Long time, no post – Updates!

I made some big changes to my classroom so far this year and want to make even bigger ones. I was so inspired at a join conference for NCAATF and NCAATSP back in the spring of 2019 and decided that since I only have about 10 years to go to retirement that I wanted to go out with a bang and be the best French teacher I could possibly be. Who knows? If I really like all these changes, I may teach longer than 10 years!

So, I studied standards-based grading this summer and have implemented it in my classroom this fall because I have the luxury of only having one prep. That’s a rare thing for me so I have been playing around with French I. I really like standards-based grading but I find it does take more time to teach for mastery. So now, I’m scrambling with only a few weeks left in the semester to cover what I need to cover for these kids to go on to French II.

I have some friends who have switched over to teaching with comprehensible input and I have been inspired by them and the teachers I see doing this online. Comprehensible Input is based on research on how language is naturally acquired – it’s acquired through reading and hearing the language, not by grammar charts and vocab lists. I have dabbled a bit with this, doing a movie talk to introduce description (it went really well I think and the kids really enjoyed it) and using calendar talk on a daily basis to cover the date, the season, and the day of the week. I read somewhere that some people add something juicy like what is the national day for that day (There is a National Day for Vichysoisse!) which leads us into little mini-discussions (using likes/dislikes, other questions). I need to add weather to it as well. I applied for and was awarded a grant through Delta Kappa Gamma to help provide training and resources to learn more about how to implement comprehensible input in my classroom.

I am on a new learning journey and it’s fascinating to me to learn about all these techniques and philosophies and then try to implement them in my classroom. I have been energized and excited to take on this challenge.

Math Inspiration

I was asked yesterday by a math teacher for help.  It was a sincere plea because we do expect all teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum.  The pressure is on now because the end of the year is coming up and accountability will be in place to measure what integration has taken place over the course of the year.  That said, I won’t rant and rave about teachers being resistant to using technology in their classroom.  I heard the sincerity in this teacher’s voice.  He was genuinely in a quandry as to how to integrate technology in the classroom.  He was also puzzled by how on earth he was supposed to find time to learn how to use it much less integrate it into his curriculum.  Truly, his plate was full.

Having been a classroom teacher, I understand where he is coming from.  I personally think classroom teachers have one of the toughest jobs on earth.  They are pulled in many directions, held to high standards, play many roles to students, and meet for hours.  Time is always at a premium:  time to plan, time to teach, time to meet, time to grade papers, time to stay current with your field, and time to learn new things.

We decided to set a date so I could help him.  I am writing this post to ask for math inspiration.  What are best practices for math teachers to integrate technology into their lessons?  What are some great ways to use interactive tablets, document cameras, digital cameras, etc. so that lessons are enhanced and students are engaged?  I welcome any and all ideas here.

A Framework for Thinking Instructionally about Web 2.0 Tools

Knowledge and learning require both transmission and construction » Moving at the Speed of Creativity

I ran across this post by Wesley Fryer in my return to the Web 2.0 pool. This paragraph in particular struck me pretty hard as I think about how to introduce more Web 2.0 technologies to my teachers.

The day of blended learning has dawned. Knowledge and learning requires BOTH the transmission of content and the construction of local schema focused on that content. Our methods for accessing robust multimedia content are going to keep exploding for the foreseeable future. HOW we access the content IS important, but a more difficult (and pedagogically challenging) question is, “What are you going to ask (or invite) learners to DO with that content?” What are learners going to create? How are they going to collaborate in that creative process? How are you going to document that process of creation and learning? How are learners going to represent their understanding of both content and skills related to the topic of study, in ways they cannot FAKE or a classmate (or parent) can’t do for them?

I know I talk about projects a lot with the staff development I present. Sometimes I feel a resistance there because teachers are pressed to cover their curriculum and projects take time away from that. But do they? Is the teacher-lecture-textbook-reading-completing -worksheets model THE most effective means for students to learn the curriculum being covered? Anyone who has been in education for the last 10 years knows the answer to that question is a resounding NO.

Students have changed. They are digital natives. They live in a world where they can record themselves and their friends with their cell phones and post those videos on YouTube. They no longer have to have email accounts because they keep in touch through MySpace or Facebook or any number of social networking sites. They post their deepest thoughts to a faceless audience through blogs. This generation learns and produces socially.

In the same post by Fryer, you’ll find the following chart:

I think this chart is a great brainstorming platform to leap from when it comes to discussing Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and justifying their use.

None of this should be completely foreign to those who have seen the learning pyramid.

From what I can see, when students are working in the interactive/asynchronous area of Fryer’s chart, they are working in all areas of the learning pyramid not just the top tier like the would be with the non-interactive/synchronous block. If students are going to retain more information by working on the bottom tiers of the learning pyramid, doesn’t it make sense to use what is familiar to them (Web 2.0 technologies) to engage them and cover the curriculum at the same time? Won’t we cover our curriculum this way and, more importantly, help students retain the curriculum we cover?

Blogging=Cycle of Learning

Yesterday, as I was helping teachers tweak their blogs in anticipation of launching them to the web, I began thinking about the wonderful possibilities blogs are opening up for our students.  We have so many blogs now that span all different curriculae.  These students have the opportunity to comment on all sorts of different topics.  I see a new cycle of learning developing here.

Students are visiting our school’s blogs.  They read the posts and others’ comments.  Then they process what they’ve read and start writing their own comments.  It occurred to me that we are encouraging students to write across the curriculum!  I have heard this buzz phrase before but I’m not exactly sure I’ve seen it being accomplished up to this point.  Now, I’m seeing students comment on P.E. blogs, art blogs, language arts blogs, science blogs, math blogs, technology blogs, and social studies blogs.  And best of all, they LOVE it!  These students love seeing their comments posted on the Internet.  They have found a voice!  They are reading!  They are writing!  They are learning!

Ok, I am a bit excited.  I have been told that I’m clicking on all cylinders and I suppose that’s true.  I just get really fueled up when I see technology doing it what’s supposed to do in a school:  support and encourage learning.  Technology should walk hand-in-hand with the curriculum.  When it does, the two can be a powerful force and that is what we’re seeing happen at MCMS.

A Treasure Hidden in the Paper Wasteland of my Desk

I want to post something that was given to me by one of our 6th grade science teachers.  I’ve had this sitting in a pile on my desk for a while now and I am thrilled to have “rediscovered” it.  It’s funny what one may find when one actually takes the time to clean one’s desk (which, for me, is the end of the year).  😉  The following is entered as it was submitted to me. 

 We live in a video and technology driven world.

Learners are drawn to the excitement that using technology brings to any lesson.

 Technology has tremendous power to help students obtain, organize, manipulate, and display information.

We need to emphasize the integration of higher order thinking skills using authentic tasks.  Instead of students practicing discrete, isolated skills, the curriculum would stress composition, comprehension, and applications of skills.

Using technology for meaningful activities also helps integrate a variety of disciplines, more closely resembling activities that people undertake in the world beyond the classroom.  For example, word processing is a real-world technology that can help students develop writing and thinking skills.  Using the computer, students write longer, more complex sentences and are more willing to revise and edit their work.  They are able to concentrate on the thoughts they want to express rather than the mechanical skills of penmanship, spelling, and grammar (Hornbeck, 1990).

Technology also can help students develop positive cooperative learning relationships, enabling them to work together while researching topics and creating presentations.  In such relationships, students help each other learn.

Using technology not only helps me become a more creative teacher but it also helps my students as they are developing into more enthusiastic, life-long learners.

Technology cannot become a meaningful support for students’ work if they have access to it for only a few minutes a week. 

–Sue Sippel

I wholeheartedly agree!  What a way to end a wonderful year! 

Digital Writing Wonders

Last week, one of our 6th grade language arts teachers used the wireless lab to have students write a story about a mythological figure.  The teacher was so impressed with the quality work students were turning out.  She actually said that she would have them write on the computer from now on because their work was so much more creative.

Hearing this kind of statement really made me stop to reflect for a few days.  What is the connection between writing digitally and creativity?  Is there a different thought process involved that occurs when we put pen to paper versus typing on a keyboard?  What is the connection?

Now, these stories were not to be published on the web so the students knew there was no audience but their teacher.  According to her, she had students participating and producing in the activity who would normally not engage if the assignment were done on paper.

Is the answer as simple as technology helps kids connect to learning?  Could it be that by simply handing them computers, we are making a bridge between school and the digital world they live in?  Once the bridge is in place, students are able to engage in ways they could not before?

Lots of questions, I know.  There is no hidden agenda here.  I’m not trying to sell anyone on technology.  It’s just that when a very experienced teacher is willing to abandon former practices because she sees technology is making a difference, I sit up and pay attention.

I am very interested in hearing opinions on this one!  If anyone has research on writing with technology, I would love to read it.

ABC News: Study Eyes Effect of Tech on Classroom

ABC News: Study Eyes Effect of Tech on Classroom

I received this link to an article on educational technology in the classroom and its effects on test scores.  *rolling my eyes*

Ok, before I get sarcastic, let’s look at what the study was examining:  software in the classroom.  For one thing, I am not a big fan of software.  It’s expensive and needs to be upgraded every so many years depending on the hardware you’re using.  So let me just say from the beginning that I am a little biased already.  There is so much more potential in web-based solutions.  Free ones are awesome if they do what you need for them to do.  Subscriptions are fine too because if you find that the program is not working, you just don’t subscribe the following year.  You can’t do that with software.

What were the study’s findings?  There was no difference in the test scores of students who used software vs. the ones who did not use software.   The teachers were trained on the software and said they would use it again the following year.   A follow-up study is being done on whether the experience of the teacher using the software made a difference since the original study was based on one year’s use (prior to the study there was no software used).

This article raises several questions for me.

  1. What pedagogical practices were used to frame the use of technology in these lessons?
  2. Was the software simply a means to an end or was it used in a meaningful context?
  3. What type of feedback did the students receive?
  4. Did the software meet the students where they were academically, tailoring instruction to their needs?

I’m sure I would have more questions if I had more time to really think about this.  After reading the article, my head is swimming.  I see students use software sometimes.  I know they become bored with it after a while too.   Especially middle school students who are very social creatures.  There isn’t a lot of interaction with a computer screen.

The last thing students need is one meaningless activity that doesn’t make connections with the world they live in.  Software can be effective if used in the right context but not as the sole way technology is used.  21st century learners need more.  They need to connect.  They need to share.  They need to interact.  (See my earlier post: “Characteristics of a Digital Native” for more on what 21st century learners are like)

I think if the government wants to do a study, they should include more criteria.  There are many wonderful schools out there integrating more than just software into their lessons.  There has to be difference between classrooms where technology is part of the fabric of their experience, where students are participators in their learning and those classrooms where the teacher/software is the keeper of knowledge and students are observers in their own education.   There has to be a difference.  Let the government do a study on that and then we’ll talk about the effectiveness of integrating technology in the classroom.