Monday, May 3, 2010

Looking Back to Look Forward

I was thinking as I sat down to write blogs that usually writing helps me clarify my thinking but with the work we do using technology – I don’t feel that need at all. Because the discussions are immediate, the problem solving collaborative, the teaching team so focused and communicative, it all seems superfluous to write it down. The people who are usng the exact same programs are right outside my door, and I am a people person. I’d still rather have that personal contact, talk it thorugh, be talked through a problem or a program. If there is no physical proximity or availablility then I don’t hesitate to be on line and write it through.

The purpose of these was to show technology growth, and I don’t think mine do to the degree technology is used to enhance learning. But despite this – I do learn something about technology every day, and teach something every day. Students love to use technology to support and enhance learning and I have t remind myself that10 years ago, how limited our access was and recall the one hour a week in the IT lab. Sometimes I just learn patience when the server is slow, sites have moved, programs crash and we find an alternate method, and other times I learn that it was not the best way to impact learning.

ISB has had many things that potentially could have impacted learning this year – most lately being the political instability with school cancelled. The class blog is such a part of our classwork that students largely carried on regardless.

To even get together to get the focus lesson started for this course did not happen as there are so many conflicts and schedule adaptions. That doesn’t mean things didn’t go on, just that I moved to a new focus and stopped thinking about it and so it all drifted on. I would have liked to do more reading – but could have done that on my own. The discussions about technology are constant in outr team. There is always a new site, program, adaptation to thing about incorporating into our curriculum. I have no doubt that the standards are embedded in our curriculum as we work to do so. I know that this means a far more vibrant learning for the students as the old days of a stagnant curriculum just cannot exist with all that lies within our grasp. And of course I want (okay need) to complete this course, the actual course completion is not what drives me. I like the journey.

Keeping Tech Moving

And when I thought the Korat stories were finished – they weren’t. It seems the first few students followed instructions well, uploaded them to blogs and I relaxed. The rest had completed all expectations for their project, uploaded to our class youtube account and then there was where is became chaotic. If the server was slow, upload did not complete and then there would either be a copy message from youtube, or the students had to go in and delete and start over. On some the sound did not work ,and they re recorded over it.
Some had problems uploading ot their blog as they didn’t use the outube upload selection. Then there was the ongoing illness/absence issue. So the good thing was that technology can be accessed from anywhere and we were able to communicate via e mail, the blog and at school to finalise everything.

All in all it was a drawn out experience but they certainly learnt the process and how to troubleshoot.

As this was going on we were preparing for student let conferences and all students responded to an online reflection.

Hi everybody!!
Yup, it’s finally time for Student-led conferences. Here is my reflection towards my learning:
What have I learned?
• I learned how to stay on task and work well individually and with groups
• I learned how to use the rubric to exceed expectations to get a good grade(:
• How to write a very good and high-level blog
• I learned how situations we play in school can relate to real life situations
• How to use poetry and all the different poetic devices
• About hunger and what causes it, how we can help and how lucky I am
• That everybody can make an impact on somebody’s life
• How to manage my time after school
• How to make better sentences; I know better vocab
• About rural lifestyles in Thailand
• Making choices
How do you know you learned it?
• I feel smart
• I can relate to real-life situations
• I can read my dad’s magazines!
What got into the way of your learning?
I do many different activities after school such as BiSac sports, Jazz Band, Jazz dance and flute lessons. Sometimes these activities get into the way of my learning. This is because I am committed to these activities, so I have to go, but at the end of the day, I sometimes have to stay up late doing homework.
What helped your learning?
• Working with somebody else
• Looking and using a rubric
• Other classmates (mostly Sanjana)
• My parents who helped if I needed help
How did you feel?
I felt very stressed and nervous. I was scared that I would not finish my homework, and the next morning I was really tired.
What do you think you can now apply to a new situation?
• If I have time to finish something, I should not procrastinate, but work on it so that later on, I will have more time for myself and my friends
What are you most proud of? Disappointed with?
• I am most proud of my blog posts and my band achievments (AMIS)
• That I have to work on weekends

Reflection guided their choices for sharing and allowed a structure for them. It also gave m e an insight into their thoughts on their progress and understanding.

Visit our blog to see more student reflection

Our Class Blog

Working with students who are like sponges in regards to technological skills, makes it a pleasure to support and extend learning with computers, and the plethora of programs installed and available. More than half my students have English as their second, or third language and yet they are able to gather and (begin at least to) assess information, collaborate, and produce work that shares their learning in exciting , user friendly ways.
Technology will be used as a vehicle to support, showcase and extend their learning after our class trip to Korat and their digital stories, during the Feeding A Hungry Word Unit of Study, constantly through vocabulary learning, and …

Our class blog is a central point for information, instructions and links. It hosts rubrics, grading guides and links, directly related to current topics. Students go to the blog to comment on each others ideas and reflect on the learning of their peers. It is where students are to go each day to check for updates and to go to links for each others blogs. It is our class communication tool - with links supplied for cross grade sharing. It allows learning and collaboration beyond the classroom walls.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Digital Stories

Another first for the grade 7 team, and for me. Rather than have students write a report, or a reflection, or a journal, or…. we decided to try something different.

The goal was to have students relate to an aspect of rural life in Thailand and express this through images, text and music. In order to this we needed to ensure that each student travelled with a digital camera and had the task outline clearly understood.

Students were all to select a theme to highlight a connection to, and then use digital story telling as their vehicle to convey to others a connection they made.
Examples of possible projects were discussed prior to the Korat trip. Task outlines and rubrics were posted online.

For most students the connection and transfer was easy, but some struggled with topic, selection, collating and sorting their photos. Procrastination really was the enemy of a few.

An interesting note in terms of teaching across subject areas was that we often are using the same median, albeit with a different content and slant, but we aren’t aware. I started off my showing the examples of similar projects and prepared to launch into teaching, only to hear half the class saying “Oh I know this” “I like this” “This is what we used in science for the …” And so what could have been an overwhelming project became something that already had a roomful of experts, ready to transfer their knowledge to a new project, or to new users. It happened that one of the G7 science teachers had used the same program to convey scientific data. Its flow on effect was a comfort level with the vehicle and a confidence that the ‘teachers’ had to share their skills.

Examples of students work can be found here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Feeding a Hungry World

Joining the 7th grade team this year, meant working with new units. As we started to plan Feeding a Hungry World, we all felt constricted by the 6 Themes of Geography approach and decided to adjust and develop the unit to incorporate a lot more …

All four classes would combine for the final negotiations so we needed to assign countries and roles across the grade. The goal was to have all students prepared for a diplomatic simulation/negotiation. The areas of focus were to involve food security issues and a focus on land use and it’s potential to make a difference, as well as potential resource reallocation.

All students were assigned their countries in Asia and then they needed to source information on demographics. The CIA and WFP sites were user friendly and for most countries provided the basic information.

Each country had clearly defined roles: diplomat, government official, environmental scientist, farmer, citizen. There was a graphic organiser for each role and then each student was expected to contribute to a full group discussion in order to inform the diplomat so she/he could take a position in the simulation. At this time a google doc was set up for each group so they could continue on the research from home to fill in any gaps of information and make their positions stronger.

Students were then spread throughout the classroom and given a packet containing their food (rice grains) land (coloured paper) and money (in line with the GDP) The goal was for each group to negotiate enough food to feed their population by 2050.

This is one of the few times that students have not only not wanted to go out break, but stayed after class to negotiate, challenge and change their countries position. They were well prepared due to the sites selected as a base, their improving research skills on line, their ability to collaborate beyond classroom doors. I had wondered if the content was beyond the majority but it was evident from the on line products and discussions that the majority did grasp the major concepts.

As it turned out actual keeping the unit flowing, as a class, was our biggest problem as we had the H1N1 virus affecting classes and more than half each of my classes was out for over a week, with the number affected for a three week period. Because we were able to use blogs and google docs, classwork was able to proceed for the rest of the groups present.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tech peripherals

This semester the first new peripheral was the microphone for Smart Recording. Easy to use for the students though there was a problem with constantly recurring lack of sound. This required administrative password access as students accessing settings at will could potentially wreak havoc. It seems there is a solution to this underway though we faced each incident as it arose. I used the lab with the students as Khun Eed was right there and ready to help adjust. We learned very quickly to do a test before launching in to the presentation. The thrill of uploading there finsihed products on to YouTube nipped any complaining and frustration in the bud.

The Document Camera is easy to use in tandem with the Smart board and saves scanning, sending and reformatting. Easy for students and teachers to put up examples and lowers the nerve level as students get used to providing evidence instantly, using it to project a picture or data, as a prop for discussion.

The Smartboard itself can be the bane of my life. It either works brilliantly - or not. With a mac I now have to reset the display every time I plug in. We ( being me and various people from EdTech) have reset the display but dependent on whether someone else has use the Smartboard it is a process and requires me being really organised, using breaks to set up and not expecting to just plug in and go.

For novel study summary the students worked with cameras and movie cameras to summarise plot or showcase charcter development. It was a lot of work to put movies in to imovie but we used the pyramid learning and peer tutor. We've ended up with quite a few experts at pulling movies together. More with this next semester...

Relevant - How?

What is a 'good' educator? Someone who values learning, motivates students to question, connect, communicate, create ... There have been many wonderful teachers in the past who have taught without technology - that is the technology as we know it to be now. Of course one can be a great educator without digital tools but with the right tools for each task the possibilities increase exponentially.

NETs encourage educators to
  • Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
  • Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
  • Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
  • Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility
  • Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership
Clearly there is relevance in the standards, though as we discussed - the document would and could stand as what many good teachers ahve been doing for years - without the word technology inbedded. They could be applied ot any curriculum area. ISB has come far since being on this new campus. The one computer lab has long gone and laptops are the computer of choice. Technology is a part of learning every day. There are always newer and newer tools. I jsut don't want ot throw out the great ones as new ones appear. It does not have to be the latest - for it to be great. But I, for one, will keep looking. The NETs may indeed help along the way.