Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Starting an Elementary Tech Club

I am looking forward to starting an 8-week tech club at one of the K-4 elementary buildings that I support.  I want to give students the opportunity to choose their own learning path with a guide on the side to assist where needed.  My hope is that by exposing them to various web tools and programs (available via our Windows PCs), they will bring ideas back to their classrooms and ask to incorporate these tools in their projects.

Question:  What is the best way to use web2.0 tools with 9 year-old 4th grade students that do not have email addresses?  If I want to introduce them to tools such as Animoto, Prezi and Voicethread - should I create a generic account and share that login information with the group?  Since I'm hoping that students will work on projects in between our meetings, is it acceptable that they log on with this class account from home?

I'm anxious to hear your thoughts/experiences!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Student Empowerment!

Yesterday during indoor recess, I stopped in a classroom to introduce some third graders to Google Earth (side note - don't expect 3rd graders to get off Coolmathgames.com to learn about a new tool!).  Anyway, when I entered the room, the substitute teacher told me that two of her students wanted to ask the principal for permission to access a certain website.  I approached the students to see if I could assist since the principal was out of the building.  They told me that they wanted to access Minecraft.

At the time, I thought Minecraft involved a download, but they told me that they could log in directly through the site.  So I asked them to take me to the website (which they were SUPER excited about).  Soon, I found out that the website was blocked by our filter.  I asked the two 3rd grade students, "Do you think Minecraft is an educational site that can be used in school?"  They started spouting off tons of reasons, one of which involved "learning about how two animals kiss to make a baby" (what?!?)  After hearing their multitude of reasons, I suggested the following idea:

"Why don't you write a letter to the principal and our tech director, listing the reasons why you think Minecraft should be allowed in school."  The kids reactions were priceless.  "Really!?!  We can do that?!  We can tell them.....<more excited spouting of reasons why Minecraft should be allowed, none of which I understood since I'm just becoming familiar with the game>."

I asked the kids to get a piece of scrap paper (never saw students move so fast to get paper) and wrote in the center, Why Minecraft should be allowed in school, to get them started on their web.

Me:  Do you know about persuasion?
Students:  Yes!  PIE - persuade, inform, entertain!
Me:  Yes, you've identified the 3 reasons why people write.  The purpose of this writing is to persuade.  You can write down your ideas or make a presentation on the computer and I'll help you send it to the principal and our tech director.

With that, indoor recess was over and the kids didn't have time to work on their web of ideas.  I will check in on their progress next week and encourage them again if needed.  I wish I could have captured their excitement when the students found out they could impact the allowance of Minecraft in school.  How do you empower your students to take action on something that they're passionate about?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Digital Storytelling with Kerpoof

First grade teachers at one school in my district have been using the KidWorks writing program for years.  This computer program is very child-friendly and helpful in teaching students how to write before they can spell.  Unfortunately, the program developer has not continued to support this product and it's been difficult finding a replacement.  My district moved to Windows 7 over the summer and this KidWorks program could not make the move with us (it IS compatible with Windows 98, if you're wondering!)  For the past year, I've been on the lookout for a tool that works in a similar capacity to KidWorks.  Obviously, I've been looking for something web-based.  If you know of a product or tool, please let me know!

In the meantime, we will be experimenting with various free digital storytelling programs.  The easiest one for the kids to use this early in the year is Disney's Kerpoof.  No log-in is required and kids love creating their story scenes!  The first-graders had minimal trouble resizing and dragging/dropping.  Although the teacher modeled how to type a describing sentence, most of the students were just interested in creating their scenes, and that was okay with us for the first day of independent computer use.  I will say that the text box is not very user-friendly since kids have to delete the "type here" text and it defaults to uppercase.  Also, if the text extends off of the page, it does not wraparound to the next line.  Anyway, I wanted to share one of the scenes that a first-grader created today (see below).  Check out the expression in her sentence!  I can't wait for students to learn about the speech bubbles which automatically appear when you insert a character.  What are other ways that you use Kerpoof in the K-2 classroom?  Also, do you use Storybird, Little Bird Tales or Storyjumper?




Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's All About the Connections



Yesterday was an amazing day at Edcamp Philly.  It was my third time attending, and despite the fact that I'm neck-deep in work for my School Law course, I find it hard to pass up a free opportunity to learn and connect with other educators.  I am still struggling to multi-task on my iPad, even with the 4-finger swipe, so I used my phone to catch the Twitter chat (although I can't say I was an active tweeter during the day). I benefited most from the conversations I had with those around me - some who I met for the first time, some who I "knew" from Twitter, and some who I "knew" from the annual Edcamp run-in (i.e.  "Nice to see you!  I can't believe we weren't in any sessions together this year!").  The after-party at City Tap House gave me a chance to have one-on-one conversations with others about topics that were touched upon throughout the day.

I spent the latter part of the evening going through Tweets from the day (btw - has anyone archived these?) and exchanging messages with @BrdCmpbll about his session (shout out:  THOR).  I'm involved in too many social networks to count, but there's still something to be said for bringing people together in-person for an event.  By establishing face-to-face connections, I feel like I will be more connected with them through Twitter.  It also makes me thankful that I'm a member of PAECT, for it gives me the opportunity to re-establish these face-to-face connections on a monthly/bi-monthly basis.  I'm already excited for our Tech and Tacos event coming up on 5/31 - maybe we will continue some of the conversations we started at Edcamp?  

For me, Edcamp is an invaluable experience that is hard to put into words.  I always leave inspired and full of ideas (speaking of which, how am I supposed to focus on completing a legal summary of a liability case study today?!)  I look forward to bringing these ideas back to my colleagues and staying connected with the Philly Edcampers through Twitter.  Learning is one thing, but implementing is another, and that is when I rely on the support and expertise of my PLN.  Thank you to the organizers and sponsors for making this day possible - I will see you next year!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wireless Edtech 2011

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Wireless Edtech2011 in D.C with a colleague.  I had no idea what to expect as we headed to the conference, although I knew I was intrigued by the following:
  1. The diverse group of attendees (leaders in business, education and government) 
  2. The topic (reforming education and breaking through barriers to enable mobile broadband for all learners)
  3.  The cost (it was FREE!)

I am blogging about my experience with the hope that you can benefit from the resources I gathered.

Memorable quotes:
  • "We don’t bank the way we used to bank or shop the way we used to shop, but we teach the way we used to teach." - Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools
  • "It's not about 'how do I use this technology' but 'what do I build?'" - Kathy Spencer, Onslow County Schools Superintendent (NC)
  • "We don’t want more laptops - we want engaging learning environments for kids."
  • "We have to get past doing more (in the classroom) and start doing things differently.
  • "We used to have to go to school to learn.  We don’t have to do that anymore." - Matt Spathas, Parent and Community Leader, San Diego
  • "What is the purpose of the Dewey Decimal System?" - HS Student
  • "We don’t just need new gadgets, we need new business models."
  • "One thing NCLB has taught us is that what you assess is what gets taught." - Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education
  • "The learning environment outside of schools is more powerful than the learning environment we currently have in schools." -Tom Carroll, President of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future
  • "We are moving from an 'I Teach' to a 'We Learn' paradigm." - Elliot Soloway, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, University of Michigan 
  • "We cannot put a jet engine on a stagecoach and expect good results" - Chris Dede
  • "The need to memorize is a 20th century skill. The need to navigate and trust information is a 21st century skill." - Pearson
  • "Being digitally literate is essential to participate in our economy"- Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the FCC


Valuable Links:

New Learners of the 21st Century - Short, powerful video about today's learners

Speak Up Survey - A national research project that your district can participate in!  Act quickly - this year's survey closes 12/23/11.  This project provides FREE surveys to gather data about 21st century learning from all district stakeholders.  After February, your district can access the results and compare them with the national findings.

Office of Innovation and Improvement - Did you know this existed in the U.S. Dept. of Ed?

Educational Assessment Technology Standards - HALLELUJAH!  Glad to know this is in the works!!

Digital Learning Now - Recently started in 2010, this is a national campaign to advance policies that will create a high quality digital learning environment to better prepare students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers.  Check out your state's digital learning report card!

State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) - Forum for inter-state collaboration, cooperation and best practices.  The SETDA Projects tab is informative.

World Bank EduTech Blog - A World Blank blog on ICT use in education.  It's interesting to see how technology is being harnessed in developing countries.    

Friday Institute for Educational Innovation The mission of the Friday Institute is to advance education through innovation in teaching, learning, and leadership.  Click on the "21st Century Teaching and Learning" tab so see all the projects in development.

Maine Learning Technology Initiative - Maine seems to have it all together.  This site is filled with all kinds of educational resources.  I like the MLTI Minute.

CoSN Mobile Learning Initiative - Great resources for planning to integrate mobile devices in your school district.

My biggest takeway from the conference is that my district needs to specify what it wants students to know and be able to do.  Notice how I didn't mention technology.  Once we set student goals, then we can discuss the infrastructure needed to support their achievement.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

100 Book Challenge Blog?

A school in my district may be participating in the 100 Book Challenge where each student is challenged to read 100 books throughout the school year.  Instead of just logging the books, I thought it would be neat if each child blogged about the book he/she read to apply some higher-order thinking skills.  What would be the best way to set something like this up for 400 K-4 students?  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Where do we go from here?

It's always nice to talk with people in other districts to find out how they accomplish the same tasks as you. I met someone yesterday at a barbecue who works in another district in my county.  The topic of communication came up - and to no surprise, it's a struggle in both of our districts!  There are too many different forms of communication going on that it makes it difficult to stay organized and up-to date.  I'm referring to everything from communication to families as well as communication from administrators to staff members.

During our conversation, I found out that this teacher has access to shared drives on the district's network.  He collaborates with his coworkers on documents, presentations, budgets - you name it.  He's been doing this for years.  He's also the head of his department, so he puts curricular items in his department folder for his colleagues to access.  I've been asking about shared folders in my district for a couple years.  We don't have any.  I've been told it's a management issue, since no one would really be managing the folders.  I know lots of districts that have Sharepoint or a shared folder system in place to provide an accessible spot for staff members to find resources.   Everything in our district is communicated via email.  Everything.  Staff members are constantly saying they can't keep up with their emails.  I don't blame them!

Here is my question/dilemma:  My tech department has been 'working on Microsoft Live@EdU' for close to 2 years now.  The decision to move to Live@Edu was not made by Curriculum and Instruction. It was made by the tech department because it ties in nice with active directory.  Yes it offers a ton of storage space and the ability to share files and folders.  Is this the right tool for what we need?  Does GoogleApps work the same way?

Here's my vision:  I would love to implement a file sharing system where users can be members of groups (similar to Facebook) so when a file is added to the "Math department" folder - members of that group would be notified.  I'm not talking about a message like  Ning where it says "A new post has been made in this group."  I'm talking about a message that communicates the name of the file and provides you with a link to go right there.  Or maybe they don't have to be notified, but once they login, they can see this under "recent activity" (like a newsfeed).

I don't think users should have to log into that system in order to upload a file.  I feel that is 'one more step' that teachers have to take.  Just like on a shared network, you would click "Save as," it should be that easy for teachers.  The wiki collaboration that I tried did not work because teachers had to take extra steps to upload their files then add them to a page.

Am I asking for too much?  I know we need a file sharing system in the cloud so teachers can access from anywhere on or off the network.  I feel that this would enable our teachers to start collaborating!  What are your thoughts?  Do you have something in your district that is working?