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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In class tonight

Tonight is about fun stuff.  We played with Scratch and the SmartBoard.  We talked about safety online for our kiddos and copyright infringement.  We are gearing up for big stuff, I can feel it.  The WebQuest project is coming up and we will be starting digital storytelling, which will be very cool.  I can't understand why more teachers are not using more of these tools.  I know...time.  If you think about it, though, the kids pick up on this stuff way faster than we do so wouldn't it make our lessons easier?  Just a thought.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Equal Access

To me equal access, as it relates to education, means that every student has the right to the same information, equipment, and resources.  Whether that access is technologically based or access to tutors or library services, every student is treated the same and has the ability to utilize the resources available in the same way as others.  A problem is presented, obviously, when financial resources enter the equation.  While we strive to make sure that every student has access and can equally achieve, it is inevitable that schools in more affluent communities will have an easier time achieving this goal than those schools that are in less affluent situations.  The challenge is to make sure that all students have the same opportunity to learn. 

Roy Johnson, MA, in his article entitled Equal Access to Quality School Facilities writes "Though few studies exist that establish a clear and direct relationship between student achievement and the quality of school facilities, common sense tells us that students in newer and better maintained school facilities are apt to have access to the necessary equipment, teaching staff and environment conducive to learning."  An environment that is conducive to learning is what we want for our students, all of our students.  Although Mr. Johnson states that few studies have been done, it seems that a study would not be as effective as a trip to Home Depot or Lowes to gather supplies and a community project that would lead to improvement in the environment allowing students a better place to learn.  This environment would allow all students, regardless of financial situation, to achieve better.  Is the answer to the challenge then more direct community involvement and ownership in the problem?  Perhaps that is one solution. 

Also, as a teacher I care about my students' success.  I want all of my students to have equal opportunity to become a contributing part of the community they will eventually serve.  This might mean adjusting how I teach and changing some assignments in my classroom to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to shine.  Part of my responsibility might include making sure that supplies are available so that everyone has access, even if this means I absorb the cost at times.  I want what is best for my students.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ed Tech Talk - 21st Century Learning

This was a very interesting conversation between Brad Overell-Carter (the head of the Think Global School), Alex Ragone, Arvind Grover, and Vinnie Vrotny.  Mr. Overell-Carter discussed his school based on an amazing concept of being mobile.  The school moves, 12 countries in 12 semester, until every student has traveled around the world four times.  They focus on utilizing technology (every student must have an IPad and IPhone) and use it in their educational experiences.  The schedule is extremely flexible so that students might have a basic class (math, literature, history, etc) in the morning but then as a group the school would attend a museum exhibit or have a guest lecturer for the next part of the day.  Scheduling is handled through Google Tracker and everyone meets for "family time" to discuss how the week had gone and what they could possibly do differently the following week to improve the experience. 

Some challenges discussed were the fact that globalization as we think of it has not realistically occurred yet.  Jurisdiction of APPs, for example, is not universal.  Purchasing and receiving equipment has been delayed at times due to customs issues.  Finally, it was expressed that the use of technology has been "distracting." not in the sense that it is being misused but rather that too much time was being spent thinking about how to use the expensive equipment purchased rather than focusing on the end result of the project underway. 

Mr. Overell-Carter broke down the curriculum into three parts.  These include baseline literacy, like "traditional" schools focus on, applications of the information obtained in lessons, and research.  The overall program appears to be very much student-based with a goal to responsibly contribute to society when need is perceived.  Two things he stated they would like to remain focused on are "staying in the question" rather than getting bogged down in finding the answers and having a goal to "be better than before". 

While I am still not a fan of this venue of teacher collaboration, I certainly see the benefit in such a venue.  I don't believe I would have heard of such an educational program had I not been exposed to this.  This particular discussion intrigued me to the point that I will be looking for the next conversation when the school has moved from Stockholm to Syndey (which actually happened in January).  I hope I will not have to wait too long!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

SuperBowl

The SuperBowl is such an important part of February.  I can't imagine not spending time with the family watching the game.  Today's is bittersweet since the Patriots are not playing.  The game has been a little slow but I did get the opportunity to get some homework done (thank God for laptops).  It is amazing to think that in today's society we do not need to be sitting in the living room in order to see the game.  We could be walking down the street watching the game on our phone or sitting in a library watching on our netbook (plugged in of course) or pretty much anywhere you can imagine.  Being a digital immigrant (more so than not) I still long for the connection with other actual human beings being in the same room and sharing the excitement rather than being connected via a technological link but I can certainly understand the freedom one might enjoy because of one. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lit Review - Social Media in the classroom

Check out http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-39-spring-2011/your-students-love-social-media-and-so-can-you.  It discusses the importance and relevance of social networking on students, and teenagers in particular.  Many of us who were not born with a computer in our hands place greater value on the face-to-face interactions we grew up with, as did our parents.  The newer generations speak little but keyboard as a major activity.  It is important to them and as teachers we will need to embrace this way of connecting and try to better understand it. 

The article discusses the common social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  It suggests that such sites can be used not only for socialization but also to address educational subjects.  Using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Docs can encourage long-distance educational experiences where students do projects with other students in different countries.  Beyond that, there's Skype, which the article does not discuss.  Skype can expand connections students have made via Facebook and Twitter so that they become face-to-face, which will make those of us raised in the face-to-face generations more comfortable with the idea. 

To quote the article, "...Either we acknowledge it exists and allow ourselves to be part of the conversation, or it's one more way school becomes irrelevant to kids."  It is terrifying to think that the current in-school and coming generations might come to consider school irrelevant.