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One Small Victory that Made Me Smile

When I started working at my school, I was one of the only staff members truly integrating technology into my classroom, and to be honest, it made me stand out.  I found myself as a first and second year teacher giving workshops and running sessions for staff members showing them the benefits of using technology.  After a few sessions, I was wondering if my efforts were, at the very least, making people think about their practice.

This year, I’ve continued the journey, trying to make a difference in my school with whoever will listen, and I think I’m actually… gulp… making changes!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve been running weekly PLC sessions that give me the time and opportunity to teach willing staff members about different web tools and give them ideas for using them in their class.  These sessions have turned from friendly conversations of learning into intense debates of practice and pedagogy for each of us.  Although people were beginning to experiment, a veteran teacher, a Science teacher who’s been at our school for over 25 years, was my toughest critic.

At first, she didn’t see why she needed to pay attention to this “stuff”.  The way she did it was fine and worked so why change?  I tried to get her to look at things differently by showing her things I’ve done and my students have created, but it was hard to see how my English projects fit her Science content.

But then, I introduced her to Glogster.  I helped her figure out where it fit in her curriculum, assisted in creating the rubric for a project using the tools and answered questions along the way… even if it was in the middle of class!  And you know what?  She actually used it!  She did a project using Glogster, and it was successful!!

Two weeks later, that same veteran Science teacher, now tech-addict, was in my classroom asking about HTML codes, wiki pages, and embedding student projects on her class website!  Before she left my room, she turned to me, pointed, and said, “You are my inspiration.  This is all because of you.” And gave me a big hug.

I’d say that’s progress!

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Unplugged

I read an article once about the use of educational technology that quoted a student saying,“When I come to school, I unplug.” And sometimes I feel that way too.

Being one of the only members of the faculty truly embracing technology and its potential gets exhausting!  It is an uphill battle and to make it to the top you have to be loaded with research, tools, and innovative thinking that you can use to defeat the nay-sayers. However, during meetings sometimes it is easier to just turn off, unplug, and listen to others make excuses, complain, and settle for mediocrity from their students.

Ed tech is about challenge.  It’s about stimulating, authentic challenges that make our students think differently about their learning.

But not everyone sees it this way.

How can we get our fellow colleagues to see the importance of using technology in the classroom instead of looking down their nose and criticizing those of us that do?

Found a list of Ways to Encourage the Use of Technology here.

Do you have any you’d add to the list?

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What to write! What to write!

PLN, don’t be mad, but I haven’t blogged in a year.  ::yikes!::

Thinking about what I was going to write for my latest entry has been a burden I’ve been carrying with me though EdCamps and EdChats, and just now I decided to get over it.

HERE IS MY ICE BREAKER POST!

 

::sigh::

 

Glad that’s over with!  Now for the good stuff!

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New Literacies and Kittens!

I was shown one of the funniest Youtube videos I’ve seen in a while yesterday, which I have embedded below.

The video, Kittens!  Inspired by Kittens!, is of a little girl video taping herself “reading” a book about… well… kittens as she isolates each picture and creates dialogue according to their body position.  The crazy thing is this video has over six million views!!!

Although my friend introduced me to this video so I could get a good laugh, it also got me thinking a lot about technology and the skills our students are practicing regularly at home that could be utilized at school.  Most students go home and are surrounded by technology whether it be with their cell phones, iPods, computers, etc.  Kids are coming in with different literacies… new literacies… and schools need to work on embracing this new change!

Think about the world our students live in.

What are they doing for fun when they go home?  How many still play with dolls, action figures, or fake kitchens?  More children are using technology, becoming comfortable with technology, growing up understanding and learning with technology… so why when they come to school is this powerful and familiar tool being taken away?

School should be a place where students can blossom using the skills they already have in order to prepare them for the 21st century world, not a place where their full potential is being limited because of deficits in our education system.

Yes, some of the students that enter my classroom are low level readers and writers, but these are the same students that are extremely tech literate!  They can create webpages, navigate through information, and collaborate with their peers about their interests!  These are the new literacies that students need to have!  As educators, it is our job to recognize that these skills as equally as important as other traditional literacies and find ways to effectives incorporate them into our lessons!

Enjoy watching the video below and think about this..

What kind of 21st century skills are our students coming to us with and how can we embrace them in our classrooms?

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Get Students Asking Questions about Info Online!

Coming into teaching, I assumed students were entering my classroom with an understanding of computers, technology, and the internet that I did not need to address.  I was quickly proven wrong.  Yes, our students can use social networks like Facebook, type an essay, and send an e-mail, but when it comes to actually using the technology for learning they were clueless.

Because it was evident they were not getting instruction in media literacy, I decided to start!

My first Media Literacy lesson was on Evaluating Websites.

I began this lesson by showing students the website for Dog Island, which can be found here…

http://www.thedogisland.com/

I told the students I wanted to send my dog there as a Christmas present, and needed their advice!  We searched the website together reading all of the information, looking at the pictures, clicking on all of the different links, and discussed our findings.  I was shocked at how many of my students believed there was a Dog Island!  However, in each class I had my skeptics, at least 2-3 people that knew it was somehow a hoax.

After our discussion, I clicked the Disclaimer at the bottom of the page showing the students the website was indeed a fake!

Following this, I did a quick powerpoint with my students that reviewed how to evaluate websites (which can be found on my class wiki!), and gave them a sheet explaining the 5 things to ask when faced with a new website (also on my class wiki)!

WHO… created the website?

WHAT… is the purpose of this site?

WHEN… was the site created/updated?

WHERE… is the information coming from?

WHY… should I use this information?

Students then were given a list of ten websites to evaluate using the criteria discussed in class.  They posted their responses on our class wiki!

The powerpoint and the websites used can be found here under the Media Literacy page…

http://msspiezio.wikispaces.com

*Note!  All of the websites used were fake!

After this lesson, the students began doing research for historical fiction pieces they were writing.  I am happy to report that my students were finding great information from reliable sources!  They were evaluating the websites carefully, calling me over to help them find information about the author or the date the site was last updated.

My students are now more critical of the information they find online, and have the skills they need to navigate through all the data the Internet has to offer!!

I hope you find this lesson and the resources listed to be helpful!

If anyone has any other suggestions for Media Literacy activities please comment 🙂

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Oh Apple!

The Apple Store always amazes me.

Regardless how many times I have been inside these stores, I always leave with an excited smile on my face, giddy about the technological experience I just had.  Today was no different. I went to exchange a Christmas present, and was immediately greeted by a handy salesmen who was eager to help me.  After telling him my problem, he took total care of me, showing me where to find what I was looking for, and even assisting me in making the decision!  When I was done, Mr. Mac-Employee pulled out an iPhone-ish device, scanned the bar code on my receipt with it, plugged in my contact information, and e-mailed me a receipt all on the same handheld contraption.

And that was it!

That simple.  No standing in line, waiting for things to print, searching through the computer, or handwriting information; just a scan, a quick e-mail, and I was done.

Walking out, I couldn’t help but smile because yet again, technology had proved to be the fastest and easiest thing to use to make everyday situations somehow smoother.

But that wasn’t the only thing this experience made me think; my brief trip to the Apple store was a perfect example of how we should be using technology in schools.

The technology in the store was a tool, a compliment to the sales worker, and a way to make him and what he was doing more efficient- it did not take the sales worker’s place. And that’s exactly how it should be viewed in schools!  No one wants technology to replace the teacher; it should be a tool to help the teacher’s instruction be more effective and meaningful for the student.  Technology is not a substitute for good teaching (or good sales tactics- my salesman was still knowledgeable and friendly),  it’s to be used to enhance learning, expose and open student’s views, and create an instant, collaborative learning environment for today’s children.

Too many teachers fear technology will make them obsolete, make their jobs, their curriculum, their area of expertise not needed, but that is not the case.  Technology, used correctly, should not replace the teacher.  It should improve the learning and motivation in the classroom, and help prepare our kids for the 21st century world where all sales clerks will have handheld devices that scan barcodes and e-mail receipts to customers through their online address book.

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Someone gets it!

Taking a look around my school building, I could count on one hand the number of teachers using technology to its full potential with their students.  Being an advocate of using technology in the classroom, I’ve had numerous discussions with my colleagues about why it’s important to use technology, how to use it, and where to get the resources.  Still, some teachers remain stuck in their ways.

Surfing for an ounce of hope, I stumbled upon the following article from the University of Vermont, and I couldn’t help but smile.

Someone gets it!!! (Find out here–> http://bit.ly/7lfPH7 )

This quote in particular from the article perfectly summed up my personal opinions about the issue…

“Today’s young people are immersed in technology everywhere but in school… Instead of asking students to power down the moment the school day starts, we need to bring technology into the classroom where, combined with good teaching, it can be a powerful tool for engaging young minds.”

We are so lucky to be in a world where our students can connect and collaborate with other students, teachers, and professionals around the world… and in an instant!  The potential this tool has to truly take our learners to the next level is incredible and needs to be explored by teachers.  However, most teachers I’ve met are reluctant.

What I found unique about this program was the rigorous professional development the schools included to prepare their teachers for success.  I think so many times schools expect their teachers to do certain tasks and perform miracles with them, but do not adequately prepare their teachers.  Frequent follow-ups and in-school visits make teacher-learning real and hold teachers accountable for integrating the new curriculum.

Although all teachers should be using technology, without proper training not all teachers can successfully!

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