Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New Classroom Setup 2006-2007

After our presentation at FETC 2006, I received many emails from people asking for more information about how we went about setting up the classroom. People wanted to know exactly what we purchased for my classroom and how much it cost. While at FETC, my principal determined that she could outfit our new classroom with handhelds for about half of what it cost to setup my class. Here are the specifics about what was ordered and the cost to setup Paul's classroom next year. In my classroom, I also have two other pieces of essential equipment. One is a laptop computer and the other is a projector. I use them almost daily, especially when introducing new programs or setups to students.

935 First Avenue
King of Prussia, PA 19406
Phone 866-373-9162

25----Wireless Keyboards----@ 62.95----1,573.75
10----Stylus 3 paks----------@14.99--------134.90
Shipping & Handling ------------------------30.00
Total------------------ 8838.65


2---TC11S Charge,Sync TriBeam Stations-----@449-------849.00
(Discount 89.00 + 40.00 S/H)

TriBeam Technologies
116 W. Eastman Street, Suite 208
Arlington Heights, IL 60004

Phone 847-483-9901
GOKNOW (software - Sketchy, Fling It, ) Optional -

25---GO KNOW Perpetual Licenses----------2293.75

Tap Smart Handshare (Download from Internet - Allows you to project your handheld)

1-----Tap Smart Handshare-----------------29.95

Total==============$12,011.35 (with software)
A little less than 10,000 for the hardware!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Sketchy Contest

Okay, so I admit to being nervous when Friday, May 12 rolled around. It was the day that GoKnow would be announcing the winners in their Sketchy contest. My students reminded me to keep checking my email, and whenever the phone rang through into our class, SILENCE descended. Unfortunately, at the end of the school day, there had been no news.

As I sat completing paperwork after school, and visiting with a former student, I thought about when I submitted the files to GoKnow and that the deadline had been 5:00 P.M. It was getting closer to that time and I figured I would go and check out the GoKnow website to see if the winners had been posted. To my happiness, they were posted. I immediately clicked on the Math link to see if any of my students placed in the top 3. None did. Then I went to the Science category. None placed. Finally, I went to the Other category. Again, none of my student files. I admit to being shocked. How could NONE of my students have placed? Then I went and looked at the winners in each category. Now I realized what our weakness was with our submissions. We had no backgound on our Sketchy submissions and our animation was pretty much limited to the subject content. That's why we'll be playing more with Sketchy this week and learning more about backgrounds and animations.

I went to the Teacher link and noticed that Rhonda Drum, our Technology Goddess, had received an Honorable Mention for her Sketchy about The Theory of the Naked Cat. What I didn't notice at first was that my Sketchy was playing as the main teacher file. It seems my Sketchy placed first in the Teacher category.I was excited, but still felt sad that none of my students placed.

I guess my students from this year will just have to work on some storyboards and come visit next year so that they can work with Sketchy and do a submission as fifth graders.

I need to somehow get those files onto my webpage so they're saved and can be viewed by my students and their families. Unfortunately, when I tried to import them to this blog, there were errors and they wouldn't upload. Since there is more than one way to skin a cat, I'll be trying some of those others out. When I figure out where the Sketchy animations will be posted, I'll add a link to this post.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Go Know announced it's annual Sketchy contest a little while back and it was something I definitely wanted to do with my class. When I told them about the contest, they couldn't contain their excitement. Of course, hearing what they could win was a wonderful motivator. LOL.

When we started talking about the Sketchy idea, we brainstormed what ideas would fit well under the various subject areas. The majority of my class's ideas dealt with math concepts. I must admit that they really were paying attention when I taught this year. Many wanted to complete their Sketchy on how to complete something in math. Some ideas included adding and subtracting fractions with like or unlike denominators, adding with regouping, basic division with our without remainders, finding the median, etc.

I had a wonderful assistant with the Sketchy idea, Rhonda Drum, our Technology Goddess at school. The Sketchy started with students listing the steps for their concept on notebook paper. From there they transferred their information onto a storyboard where they could draw basic pictures of what would be represented on their Sketchy slides. Then the final phase was actually putting it into the Sketchy program. I shouldn't have been surprised when students started devising shortcuts and began sharing ideas with each other. Although they would be competing for the same prize in the contest, that didn't even occur to them as they helped each other when questions arose. It was a truly wondeful experience to take part in. I just sort of became the final checker when they "thought" they were done. I'd just sit back and say things like, "Did you check your spelling on slide 34?" or "When you look at your animation do you think it should be slowed down some?" It was terrific!

Of course, technology being technology, one can always expect something unexpected to happen. It started when I couldn't synch some of the files to PAAM at GoKnow. I started beaming Sketchy files to other handhelds so I wouldn't lose them in the craziness that was going on with my Hot Synch. On Wednesday, May 3, 2006, one of my students put the final touches on his Sketchy. We synched it to the laptop, but when we went to view it online, it wasn't there. When we checked his handheld, his Sketchy was GONE! It was nowhere to be found and we freaked! Luckily, I had his earlier version on my backup handheld and beamed it to him. He sat there and redid the Sketchy again. When we synched it, it DISAPPEARED AGAIN! We didn't rant, rave, and scream although that might have been a good idea. I beamed it back to him, he redid it for the third time, then I beamed it to my backup handheld. I thought it may have been a problem with a previous version of Sketchy, so when I went to synch his handheld this time, I indicated that I wanted to reinstall the program. Well, whatever I did worked and his Sketchy finally uploaded. What a relief! I couldn't believe how patient he was with what happened. What a wonder!

Our final Sketchy files were uploaded on the due date, May 5, 2006. Now, we're waiting to see if an email or phone call comes in on May 12, 2006, to inform us that someone from the class has taken a prize in the contest. I really think some of my students have a good chance of winning. It's just unfortunate that they are literally competing against each other.

Their Sketchy files are remarkable! I plan on using some of their work to help teach the concepts next year. I can just see when I begin introducing multiplication or division. I will beam the Sketchy to my students and ask them to review the information. They'll then have the file to utilize when actually completing activities in those areas. It will be great! I was really happy that students were able to take what they learned and can now become the teachers of the future with their Sketchy.

All that is left is for me to play with the files, follow the directions I was given by GoKnow, and successfully manage to upload the files so that viewers to my website can view the Sketchy files created by my students. I'll make sure to post a link when that happens.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

FETC 2006 in Orlando, FL

I admit it, I am OCD! I like having things organized well ahead of time and I like knowing that I have everything set up the way it needs to be. Dealing with FETC this year, taught me that I don't have to be completely OCD ALL the time. Our team knew we would be attending FETC at the start of the school year in August. Knowing that I would have months to utilize the handhelds in my classroom and collect information to share at FETC along the way was always in the back of my mind. Our team met a few times prior to FETC to plan our presentation, but nothing really needed to be done until after January 2006. I was very happy living in my FETC free world. Then the New Year came, along with report cards, conferences, FCAT Writes, and the FCAT test. Meeting about FETC was also moved to the front burner. Our original plan was to include my students in the presentation at FETC, since they are the users of the handhelds and would be able to give an unbiased truthful account of their experience. Unfortunately, the "powers that be" at FETC did not feel that having students attend their conference would be appropriate.

Needless to say, our presentation had to undergo a dramatic change. We wouldn't be having students set up at different tables offering insight into various aspects of the handhelds. As a result, the pressure of presenting slowly started to build up in me. Did I mention that I have NEVER presented at a conference before? Put me in front of a room full of students and I'm fine. But in front of a room full of adults, colleagues-NO WAY! The plan for our presentation developed during lunch at school one day. The idea was hatched to create a TOP TEN list of things we learned during our experience. Actually, it was more like a TOP TWENTY-FIVE list when we started. I actually had the notes we made written on a napkin. The funny thing was, when we met to start the "official" planning of the presentation, we couldn't truly remember what the notes on the napkin meant. Anyway, our Technology Goddess put together a PowerPoint presentation that listed out Top Ten Tips. We also wanted to offer a time for questions to be answered, but we had some questions we definitely wanted to answer. Our result was to have three of my students respond on video to the 3 major questions we wanted to have asked. It was adorable! I can only imagine what it would have been like with all 20 of my students providing answers to people who spoke to them.

Well, as I write this entry, I can reflect back on our presentation. It went well, and it wasn't as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be. My principal, Pat Donovan, and our tech goddess, Rhonda Drum, were up at the podium. I was at the end of the table near the presentation screen with a lapel microphone, and Paul was at the doorway distributing our information sheets. We had fun and tossed the "speaker" back and forth to each other. My students via video were a big hit! We got many laughs, too. I did have a question for the attendees prior to starting. I wanted to know who they were made up of. To my surprise, we had teachers, principals, school technology personnel, and district personnel attend our session. Afterwards we had several people approach each of us to ask more detailed questions.

Our presentation at FETC was listed as follows:

A Beginner's Guide to a Handheld Classroom
Barbara Preziosi with Patricia Donovan and Rhonda Drum

Cutting edge technology shouldn't draw blood! Learn through the experience of others as they share their journey through the handheld minefield. Practical advice and tips!

I really feel that we fulfilled our purpose. We shared our experience and it's been a great time with the handhelds. Attendees had some great questions, above and beyond the three we planted in the audience. Paul from Palm and Walt from GoKnow were in attendance and I was able to point them out to our audience, so maybe some other class will be able to benefit from our experience and get started on their own journey.

Now, all that's left for me to do about FETC is uploading our presentation and notes to my class webpage so attendees can access it. Unfortunately, I am unable to upload the file. Please email me if you would like our slides and presentation summary sent to you. barbara.prezosi@indian-river.k12.fl.us

Plus, we're waiting to hear if NECC wants us as one of their "Birds of a Feather" sessions in July in San Diego. I guess the fun never stops. This experience has enabled me to travel more in the past two years than I have in my entire life. It's so exciting!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

FETC 2006 Our First Day

As we drove from our school to the Convention Center in Orlando, we planned on what we would do once we arrived. First, we had to get our registration documents and badges, then we wanted to go to the exhibit hall. We had people to meet! We needed to go to the Palm village and meet "Paul Palm", the representative who has been remarkable since he was "assigned" to us. Paul was in as we stopped by and we had a chance to speak and look over some new handhelds that were on the market. Since my principal is interested in getting another class up and running next year, we wanted to compare models and cost. Palm has a new handheld out that has wireless capabilities built in. That means the users won't have to deal with the wireless cards like I have. That hasn't been a big issue with me, since my classroom isn't allowing us to hook into the wireless network at our school as of yet. We have an airport (lovingly named Lazlo) sitting in my classroom, waiting to be installed and set up.

Then we walked over and saw Tribeam, the company that provided the charging station for for my class. They also have a new product out in their charger line. They have an 11-dock charger (that can be attached to more chargers) that also completes the synching when you schedule it. This is a wonderful upgrade to a great product. The teacher who has this won't have to worry about having a student synch the handhelds, since it can be scheduled at a certain time of day, after the handhelds are placed in the charging station. Unfortunately, I won't be able to upgrade my model. But then, my charging station holds a total of 30 handhelds with two extra slots.

We returned to the Palm neighborhood and I found the GoKnow booth, being watched over by Walt Coatsworth and Dara. I can never say enough positive things about GoKnow. They are a people company, and they offer such customer service to their users. Walt mentioned that he was planning on stopping by our presentation on Thursday. As I was introducing myself over there, I heard a voice calling my name. It was Nancy Kokat from MathAmigo and she was in the booth next door. I was in heaven. Here I was in the midst of my favorite companies. It was so exciting to be able to speak to these wonderful people, and put faces together with their names and voices. After talking with Walt and Dara at GoKnow, I walked over and spoke with Nancy. She explained some items on the trial software she sent me that I can't wait to look at when I return to my classroom.

It's really a different type of experience when you can speak to representatives about their products. I had a very enjoyable time speaking with Paul, Walt, Dara, and Nancy. I felt more comfortable and confident since I had experience with products and could ask questions about what new things were in the works.

Now if I can only get through the presentation tomorrow without freaking out!LOL

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Synch or Swim?

Another important thing to get started when utilizing handhelds in a classroom situation is a synching routine. I didn’t get into one until late in the school year. For the first few months, I was the person synching handhelds on at most a weekly basis. When some students began to report “missing files” I figured it was time to get better at synching. Since we had Go Know’s PAAM (management system), as long as I was logged in while synching, the files on my handhelds would go to an online area where they are now stored. This is a wonderful resource to have on hand. I can log into PAAM from home and review work my students have done on their handhelds and not worry about having their T5 with me. I even have the ability to type comments online to students that they can view when they log into their accounts.

My system of synching isn’t hard to learn. I have one student who is always early to class, so I chose her to synch the handhelds. She comes in to class about 15 minutes early each morning and synchs 8 handhelds a day. This allows the handhelds to be synched every third day, since I have a total of 24 sitting in my classroom. When they synch quickly on any given day, she just continues. I created a log for her to use. The handheld numbers are listed down the left side and the there are several columns she uses to record the date she complete a Hot Synch. She continues in one column until all the handhelds have been synched, and then she starts a new column. It works out great and she has synching down to a fine art. I’m going to have her train two other students who come in early so the Hot Synch can continue if she is absent.

You can access my synching log at Preziosi's Pride.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Students as Problem Solvers

One item that kept coming up while students were working on their handhelds is that the wireless keyboards wouldn’t work. I taught them different ways to problem solve when they weren’t able to type with their wireless keyboards.

STEP ONE: Go into the actual keyboard program and turn it on. They are given a small area to verify the keyboard is typing. Then they return to the program they are working in and try it out. In the majority of the cases, this solves the problem.

STEP TWO: Sometimes, they turn on their keyboard in step one and it works for a short period of time. I have them close their keyboards and reopen them. This actually causes them to turn their keyboards off and on with the keyboard itself. It also offers a self-check because when they fold the keyboard, keys are hit and you can see the typing of random letters on the screen.

STEP THREE: Sometimes the keyboard won’t stay on from Step One. Students might hit on, but it immediately defaults to off. At this point, if all other steps have been taken, I just delete their keyboard file and beam them it again.

So far, these are the only steps we’ve had to take to solve our keyboard problems. When a student has difficulty with their keyboard, they don’t visit me unless they need Step Three. I do hear students telling each other to “Troubleshoot your keyboard.”

There is one problem that one of my students experienced with the wireless keyboard that I am unable to correct. The key for the 1 on one student's keyboard became detached while he was opening it one day. I've tried to hook it back on, but I just don't have small enough tools or enough hands to help out. Luckily, we have extra keyboards so I was able to assign him another one. I'll have to contact the company and see if they repair keyboards or offer a help site.