Posted by Jon Ketchum at 08:44:17 AM Tue 02/09/2010
Published by: Jon Ketchum
Jamie Mullenaux and her class of 4th grade students began their New Year with a resolution to put an Interactive Whiteboard on their classroom wall. In less than one month at Mechanicsville Elementary in Virginia, Mullenaux's students have raised nearly 70% of their targeted goal.
Mullenaux has been teaching fourth grade at Mechanicsville Elementary for nearly four years however this is her first year teaching an 'all-girls' class. According to Mullenaux, her school has been organizing single-sex classrooms since she began in an effort to better understand the achievement gap between genders in the elementary school. In turn Mullenaux has taken her new role as a personal challenge to engage and teach her group of eighteen girls using new technology.
"It is our job to prepare these students for the future," says Mullenaux. "This is especially important for me as an educator of an all-girls classroom because I feel that females aren't currently as prevalent in technology oriented jobs as some males may be."
Staying true to her goal of infusing technology around the calendar, Mullenaux continually booked the media lab so her students could use the school's only tabletop Whiteboard. Although partially broken, her students habitually returned from the lab asking their teacher when they could get a Whiteboard for their own classroom. Just before the Holiday Season, Mullenaux showed her students Digital Wish and asked them brainstorm ideas of how they could fundraise for their class. Soon after the students collectively decided to run a letter writing campaign asking friends and family for contributions towards their Whiteboard.
"It was great because it was also something that we could tie into our persuasive writing curriculum," Mullenaux says. "After I edited each letter, the kids sent them out and they immediately started seeing results."
Although Mullenaux admits that she didn't expect much of a response from the community when the letters first went out, she claims that she was beside herself when checks from local donors began rolling in.
"The first response we received was a check for $500 from one of the student's grandfather who owns a local business," says Mullenaux. "From that point on the kids kept receiving checks and we all began to realize that getting a Whiteboard was very possible through the support of family and friends."
With more checks in the mail Mullenaux and her students are certain that they will be hanging their new Whiteboard on their classroom wall in the near future. When that day arrives Mullenaux claims that the first order of business will be to play Nintendo Wii with her students.
"Honestly, all of my recent Digital Wish success can only be attributed to my girls," Mullenaux says. "Needless to say this experience has definitely surpassed my expectations."
Posted by Jon Ketchum at 02:40:50 PM Fri 01/22/2010
Published by: Jon Ketchum
In early October of 2009 Tim Foley, the Video teacher at Bennington Community Development Center in Southern Vermont challenged his tech-hungry students to a competition where more than just grades were at stake. In conjunction with Digital Wish, Foley asked his students to craft creative Public Service Announcements to help inform American educators about the Flip Video Matching Program administered by Digital Wish. As added incentive, Digital Wish granted two Flip Videos to the winning producers.
Making sure not to stifle the creative license of the students, Digital Wish gave Foley's students a project description with only three major criteria. Each video had to be shorter than 30 seconds; it had to deliver a strong understanding of the Flip Video Matching Program and most importantly; it had to be original.
Within the first week of the assignment, nearly all of Foley's students had crafted individual story-boards and presented them to Digital Wish staff members by video conference. Originality was plentiful as these eager High School students sat in front of the classroom's computer screen presenting early video concepts on scribbled loose-leaf paper. After pitching their ideas each contestant was given direct guidance on how to take their brainchild to the next level.
Consultation continued throughout the next month as Foley's students worked at completing a variety of unique, comical and inspiring commercials to help educate American teachers about the Flip Matching Program. Just before the holiday break, Digital Wish reviewed the final entries and decided on two projects that met all of the project criteria. Producers Austin Bevin, with her comical 'teacher-testimony' and Drew Johnson, with a visual representation of a 'student-testimony' took the crown.
Posted by Jon Ketchum at 10:06:30 AM Tue 01/12/2010
Digital Wish users submit over 20 Flip Video classroom projects for teachers to use with students.
an effort to showcase teacher ingenuity in the classroom, Digital Wish
recently held a video contest where we asked our users to show us how
they were using their Flip Videos with students. Teachers responded
with over 20 interesting and comical classroom submissions, ranging
from the well-scripted, student-produced news skits, to stop-action
To review some of the creative submissions crafted for the contest click here
Posted by Jon Ketchum at 11:39:39 AM Thu 12/17/2009
Published by: Jon Ketchum
With great advances in educational technology, the traditional “instructor” is quickly morphing into a congenial classroom collaborator. Much like the ‘coach’ of a unified sports team, this technologically savvy teacher triggers student engagement by offering a collaborative learning environment for their class.
Brian Greene is a teacher/leader who considers himself to be the 'coach' of his classroom. At Prairie Crossing Charter School in Illinois, Greene educates his students using what he calls 'unconventional tactics.' Through his many hands-on lesson plans and classroom field trips, Greene claims that he motivates his students to take ownership of their knowledge by trying to have them physically 'experience' it.
"Constructivist learning and the multiple intelligence theory are utilized to allow students to think out of the box and push the envelope in education," Greene says.
Within this atmosphere Greene claims that he is as much a member of his team as any other student, not only does he teach but he learns as well. In an effort to help his students share their growing knowledge and experience, Greene also strives to integrate technology into his classroom. Although his students actively navigate the Web and produce PowerPoint presentations for class projects, Greene hopes to start using webinars and podcasts to collaborate with students and teachers from around the nation. According to Greene, he is always looking for the next best way to engage his students.
"As the principal, staff, students and parents know that there is no challenge I will turn down if it means success for our students," Greene says. "We have so many 'cool' things going on at school; it is sometime hard to explain them all."
Prairie Crossing Charter School also prides themselves on their ability to physically 'think outside of the box' according to Greene. Often times students will paticipate in an outdoor classroom where they tend to the school's garden and individual student food plots. Greene claims that this physical learning environment reaffirms his classroom ideology that students will take ownership over their knowledge when they are personally invested in it.
"Every student is a part of 'Farm to Table,' which teaches our students about sustainability and agriculture," says Greene. "Students in each grade are in charge of planting, cultivating and harvesting a crop that they will turn into a meal for their fellow classmates."
Greene advises that the many teachers who still consider themselves to be ‘instructors’ should try and stimulate their students in new ways. He asks that teachers consider his teaching philosophy posted on Digital Wish, "We must put the power to think, create, develop and challenge into the fingertips of our children."
Posted by Jon Ketchum at 02:33:29 PM Fri 12/04/2009
Published by: Jon Ketchum
In late October, a Digital Wish donor named John Lintner paid homage to his community by gifting needed resources to his children's elementary school. Earlier that month, Lintner approached Marianne Williams, the Principal of Willard Elementary with the intent of making a technology donation to the school. Upon doing so Williams suggested that there was one item that was in high demand among her teachers; it was a Flip video camera.
"We had a vendor come in last year and show us the Flip camera and we were thrilled with it," the principal said. "At that time we cobbled together enough money to buy three or four of them for the building, you know how it is with budgets!"
As soon as Lintner became aware of the school's videos needs, he immediately searched the web and found Digital Wish through Flip's website.
"I was extremely happy to find Digital Wish," Lintner said. "Through the site I was able to contribute more than double the amount of cameras to my children's school."
When Lintner informed Williams about Digital Wish, she immediately told her teachers to register so they could continue fundraising for technology.
"I thought that this would be a perfect organization for my teachers and I to get involved with," Williams said. "Teachers list specifically what they want for their classroom and donors can then view a teacher’s exact needs."
Within a few days of helping her teacher to register on Digital Wish, Lintner had donated 24 Flip Camcorders to William's school.
"When the teachers and students found out that they were going to be receiving flip cameras through John Lintner’s donation they were absolutely beside themselves," Williams said. "Since receiving them they have been in constant use in the classroom."
Through his experience donating, Lintner claimed that one of the largest benefits of giving through Digital Wish was knowing that 100% of his money was going directly towards putting Flip Cameras into Willard Elementary.
"I would recommend Digital Wish to other donors for the same reasons I used the site; it’s convenient, easy, and you know exactly where your money is going."
Although Lintner said that his initial intent to donate to Willard Elementary was sparked by his willingness to pay homage to his local 'community.' Lintner's actions have in turn brought a new sense of school pride among the teachers and students that received his gift.
"Although my intent was to donate to the school," Lintner said. "The true beneficiaries of this donation are of course the teachers and the students."
Posted by Jon Ketchum at 11:05:48 AM Wed 11/04/2009
Published by: Jon Ketchum
Thinking back to the ‘glory days’ of my high school career I can remember four things vividly, my friends, my teachers, my homework and oddly enough, my worn backpack. Although the last nostalgic component may seem a bit out of place, this back-bound essential was my lifesaver. It was the one tool that would allow me to ‘mule’ my many textbooks between classes.
Because of the geographic location of my locker I seldom visited the storage space between classes. Instead, my canvas backpack doubled as a temporary supply stash between multiple periods. However, after just one week of toting my essentials everywhere I went, I dreamt of a technology that would remedy my then need for Bengay muscle relief after a long day at school.
My latent prayers were answered when the introduction of a student laptop, or netbook entered the education market recently. Not only are these ‘bite-sized’ machines easy to handle, they’re also an extremely effective ‘notebook.’ These machines enable students to create, publish and most importantly share class work no matter the curriculum. The sheer functionality of a netbook can foster great ingenuity and collaboration within any classroom.
Affordability is another tremendous feature of these lightweight student aides. For about as much as the typical student would spend in stationary over their 4-year high school career they could purchase a netbook. Teachers also appreciate the affordability of these classroom tools as they offer the perfect platform to engage students when introducing new concepts.
Needless to say, I am ever envious of today’s back-packless students, who can simply hold a magazine-sized think tank against their side.
Posted by Jon Ketchum at 03:50:24 PM Tue 10/27/2009
Published by: Jon Ketchum
Digital Wish will expand its teacher and donor communication through a grant received from the Adele E. Pierce Fund which is managed by The Vermont Community Foundation. The grant will go towards the production of a newsletter that will help inform the Digital Wish community about exciting site activity. These graphical monthlies will highlight Digital Wish news for our 19,000 current users and all future community members.
The award will allow Digital Wish to ‘keep in touch’ in a colorful and professional way. Keep an eye out for our first edition in your mailbox soon!
Posted by Jon Ketchum at 03:12:51 PM Tue 10/20/2009
Published by: Jon Ketchum
If there’s one thing that’s difficult for anyone to encounter when trekking through the swaying trends of technological know-how, it’s a steep learning curve. Whether you are a self-proclaimed “technology native” or “immigrant,” it is seldom easy to ratchet on a new set of training wheels to learn the ‘next’ new system.
There are some organizations however, that purposefully develop new technologies to meet the needs of nearly every ‘adopter.’ In my observation, these companies are successful in their outreach because they do 3 things well; they offer products that have a purpose, products that are user-friendly and most importantly, products that are fun.
There is one company in particular that has mastered the art of ‘reaching out’ to a varied audience. With the release of their inexpensive point and shoot camcorder in 2007, Flip Video single handedly demolished the latent learning curve associated with operating a video camera for its users. Their “plug and play” product was fresh, fun and easy to use, providing certain satisfaction for anyone willing to hold the device in their palm.
User-friendly products such as the Flip Video are especially useful in the education sector because they offer needed ‘clarity’ for both technology immigrants and natives within a collaborative center, the classroom. Consequently, these well-packaged systems fuel many new thoughts and ideas for both learners and teachers furthering a student’s education.
Because the Flip Video is a practical system it is also a practical tool. Often times, a routine lesson plans is given new life when a new technology like the Flip Video is introduced. Instead of handing in a report for only the teacher to read and learn from, students now have the potential to craft projects that an entire class can learn from. In essence, these user-friendly ‘tools’ help inspire new learners, giving them a sense of exploration and ownership over their work.
In retrospect, ‘we’ are a divided group of technology adopters. As such, we should all hope that ‘plug and play’ products will continue to be readily available for our use as new systems come and go. Maybe then we can ditch the training wheels once and for all and rest assure that our learning curves will forever be slight in their inclination.