“As your final assignment, due May 15, please update your blogs with a link to your best laptop based project (preferably Web 2.0)…Along with that link, I would like you to describe what it is and how the laptop helped you accomplish this. Share some changes in your work habits that the laptops inspired. Finally, give some thoughts on what kinds of training or initiatives you would like us to undertake as a group next year.”
My Best Laptop Project: Enhanced Podcast of 5th Grade Visit to MCMS (Used Photo Story, Audacity, Creative Commons Music)
I was asked to document one of our new strategies for helping rising 6th graders with their transition to middle school. Our school assigned visiting 5th graders as shadows to current 6th graders for a day. I took digital photos of their visit and then interviewed one boy and one girl along with the 6th graders they were shadowing. We recorded the interview straight into Audacity. I edited the audio in Audacity, utilizing the techniques learned in our workshop with Patrick Keough. I created an enhanced podcast in Photo Story by combining the digital photos and the mp3 track of the interview created in Audacity. I found some Creative Commons Licensed music and created a short edited track in Audacity which I mixed in for introduction and exit music. I also added the music track to the interview, mixing it in Audacity before I created the mp3. Having the laptop really helped because we were able to pass the laptop around during the interview. It has a built-in microphone, the only one we had in the school at the time. I was also able to work on the project over the weekend because it was saved on the desktop of my laptop.
How My Work Habits Have Changed by Using a Laptop: My work habits have changed quite a bit. I take my laptop to meetings and take minutes on the computer instead of writing things down. I have felt much more free to use a data projector for instruction because I can just scoop up my machine and check out the cart with the projector. I don’t have to worry about a computer being available to use with the projector or having to use a very long cable to connect the projector to a desktop across the room. I have used my laptop at conferences to take notes, collaborate, and edit our school’s web page remotely. I have used the laptop with two different groups of science students to teach and guide them through making digital movies as part of a project. It was easier for four students to gather around a laptop at a table in the Media Center and work on their movie than to huddle around a desktop. I watched, amazed, as these students worked together in teams. They were so excited to be using the laptop and a wireless mouse that they were eager to take turns being “in control” on the machine. I have also used my laptop to share ideas with other educators through Skype and Second Life.
Thoughts on Projects for Next Year: I would really like to learn more about:
- using blog software to create my own blog from scratch (I would love to see our school’s website become a blog but we need more control than a free website like Word Press could give us.)
- using Web 2.0 tools with students
- using online school programs like Blackboard in a public school
Final Thoughts: I want to thank Joe Poletti for being the driving force behind this project and the county for allowing the purchase of laptops for all tech facilitators in the county. I think we as a group are closer because of the collaboration we have experienced. We have branched out and tried new things. My life is different because of the flexibility and mobility I have with my laptop. It has impacted the lives of students in my school both directly and indirectly. That’s what technology is all about after all: impacting students and aiding learning. If that is the end result at the end of the day, then the money spent was well worth it. I would love to see this possibility open up for our teachers and students in the future as well. I know our teachers would be more productive if they had such easy access to technology and the software we use at school. Using data projectors in the classroom would be so much easier as well because now we have problems with having the correct cables and the distance of the teacher’s desktop from the projector. I have stated my opinions before about every student having their own laptop. I would love to see a one-to-one initiative happen in our county, where every student had access to their own computer. I know computers aren’t the answer to all of education’s ills but I think leveling the playing field in the area of technology would open up a world of possibilities for many students who would ordinarily never be exposed to them.