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Archive for April, 2012

I ran across this video last night and just had to share it. I don’t know if there can be a much better example of ingenuity and creativity than this. Just wait until you see how the tickets are dispensed from Caine’s arcade game. Brilliant!

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I have been writing this blog for just over two years now. In that time, on several occasions, I have had fellow teachers ask if I could send them the links to new sites or apps that I have ran across. I have also been asked if I could send the links to instructional pages or videos that I have either created or discovered. My answer is, “Go to my blog. It’s all there.” Then the reality of the situation is that I go to my blog, find the links, and then email them to the anxiously awaiting recipient. What makes me do this is the repeated response of, “Oh, you have blog.” This is from people that I have repeatedly given my blog address to 🙂

Though blogs have been around for years, the general populations still doesn’t see them as a valuable professional tool. For many, blogs are seen as a hobby or maybe a substitute for scrapbooks.

One of the most valuable pieces of professional development instruction for teachers is that of setting up an RSS reader for the sake of professional reading. This means that teachers would have at their fingertips a daily dose of thought focused on education. I have talked to several teachers about RSS readers, as well as principals and instructional coaches, and just about any other captive audience that will listen. The response is always been the same, something along the lines of, “That’s neat.” Needless to say, not much has come from the discussion. I am not sure, but I think that these ramblings of RSS readers has fallen on deaf ears in all cases. Honestly, I can truthfully say that I do not know another person, in the past or current schools where I work, who uses an RSS reader.

Does every0ne have to read a blog to keep up on what is current? No, not necessarily, but that is kind of like running a race and not training, or playing a basketball game and never practicing. With the technology of RSS readers and the availability of millions of blogs, every person has the opportunity to have the mind challenged and stretched on a daily basis. That is what reading blogs is all about; 0ne person conveys feelings and thoughts on a particular topic for the rest of the world to ponder and discuss. Readers allow a teacher to have a personal learning community on a global scale.

If you are reading this, then I am guessing that you already read blogs, so you already know what I am talking about. Here’s the challenge: How do we get other to see the importance of exploring global thought?

This short video might be a good place to start. It gives a good insight into the reasoning behind why a blogger does what he or she does.

 

 

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A year and a half ago, I worked with a group of 7th grade students to submit video for the One Day On Earth Project. Basically, people from around the world shot video to show what was happening in their lives on 10/10/10. The class I worked with had maybe 3 minutes of video that we put together and submitted to the project. Yesterday, I received an email from Mrs. Filo, the teacher of the class, who told me that the video was going to be a part of the final video made from the project. Of the two hundred worldwide first screenings of the film, one of these is going to be held in Fort Morgan, Colorado in the middle school auditorium.

I don’t write this to brag. Okay, maybe a little, but the more I think about this project, the more excited I get to do more of these kinds of projects in the classroom. It’s great that the student video is being used for the final cut, but the project meant a lot more than that to me, and hopefully did to the students involved. They participated in a global project on that day in October. Their video is now a part of a video archive that can always be looked at by future generations.

This is the beauty of the internet. No longer are we stuck in our schools within the confines of our small towns or even big cities, wherever it is we may live. Student have the opportunity to explore, share, and play a role in the global learning network.

However, there is one condition; students need the opportunity. This can only come from open minded administrators, teachers, and parents who dare to take their students there.

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You know what I am talking about. The end is in sight. I teach two senior classes, and far as they are concerned, the year is already over. This is the time of year when many teachers put the classroom on auto-pilot and cruise in hoping not to crash before it’s all over.

Snap out of it! This is the best time of year to break out of the hum-drum of the normal day-to-day class and do something fun with students. That doesn’t mean that whatever activity you choose has to ignore the standards, but this is the best time of year to set students working on an adventurous project. Usually, state tests are done, so the pressure eases a bit in many schools.

One thing that really irritates me is the amount of movies that are shown in the last month of school. There is no need to show students a video that they can watch at home. Nine times out of ten, they have already seen it. Don’t numb minds with a video. Plan to do an activity or project in these last 6 or so weeks that will challenge students and let them use all the great skills they have learned throughout the year.

My seniors are going to end the year by writing poetry. Each of them are going to write a poem that shows something they believe in. We just recently watched Sarah Kay’s TED talk on Spoken Word Poetry, so we are using some of her ideas. Then, once students have their poems written, they are going to video themselves performing their poetry. I was a little hesitant to even introduce the idea to the classes, but, surprisingly, they are pretty excited about working on the project. It’s going to be a great way to end the year, and working hard on the project should stave some of their feelings of Senioritis!

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As a part of a 7th grade Current Issues class, my students watch CNN Student news a couple times a week. Usually, once a week, students have an opportunity to write on the A-Z Blog to give their opinion about a current news story. Generally the students enjoy the activity. This is in large part due to the fact that they see their comments cue up alongside comments from students all over the country. They can even reply to other comments and begin conversations with other students.

Occasionally, Carl Azuz, the anchor for the show, will select a few of the comments to read during the news show. My students sit and watch anxiously every week hoping that a comment from the class will be read. I have explained several times that over 500 students usually comment on the blog, so the chances of having a comment read are slim.

This week it finally happened. One of the comments written from a student in our class was read on the show, and the student loved it.

Why am I telling you about this? I don’t really care if students are writing on a highly publicized blog like CNN or a classroom blog. Students need to know that what they write is public. They need to know that through different mediums on the internet, they have a voice in a global conversation. The problem is that a great number of teachers are still having their student write a paper or do an assignment that never goes further than the teacher’s desk. They have no audience, so there is not a whole lot of motivation to do a good job or in many cases, even complete the work.

This small incident definitely opened the eyes of my students. I am guessing  that the next time we write on the A-Z blog, they will all work that much harder knowing that their voice does matter and can be heard by global audience. They have now seen how it works with their own eyes.

Find a way to give students a voice. Whether it is writing a paper, participating on a blog, or publishing a cartoon, help students understand that their work does matter. With the web, their work is not just for the teacher anymore. There are others out there who will appreciate what they have to say.

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Photo by Martin Bodman

In her recent article on MashableSarah Kessler examines data from a one-to-one laptop program in Peru. The title of the article gives the final conclusion in the study: “2.5 million laptops later, one laptop per child doesn’t improve test scores.”

This is a hard pill to swallow for those of us who spend everyday wishing for a one-to-one program in our own schools. On one hand, the findings are not all that surprising. Test scores do not seem to be going up anywhere, whether students are using technology or not, so this serves as another reminder that the education system needs work. On the other hand, why does everyone think that the sole use for computers in schools needs to be in the name of improving test scores?

Maybe this is what is irritating me about the article so much. Not anywhere is there mention of how the computers were used within these schools. Were students learning how to use the computer? Learning to write in Word or make a PowerPoint are great skills, but they certainly aren’t going to show up as evidence of learning on a standardized test.

Here’s the point: students will only show growth when using technology in a manner that makes them think about the subject they are supposed to learn.

Can this be done with paper and pencil? Sure it can. Teachers have been doing it for a hundred years. Skeptics of using technology in the classroom are quick to bring this up in conversation, but the days of paper and pencil are over. When I think of how much I time I spend writing with a pen compared to how much time is spent typing on a keyboard, I might as well throw my pen away. If this were shown visually in a graph, the use of a writing utensil wouldn’t even register.

Computers are the means used to read and write in 21st Century. Yes, I also included reading here. Once again, the majority of my reading is done on some sort of screen whether it is the computer, my Kindle, or my iPhone,  and this is coming from the teacher, who in the eyes of my students, is old and out of date.

Just think of how they view reading and writing.

To say that computers are going to improve test scores is like saying that if I have wings I can fly. This isn’t just going to magically take place. However, if I learn to use a vehicle with wings, then my chances of flying are much greater. Computers are the current vehicle for learning.

We don’t use the cart and horse anymore. It’s just too slow.

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At the Wyoming TEC conference last weekend, I sat through several sessions with presenters showing the best and newest educational apps for the iPod and iPad. There was a lot of excitement in these sessions with “oohs” and “aaahs” at every flash of the screen. I, on the other hand, found myself growing bored, not because the apps did not look like great educational tools,but because not much of what was shown applies to the students that I teach. Most of the apps specifically applied to lower ages, especially elementary students, and this was true for most of the sessions that I sat in.

After thinking about this for a couple of days, I think I am more confused than when I started. A part of me wants to think that the reason there are so many apps that apply to elementary education is because elementary teachers are adopting the use of technology in the classrooms more readily than their secondary counterparts. I don’t think this is the only reason, but I would have to say that these sessions showing elementary apps were highly attended, and most of the teachers were highly engaged in the conversations taking place. I don’t know this for sure, but I felt like the majority of the teachers at the conference taught at the elementary level. Reason says that if these are the teachers who are interested, then they are going to have the tools to work with.

That is one idea. Here’s another.

Many of the apps that I saw at this last conference teach kids at the basic level, hence the reason that they work so well at the lower levels in education. There were numerous math and reading apps that were appropriate not only for lower aged learners, but the apps catered to lower levels of thinking. Don’t get me wrong. The skills taught with these apps are essential skills. Students need to know math facts, and they need to read fluently. These skills are definitely a part of the foundation for future education, but maybe this explains why so many of the apps apply better to elementary students.

Right now, someone is reading this and thinking that the guy who wrote this is crazy because there are apps out there that require higher levels of thinking. I agree. I have seen…a few. I want to see more. If higher level thinking is going to help students be more successful, then we should have more apps to develop thinking minds. The flip side of this could be that I am just crazy 🙂

If you know of an app that for the iPad or iPod that promotes higher level thinking, post it in the comments. I would love to see what others are using.

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