Tags: Collaboration, Global Collaboration
I’ll start with my inspiration for this post, a comment about From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg from one of my grade 3 students:
“Hi Peter.it’s Cole.My favorite character is also Claudia but my favorite part is when they go to the Egyptian exhibit because James asks the tour guide how much did it cost to be a mummy.And after the tour guide tells him her answer Claudia scolds him for drawing attention to himself and she wants to go away but then she sees the next exhibit with all that golden jewelery that also had jewels.I liked the part when Jamie described his sister “as still as the statue of the cat that she was standing next to.”That made me laugh a tiny bit but I still did laugh.I also liked the part when Jamie was trying to make Claudia bored so they could go back to their house so he chose the Italian Renaissance because it sounded important and boring but going their just made his chances of going back home even worse by a lot because his sister saw a statue of such beauty that she wouldn’t leave without knowing who made it but that was something that even baffled the experts.It was something nobody knew but it was also something that lots and lots and lots and lots of people were trying to find out!Any way I think I’m like Claudia because I like mysteries and she likes mysteries.”
And another comment about Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle:
“What I really like is the boy is treating the mouse in a nice way and he lets the mouse out of the trash can and lets him ride the motor bike and he goes really fast as fast as I can ride my bike at full speed and the boy tells the mouse to hold his tale so it does not get stuck in the wheel because it got to hurt if your tale gets stuck in a wheel.”
There were many other comments that showed my students’ thinking and writing about the books they were reading at a higher level than I had seen all year. Here is the story behind one of my best Fridays ever in school- and it was Friday the 13th as well!
Matt McGuire, a teacher in Fredericton, NB, Canada, and I have been collaborating on and off this year. We talked on skype last month throwing around ideas for a simple, end of year collaborative activity and the idea of book group discussions came up. I had used Edmodo last fall for participation in the A Week in the Life elementary pilot Flat Classroom Project and we thought that would be a good place for our students to discuss books together. Edmodo is a closed environment for students to have discussions and submit assignments assigned by the teacher. It’s free, students can be placed in groups and students don’t need an email address to establish an account.
We then compared book titles we had multiple copies of and found a few matching titles and put students into groups based on the book they would be reading. During the first week I shared the idea with Heather in Beijing, a colleague from A Week in the Life and our current online Flat Classroom certified teacher course. She was ready to jump in and found a few copies of each book for her students. We now had “reading groups” of students in Beijing, Canada and Prague.
Starting a little before Matt and Heather, I tried out the assignment feature in Edmodo and gave my students reading assignments based on the first few chapters while also meeting face to face in groups in the classroom. But on Friday morning I announced that they had students from Mr McGuire’s class in Canada and Ms Davis’s class in Beijing and a new discussion prompt to respond to in their group in Edmodo. The room was silent as they read and responded to the prompt. A few students also added comments welcoming the other students to their Edmodo group. At the end of our reading time I started to read their comments and was grinning from ear to ear. Nearly every student wrote reflections from the heart that showed deeper thinking than I had previously seen.
Matt and Heather said they were seeing the same thing in their classrooms. I also shared with our Principal and she was impressed with their comments as well. When she asked one student about the experience later that day, asking how this experience is helping her learning, Nicole replied that she shares ideas with other kids not just in our class and that will give her more ideas. I also told my students after reading many posts how impressed I was with what they shared and asked why sharing in this environment promoted deeper reflection and more thoughtful writing. They said that they liked writing on the laptops more than on stickies and on paper and that having other kids read what they wrote made them more careful and want to share more. There was also an appreciation for Spellcheck expressed.
This is not a grand project or idea. The online sharing environment provides students with a larger audience and more opportunity to share- there is simply not enough time in the school day for everyone to share every day with their book group, and then they are limited to me and the other students in their group as an audience. I also love it because I’m building friendships with Matt and Heather- they inspire me and I can see our collaboration growing in the future as well. Matt and Heather have also added groups to the mix based on other books their students are interested in- books my students are already interested in. I can see this evolving to a more fluid, book-sharing environment that we can start on the first day of school next year based on what we are doing right now.
I’ve only blogged once in the last 6 months due to location and occupation changes. I spent 6 weeks on vacation doing virtually nothing online and then began my new position and life in Prague as a grade 3 teacher at the International School of Prague. I’m still pretty much still in the honeymoon Cultural Shock phase due to my fantastic students, wonderful apartment and new friends and, I am in Prague.
But I am tired. After 3 years as a tech integration specialist, it feels great to be a classroom teacher again with my tribe of willing learners. However, classroom teaching can be exhausting even if you’ve been in the same school for years and I haven’t had the time or mental capacity to write or read blogs, completely missed the K12 Online Conference and the Global Education Conference as well as many Classroom2.0 sessions (thankfully all 3 are archived). I haven’t been tweeting or following tweets. I haven’t seen much of Prague either since the weather became too cold for long walks. But that’s about to change as I’ve been through the first trimester, report cards, parent conferences, portfolio collection and assembly, I think I have a grasp of the curriculum and have 3 weeks of vacation stretching before me.
In addition to the regular curriculum, my students have posted two written pieces and a word cloud on their individual pages on our class website and they regularly extend learning and skill practice (in school and at home) using various webgames and subscription sites. They individually recorded in Garageband, an oral reading of an originally written piece for a Voicethread related to an author visit. Most exciting is our participation in “A Week in the Life”, a pilot elementary-level Flat Classroom Project.
So, after catching my breath I am looking forward to reading, writing and listening to online conference presentations! In the five months of school remaining I am looking forward to integrating into my classroom:
- Final projects for “A Week in the Life”
- Use of Scratch and podcasting
- Connecting regularly with our buddy classes in Canada and Tokyo
- Connecting to Around the World With 80 Schools
- Connecting to Teddy Bears Around the World
They will all seamlessly integrate with and enrich our units of inquiry on Sound and our Host County/City as well as maths, reading and writing. I’m also looking forward to again reading (even after vacation) professional texts and favorite blogs. Why do I care about sharing with and learning from others? Dean Shareski sums it up for me in his K12Online Keynote. It’s so nice to have reached a point where I again feel a sense of familiarity combined with excitement about the possibilities ahead!
Tags: iPad studentportfolios assessment
I recently attended a Writer’s Workshop presentation and the same week viewed the video, Up Close: Teaching English Language Learners in Reading and Writing Workshops, prompting me to think more about organizing reading and writing samples and reflections for a student’s portfolio. This coincided with the unveiling of Apple’s iPad and I also began to think about the value of the iPad to a teacher in an elementary classroom. The name “iPad” brings to mind a pad of paper- a simple, versatile tool. The iPad would be a brilliant replacement for the clipboard that a teacher carries around all day- an electronic clipboard full of documents containing student information, schedules, plans, calendars, anecdotal matrix sheets for reading/writing/math continuums, articles, personal reflection note sheets, and content reference materials. I haven’t spent much time imagining how useful an iPad can be to a student in the classroom, however once I have one I will find endless uses for learners. It is because I see the iPad as a mobile tool that I have been imagining how the iPad can be used in the classroom (and outside) mainly by the teacher.
My first thought for the iPad in my classroom was a place to compile notes and audio recordings during our Writer’s Workshop. When meeting with a student, I would touch the class icon to open a tile mosaic of my students’ faces. I would then select the face of the student I’m conferencing with and open his portfolio containing individualized writing continuums and other writing skills documents and anecdotal text notes. Access to the student’s own portfolio containing written material and audio recordings stored on the school’s network would also be available if needed. As the student read his written piece and we discussed his progress it could be audio-recorded on the iPad, allowing me to pay full attention to the student and record text notes later, although an application or document for recording quick notes could be used as well. This process would be implemented in a similar fashion for Reader’s Workshop where we would be able to record students reading a text displayed on the iPad as well.
During math-based activities I would have notes and group/project information open. When conferring with groups or individual students I would touch the student or group’s face/icon and open anecdotal notes, continuums, progress charts, etc related to that student/group. Further, I would be able to check a student’s understanding of a concept or skill by asking her to solve a related problem or task and record her audio description of how she approached and resolved the problem.
During science experiments or exploration students could be recorded describing an experiment while others in their group took still and video images. The advantage of recording with the iPad would be the ability to save an audio file right to that student’s “folder” on the iPad.
Outside the classroom on field trips or on the school campus the iPad would be used to record student observations, comments and reflections. It would also hold appropriate documents and maps that support the trip or activity as well as a document showing student questions that were posed before that trip or activity to refer to during the activity. Paramount would be having access to Google Earth and other web resources right there on the iPad display.
Lastly, the ability to sync my iPad with my laptop and store information on the school network would be incredible. I don’t know if this is possible right now, but I imagine each student’s “folder” on the iPad would be like a playlist in iTunes. New information added or documents modified in each student folder during the day would transfer to my laptop/school network drive when I connected my iPad to my laptop at the end of the day.
In this time where we are striving more than ever to develop more relevant and authentic means for students to learn, we are less and less able to fill in a roster book to document student learning. There is an ever greater need for portfolios that display student achievement and progress. The iPad’s long battery life, 3G and limitless applications add power for its use as a classroom tool (although I would need a protective frame with reinforced rubber corners to protect it.)
I believe the ways the iPad can be an incredibly powerful tool for a teacher and his or her students are limitless- what are your ideas?
Tags: explore, learning, sandbox
I first heard the term “sandbox” mode from Vicki Davis on one of her podcasts or read on her blog. The idea is to allow students the time to explore and discover for themselves how to accomplish tasks on a new software program or technology tool. This can be easily framed within a curricular task but the idea (as I understand it) is to allow free exploration or propose a task for students to attempt individually without any assistance. This allows students time to explore a program and develop their ability to find answers on their own. I highly value collaboration, but if one is to contribute you need to bring something to the table and not always rely on others.
I worked with grade four students this week on a project where they were asked to assume a group task involving exploring and planning a dream trip to a particular country. Some students and groups seized the opportunity and needed no guidance and others were frozen, plus there were students in between. I found myself asking those who wanted help, guiding questions that they should be asking themselves. Some searched in Google and then asked which one they should click, missing the idea that they would need to read and make choices.
My immediate thought was that we needed to integrate sandbox sessions for students. When using Math Their Way as a first grade teacher, we spent time at the start of the year allowing students guided play time with the math manipulatives. If that step was not experienced, the students would need to play with the manipulatives all year rather than use them as tools. Many students still need to learn to explore and “think on their feet.” Sandbox time is needed to allow the independent-thinkers time to flourish and those who need to flex those muscles time to discover they can rely on themselves more often.
Tags: technology integration, training
- Update and preparation of training for new teachers during orientation
- A Moodle course template for all Elementary, Specials and Spanish classes was created to ensure that all teachers had a course presence online. The course template is basic, provides important links and is easy to begin use by uploading and inserting newsletters and parent information. Staff were trained how to access their course, upload and attach documents and set the enrollment key. PE and Spanish courses had to be revised to allow teachers to share pages according to their teaching assignments and every teacher is now uploading newsletters and general class information. Parents were also shown how to log on and enroll in their child’s courses to check for information each week. Students are using their course for resources during the school day in fifth grade as well.
- Update of our class rosters for the digital component of our math program.
- 5 new Smartboards were installed and adjustments were made to the projectors and the connection between the laptop and the SmartBoards. They are now ready for ongoing training to make the best use of this versatile teaching and learning tool.
- Outlook parent email distribution lists were created with teachers
- Various HelpDesk requests related to Moodle, school database, curriculum mapping.
- As planned and ordered last spring, Media Kits were assembled, distributed and introduced to all grade levels. Each kit is shared by a grade level and contains a digital audio recorder, digital still camera, a Flip cam, microphones, a digital microscope and rechargeable batteries with charger. (Digital Storytelling, here we come!)
- User accounts and student rosters were established with an online math practice program for 2 grade levels.
- Because my position is teacher-support based and I am not a scheduled lab teacher, I planned and am co-teaching with the classroom teachers 3-4 Computer Lab bootcamp sessions for each grade level and class.
- For grades 4 and 5 this has involved walking students through the first logons to the school network, school Moodle and class course, our keyboarding program and the digital component to our math program. I used the Build a Pyramid game within a Moodle blog to allow students to sample use of a Moodle tool within their course. Another important component was a digital safety and citizenship discussion focused on protecting yourself from friends who may want to post your personal information and images online.
- Digital safety and citizenship is also addressed in grades K to 3 as well as the parts of the computer and how to turn on/off the CPU, monitor and adjust volume for monitor speakers and headphones.
- In grades 2-3, students learned how to log on and practice keyboarding, start a Powerpoint portfolio or project and save it to their own folder in their class network folder.
- Kindergarten and first grade students went online to Starfall through our school LS Links portal. They also created a KidPix image and first grade students saved it to their student folder in the Class network drive.
- With pre-school students we introduced the names of the parts of the computer followed by guided practice using the mouse while exploring letters in Starfall or creating a picture in KidPix.
These bootcamp sessions have set the tone for the year by establishing common routines, vocabulary and tasks that will be reviewed and built on as the year progresses. These sessions, built on top of the incredible background work of our tech support team, has allowed students and teachers to use our available technology tools from the first week with greater ease.
Tags: change, Shift, Tech facilitator, Tech Integration
In a perfect world, the tech integration specialist is meeting with grade level teams and individual teachers frequently, co-planning and co-teaching in the classroom and/or lab, and providing ongoing planned and spontaneous professional development. This person is curriculum-based and collaborates, inspires and facilitates growth within a school. And eventually, that position is no longer needed. In a perfect world.
I have observed that there are two basic approaches to this position. One approach is where the specialist co-plans and co-teaches with classroom and specialist teachers as well as provides related general support and professional development. In other words, an open schedule that is filled with planning, meeting and co-teaching with classroom teachers, as well as fulfilling other tech and curriculum related tasks. Teachers are encouraged and nudged into thinking and approaching the curriculum in a more progressive manner.
Another approach is for the tech specialist to lead weekly tech lessons for all classes in the lab and also provide support in the form of professional development and planning with teachers. This means the Tech specialist has less time for meetings and PD with staff, but all students are engaging in relevant curricular activities using tech tools at least once a week.
I can see benefits and negatives in both approaches. Is there a best approach, given that schools differ and vary in their levels of development? What is your experience? What are the best and poorer aspects of your environment?
Tags: Collaboration, growth, kinderKidsDraw, Shift
I should be baking candy cane cookies right now but while mixing the dough I was thinking about the past 2 weeks at school and how encouraged I feel about the growth taking place.
First, I’ve been invited to help in Kim’s classroom with her center-project-based approach to student learning about the Rainforests. I’ve been helping out 2-3 hours a day, three days a week with students in groups, mainly the PPT group. I bring my laptop with me so I can work on my own things if I’m not needed. There are Kim, one or two parents and myself responding to student questions as well as observing and asking questions to help them self-discover an answer or find the best direction to follow. These projects require students to understand the content in order to share creatively what they have learned. Kim noted that it took a good deal of work to plan and set up, but it has been worth all the effort. On a side note, nothing settles restless 4th graders like Holiday or Celtic music or Bob M. and the Wailers.
Secondly, I asked all grade level teams to meet with me now or after the holiday break to reflect with me on what is working and not, what they need, and what dream projects or activities they would like help developing. So far I have met with the kindergarten and first grade teams and our meetings were very positive and gratifying. Beside the suggestions and problems noted to be addressed I have 2 larger projects I’m excited about.
Kindergarten teachers would like to use the classroom desktops more and need to know what software is on them, what can be added and they want drop-in help during centers to introduce students to online activities related to current classroom content. This is one of my dreams- to see students using the classroom desktops as much as any other classroom learning tool. Also, a second Kinder teacher is interested in participating in KinderKidsDraw!
For the first grade team, I am investigating a long-term project linked to their curriculum that we will co-plan and teach starting in January. They will be studying continents so I am developing a 4-6 week project with a continent focus that incorporates the language study, writing and math skills also being taught at that time.
My position as ed-tech specialist is much less lonely this year as I am in classrooms more (not just in the lab) and have built relationships with teachers. The kids greet me by name in the hall and I’m even getting handmade holiday cards this year (with my new name, Momaly). Yea!
Lastly, and not related to my own campus. For several years I’ve learned so much by searching online to see what other educators are doing in their classrooms and regularly reading some favorite blogs. I have also collaborated with other classes one-to-one. But within the last year I’ve moved from being a blog and Twitter lurker to a contributor. It takes some getting used to, mostly stepping away from brutal self-judgement, and to build relationships but I enjoy connecting and contributing so much more than merely taking and one-to-one collaborations.
So, if you are reading this I want to wish you a wonderful holiday and vacation- I’d share my Candy Cane cookies with you if I could!
Tags: curriculum, Learning is Messy, Project-based Learning, risk taking, Shift
Being a teacher in a school that is shifting is challenging. There is more to learn and adopt than the newest math or reading program- at least in those cases it was essentially a newer package of the usual way of doing things. Also, teaching in a shifting school is more than learning how to use PowerPoint well enough to teach your students the skills needed to do a report using PPT instead of a booklet. What is needed is deeper- modeling and providing opportunities for students to learn, collaborate, reflect on learning and create in ways that extend and express content and ideas.
Asking teachers to take the necessary risks to learn new skills, view learning and learners in new ways, trusting the tech specialist and colleagues, and risk making errors in front of students is asking a lot from already over-taxed professionals. It is also challenging for students who aren’t accustomed to being asked to use what they have learned and use content to extend their ideas.
This is why I am taking the time to write and share a post about a colleague- one of our fourth grade teachers who is going out on a limb and beginning the shift. In the past few weeks she enlisted the support of myself and our science coordinator, Brook, to help create a Rainforest unit based on the curriculum content to support and challenge her students. She wanted research and projects that allowed levels of engagement and addressed a variety of learning styles. We brainstormed and Kim created the final project descriptions with task descriptions and rubrics for each. Brook and I supported by helping to set up the resources needed. Kim also asked for my support and from parent volunteers in class during the next weeks while students rotate through projects- she is the grade level science teacher and works with all three homeroom groups so she will have 3 hours a day facilitating students working on projects three days a week.
What is so unique about what Kim is doing? She is collaborating and using available human resources. She is revising her expectations for student learning and allowing for a variety of student learning styles, talents and ability levels. Students are being asked to engage in learning and apply and creatively demonstrate what is learned. By the end of the first project day students were becoming engaged and interested in what they were learning and Kim was exhausted.
It’s not easy and it’s messy. It required a great deal of preparation on Kim’s part as well as her willingness to take risks and believe in the value of revising the way things have been taught in the past. She also realizes she’s not alone and is willing to collaborate. And it won’t be easy for the students either.
On the other hand, it’s so exciting to be part of an environment where real learning is taking place for students and ourselves and I look forward to the journey ahead, reflecting and where that will take us.
Tags: afterschool group, Moodle, Professional Development
I’d like to follow up on 2 new initiatives I’ve written about. The first after-school activity is with my student group, Digital Media Kids. In my last post I wrote that I would discuss our direction with them (to a degree) by asking the following questions, “… what do you see us doing? What do you want to learn? What do you want to express? Who do you want as an audience? After we sort those out, then we can bridge, What do you want to express and how?”
Our first discussion brewed some excitement about sharing favorite interests and getting readers involved. We started posting informational articles and found the main posting interest now is on line games, so now we are allowing game-playing one afternoon, followed by a review. Posts have been expressed in slideshows, written and upcoming podcasts. I love that they are eager to learn different means to express themselves. We haven’t discussed or created essential questions, but it feels right to allow time to get the feet wet, and then stand back and look at meaning and relevancy. The group is five 8-year-olds and a 9-year-old and they are sharing at home and with relatives who are so far impressed. There is fun and learning each hour!
My second after-school initiative is with the grown-ups on campus- holding open-lab hours till 6 Monday through Thursday. It started well and has slowed. I’m not discouraged and plan, after report cards are done in 2 weeks, to get out and be more pro-active by suggesting new ideas and growing further with current projects.
Do any of you readers have similar sessions and in what ways are you succeeding?
Update: October 30, 2008
My position is PK-12 but I live in the LS and focus most of my energy there, my TI colleage focusing on the Middle and Upper school. But this afternoon one of the MS/US Enlish/Writing teachers came in for my After-school tech lab. She was unsure how to use moodle and how to set up the mandated class page “presence” in Moodle. We went over the basics looking at the Moodle site and then I asked, do you want to see some class examples? I loved her reply- “No, I want to do something that suits me and my classes.” So she then told me about how she teaches and showed me one of her daily 3-6 slide PPTs that serve as lesson support and organiztion support for students- many images and light on text. Very positive use of PPT. From there it was a no-brainer. We set up her page so she can upload each PPT as a PPS at the end of each day for students to revisit and absent students to use to get caught up. When she left, she said she has no interested in forums, chats, etc but may be interested in blogs… I know it’s not web3D, but everyone has to start somewhere and I am delighted to have another after-school colleague!
Tags: Collaboration, Digiteen, Global Collaboration, personal learning network, PLN, Voicethread, wiki
I’m writing to reflect on my school year beginning and hopefully send an encouraging message. I think I sometimes wear my frustration on my sleeve, so after a good day at school and some reflection on the last year, I’m celebrating my colleagues who are starting to take risks by upgrading their teaching methods by doing old and new things in new ways.
I spent some time last night creating a wiki page to manage the collaborations we have started this year in grades K, 1/ESL, 4, 5, and my after-school group (plus a promise from the first grade to start one later this fall.) I’m excited to have so many that I have to take time to create a management tool! This week I’ve worked with the 4th grade team and a 5th grade teacher to create blogs for their collaborations. Today I helped the Kinder class create self-portraits in Kid Pix for their Voice Thread. One of our MS classes is participating in the Digiteen project.
The LS Art teacher and her assistant teacher are creating a VoiceThread for 5th graders to share their research reports on Spanish artists (1 group/Artist per VT.) Their planned partners have dropped out but when chatting with wonderful Alecia Berman-Dry in Maryland, she said her Spanish teacher would love to get involved! Next week I start my after-school group of Grade 3-5 students where we’ll write/photo/podcast in collaboration with a few groups.
I never would have reached this point without the online network of educators to collaborate with and all the blogs and podcasts I read and listen to in my Personal Learning Network that teach and inspire me. I’m looking forward to this year and continued growth and collaboration on and off campus!