Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Graders Proved me Wrong - and I'm Happy About It!

I must confess - first graders proved me wrong today.  I've been working with a first grade teacher on research projects that are based solely on the topic that the child wanted to research.  One girl wanted to learn about Copernicus, so that's who she is researching!  In addition to learning how to gather information from the computer (World Book and some other kid-friendly search engines) the teacher wanted them all to create a Powerpoint presentation.  She created the 15 page template and designated where students should insert their information.  I questioned her - asking if she was sure she wanted all 15 slides in the Powerpoint - she said yes.  I asked again, "Are you sure?"  She was determined to set the bar high and see how far her students could go.  I, on the otherhand, thought, "You are crazy!"  I told her this too (we have a good relationship!).

We had 6 adults in the computer lab - the teacher, myself, and 4 parent helpers (thank goodness for parent helpers!).  Prior to the lesson, I dropped the template into each student's folder (which they had never seen before).  So at the beginning of the lesson, I had to show them how to navigate there.  Then, I modeled how to do specific things within Powerpoint - make a capital letter, put one space between each word, delete the text that says "Write your topic here,"etc. 

Once the students were sent back to their seats to start, I was amazed at how well they listened to instructions and navigated to their folder with the Powerpoint file - there were 5 steps involved!  Then, I watched students as they focused on their screens to create Powerpoint presentations for the first time (only 2 students had heard of the program before).  I assisted with capital letters, finding the apostrophe, teaching the 'undo' button (basic first grade questions) and I watched in awe as these 6 and 7 year olds navigated through a program that some of my coworkers are still unfamiliar with.

At the end of our time in the computer lab, some students had completed 1 slide and some had completed 4 (oh, did I mention we showed how to insert clipart too?!).  As the kids were lined up at the door ready to leave, I told them that they had proven me wrong (and of course they really liked that).  :)

All of this makes me think - how often do our student expectations get in the way of our lesson planning?  Our lesson plans are based off of our expectations, right?  We plan certain activities for centers because the students are 'capable of doing that activity independently.'  But what if our expectations fall short?  How would you know if your expectations could be exceeded?  I'm not sure if I phrased these questions right.  I just know that from now on, I will be looking at my lesson objectives in a more critical manner.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Internal Struggle Over a Tech Academy

At the beginning of the school year, my staff development coordinator and I discussed the idea of having a summer tech academy for teachers.  Now that it's March, we're trying to make arrangements so this can happen.  Do we call it a Tech Academy?  I like the way it sounds, but I feel like we are constantly separating technology from curriculum content.  Is it okay to address technology as a stand alone?  If so, how do we get teachers to see that tech is not an add-on?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.