Tech Fix

I needed a tech fix today. Some people have particular vices they turn to when the time comes – thankfully for me it is some techie thing, which is not so bad in the big picture (compared to other vices…). What satisfied my need is a nifty Acer C720P Touch Chromeook. I’ve been contemplating a Chromebook for a while now, and decided to pull the trigger. The nice thing is that for most Chromebooks, the trigger is not too big to pull (financially, that is).

Acer C720P

On first startup, I have been impressed. You have to login to a Google account to get started, and it is easy to do. As soon as I logged in, all my “stuff” was right there.

The feel of the keyboard is a bit mushy for my preference in typing, but we’ll see how that plays out in the longer term. I usually like the feel of firm, responsive keys.

I purposely paid a little extra for a touch screen – this concept fascinates me. This model does not fold flat and inverted with the keyboard underneath as if it is a flat tablet, but the touch screen is a nice extra. I wonder how much I will actually use this feature – more to come on this.

The Chromebook is extremely light, and still firm to hold. The touchpad seems very responsive, and there are 2 USB ports and an HDMI port for external video. All seem like nice-to-haves. Again, only time will tell.

I am looking forward to pushing the Chromebook to its limits!

My Answers

Taking the questions from the previous post, Questions for Thought, I am going to turn the tables and take a turn as if the questions were posed to me. The framework for my answers sometimes relates to how technology supports learning, since that is the focus on this site. Here we go…

1. What do I need to know about you? An analogy I like to use is marathon runner – steady dedication to the task at hand is what gets results. Careful, long-term training and practice will reap rewards in the end. Being keenly aware of your surroundings, and seizing opportunities when they arise, are the benefits of keeping skills honed. I did run one marathon, and was successful – not fast, but successful. The regimen I put in place paid off, and I enjoyed the process. I hope to run another marathon someday to prove it was not a fluke – I enjoy running in general.

2. What do you need from me more than anything else? From anyone I work with, communication is what I need most. Simply ask for what you need, and if you are unsure of how to do something technologically, just say so. Don’t be worried about what anyone thinks – say what you need and we can get it done.

3. What does success in the classroom mean to you? Students who produce original, meaningful works that they are proud of. Watching the expression on a face when a student shows off their video is an example.

4. What do you know about how people learn? I know that when it is something they WANT to learn about , almost anyone will do whatever it takes. For example, a student wanting to learn some Minecraft tips will figure it out quickly using a Google search (just ask my son). A student trying to make a robot turn to challenge his Lego Mindstorms partner will figure out which switches need to be put in place to make it happen. A student trying to figure out the changes to Coltrane’s Giant Steps needs to make it just between him/her and the music, but this video doesn’t hurt (unless the video is used totally in place of the ear!):

5. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done? I’ve done some tribute videos for colleagues that I am really proud of. The storytelling that goes on when you build video is really fun. You have to go on a hunch, gather whatever resources you can, and go for it. Click here for one example on this site.

6. How can technology be used for learning? At this point, in 2015, the question is really how can technology NOT be used for learning? There are, and always will be, times when technology is not directly involved in learning (reading a good old-fashioned book, for example) but it is right there to support learning (tweeting out favorite quotes from said old-fashioned book, for example).

7. What does it mean to understand something? When you can verbalize what you know and don’t know about a topic, and are comfortable attending to what you need to figure out in order to better understand it.

8. When was the last time you’ve solved a problem? Last night with some pesky screw holes that were rounded out. I needed to fix the hinge so the cabinet door would work again…

9. How do you respond to expectations? I do everything in my power to meet them. Professionally, I place great emphasis on meeting the needs of those I support, and work as well as I can to get the job done.

10. What is your proudest moment? Watching students succeed in their endeavors. For example, three students I worked with were recognized two different times in the CSPAN StudentCam Competition. They worked hard, and the results were great. StudentCam is an excellent competition as it provides a venue for students to pursue and share their voice on important issues.

11. What do you want to learn about? The Great American Songbook, hands down. I’ve only scratched the surface of what transpired in the first half of the century regarding the development of music. The GAS is an incredibly deep and rich treasure that is worthy of ongoing enjoyment and study.

12. Are you a picky reader? What are your strengths as a reader? I am not a picky reader – rather I am a willing participant in a story and am happy to let the author take me where he/she wishes. I am not sure if I can verbalize strengths – I enjoy reading, and wish I devoted more time to it.

13. What is your personal philosophy? Pick something, and go for it. Life is to short to worry if it is the right choice – if what you decide to do is not the way to go, that truth will uncover itself before too long.

14. When do you write best? When I have mental room – as in a few hours where it is just me and the keyboard. Having time to digest and create (and find links, appropriate media, etc.) takes time.

15. What’s worth understanding deeply? See #11 – The Great American Songbook. Speaking of which, here is a sample of a tune I studied for a while – The (Boy) From Ipanema. A great twist on a classic, performed by Diana Krall and Rosemary Clooney, with John Pizzarelli on guitar! Note this is an unofficial YouTube upload – it may disappear at any time…

16. What are your best habits as a thinker? Repetitive thinking – I like to revisit big ideas over time to see how they last. Good ideas stand up over time, and pass the “fresh look” impression. In other words, if an idea or product is good, it gives that “good feeling” vibe the next time it is looked at, after a bit of a break. One does not always get the luxury of taking a break to reflect on an idea, but it never hurts. In the world of de Bono’s six thinking hats I think this is red hat thinking – feelings, intuition, and hunches. But, they are delayed intuition, not immediate, so maybe it is more blue hat, or process, thinking.

17. What’s most important to you in life? Supporting others, and bringing people together.

18. What is the relationship between learning and #17? Supporting others in their pursuit of learning is fundamental. Bringing people together to learn really rocks.

19. Where does your inner drive come from? I think fundamentally from my mother. She was always working on something, doing something, or LEARNING something. She never made a big deal out of it – she just did it.

20. Who are your heroes or role models? Don Quixote comes to mind – he is selfless and single minded in making the world a better place. The acting delivered by Peter O’Toole certainly contributes to the effect of the storyline in the movie version, too. Speaking of movie characterizations, Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka is another great one. His delivery of O’Shaughnessy’s famous line is memorable – “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

21. Why study (insert your content area here)? Because (insert content area here) is worth knowing about! In my position as an Instructional Specialist for curricular areas outside of my personal expertise, I have gained valuable insight into those ares. For example, I have a far greater understanding of the value of and need for Family & Consumer Science instruction. Michelle Obama said it very well in the article linked here.

22. What are you good at that nobody knows? Riding rollercoasters with really big drops. I don’t think this is a skill, but I consider it a talent to enjoy being launched at 120mph and head 400 feet into the air.

23. What do teachers sometimes misunderstand about you as a learner? I am a quiet student, and my tendency to not always verbalize sometimes leads to others thinking either I’m not interested or do not have an opinion.

24. What does it mean to study? Revisit, gain clarity, understand more deeply.

25. How do you respond to complex texts or digital media? It depends – if the text is complex because it is dense with difficult content and terminology, it takes time to digest. I find it hard to keep concentration when this is the case – Edwin Gordon’s seminal book in music education, Learning Sequences in Musiccomes to mind. I needed a nap after every paragraph to process it!

26. If I get out of your way this year, what will you be able to do? Be out in classrooms, supporting learning!

Questions for Thought

I recently was introduced to a great post written by Terry Heick last year around this time, 26 Questions Every Student Should Be Able to Answer. The questions are terrific, and get to the essence of what the teacher/student relationship should be about. Moreover, they are the same exact questions to be used in an administrator/teacher relationship. Or any learning relationship. The questions are basic enough, but powerful enough, that they provide the fuel for excellent classrooms. Great teachers and students already implicitly search for/provide this information, but the list is extensive and thinking about them in an ongoing fashion is a very good idea.

I do not have too many “wall-hangars” (items which I feel are important enough to print out and tape to the wall above my desk). As soon as I read this one, I clicked print immediately.

These questions feel like they are stuff for future posts, focusing on my personal thoughts for specific questions. For now, here is the list. My top question as a supervisor going into a new school year? Number 26, for sure.

1. What do I need to know about you?

2. What do you need from me more than anything else?

3. What does success in the classroom mean to you?

4. What do you know about how people learn?

5. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?

6. How can technology be used for learning?

7. What does it mean to understand something?

8. When was the last time you’ve solved a problem?

9. How do you respond to expectations?

10. What is your proudest moment?

11. What do you want to learn about?

12. Are you a picky reader? What are your strengths as a reader?

13. What is your personal philosophy?

14. When do you write best?

15. What’s worth understanding deeply?

16. What are your best habits as a thinker?

17. What’s most important to you in life?

18. What is the relationship between learning and #17?

19. Where does your inner drive come from?

20. Who are your heroes or role models?

21. Why study (insert your content area here)?

22. What are you good at that nobody knows?

23. What do teachers sometimes misunderstand about you as a learner?

24. What does it mean to study?

25. How do you respond to complex texts or digital media?

26. If I get out of your way this year, what will you be able to do?

Tink, Tink, Tink

That is the sound of me tinkering with my blog. I’ve missed the writing and thinking it makes me do. You’ll notice the new look (Twenty Twelve by WordPress) – it is supposed to be more mobile-friendly. There are lots of things to learn about how WordPress behaves on devices that have arrived in the last couple of years, so bear with me as I tinker around here.

Pardon the dust as this shop hopefully reopens…

Welcome

Welcome to Point A to Point B, a place I am proud of. It represents my thoughts and ideas over a span of seven years (2004-2011) while I was a technology integration specialist. I have moved into a different position, and am concentrating my efforts in different ways.

The hiatus is over (see post below). I am closing this shop, but not taking it down. I think this site has, and may continue to, provide value. At the very least, it is a chronicle of progress for me. Since I am reframing my own point a and point b, there may be a future iteration of the site if and when the time seems right.

If you find yourself here, welcome. I’m glad you stopped by.

Taking a Hiatus

I’m going to take a break from writing/updating here at Point A to Point B. As I move into my new role as an administrator for both the Arts and Career and Technical Education (CTE), I continue to enjoy the writing and reflecting I do, as well as providing useful information to those I work with. I am beginning to feel that there may be other ways (sites, channels, forums, etc.) online to do this, and am going to take a while to figure that out.

In the meantime, you can see what’s on my mind through my Twitter feed or my Diigo library.

Arts in Amherst, New York

I have been thinking about the many opportunities for experiencing the arts. Since I am the arts administrator for the Williamsville schools,  I started looking around for the places within the Town of Amherst one could go to find arts performances and/or installations (artwork, museums, etc.). With the help of Google Maps, here is what I have come up with so far:


View Arts in Amherst in a larger map

There are many opportunities in Amherst, and I’m sure there are more, but lets take a look at some of the major categories.

Since I work for one of the public school districts in Amherst, let’s start there. If you check out the calendars for high school arts events in the Amherst, Sweet Home and Williamsville school districts alone, there is enough to keep one busy and thoroughly entertained throughout the year. From concerts, to art shows, to musicals, there is outstanding young talent pouring out of our local schools.

Two diverse and unique museums in the Town of Amherst are the Amherst Museum, located in the very northern tip of the town, and the Museum of disAbility History, located in the southern west corner.

As their website states, you can visit the Amherst Museum to:

Experience 19th-century life on the Niagara Frontier and tour historic homes, churches and one-room schoolhouses on our beautiful 35-acre grounds with exhibits on local history, textiles, art and the Erie Canal.

The Williamsville District Art Show is held annually at the Amherst Museum. It is a great way to show off our talented students and also bring the community to a great venue within the district. I had the opportunity to tour the museum grounds this summer, and was incredibly impressed by the grounds and potential for other performances there. They also have many special events and themes throughout the year that are geared for all ages.

The Museum of disAbility History is:

“…dedicated to the collection, preservation and display of artifacts pertaining to the history of people with disabilities.”

The museum has a unique and important mission and provides many community events to support education about people with disabilities. You can read more about it in this article from the Amherst Bee. The also sponsors the disAbilities Film Festival and Speaker Series, held at UB each year.

In the music arena, The Amherst Symphony Orchestra is a cornerstone in the town. They have an outstanding lineup of concerts each year while in residence at Amherst Middle School. A community group with ages ranging from high school students through seasoned retirees, the ASO is a fantastic group to listen to when you have the opportunity. In addition to their regular concert season, you can find the ASO each summer at the Amherst Museum for their “Music at the Museum” concert.

If theatre is your preference, Amherst is home to at least three theatre companies with regular schedules and performance spaces. Simply by driving down Main Street from West to East, you will pass the MusicalFare Theatre, Academy of Theatre Arts, and O’Connell and Company. These companies provide opportunities for young and old alike to participate in and/or enjoy an array of diverse productions.

A conversation about arts in Amherst would not be complete without reviewing the many resources available in the University at Buffalo (UB). From the flagship Center for the Arts, to Lippes Concert Hall, to the UB Art Gallery, UB is a driving force in the arts community. Since the Center for the Arts opened, it has become a major player in Western New York for attracting top arts events.

So, if you were to lay out an annual calendar and pick just a few events from each of the organizations outlined above, you would find yourself in artful bliss just about every day of the year. In many cases, you would be double- and triple-booked on the same day. Now I am not saying for a moment that one should stay within the limits of the Town of Amherst for great arts. My point is to simply take stock of the multitude of opportunities within a few minutes of the front door.

I can’t wait to soak up some great arts in Amherst!

A Space is Worth a Thousand Ideas: Word11 at the CSI Annex Toronto

Work area at CSI Annex

Imagine walking into the space above to learn. That is what I had the opportunity to do at Word11 in Toronto this weekend. Word11 was an event for bloggers to get together to learn and share about the purpose and business of blogging. The space is the Center for Social Innovation (CSI) Annex, one of two (soon to be three) properties run by the CSI.

Center for Social Innovation, you wonder? It is a community workspace. From their site, the CSI intends to:

“… catalyze social innovation in Toronto and around the world.”

Regarding the space, CSI states:

“Shared space forms the bedrock of our model. Being physically together is what sets the conditions for new relationships, new projects and unexpected outcomes.”

Shared working spaces are popping up all over the world. Check out the article, Collaborate, Create, Co-work, from the August 2011 issue of Go magazine. The article highlights co-working spaces in the U.S. including Sandbox Suites (San Francisco), Coop (Chicago), and WeWork (New York City).

Bloggers at Word11 were a collaborative group by nature, and the energy coming from the interactions was awesome . I had the opportunity to speak with a diverse array of people and found all the conversations rewarding. I definitely put myself in the casual blogger category, and the stream “developing the casual blogger” had many great talks. It was great to interact with such talented professionals and entrepreneurs.

It is no surprise that that the CSI Annex was the location chosen for the event. It got me to thinking about what if school spaces were designed like this? What could happen if students were able to cross-pollinate their ideas in collaborative setups, instead of like this:

Now I am not saying that every classroom is like this – that is simply not true. However, by and large, the design of schools built more that 30 years ago (which is most schools) have inherent space issues (aka walls) that inhibit the flexible, dynamic setup seen in co-working environments.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills just recently released a new publication and video titled Above and Beyond. The idea is to foster thinking about what they call the 4 Cs of 21st century learning: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Here is the publication:  4 Cs Poster

And here is the video:

I know where I really want to work and learn, and I think our students want (need) such spaces as well. Thank you, Word11, for organizing such a great event in such a great space!

Image credit: BYU Observation Classroom from Cherice on Flickr

Off to Word11

I am excited to be going to Word11 in Toronto this Saturday, which is affectionately titled the blogging event of the century. It is a 24-hour  venue for bloggers to listen to speakers during the day, and get into serious writing/sharing/geeking out overnight. I’m only doing the day gig, but the whole thing sounds cool. Word11 is the new Toronto-area version of the previous WordCamp Toronto, which was a great experience. I’m looking forward to what the day will bring!