Amanda on November 13th, 2009

Over the course of the next couple of days at my school we are requiring that all students in the 1:1 laptop program permanently change their computer settings.  As a school we are going to require that each and every student in the 7th and 8th grade have their Remote Login and Remote Management boxes checked under their system preferences on their computers.

Required Student Settings

This will enable us as a school to better monitor student activity and help guide appropriate student behavior while the students are on campus through Apple Remote Desktop.  They have been informed: If a student changes their settings it will be considered a discipline issue.

You see, we gave our students administrative rights to their machines.  With administrative rights, the students can install programs they may need, update their software on their own (so very important), and really make this dynamic learning tool their own.

We are in our second month of our 1:1 laptop program and it’s going very well.  Teachers are modifying the way they teach and following many of the recommendations they received during their Out in Shanghai days training.   And as Jason Ohler found in his most recent research, the student engagement in educational activities is through the roof.  Quite frankly, students don’t have time to get into trouble with their computers while in the classrooms.

So why are we as a school doing this?  I am still trying to come up to the answer to this question and I’ll diligently gather my research over the coming months.  The jury is still out for me though.  I don’t want this to be a “gotcha” program because I think that without student input it could erode the positive culture and relationship that currently exists between teachers and students.  However, I am not ignorant and I know that there is always one… one student that cyber-bullies another without an adult knowing about it… one student that secretly chats with a friend back home on Facebook while she should be working on her talking worksheet in science class… one student that skips lunch to play Halo on a regular basis, avoiding conversation with friends and exercise for the soul.

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Amanda on October 18th, 2009

My school has just wrapped up what I call Phase 1 of our Mac rollout to students and teachers.  Rolling out nearly 1300 student Mac laptops in grades 7-10 and 400+ staff laptops pk-12 has been exhilarating and exhausting at the same time.  picforblogWe have been preparing for this rollout for three years… actually probably longer but the preparations really took on some structure three years ago when we moved to a tech integration model.  Everything became a reality when we brought the computer companies in to present to the school and our community.

The biggest fear any school should have about 1:1 laptop programs is this:  What if that shiny new computer purchased for the students stays shiny and new… is never taken out of the box…. is not used in the classrooms… does not end up being the tool that transforms learning?  I think if we left it up to the majority of students, they would use computers in every class all of the time.  I think if we left it up to many of the teachers, it could go either way.  Some teachers are tech-savy and embrace learning through and with technology while others are down-right fearful.

For the students who need direction on how to use technology, for the teacher who loves technology and wants to learn more, for the teacher who is intimidated and overwhelmed by the prospect of using computers in the classroom, the school MUST focus on a solid professional development experience for their staff before, during, and after the initial rollout.

Professional development before the rollout was day in and day out all last school year because we moved to a technology integration model instead of pullout tech classes.  In my division we had access to macbook laptop carts and I defined my job around integrating technology into the classrooms.  I would always team teach with classroom teachers.  Sometimes teachers came to me with ideas around integrating technology but most of the time I went to them with integration ideas.  While our technology program has grown in leaps in bounds using this approach, I still did not get to work with EVERY teacher.  If teachers don’t want to use technology and they are not mandated to do so, they get very good at hiding from the likes of your friendly tech integrationist.

mac1At the beginning of this school year, the school (upper admin) mandated each and every teacher in a 1:1 grade level participate in a two day technology retreat we called Out in Shanghai Days.  We rolled out Macs one grade level at a time, starting with 10th grade.  Teachers of 10th graders participated in the retreat on the Thursday and Friday right before the students received their laptop which ended up creating a tremendous amount of momentum and positive energy around the rollout for students.

mac2Our Out in Shanghai Days were centered around support, support, support.  At each OSD event (we had four of them because the rollout spanned four grade levels) every k-12 technology integrationist and secondary librarian was there to assist the 60+ teachers in attendance.  We took the teachers off-site for the two day event to a local hotel so that they could focus on the Challenge Based Learning task in front of them.  When the teachers placed themselves in groups, a technology specialist joined their group offering support.  Every teacher walked away from the two day training/retreat/event feeling not only more comfortable with the technology but also excited to have their students receive their machines the following week.

Momentum was the key to Phase 1 of our 1:1 rollout.  We created fanfare with the teachers and fanfare with the students because attitude is everything when it comes to learning.  Of course the focus is always the potential of the tool in the student learning process, but the blitz, the fanfare, the going out of your way to make each and every teacher feel valued and appreciated can go a long, long way.  It’s helps to create the momentum that you need.  Think of the possibilities…

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Amanda on May 11th, 2009

I’ve been thinking about this one for over a couple of weeks.  Should I share what happened to my daughter’s blog or should I bury it and pretend it didn’t happen?  If I actually blog about then maybe it will happen again.  On the other hand, it may not.  In the meantime, I think what happened to my daughter’s blog re-opens the conversation about digital citizenship and when to start creating one’s own digital footprint.

Right before the Apple Leadership Summit, my husband called me from school and asked me if I had seen Maddie’s blog that day.  This is a tame snippet of what I saw when I went to Maddie’s blog:

hack

Context:  Maddie is five and over the past year she has taken a strong interest in what we put on her blog.  We talk about it at night just like we talk about what she did at school that day.  She constantly says, “Mommy, let’s put the picture on my blog” or “Don’t put that on my blog!”  She heads to school on Monday mornings and can’t wait to share what she did over the weekend with her classmates and with her teacher.  How does she share?  She goes to the computer and opens up her own blog.  She’s five.  This is her reality.

Maddie’s blog was hijacked by the Ghost of Iraqi Hackers – whoever they are.  To this day, I have no idea how they hacked into her blog – it’s beyond everything tech that I know.  I just know that I couldn’t log in to her blog and immediately went to my Twitter PLN and asked what to do.  My wonderful PLN told me to call bluehost, which I did and they were able to restore Maddie’s blog right away.  They are worth every single penny by the way!!!!!

Maddie’s blog means a lot to her and when this happened, it felt like a huge invasion of privacy.  I am convinced though now more than ever that this is just another learning experience.  I consider it my responsibility to teach Maddie about digital responsibility.  What’s okay to talk about – what is not okay to talk about…. what do you do when something bad happends to you online?  We are raising and teaching our children in a new world and we can’t protect them from its dangers by avoiding digital responsibility.  This experience is one more feather in the hat for a lesson learned, but we will not hide and will continue to promote the goodness that can come from behaving responsibly online.

And that is my opinion.

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By the way:  this is what bluehost sent me to make sure that this doesn’t happen again!  But of course!! :)

1. Set register_globals to OFF
2. Turn off Display Error/Warning Messages. set error_display to ZERO
3. Never run unescaped queries
4. Validate all user inputs. Items on Forms, in URLS and so on
5. Move Config and files containing Passwords to mysql to a Secure directory outside of the public_html folder
6. Access Control, U don’t want ya user to have access to Admin function or Clean up scripts
7. htaccess is your friend use it to deny people (we also have a easy deny manager too in the cpanel)
8. PHP can parse any valid script, whether it is called foo.php, very_long_name.php.php.php, or even willeymtard.bat. Using the default extension of “.php” means that before your hackers start you have already told them you are using PHP. As mentioned, you can use any filename for your scripts – if you are using PHP for every script on your server, consider using the “.html” extension for your scripts and making PHP parse HTML files you can change your file extension by adding this line to the htaccess or turn it on via the add type handler in the cpanel (AddType application/x-httpd-php .php)
9. To protect against SQL injection attacks Sometimes hackers will try to screw up you database by inserting SQL code into your form input fields. They can for example, insert code that could delete all the data in your database!

To protect against this, you need to use this PHP function:
mysql_real_escape_string()
This function escapes (makes safe) any special characters in a string (programmers call text a ‘string’) for MySQL.
Example:
$name = $_REQUEST[‘name’];
$safe_name = mysql_real_escape_string($name);
Now you know the variable $safe_name, is safe to use with your SQL code.

10. Keep the PHP code to yourself. If anyone can see it they can expliot vulnerabilities. You should take care to store your PHP files and the necessary passwords to access your MySQL databases in protected files or folders. The easy way to do this is to put the database access passwords in a file with a .inc.php extension (such as config.inc.php), and then place this file in a directory which is above the server’s document root (and thus not accessible to surfers of your site), and refer to the file in your PHP code with a require_once command. By doing things this way, your PHP code can read the included file easily but hackers will find it almost impossible to hack your site.

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Amanda on April 19th, 2009
David Gran and Mikey McKillip open S2F2

David Gran and Mikey McKillip open S2F2

After months of planning, the Shanghai Student Film Festival proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences of this teacher’s career.

Why?

The number of students from international schools across Shanghai and across the world that were able to participate and be a part of this event were inspiring to me. Elementary students, middle school, high school… all were represented and each and every one of them brought something unique to the festival.  From the gregarious student to the shy student, many students were able to explore learning 21st century style by telling stories using film as the medium. As Scott McCloud mentioned in his opening S2F2 speech, films are still a relatively new medium and the potential to discover new things using film is great indeed.

Sky McCloud joins Shanghai students in the workshops

Sky McCloud joins Shanghai students in the workshops

At my school, we had a quarter long elective class every other day to expose kids more in depth to art of film making.  Kids made short films in this class, but what I find surprising (and encouraging) is that students submitted films that were either made on their own time OR that were created within the classroom to share their learning.  Is this not

Shanghai students celebrate their success

Shanghai students celebrate their success

fantastic?? As educators, this is what we want for our students… embedded technology and authentic uses of technology.  Just another reason every school school have a tech integrationist…. :)

If you are thinking of starting a film festival in your neck of the woods, I want to share with you something that made our event this year even more special.  Students who submitted films from all over Shanghai were invited to our school for the day so that they could attend a mini-conference just for them.  They signed up using a google form ahead of time which helped us organize the event. Over 100 students attended interactive workshop sessions about:

  • animation
  • green screening
  • acting in filM
  • using Foley for sound

If you have questions about staring a film festival in your area, please contact us as we’re more than willing to help out.  Tim Bray has the Phoenix Film Festival coming up at the end of April as well – we’re so excited to see film festivals growing in the region!

Students receive a free S2F2 t-shirt thanks to our sponsors

Students receive a free S2F2 t-shirt thanks to our sponsors

I’ve loved working with David Gran, Mikey McKillip, Jonathan Chambers and all of the others on the board for this event – remarkable educators.  We’ll be presenting at the Apple Education Leadership Summit in Hong Kong (April 24-26) and we hope to see you there!

Please start a student film festival in your area…. start small and then watch it grow!

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Amanda on April 16th, 2009

img_0013.JPGWe have been VERY busy planning the Shanghai Student Film Festival over the past several months. This has turned out to be such an amazing experience for so many of our middle school studentsin my school. This year, more than ever, students are creating content and displaying their knowledge using multimedia software on our Macs. The actual S2F2 event is tomorrow (more on that later) where we’ll have about 400 students from around Shanghai gather in one place to celebrate our films.  What is special about S2F2 this year though is that ALL students in our schools have been able to be a part of S2F2 activities. img_0053.JPG

This week, we have been fortunate to have Mr. Scott McCloud visit our campuses as part of the S2F2 lead up. Mr. McCloud works a great deal with digital comics and he is an incredible storyteller. Students listened to him give a student oriented TED Talk for a full hour and he had them eating out of the palm of his hand. He is a master storyteller! The way he demonstrates the use of an infinite canvas to share stories speaks to me.  He even wrote a recent blog post about Prezi – of course, I love that after my first prezi last month!

img_0050.JPGAfter the TED Talk, Mr. McCloud worked with all of our 6th graders in their art classes. The 6th grade students are staring a comic unit and they were able to learn from the best during class! Thank you so much to Mr. McCloud for visiting our campus. He’s a professional and better yet, he’s a genuinely nice man!!

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Amanda on March 10th, 2009

prezi1
As we move into full swing for our 1:1 planning at my school, we find ourselves in the position of celebrating and over-communicating about what we’ve been able to achieve with a laptop cart program. I decided to use prezi as it’s like a Keynote, but it’s much more dynamic to share those big picture ideas.

The big picture about our cart laptop program is that we’ve been able to achieve a lot of in a short amount of time across all disciplines in the middle school… must be the great software and the great technology integrationist!

This prezi presentation has given parents, board members, our superintendent, teachers and our students the knowledge that we use tech everyday across the board… at least that’s the feedback I’ve received so far. Just imagine what we’ll be able to do when every child has a laptop in every class!

I think that’s another prezi!

To view the entire presentation, click here!

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Amanda on February 25th, 2009

This will be the first of what I hope is a few posts just so that I can reflect on the process of rolling out a 1:1 Program at my school next year.  I am so excitied about this and really wnt it to go well. We’ve had many, many meetings with many, many stakeholders.  Last month our school board “officially” gave us the go ahead.  Parents will find otu “officially” this Friday when an article goes out in our school magazine.  I thought it only fair that the teachers find out before the parents!  At today’s staff meeting I walked them through the following Keynote – everyone seems excited!

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Amanda on February 4th, 2009

The first two days of school after the Chinese New Year holiday were dedicated to Professional Development.  I was asked to present three sessions.

Most of our teachers started blogging this school year for the first time in their life.  I’m still amazed by the fact that not once did administraiton ask them to blog…. they did however ask teachers to communicate with parents.

The PD session was titled “I’ve Got a Blog – Now What?” because teachers have achieved what has been asked of them… they are communicating with parents using their blogs.  But we can all be doing so much more! The three things we decided that we want from our blogs are:

  1. Build our Teacher/Professional Online Profile
  2. Communicate and celebrate the learning in our classes for parents
  3. Make our teacher blogs a place of “1st contact” for our students before they collaborate on the wikis and Nings

I used several resources for the Keynote (which I converted to a PowerPoint).  Thanks to my PLN for all of they great resources they share!

Applet used to show teacher blops as a graph.
How to link to other people in a blog post movie.
Rinse, Repeat, Remember Audio or Visual
Hey Blog Coach! Conversation Conductor

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Amanda on February 2nd, 2009

I’ve always loved Wordle and I can’t help but love this too! It’s actually very timely as I prepare for my presentation to my staff about Developing a Personal Learning Network. Thanks to Langwitches for the connection to TwitterSheep!

Here is my word cloud created from the bios of my followers (@adecardy) on Twitter.

tweetsheep

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Amanda on January 19th, 2009

I love my teachers.  They are always willing to take risks and try something new with tech.  They are so positive and jump in with both feet.

Over the past week, I’ve been working with our two 7th grade science teachers Mrs. McDaid and Mrs. Bugenske on taking essential questions to another level.  They don’t just post questions on a wall and touch upon them occasionally.  The EQs are a focus and the students make valuable connections by addressing them.

We created two wikis for their classes where kids answer the four questions.  For 3 of the 4 quesitons, students must use some sort of technology. I gave them a few ideas on a Requirements page.  Why use tech to answer essential questions?

  • Students become more thoughtful with their answers
  • Students have the opportunity to listen in and respond to their peers, expanding their own knowledge
  • Students have the opportunity to see how others use tech and ask questions about it, wanting to learn more

You must watch what one of my students did for his first answer… Final Cut Pro, LiveType, citing sources.  Do you think he’ll remember more about this unit of study because of his tech experience?  I’m thinking the answer is…. YES!  Are all of the students producing this type of work?  No, BUT they want to… we’ve got them hooked!

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