Friday, April 30, 2010

With the Best Intensions

So as an educator there were several new things that I wanted to try out this year - a structured word study program, using Flickr to share photos with parents, completing my Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy, starting a masters, and maintaining a class blog. Well I will say that I did try all of these things and some are going quite well, while others are getting the better of me. On the good side are the word study and completing my certificate (this is my last required post). On the more challenging side are Fliker, the masters, and the class blog.

I started off full speed in the fall uploading pictures to Flickr and posting weekly to the class blog. Then when the December break came around I just couldn't get myself started again. The excuses are many and I'm not going to go into all of those. Instead I'm going to decide how to make next year's class blog more manageable and sustainable for me. I will start by choosing a blog format that better fits my vision. This year there were things that I wanted to do that my blog wouldn't support and I found that quite frustrating. I am a big list and schedule person so next year I will have a list and schedule to make sure that all of the curriculum areas get equal coverage on the class blog. When I was posting this year, I tried to have a post done every Friday. I think for me a better day would be on Wednesday because by Friday afternoon I'm pretty much done. Ultimately I would like to be able to post events quickly and on the same day, but I'm not sure I'm quite there yet. I think it will be worth it for me to invest in my own Flickr account next year. Just so that it is easier to manipulate the organize my photos.

The class blog experience this year wasn't all bad though. I did manage to keep the posts all about the kids and not use them as a notice boards. Also, because I wanted the blog to be something that parents looked at with their children, I always shared posts with the class before I published them. That was also a great way to proof read the posts to make sure they were mechanically correct and said what I wanted them to say.

For next year I'm going to try to remember what I have said many times in many of my posts to this blog - less is more & keep it simple.

***I do want to say a big "THANK YOU!" to the wonderful Tech-Team that we have at ISB. Without the support and encouragement of Kim, Jeff, and Dennis I would never even have attempted to use Flickr or start a class blog. You all ROCK!!!!!***

Partners Flying Across the Curriculum Together

In an earlier post I described how my college, Susi, and I introduced a plan to help our students work more effectively in partnerships. The idea was that one is the pilot and the other is the co-pilot. The pilot is in charge of whatever the task is and the co-pilot is there to verbally help or guide. The roles are then reversed to allow each child to be a pilot and co-pilot.

The project was originally designed to help the students when working with technology tools. I have used the Pilot/Co-Pilot model in all curriculum areas with my very active, energetic kindergarten students and it works like magic. They are taking turns without conflict, they are using words to help each other instead of taking over, they are learning from each, they are doing it with little or no teacher direction, and best of all they can verbalize what they are doing to others.

Here are some examples of the model in action:

These are reading partners. The pilot's job is to choose the book and read & talk about the book with the co-pilot. The co-pilot's job is to listen, ask questions, and remind the pilot what good readers do to become better readers.

These students are writing partners working together during our How-To writing unit. In this partnership the pilot is sharing his how to book by reading the steps to the co-pilot. The co-pilot is following the oral instructions and illustrations to draw a jet.

Here, math partners a playing a game called Fill the Hexagons. The pilot rolled a die and is deciding where to place a pattern block on the playing board. The co-pilot is waiting for the pilot to finish her turn and say "You're the pilot." before he rolls the dice and takes his turn.

I highly recommend trying this Pilot/Co-Pilot model with all ages of students to help them become more effective, cooperative, and helpful partnerships no matter what the topic or medium. I think you might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

One Size Does Not Fit All

During the second Coetail course some of my colleges and I worked on the Acceptable Use Policy for the Elementary School at ISB. As a group we agreed that one existing document was not going to be developmentally appropriate for students aged four to eleven. So we initially we decided that there needed to be a Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 2 AUP and a Grade 3 to Grade 5 AUP. After working on it for a while we soon found that even that split wasn't enough. In the end we ended up with three separate AUP's: Pre-K to Grade 1 / Grade 2 and Grade 3 / Grade 4 and Grade 5. I think the evolution of these documents is the perfect example of "one size does not fit all".

Staying in the area of technology standards I think Kim and I have found another item where one size does not fit all. As Kim and I were going over the Observation Rubric after my lesson for Course Five: Alive in the Classroom: Applied Web 2.0 Technology for Learning we discovered that while most of the criteria on the rubric could be used to score a range of grade levels one was very difficult to score in an early childhood setting. Ironically the area was "Use of Technology".
Here are the levels and descriptors for the Use of Technology standard:

Substitution: Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional improvement.
Augmentation: Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement.
Modification: Technology use allows for significant redesign of learning experiences.
Redefinition: Technology use allows for the creation of new learning experiences, made possible by current technology (previously not possible)

My lesson allowed the students to meet the objective of applying turn-taking strategies on a computer while working in a partnership to provide fairness and sharing of tasks. For the lesson I used the Pilot/Co-Pilot Project that Susi and I submitted for our course 4 project. Pairs of students worked together on one computer to complete patten block puzzles. The students were able to not only demonstrate this but many were able to verbalize how they were sharing and why it was important when learning. But it didn't score well on the Use of Technology Standard. It was a challenge for Kim and I to come up with ideas of how to move into the modification or redefinition descriptors for Use of Technology while keeping the tasks child-centered, developmentally appropriate, and manageable for the teacher. Any ideas would be welcome.

So maybe this part of the rubric needs to be looked at and redesigned to better "fit" young learners and those who work with them.


I have just completed my fifth move in Thailand since arriving here less than four years ago. You would think that after that many moves I would have already weeded out and gotten rid of the things that I don't really need. But my pack-rat tendencies have kept me from doing that. So ove the past week I have opened, unpacked, given away, thrown away, and tried to organize the contents of countless boxes. As I was doing this I had an "ah-ha" moment: I am not only a pack-rat of "stuff" at home, I am a total pack-rat of "stuff" on my computer. Deleting a document for me is like donating that shirt that I know I'm going to wear again someday - even though I haven't worn it in years and it is older than my teenage children! I did a couple of quick searches on my school laptop and discovered that I have over 1,000 .doc files, almost 2,000 pdf files, and over 400 Notebook files. To many people, those numbers may not seem like a lot but, what the numbers mean to me is that I now know why I am often pushed to my frustration level when trying to find documents on my computer. I then began to go through files on my computer using the "cover flow" view on my Mac (which I absolutely love) and discovered that many of the documents are completely useless for the students I teach and the methods I use. So now my next big project will be to purge my computer files so that I only have what I really and truly need - and get them organized so that I can find them when I do need them. I'm hoping that if I have less stuff to go through on the computer I will have more time to do something more productive than swear at my computer!

Photo Attributions:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kindergarten Partnerships Flying High

The question: How to teach young, egocentric kindergartners how to be effective learning partners?????

The answer: Easy - Make them "Pilots" and "Co-Pilots"!!!!!

Susi and I have been working together to carry out our Pilot/Co-Pilot Project that was developed during course 4 of our CoTails Program. As it pertains to technology we wanted to use it as a way to teach children to share technology tools, specifically desktop and laptop computers, when working together on a cooperative project. Our bigger goal was to create a partnership model that could be used across the curriculum. In this post I'm going to explain how we introduced the concept, what I have done with it so far, and the impact that it has had on my class.

The idea was first introduced to students by showing them a picture similar to this one . . .

. . . and then asking students "What do you notice?" From the discussion we got the ideas that they were pilots, they were flying the plane, they were working together, they were helping each other. We led the children to the terms pilot and co-pilot and the understanding of what each of their jobs are and how important they are. For our purposes it was important that the students understand that the pilot is the one that is flying the plane and touching the controls and that the c0-pilot is there to help the pilot by talking to him but not by touching the controls and taking over. To simplify the ideas "Pilot" means "hands on" and "Co-Pilot" means "hands off".

When it was introduced in late January, during Reading Workshop, it only took a few lessons for most of the students to latch on to the pilot/co-pilot model. I could see improvement in the effectiveness of the learning partnerships in my class immediately. Students were using the words and showing respect for each other by taking turns and helping each other. I now use the terminology in my class when the students are doing any type of partner work. We have moved on from the "hands on" - "hands off" descriptions and I now give them clear and specific jobs for the pilot and the co-pilot for any given partnership activity. I have found it extremely effective in math partnerships where students are often engaged in partnership games or activities with shared materials. It really has made the job of classroom management during partnerships easier for me!

My class has not used the pilot/co-pilot model with technology at this point but there is a portion of our math program which integrates technology and is the perfect platform for sharing computers. So that is coming soon!

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!