Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Creativity is knowledge

 "We have the gift of human imagination.. we have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely...And the only way well do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are and our task is to educate their whole being so they can face this future...our job is to help them make something of it."

This quote is from Sir Ken Robinson in his TED Talks podcast entitled Do Schools Kill Creativity. In his presentation he talks about the fact that being creative is looked down upon with children and how this needs to change as the times change.  The thing that was most intersting to me is that this doesnt just happen in the United States...it happens ALL OVER THE WORLD!  Education as a whole is based around academic abilities and the system was created to help industrialization so schools are naturally more interested in math and languages and less interested in the arts.

His clear message is that with the world changing do to our technological advances and our interests in such arts as of recently children need to be able to explore and learn through arts and music as well as the other academic material.  He states in his podcast  "if your not prepared to be wrong you will not come up with anything original."  And originality is a huge part of our world recently..people are able to create videos, games, music, dance, and show case it all on the web for the world to view.  Children shouldnt be punished for wanting to create they should be rewarded for wanting to be original.

When I saw the title of this podcast I was instantly interested in what was to be said and I had to watch it.  As a mother who advocates for creativity this video was definitely right for me.  As I watched I actually felt better about myself for not pushing my two year old to be an academic genius and instead steering her more towards exploring her artistic side.  I had looked for a school for my daughter to go to that was more focused on creativity, which is really hard in case your wondering, and when I did I instantly got heat for it by my mother and several of my family members for not putting her in a school that will teach my daughter anything useful.

 My cousin actually had sent her child their the previous year and liked it but wasn't to impressed because her daughter didn't turn into a three year old genius who could write and read.  Once her daughter was put into a universal Pre-K and went to a different school who is much more structured and based on "education" she felt much better about her daughters learning.  I on the other hand have decided that my daughter will definitely not be attending her cousins school because I am pretty sure that it will be okay if shes not reading chapter books by the time she enters Kindergarten.  I like that she can go to school and learn through play, she has come home and sang me a song about the days of the week, she knows the difference between her right and left hand, she knows all her colors (shown by a very messy art project) and she is very educated in the five food groups from playing store in the drama area of her classroom.  All in all im pretty sure shes learning...even though shes not sitting in a desk like a drone!

The fact that being creative is okay will definitely be a main point in my classroom in the future.  I know that children have a creative side and I feel like you can pull that out through education and that children can still learn AND be creative.  I think that the best way for me to put this into play in my classroom is by giving students different options on being creative with projects and homework.  If you give children the option to create a movie, song, picture and so on they will not only want to do the work they will actually want to learn something to make it better! 

So the next time your teaching your students about the civil war give them a project and let them create a song to explain the main points or a lyrical dance to describe what happened.  Your children will be engaged and everyone will be entertained.  And as always...creativity is knowledge!     

Monday, November 19, 2012

Communicate Globally

 A new site to consider in a classroom...epals is amazing!  What better way to teach your students about the world then to actually connect with the world.  With this site you can collaborate with classrooms throughout the world by creating classroom lessons together or by giving your students pen pals to write to.  You can pick the age group that your classroom is in so that they can communicate and collaborate with students their age that speak the same or different languages and they will be able to learn culture and community by experience and expand their knowledge with fun. 

Their are several different activities that students can participate in on this site.  BY going to the learning center you can work on several different activities from games to writting resources.   A few of my favorite:

  • In the writting center you can go to the activity titled every picture tells a story in which students can go through pictures taken from other students around the world and then discuss what they see by answering some prompts in the pictures.  Pictures are from Cambodia, Spain, France, and even other places in the U.S.  This is a great way to teach children about differences in cultures.  Or for ESL students to show what their culture is like.
  • In the global citizens center you can do an activity entitled walk a mile in my shoes in which students post videos or pictures to make a presentation of how they get to school including whether they wear uniforms or what you see on the way.  Once the video is uploaded students from all over the world get to "Walk a mile in my shoes".  This could be a great way to talk to students about differences and similarities in cultures and is a great way to show students that even though they can be miles away from one another they can still have things in common.
 There are so many other things that can be done on this site, to much for me to write it all on here and I can't possibly do it the justice that is needed.  Check it out! Collaborate and create with your students, communicate on a global basis.  Dont just talk to your students about culture use this site and let them learn about culture from other kids their age!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stuperflix Videos for learning

This week I learned how to use a new site to make short videos!  Its always fun to create and Stuperflix is an amazing tool to use in the classroom, and to have some fun at home. 

With this site you can put images to music and make a video to explain or explore almost anything.  For students this is a way to express themselves and their knowledge through their creativity.  Imagine the work you could get out of your students when you ask them to create a video describing the story of Romeo and Juliet, or WWI! You could have students work together collaboratively to create something or individually to show understanding.

I created a video to see how easy it was to navigate.  I did have a hard time adjusting the photos to make them appear as I wanted but other then that it was pretty simple.  You just pick the layout you want the slideshow to be in, upload your photos and order them, upload your music, and add any text you want and the duration of the slide, and your done!  I would definitely use it in the future, I think its a great way to connect with your students and engage them in the lesson.

The video I made, I feel, is a great way to introduce Stupeflix to your classroom.  And introduce yourself to your students so they realize that your a real person (trust me they do tend to think you come from another planet!).  I feel that if teachers open up to their students then students will be more willing to open up to the teachers and in a community setting like that where everyone feels comfortable then learning tends to happen more naturally.  In my video I just gave a sample of my family through out the year and I would suggest having your students create one as well.  It doesn't have to be long, just enough for everyone to get to know their classmates so they can start to build a lasting relationship through out the year.

So as always, enjoy...and create!  Change the mold of how students learn and of how teachers teach!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Be creative...Voice it!

Through out this technology I have been taking for my teaching degree I have learned a lot about implementing technology into the classroom I hope to have soon.  Children are so involved in, and drawn to, technology and the connections they can form from it. 

 One of the things that I had never heard of is a VoiceThread in which you create a page with a question for your students to answer, a thought provoking one that can get different answers from different students.  Then you have your students comment by video, microphone, or typing a response and they can see others responses.  With this type of technology it is especially helpful with ESL students who may have some reservations about speaking in front of a class.  With a VoiceThread students will be able to practice their verbal skills and get the same classroom community feel without the nerves and stress of a face to face interaction.  Although students will still have to communicate within the school setting, this could be the extra help some quieter students need to be noticed by their teachers and be accepted as a part of the class team.

Their are two Voicethreads that I have participated in that I think give a very good example of its usefulness in the classroom.   One was made by a fellow classmate of mine, Wen Guo, entitled Healthy Diet in which she gives her students a scenario.  In the scenario the man, Jon, is suffering from high cholesterol and she is asking her students to consider the effects of fast food and give some advice to Jon to become a healthier person.  This specific lesson could have a huge impact on students in our society since obesity is such an epidemic now.  It will get students to discuss and think about ways in which to become a healthier person and teaching children how to be and eat healthy is very important.  It gives kids a creative way to think and voice their opinions.

Another great voice thread is, again, by a fellow classmate names Alyssa Boron posted as a spanish review.  In this case she is posting the lesson as a way for students to practice their vocabulary and verbal skills outside of the classroom.  I think this is a great way to give students the opportunity to practice speaking at home.   Giving a student a homework assignment like this in which they are actually able to be verbal will better build vocabulary and give students a fun and entertaining way to get their homework done.

No matter how a VoiceThread is used I highly suggest you DO use it in a classroom.  Let your students get their creativity out while still being able to assess their skills and knowledge set.  Be creative and give it a voice!   

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bookr book lesson

I was playing around with bookr today and decided to create a book for a young ESL class to use in the future.  I thought it might be a good idea to write a book for the first week of class so the kids can discuss where they are from and know that even though they are all different they can all still get along and be friends.  This is great for them to start a bond in their class with new students while still keeping their culture alive in them. 

The objectives of this book would be to teach culture awareness and acceptance.  While also teaching children how to compare and contrast with differences and similarities.  And it can also be a good opener for teaching reading skills, vocabulary, and oral skill and comprehension by answering questions about themselves addressed in the book.  I only asked a few simple questions in the book but it is great to ask more: schools in their culture, beliefs, holidays, transportation...the list is really endless depending on what your plans are.

Don't get to caught up in the objectives just yet though, make sure you let the children tell their stories to because it can make them feel comfortable to talk about themselves and tell some stories about where they are from.  Its a great way to teach about community as well.  If children feel important they will be more likely to participate in classroom lessons and activities.  And be sure to tell a story about yourself too! If you connect with them they connect with you, so take the time to talk.  Remember if your in an ESL classroom that some children will have little to no vocabulary so the objectives should be lax the first few weeks (hint: drawing skills are usually pretty good..what kid doesn't like to color.  If they cant answer a question orally ask if they can draw a picture.)

Here's the book: Different People Different Stories.  I know how hard it is to write so feel free to use mine or think of your own...or get really creative and create a book as a class!  As always the possibilities are endless!

storytelling with a digital twist

TSDIGS 4 Collaborate by dreamponderCreate
TSDIGS 4 Collaborate, a photo by dreamponderCreate on Flickr.

"Digital Storytelling is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories." (University of Huston; the Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling).  I've been using digital storytelling software for a while now.  As you can tell from previous posts I have small children and this type of digital storytelling has been a great way for them to have some fun with their aunt who lives in California.  To keep communication alive in our family we make books using storybird; we can either do this collaboratively by making stories together (you can make them open to groups) or we share things we did in story format (going to the zoo or on a vacation).  My daughter thinks its great because we read so many books at home and with this she gets to read books that she helped make (you can even buy them and have them shipped to you in hardcover format so they can actually flip through the pages!) 

We use it at home to stay connected, but why not use it in schools to stay educated!  Digital storytelling can be a great way to keep students engaged in learning.  "Digital stories let students express themselves not only with their own words but also in their own voices, fostering a sense of individuality and of “owning” their creations. At the same time, digital stories give students an opportunity to experiment with self-representation—telling a story that highlights specific characteristics or events—a key part of establishing their identity, a process that for many is an important aspect of the college years." (7 Things you should know about Digital Storytelling).  What a great way to get kids involved right! So next time you have to teach a lesson on the Civil War (or any social studies lesson really) why not make a digital story about it.  Or better yet, teach the kids the lesson and let them make some stories of their own that way your testing their comprehension and their having fun doing it.

Another great idea; if your teaching ESL students and you have a large diverse class you could have everyone make a book about where they are originally from.  It doesn't have to be anything to complex since most of them may not be able to write to many words, but even if they are putting 2 or 3 words on each page they can feel like they are doing something fun while learning spelling and word recognition and then they have something to present to the class to work on oral skills as well.  They can do it collaboratively (if some of them are from the same areas) or individually.  It could also be a good idea for the teacher to put a book together in the beginning of the year on everyone being equal even though they are from different places (great way to teach cultural acceptance and awareness).  You could even collaborate with different classes in different states or countries! Talk about global learning and cultural awareness!

Downside?  "Many people find that piecing together a coherent narrative is considerably more difficult than they thought, and students not comfortable producing original work are likely to find themselves simply modeling their efforts on digital stories they have come across." 7 Things you should know about Digital Storytelling).  I know we had a hard time when we first started this in our family; you find all these pictures that you like and then think 'okay, now what?'  or you have this great story in your head but when you try and write it you think 'this makes no sense!'  Well rest assured it does get easier as you get more comfortable with the concept.  And most of the time it works to start with writing the story down first on some paper, then figure out the best places in that story to split into pages, then find the pictures to go with it.  Even if you have some great pictures you love they just might not fit well in the story your trying to get across, save them for another time maybe you can fit them in a new story later!  Its also a good idea to model a story first for your students (especially ESL students) and let them modify that for a while before you have them create on their own, although you may be surprised to find out that you have a harder time thinking up stories than most student do!  Either way, storytelling with a digital twist is definitely a great way to teach and learn!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

serious games for learning

Citizen Science is a great game to send kids home with after a science lesson on lakes and being environmentally conscious.  It would be most effective with older children in an environmental science class who are ESL students.  I have personally played it about 4 times and found great information from it. Objectives of this game can be learning how to choose appropriate topics to make good arguments as you have to be able to convince people not to do things or to do things by using information you have been collecting through out the experience.  Its also a good way to get kids to learn vocabulary.  A great way to assess this would be to have kids write down any words they come across that they do not understand and find a definition for it that way they are learning on their own and you can see that they are playing the game as well as giving them guidance when they need it by seeing what they are bringing in to class the following day.

Their are other games to promote learning on the site games for change that can help students learn on their own to reenforce knowledge learned in class.  These games incloude games on poverty, the environment, and economics, to name a few and can be classified by age groups to see what is most appropriate for your class.

Monday, October 15, 2012

the Rewards of Gaming

These days games play a huge role in the lives of our children whether we like it or not.  Although the kids pictured above are not my own, Ive seen images like this in my household as my husband finds a new game for my daughter to play with him and my son (6 months old) sits in his chair with his own controller watching intently.  I had been against this vary situation for a while and had finally given in to the inevitable and began to actually watch my daughter and my husband interact over a good game with Dora the Explorer and what I realized was eye opening.  Not only was it engaging for my daughter but she was actually learning something from it; counting, word and letter recognition, reading comprehension, and following directions (to name a few).  In the end I learned that education can come from anywhere, even games and TV (with STRICT limitations) as actually interaction with a parent or a teacher is still a main form of education.

For a class assignment I had to think of a rational for using games for learning and it wasn't that hard to think of why its a good reason as I have a living example in my household.  I think that games can help language learning, especially for ESL students because it helps to match pictures with words for word recognition and it helps engage learning in a fun and entertaining way with both challenge and reward.  And that's only one of many benefits of using games. As I mentioned above there are several educational purposes for games that promote language learning.

After reading 10 Gaming Genres to Adapt in Class I had looked for a fun and engaging point and click game to play to see how you could use one in a classroom.  I found the game Heart of Tota and the walkthrough, the instructions, for it.  After playing the game about 10 times (I'm not addicted I swear!) I figured that although I am not sure if it has education purpose AT ALL it still has the potential to teach children something.  For example if you let the children play the game with the walkthrough (because its almost impossible to get through without it) then they have to read the instructions in order to get to the certain areas and collect and open the appropriate items so they are using reading comprehension and they need to be able to follow directions which both have an implication in language learning.

As a teacher in this situation I would simply be there to help the children when needed, but other then that I think the challenge of such a game is what makes it engaging and fun and if you take that away from them then it is unnecessary to  to use games for learning.  I believe the best way to use these games for ESL students would be in group setting so they can work through the directions and comprehension together then not only are they reading and thinking but they are actually communicating and using oral language to learn. With any kind of education you want to make sure that the children are actually learning something and the best way to do that in these situations, with reading comprehension and following directions, would be to simply assess how and if they had completed the task by looking through the walkthroughs of them.

Not only can games play a role in education but they can play a role in almost anything now.  from points and rewards points to using it for news, all of this can be read about in the article entitled gamification.  Gamification is simply defined as applying game design thinking in non-game situations to make them more fun and engaging.  So although it is my main focus to think about what will help make education and learning more fun and engaging I feel its worth it to mention that with the technology we have now we can create anything to be fun and engaging especially with the new form of gamification.  And as surprised as I am, I have to say that there are rewards of gaming.

Monday, October 8, 2012

learning through tweets

I'm sure every one has heard about twitter, how can you not, there's always some stars tweet all over the news lately.  What I never considered was that there was another side to tweeting..a more educational side.  I know I shouldn't be surprised, learning can come from anywhere these days, and I have to admit its actually a great idea!  Not only can your students connect with you through a tweet they can also connect to the school, their parents, and most importantly....THE WORLD.  I've always heard the saying "The world is your oyster" and I know its supposed to me the world is yours to explore and with twitter that exploration gets a whole lot better!

Once I thought about using twitter in the classroom, or for my own personal use to connect with other educators and talk about important topics I looked at two great sites that helped me jump start some ideas.

The first site was The Teachers Guide to the use of Twitter in the Classroom.  This site was a great way for me to understand how to use twitter in a K-8 classroom.  It also gave some great examples of teachers that are tweeting in their classroom, and of course given the information I had to look and see for myself.  Specifically, I looked at MDEkinderkids twitter account and found a great resource for tweeting in the kindergarten classroom (not to mention a great blog from the class as well).  After looking at her classes tweets and the article on twitter in the class I have decided that I will be using twitter in my classroom for several reasons:
  • To keep parents informed in the classroom, not only is it a great way to keep parents involved and active in their childrens learning it also gives a great reassurance for parents to know that their children are not only learning but having fun.
  • To connect with other classrooms around the world, it would be a great way to get information about different cultures and could be a great learning experience.
  • To teach writing skills, this is a great way to get kids to write.  Having them write out a tweet before it is posted is a good way to to teach grammar skills needed throughout an education.
  • To teach communication skills, since twitter only allows a certain number of characters children have to be learn how to get a point across in an interesting and appropriate way. 

Another helpful site was called How does #Edchat connect educators which helped me realize that not only can you use twitter for the classroom (and to catch up on what all the stars are doing) its also a great way to connect with other educators and ask questions and have discussions.  By putting #Edchat in the search you can connect with other teachers every Tuesday ( now called Teacher Tuesdays) at noon and 2 and discuss whatever topic was polled as the most important of the week.  I think that this is not only a great way to connect with other teachers through out the world it is a great way to learn something new from it.  I will definitely be watch for this chat on Tuesday to see what will be discussed and how it can help better my own education.  If anyone is interested in what these topics can include just check out the polls and explore the endless opportunities twitter has to offer.

All in all, whether its to create an account for your classroom or to learn something yourself twitter is definitely the way to go.  Its simple and short and there's always something new when your learning through tweets.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Social Networking

Social networking is proving to be a key in staying up to date with anything these days.  And Ning is a great networking site for teachers to communicate with other teachers or even for teachers to use in their classrooms to engage their students and keep them connected throughout the school year or throughout their lifetime.  With this networking site there's no need for you to have any kind of technical skills to create a place of your own where people can connect over common ideas and goals.

I have actually found a specific network called The Educator's PLN for personal learning for educators.  This site has everything an educator would need to help them be a good teacher by keeping them up to date with any new information that comes up or by learning from other peoples experiences of what worked well for them and what didn't.  With this site you can go to a forum, look at blogs or podcasts, and watch tutorials of learning tools.  There are even groups to join specifically for science or math teachers, or simply for new teachers that need support from other new teachers to learn how to build their framework and make an impact on their students.  All of these things combine to make a site that can keep educators educated through connecting with others and learning endless amounts of knowledge because thats what good educators do right?

Connecting to learn and learning to connect

When I was asked to make an analogy for what a learner is like I starred at this statement for days trying to figure out what a learner is like, "The learners of today are like....."  And honestly, I have yet to come up with a good answer.  Ive heard learners compared to many things but I cant say that any analogy is good enough for the amount of knowledge a learner can obtain in a lifetime.  Now that learners are able to connect with others through social interactions or simply "google it" the amount of learning that can be done is exponential.  The era of simply sitting at a desk and learning all you can from a teacher or from your parents is now outdated and we are entering the era of endless knowledge.  "What we know today is not as important as our ability to stay current....if we are not continuously learning we are becoming obsolete in our particular field."(George Simmons in his YouTube video The Network is the Learning).   With this endless stream of knowledge it is with networking that people are able to learn continuously throughout their lifetime.  As you make connections with others that are interested in the same fields as you you can learn from each others experiences or from research done by others that can in turn create new knowledge for you.  "Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions" (George Simmons in his article A Learning Theory for the Digital Age).  And with the, basically, combined knowledge through networking it is through peoples opinions, research (from books, journals, websites), and personal experiences that we as individuals can stay current with not only interests in or country or small communities but we can essentially communicate and connect with people from all over the world. 
I, being a mother, have made a connection through networking on a site with mothers in the Buffalo, NY area.  With these connections I have been able to stay up to date on all topics pertaining to child rearing that includes anything from new developmental research to good tips on how to get toddlers to potty train to the best pediatric doctors in the area.  So in essence with these connections I have made I am actually able to learn a huge amount of knowledge and stay current without having to sit in a seminar or read a large amount of books that would probably take me a lifetime to get through.  I simply have to create a topic in a forum and ask a question and sit back and wait for the information to come to me through my connections with others.

With this all being said I think its fair to assume that an analogy for a learner is almost impossible to apply because there is nothing in nature neither an object or a living thing that is able to change and adapt to the amount of knowledge that is being created every day.  Not even a learner can learn everything there is to know in this day and age, there is simply to much knowledge being created.  I guess if I had to create an analogy though it would be that of a spider weaving its web, each silk strand standing for a new connection the human mind (spider) has made to a new form of education.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

did I pass the test!?!?

A blog post I read earlier this week sparked a conversation between my husband and I about our childrens futures in the school systems.  The author, Joe Bower, wrote a post about communicating with his daughters Kindergarten teacher about opting out of grading and instead giving more feedback.  I instantly loved this idea and his letter to the teacher as I am one of those "crazy" parents that believes in attachment parenting and babywearing so obviously I would connect with the idea of promoting my childs learning without reducing their knowledge to a letter or number.  My husband, on the other hand, thought the whole idea was completely ridiculous and was just another way for parents to be controlling.  Obviously we had drastically different opinions on this topic, which we usually do, and he is still not sold on the whole idea even after an hour long conversation and research on the subject but I still like it and would consider it when my children reach that age.

Bowers post on this subject also caused quite the stir from other readers as well from people saying that he was being a controlling parent and undermining teachers to people (like me) who completely agree with his idea and have saved his letter draft for their own person use in their children's future.   I like to be as objective as I can on subject because I believe all people should be able to voice their opinions so I do understand where some people were coming from (although they could be a little ridiculous and harsh at times).  With that being said, I don't think that he had the intent of undermining teachers abilities to teach, considering he is a teacher himself.  I think that teachers are very effective at their jobs, if not then I would choose to homeschool, and often the teachers are just following rules from such laws as NCLB in which they have to assess all children equally.  I dont think he was trying to be a controlling parent either I know Im not, even though people think I am becuase of my views on parenting, I think that he just wants the best education for his daughter and he wants her to want to learn.

So, if you are a "crazy" parent like me or you just want to learn a little bit more on the subject to make your own decisions, Bower has made another post which is more of a compilation of previous posts that delve more into the subject and reasoning behind Opting out of Grading.  I highly recommend reading these to get a better idea but if you dont want to hunt through several posts here is my "short list" of his ideas:
  • There is a big difference between learning something and then having a test and learning something because of a test which is what most students are doing these days with all the standardized tests they have to take. " There's a big difference between preparing kids for a life of tests and the tests of life. The former may have kids worried about failing their classes without realizing such a misguided distraction is a recipe for failing at life."
  • A work or learning environment that is built on a foundation of smugness, fear and anger is destined for failure. And most of these emotions come from the student, teacher, and parent when it concerns grades.
  • Grades are seen by students as a judgment or as Paul Dressel explains:
    A mark or grade is an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgement by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has attained an indefinite amount of material.     

    There are of course many more points he addresses but I think these three make it clear enough, IN MY OPINION, as to why opting out of grading can actually help promote learning instead of hinder it and reduce it to a number.  We want our children to study for meaning and learn life lesson we dont want them going into school the day after a test which only one thing on their mind "did I pass the test!?!?" 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Blogging for the Future

"In any given day, 68% of children under two will use a screen media, for an average of just over two hours (2:05)"-Pay Attention.  As I was watching this video shocked at the statistics popping up on my screen I realized my two and a half year old daughter was not only playing a video on my nook(that she turned on and started herself), she was also flipping through pictures on my iPhone(that she again, started herself.)  If that's not an "ah ha" moment I'm not sure what is!  As if this video and the video A Vision of K-12 Students Today didn't make me realize enough that we need to incorporate technology into our classrooms to help promote learning then watching my tech savvy two year old certainly did. 
I know there are many arguments out there that state that children are too involved in the technological world today and sometimes they need to power down, and I have to agree having a child sit in front of the Television all day watching movies or playing video games with no educational content makes me want to throw any such device out the window.  And I know in my example above my daughter was watching a video and flipping aimlessly through the phone looking at pictures of herself or my husband making an innumerable amount of ridiculous faces and laughing at each other , neither one having anything to do with education, but they definitely have their benefits as well.  The nook for example, has a number of educational games ranging from matching skills (auditory reception skills) to basic skills in letters and numbers al of which have had a huge impact on my daughters learning capability, and the fact that she can turn on the games and play them by herself gives her a major confidence boost.  And although she is definitely one of those children who has a limited amount of time to watch the T.V. she can still learn from the time she has, just the other day she was counting backwards from ten at TWO YEARS OLD! I asked her if she had been practicing that with daddy and she said no..."okay so where did you learn that?" her response "Oh mommy Dora just taught me."  Yes that would be the Dora the Explorer, with the talking monkey whose parents let her walk aimlessly in the woods alone and talk to wild animals...yup thats who taught her how to count backwards.  If that doesn't show you that technology can be helpful in education that you probably shouldn't be an educator.
So if our children at the age of two can do all this stuff and teach our older generations how to use these devices (which my daughter has done with my mother on numerous occasions,) then why are teachers so against using some of this to benefit childrens educations?  Well most of the time the answer is because its scary!  How are we supposed to teach using technology that we haven't even heard of?  We barely had computers and cellphones when we were growing up and now were expected to teach using them?  Well to that I say...how did WE get through our schooling years...its not like we walked into school knowing everything..just because now were the teachers it doesn't mean that we are no longer able to ask for help.  And speaking of asking for help, what better way to teach our students respect, responsibility, and communication skills then asking them to help set up a class Wiki or class Blog.  Its not teaching them how to to solve for X when 5X+12Y=14X(I don't even think that's a real equation), but it is teaching them three very important techniques that you actually need to learn in REAL LIFE!
If this doesnt make you think maybe we should pull some technology into our classrooms then here are a few more statistics that have made me think:
  • Children will have approximately 14 jobs before age 38, half of those jobs don't yet exist today.  So how does making a child write the same word ten times help them prepare?
  • Students have learned to "play school" studying the right facts the night before a test to pass and thus become a successful student.  How does this help them in the work place?
  • On average students in class only get to ask a question once every ten hours.  How do we expect them to learn when they're not even engaged in the classroom?
So next time your students are falling asleep in your class because they got bored watching your back as you write notes on the board and talk endlessly about something they don't care about.  Think about how you could use a blog or a wiki or anything that can engage your students and make them want to learn something.  Were teachers and its time to make learning fun again!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blogs for everyone!

Everyone knows that the internet is a huge hit for school age children these days, so a great way to get kids excited about learning is to put it on the web.  As my 15 year old cousin says "everything cool is on the internet"  now I'm assuming her idea of the internet doesn't extend much past Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube; but she does have the idea right because learning from the internet can be "cool".  

As teachers were always trying to come up with some new way to make classwork fun for the students.  And honestly, for us as well because a teacher has a limit to how many papers they can read about whatever book and what it meant to the students before they start wanting to pull out their hair.  It doesn't just have to be papers about English either, I'm sure there are teachers out there that think learning about the worlds Biomes (because everyone loves Biomes?) are supper exciting and they could talk and talk.....and talk, about it for hours not realizing that there students are half asleep.  So if we think Of Mice and Men or the biomes are really interesting then why not give the students something fun to do along the way? Because in order to retain information you kind of have to like it.

So since kids love the internet and teachers want to keep things interesting for their students a great think to do is use a blog (like this one) so that your students can use the internet as a learning tool and blogging can be a great way to assess a students knowledge and make sure your still keeping track of  some ESL Standards.  A few ideas for using a blog in a classroom could be:

  • As your students are reading their new book for English class post questions on your blog; what did you like? what didn't you like?  What did you think about.....? things you didn't understand? comparing the books views to real life.  That way as their posting their answers to questions they can see what other people think and before you know it a great conversation can start.  It could also be used to post ideas about what students might like to read themselves for class.  You can have each student post a description of a book they think would be good to read and look through others book descriptions to decide as a class what to read next. (standard ESL2 from link above)

  • Another great way to use a blog could be as a group project page.  In this day and age kids are so busy with after school activities and jobs that getting together outside of school for a project is nearly impossible, but through a blog they can stay connected without even having to be together.  Each student would have the opportunity to post on the blog what they did for that day and the resources they found so that the other students can comment and add to the work and look through the resources.  You could even use the actual blog and all their posts as the presentation for the class; posting pictures, writing papers through blogging, and keeping the resources and links up to date. (standard ESL4 from link above)

So next time your trying to think of a new way to teach a lesson remember there's a blog for everyone; just be creative! Just think of what you and your kids could accomplish with the use of the internet, you could still get butterflies in your stomach when you teach about the civil war and your kids can get excited about being able to use the internet; before they know it they'll know everything they need to know about the war and they wont even know they were learning!