Course 5…

19Jan11

Thinking about Course 5… and a way to integrate technology into the classroom.

I’ve known for a while now that I want to use technology in our upcoming science unit, The Garden. I’m not sure exactly how I want to do it, but I’ve been looking at our T.A.I.L. Standards to help me gather some ideas.

I want to put cameras into the hands of my Kindergarten students. This will include learning how to handle an expensive piece of equipment. I want to expose them to a brief photography lesson; for example, the difference between a good photograph and a bad photograph. We do a lot of sketching and recording in our Garden Unit, so I know that this can be easily integrated.

I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with the photographs and that has me a little stumped. Uploading their photos onto Flickr requires a few too many steps for my five and six year olds to handle. I think I want a place where the kids can get feedback from their parents, and we can open up our learning community.

I’ve thought about a variety of mediums: VoiceThread, Twitter, a blog… but I think I want to create class Facebook page. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I’m hoping that the parents in my class are already on Facebook. If not I might have to reconsider…

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Writing.

18Jan11

Let’s talk about writing.

Since graduating from college, I’ve probably written a handful of essays, only because I’ve continued to take courses.

But I probably average anywhere between 10 and 25 emails a day, and a blog post every so often. I’ve written numerous cover letters, resumes, and emails to potential employers… but noone really taught me how to write any of these things. Why is that?

Why is it that we teach our kids to write essays but noone teaches them how to write in real-life?

I ran across this post under the “freshly pressed” section sometime ago and had to laugh at the emails written by this college student. Not only is it embarrassing, but it’s incredibly difficult to understand. Someone teach this kid how to write!

Even though I’m a Kindergarten teacher, I assistant coach two varsity sports and have read enough emails written by high school students to know that we’re not teaching kids how to write an email.

As we move towards students writing a blog, are we teaching kids how to write a blog post?

Everyone has a different style of writing, but look at Michael Smith’s Principal Page (The Blog).

He’s one of my favorites. Some of his sentences aren’t even sentences, but more like fragments. I can’t even find a paragraph. But his message is clear and interesting to read.

So what are we teaching students to write?


Things Change.

18Jan11

Achieving Techno-Literacy is an article from the NYTimes I read a long long time ago.

One thing that has stuck with me since reading this article is this:

Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.

Things are changing all the time. Newer versions of your “new” gadget will be released even before you learn how to fully use it. So get used to being a beginner! There’s nothing wrong with always learning.

This quote isn’t just about technology. I’ve started to think about it more as an attitude…

I’m about halfway through my third year of teaching. At the school I work at, I definitely still fit in the “novice teacher” category. But I’m OK with it. One of my strengths is that I’m okay with being a beginner. It doesn’t frustrate me that things are constantly changing, and that I will be asked to try new things I’m not familiar with. I actually welcome this. Challenge me! Bring it on!

What does frustrate me is people opposed to change. In an environment where change is a constant (I work at an international school where both students and teachers come and go every year) and in a time where education and technology are moving faster than we can keep up, being stuck in your ways is old and boring.

Things change. Get with the program!


Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction is an article that was published in the NYTimes at the end of November. Since then, it gained a lot of responses from the education and technology communities. Here is my two cents that I never published:

 

Lets talk about the population of students today who are “distracted” by the technology that surrounds their everyday lives: Facebook, YouTube, video games, texting… the list goes on and on.

The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.

Decades ago, students were “distracted” from school work by television or talking on their phones (that were connected to the wall, of course). How is YouTube and cell phones any different?

Vishal Singh is a high school senior who faces this common challenge. He plays video games 10 hours a week, updates his Facebook status in the middle of the night, and is known for distributing YouTube links to his friends. Despite his teachers who claim that Vishal is one of their brightest students, his grades are dropping.

But Vishal is also his family’s tech support. He can recover lost files on his father’s computer, and help his mother build her own website. His access to technology has allowed him to discover one of his passions: filmmaking.

Are we really raising a generation of students that are going to be “wired differently”? What does that even mean? Are we disenfranchising an entire generation because they are capable of things that adults still can’t figure out?

Is it possible that when students like Vishal enter the work force, skills like successful multi-tasking and rapidly switching tasks will not be considered valuable?

And what are Vishal’s parents doing to monitor and guide how he spends his time out of school? What are the consequences for playing video games and not doing your homework?  Is it really fair to judge Vishal on his choices if his family is not helping him learn how to manage his time?

“He’s a kid caught between two worlds,” said Mr. Reilly — one that is virtual and one with real-life demands.


2011.

18Jan11

2011 is already here and I’m behind four blog posts?!

How is this possible? I’m a good student and I always turn my homework in on time. This can’t be!!

It certainly isn’t a great way to start a new year, so I’m attempting to catch up ASAP.

 

Blogging marathon, ready, GO.


Connected.

12Dec10

 

In September, Jeff said in his TEDx talk Community Trumps Content that, “Our students are being suppressed today.”

Turn off your cellphone.

Get off Facebook.

Stop texting under your desk.

 

I was born in late 1985. There has been a computer in my house since I was in the sixth grade. I’ve had an email account since I was eleven or twelve. I’ve had a cellphone since I was 14. I’ve had a Facebook account for six years.

I’ve been connected to the internet for over half my life.

And regardless of how old you are, most of you are connected, today, whether you like it or not.

As Jeff says, “Society today expects you to be connected.”

So why is it that our students today get so much backlash for growing up digital?

I don’t think we really realize; these students will never know a time when they weren’t connected. I know parents who have Gmail addresses for their kids in Kindergarten. They don’t use it yet. But they will. Soon. I saw one of my former students, now in first grade, talking on her cell phone just a few weeks ago. These kids, our future generation, will be connected in some way shape or form for as long as they can remember.

Often times I hear “kids today are on Facebook all the time” and “they can never let go of their cellphones”. What is this digital divide?

Wouldn’t you be frustrated if your phone suddenly stopped working? Or if your work email went down without any warning?

These are inconveniences to many of us because we understand the expectations of our present day society.

But our students don’t know what it means to not be connected.

So why are we forcing them to disconnect?


/s/

17Oct10

And my final project….

As I mentioned in my last blog post, learning about visual literacy got me thinking about the images I use in my daily teaching. I wanted to try something that incorporated photographs that would better capture my five-year-old audience, especially because I have so many English language learners. In the past, I’ve done picture sorts that look like this.

I never really thought about the power of one image and how can I can integrate good presentation skills into my classroom. I tried to incorporate a number of things I learned in Steal This Presentation to this lesson:

1. Have a killer opening slide – Hey, I tried with vivid use of color

2. Use a trendy color mix – Thank you colorlovers.com!

3. Use stunning visuals – Thank you Flickr!

4. Get your text right – I stuck to the same font and color scheme (all except the last slide, but that was on purpose)

5. Use CRAP – Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity

7. Share my work – Thank you Slideshare!

I really wanted to focus on visually stimulating photographs that would help students come up with words that start with /s/. My hope is that I can later refer to these pictures to help students make the connection that the letter “s” makes the /s/ sound.

The COETAIL class helped me come up with the idea that I should have the class help me come up with more words that start with /s/ and look for images that correspond with the word on Flickr. My students couldn’t do this on their own, but it would give our class an opportunity to talk about crediting other people for their work and how to search for images we can use.

It’s important to me that my students have many exposures to language, so a lesson like this one would only be a supplement to the many phonics lessons I would teach over the course of many days.