Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pleased with Periferals

The one technology peripheral that my students and I use on a regular basis is my Smartboard, usually several times a day. I love it and they love it more. Using the Smartboard, along with the Notebook program, allows me to grab the attention of my students and really get them involved in the teaching and learning. It is great for modeling and even better for guided practice. Using the Smartboard with Notebook my students have sorted word families, illustrated poems, identified high frequency and rhyming words, played math games, dramatized stories, and experimented with how to manipulate the tools and settings on Notebook. It is the magic I use when I need to really capture my students' attention and actively engage even the most active student. To manage its use my students know how the Smartboard works with all of the essential elements - computer, software, projector - and they know the proper use of the tools - pens and erasers. I only wish that they didn't have to remember that only one person can work on it at a time. Maybe one day I'll have the new model that allows the Smartboard to be used by two people simultaneously. A girl can dream! And while I'm at it I would also like a Smart Slate. Like my dad always said, "If you are going to dream, you might as well dream big!"

I am usually in control of most of the other peripherals that I use in class - digital cameras, document camera, ipod, external mikes, flip camera - most of which are used weekly if not daily. I manage them by keeping most of the peripherals and their corresponding cords in one place very near my laptop. My school is great about providing a variety of technology peripherals to its teachers but, I feel that they have over looked one important one that has made my life sooooo much easier - - the usb hub. I use a usb hub to keep everything plugged in so that I only have to plug one cable into my laptop every morning and I'm not constantly plugging and unplugging things that I want to use. It sounds like a silly thing but it's the little things that make life easier.

Next semester I would like to put digital cameras in the hands of my students. Much like the management of laptops, my management of digital cameras will include starting with the basics and keeping things simple. I'm sure the students would be thrilled to see some pictures that they have taken on our class blog.

Laptops and Young Learners

To be totally honest I have not used laptops with my kindergartners this year. So I don't have a management plan for the use of laptops with my students. As I am thinking about developing a plan I am remembering to keep things simple and basic and to think about each individual task that is required to safely and effectively use a laptop.

So, when I decide that it is time to begin using laptops with my young learners my management plan will begin by answering guiding my students while we answer the following questions together:

How do you hold and carry a laptop?
How do you open and close the screen on a laptop?
What is the correct way to turn the laptop on and off?
What do you do if you want to move to a different place with the laptop?
How do you get a laptop and put a laptop away?

Of course as we answer the questions there will be lots of modeling and guided practice for each one.

There will always be one important question that I will need to answer before any screens are opened: Are the laptops the best way to enhance the learning of my students?

My partner in crime, in kindergarten and the Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy, Susi and I are going to be working with computer partnerships and sharing while implementing our final project for this course. So next semester I think we might want to explore the use of laptops with our students. Our first questions will be: Which department will let us use 8 laptops from their already overbooked laptop carts? Wish us luck!

The Verbs Say It All

So the question is "How relevant are the NETs for Teachers and Administrators to being a "Good Educator" today?"

The standards use verbs like inspire, model, learn, facilitate, encourage, evaluate, communicate, design, develop, engage, create, promote, reflect, respect, collaborate, transfer, provide, customize, personalize, adapt, pursue, participate, support, ensure, lead, establish, maintain, and contribute along with many others.

When we think of "Good Educators", aren't those the words that we think of? When we discuss "Best Practices", aren't those the words we hear? When we talk about our students and what they need to be successful in the future, aren't those the words we use? My answer is "yes" to all of those questions.

So after looking at the standards, while thinking about technology specifically and education in general, I would have to say that they are very relevant to being a "Good Educator" for administrators, teachers, and anyone involved in the education of children.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Now How?

In my previous blog post I stated who I thought was responsible for teaching students technology and information literacy standards so now it's time to let you know how I think it might be done.

I think that in order for schools and teachers to even attempt to ensure that their students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy they need to:

1. Create and maintain an atmosphere of safety where students and teachers are encouraged and willing to take chances and try new things.
2. Develop a clear set of standards so that everyone has the same understanding of the expectations.
4. Make the technology and information literacy content or skills meaningful and useful for teachers and students.
5. Seek and provide constant and current training and support for teachers and school personnel in an attempt to keep up with the rapid changes in technology.
6. Provide extra support for those teachers that are trying to catch up to the technological knowledge and skills that their students may already have.
7. Provide students with a variety hardware and software items so that they can use the best tools for the job they are doing.

So that's it in my humble opinion.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It Starts At the Top

We were asked: Whose job is it to teach the NETs and AASL standards to students?

I believe that it is a school’s job to insure that students are experiencing and benefiting from the standards. But, when I us the word “school” I am talking about the entire school community - the school board, the administration, curriculum coaches and specialists, the classroom teachers, the support teachers, the specialist teachers, instructional assistants, parent organizations and committees, and anyone else who has a hand in what happens at a school.

I believe that before a school’s instructional staff can teach the NET’s and AASL standards to its students, the governing board and administrators at the school needs to give the teachers the training, tools, and most of all the prep-time to be able to do it correctly.

The members of our COTAIL courses are voluntarily trying to get the training that we need and want but, what about all of the other staff members that need it and rightfully don’t want to give up their “own time”. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that school personnel have the understandings, skill sets, and time that they need to teach and meet the standards?

Schools also need to be willing to provide the tools that are needed. It isn’t enough to have a variety of tools. Schools must have an abundance of those tools. So that teachers have them when they need them. A teacher’s instructional schedule should not be held hostage by the availability of the tools they need to get the job done. Schedules are already dictated too heavily by bus schedules, playground schedules, cafeteria schedules, special classes, support staff schedules, etc. Along with the printed teaching resources that are given to teachers to keep at their fingertips in the classroom, there should be a set of tech tools that are issued to every teacher or in the very least to each grade level and department so that they have them when they need them.

O.k. I have put enough of the burden on schools. There are parts of the standards that must be delivered and monitored by both the school and the parents. Those are the parts that deal with online responsibility. Including etiquette, safety, and respect for others online. At my own home we have recently had a few conversations about appropriate and inappropriate content of one’s Face Book Page. Needless to say there was some un-joining of groups and some deleting of posted comments. Schools can only deliver that message and teach what it means parents need to be the monitors and reinforces when students are away from school.

So in my humble opinion the responsibility for teaching the NET’s and AASL standards to the students belongs to schools but needs to start at the top.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Reading Workshop Goes Digital

With the help of a few friends (not just teachers & colleges), my students, and a variety of technology tools, I now have a digital representation of what Kindergarten Reading Buddies do when they are in their partnerships. I used the video as a mini-lesson to reinforce what the students have already learned and again during the same Reading Workshop time to wrap-it up, evaluate, and share.

Have a look:

You can see the Kindergarten Reading Buddies project page on the COETAIL wiki - just click here. Attached to the project page is the digital storyboard that was used during the planning and creation of the video, along with a list of the tools that were used.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I have just been playing with Jing, which is a tool to create screencasts.

So now the question is: How can screencasts be used for me professionally?

I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, which is why I have waited until the last minute to do this blog post. I think screencasts are great tools to show how-to for older students and adults, but I don't really see using a screencast with my young students, 5 and 6 year olds. Maybe as I start the list of my ideas for use with colleges, parents, and older students, something will come to me?

Screencasts could be made:

- to help teachers and/or students navigate and use PantherNet, ISB's moodle. (I know that I would benefit from one on how to upload - only because I don't use it often enough.)

- to help teachers and/or students share what they know about how to use various educational technology tools that are available with others.

- to take parents and/or students on virtual tours of class or students blogs so that they can make the most of the blogs.

I truly believe in the power of showing and telling how to do something simultaneously and that screencasting is the perfect tool to use that power to show how to get the most from the technology that is available. I also see screencasting as a lasting non-threatening way for people to get help when and where they want it.

So - I love the idea, but I'm still waiting for inspiration to create a screencast for/or with my young students. I when I find the right idea I know I will follow the KISS model: keep it super simple (or something like that).

Any ideas?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Value of Video

So the saying is "A picture is worth a thousand words." So that must mean that a video has to be exponentially more valuable.

I think that web based video has changed teaching because it can bring things alive and into the classroom, it gives classes & teachers a way to share globally, and it allows them to experience a variety of perspectives on single concepts or ideas. For me I feel that it can be especially powerful as a tool to share with my students' parents what is happening at school through a video rather than with just words on a page.

Here is my adventures in web based video last week:

Last week my class was working with the nursery rhyme "Little Miss Muffet". I thought it would be a good idea to find a dramatization of it so we could better understand some of the vocabulary and concepts. So I went to YouTube and searched for "Little Miss Muffet" - instantly the search came back with 455 hits. There were animations, songs, and recitations. Of course there were many that weren't what I was looking for. But, it only took me a minute to find a few that would be good to use. The students were then able to see the actions of "Little Miss Muffet", which added to their understanding.

Showing my students the web based videos was valuable for them but not as valuable as what I discovered while looking for a good video to use. I discovered that I could make a video that would do everything that I wanted it to do instead of trying to find something that would just "do". So after taking still pictures of my students dramatizing "Little Miss Muffet" and recording their adorable, precious voices I created our "Little Miss Muffet":

And here is another one:

Hope you enjoyed watching them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another First

Here is a look at my first YouTube upload:

Originally I used the pictures in this video on the SmartBoard to present and review the Roll & Record game to and with my students. So turning it into a video was the next step and it really wasn't that hard. The hardest part was actually convincing my daughter to do the voice directions for me. It did take longer than I anticipated but then again most of my projects do.

I'm not sure my "How To" video counts as a digital story but I used a variety of tools to get it done:

* digital camera for stills & video;
* ipod with a Belkin TuneTalk for the audio;
* iphoto, itunes, and imovie to edit, organize, and create;
* and of course YouTube to upload and embed the video into this blog.

Hopefully by varying the format and delivery of the activity I will reach a few more students.

Digital stories are the perfect medium for me to use with my young students. We all know that seeing is more powerful than hearing. It is also good to vary delivery techniques. My students love to watch videos where they are the stars. So - I can see that it would be highly motivational to use my students in the pictures and their voices to narrate. (A little hint of how my final project will differ from this one.)

Now with the young students it is finding the balance of their part and my part while trying to make the most of student contact time and preserving my own personal time.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Making a More Powerful Presentation

Two years ago when I started teaching at ISB I used Power Point for the first time to help me get through Back to School Night. (It's not my favorite part of teaching.) In all honesty I did not even create the Power Point. It was given to me by a fellow teacher and I modified to to fit my presentation. I used the format for two years and I was happy with it. Now as I look at it again it has many characteristics of an ineffective presentation. I had lots of words and during the presentation I spent most of the time reading what was on the screen. If I printed out the slides it gave all the information that I covered during my speaking. I did do a couple of things right there were pictures of the kids (although most of them were probably too small) and the color scheme seemed to work.

This year (before the current COETAIL course started) I decided to change my presentation and use only titles and pictures for my presentation. The visual definitely showed what my students do instead of telling what they do. I also changed the program that I used. I used Smart Notebook this year rather than Power Point. I am more familiar with Notebook and it was easier to get the look that I wanted. So this years visual presentation was better than that of the previous years but it still wasn't exactly right. Now after watching the videos and reading the assignments for the COETAIL program there are even more improvements that I can make. I would like to highlight more of the processes that my students go through during the day as we follow a Workshop Model. I think that showing parents the Workshop Model by using images of their children would help many parents understand how their child is being educated.

So I guess now that the presentation is cleaner I need to change the message and content to make it more effective. I can't believe that I'm going to say this but I think I'm actually looking forward to designing and delivering my presentation for Back to School Night next year.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Using Visual Imagery

I thought this assignment would be easy: Find an image using Creative Commons and share how you plan to use it in class. I teach kindergarten so I had a million ideas when searching on Creative Commons. I searched city blocks, to look for letters and words. Then I thought about using a picture of clouds and having students interpret the images that they see. Next I thought about colors, shapes or maybe numbers. There were actually too many choices. After a dozen or so searches and viewing 40+ pages of photos I narrowed it down to ten pictures. The picture that I eventually choose came from the search: geometric shapes. The picture was taken by T Hoffarth and posted on Flickr. The title of the picture is Power Lines. I will use this picture with my kindergartners to reinforce the idea that triangles have three sides and three points and that this means even when you change the dimensions (angles and/or size) of a triangle it is still a triangle. When the image is placed on the Smartboard students will be able to use the Smartboard markers to identify and outline various triangles in the image. I may also print the image out and give it to partners with the same task of outlining triangles in the photo.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Changes BIG & small

* My students see me using my laptop to find the perfect song on iTunes, when they need to get up and move;
* My students know that I communicate with their parents by sending "letters" on the computer (e-mail as described by a 5 year old);
* My students know that when the laptop, projector, and smartboard are all turned on, connected, and working together, whatever they see on my laptop is what they see on the smartboard (and they are fascinated by it!);

* My laptop is located in a place where I can easily get to it while I am working with my students so that I can access anything that I need without turning my back to them or loosing their attention.
* We have watched Eric Carle read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?" on You Tube.
* We have experienced "The Little Red Hen" on Speakaboos.

So those are the small changes in my teaching this year because of the courses so far in the COETAIL program.

And now for the BIG change -

* I am in the process of setting up a classroom blog to help me share and communicate with the parents of the students in my class. I feel the need to send something more exciting than the standard weekly newsletter. I want to be able to show parents what we are doing not just try to explain it in words. I want to include the kids in what is posted on the blog. I'm not quite ready to launch this endeavor and share it with the world but I will be soon. I'm still trying to find the perfect visual set-up for the blog. I know it is a lame excuse but after looking at several other classroom blogs and starting the Visual Literacy Course: Effective Communicators and Creators I need to find the perfect visual set-up for the blog. I want it to be more than a screen full of words. I want it to be inviting and friendly so that my students and parents want to be a part of it. I'm very excited about it but nervous at the same time. My goal is to have it ready to share by next week.
Wish me luck!!!!!!!!!!!

The changes that I have made don't seem very substantial but I'm not a huge risk taker and since my students are young, baby steps are the best fit for all of us.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Working Together in Different Places

For our last assignment for Course 2 a group of elementary teachers decided to take on the AUP for the Elementary School at ISB. We decided to create a google doc with the original document so that we could all have input and make changes without physically being in the same place. Which was good because one of the members of the group was in Japan and not Thailand where the rest of us were. We all agreed that the language in the original document would be difficult for students to understand and since it is a document that students are supposed to understand and follow that didn't seem right.

As the document began to evolve it was clear that it was going to be difficult to create one document that would be kid friendly and developmentally appropriate for six grade levels. One document became two: K-Grade 2 AUP & Grade3-5 AUP. Then after some more thought, two documents became three: Pre-K-Grade 1 AUP; Grade 2-3 AUP; & Grade 4-5 AUP. They all have the same concepts and ideas in them they are just each written to fit the appropriate audience as best we could. I don't think any of us think our finished product is perfect probably because we know that with a project like this it's really never finished. The AUP's will need to change, develop, and grow as the needs do.

I would always prefer to work in a group rather than by myself. The whole "two heads are better than one thing". The use of google doc made this possible because all of the group members had packed schedules so actual face-to-face meeting were near impossible. It was interesting to see the work evolve and change in the short amount of time that we had to work on it. I did meet with two of the group members individually at different times to do some work and I have to say that I found those two meetings more productive than when I was trying to work on the project alone. So I guess in the end for me I still need a little face to face and real talk but this first experience of collaborating on-line was a positive and valuable experience for me.

To all of the members of the ES AUP collaborative group.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Building Blocks of Collaboration

"Are we preparing our students for a world of mass collaboration?"
"How do we prepare our students for a world of mass collaboration?"

It has taken me weeks to figure out how to address these two questions for me personally as a teacher. The idea of mass collaboration with 5 to 7 year olds is a bit overwhelming for me - blogs, wikis, chats, etc. Then I decided that mass collaboration has developmental levels just like everything else. Sometime I need to remind myself that sometimes to reach an end goal you have to start small with block at a time. So with that in mind - I'm ready to answer the questions.

I do believe that I am preparing my students for a world of mass collaboration. I am doing that by giving my students the skills that they need to cooperate during face-to-face social and academic situations. My students work together in partnerships and small groups to inquire, discover, make choices, learn, and teach together. They are developing the skills needed to take turns, participate equally, listen to each other, and give feedback. In my eyes these are the skills they will need to become effective mass collaborators in their very near future.

In the beginning I think it is important for students to know how to cooperate & collaborate face-to-face with others before they are introduced to the multitude of tech tools that are available for them to use to mass collaborate with students in other class rooms, at other schools, and beyond.

**While searching for information about collaboration and cooperation in early childhood settings I found Stepping Forward: Personal and Digital Learning in the 21st Century a blog that is worth taking a look at if you have the time.**

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's All Just a Click Away

With just a click anyone can access, search, find, reach, look, view, contribute, collaborate, connect, communicate, comment, debate, blog, post, tweet, agree, disagree, read, review, research, create, shop, browse, buy, enjoy, interpret, learn, inquire, explore, change, discover, and . . . and . . . and . . .

Not only is everything a click away but over a billion people are also a click away. According to Internet World Stats, in December 2000 there were 360,955,492 Internet users world wide and as of March 31, 2009 the number was 1,596,270,108. That is an increase of over 300% in just 9 years. It is also over 23% of the total world population. So when you click the post button on your blog or social network your potential audience is over a billion. That number makes my head spin.

So - What makes the internet so powerful? I believe that the power of the internet comes from the activities it facilitates, the audience it reaches, and the people who choose to be active participants.

For all of the good things that the web facilitates we all know that there are just as many bad things that it also facilitates. There are times that the power of the internet can be harsh, as pointed out in Belloney's Blog post The Power of the Web. There are people that have to live with how devastating just one click can be.

Now the question is: How do we make sure that we teach our students to use their clicks to take advantage of the power of the web in a safe, positive, responsible, and productive way and not in a harmful, negative, and destructive way?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not Who? But How?

I don't think the question is:
"Who is responsible for teaching students about online safety?"
I think the question is:
"How do we teach students to be safe online?"
We being teachers, administrators, activities supervisors, and parents.

I fall into three of the categories above - I am a parent of two children (12 & 16 years old), I am a teacher of young children (5-7 year olds), and I help with a Girl Guide Troop (12-14 year olds). So now what I need is help. How do you make online safety relevant, understandable, and meaningful to all kids at all developmental levels? Especially when we don't all have the same definitions and understandings of privacy, cyberbullying, and "friends".

As a teacher and volunteer - I've looked at the Acceptable Use Policies for all three schools. Online safety is mentioned in all of them, mostly - keeping passwords secure and not sharing personal information. I'm not sure that is enough guidance for students to really understand what it means to be safe online and more importantly why it is important to be safe online and what to do if you don't feel safe. I know that the AUP's aren't curriculum or benchmarks and standards, but maybe that's what is needed to help teachers know what to, when to, and how to teach students about online safety.

As a parent I was very apprehensive when my own children wanted to start participating in online social networks.
My son's online social networking began with World of Warcraft in middle school and now he is part of the Facebook community. My daughter started with Club Penguin while she was in second grade, she has now moved on to Howrse. (A side note - when I asked her how to spell the website she of course wanted to know why I wanted to know. So I told her that I was going to use it in my blog. After reading what I had already written over my shoulder, she immediately assured me that even though she has friends on the website that she doesn't "know" she only communicates with one of her friends from school that her and I both "know". I assured her that I knew she was listening to me when we talked about "knowing" people and that we would have many more talks about it.) As a parent I have tried to stay aware of what type of social networks my children are using and I continually talk to them about being safe and not sharing too much. But I don't know if I'm going about it in the right way. Am I being effective or just enoying? Am I doing everything I should? Actually as I am writing this post I realize that the one thing that I haven't done is talk to my kids about what to do if they get themselves into a situation that is uncomfortable, inappropriate, and/or harassing. I guess I know what I need to do next as a parent - as for the when it will be soon - the how I need to think about.

So now as an educator I need to figure out the what, when, and how for my students.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Our Role in the Use of Fair Use

I think as educators we have the responsibility to model, teach, and encourage our students to adhere to copyright laws and the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education.

In a world of Integrated Media Literacy Education there are two things that need to occur to ensure educators are living up to their responsibility:

1. We ourselves, as educators, need to be good models and follow the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. Instead of "Do as I say, not as I do", it should be "Do as I do!"

But before that can happen:

2. Everyone involved in the creation, distribution, and presentation of curriculum in all subject areas needs to know what the copyright laws are and understand the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy.

(Those of us involved in the second course of the ISB Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy Program:
21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues, are getting the information and training that we want and need. But what about everyone else?)

So now the question is: "What is a school's role in making sure that their educators are prepared to use Fair Use and teach students to use it, too?"

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Transformation, Intention, Distribution, Attribution, Limitation

Transformation, Intention, Distribution, Attribution, Limitation
These are the words that came to me as I sat down to do my blog post about Copyright and Fair Use. Each of these words are important in their own way but transformation is the one that leaves me with a couple of questions:

What actually constitutes "transformation"? Can you just change the color, font, size, and/or layout of an original piece of work and it has been transformed? Like I did with these Wordles that I created all using the same original words.

(A side note - I think this is one of the coolest websites ever. If you haven't tried it you should! Also you can create them and use them in blogs as long as you attribute the images to So all of the images in this blog post are from Wordle and are licensed under Creative Commons.)

What if someone takes a piece that you created, be it text, graphics, or pictures, and uses it to create an amazing product for all to enjoy and benefit from? That would be great and extremely flattering.

BUT . . . . . .

What if someone takes a piece that you created and uses it to promote or represent something that is offensive to you? Much like the use of the picture of the teenager by Virgin Mobile in one of their ad campaigns. Or if someone used it to favorably promote an idea like racism? It might be o.k. under Fair Use - the purpose of the piece has changed - but now how to you feel about being a part of the transformed work?

So, is Fair Use fair to original creators and transformer?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Online Privacy or Responsiblity?

Facebook's attempt to claim ownership of all material posted on their website seems to have started some serious discussions about what the term "Online Privacy" really means and how important it is to people. Both of the articles "Beware: the Internet could own your future" and "Don't overestimate privacy of online information" discuss the fact that once you or one of your 'friends' post something on the internet it is there for all to see whether you like it or not.

After reading both of the articles and a few other "Online Privacy" articles, including Online privacy? For young people, that's old-school, I am finding myself viewing the term as an oxymoron, especial when using it in reference to social networks, such as Facebook, where many users pride themselves on how many 'friends' they are linked to - even though that means that they are sharing their private social lives with more and more people, some of which they might not want to share it with. Specifically that would be future employers or other people that may one day heavily influence their lives.

I know that the focus of this blog post is supposed to be if there is such a thing as online privacy but I feel the need to comment on a statement made by Samanta MacConnell, in her article "Don't overestimate privacy of online information":

"I have to disagree with hiring and firing based on profile photographs. Shouldn't your personal life be left at the door? A person working five days a week deserves a little down time on the weekends. What a person does on his or her own time on days off should not be used to judge work ethic because that person may be serious and hard-working when they enter the workplace. Employers know that Facebook is popular and that our generation is utilizing it, but business and personal lives should not coincide."

I found this comment troubling. I do agree that a person deserves a little down time but that doesn't mean that it has to be posted and shared online for others to see. To believe that you wont be judged by what you do in your personal life and choose to make public through an online social networks is naive, especial if you know that employers are now using the internet to "check-on" employees. I'm not saying that people should be hired or fired based on profile pictures. But, if a person is responsible enough to be a hard-working employee they should be responsible for what they choose to post online and be prepared to deal with the consequences. I do believe that there should be online privacy provided by online sites but I also think that there needs to be some online responsibility exhibited by online users.

This brings me to my final observation which is that it is absolutely essential that young, live in the moment, internet users are made aware that the words they write, the language they use, the ideas they share, and the images they present online will one day shape the perceptions that others will use to judge them by - be that positive or negative.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Seeing Footprints in a New Way

I always thought of digital footprints as being more harmful than helpful. Now - thanks to Silvia Tolisano - I think I'm changing my mind. After Silvia talked about students using their digital footprints as a way to showcase themselves and how powerful that could be - I started to see them in a new way. Now I'm thinking that they could be more of an asset than a liability. I feel that if schools and educators are going to encourage or require students to use social networks and blogs for educational purposes then they have an obligation to teach the students the right way to do so. As I have stated before I think schools are asked to do way too much already but in this case I think the schools need to take this on. I think we have a responsibility to make sure that students know what their digital footprint is and the impact that it can have on them in both the short and long term. Now "When?", "Where?", and "How?" I guess whenever, wherever, and however we can. I can't be more specific at this point because I really don't know what it means to teach students about their digital footprint. (I guess that's one reason why I'm taking part in the Educational Technology and Information Literacy courses.) But I do know that we need to make sure that students' digital footprints are taking them down the right road and not the wrong one.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Working on Big Ideas for Younger Students

I have been introduced to many new ideas, concepts, and tools to help me embed technology and information literacy into my teaching. At times I have felt a little overwhelmed but more often I was excited about what I was reading, hearing, learning, doing, discussing, sharing, etc. I have come a long way in the six weeks of this course but I know that I have a long way to go still. With each new idea, concept, and tool I am usually left with one question – “How can I use this or introduce this to my young students?” I have decided that I need to start looking for others who have the same question or have already answered the question. I am lucky because my first connection was an easy one. Vu and I have worked together for the last two years as part of ISB’s first grade team. We are constantly collaborating and working through new ideas to benefit our students. Now we can both help each other through the ups and downs of using technology to enhance our teaching while exposing our students to a variety of multimedia technology tools.

Since Vu and I are already part of a very collaborative team it was easy for us to work together to complete the final project. We were both new comers to the format used to plan the lesson but by working together (and some phrasing help from Kim) we were able to help each other through it. Our idea of using Skype to bring a far away Mystery Reader into our classrooms was an easy fit to our established curriculum and routines. Now all that is left is to execute it, learn from it, and celebrate our successes and failures together!

Thank you Kim & Jeff for starting me on this journey. You both made it easier for me to take some chances and try some new things.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Understanding Adopt & Adapt But Hating the Delivery

While reading Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom by Marc Prensky I found myself having some old feelings that absolutely enrage me. I was taken back to my teaching days in public schools in California, Louisiana, and Texas. It seems to me that teachers and schools are too easily blamed for whatever the issue or problem of the day is. I also deeply resent the fact that he identifies schools as a key barrier to technological adoption because of the unwillingness to except change by the teachers and administrators. He does acknowledge the “extremely delicate balance between many sets of pressures -- political, parental, social, organizational, supervisory, and financial -- that any technological change is bound to disrupt.” But, he provides no answers or ideas to help maintain a balance to make a movement more manageable for teachers and schools.

I do agree with Mr. Prensky’s thoughts on the importance of moving forward and making sure that we are changing with the changing needs of students. I understand the importance of making sure that our students have the skills and experiences that they need in this quickly changing technological world. I also like his explanation of "digital natives" those who are born into digital technology and "digital immigrants" those who have learned about digital technology later in life. I just object to the tone of this article.

I am wondering if Mr. Prensky is willing to be part of the "we" when he states, "So, let's not just adopt technology into our schools. Let's adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we've done our very best. Then, let's push it and pull it some more. And let's do it quickly, so the 22nd century doesn't catch us by surprise with too much of our work undone." I believe that when you identify a problem you should be willing to be part of the solutions and not just pass it along as someone else's problem. I feel that this article points out a lot of issues but doesn't provide any concrete ideas for solutions.

Crossing My Fingers

I have read the information for our project assignment many times. I have been reluctant to get started (obviously) for a couple of reasons. One is that I feel like my idea for a project is a baby step. I am also new to many of the tools and ideas that are essential to the project. I have spent hours thinking about this concept and trying to convince myself that baby steps is good for both me as a new comer to embedding digital literacy and for my students who are relatively young. After reviewing Blooms Digital Taxonomy, "Remembering" is pretty much where I am so I guess my idea is a perfect place to start. So now it is time for me to just take the leap and do it no matter how apprehensive I feel. (On a side note I am feeling a little hypocritical because I encourage my students to be risk-takers on a daily basis, yet my fear of the unknown and failure has been the cause for my major league avoidance up to this point.)
So the idea for my project is to Skype a Mystery Reader into my classroom for a Read-A-Loud session. Mystery Readers are visitors to my classroom who come and share books with the students. My students look forward to Mystery Readers and get very excited about guessing who it could be. By using Skype I am hoping to show students we can connect to people even if they are far away or away from home. The reader will be a parent that is away on business. The parent has visited the class before so they know who he is. I will also use Google Earth to show where we are and where he is. I am hoping to hit ISTE Student Net Standards Number 2: Communication and Collaboration, by using digital media to communicate with someone at a distant location in real time, and Number 6: Technology Operations and Concepts, by using technology systems. I may even hit a few of the ISTE Teacher Net Standards.
So now to actually pull this off cross your fingers for me that technical karma is with me during the big event and Skype hooks up and works.P.S. Kim I'm sorry my avoidance has trickled down and caused last minute work for you.
P.S.S. Jeff - Thank you for introducing me to Creative Commons Search! So now I am able to promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility when adding pictures to my posts.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Aspiring to Work Smarter Not Harder

I work with an amazing team at the International School of Bangkok. We are always willing to work together to try new things to enrich the learning of our first graders. After reading the comment that Kim made on Vu's blog post, Digital Blooms in the Primary Years - Part 2, (Vu is one of my fab team members) I realize that sometimes even though we are trying to do what we feel is the best for our students we need to stop and refine what we are already doing or at least take smaller jumps when we are trying something new. An example of this is that we wanted to do electronic portfolios with our students this year. We were all very excited about using video clips, voice threads, work samples, and student input to show the progress and learning that takes place during first grade. We set up an very ambitious plan with time lines, schedules, and expectations. It all sounded good and looked manageable on paper. Well we are now in the home stretch, only 13 Mondays left as one of my team members pointed out this week, and I can't speak for anyone else but my visualization of the electronic portfolios isn't even close to what they actually are at this point. I do have lots of pictures of kids and learning in action, some videos, and digital work sample for every child in all of the subject areas. But nothing is organized very well and the thought of having it all put together in less than 3 months makes my head spin. I had a conversation with Kim after one of our face to face sessions and she wisely recognized that my team tends to jump in with both feet before testing the water. After our conversation I realized that instead of trying to do electronic portfolios for every child in every subject we should have each field tested electonic portfolios in different subject areas. I did bring the idea up at a team meeting when we were all sharing our stresses over the whole thing and I think we may take a step back next year and each specialize in one subject area so that we can guide the others. So long rambling short I have a new motto - Work Smarter Not Harder. I know it's not original but it is a good aspiration to have. Hopefully I will be able to remember this as I'm working to become a 21st Century Teacher and meet the needs of my 21st Century Learners. (Kim's blog has a great overview of both that she used in Qatar last week, just follow the links in the previous sentence.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Learning from My Students

I thought the jigsaw activity that we did at the last face to face was very valuable. It was interesting to hear how my group's facilitators, Robin U and James, are using media tools and blogs to support and enhance their teaching and their students' learning and listen to them share some of their frustrations with the available tools and the management of the blogs. During the session I was having some trouble figuring out where to start with my young ones yet realizing that it is vital for students to start early so that when they get to middle school and high school they have the skills that will enable them to be more self-sufficient when using technology and media at school. I was still trying to figure out where to start with my students and how to make it enhance what I am already teaching when my students came up with the idea themselves. We were reading a book by one of our favorite authors - Robert Munsch - when one of my students asked, "I wonder how Robert Munsch gets the ideas for his stories?" I said, "I don't know. I wonder how we could find out?" Immediately several students told me to look it up on the internet. So I asked them how to do that. They said, "Google!" without a moment of hesitation. As I turned on the Smartboard, they told me to open Safari and type in "". So of course I did what they told me to. After google was loaded they told me to type Robert Munsch in to the search box. When the search results came up they told me what to try and then they proceeded to navigate me through Robert Munsch's Official Website. I was completely amazed that so many of my students could talk me through all of the steps from the very beginning to the very end. The students were able to get the answer to their question and more importantly I got to experience first hand how powerful it was to be able to let my students lead the way to answer a question that they had through the use of technology and how easy it was.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Guess They Aren't Just Messing Around

I guess I owe my kids an apology for continually giving them a hard time about wasting time on the computer. After reading the "Messing Around" section (pages 20-28) of the MacArthur Foundation Report - Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project, I was amazed by all of the learning that goes on while kids are apparently "messing around". I never really thought about kids learning the ins and outs of manipulating new technology and new media through free, self paced, interest driven exploration and/or experimentation, although it makes perfect sense. As I read the article I was presented with another justification for social networks. While "messing around" kids use online as well as face-to-face social networks to learn about new technology and media manipulation from each other. I was particularly interested in the passage that states: "The most important factors (when messing around) are the availability of technical resources and a context that allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for self-directed learning and exploration. In contrast to learning that is oriented toward a set, predefined goal, messing around is largely self-directed, and the outcomes of the activity emerge through exploration." (MacArthur Foundation Report - Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project top of page 22) That passage leads me to believe that kids are naturally learning about technology and media through self-directed Inquiry. They are answering the questions that they have by exploring, taking chances, and working together. So now the question is how can I create opportunities that allow my students to explore, experiment, collaborate, and take chances with developmentally appropriate technology tools. According to the report, messing around "involves experimentation and exploration with relatively low investment, where there are few consequences to trial, error, and even failure." To me that sounds like a good place to be right now. My previous post was unintentionally a ramble about my messing around earlier today. So, now from my own personal experience with messing around I can say that I learned a lot today exploring and experimenting with various technology tools and most importantly that messing around isn't just wasting time on the web, it is an excellent learning tool!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Choice: Exploring Some New Tools

For this post I am going to share with you all that I have learned while exploring the ISB CoETaIL Wiki, my Google Reader, and iGoogle. I have spent the last few hours "playing" with the before mentioned tools to try and better understand what I am doing and to try and make everything more manageable. I started with exploring the Wiki like Kim asked us to in her Instructor Reflections. I was glad to find out that I could indeed still find all of the information that I needed for the course. I especially like the Course Assignment page. I also read Thoughts from Jeff at the bottom of the Feb. 2-8 page and decided to go back and add links to my previous posts. As you can see from this post I quickly figured out how to add links and I like doing it (I also like the color it adds). I'll save labels for another time. Next I moved on to my Google Reader, where a post on the blog Langwitches caught my eye. The post was links for 2009-02-05 and what caught my eye was SimplyBox - Think Inside the Box which is tool that can be used to capture, share, and organize things found on the web. I watched the SimplyBox video and decided to give it a try. So now I am the proud owner of a SimplyBox account, where I have already created a box for this course. It was easy to do and I'm looking forward to playing with it some more in my "free time". Also in that post was a link titled Facebook for Parents. I haven't had a chance to really look at it yet but I did add the page to one of my SimplyBox boxes where it will be waiting for me! My final stop on my exploration was iGoogle. I created my iGoogle page at the last face-to-face but I didn't get to make it my own. Well it is definitely my own now. I added several gadgets to my home page and now I can see my Gmail account, my Google Reader, updates to the CoETaIL Wiki, and my current blog posts all in one place. I also managed to add a link to my Google Docs but I can't get the documents shared but owned by others to show-up. Any ideas? Again a project for my "free time". In addition to the items that I need to see to organize myself for this course I also added a few extra gadgets like: World Time Server Clocks; a Sticky Note; My ToDo List; and two games just for fun - Flood-it! and Trio. I had a great time and now understand Chrissy's complete disbelief that anyone could go with No Google for a Week. I know that I couldn't and get through this course. ;-)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Google & Fact or Fiction with Chris Betcher

When I wrote my post for the morning Skype session with Clarence I had a Word document open with about a page of notes to refer to. As I scrolled down to look at my notes on Chris's Skype session all I found was "Chris Betcher – Google Search Syntax/Truth & Bias Online" and the rest of the page was empty. Then I smiled remembering that most of the time that Chris was talking I was - Trying to figure out if spaghetti really does grow on trees, if it's possible to turn cats into Bonsai ornaments, and if Napoleon could have fired a cannon. I was busy doing what he was trying to tell us about. It made the time fly by and supported what I already know about myself - that more learning and understanding goes on when I'm actively engaged - which I believe is true for most people. Chris showed me that there are quicker ways to find what I want the first time on Google (especially if I feel lucky) and how important it is to teach children to look at what they find on the internet with a critical eye. Now on to the topic of Wikipedia. Now that I have seen someone navigate through a topic (and doing it myself) I understand how a Wikipedia page grows and develops from as little as one sentence and how the facts can be found among some of the fiction that may exist. I was definitely not a fan of using Wikipedia as a source of information but I can now see that it is truly a collaborative network where information and expertise can be shared by anybody and everybody even if it's only a few words at a time. I guess I can now let my son use Wikipedia when looking for information as long as it isn't his only stop on his search, thanks to Chris & Rob.

Personal Learning Networks

The Skype time with Clarence Fisher on Saturday morning helped me to see the value of Personal Learning Networks for teachers as both educators and learners and for students as both learners and educators. My preconceived idea about blogs was that most were people chronicling their lives on the internet for all to see. I could not understand why someone would be interested in exposing their life to total strangers. After Clarence described his blog as his "voice" not him I began to better understand what a blog can be. As he went on to talk about his blog being a community to try out new ideas, gather, share, talk, discuss, and be challenged, I realized that my concept of blogging was extremely narrow. I am now open to the idea of using blogs to help me grow and learn as an educator. I'm not ready to begin posting on someone else's blog but I am ready to begin browsing the hundreds of posts on my RSS Reader with an open mind. He also made a very convincing argument for the use of Personal Learning Networks with students. I like the idea of using networks to let children know that there is a world outside of the one they live in and see everyday. A world where people and their ideas can be and are different then their own. But, also that there are others out there, near and far, that are very similar to themselves. I also understand that using Personal Learning Networks with students opens up a world of information, ideas, and resources that no one teacher or school can provide within the walls of a classroom without the assistance of the internet. It is wonderful that Clarence's students are able to see the value in their work and ideas by using blogs and that he is able to see them becoming more confident and competent as they work. Of course as a parent the idea of being able to see what my children are working on first-hand and in real time is very appealing. Now fitting all of the puzzle pieces together so that it works for me and my students is my next step. Hearing Jeff say that it's the learning concepts and ideas that are important for us to know and understand and not the ins and outs of the tools that are used - because that's what ISB's tech staff is for - did make me feel that putting the puzzle together might not be as hard as I thought. ;-)

Friday, January 30, 2009

What I want to get out of this course?

I have a friend that is constantly sending me invitations to join her on social networks and blogs. I have successfully avoided joining her. There are several reasons for this which include, being wary of putting information about myself on the web that really never goes away, not feeling the need to know about people that I don't actually know face to face or for them to know about me, and just a general fear of the unknown. So . . . here I am jumping in with both feet. I hope to gain a better understanding of what is out there and how I can use it to enhance my personal and professional life. As an added bonus I might gain some insight into how and why my teenagers interact with, understand, and communicate with others via their own social networks.