Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fortune Cookie Recipe

Click cookie for recipe.

Technology Quotes

Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road. -Stewart Brand

The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human. - John Naisbitt

It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame. - Marshall McLuhan

Whereas knights of old wore armor of plate, the modern knights of the air wear the invisible but magic armor of confidence in technology. - Mike Spick

Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time. - Bill Gates

Why shouldn't we give our teachers a license to obtain software, all software, any software, for nothing? Does anyone demand a licensing fee, each time a child is taught the alphabet? - William Gibson

Computers are like bikinis. They save people a lot of guesswork. -Sam Ewing

After the idea, there is plenty of time to learn the technology. -James Dyson

Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute. -J G Ballard

Never let a computer know you're in a hurry. - Anonymous

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. - John Dewey

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time. -Chinese Proverb

Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer deserves to be. -David Thornburg

History will say, “They had WHAT tools? And they did WHAT with them?” - John Davitt

The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative. - Tanya Byron

The illiterate of the 21st century won't be those who can't read and write but those who can't learn, unlearn and relearn. - Alvin Toffler

You must be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

Friday, December 11, 2009

Little Kids, Big Possibilities

This podcast by Kelly Hines highlighted some of the web 2.0 tools that are available for use with elementary age students - MY little peeps! I'm happy to say that, after participating in this class, I'm already familiar with some of the tools, but others were new to me and I've already played around with some of them.

One such new-to-me tool was I particularly liked the element of sorting kids' sticky notes in various ways to show common thinking or simply as a means of data representation. That was a nice cross-curriculum feature that reinforces what kids are learning in science and math.

Though I was already familiar with Wordle, Kelly Hines' additional suggestions for use were wonderful. Though I've had students generate Wordles, I've not used previously constructed Wordles to elicit student predictions or foster deductive reasoning. I can see copying the text from classroom books or from student writing and generating a Wordle from it, then having the students see if they can figure out the main idea of the piece.

The comic creators mentioned , like, were entirely new to me. Though I've not yet had a chance to noodle around on those sites, I'm looking forward to doing so and already see possible applications for my first graders with sequencing. The idea of playing around with cartoons is inherently attractive to the elementary school child and it's wonderful to be able to slip in learning when they don't even realize you're doing it!

For my students, Edmodo looks interesting for the survey-building capabilities. Young children love to "vote" on things and then see that data displayed graphically. Again, I'm looking forward to poking around more on this site, learning the tool, and bringing it to my teaching.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Final Project Outline

In an attempt to put our money where our collective mouths were, my 21st century colleagues and I had a desire to implement some of the technology we've been raving about and update/improve our school website. In an effort to "work smarter, not harder", rather than rewrite for this blog what what has already been written elsewhere, below is the text taken from our teams' Professional Improvement Plan, outlining our original goals: (Thank you, Kristy Johnson, for doing all this work!)

We will work as a team to create an update of the Morse Street School website that intends to communicate effectively with Morse Street families. We will exhibit leadership in our school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources. We want the new MSS site to communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students and parents using a variety of digital-age media and formats. It is our intent to collaborate with students, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation. We hope that the "new and improved site" will facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments. Specifically, we plan to make improvements to the site making it more interactive. The site will model the currently possible uses of audio and video.

Originally, our plan was to develop a "mock-up" of the site, which would eventually go public. However, since this original plan was made, we've been informed that the new site for our school must be part of a district-wide "RSU5" site and there will be a committee formed to develop this. Well, no one said it would be easy. Our group has generated many good ideas already and have a working outline of things we'd like to include on the site, so our collective input to any new committee will be of value and we intend to carry on with our mock-up.

Items that we intend to include on the site are:
  • General information about our school with an interactive site map.
  • A link to our reading, writing, and math curriculum
  • A link to the fine arts philosophies and activities
  • A school calendar
  • Newsletters
  • Lunch menus
  • Fundraisers
  • PTC activities
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Reminders for upcoming events
  • A Principal's corner for communication
  • Examples of student work that would showcase all learning areas

Monday, November 23, 2009

Educating Kids Out of Creativity

The message expressed in the article by Sir Ken Robinson, addressing the need for schools to validate artistic expression, was in perfect stride with the shift in consciousness that I truly believe is starting to take place globally. Old paradigms are just not working and are (not surprisingly) failing to produce the results that today's society demands. There was one particular line in Robinson's article that spoke to this idea beautifully. He says, in reaction to the idea that our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability as the truest expression of intelligence, "Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won't serve us." Just as we, as a unified planet, are finally starting to sit up and take notice that yes, indeed, fossil fuels will eventually run out and it might behoove us to rethink our energy strategies, we must be equally willing to rethink our educational strategies. Get rid of that which does not support the emerging paradigm and focus our attention on that which will. The last thing we need in the face of the daunting challenges we face today is a race of people afraid to take a chance for fear of being wrong.

There will be no argument from ANY elementary school teacher that the acquisition of literacy is critical and foundational, as it is the gateway to learning of all kinds. We absolutely must focus the majority of our resources on teaching children how to read and write. But in doing this, we must be very willing to expand our definition of literacy as it pertains to the medium of the day. As referenced in an earlier post regarding Jason Ohler's article, Orchestrating the Media Collage, in the 21st century, that medium is digital, thus involving literacy with not only text, but sound, graphics, and moving images as well. If we want our kids to have an education that prepares them for the future, then we best focus on supplying them with the tools they need to meet that future. People connect with one another through common experience. You learn of someone's experience when you hear their story. Let's give our students every means possible to tell their story.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NETS Activity - Dipping Into Digital

Activity sheet

I dipped a toe into the digital ocean and found out I could dog paddle. I decided to try something VERY technologically manageable with my first grade class last week, which was just an extension of a lesson I had done with my students in the past. Historically, as I wrap up a science unit on Air and Weather and prepare to move into a social studies unit on Philanthropy, I always read an appealing book to my students called Knut - How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World (see my Shelfari). It provides a nice bridge between the two, seemingly diverse, topics in that we take what we've learned about air and weather, extend that to the topic of how we, as people, can have an effect on the weather through our actions (global warming), and how that can then have an effect on other species (shrinking habitat). This book, featuring the world's cutest polar bear cub, simply brings attention to the species as a whole and makes the survival of this endangered species more personal for the kids. In the past, after reading this book to my students, they were always hungry for more information about polar bears, their habitat and what they could do to make a difference. What a great segue into the topic of philanthropy, which is, after all, just an extension of our on-going first grade study of community and how we are all part of a whole, working together for the greater good. All that being did technology help out with that, you ask?

After passing by my school's LCD projector in the tech room many times, I thought to myself, "Self, you really ought to learn how to use that thing so you can share interesting websites with your class." The words of a sage educator came to smarter, not harder. So, as stated earlier, I dipped my toe into the digital ocean, went into school on a Sunday, dragged that scary piece of machinery into my classroom, figured out how to hook it up and gave it a test run. It was embarrassingly easy. On Monday morning, my kids got to meet Knut through a book. By afternoon, thanks to, 17 children had fallen completely in love with him as they watched him on a screen, drinking from a bottle, wrestling with a boot, and learning how to swim. By the end of the day, we had learned how to sing a song about him in German and had visited a polar bear habitat. On Tuesday, we learned a bit more about how polar bears live in the wild and then saw an animation about how the WWF tracks polar bears to see if their habitat is shrinking and their numbers are dropping.

The most challenging aspect of introducing technology into this lesson was figuring out how to STOP! I had designated only a couple of days to this and now realize that we could easily have pursued SO many links to SO many cool sites and activities that we could have continued linking and learning about this subject matter until June. As with all things web, it's difficult to cull through the volumes of information accessed, then decide what to keep and what to cut. At least now that I've seen the tip of the iceberg (pun intended), I have a million ideas about how I'll further incorporate this discipline-bridging activity next year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

World Without Walls: Learning Well With Others

The title of this article warmed my first grade teacher heart. So much of what I read about incorporating technology in the classroom seems geared toward the middle or high school population - you know, those big-time tech users. Though I agree that opening the door to the world is clearly a beneficial endeavor, even for my young charges, I sometimes question how relevant all of this wonderful world-wide information is to someone just learning how to play well with others. Well, there you have it. When children first enter school, they begin to expand their understanding of community as a collection of individuals bound together by some common element. They begin to learn that they are members of many different communities - their families, neighborhoods, school, clubs, and so on. They learn that, as a member of a community, you share a common purpose as well as a responsibility to be a contributing member of that community. When technology brings a world of learners into their personal sphere, children begin to develop an understanding of themselves as contributing members of the MOTHER of all communities - the whole world. Talk about playing well with others.