks for sharing your child(ren) with me and with us at McMurray Middle School!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Week 3 is a Remarkably "Snowful" One

I made up that word, "snowful," but I would wager you know what I mean. After Friday's snow day, we've had three more days of snow in Nashville; and after Monday's MLK holiday we had a snowday today, Tuesday. School has been called off for tomorrow, Wednesday the 17th of January. Walking the dogs today and just now having gone to my (snow shoveled) sidewalk to the mailbox, I can certainly see why. Temperatures are down in the single digits tonight and they never got above freezing today. There's icy road aplenty out there.

We'll get back to lessons on Digital Citizenship from Brainpop Thursday, which after watching the weather forecast I'm pretty certain will be a school day (did you know the school has an account at BrainPop that any student may use for learning about many many topics? The username and password is on the Symbaloo tile for Brainpop at our start page. Need that? Email me now!) For now, I'm on my computer at home organizing instruction for the nine weeks and looking at ways to ramp things up the final quarter of the school year, when I'll have returning students from my first nine weeks. It's a bit of a challenge, but we'll make it work!

One thing I'm spending time with is a new platform called Metaverse. It allows educators to create interactive mobile learning experiences students can use on their tablets or phones. My first topic is digital literacy around digital storage, essentially the way information is stored and the language surrounding that.

Pull out your own phone and download the app from Once installed, open the app and within the app, scan this image:

Run through it and let me know here (in comments) what you think about it!

Everyone stay safe and warm and stay off roads, especially next morning. Leave a drip in your exterior wall faucets with cabinets underneath them open to the interior warmth. I've had a few broken pipes in my lifetime and they are no fun.

Speaking of no fun, PLEASE keep a child with a fever home until they have been without one for at least 24 hours. I had the flu next year and it was, I promise, no fun. This year's major strain appears to be a strong one, and anyone who has it owes it to the rest of the community to stay put and get healed. See a doctor!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Week 2 Quarter 3

We're off to a fresh start in all grades, whole-class learning how to add a bookmark so that we have, at individuals' computers, our Symbaloo start page for Falcons Tech Lab. This is important since exploring the 16 keyboarding/touch-typing options is our "bell work," the first thing to be done at the start of every class session, while I help students with login issues, take roll, and we prepare to start class. This little bit of touch-typing practice is essential so that all students progress in speed and accuracy over the nine weeks and into their middle school experiences.

5th and 6th grades needed to get our Symbaloo start page favorited on their Internet Explorer browser, as favorites do not travel to machines and must be added manually. Now that they have taken care of that, when they login to their assigned computer upon entry to class, they can click the top left icon, cleverly entitled "Keyboarding Choices," and practice typing for the first 10-15 minutes of each class. They will get better, they will!

Our Falcons Tech Lab start page!

"Keyboarding Choices"

Here are some Week 2 pics of 5th graders starting out with the very fun "Keyboard Climber," a simple home-row key practice online app with a leaping monkey. What could be more fun? Well, lots of things. But with this particular fun comes skill at keyboarding. Just you wait!


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Happy New Year from Falcons Tech Lab

Welcome to Falcons Tech Lab 2018! We are off to a new year, a new semester, a new 9 weeks, and in FTL, a new group of Middle School Co-Learners!

Did your family add a digital device to your set of household tools this holiday season? If you did I have a rich resource to share with you. Go visit to discover the "Best Kindle, Tablet, and iPad Apps for Kids" at one of my go-to websites, Common Sense Media. Be sure to add to your favorites/bookmarks on your new device's browser. That's our Symbaloo start page and it gives your student access to all the resources we explore and utilize during the school year.

Please also bookmark this blog so that you can check in for weekly updates on what is going on in your child's course, and you can get suggestions like this to help your student(s) keep an eye on developments that can impact their own growth when it comes to safety, skill, and productivity in the digital world.

The first week all new students in Falcons Tech Lab will get to know how things work in the lab. There is rhyme to the reason and I'm looking forward to any input my new students may have to help our time together be even more productive than planned! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Happy Holidays and Happy 9 Weeks!

I have had a blast this year at McMurray Middle Prep and I'm looking forward to the holiday break. But, more importantly, I look forward to a whole new batch of 5th through 8th graders coming my way for the 3rd quarter of our school year.

I had my doubts about the A/B alternating day schedule, and about the limitations that only having a cohort for 9 weeks would bring to my curriculum, and these have played out only minimally, as the weeks fleshed out into months and I led my students through learning about technology.

Yes, I've had to reduce the scope of what we can get done, but I have at least initially opted for deeper  work in the limited experiences rather than trying to cram as many tools, skills, and concepts into the 15-17 "sessions" (an A-day B-day set) as possible. I think it's working.

We finished up our Excel pixel art turkeys, with collaborating pairs of students applying specified colors to nearly 300 cells, drawn square by click-and-drag and then colored according to the specifications.

I worked with a student in my 8th grade B block class. Here's our work:

This past week we worked on "exit tickets" from Tech Lab. Each student in each section of each grade level entered his own class's page and followed directions to give me input about their perceptions of how the 9 weeks went. I'll add a few examples below, one from each grade level:

Do you notice that all of these are more or less finished drafts? That's because we edited them together, each student and I, all 164 of them, at the teacher computer. Spelling, capitalizing "I," some tense and number issues--we corrected all of these to clarify the work and make it the best it could be. I was careful to explain errors and not just "that" it needed correcting but "why" it needed correcting. This was a rewarding exercise for me, providing more one-on-one work with each student and a fuller understanding of where the students, many many of whom are ESL kids, stand with their English. I plan to do more of this, and earlier, perhaps setting up collaborative editing on this padlet with an earlier one edited in this way. 

Please spend good, solid, fun, and loving time with "my" kids over the winter break. Stay safe, stay warm, and bring them back to me so that I can say hi in the hallways. They are a special group of young humans.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Moving into December

Happy December, y'all,

Things have been busy this past two weeks in the technology labs. My 2nd Quarter groups finished their PowerPoints and everyone did really well with that challenging program. It was a joy to learn more about my students through their sharing choices. We work in a remarkably diverse school, and we all know that; but when I am able to see slides titled "I was Born" that include Somalia, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, California, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, India, and many more global locations, it's moving and impressive. It also gives me insight into how much one-on-one instruction is needed in the computer lab, as well as into seating placement decisions.

After the PowerPoint projects, we moved on into Microsoft Excel. The first and often confusing piece of that program is just how it works. What do the menus do? What's a "cell?" How does one manipulate cells? I decided to do this introductory activity by mixing another of the 4 C's* into it: Creativity: We embarked on a project to create pixel art (what's a pixel?) using Microsoft Office Excel 2016.

I began with a basic demonstration and preview to the language. A cell is a single unit of information in a spreadsheet. It has two "coordinates," defined by its placement in a row and a column (what's a row? what's a column?) and labled by its column position (a letter) and its row position (a number). From "TeachersPayTeachers," a great resource, I found a full lesson plan from which I was able to cull and modify elements so that eventually we were enough initiated into Excel to create, working in teams of two or three (their's another "C": Collaboration!

Here are a few images of students working on their collaborations, working together simultaneously from their separate Office365 accounts on their shared document, originally created and built using one student's account with one student reading and recording entered colors and the other doing the data entry. By this time, students are splitting up the work and working on different colors on the same document in order to complete the project. Priceless.

I will be summing up the final two weeks starting next week. BTW, I'll be out Tuesday in order to present a session on Professional Learning Networks to colleagues across the district. Next week? Hour of Code!

*the "4 Cs" driving instruction in Metro Nashville Public Schools technology classrooms are:
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration and
  • Creativity