Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tech PD at Conference

I was at the the UFT Spring Ed Conference which I signed up for in hopes of getting some interesting Tech PD.  They had a two workshops that sounded great: Digital Tools for Instruction: Engaging All Learners (K-12) and Using Apple Technology to Transform Classroom Learning (K-12). Now before I say anything else two things: 1) I know my use of technology in an elementary school setting is FAR from perfect and criticism is easy, offering solutions HARD; 2) UFT should be applauded for putting on a this very engaging conference: I really enjoyed listening to Randi, Mike, Carmen, and even Mayor Bill talk about how this is the time to take back public education. But I have to say after the workshops my feeling is the presentation of using tech in schools is not at the level that it could / should be in order to help teachers bring their classrooms into the 21st century. Almost Three and a half decades ago Seymour Papert published MindStorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas.  The notion that technology could allow students to construct their understanding still seems too difficult for the producers of the hard, soft, and cloud based tools to find their way to. Yes I enjoyed Apple's presentation on iTunesU and course manager resources, iBooks, and iBooks Author as a tool of empowerment, but the tools being put in the hands of teachers are still more presentation based than creation based.  Okay, that's a bit overstated and Apple is absolutely more about making verses feeding and testing but as I watched my fellow educators listening I wondered how many of them would really come away from this ready to turn their use of tech on it's head and have their students using technology to construct their understanding of anything and Everything.

Only last unrelated yet somehow it comes up in my head as being very appropriate for this post, I want to go to workshops that help me take tech use in the schools to the next level.  I want to hear the presenter at my next workshop talk like Jacob Barnett.  I want them to put something in my hand that I will walk into class on the next school day and say to my students, "Here, have fun with this!"

In the 1st clip it says Top Learning Art Thinking.
Top Learning Art Thinking

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Google Just Right for Constructivist Tech Lessons

How many of you have been aware that Google has a contest every year that lets students compete to make a doodle for the Google logo?  The contest Doodle for Google always has a theme (something in relationship to helping) and is open to any student, whether home schooled, private or public.  This year Google added an educator's page, (you can find the link on the home page for Doodle for Google, and of course you can Google it) which includes videos of the Google doodle team talking about what this kind of creativity is all about, and videos of the team talking with classrooms who are making their own Google doodle, and even lesson plans for teachers to do a unit on D4G, broken down into three lessons, for four different age groups: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12.  As an elementary tech coordinator who also teacher K-5 classes in a computer lab these lessons really hit the sweet spot for me.  First I don't teach typing or skill/drill in my lab.  I know there's a place for it but with only 50 minutes a week with them, and that usually only for half the year, teaching them the joy of using tech to explore and discover, to empower their learning experience, to construct their understanding is my priority.  We hardly ever play games (even problem solving ones) in the computer lab, except when we create them ourselves using a coding program like Scratch or MicroWorlds, but I still want my students to come out of class saying, "that was fun."  And the lessons from Google really seem to be on that constructivist tract that I believe is paramount to making tech learning engaging.  I particularly liked two parts of two of the lessons, ones that I could apply to more than just the D4G unit.  The first was about getting students thinking about what inventing / creating, coming up with ideas to invent something.  What I loved about this idea was how it showed that sometimes simple ideas can be great.  Often students are dismayed when they have to complete something that seems overwhelming to them, but when I say I invented something that will make the world a better place, healing people, staying off infection, making them feel better, and then I hold up a bandaid, explaining how it was invented, I almost always see that light go on, with students creativity being unleashed.  Other part of one of the lessons I am using is about how students can help each other refine what they've created.  Using the acronym TAG, standing for Tell them something you like, Ask them something about, and Give them a suggestion, students can help each other edit their work.  Since having come across this and using it in the D4G unit, I have found most students respond really well to "TAGing" their friends for almost any work they are producing in the computer lab.  Since so much of what we do in the lab involves them being creative / constructing something, the TAG moment really helps to take their work to the next level. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Trying Again

This entry is going to start with an apology: I have not been keeping up with posting new information on this blog and that is really not right.  By creating this blog I have committed to sharing and hopefully hosting a space on the world wide web for those interested and involved in coordinating the use of technology in the elementary school environment.  Though some illness in my family has taken up a fair amount of my time I have decided posting regularly here is not a responsibility I choose to shirk.  So here is the first of what I hope will be from now on regular posts pertaining to being a tech coordinator for elementary schools.

Again: Why all schools with multiple classrooms need a tech coordinator.  How much of our life now involves tech?  As I wrote these words I thought, well almost everything, and then of course I wanted to know, "there must be someone who has done a study to show how much of our daily life, work, home, play, is influenced by tech," so I Googled it.  Didn't get the definitive answer I was looking for but I did get the statistic that 90% of American households have some sort of computer device in their house.  Ten percent of America lives without a computer?!?  Everywhere I go it's tech: Doctor's office, stores, schools, they all so rely on tech at their location and to connect to the rest of the world.  Being comfortable with tech has become a requirement of our society, especially if we wish to rise above the menial labor choice, and isn't that what as teachers we are trying to do: Give our students the opportunity to choose what they want to pursue? Teachers need the resources that allow them to integrate tech into their classrooms: Tech that works, bandwidth consistency, pd in the use of new tech, ways to weed through the plethora of choices out there and then access to the tech that will work in their schools, and someone to help coordinate all of these needs.  They need a Tech Coordinator.