6 Year Old Geography Detectives

I came across Mrs. Yollis’s classroom blog, where she blogged about a fantastic idea to use technology and turn students into “geography detectives”. I knew it would be a great addition to our “Where We Are in Place and Time” Unit of Inquiry, so I bookmarked it. During this unit, myself and my colleagues asked our parent community, and our own community to help us. We wanted people to either come into class and present about their home country, or help us make a connection via Skype with a friend or family member in a foreign country.   I made some adjustments to the roles students played, and we were off! This lesson went really well. Our mystery guests were from Ecuador. The questioning of our mystery callers was impressive and I heard many sophisticated questions, showing they were listening to their peers, and to our callers to find out their location. Their use of technology was effective, and they were able to figure out the location of our caller. You can see some photos of this lesson here. Just another fantastic tip I found on Twitter and was able to use in my classroom!

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Are We Going to Flatten Our Classroom Walls Today, Mrs. Goggins?

Embracing globally collaborative projects is definitely an interest area of mine. As Jeff Utecht mentioned in his post, the RSS reader is a big hit – I have really enjoyed using Feedly on my computer and Flipboard on my iPhone has made commuting much more enjoyable. The first blog I subscribed to was Julie Lindsay’s E-Learning Journeys, and imagine my surprise when the very first blog post was asking for applications for the Flat Classroom K-2 Building Bridges to Tomorrow project. I excitedly filled out the application and was quite pleased to find out my class was accepted.

I have participated in global collaboration projects previously with varying degrees of success. I’ve used ePals before and set up pen pals by email with my students, but found that many of our emails went unanswered. Another project I have enjoyed collaborating with other classrooms globally is the Flat Stanley Project.

We have begun the Flat Classroom project and have met twice now to speak to all the participants together, using Blackboard Collaborate to meet online. The first session I was in such awe of the ability to meet with so many different educators at the same time that I was just smiling the whole time. My class has been matched up with three other classes,  two from the US and one from Australia. We have begun by making a class handshake and watching the other handshakes from other classes.  We received a Voicethread handshake from the class in San Francisco, and my class sat watching, mesmerized. I can see how technology is changing the the learning landscape – I would have loved to have been a child and collaborating with other classes globally!

Here is the video of my class handshake.

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Messing Around

Reading the ‘Messing Around’ chapter in MacArthur’s Living and Learning in New Media: Summary of Findings From the Digital Youth Project got me thinking. Now, I’m all for messing around and tinkering on the computer, but I have 4 iMacs in my Year 2 (1st grade) classroom. We have a laptop cart that is available on a limited basis in our library but when  we are working on something, whether it is blogging, creating animations, etc, I generally do prefer my students to stay on task until they are finished. I’ll leave the messing around until they are in a 1-1 classroom, in Year 5, thank you very much! Last week we had Student Led Conferences, where I had set up 4 different stations around the room, a Math station, a Portfolio station, a Mandarin station and an ICT station. Students led their parents for 15 minutes to each station. For our ICT station, the students were showing their parents their folder with all the things they have created this year. My job during SLC’s is to generally let the children lead the conference, and I am the facilitator.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a mom rolling on the floor with laughter. Her son was showing her some of the videos that were on the desktop and he showed her another student’s video she must have created using Photo Booth. You could not make this stuff up! I guess my students ARE messing around.

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Old Things in New Ways

The introduction of new tools has, without a doubt changed teaching and learning.  Marc Prensky’s Shaping Tech for the Classroom outlines the 4 step process of technology adoption. The 4 steps are
  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways.
  • Doing old things in new ways.
  • Doing new things in new ways.
This is something I debated with colleagues last year when attending a PYP course, ICT in the PYP. We talked quite a bit about how using technology to do old things in new ways had a lot of benefits and could be more efficient. One example I talked about was helping my Year 2 students to learn to read Dolch Words. Dolch words are a list of 220 frequently used words in the English language. These words were prepared in 1936 and first published in 1948. In my first few years of teaching I would get index cards and use markers to write the words to use with my students, then as more teachers began sharing, I found great sites with pre made flashcards, which at the time I thought was fantastic, and that there was no way things could get any better. Now, there are online games that I put onto my class Delicious page for them to work on, iPad apps, and interactive activities I can do on my IWB. What is that I hear you saying? That there are still students that struggle to read the Dolch word lists? Yes, there are still children who struggle to read the words but having access to engaging technologies is just one way of helping them learn. I’m doing the same thing (teaching the Dolch words) that teachers have been doing for decades but having it all available at my fingertips is extremely beneficial.  I am endeavoring to do new things in new ways. This is an evolving process. I recently became involved with Julie LIndsay’s Flat Classroom – K-2 Project –  Building Bridges to Tomorrow, and my class is participating in this project where we are figuring out how young students can effectively connect, communicate and collaborate in a global project.
I recently came across an interesting video – a teacher from Canada showing what doing old things in new ways looks like in her classroom.
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Comfortable Teachers

I enjoyed reading the NETS for teachers and students.  “As technology integration continues to increase in our society, it is paramount that teachers possess the skills and behaviors of digital age professionals. Moving forward, teachers must become comfortable being co-learners with their students and colleagues around the world.”I agree with this post and I am one of the teachers who has embraced technology and endeavors to integrate technology as best as I can. I have no qualms about being made a fool of by a 6 year old who has figured out a new way to use iMovie. But what about the other teachers, lets be honest, a big percentage of whom are still teaching? In my last school, I was the IT coordinator and I was responsible for helping other teachers integrate technology and to train them to use the Interactive Whiteboards. Looking back, the first year was a bit of a comedy of errors. I would have a session, they would bring their notebooks, take copious notes and not listen to me or watch while I was modeling something on the Interactive Whiteboard. I’d walk around the class and there would be numerous hands shooting up asking me the same questions (didn’t they listen to me while I was explaining it?) I would often throw my hands up in frustration and exclaim, “Teachers are the worst students”! Over the three years I taught there, I tried numerous techniques to build morale, making screen casts, step by step instructions to use different technologies, even going around with a camera and taking photos of teachers using technology and sticking them up in the staff room. We even had the staff begin taking the EPICT, a European Pedagogical ICT Licence. (Wouldn’t you want one of those in your wallet next to your drivers license and insurance card?)The truth of the matter was, they didn’t feel a connection to learning to use technology, they truly didn’t believe it would help their teaching. Some of these teachers had been teaching for over 20 years – their students were learning (quite well too, the school was ranked 12th in the UK), so why should they learn a new way of teaching when it might be replaced with something new? So, how can we help teachers become “more comfortable being co-learners” and make connections and enjoy seeking out new ways to use technology? This is something I am still struggling with.

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Bloom’s Taxonomy Digitally

I recently read an interesting article about Bloom’s Taxonomy Digitally. It was refreshing to see some of the things I’m already doing in my Year 2 (1st grade) classroom, blogging, searching and responding were in there. I must say I was especially happy to read that some of the Logo programming I was doing with my class using the Purple Mash Logo suite was high up there in the creating, as was the Stykz animations we have been working on. Yay! Score 1 for me in the Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy! Integrating technology is, at times, a lonely place and  it was gratifying to know that what I am doing is benefitting the kids in such a higher level thinking way.

I connected with the section about “Messing Around”  in MacArthur’s Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. I also do quite a bit of tinkering and exploring different areas that I am interested in. In a way, I think my thoughts are changing because I have felt previously that seeing teenagers “Mess Around” was a negative thing. I suppose a part of me still thinks that teens do need some sort of supervision, but I can see how tinkering and exploring can lead to actually productive things in the future.

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Pictures of Last Night Ended Up Online, I’m screwed…

Reading the MacArthur Foundation‘s, Living and Learning with New Media:  A Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project was interesting. It got me thinking about how different my teen years were from today’s teens. I actually really feel sorry for them. I starting thinking about the first time I saw Katy Perry‘s video for Last Friday Night. I really chuckled at her sense of humor, I could see my own geeky teen self in her character as I remembered the cringe-worthiness of the teenage years. But that is where it is – in my memory. I can laugh at it – but today’s teens, as the MacArthur Foundation highlighted, are living in a different time where “pictures of last night ended up online, I’m screwed” and to be honest, I’m glad those pictures of my awkward time are sketched in my memory and not on the internet for an audience to see!

The implications of this can be damaging, and many teens aren’t aware of this. My cousin’s daughter is 15 and I mentioned to her over Christmas that I’d seen her Facebook photos and I told her I thought she should take some of the more risque ones down. She really didn’t see a problem with photos of her in a provocative dress, she felt it was “part of her personality, just a little part” and there were “lots of parts of her personality”. Yes, teens are self absorbed, we all were teens at one point but the long term implications for her and myself are very different.

I enjoyed reading about the different ways young people use technology – whether “Hanging out” “Messing around”, or “Geeking Out” I find the “always on” communication to be disturbing. Why should teens always be available for communicating with others? I also found the relationship of Alice and Jesse to be a bit bizarre and very different from my own teen relationships. I don’t have children yet but I’m feeling a bit frightened for my future children!

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