Saturday, February 26, 2011

Digital Fabrication

A few times in my lifetime as a teacher, I felt as if I was standing at the edge of the World and seeing the start of a revolution. For example, I remember the very first time I was on the WWW when it was in its infancy. I ordered music from JW Pepper through an early terminal type program called PNMN. It was all words then, but I could order music and interact with other teachers and I felt the world shift.

A few years later, we were all summoned to the, then new, business lab and shown the graphic-based WWW. I was actually sitting in Iowa, hearing audio from the Netherlands. I remember, vividly everything about that experience. My friend, Jenny, was leading the workshop and it was life-changing.

Now, some years later, I am in a very different place watching that same sort of shift. At ISTE Conference (then NECC) 2009, I was privileged to share the stage with Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns and Glen Bull to discuss projects that would get kids involved in school. I watched the skilled Peggy and Glen impress the crowd with the idea of Digital Fabrication in schools and a little machine that would cut out what a student would design. I remember being very impressed, but not fully understanding the implications.

I have watched the progress of this project over the eighteen months since the first presentation and I have been amazed that all around this concept of digital fabrication. I watched the Fab@School project gain national attention and the inventive Glen Bull post the YouTube videos posted below and been totally amazed at this work.

Knowing the software genius, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns, has been one of the true joys of my life. In addition to designing what I believe is the most teacher/student-friendly software on the market, she is a kind and amazing human being. She allowed me a sneak peek at the Fab@School software that is being created for the digital fabrication movement and it is, as you would expect from something coming from Peggy, wonderful.

Keep an eye out for the progress on this software and the digital fabrication movement. I am certain that you will be seeing the next classroom revolution. If you haven't checked out Dr. Peggy Healy Stearn's software, be sure to check out Stationery Studio*, Community Construction Kit*, Diorama Designer*, The Graph Club 2.0, Neighborhood Map Machineamong others

* indicates software that will have relevancy to the Fab@School project.

Stationery Studio will always be nearest my heart because it introduced me to FableVision!

After you watch the YouTube videos, let me know what amazing things you would invent for your classroom!!!! Be part of the revolution!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Several Unexpected Surprises

Dear Neglected TJOJ Readers:

I apologize for the long absence. When I set to writing this blog, I intended to share tools and experiences...after a few months, it got sort of preachy and so I discontinued. Although I never intend to preach, I am so very passionate about education and the way things are going (or not going) in schools. I am going to try for a better mix in the future. 

The first unexpected surprise this week was when I was observed by someone I did not know from an area college. I am offering Professional Development sessions to my colleagues at school in an after-hours format. They can receive college credit for attending. I didn't know what to expect from this observation, but like a regular classroom observation, with me, what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I was reading the observation report when I came upon this quote,  "It is very evident that technology is a real passion of Terry’s and it shows in his energetic teaching and the way he encourages the use of the applications he is presenting. He is obviously a leader in this area and the go-to guy for the staff." Wow. It might not be surprising to know that I am fairly harsh with myself in terms of school, because I always try to make things better. I also have gone through periods of feeling very unappreciated. This was nice to hear from an outside source.

The second surprise may be the sweetest. I received a handmade card from a student (a class assignment, but regardless) from a VERY quiet freshman boy. It had musical notes on the front and the inside said, "Thank you for being a great teacher. I'm sorry I didn't go out for chorus last year. I think you're my favorite teacher in the whole world." That would be nice from ANY kid, but from a painfully shy kid who is not in my class, it's heaven. It is also affirmation that the heart and soul I have been pouring in to kids has not gone unnoticed. Lately, I have been working extra hard to find roads in with kids that seem to struggle. I imagine the casual onlooker might see it as funny. I walked with a girl in PE one day and challenged her to walk faster than her normal snail pace. Not because I care about her speed, but because I wanted her to know she was noticed. 

Both of the things above make it seem like I am tooting my own horn, or holding myself up as an example. That's not really my point, and if you knew me in real life, you would know that is not me. It just reminded me that sometimes, if you want to make a difference, you have to step outside of the normal. You have to put yourself out there. You have to put yourself in a place where you can lead and let your passion for education shine. You have to challenge what the kids believe about school and teachers. The sweetest part of this job is the times that you see a smile from the girl who walks in gym class, or you get a note out of the blue. I am one lucky guy.

Finally, a great surprise last night... A blogger that I deeply respect as a teacher and as a blogger sent a tweet about the absence of blogging. I was humbled to know someone I respect so greatly had noticed that it had been since November that I blogged here. When I made a silly remark back about being sure that the five people who read this were sad, another comment from someone I respect came through. 

So, I make a parallel with my teaching spirituality...Just because you don't know your voice is getting through, doesn't mean that it isn't. Keep speaking, keep dreaming, keep pushing....maybe there will be some unexpected surprises in your future!!