UPDATING APPLICATIONS/SOFTWARE FOR EDUCATION

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

As anyone who has been reading this blog lately will know…I am getting ready to get back into the classroom on October 5th and have been attempting to prepare myself for this transition.  Part of this has been learning what applications and software I will have available to me on the MLTI MAC computers that will be used by the students and myself.I have been a long-time Windows user and fan (since Windows 1.0) and haven’t used anything else.  I am not saying that I haven’t been tempted by the allure of Apple or the “simplicity of Linux, but that I have never actually had the  opportunity to be converted.  It was easier to be safe and keep using Windows.

Well now I have no choice in the matter, I will be working with a MAC at school, so I have to learn to use one.  The problem is that the MLTI computers are not “open” and have restrictions on websites (at school) and what software I can use on them.  Knowing this I have had to look at the applications and software that I am using on my HP tablet Windows machine and match it up to the MAC as much as I can.  This means that I am going to have to do a few things a bit differently than I did previously.

Browser:  I am sorry to say Opera has to go, even though it is my favorite browser.  I can’t add it to the MLTI machine the school will provide me and it doesn’t make any sense to have Opera on one machine and Firefox on the other as my main Browser.  I never really liked Firefox all that much and had enough reasons to switch to Opera, but compared to the choices that I will have available to me it is the clear winner.  So the other night I downloaded Firefox (I had gotten rid of it this summer, as it had been just too buggy and froze up too often on me) and uninstalled Opera.  I will miss several features of Opera, but want to be able to utilize the same setup as much as possible on both machines.  I have FireFox setup pretty much the way the I want it using the below addons:
moz-screenshot-1
Now I have to set the MAC up with the same ones and I will be ready to go.

Blogwriter:  The next to go was LiveWriter, I won’t be able to access it on the MLTI MAC, so even though it is very powerful and in my opinion the best blogwriter software out there.  Due to the above reasons, I have chosen to go with the Firefox addon ScribeFire.  ScribeFire has improved significantly, since I used it last year and I have written 4-5 posts with it today and it did everything I want it to, especially being able to resize my photos which was a huge problem for me in the past.  The biggest thing that I want to see improved now is their use of Zemantawhich still is not at the level of other application’s integration, but it will come I am sure.

Also as part of this I am starting to use the FireShot screenshot addon in place of VISTA’s Snip for image management to include in my blogs or to document something from a screen and I will probably have to figure out an online photo storage application like Flikr or Picassa, dependent upon what the school blocks or does not block.



PRODUCTIVITY SOFTWARE:
  I currently use Office 2007 and am very comfortable with it.  I have a feeling that I will have to continue using this to submit my Special Education paperwork, but otherwise will have to use the same things that the students have available on the MLTI MAC I will be issued NeoOffice, Pages, OpenOffice or cloud apps such as Google Docs or Zoho.  So it appears that I will be using a combination of the Office 2007, OpenOffice or Google Docs as my primary productivity application/software.  I would really prefer to use only one of them, but from what I am seeing now it doesn’t appear it will be possible initially.

These are actually very major changes in the way I will approach my browsing and application/software useage.  This is an effort to simplify what I use in the classroom prior to starting, because once I begin, I have a feeling that I won’t have time to do this kind of research and adaptation and want to have these applications/software already in place and being used, so I am familiar with their capabilities and quirks.  Now I just have to figure out what the school will actually block versus what I can access there.

I hope these changes work, but only time will tell…in December, I will do another post on what I found worked, what didn’t and needed to be changed, to allow me to more effectively teach and prepare special education paperwork properly.

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UPDATING MY SPECIAL EDUCATION RESOURCES

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

I have been busy today looking at different blogs, people to follow on Twitter and web applications/software to use in my transition back to teaching.  I have found several fantastic people to follow and especially want to thank

Deven you provided me with some great advice on the use of hashtags, which allowed me to find some really great Special Education Resources this afternoon.  THANK YOU!  This is the Personal Learning Network that I missed so much and enjoy coming back to.

The best Special Education resource I found today was Jennifer Laviano’s Connecticut Special Education Lawyer blog, it contains so much information on Special Education law and IDEA that I believe it is a must read for all older students, parents, educators and school administrators, not just Special Education Teachers or Directors.  She gives the perspective that educators/schools will face if a parent does bring a lawyer into the PET process and what kind of questions we will need to be able to answer, if we get to that level of contention.  Jennifer explains the laws in simple English and cites the references to IDEA to give more credence to what she says.  It is an outstanding resource for anyone involved in Special Education.

I sincerely hope that I never get to that level of disagreement with a parent/guardian, but it is helpful to know what kind of i’s need to be dotted and t’s need to be crossed to ensure that we have done all that we can do to meet the needs of the student and their family in the PET process.  I have a feeling that if I was on the other side of the table from her, it would be a pretty long day, if I didn’t have my ducks in a row.

I probably could have used her a couple of times when I was advocating for my daughter, when I was in the military and she was a Special Education student, it would have made things a bit easier. Now that I look back on some things that were done, with a bit of a different perspective that I have gained as a Special Education teacher and would do differently with this knowledge.

You will also notice that I include older students.  I strongly believe that students need to learn their rights and be able to advocate for themselves to the maximum extent possible and it is up to us as individuals and team members to help them get to the point where they can.  That is one of my soapboxes that I will not get down from.
My reintroduction to Special Education took a couple of good steps forward today and I feel as though I getting more prepared.  I definitely have a ways to go, but some of it is starting to come back as I read more and more stuff.

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HIKING ROUND TOP – BELGRADE, MAINE

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

This was such a beautiful day that we decided to play hookie on work around the house and go hiking on our favorite local trail.  Round Top up in Belgrade, Maine.  This was the first hike in a long time that I didn’t suffer afterwards.  Usually after each hike the back of my Right Achilles where I injured it in the roof fall almost two years ago is very painful.  I had suspected it was caused by the irritation of the height of my hiking boots and today proved that was the culprit.  I got a new pair of Earth Shoes that I can use as both work and hiking shoes and tried them out.  At the end of the hike (which has a pretty quick but steep climb in the middle) my leg didn’t hurt nearly as much.  Hopefully this relatively minor adjustment in equipment will now allow me to hike without having to pay the price for doing something I love to do.
Here are some of today’s pictures

Mary and Katie coming up the trail

Me sitting up on a big rock unfortunately you can’t see how big the rock was and the lighting was pretty tough

Animal burrow and it’s leavings right beside the trail.

Mary going up the trail

Interesting rock formation on the way up the steep part of the trail

Good picture of us

Good sized snake for up here in Maine, was over 2 ft long

Me beside a big rock that I had my picture taken the first time we walked this trail

To show that we were on the trail 🙂

We are almost back to the trail head (20 more minutes) and I just liked the lighting in this picture.
It was a glorious day for a hike and I am sure glad we decided to go instead of doing house/yard work.

hiking, hshawjr, Belgrade, Maine

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I ACCEPTED A TEACHING POSITION

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

Harold Sombrero picture 2008This has been a whirlwind week.  I had an interview with a Special EducationDirector and Principal on Monday for a position that came open the week that I told my boss that I was looking for a teaching position.  Then came three days of training at MEMA which were very intensive and last night when I got home from Portland, there was a message from a school superintendentto call to make an interview appointment in the morning (today).

I called at 8:05 A.M. and was told that my interview had been scheduled for 9:30 A.M.  I thought that the interview might be today, so had I worn my interview clothes to work and was ready very quickly.  Luckily I had my calendar was open all day so I didn’t have to cancel or adjust any appointments.

I went through the Superintendent’s interview and was offered a Special Education Teaching position at the school and I accepted.  The offer is contingent upon theSchool Board approving my selection, so I am in quasi-limbo for a short time, but I feel confident about getting the position.  I  understand the hiring process and the need for the Board’s input and approval, but personally I want this final part of the process to be over.  I know it will be soon and that I just need to be patient.

I do have some mixed feelings about leaving my present position, I really, really like the people I work with and feel bad leaving now, with all the changes and things that are coming down the road over the next 6 months.  However, they are all supportive of my decision, but are understandably concerned how my departure will affect them. That is the most difficult part of my leaving my present position, is the impact that it will have upon those I leave behind.  Despite those concerns I know that I am leaving at the right time for me – professionally and personally.

I am really looking forward to this change and I haven’t had any second thoughts about going back to teaching which kind of surprised me.   I thought when I got to the point in the interview of being offered the position that I would have some second thoughts and need to think for a couple of minutes, instead I didn’t think about or hesitate, I simply stated that I wanted to be a teacher again.  It just feels right to say those words.

So when I start whining about how tough it is or how nasty my students are please remind me that I choose this path of becoming a teacher again, when I could have very easily stayed where I was.  If anyone has any words of wisdom or advice for someone who it appears will be returning to the classroom shortly, I would appreciate them.
Now I have to get myself ready for getting back into teaching, which means I have to brush up on my Special Education law, get current on a lot of policies and procedures that have changed in the last year, learn how to use a MAC, figure out the curriculum I will be teaching and become familiar with the school’s literacy program theory and practice

Also if you have any thoughts or suggestions on an old Windows guy changing over to a Mac and how to most easily accomplish it, I really, really will appreciate your help.

Harold Shaw the almost teacher again, it sounds good to me.  One more thought, Thank You Anna P, without your help, this would not have happened.

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Universal Design for Learning

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

As I have discussed ad naseum lately, I am going back to the classroom and becoming a teacher again.  I can’t wait for my first day back to school, but I am wondering about the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) of my students.  What are their strengths and weaknesses, what are the social dynamics that are in play and how will I disrupt that dynamic?  Will it be an easy transition back to the classroom or rocky?   Those and so many other questions are running through my thoughts this weekend.

I have been hired as a Special Education Teacher and will also be responsible for English Instruction (ELA).  So I have been looking around the internet and reading a lot of blogs, eLearning, Dr. Janet Allen (they use a lot of her literacy program – so I ordered 3 of her books Friday night, for my reading pleasure and to get to know the theory I will be using in the classroom).

In my searches this morning I found the blog Thinking UDL – Universal Design for Learning by Anita Strang and was reading her most recent post Ableism: My thoughts 1 year later…

image

In this post was a video that really made me stop and think about the students we teach (in any class) and how we teach. Please take the 7 minutes it will take to watch it.


http://www.raisingsmallsouls.com/ is the URL for a clearer copy of the video.

Hopefully, this made you stop and think for a minute, it did me.  Thank you Anita for posting this video, it put some things back in perspective for me.  It is about the differences we and all of our students bring to the table, not making everyone fit the same pattern or mold.

Now to getting back to my teacher preparation or did my wife just say that I had to clean the cat boxes, ah chores before work/pleasure. 🙂

Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Please leave a comment below, so I will know your thoughts.

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STRENGTHENING YOUR FACILITATION SKILLS

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

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Image via Wikipedia

It has been a crazy week, but I was fortunate that I was able to attend the first a multi-week training session designed to improve my meeting facilitation skills.  The training is designed to give practical and experiential experiences on leading a meeting and below are the overall course objectives:

Overall Course Objectives

  • Learn care facilitation competencies
  • Observe facilitation challenges
  • Practice skills…experiential…receive feedback
  • Commit to build community capacity
  1. Facilitator Competencies – working on
  2. create collaborative client relationships
  3. plan appropriate group processes
  4. create and sustain a participatory environment
  5. guide group to appropriate and useful outcomes
  6. build and maintain professional knowledge
  7. model positive professional attitude

This short course can’t provide proper training on the different skills required of afacilitator and will focus on 1, 3, & 6 during this course.

My Group’s Definition of Facilitation:  “To effectively engage and guide a group  around a topic to reach a common goal or objective.”

Textbook Definition:  Facilitation is the design and management of structures and processes that help a group: 1) work together successfully 2) identify and minimize problems 3)increase effectiveness Justice F. Jamiseson, 1998
Facilitator 1) helps the group increase it effectiveness by improving its process and structure 2) Acts as a neutral guide who takes an active role in manageing the group’s process 3) Intervenes in a manner that teaches the group facilitation skills, thereby decreasing the group’s dependency on the facilitator.  Schwarz, 2002
Core Values that facilitators need work with:

  • Valid Information
  • Free and Informed Choice
  • Internal Commitment
  • Compassion for each other

Facilitation Map (or what I would call a stylized method

  • Opening
  • Clarifying objectives
  • Clarifying the role of the facilitator
  • Overview of Agenda and/or Process
  • Developing Working Agreements
  • The Body
  • Recap Outcomes
  • Confirmation of Consensus
  • and Next Steps

These are the things that all facilitators should attempt to perform in the role of leading the meeting, it ensures that attendees know who, what, where and when and provides a structure to follow during the meeting.
As a class we put together the following “Working Agreement” so that we could feel safe, free to learn and learn new things:

  • beginners mind is valued
  • full and balanced participation within the group
  • focus
  • clarity
  • context for learning
  • active listening
  • freedom to interact within the space
  • feedback is focused on concepts & ideas rather than people
  • honest & respectful interactions
  • be open to new ideas
  • minimizing distractions
  • inclusiveness
  • build in time to think and reflect independently
  • compassion to encourage participation (stop outside of comfort zone, but not forced)
  • have fun

Actually, I am enjoying this class, I found it interesting and it moved at a good pace.  I can see direct similarities between between a good teacher and being a good facilitator.  Both attempt to do most of what has been provided so far in the course and the working agreement that our class came to is a great set of classroomrules that would work in all classroom (my opinion).

I am looking forward to the next session.

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TWITBLOCK PROVIDED INTERESTING INFO

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

I took this link off the Twitter stream as it rolled past.  I have been concerned about who is following me on Twitter and if someone looked at my followers, who would they find there.  Here are the initial stats from TwitBlock

Twitblock 9-8-09

I had 389 followers with 30 blocks.  I then allowed TwitBlock to review my followers list and this is what I ended up with
image

I ended up blocking 125 of my followers due to them being definite spammers.  So I am now blocking 156 of my 389 followers.  I am glad that I ran Twitblock, it gave me an opportunity to control who is following my Twitter account and block those that I do not want following me.

Give it a try, you might be surprised.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Please leave a comment below, so I will know your thoughts.

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WHAT IS YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY?

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

The Death of Socrates (1787)

Image via Wikipedia

In my last year of teaching I developed the below teaching philosophy.

Educational Philosophy: I strongly believe that we have to prepare our students for their future by using differentiated learningtechniques, encouraging critical thinking skills and teaching them to have an open mind about new technologies and how to best take advantage of what future technologies will have to offer, not simply using what worked in 1995 or even 1925. I believe that we have a responsibility to teach our students a highly desirable job skill — how to solve problems rather than learn rote memorization skills by usingWEB 2.0 skills.

Now that I am looking to come back into teaching, this educational philosophy definitely needs some updating and I can see a couple of things that I will probably change as a result of having developed some different perspectives over the past year.

I do believe that my next teaching philosophy update should include teaching students – not subjects, use of technology as a tool to be used, not used just because it is cool, and something about it’s okay to make mistakes.  This are my first impressions on improving my written philosophy.

What is your teaching philosophy and why does it work for you?

Is what you actually do in the classroom different from what you have in your philosophy? If so why?
I am very interested hear from you and what your teaching philosophy is, have you looked at it and updated it recently?

Please leave a comment below, so I will know your thoughts.

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MOVING FORWARD – JOB SEARCH

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

Well I am entering into the actual search phase of my job hunting process.  As I have stated in a previous post, I know that finding a teaching position this time of the year will be pretty tough, but hopefully not impossible.  Searching through the job posting and web sites is a lot better than the old method of waiting for the Sunday newspaper or going down to the State’s Unemployment Office Career Center to try to find something.  That is what I had to do the last time I really was job searching and it really wasn’t all that successful.

This time I am in a position to network a little bit and found out about an opening at one area school this way, plus possibilities on a couple of other positions that are not education related, but sound intriguing.  So if I am unable to get back into education, they may be solid possibilities to consider.   There are jobs out there, you just have to be in the right place at the right time, hopefully that will be the case for me.  but I am lucky that I searching for a job, while I still have a job.

imageHowever, getting back to education – it is my first choice.  Since I have started this job search, I just feel very comfortable and more interested in reading education related articles and information than I do anything else.  As I said I am working on my Twitter follow list and have gone from just under 100 to 202 in five days.  I have added many of the “name” educators, but I really have been trying to follow the educators with fewer followers, it is easier to talk with them, just because they don’t have so many followers.

But I have found that even most of the “name” educators are more than willing answer questions when they have a minute.  They are after all real people, not just “names”.  It is good to see lots of familiar faces and names going by in my Twitter feed.

I think that is what I missed most is the teaching community that has developed on line.  The ideas, questions, comments, trying new things and opportunities to become a part of something that is bigger than just the local school does appeal to me.  The opportunities to learn from colleagues from different parts of the world, or the Country is a benefit, that I have not found as rich or satisfying in the other professions that I am currently a part of.  The ability to “shout out” to a Personal Learning Network to get an answer to a question quickly is so satisfying and enriching.

So those are some of the reasons for wanting to come back to education.  More to come…the other reasons why education appeals to me so much.

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GETTING BACK TO BEING AN EDUCATOR

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

Halloween 006
As part of my getting ready to become a teacher again, I have been going through myTwitter and Google Reader feeds.  I was surprised at the number of teachers and educational leaders that I still was following, even when I wasn’t a teacher.  I guess I was more interested in education than I thought and am headed back in the right direction.

I had a relatively small number of people following me on Twitter (almost 400) and when I reviewed it, I found a bunch of less than desireable followers (whom I blocked – when I realized they are people that don’t share my interests) and also found a bunch of educators who just never unfollowed me.  So I simply started following them again.  So I now have around 350 people following me and I am following around 130.  I expect that to go up as I get back into the educational Twitter Zone.

I also went to the MDOE website and downloaded a bunch of reading material, including the Maine Special Education Regulations.  If I am going to attempt to go back to being a special education teacher again, I need to know the new regs.  I had thought that the Maine DOE websites had a RSS feed on them, but I couldn’t find and feeds?  Oh well, I have them bookmarked and will keep coming back to them.

I have actually applied to a couple of special education teaching positions and wonder if I will get a response or at least the opportunity to interview.   Wow, I guess I am really serious about this going back to teaching.  I guess you have to get away from it, to see how much teaching really means to you.

It actually feels right to be reading all of the education tweets and blogs again, so many things have happened, but the same issues are being discussed – I guess some things don’t change that much in a year.
We shall see what the future holds, but I know in my heart that being a grant and contract administrator as my primary job function is not where I want or need to be.

School Year 2005-2006035Wish me luck on my adventure towards what I really want to be doing.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Please leave a comment below, so I will know your thoughts.

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