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Archive for March, 2012

Just Google “web apps classroom” and it won’t take long for your head to spin with the top 10, top 20, and top 100 lists of best apps for education. There seems to be no end of the different activities that can be designed with technology.

Here’s the problem. Many educators see a list like this and suddenly feel like they are looking at the surface of the ocean from the sea floor. Others take one look at all these list and feel like screaming. Simply put, a person could use a different and app in the classroom everyday and never use the same one twice.There are just too many.

Here’s the solution to the problem. Choose one or two, and use these apps well. Figure out all that they can do in the classroom. Give students time to become comfortable with them. Brainstorm all the different ways these one or two apps can be used and make rubrics for the activities, so they are legitimate learning opportunities for students. This will also show others, especially administrators and parents, that students aren’t just messing around on the computer in class.

Don’t worry about trying to use everything at once.

The only way to get comfortable with technology is to use it, but starting too fast can be like jumping off a ship before learning to swim. It’s better to start in the swimming pool, and for some, even at the pool, lessons need to start in the shallow end.

Most apps function similarly to a great degree. Once a person has mastered the use of a few, the others seem to work more easily. One of the best lessons for me was when I started a blog. Through that experience I learned valuable skills that have transferred to a host of other apps. I don’t even know if the skills necessarily transfer, but I grew comfortable with how the computer worked, and gained the intuitive mind for working on the computer that developers rely upon.

If you aren’t using technology, find something to do this week that incorporates technology into a lesson. Again, you don’t have to make a website here. Start small and work your way up. If you already feel comfortable with using technology, teach someone else. The second best thing to knowing how to do something is to have someone teach you how to do something.

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In preparation for an upcoming conference, I have finally compiled all of the fake Facebook (Fakebook) resources I have collected over the last year into one web page. Basically, the page is a compilation of all the blog posts I have written with the added perspective of using the app with several class since my first post about the activity over a year ago. It is still a work in progress, but the page should contain enough different resources for most teachers to give the project a shot in the classroom. The page contains instructions as well as several good examples of what finished pages can look like. A simple rubric is also included. I would appreciate any constructive feedback on the page, especially if something is missing.

Take a look at my Fake Facebook projects in the classroom resource page.

 

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Too often, teachers assume that because students spend inordinate amounts of time looking at a screen, they know how to  work with technology. Teachers assume that students have it all figured out, that if given an assignment involving technology, students will figure it out or already know how to do whatever they have been assigned.

In many cases, this is true, but I find more and more that most students know some very basic apps, and beyond that, they are as lost as most teachers.

The best way to know what skills students are capable of using is to ask them. Find out what they can do. Find out what apps they know how to use. Find out what devices they are comfortable with.

Students can only be taught what they need to know when the teachers knows what the student needs to be taught.

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“We have to get away from just drilling knowledge into students and create environments where they create, they discuss, they measure, and they collaborate”  – Eric Sheninger, Principal of New Milford High School, New Jersey.

This morning, I found a cool site called Ed Tech Talk, which I’ll be honest, I know nothing about. Up to this point, I have only scrolled down through the first page. However, there looks to be a bunch of good discussion on the site about how to use technology in the classroom. Check it out. I know that I will be over the next several days.

On the Ed Tech Talk site, I ran across a video featuring Eric Sheninger about how to use Twitter as both a professional development tool and a communication tool in schools. What makes Sheninger stand out from other proponents of educational technology is the fact that he is a principal of a school. Much of the time, teachers are the early adopters and spend a career fighting (that may be too strong of word), trying to persuade administrators to change. But when the administrator is the one speaking out and teaching how to make changes, things are going to happen. If anything, the video is worth watching just to see how Sheninger’s school is using social media, especially Twitter, as a productive tool.

The following video is not the same as the one on the Ed Tech Talk site. I couldn’t get that one to load on this page, but in the following video, Sheninger gives more insight into using Twitter as a school administrator and also as a teacher.

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A recent story on CNN Student news mentioned a school that did not use technology as a mode of learning. The school is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula in Los Altos, California which is located in the heart of the Silicon Valley. I wasn’t going to ask this cliche question, but isn’t this a little ironic?

I did a little searching and found several stories written on this particular school several months ago. The Daily Nightly wrote a piece that showed what the school was all about. The philosophy, according to teachers at the school, is “not anti-technology.” Rather “they’re in favor of a healthy education.”

Take time to read that last sentence again. Yes, you read it right. Teachers at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula want their students to have a healthy education, so they do not use technology. If I am reading this wrong, please help me understand what these teachers are saying.

Another, more in depth article was written in the New York Times. The main focus in this piece is that students will learn technology at the appropriate time. Alan Eagle, a Google executive, has children who attend the school. He reasons that learning how to use technology is “like learning to use toothpaste.” He goes on to say, “At Google and all these places, we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible. There’s no reason why kids can’t figure it out when they get older.

I am having a hard time in containing my frustration with such comments. I have tried to teach enough students how to do research using Google to know that it not “brain-dead easy.”

Granted, I do believe that a student can learn without technology. It has been happening for ages. Learning has evolved greatly since the first man walked the earth. First learning was done through the power of speech. Books were not need to learn. The few lucky enough to read and write held a great power over the common man and were revered for their mental prowess.

Then books became mainstream due to the printing press. Learning was open to the masses. The evolution of education perpetuates from here to present day education where a popular crowd is eschewing technology as an educational tool.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition for technology: Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function.

Within this definition, books can be classified as a form of technology as can chalk, chalkboards, and probably even desks (and don’t forget pencils). In the past, all of these tools have become an integral part of the educational process, but just because these worked in the past doesn’t mean they are best way to teach in the present.

At one point in history, people walked everywhere they went. Then someone figured out that riding a horse made a trip much shorter, the trip didn’t take as much physical energy. Centuries later, the power of energy was harnessed in a vehicle that ran off of gasoline. Today this is how I travel. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with walking. I love to walk, but when I have to go to the doctor’s office, which is 50 miles away, I drive. Sure, I could walk, but if I needed urgent care, I might die on the way there.

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1.Creativity: Students can show what they know best through the act of creation. In creating a script and storyboard for a video, students not only show what knowledge they have gained but help the brain to become an even better tool for logical and rational thought.

2. Thought process: Building a stop motion video takes planning. An initial idea starts as a thought, is fleshed out in a script and then start to come to life as the storyboard is created. Working through a process like this helps students to think about working logically through a project.

3. Finishing a project: Students find great satisfaction in being able to watch their video with classmates. Being able to finish a project and show it to others builds self esteem and provides a platform for successfully accomplishing tasks in the future.

4. Attention to detail: Moving figurines hundreds of time to create a stop motion project takes careful planning and acute attention to detail.

5. Follow directions: There are many steps involved in making a stop motion film. Because students are highly engaged in this activity, instructors have the opportunity to use the project as a means of showing how following directions produces great results with less hassle.

6. Teamwork: The best stop motion projects are made in teams. Refining scripts, storyboards, and creating the film can all be done in groups. Those groups that work well together always seem to have the best projects.

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Do you know what technology your school has that is at your immediate disposal? I am guessing that there may be more than you think.

There is a lot of money floating around today for technology in schools, more than most realize, and schools are using the money. One of the problems is keeping up with what is being purchased and shelved, much of which teachers never use.

Many teachers kind of get hung up on having a computer for every student to use everyday. I’ll be the first to admit that is is certainly the ideal situation, and I can’t wait until this becomes a reality in my own classroom. However, until then, I am going to use whatever else I can get my hands on, or even better, whatever I can get the student’s hands on.

The first place to look for unused technology is the computer lab. I have worked in several different schools now, and it seems that for teachers that want it, there is time available to get students on computers. Granted, they can’t be used every day. The labs are usually shared with the whole school. Despite this, I am always amazed at how many hours go by without any students tapping the keyboards. A computer lab not being used every hour of the day amounts to a lot of money that is being wasted. Find out how many computers are available in the school, find out how to get access to them, and use them.

Like I said earlier, computers are not the only technology. More and more, teachers have an interactive whiteboard mounted in the front of the classroom that is used for nothing more than a projector screen. While these boards do not always live up to the hype that is often associated with them, they are still a great technology for enhancing instruction, when used properly. The key here is to learn how to use the thing. Take some time when students are not in the room and figure out a way to incorporate some of the boards functions into classroom instruction.

Another great place to look for technology is the school library. Oftentimes, there is a wealth of technology just sitting on shelves in the library collecting dust. Libraries usually have money to work with that allows for new and innovative learning tools like document cameras, clickers, iPods, e-readers, and more. All you have to do is ask.

One other place to look for technology is other teachers. I don’t know how many times I have talked to teachers to learn that they have a set of clickers, or a tablet, or a class set of cameras. These are often acquired through mini grants, and after being used once or twice start taking on dust as a shelf ornament.

Oftentimes, the problem is not that we don’t have any technology to use, it’s that we’re not using the technology we already have.

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