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!

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!