Archive | September, 2010

CBC News – Saskatchewan – Sask. schools grapple with Facebook

29 Sep

Have a look at this.  This is a Regina teacher that I went to university with.  Read the comment section, very interesting.

I have used Facebook in my classroom before too, I guess I should be fired too then.

CBC News – Saskatchewan – Sask. schools grapple with Facebook.

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Reflections

29 Sep

As I attended tonight’s EC&I session, I jotted down a few things that I wanted to discuss in my blog tonight and each one is related to questions that I have been struggling with for a while now.  While Richard was discussing the history of technology, I was thinking about all of the things that were at one time so exciting and are now common place. From the first time a film strip was used in the classroom to just three years ago when the student’s at my school were excited because all of the classrooms got their own TV and DVD player (note: these have already become kind of useless and I would have rather of had my own data projector but to the teachers that requested these things, this was a huge technological advancement) But I digress, the problem now seems to be that there is so much available out there that only some will be used and eventually for everything, the novelty wears off and it becomes common.  As a teacher, especially one that is interested in educational technology, I find it very difficult to choose what to introduce my students to and it does not seem to matter as they are so used to technology now they want to stick with what they know.  How do I bust that bubble?

First, I would like to talk about novelty.  I have always allowed my students to use iPods at school, in fact, I encourage it.  I like that they have a little computer at their fingertips to help them with spelling or give them the answer to a burning question or give them their own private space to work.  At first, I was like, the coolest teacher ever, there were iPods all over the place. Now they all have them and they don’t use them as much.  When I give them the option of using some kind of Web 2.0 tool they just want to do a poster or if they are really adventurous, use PowerPoint.  When I tell them that they are not allowed to make posters and only posters, they act like I cut their arm off. So why is this? apathy? laziness? Boredom? All of the above>  My instinct is that in my school it is leaning more towards laziness and the difficulty of breaking them out of their “old school” ideas. (And I mean old school literally) We have relied on novelty to motivate students for a while now and it have come to the point where the market has become saturated.  What do we do now that the novelty is wearing off?

I think I should show my kids that video!  Personally, I think that PowerPoint are just fancy posters but for some kids, that is thinking outside of the box.

So, if my kids are encouraged to go further than PowerPoint and posters, what do I want them to do?  Well, that is where it becomes confusing for me too.  There is so much available out there for them to use that it is difficult to decide or learn to use many of the tools.  They are familiar with Facebook and things like MovieMaker but when I ask them to use a new tool, they become confused and lost.  The thing is, that most kids do not use Web 2.0 tools in their everyday lives.  They use social networking tools and when you try to introduce social  tools into the classroom, they act like we have walked into their bedrooms.  It is hard for them to see that something that they use in their social lives can be used in the classroom and it is hard for them to let go of thinking that it is their’s.  I think too that sometimes they find it uncomfortable that their teachers know and use the same networking tools that they do.  It makes teachers human and gives them social lives, something that kids don’t think we have.  Asking them to use Facebook at school and admitting that you know how to use it is now akin to seeing your teacher buying groceries (remember thinking “they eat food, weird?” I do.) I remember last year one of my students seeing me text after school one day exclaiming “whoa, Mrs. Stinson, you text?” So, social networking in schools is uncomfortable and web tools are unfamiliar, that leaves teachers with yet another task, making it comfortable and familiar.  And if you are a teacher that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar, then you have a whole other situation on your hands.

My final thought is concerning the motivation of the student’s themselves.  I have been working for three and a half years to encourage students to think about and QUESTION what they are learning/seeing/reading/hearing.  From that I try to motivate them to choose where they want to go with their questions and thoughts and what to do when they get there.  I like the analogy that was given in class tonight in reference to personal learning; “choose your own adventure” and I fully intend to use it! Some kids embrace this style of learning and some hate it.  I know that they hate it because it makes them think, work harder and challenge themselves into something uncomfortable.  I also know that it is a set of skills that need to be taught.  Technology makes it so much easier as there is instant access to information and endless ways to synthesis it but that also brings us full circle, if the novelty is wearing off and the options are overwhelming, where do we stand?

I guess what it comes down to is that I really believe in the value of using technology as tools for inquiry based learning and I have been taken out of the comfort zone of what I know to be school to pursue it.  The difference is that it was my choice to do so and I still have questions about it.  I need to remember this when I am working with my students that are embarking on this adventure with me (sometimes against their will) and have a little patience with it all.

I will leave off with an inspirational song. Hope you all enjoy!

Change is a Good Thing

24 Sep

This is a posting that I wrote for another Blog that I used to use.  I wanted to re-post it here so that my opinions and in some cases frustrations, with technology in the classroom are known to you guys.  The original post date for this was March 8, 2010.

I was reading TeachPaperless today and he posted the top 11 blogs from his archives for us new members. I was drawn to his post, 21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020 and I was excited by his predictions, especially when I noticed that some of them were already obsolete in our school. (Namely; desks and fear of Wikipedia) However, there are some changes things in my school that I would like to see obsolete by next year. The list of Structural Innovation Schools for next year was just released and I was glad to see my school on the list. This means that we need to make some changes for next year. We intended to make many changes this year and we had a great plan but unfortunately, there are many things that never materialized so please bear with me as I begin my brainstorming list of ideas of things to get rid of that I am going to bring to the table when we begin to innovate our school.

1. Negative Attitudes: We need to stop saying it’s not going to work. We need to stop saying “we tried that in 1975 and it did not work”. How do we know if we have never tried? Times have changed, we need to give things another shot. Change will not happen in a positive way if all staff is not 100% on board. We will have some students that will be intimidated by the changes along with some parents and we can not reassure them if we do not believe in what we are doing.

Once that is done we can move on to the meat and potatoes.

2. One teacher, one classroom: We need to work in teams with two teacher, our teacher librarian and specialists. And those teachers need to share the same philosophy and really, really believe in the way they are teaching. Without a strong team, everything falls apart. Our students need to be in flexible groups working with teachers on specific and personalized projects.

3. The lack of available technology: We need to have technology available for every unit, activity, project we desire. I want to plan my class around my ideas not around the laptop schedule. In order for this to happen, see #4.

4. The fear of students breaking the internet: We need to let them use their iPods and laptops from home. We need to allow them access to the wireless password. They will not break the internet. Sites with mature content is filtered. Besides, if they really want to see a naked lady, all they need to do is look in those dusty National Geographics in the back of every library.

5. Classroom walls: We need to allow our students out of the classroom. They need places that they can gather and meet and hear themselves and each other speak. This needs to include the hallway, the library and in nice weather, outside. We also need to get rid of the school walls. They need to get out into the community and experience things.

6. Teacher generated projects and assignments: We need to work collaboratively with our students to see how they would like to learn and even what they would like to learn about. We are now of course restricted by the curriculum so perhaps we need to show the kids their options and gather suggestions on what they could do and explore to meet their learning requirements. Maybe that is how we begin the year: this is what we need to learn, how would you like to do it? Let’s brainstorm…hmmm, that is even more of an interesting idea than I originally thought.

7. Book reports, posters, dioramas and tests: There has to be more interesting ways for students to show what they know. Invent something, design something, create, demonstrate, experiment in front of each other and see what happens and what they can conclude from it. The possibilities are endless and so very exciting.

This is what I would like to see change for next year and I really and truly believe that it will happen because of the strong team in our school and the dedication and enthusiasm of all those that want it to. Come visit us next year to see how it all turns out!

We are now in the school year that I was speaking about in this post.  I know that I will be refering to my progress with a technologically rich, collaborative classroom this year, so I hope that this puts into context where I am coming from and what my “agenda” is!

I also wanted to use this as a response to “The Machine is (Changing) Us”.  In my school we are trying to encourage students to take charge of their learning and to not be apathetic and disengaged from school.  We have a culture where my students feel that they should have answers handed to them and that they are automatically entitled to success.  In my school we have struggled with this and we are very blatantly forcing them to work hard. (By blatantly, I mean we have made very clear to them what we are going to make them learn in a way that is different to them and make them work hard to do so.)  This year I am also trying to create an online collaborative community that extends beyond the school and beyond our school hours.  Despite all of the change that Michael Wesch talks about in his presentation and the engagement of people (in my case, kids) in online communities and technology, students are very resistant to change in how they know school.  School means a teacher talking, students listening and writing down what the teacher says and it is over at 3:30. While they are willing to spend hours talking over their Playstations, Skyping, BBMing and texting, posting to YouTube, communicating on Facebook etc., once you try to take their classrooms to these environments they become uncomfortable.  My plan this year is to make it more comfortable and take my classroom to that next level.  I hope that you enjoy my journey.

BTW, I still think Charlie Bit my Finger is really funny.

Mission: Possible

18 Sep

Hello everyone!

This is my second online computer/internet course that I have taken during my Master’s courses.  I really enjoy learning about new web tools etc. that I can use in my classroom with my students.  What I especially enjoy about these classes is that I can see what other people are doing so that I can be inspired by them and learning about new tools that I did not know about before.  From my first impression of this course I know that this will be another opportunity for me to be inspired and learn from others.  I love that I can do things for my students through this courses that I probably would do anyways but add the next dimension of having advice, suggestions and ideas from others.  That makes the resources that I create for them so much stronger.

My mission for this course is to create a space for my students to access and create information for their learning.  In my school, we have three grade 7/8 classes and over the course of the year we will be combining the classes in different ways for working in groups.  I wanted to create a space where all three classes could access information, links and instructions for their assignments  as well as a place where they can post their learning and collaborate, so I created the Senior Eagles Wiki.  Right now it is only in it’s beginning stages with very little information but I have big plans for it! What I would like to do is create a space where myself and my two 7/8 co-teachers as well as all the students have a space where we can collaborate from anywhere on everything that we do this year. I hope that through this class I can develop this space, create a place for student collaboration and class information and encourage my students to use it (which I think will be my biggest challenge).  I really want going to Senior Eagles to be as common for my students as walking into our physical classroom.  I hope and think that this class will help me to make this a strong resource and I look forward to developing it through this semester. Even just writing this blog has got my wheels with ideas for using the space… Mission on the way to being accomplished!

A little about me

15 Sep

I am a teacher, a student and a wife. I love to learn new things and share those new things with my students but even more than that, I love when my students discover things on their own. I believe that the best way to learn is to question everything and I work hard to encourage my students to ask powerful questions about their world.