Monday, November 9, 2009

Lab Hardware Configuration (2 of 2)

Getting back to a previous topic, I am really STILL curious about others actual physical computer lab configurations. I have had difficulty finding any pictures on line but while this seems like a very non-educational topic, it strikes me that configuring your environment correctly can contribute immensely to student attention, focus, productivity and learning.

So, with that in mind here are 3 shots of my lab with key points.

First, a shot of my classroom from the front- right now 28 of 30 student workstations have dual monitors (19" and 15" each) with pretty new HP small form factor computers capable of running ARC Map (GIS) and Adobe CS3, our most powerful software packages.

Second, a shot of the front of the room where we have a 77" interactive whiteboard with short throw projector (have you seen the new widescreen ones??!!??)

Finally, a shot over my desk where I my or may not spend much time (depends on the autonomy and cognitive level of the current assignment). The key feature is a 3 monitor setup with the left monitor dedicated to displaying NetSupport School a super classroom management software package. The right monitor is cloned to the interactive white board and the middle one is where I prep content to display without distracting students while they focus on the IWB display.

Also, notice the monitors face the front so if students are to focus on me, they can't be distraced by their monitors.

Obviously some of this is possible only through the physical construction of the room but there is some stuff I would do anywhere- dual monitors, classroom management software, and an IWB are all great tools.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mad Tech Skillz

I recently had an interesting conversation with our principal. I had been thinking a lot about PLC (professional learning communities) and how we implement them in our school which is mainly just meetings. Sometimes meetings are very useful but, I feel that if PLC is really time set aside to improve as a professional educator in a collaborative environment (my KISS definition)then maybe meetings should be "as required" and PLC time should focus on either learning from or contributing to the global PLC found online.

To me, the only issue is that most teachers don't posses the technical skills required to tap in to this (that may be changing in some ed prep programs). Someone must teach them after sifting through all the options and do so from an educator's perspective.

My principal, a stellar guy (even if he doesn't read this...) agreed and after I introduced him to Twitter and touched on blogging as PLC tools he got pretty excited and gave me a few Friday afternoons to introduce teachers to it all.

I call it 21st Century PLC and it basically focuses on finding topic threads (twitter and blogs), following them (RSS) and tying on more string (adding web content via blogs, wikis, twitter, etc).

Ive posted a slimmed down set of slides here on the blog (top right corner) for your viewing enjoyment. If you want the full set (not much more than what is there but a few cheese effects) email me.

If a few slides don't "talk themselves" post up and Ill clarify. I hate slides that talk for me so...

If you have some personal insight on the topic, Id love to hear!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lab Hardware Configuration

The question popped into my head the other day- how does my lab stack up against other computer labs?  Im not competitive (about this) but curious.  There are no real standards to adhere to.  I just try my best to make my lab mirror the business environments I have worked in or friends I respect work in.  Never thought too much about it until I agreed to host a GIS workshop through ESRI and my POC there seemed extremely impressed with my lab setup.  It made me wonder. 

Then, as usual, I was taking advantage of a teaching moment to discuss ergonomics and started thinking, there should be OSHA regulations for school computer labs and the junky 15" monitors that come with school computers should be banned! 

Then I was catching up on Tim Holt's Intended Consequences blog and the topic

Netbook Debate Continues

Reminded me about the screen size thing and ergonomics.  It costs bucks but these students will have more seat time in front of a computer by 20 than I have now!  Seriously, I just went through a few quick estimates!

Think about it.  How ergonomic is your classroom?  How well does your room model modern high tech work environments?

Here is a picture of one work environment I recently experienced, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in the middle east- the data fusion and command/control center for all air and space operations in the central command area.  Notice all the monitors!  Some folks have 6!!!!!

ill add a pic or two of my room next time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Building 21st Century Professional Learning Communities

So I finally convinced my principal to kick around the idea of eliminating mandatory weekly dept. meetings (part of taking time out of the day to become a Professional Learning Community or PLC) as they are just unnecessary.  Between the fact that things in a school system are just not dynamic enough to justify the quantity of meetings combined with the fact that most teachers have no clue how to run a meeting efficiently it is a huge time suck.  My proposal was to first teach teachers how to engage in 21st century learning by showing them how they can collaborate with the global community of educators and convince them there was something in it for them.  Second, give them PLC time to interact with that global community of educators either by learning or contributing on a weekly basis.  How cool could that be?  Teachers across the world being given time for nurturing the global community of educators?  We will need to see where this goes!