Kim’s Blog

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Archive for February, 2009

Moving Backwards

I went to school as usual on Sunday to prepare for my week.  I had to stop myself.  I found that as I was planning activities and lessons for the students, I was thinking of how I could incorporate technology.  Well, that’s not really the case.  As I was planning activities, I was planning technology implementation and finding activities which fit with technology as an end result.  The end result is often the assessment but these lessons would have lost a lot of learning opportunities had I not stopped to realize this and simply jumped ahead to the final result instead of the incremental steps necessary to reach the final destination.  With that said, I had re-adjusted my planning and thinking and I’m hoping to try pod casts this week.  After I have provided the students with valuable learning opportunities!

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Convention

I attended a session at our teacher’s convention in Saskatoon this morning about blogging in the classroom.  The presenter, Eldon Germann,  is from Living Sky School Division.  Our school division has a social network – Yammer.  Eldon uses an avatar on Yammer so it was nice to put a real face to the words I read on Yammer.  Eldon provided a lot of information about using technology in the classroom and I have come away from the session with more ideas to implement.  However, the best idea I came away with was the fact that one can take on too much at one time.  Sometimes I feel so interested, excited and invigorated by everything so new that I’m afraid I don’t take the time to truly understand or learn. 

Eldon asked the question, why educators are afraid of technology.  I think there are a number of reasons.  One huge reason is time.  When our staff was asked to find a staff member to sit on the technology committee, I remember sliding back into my chair in an effort to disappear – how would I have time to learn about technology and be a support to other teachers when I struggle to find time for current responsibilities.  Since this class, I have learned a few things – mostly that I enjoy technology and learning about technology and how to enhance my teaching through the uses and applications available.  As a grade one teacher, I don’t have time during the day to sit at a computer and play.  As a parent of young children, I don’t have time to stay at school and play.  With the advent of laptops and internet accessibility, I am able to play with technology at home, after my children have been comfortably put to bed.

Another fear may be about putting oneself out there.  On the one hand, anyone can read what I write – scary.  On the other hand, who would care or read what I have to write.  This is my second blog and granted, it is not interesting to everyone, I have had people comment on my words (WOW!) and I have felt nothing but unconditional support from these comments and social networks.

It’s too much.  And it is.  But I’m learning that I don’t have to read every word and I don’t have to apply every new idea.  I am learning along with my students.  My students are young and excited and eager.  That also gets me fired up and excited too.

I also think there’s a fine line between enforcing technology on people and allowing people to follow their own interests and needs.  Honestly, I would probably not have tried as many new things were it not for this class I am currently taking.  So in a way, I have been forced to learn new things.  But I’m also finding a personal interest.  I think we need to encourage and support educators in their endeavors whatever they may be and give people time to learn on deeper levels as we expect of our students.

In Response to February 11th Class

The subject of our class on February 10, 2009 was Popular Issues in (Digital) Media Literacy.  Near the beginning of the class we started to discuss the difference between literacy and skills but I don’t think we solidified a difference between the two for students in a classroom or students in our communities for that matter.  In my mind, I see literacy as the ability to communicate through reading, writing, speaking and listening.  I see skills as the ability to apply literacy.  As the world of technology grows which in essence makes the world smaller, it is vital to prepare our students with skills in order to communicate effectively and thereby become literate citizens by applying skills effectively.

During the class we also explored viral videos.  One such video we viewed was David After the Dentist.  My first impression was to laugh, because it was funny.  But then I began to think of the ramifications of this video.  Who knows what reasons the parents decided to video tape their child after the dentist or play it on the internet.  After the class my feelings about the video have altered.  I don’t know what rights parents, teachers or adults have to place pictures or videos of children on the internet.  I am not comfortable, as I have already stated in previous entries, to place pictures or videos of my own children nor my students online.  Our school division has parent consent forms for using pictures of students but the permission forms are very difficult to read and understand all the while being quite vague.  Back to David… how many times have we as teens and adults laughed at someone in a stupor.  It can be very funny but it can also be very serious.  This poor boy was under an influence (with good reason) but is this something that the world needs to see?  Other kids may see this video, think it’s funny, and find ways to mimic the video for the entertainment of their friends while seriously damaging their brains and bodies.  Maybe this video just goes to taste and personally, I find the video in bad taste.

I don’t think the David video is necessarily offensive, but there are of course sites that are offensive to some and not others.  As a basic right, people who find things offensive can stay away from those things which may be offensive and it seems to me that staying away from offensive material on the internet is easy.  However, schools are places which contain as many opinions as there are students.  Often in an effort to hide the offensive, many sites are blocked and inaccessible to students.  Teachers are often scared into staying away from a variety of sites.  I have heard a number of times “I would never use YouTube”.  Instead of becoming educated on how to use technology and teach students to become critical thinkers, we are now banning content on the internet as many libraries ban books for content.  It is just as important to teach kids to think about what they read and assess the content for truth.  We need to teach kids to search for supporting arguments to support what they learn.  We also need to teach kids about responsibility.  Sure, it’s easy to write nasty things about another person when they aren’t there to look in the eye or defend themselves but that doesn’t mean that it’s right – this is often a difficult lesson to learn.  Kids also need to learn that words are not always read as they are said and many meanings can be derived from the same words.  We also need to teach kids that the words they write and the videos they post can be seen by anyone at anytime, even in the future.  We need to educate our students, not scare them.  And remind them that before they post a video from the latest party with them in a compromised position or under the influence, this may be the first impression a future employer may get upon looking them up on the net.

Writing About the Weather

Grade one students were given sentence frames.  Each student completed the sentences.  We used a Smart Board Document Camera to capture the writing (thank you for your help Linda!).  I then used the Recorder on the Smart Board to record student voices while they read their own stories.  The students enjoy hearing their voices and seeing their work on the screen.  My next step is to add this video to our class wiki for students to share with their parents.

Satisfaction and Guilt

I feel like a geek, but an excited geek at that.  I have spent the better part of a beautiful day editing and saving a video which is less than two minutes long.  It has taken even more time to figure out how to put it on YouTube (and yes, I know my terminology is extremely simplistic).  And from there I have added this video to my blog and my new wiki.  It’s a whole new world for me and now I sit satisfied… and guilty.  I have learned a lot of new things through experience and I feel proud of my accomplishments but I have also neglected my children. 

And this brings me to my technology tension.  I have been pondering the future of education as being students connected to students and teachers via computers.  That human contact would been missing and the experience of learning with others would be absent as well.  Human contact is extremely important.  A few weekends ago, my children were challenged through a reading program at school to read a recipe and make a recipe for a meal at home.  My children proudly picked out new recipes, we made our grocery lists and went to the store to pick up our items, my children followed their recipes to make their meals and they were so happy to share their accomplishments with the family.  It was the highlight of the weekend.

As we were driving yesterday, my daughter and I were talking.  While we were talking, I was reminded of something a presenter told a group of teachers about students learning things from Smart Boards and how even if children can not actually visit a site, they can learn about it through cyber space.  I’m not sure I agree.  My daughter and  I somehow got on the topic of Victoria, BC.  I explained to her that it is a city in BC, which is the province beside Alberta.  She knows where Alberta is as we have traveled there a number of times.  She knows how foggy St John’s, Newfoundland is because of our trip there this summer.  She knows what a star fish feels like, how lobsters and crabs move and how large a Newfoundlander dog really is because she has seen these things with her own eyes and has experiences to draw from.  Try as I might to explain Victoria to her, she finally told me to never mind as she couldn’t draw on her experiences to understand where Victoria is in Canada or what it looks like.  Technology is amazing and fantastic but so are humans and experiences!  Off I go to enjoy what is left of a weekend with my family.

My first YouTube video!

Check out this video!  My students were learning about measurement in Math so I took a few clips and I was the one who learned something from using video as an assessment tool!

In Response to Stephen Downes

I started reading Stephen Downes’ blog a few weeks ago.  Some of it was hard to get through because he seems to know what he’s talking about; some of his concepts and references are beyond my current knowledge and understanding of technology.  I tried to read through it all until I realized through my technology journey that we are all on information overload and the trick is to sift through to find the gems.  Here is a gem I found: “To learn is not to acquire or to accumulate, but rather, to develop or to grow.”

Our society is determined to accumulate things.  The more things one has, the more successful one has become.  As a teacher, I feel like it is my duty to provide my students with skills and knowledge.  The better I prepare my students with things (skills, knowledge, etc.) the better teacher I am perceived to be.  And yet, it is more important for me as a teacher, to allow my students to learn, experience and grow from experiences rather than acquire knowledge they may never use again.  It is my duty to guide my students to discover who they are, what they feel passionate about and how to achieve their goals in life.  In some way, I think I attempt to provide these experiences but I have never thought about teaching, knowledge or learning in this way.

I completely agree with Stephen when he writes that “people want to use tools that look and feel like tools they’ve always used”.  Technology is moving so quickly that it takes time to learn new tools, then master new tools, only to realize that the new tools will be replaced with newer tools.  This can become frustrating when time is an issue.  However, it emphasises the need to teach our children to develop critical and creative thinking skills so that as they grow and learn, they are able to adapt to the changes in technology.

I think that when Stephen described the Smart Board ten years ago, it was unfathomable to some.  I still remember the first video game my sister and I played.  Now my own children play with their DS and Wii games.  I didn’t understand these games until we played them and I was amazed!  I am interested in Stephen’s ideas of classrooms of the future and the role of teachers in the future.  Many students today excel in informal learning.  Many students can walk up to a Smart Board and manipulate it quickly whereas teachers require days of training and hours of practice.  Students can text messages at incredible speed.  These examples of informal learning go unrecognized.  Stephen suggests a major paradigm shift – personal learning environments.  One such environment is the Quest Model which reminds me of earning Girl Guide badges.  The learning record appears to be a type of portfolio.  Student work would still be evaluated and recognized at the student’s pace and interest.  People would earn reputations online within social and professional communities.  People would be evaluated by their peers rather than a teacher or instructor.  I love the shift from the ‘unit of hour’ to the ‘unit of Knol’ – Knol refers to a unit of knowledge.  Another huge shift is from teachers delivering knowledge to students.  The role of the teacher will be to provide students with tools and to create an open community of communication between students, teachers and the community. 

Yes, these shifts in learning are exciting.  Yes, these shifts in learning scare me.  Will I be a teacher in ten years?  Will my services as teacher be required?  If not, why am I pursuing a Masters in Education?  I see great benefits to many of the paradigm shifts discussed and yet I still see the need for traditional schools as meeting places.  Many students come to school lacking social skills.  Social skills are not inate in all children, nor have social skills been taught or encouraged from home.  School is a place where students learn how to deal with a number of different people they may have never been exposed to.  When I envision a future of students learning in cyber space, I see some children getting lost.  I feel a tension because I have taught children who do not push themselves and yet, maybe if they were given the opportunity to pursue passions, they may excel in the world of units of ‘knol’.  However, when students follow passions, they miss opportunities to learn about other aspects of the world.  It is also my duty to provide my students with a wide array of experiences they may have not been exposed to on their own.