Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Back in Good Health

For the past few months, I have not posted any blog articles.  I was busy with the start of school and also having surgery for breast cancer.  I really missed posting articles and seeing who was reading them.  I am cancer free now and feel more like my old self.  You can expect me to start posting articles on a more regular basis now.  Thank you for continuing to follow my blog!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

TED Ed - A Source for Educational Videos

Have you heard of TED Ed?  It is a free resource of educational animated videos for teaching and learning.  The purpose of this initiative is to help teachers to either "flip" their classroom or make their teaching more self-directed for their students.  Check out the video below to learn true "flip" style.

The site has many tools for teachers including how to assign the videos, include a quiz to determine if students learned the information, and find out which students have watched the a lot more!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Free Google Sites Guide

Richard Byrne, author of the blog, Free Technology for Teachers, has created a new guide for people who are just getting started with Google Sites.  If you are creating a site with Google, this would be helpful as you get started.  It includes directions and screenshots for adding images, videos, pages, and much more.  Check it out.  It is a Scribd document which you can print or read online.

Free Technology for Teachers: 47 Page Guide to Google Sites for Teachers

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

iPad Apps - Listed by area

Apps in Education
One of the time consuming tasks for teachers is finding iPad apps that work with their curriculum.  Here is one site that lists the apps by subject area.  They also have a category for special needs.  This is very helpful for teachers as it saves them the time of having to search through the iTunes store trying to find apps that work.  If you have another site that lists iPad or Android apps with reviews by an educator and categorized so that it is easy to find useful apps, please post them in the comments below.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Feature with Evernote

I just downloaded Evernote for my Asus Transformer Android device.  One of the new features is the ability to record an audio message into a note.  Evernote then converts it from speech to text. This could be a very useful feature for students with reading and writing issues. If you are using Evernote, be sure that you update your app to get this feature.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pedagogy First, Tech Second

I was reading a blog article by Darren Coxon about his travels through an iPad deployment.  The intent of the article was to save others from having the same frustrations as his school had, which is great sharing. What hit me, however, as a key point was in this passage:

"There are some schools that went all out, investing in one iPad per student from day one, but I have been to some of these schools and they are not using the iPad in a way that can be truly transformative. For me, it is about more than just the device; it is about getting the infrastructure in place. And this does not only mean things like wireless: it includes the intellectual, pedagogical infrastructure that brings with it an understanding of both the benefits and pitfalls of bringing these devices into the classroom. They have the powers to be truly game changing, but only if they are handled correctly. Remember the interactive whiteboard when it was first brought in? We thought it would change things completely. The reason it did not was that no one really thought through the pedagogy behind it. It became a glorified, expensive projector, little more. The iPad has the capacity to become nothing more than a glorified iPhone without the phone, or a nice way to look online."

Darren, you hit the nail on the head.  Don't get me wrong....I think technology rocks....but only when it fundamentally changes the thinking and learning of the students.  If we are going to have students taking lecture notes on an iPad or netbook, does that really change the learning?  Perhaps, as the students can collaboratively share the notes and hopefully build some knowledget together, but is that really a game changer?  If we have students taking quizzes with clickers rather than paper, does that change their learning?  Perhaps, as the teacher can get quicker results, but is it a major game changer?  If we have students playing an iPad app for Everyday Math instead of the same game with cards and paper, are we really changing what they are learning?

What I really see as the value of technology is when it allows students to think and learn in ways they could not otherwise do. For example, if we have students in the United States collaboratively trying to solve a water pollution problem in a third world country with students in that country, now THAT is a game changer!  How else could they get first hand knowledge of the problem?  How else could they see how their ideas would be feasible in another country?  Without the technology, they could not complete this task at the same level.

I would love to hear more examples of how technology is being used to really raise the level of thinking and learning of students.  What are you all doing out there to accomplish this?  What are the students doing differently?  Could they do that same thinking and learning without the technology?  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Student Technology Team

Our elementary school was lucky enough to win a $1200 WEMTA PET Grant from our state association for library media and technology.  This grant will allow us to implement a STAT - Student Technology Assistance Team.  We got the idea a few years ago, but are really seeing the need for it now.  Our school is blessed to still have a half-time library media specialist.  Teachers are starting to use more technology and our district has embraced more mobile devices and web 2.0 tools for use with students.  These are all wonderful things!

What we found as a struggle was meeting the needs of the teachers and students at the exact time they planned to use the technologies and other tools.  Even though our LMS has a flexible schedule, she cannot be in our building every time a technology project is going on.  Hence, we decided to leverage the knowledge of our students and their enthusiasm for learning technology!  We are planning to recruit 2 or 3 students per homeroom to be trained as STAT members.  They would be extra helpers and trainers in their classrooms.

This month, we are gathering names of interested students. They need to have teacher and parent approval to be considered for the STAT.  Although our student council requires students to be up-to-date on all homework, we don't want to exclude students because of that.  We are hoping that some disengaged students may want to participate, thus hoping to increase their connection to school.

Our LMS is going to check with the classroom teachers to find out what types of technology projects they are planning on implementing yet this spring.  Each classroom is also getting 2 iPads, so we can use the STAT to help implement and troubleshoot those.  I am very excited to get this started.  We are hoping that most kids can stay after school for training.  If not, we will use their noon recess/lunch block as that is our only other time to meet with them.

Do you know of any schools that have implemented a team like this at the elementary level?  I would love to hear what they have found that works well and any challenges they faced.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Striking a Balance Between Showing and Guiding

Over the past 15 years, I have provided a lot of technology staff development for educators.  Originally, I would create step-by-step handouts for the participants.  This was more in teaching like the "sage on the stage".  I would guide them through with "click here" and "click there".  What I found was that the educators generally felt very comfortable in the initial training and liked the step-by-step directions.  It seemed to work!

But....after they left the training, I found that they were very attached to their step-by-step directions. If they wanted to do something that wasn't in the instructions, they usually felt like they needed help from someone to do the task.  In the long run, this is not effective.  It might have worked OK when we bought static programs like Office 2000 and we kept the same program with the same features for several years.

Enter Web 2.0.......things are constantly changing like the leaves in the fall.  There are new tools each day.  There are updates to existing tools.  Take Google Apps for Education as an example. Google continues to update the product.  If I create step-by-step handouts this month, the screen shots and menu items may be different in one month.  How do I effectively teach educators about these tools?

I started to go the route of teaching them the very basics of a tool and then focusing more on how to find their answers within the help options of the program.  This seemed to work very well with educators who were comfortable with learning new technologies....those who were not afraid to try something.  I did, however, find a portion of the teachers who were less comfortable with technology who still wanted the step-by-step directions.  While I still strongly believed that I wanted them to learn how to "think technology" and figure out how to find the help themselves, I also recognized that some need the step-by-step to get past the uncomfortable feeling of learning a new technology.

I have now changed to doing a combination of demonstrating how to use a technology, providing some handouts (but just for the basics), and spending time teaching others how to learn new skills on their own.  I am finding that this approach differentiates the needs of educators just like we differentiate for the needs of our own students in our classrooms.

How do you best learn technology?  Please take my poll to let me know what works for you.