Friday, September 22, 2006

Picture This!
Digital Photography in the Classroom and Beyond

Say cheese!

As part of our drive to improve access to digital resources at WMS, we've begun to consolidate our school digital cameras into one loaner pool -- now available through the labs. Today we discuss using these cameras to enrich your teaching units and team activities.

Taking and using digital images in the classroom is a snap! Whether your goal is to help students liven up their own brochures or posters, or just capture memories of the year for the bulletin board, here's some tips on using digital cameras in your teaching and learning:

1. Take 'em! Digital cameras are generally point-and-shoot -- that is, they have at least one camera setting that allows you to use them with little to no training. (Usually, this camera setting is depicted as a tiny green camera icon on the little wheel next to the power button.)

That said, for the best pictures, remember these tips:
  • The default photo settings on most digital cameras work best from between 3 and 15 feet away from your subject.

  • To focus an image, push the shutter down halfway, and then release, before taking your shot.

  • In default mode, digital cameras will automatically detect when the flash is necessary. Nevertheless, picture quality is still best in well-lit conditions. And, to avoid photo glare, don't put your subject in front of a reflective surface!

  • Use the motion capture setting (depicted as a tiny running stick figure) for clear photos of fast-moving experiments, activities, and kids!

2. Take more of 'em!Worried about getting the most out of your photo shoot session? Film is infinitely reuable, and our cameras hold over 100 pictures each -- so take more pictures, not less, and you'll have the best "shot" at finding the perfect picture in the next step of the process!

3. Save 'em! Windows XP recognizes your camera as just another storage drive, so getting your digital pictures from camera to computer requires no specialized software. All you have to do is plug it in, turn it on, and you're ready to go!

From here, to save your images for easy viewing and use, open "My Computer", find your camera, select all, and drag the whole set of pictures into the appropriate folder. Viewing the pictures while they're still on the camera runs out the batteries pretty quick, so we recommend you do this first, before looking at your pictures!

To make storing, finding, and sharing school images even easier, we've created a folder for all school images on the network (it's the one called "Camera" in the TeacherShare folder under My Computer). Saving pictures there allows easier access for all throughout the school year -- and you can share pictures with everyone in the building within minutes of taking them!
Hint: Your friendly technology specialist is also the yearbook advisor, so he's especially happy to unload your pictures into the network folder for you -- just ask!

4. See 'em! With Windows XP in our classrooms, browsing through a folder full of digital images is a snap!

To view all pictures in a folder as thumbnails, browse to that folder, then go to the "view" menu and select "Thumbnails".

From here, clicking on any picture will automatically open the Microsoft Picture Viewer software. The arrows at the bottom of this screen will allow you to browse through your pictures one by one.

Other options available from Microsoft Picture Viewer include printing (a tiny icon of a printer will open up a "Wizard", which walks you through the print process), and editing (clicking on another tiny icon below will open up the photo for editing, where you can crop, fix red-eye, and edit to your heart's content).

Want to show your startime or team all the pictures of their recent field trip? Microsoft Picture Viwer even has a function which allows you to show all the pictures in a folder as a slideshow! Just open one image, and then click on the tiny icon of a projection screen that appears below it, to run through all your images automatically while you stand back and watch. For easy group viewing, just borrow a data projector beforehand!

5. Use 'em! The new color printer adds real value to our use of digital imagery in projects and other school activities. Printing out pictures is as easy as sending them along to the color printer in Lab 2; from there, you can have students add them to posters reflecting an in-class lab or activity, or just hang them up on the board to decorate your space. (But help us conserve ink -- please be selective about what you print!)

Of course, keeping your pictures digital for a while has its uses, too. Moving selected pictures to the student network folder for your class allows students to incorporate images from their lab activities into the project to follow. Imagine, for example, eggs-periment lab photos featured on the covers of the student publisher brochures that follow, or high-quality images of students in victorian garb decorating their powerpoints and posters after Dickens Day, and you get the idea.

Interested in reserving a digital camera or two for an upcoming project, field trip, or special class day? How about a short tutorial on how to use 'em? A brainstorming session on how to integrate digital photography into your class or curriculum? Email Joshua, or stop by the lab, to make arrangements!

Friday, September 15, 2006

From Screen to Page
WMS Printer Protocols 2006-2007

Pretty soon, we will each have the following network printers installed on our computer:
  1. the copier in the faculty room
  2. the color laser printer (WMS_Lab2_CLJ3800)
  3. the black and white lab printer (WMS_Lab1_4250)

The faculty room copier should be set as your default printer. PLEASE do not change this setting! This copier is the cheapest to maintain, especially for multiple copies.

The black and white lab printer (Lab 1) is in the back of Lab 1. It can be used as a back-up if the faculty copier is down, and may also be useful if you are bringing a class down to a lab for project work.

The color laser printer (Lab 2) was a teacher appreciation gift from the PTO. As discussed at our recent faculty meeting, we have placed the color laser printer in Lab 2 (just inside of the door) because we believe such placement is the best way to ensure the best support and guidance for all your printer needs.

The color laser printer prints beautiful, almost photo-quality 8.5 x 11 documents, and can print an entire class worth of Microsoft Publisher brochures in about a minute!

HOWEVER, ink for the color laser printer is VERY expensive -- it requires four different ink cartridges, and each costs well over $100.

In order to ensure that these resources remain available for all of us all year, we are asking all teachers to use the following protocols when printing.

WMS Printer Protocols, 2006-2007

1. Please make good choices about when and whether to print in color!

2. Please print all rough drafts in black and white wherever possible.

3. DO NOT have students print directly to the color printer. Instead, to collect and print multimedia and student projects:

  • Create a TURN-IN Folder for your project in the appropriate place on the student network. (For example, Mrs. Phelps might make a turn-in folder for her first writing assignment at
    H:/Firebolts/Mrs. Phelps/A Block/Project1_TurnIn.)

  • Show your students where to save their final work. (I usually write the network path on the board.)

  • When the turn-in date arrives, for easy, "one-step" printing:

    1. LOG IN to the network as YOU.
    2. OPEN “My Computer”, open the network folder marked “student on WMS,” and navigate to the appropriate turn-in folder.
    3. CHECK the folder to make sure all student work is there.
    5. PRINT!

4. Feel free to send students down to the lab to pick up your printed documents, or come get ‘em yourself -- but please don’t leave your printouts overnight!

5. Unless you make previous arrangements, please do not print sensitive documents to the lab printers – students may be watching!

6. If you wish to print to a special kind of paper (transparencies, card stock, photo paper, labels), please check in advance to make sure the printer will take it! You’re welcome to leave your paper with Joshua or Lorry beforehand, and then call (or send a student down) when you're ready to print so they can load the paper into the printer for you!

7. Got printer woes? Can’t connect? Now that you can print and access your documents from any computer in the building, your short-term solution may be as close as the room next door! Don’t forget to fill out that tech support request forms...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Teaching With The Electronic Word
Part 1: The Cut and Paste Mentality

In the 1995 book The Future Does Not Compute, author Stephen Talbott identifies what he called the "keyboard paradigm" -- that is, the way in which writing with computers affects the quality of both writing and thinking:

For example, the ease and rapidity with which I can cut and paste enables my hands to keep up much more closely with my mind, but also encourages me to reduce my thinking to the relatively mechanical manipulation of the words I see in front of me. To edit a text, then, is merely to rearrange symbols. Existing symbols and their "self evident" relations, [and] not the thinking that makes symbols, becomes almost everything. (Talbott 186-187)

It's not just you. A decade later, as the first true digital generation hits our classrooms, we are seeing the results of that paradigm, and it's not always pretty.

Our students cut and paste without thinking more often than we'd like to admit, rearrange where they should rewrite, and -- as a result -- have increasing difficulty telling the difference between their own words and those of others.

The "cut and paste mentality" is part of why we've seen more plagiarism this year than last year. It makes it difficult for students to understand when, how, and why to cite and acknowledge the work of others. And the paradigm may underscore what some of us see as a gradual downslide in overall writing quality at our grade level.

Luckily, we're here to help.

Today, some classroom strategies for addressing plagiarism, proper citation, and just plain helping a digital generation develop better writing and research habits.

  • Make your expectations clear. Will you accept printed pages when you send students home to find a definition, or must they put those definitions into their own words? It may seem obvious to us that a printout isn't okay, but our students genuinely think differently after years growing up with computers. Making these expectations clear early and often avoids confusion.

    Also, of course, clarifying boundary lines makes everyone's life easier. In your class, what counts as plagiarism? Academic dishonesty? District expectations are laid out in the agenda, but our library and information specialists are always available to help work with your students on these issues in the classroom, and/or as part of their library or lab activity.

  • Help students understand why. Clarifying your expectations for appropriate use in the context of larger issues (such as the difference between knowledge and wisdom, and the ideas of intellectual property and authorship) helps students research with more confidence, gives them a clearer sense of what is required of them, and reminds them that understanding an idea or concept is at least as important as phrasing and presentation. More, it helps them make connections between their academic life and their social use of technology, such as music downloading and online communication, which empowers them to better create and share ideas in all areas of their lives.

  • Keep prewriting. Type 1 and Type 2 Collins writing generally don't include high-formal language. Seeing formal language in type 2 writing assignments, for me, is a hint that students may be copying right from a source.

  • Consider requiring handwritten early drafts, homework, and other informal assignments. It may seem counterintuitive to require handwritten work in a digital age, but the keyboard paradigm as Talbott presents it includes a scary thought: students may not edit their work as much when it LOOKS formal on the page as they type. Since computer fonts look more formal by their very nature, students may not even think as much when they type as they do when they write by hand!

    There are many benefits to requiring more handwritten work. For example, if students must actually pass their thoughts from page to screen as they rework and rewrite, they are more likely to think through the material...and thus more likely to produce better writing in the end.

    Handwriting has added benefits to student development, too. Students who have more practice handwriting for your class are more comfortable handwriting in testing situations. Students are also less likely to be multitasking (such as IM-ing their friends) when doing their homework for your class if they are doing so away from the computer!

  • Learn how to identify "cheating sources", and let your students know you can! For example, I always show my students how I can type an exact phrase from a paper into Google to find almost any plagiarized source...catching cheaters in seconds never fails to impress! (See previous blog entry Mastering The Googleverse: Searching by Key Phrase for more on how to do this!)

Got more ideas to share? A relevant anecdote from years gone by? Questions? Comments? A wonderful lab activity, or a request for classroom instruction on today's topic? Leave a comment below, email Joshua, or stop by a library or lab to plan your activity today!