Saturday, January 29, 2011

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Fun Teachable Moment Today

I had the pleasure of visiting a school near here today to see the kinds of activities that the teachers and students were doing with technology. One of those classes was being taught by a third year teacher. He is the Special Education teacher there, and he's been using the various technology tools in some powerful ways with his students. They have a moodle class set up, and when they're in the lab they're totally focused on the tasks at hand. It was something to see.

But that's not the story.

They were studying water pollution and I sat down beside a senior boy and  asked him to show me what he was doing. He was fine with that, and he showed me the moodle class and "... all the stuff we can do in there." When I saw the title of the chapter they were in, I mentioned that I had seen a picture recently about the world's most polluted river. As I was talking about it, he opened a new tab and googled, "worlds most polluted waterways." He then clicked on the images link at the top. I hadn't suggested it; he did it on his own. As he did, I wondered, "How many times would he have done that in class if he had the opportunity to explore the ideas the interested him?"

The first image he found was this one: http://seawayblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/manilas-floating-rubbish-dump.html and the other images on that page. Then he found this one: http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread576911/pg1(the second image on the page). He sat there and stared in silence at that picture for a good while before saying, "That's just awful! How can they live like that?"

Indeed.

But, I really have a feeling that this little bit of self-guided exploration did more to bring home the idea of why pollution is an important topic than ANY Study Island lesson could possibly have done alone. As I got up to leave he was still going through the images. I said, "THAT'S why we study the topic of water pollution."

Oh how I wish kids could have more time for that sort of thing. When you hear about something that sparks some interest, check it out. Look at images. Post to a discussion forum. Share those images with the rest of the class. Talk about it. If we'd had time I would have shown him the two poptech videos I had mentioned in a previous blog post. I had his attention and his interest. That's the time to provide more.

Anyway, just a thought about the difference a computer in front of a student can make.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

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  • Talk about virtual field trips. Here are 10 great Car trips that you can play right in your browser. Show your students!

    tags: GoogleEarth

    • less costly options, like smartphones
    • paying for their iPads through federal and other grants,
    • “You can do everything that the iPad can with existing off-the-shelf technology and hardware for probably $300 to $400 less per device,
    • About 5,400 educational applications are available specifically for the iPad, of which nearly 1,000 can be downloaded free.
    • “It has brought individual technology into the classroom without changing the classroom atmosphere,”
    • “It’s not about a cool application,” Dr. Brenner said. “We are talking about changing the way we do business in the classroom.”
  • This REALLY upsets me. To me, it's clear that these folks should NOT be making decisions about what matters in education.

    tags: ipads

    • teach Kafka in multimedia, history through “Jeopardy”-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.
    • The iPads cost $750 apiece
    • Educators, for instance, are still divided over whether initiatives to give every student a laptop have made a difference academically.
    • “IPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”
    • “If there isn’t an app that does something I need, there will be sooner or later,”
    • $56,250 for the initial 75
    • 32-gigabyte, with case and stylus
    • play math games, study world maps and read “Winnie the Pooh.”
    • “I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,
    • The New York City public schools have ordered more than 2,000 iPads, for $1.3 million
    • More than 200 Chicago public schools applied for 23 district-financed iPad grants totaling $450,000. The Virginia Department of Education is overseeing a $150,000 iPad initiative

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Response to "Top 10 Predictions for 2011 (with proof)

I wrote this as a response to this article:  http://www.techlearning.com/article/35406 but it turns out that it was over the character limit, so I decided that rather than try to trim it I'd just make it my own post.

Here'is my response:

I do believe that you will see these predictions happening around the country - just not in the same schools. A school here or there will stop textbooks, for sure. That's not that far fetched. And there are already some schools that are allowing their students to bring in their own tech, or using cell phones for educational purposes. But, there are a couple of these predictions that I think are harder to make happen except in rare instances.

The idea of assessments being comprehensive and constant, for one, will be much harder to see happening except in rare instances. Why? Because there are SO few models of what that looks like, and precious little professional development time being spend on showing that model. Teachers can't easily and suddenly change how they are teaching and assessing without some sustained PD to show them what it looks like and how to transpose those alternative assessments into letter grades. ANd that's their reality. Letter grades.

Students forced to use phones in class? Why? What pedagogical reasons are there to force the use of a cell? Force? Grounds for detention? In these litigious days? I highly doubt it. Schools are far too worried about the (perceived - right or wrong) dangerous uses of the phones. I don't think you'll see this in many schools at all. At least not to the degree that you have mentioned here.

Another area that I don't see changing is the use of Facebook. Yes, a student could make a facebook page about an historical figure and friend other historical figures. Is that all there is? That and friending a teacher? If that's all there is then I think, for all the distraction Facebook access would cause I just don't think it's worth it. It's certainly not the hill I'm going to fight for. Have you noticed how addicted some folks are to facebook? Do we want/need that distraction - for students AND teachers? I think it's a forced fit at best. If you can't do anything with it other than pretend to be an historical figure, then let's move on to what we KNOW to work in Education.

Finally, the end of testing? I have the utmost respect for Chris Lehman, but I respectfully disagree with the idea that the end is in sight. I see nothing to support that. A switch from NCLB to RTTT? No end to testing in sight there, for sure. And, I keep going back to the idea that there just isn't enough PD for teachers for them to know how to make that kind of switch. And, even if every day of PD this year were devoted to it, it's just not going to go away that quickly. I just don't see it. At the end of the day the teachers need to record a grade, and until they have a LOT of experience creating and using rubrics to score projects, it's just MUCH less work and FAR less subjective (if you have to support your grade to an upset student or parent) to give tests.

I'm not saying that I favor tests. I'm just saying that until colleges begin to show their education majors alternative ways to assess students (and start to model it themselves) that the test just isn't going to go away.

My hot button is the filter. (Ever hear me screaming?)  The notion that this year students will be able to surf away is an exciting idea. But, in 2011? Again, maybe in isolated instances, but I doubt if you'll be able to look back on this year and say that you've seen a significant change. Not until the CIPA gods stop the nonsense of functioning as a "Gotcha!" To have such vague rules for being compliant and then keeping everyone on their guard about being audited and losing that e-rate funding (especially in these days of funding concerns) is not fair to anyone. If schools could run down through a checklist of searches that would show areas of concern then at LEAST they would know the boundaries. As it is, we've got some districts that block Google Docs and wikis, for crying out loud. When there is THAT much rampant fear in this country, then the idea of surfing freely is just unrealistic. IMHO.

Your article sure gave us food for thought. Thanks to Ellen for getting us thinking more on the topic(s).