Sunday, August 19, 2018

P363 Week 2--Getting There!

Hello, all,

Week 2 went very well, and with the help of our excellent custodial team -- moving heavy carts of our portable-useless desktop computers into the main building for storage -- the room is shaping up for our next 16 or so weeks in the portable. I'm going to insert a couple of panorama pictures taken in the computer lab on Friday, after most of the extraneous stuff had been moved out of the portable. If you click on them you will be able to "pan" around. Here:

I found the wonderful poster on the red-lined bulletin board over the laptop cart last weekend when I visited the Hatch Show Print gallery to see my friend Jim Sherraden's work on display there. After enjoying the art (tremendously), my brother-in-law and I browsed the shop beside the ancient printing shop and I found it and had to have it. It reads "It's not the destination, it's the journey." That pretty much sums up the experience we hope to have in our McMurray Falcons Tech computer lab each of the ongoing and coming 9 weeks. I do promise we won't be shooting any students out of cannons!

This week we shared a district PowerPoint about the importance of caring for our computer laptops, and we continued learning how to (and practicing) login procedures for the laptops and also for Microsoft Office 365. We jumped into Microsoft Word 2016 online and we did some initial formatting of a document, specifically a poster promoting each one of us as Class President. 

The 6th graders had a session this week in the Band classroom. Ms. Wheeler was doing intense PR for her band, only around half the number of students for a strong Middle School Band having chosen Band as their Related Arts option. I told each class of 6th graders the truth that in my own life, there is nothing in the world as joyful as playing a musical instrument with other musicians when it all comes together. I also hope that this "campaign" will draw some of my start-of-year students because we have only 25 laptops, only 19 of which are functional until my requests for repair are addressed. This means that in every class save one (of my 8 classes) some students must share/take turns in order to learn. That is doable, but not optimal.

Okay, then, this coming week we will continue our journeys into Office365 online. I intend to share a very important digital tool this week--Office365's "Immersive Reader." Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Welcome to Portable 363!

Hello, parents, guardians, students, and colleagues! Welcome to P363!

After the first week of school I am truly excited about the school year. We have a laptop cart with 25 laptops and we have already done some learning. It's going to be a great year.

I want to introduce myself, though many of you are already familiar with me from last year at either the Annex or the main building. I am Mr. Merrick, and this is my 22nd year of teaching. I started out at Dodson Elementary school as a half-year "permanent sub" for a class of 4th grade scholars and I moved on to University School of Nashville after that experience. I had an offer to teach Kindergarten at Dodson the following year, but my dear wee daughter Miranda was at University School and the 3rd grade teaching offer there was too attractive to turn down. After 3 years teaching 3rd grade, I accepted the challenge to teach K-4 computer class in a new lab. I did so for 11 years before a cherished colleague of mine, Dr. Kecia Ray, asked me to come back to work at MNPS to research, envision, and make sustainable a "virtual school" for the district.

Having done that, I moved on to Warner Elementary School for a year as K-4 Computer Teacher, then it was my great good fortune to accept an offer for the best school in the District. And here we are!

My lovely wife, Lee Ann, and I have two wonderful grown children, Miranda and Colin, and a pooch named Watson.
Watson exercising
When interviewed for the position at McMurray in the summer of 2017, I was asked how flexible I considered myself to be, on a scale of 1 to 10. I unhesitatingly responded "11." That has proven to be necessary in these two years of remodeling and temporary classrooms. This year, I'm starting off needing to be more like a 12 or a 13. Why? On July 1 I wrecked a rental bicycle and broke the cup of my hip, the bone technically named the "acetabulum." I describe that event in great detail at my personal blot at scottmerrickdotnet if you are so inclined to pursue that story, Here, I will only say it's been a long 6 weeks toward recovery, and I will be glad when I no longer need to walk with a walker or wheel myself around in a wheelchair!

Before and after pictures of the lab:

After--in progress!
What did we do this week? In the first of my 22 sessions with your child this 9 weeks, I set up the lab in our computer, we did introductions and shared expectations and routines for the class(es), we  learned/relearned how to login to computers and how to handle and care for laptops, we learned/relearned how to login to the class start page at Symbaloo, and then how to login to our  Microsoft Office 365 accounts and our email, and we sent Mr. Merrick an email. This next week we will refine our knowledge about email etiquette and its elements and send another email, then we will move on to Microsoft Word. The MS Office suite of tools is very powerful, and may be accessed by your child from any internet-connected device--anytime, anywhere.

I hope you are having a wonderful start to the school year and please feel free to contact me at any time. Three last things this week:
  1. Thank you for sharing your child with me! and
  2. Stay tuned! 
  3. Let me paste in a copy of a slip of paper you will be receiving by the end of the week that I hope becomes part of your refrigerator decoration or is stored in an easily accessible location in your home:

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Into Summer, Taking Student Reflections With

Happy June, Happy June, Happy June! After packing up classrooms, labeling many many old computers and much furniture "Surplus," and wrapping up end of year checklists and paperwork, I am well into my first full week of summer and reflecting on my practices for the school year 2017-18. It was a great year!
     Most of all, I am thankful for the students and colleagues at McMurray Middle School, where it was my pleasure to get up every morning, feed my two pups, and climb into my Smart Car for the commute from The Nations to McMurray Drive to teach in two buildings, in two computer labs, and to around 200 kids a quarter, nearly 800 all school year. It was a challenge every day to engage students and of course some days were better than others, but it was very nearly always a pleasure to be at work.
     This summer I am traveling to Chicago, Illinois for a week to attend ISTE2018, the premier K through 16 educational conference in the country, where I will refresh my relationships with colleagues from around the nation and the world and eagerly learn more about how to accomplish  that aforementioned engagement and most of all, learning. I'll also be helping lead a 3 1/2 hour learning experience for attendees, centered around mixed, augmented, and virtual digital realities--an educational passion of mine. I'll be blogging about that week at scottmerrickdotnet, my personal/professional blog, so check in there the last week of June if you wish.
     After I return to Nashville my wife and I will join friends at a beach house on Pawley's Island so I'll be more or less off-grid. But expect me to be at school mid to late July setting up my new (SINGLE!!!) computer lab in the portable for the first semester, where many new experiences await our students. Over Winter Break I'll be working to set up the brand-spanking-new computer lab in the remodeled building, into which we will permanently move for second semester. It's never boring!
     I've rambled on enough here. Let my 4th quarter 6A kids reflect for you now--most classes were able to do so the last hectic weeks of school and I loved all the reflections--but this one was my favorite. Have a great summer!
Made with Padlet

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Final Month of the School Year

Well, well, well. Here we are. So much to do and less time to do it.

Exciting! In a matter of weeks, 8th graders will morph into high schoolers, students will be elevated a grade level, and a great number of events will take place to remind us just how close a community McMurray Middle School is. Here's a list of those as a reminder to you:
McMurray's Upcoming Events*

May 4
Tusculum Faculty vs. Student Basketball game
MC Big Gym

May 7-11
Spirit Week

May 9
7th & 8th Move to Stand Field Trip
Only 100 students

May 9 & 10
5th Grade Field Trip

May 10
6th Grade Field Trip

May 10-16
8th Grade Final Exams

May 11
May Concert/Pep Rally
MC Gym

May 15
7th & 8th Motlow College Visit

May 15
Celebrate the Arts Band Concert
MC Main Gym

May 17
Culture Celebration Pep Rally
MC Main Gym

May 18
8th Grade Promotion Celebration
MC Main Gym

May 18
Culture Festival
MC Main Gym

May 24
Last day for Students
1/2 for Students & 1 whole day for Teachers

May 25
Last day for teachers

*Courtesy of  Dr. Coverson's "Falcon Facts"

In the computer lab(s), we will be doing some coding over the next two weeks. Why? It is estimated that by the year 2020 there will be around 400,000,000 computer programming jobs in the world and that if we continue preparing students to fill that need at the rate we now are doing, there will only be 700,000 computer programmers available to fill them. That's why I am introducing students to computer programming. My hope is that by doing so in a very basic way I may spark interest in some of our students that will lead them to computer science majors and on to one of those very lucrative jobs.

Here is one of the most convincing articles I have found about why everyone should learn to code. Laurence Bradford is a programmer with a passion for travel. She is not only able to pursue that passion because of the field she chose to pursue (computer programming), but please note the last sentence in this article: "And I couldn't be happier."

We'll start with a brief introductory lesson and then students will login to individual accounts I have created for them at Ask your child how they are doing! Visit the site yourself, create your own account, and work through the levels until YOU have gifted yourself the skills of computer programming.

6th grader Thalia's silly digital art picture of...ME!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Testing, Testing, 1...2...3

My apologies for the "radio silence" at McMurray Falcons Tech.

Thanks for dropping in. It's been a fast four weeks and we are, yes, in the middle of TCAP testing at McMurray Middle School. Prior to the beginning of testing last Tuesday, we have been doing some initial work in Microsoft Office365 Excel Online. This work, a couple of pixel art projects, serves to introduce students first to their district Office accounts and to Excel itself. It is my quarter goal to make sure every student knows how to access and use Office tools, including Excel, then PowerPoint, Word, and hopefully, Sway. Most of my students were unaware that they have those powerful tools at hand, and they also have the option to download up to five copies to devices for at home and on-the-go use. Awesome!

Testing is tedious, at best. I have been blessed with a small cadre of academically high-performing 8th graders, all of whom either are, or have been, in my computer class; so it's been really good to get to know them better in a different setting. Still, during testing a proctor cannot access internet or even read a book--we must be actively monitoring student testing. Yawn.

Testing will be over at the end of the day on Thursday, and until then all of my computer classes (testing in the morning, related arts classes in the afternoon) are shortened, making it difficult to get anything done. Students are also pretty burnt out by lunchtime after a full morning of filling in little bubbles with number 2 pencils. On pretty days we are able to go outside in every class. Today is dismal/rainy and the next two days are predicted to have a 40% chance of rain as well. That means short periods of keyboarding practice and then indoor recess in grades 5 and 6. I'll give my 7th and 8th graders some free choice time just to give them a break, too.

We did get a chance during a break in testing last week to create a STEAM video for a district competition. Rosa and Rafael stepped up to present "10 Numbers from the GPGP".
The rest of the quarter is pretty packed with end-of-year activities, but we will get to PowerPoint, we will do some graphing in Excel, and with any luck we will be doing some coding. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Week 1 of the Last Nine Weeks!

Hi! Well, so we are off to a strong beginning to the last 9 weeks of school year 2017-2018. I'm not sure of the story behind the late Spring Break, but it seems, um, not smooth. I will confess that when I was interviewed for the position as Computer Teacher, I was asked the question: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how flexible are you?" I answered without hesitation, "11

Funny, I have been tasked to be that flexible, and not infrequently, this year.

This 9 weeks, we are starting with Microsoft Excel. We looked at the basic elements of the program, working locally in grades 7-8, since we were told not to use the internet connection because of testing. In 5 and 6 we were able to work online in Office 365. I feel the 9 weeks will be punctuated by internet bans and, at times, relegation to a portable with no online connections at all. We will make it work!

Students first get a little intro to rows, columns, cells, and coordinates, then learn how to reconfigure all cells in a worksheet to create pixel art of their name. Here's mine!

Then, they partner up and receive a "legend detailing how to color cells and sets of cells to create a squirrel! That looks like this:

We've had a lot of fun with this and it touches on Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and what other element of the "4 Cs," Communication. It also can be done locally, without the internet, which is a help. Once we get online again we will save these in our Office365 so we will always have them!
Here are some students working on the names assignment…

Thanks for the loan of your child to Falcons Tech Lab! More to come!!!

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!