Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Came Early

Christmas came early to the ninth and tenth graders this year. In the first week of November, all freshmen and sophomores received their very own computers to use for schoolwork. In the past month, teachers and students have been enjoying the ease of access and quick response time of the Dell Chromebooks that our school received as a result of a grant. Students take their Chromebooks home with them and have them available in each class for research, writing, creating, collaborating, and studying. The seamless integration with Google Classroom has been fantastic for all involved. When asked how things are going with their new devices, ninth and tenth grade replies include:
"It's great having a Chromebook in school because it's easier learning. Since I'm in high school, there are many papers/essays I have to do. So it's nice having my own Chromebook to work on the assignments."
"What I like best about having the Chromebook is that I can send my teachers the homework I have done."
"I like being able to use it at home when I can't use our home computer. I like being able to relax while I type my papers/essays."
"It's fast and easy to use." 
"I really enjoy it! It's a great tool!" 
"I like that, since it is a Chromebook, you don't have to search on Google for Google docs, drive, etc. You can use the search key and search up anything on Google and get to your Google apps much faster and more easily. I also like that if you put the screen down, the document is still up when you go on the Chromebook again. " 
"I like how we can work on the computers without coming to the computer lab." 

Chromebooks have arrived!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

There's a "National (fill in the blank) Month" for everything

It's true, whatever your passion, there's a month for that! We just finished September which was National Guide Dog Month as well as National Honey Month. And not only that, there are national days for just about everything. In October alone, you can celebrate National Mad Hatter Day, National Moldy Cheese Day, and National Reptile Awareness Day (to name just a few).

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and this includes cyberbullying. As our children live much of their lives online, they can experience bullying or become a bully in surreptitious ways. Those being bullied online may be afraid to tell anyone about their hurtful experiences; they may be embarrassed or ashamed. Those doing the bullying may be saying or doing things that they would not consider if they were face to face with their victim. The bullying can happen through texting, email, social media, smartphone apps, and in numerous other ways.

At CCS we care. Our computer instructors teach digital citizenship and encourage students to be kind online. Technically we monitor and filter the internet usage of our students when they are on campus or using school resources. The well-being of our students is a top priority for us, and we realize that both the bully and the victim need emotional and spiritual healing.

Parents can help. Talk to your children and teens about their online relationships. Keep devices out in the open at home. Be aware of behaviors that signal that there may be something wrong. Common Sense Media has some excellent resources for parents. They answer questions such as: What is cyberbullying? What should I do if my child is being bullied? What are some apps that stir up drama in school? How do I monitor my teen online without "spying"? What is digital harassment? and many more. also has some great resources.

So this month take the time to learn more about this topic. And you can also celebrate Fire Prevention, Pit Bulls, and Vegetarian Awareness (though not during the Chicken BBQ!)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

2015: A Chromebook Odyssey

I have some very exciting news regarding technology here at CCS. I wanted to be sure I had all the details before writing this post. It all started last spring when our Development Director at that time discovered a grant that was being offered to receive Chromebooks for classrooms.

Chromebooks are small laptops that are very easy for students to use. Students simply sign in to the laptop with their school email address and all of their documents, websites, and Google classroom information is instantly available!

We shared with EdTechTeam, the organization offering the grant, the reasons why we wanted the Chromebooks and submitted a video as was required by the grant. Then we waited. A few weeks ago I received an email from EdTechTeam. Out of hundreds that had applied for the grant, we were one of three winners for the second quarter of the year! I had a video conversation with the president and CEO of the company, and he agreed to give us enough for every 9th and 10th grader at CCS to have a Chromebook! That is a total of 53 of these incredible devices. Our longterm goal is for each high school student to have one.

A huge thank you to Anthony Alexander in 9th grade for catching the vision that I presented to him and being the solo actor in the winning video! Check it out below.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Change is good!

Every new year brings new changes. This year we moved the middle school computer lab to the elementary school. How exciting for elementary teachers to have easy access to a lab where they can take their students to do research, write, and create!

Elementary Computer Lab
The middle school classrooms now have netbooks and Chromebooks in easy-to-access wall racks. Students will be able to grab a device and interact with the lesson material in many different ways. Quick assessments can be made by teachers as the lesson progresses. Collaboration, creation, thinking, problem solving, and communication will be enhanced with the use of these computers.

Middle school and high school teachers will be using Google Classroom for assignments so that students can access their work from anywhere and turn in their work online. No more problems with forgetting homework or leaving it on the bus. A student can easily start something at school and finish it at home.

So, it's good!  All good! Changing, learning, growing.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sitting Around the Fire Pit

Let me piggyback on my last blog. I recently was part of a conversation in the faculty lunchroom that included one teacher describing a lovely evening with her family sitting around the fire pit in the back yard just talking together, no smart phones, no tablets, no television, just family. Then today, I read this article about how to deal with a 12 year old technology addict. The two together reminded me yet again that in 2015 we have lots of choices to make, and how we use (and limit) technology is just one of them.

This week we observed the National Day of Prayer. Students gathered in groups of all ages and prayed together. Gathered around the warmth of God's truth and keeping Him in the center of our decision making will give us direction in all things, even how we use the digital media that pervades our lives. That is what it's all about.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Is there a "No Tablets at the Table" rule in your house?

Sometimes we might just have to take a digital hiatus. Put away the smart phone, Put down the tablet. Hibernate the laptop.  Just pretend it's 1995 and we have to communicate in person!

We love technology at school.  We use it to supplement the curriculum, to engage the students, to improve productivity. All of that is good!  But, the human connections, the eyeball-to-eyeball interactions, the modulation of the voice as we share something important, those cannot be lost. They are too important.

So this weekend, next Tuesday night, or some morning when you decide to go out for breakfast as a family, ban the bits and bytes and just talk. You'll be glad you did.

This video is available here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Will you Lose your Family History to "bit rot"?

As a lover of photography and somewhat of a technology "geek," I spend a lot of time with digital information. My photographs are stored on my computer (and backed up on an external hard drive) and my communication is in email, texts, and Facebook messages. My calendar is linked to my Google account and my cell phone.  It is all so convenient and available at my fingertips. But... will my grandson be able to see those digital photos, or will his computing device not read my .jpg files? My mother has old letters that were written by her uncle during World War I.  Will anyone be able to look back at emails that today's soldiers send home to get a taste of the conflict in the Middle East?

Some years back on April Fool's Day, Google posted a new product: Gmail Paper, a service allowing customers to archive emails to paper and have them sent to them at their homes. A joke, yes, but it does cause one to ponder. Once your email provider goes out of business, what happens to all of those missives you sent to your child at college or your mother who was away taking care of her own mother?

This is my great-grandmother Pearl and me,
a photo captured on film and printed
on real paper (then scanned for this blog!)
Recently I began going through my digital photographs and printing out the ones I like the most, the ones that tell the story of my life in the years since I put down the film camera and picked up the digital one. My daughter creates a hard cover book using her digital images every year. She fills it  with the memories of that year in a way that will not disappear. Even 100 years from now, her great-great-grandchildren will be able to pick up that book to see what life was like in 2015.

A recent presentation by Vint Cerf, vice-president of Google, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in San Jose, California, highlighted the possibility that, "piles of digitized material – from blogs, tweets, pictures and videos, to official documents such as court rulings and emails – may be lost forever because the programs needed to view them will become defunct."  Cerf calls this "bit rot."  Scientists are working to figure out ways to be sure that we do not lose vital pieces of history to the obsolescence of the machines needed to read them. I find that fascinating!  So, go ahead and print out those photos, make books, store some valuable writings on real paper.  Let's not lose our legacy to bit rot.

I highly recommend reading the article about Vint Cerf's presentation. It is well worth the time.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Smart(?) Phones ~ What Can Parents Do?

When I was a child, the only phones we had were the ones attached to the wall, one upstairs, and one downstairs.  They had no screens (only the Jetsons could see the people they were talking to) and pretty much anyone could hear what you were talking about.

Yes, things have changed.

Younger and younger children now have access to a whole world by looking at a device that fits in their pocket.  The technology has raced forward, and sometimes parents are spending all of their time playing catch-up.  This morning I heard an article on BBC World Update about an organization (The Raising Awareness Project) in the UK that interacts with young people and their parents to "raise awareness about personal safety and prevention in areas of rape and sexual assault." Pretty heavy stuff.  What caught my attention was the fact that most of the inappropriate and explicit material that young people are accessing is being viewed on smart phones. This got me thinking. We set up filtering on our computers at home, and the school network has filtering and monitoring in place; but when young people access the internet from their phones through AT&T or Verizon, then what?

Of course, simply setting up filtering is not enough. Age-appropriate open communication with young people must happen. Common Sense Media has a number of resources for parents as does Focus on the Family. Technology, like anything else in our world, must come under the authority of Christ in our families and our lives. He is not surprised by anything. He is not old-fashioned. He knows more than we do about what is out there on the internet and what our children are exposed to. He is the ultimate Wisdom in an increasingly complex world. I am grateful to belong to such a big God!

I have collected some resources for you to access on this topic:

Focus on the Family - Parenting Resources (When Children View Pornography)

Common Sense Media - How Do I Talk to My Teen About Sexting?

CNET Article - How to Keep Smartphone-Using Kids Safe (a 2012 article, but still relevant)

How to Set Up Parental Controls and Content Filtering on Android Phones

How to Set Up Parental Controls and Content Filtering on iPhones

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Inline image 1Two of our elementary teachers, Mrs. Brenner and Mrs. Caley, attended a technology conference in early December. One of the ideas that they brought back to CCS was a formative assessment tool called "Plickers."   According to the app's website, "Plickers is a powerfully simple tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices."

Mrs. Caley explains, "Students each have a numbered code card they can position to answer a question. The teacher scans these codes via an app on either the iPad or iPhone to gain instant data revealing student understanding of material or to survey the class on predetermined topics. Students love it!"

The Plickers website encourages teachers to use the product to "tailor instruction with instant feedback" and to "use Plickers for quick checks for understanding to know whether your students are understanding big concepts and mastering key skills." Wow, instant feedback to give insights to teachers so that they know how to proceed with further instruction!
This is just one more way that technology can enhance both teaching and learning!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wonders and Wires

Years ago, schools relied on books and chalkboards and pencils. Teachers taught, students listened. Today, the wonders of the digital world are available to the youngest of our students. If my grandmother were to enter one of our elementary classrooms today, she would be astonished at what the children were doing. No longer are students just sitting ramrod straight in chairs and simply repeating what their teacher tells them.  Pupils easily navigate on ipads, computers and interactive white boards. Teachers integrate digital tools with traditional ones, working with small groups and one-to-one while other children investigate, experiment, and read individually or cooperatively with all manner of media. This all runs smoothly! 

Most of the time...  

Every now and then the bits, bytes, and electrons that are vital to the digital flow of information stop moving the way that they should. Somewhere there is a breakdown and it is time to investigate, diagnose, and repair. The problem can be mysterious and utterly frustrating.  But it is never impossible!  Last week a stubborn and baffling internet issue interrupted connection for only a few specific computers. On Friday morning, as a few of us gathered to pray together, I asked for prayer for this very situation, knowing that God cares about everything we face. By the end of that day, with some help from our technology consultant, Steve, I had some ideas about what could be done to solve the problem and had restored connections for everyone, at least temporarily.  On Monday, Steve came in to the school and we re-arranged some switch connections, identified which wires went where, and ended up with an even more robust infrastructure than we had before the mini-crisis. This did involve some "head-in-the-ceiling" detective work!  (Thank you, Steve) I am grateful.

So let the wonders continue, and as even more new technology enters our world and our classrooms, God will continue to be at the center of it all, and He knows where all of the wires go!