Friday, October 26, 2012

I know it has been a while since I posted. I think of this blog as my professional blog where I ruminate on Educational Technology issues. I don't often talk about politics or personal things, but I can't stand it today. I need to say something... even if no one (or not many people) are listening. 


I am really concerned about the state of our country. I am a kind of person who generally sees both sides of an issue. I may lean toward one side or even firmly stand on one side, but I can see the other side and understand it.  That has changed.  

I cannot understand that there are so many people who support people like Todd Akin and ? (I can't remember the first name) Mourdock who make such clearly hurtful (and even totally untrue) statements about things like rape!  It doesn't surprise me that they say them. It doesn't surprise me that there are people that see the same way that they do and would still vote for them. What does surprise me is that there are SO MANY people who will still vote for them! 

I don't know what will come of this, but I do know I don't like it. No matter who wins each election almost 50% of the people will be unhappy with the outcome. That is not good...

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Three R's Using the iPad and iPod Touch

Watch this video to see how some classrooms are using the iPad and iPod touch for teaching reading!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Fun with iPads during the Summer

Summertime is already slipping by. If you have an iPad there are some fun things you can do to learn about new apps for the coming school year. Find free apps to try out. Look at reviews of top apps. This article will share what I have found. I imagine you at the pool or on the beach with your iPad looking these things up and trying them out!

FINDING FREE APPS

1. Download an app that will show you free apps every day! There are tons of free apps and free app finders. Here are a few:

Free App Alert
Free App Genie
Monster Free Apps
Hot App Finder
appbzr (appbazaar)

There are lots more! You should be able to find some great apps. The app that you “purchase” for free will be in your App library and will always be free to you. If you have a whole class set of iPads this may be a way to find apps to recommend for the next school year.

2. Do a search in the App Store. On your iPhone or iPad find the App Store Icon (blue with a white A) and search for Free apps. I got over 100 apps when I put in the terms “free” “apps” and “reading”.

3. Go to the App Store and choose Categories. Then choose Books. You will find a list of books that you can put onto your iBook shelf. Many of them are free. There is also an Education Category to explore.

RECOMMENDED FREE APPS

Here is a list of apps that I have downloaded for free:

Dropbox - This is an app that can also work on a computer. With it you can have students turn in papers to you electronically to your computer.

Google Earth - The earth looks amazing on an iPad and with your fingers you can  manipulate it just like you did with the mouse on the computer.

Exambusters - This looks like a fun way to learn English Vocabulary and root words.

Edutecher - Use this app to keep you in touch with the many Social Networking sites that are popping up on the internet. It highlights and describes the site.

TechChef4U -. A teacher created this site as a way to help teachers find apps in an organized way. 

EarthCam - This app will lead you to cameras all over the world that are aimed at interesting things. You can use this for a writing project. Have the students find a place that they are curious about and go to the webcam and then write an imaginative story about what happens there based on the camera picture.


OTHER LISTS OF RECOMMENDED APPS

These sites recommend both free and for charge apps.
Apps that Support Literacy Instruction

8 Free iPad Apps for Young Learners

5 Great Free Collaborative Whiteboard Apps for the iPad

Best Apps for Kids Reviews

LiveBinder iPod Touch and iPad Resources

Top 10 iPad Educational Apps

iEducation Apps Review

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Changing Thoughts about Games in Education

I just finished watching a very provocative TED TALK which I highly recommend. It was about saving the world with games. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE1DuBesGYM 

It is Jane McGonigal talking about how gamers are developing qualities that she believes will give them the skills needed to save the world. She has been designing games that use the same principals as World of Warcraft to deal with different problems in the world.

Now step back and learn a bit about me. I am an aging boomer. I was born in 1955, so I am old enough that my kids were playing Nintendo and I tried it a bit, but was never very successful. I really consider myself a pretty bad game player and so it is not something I have valued much or put much time into. However, for some reason I am good at learning to use the computer, so I have been an early adopter of different educational ways of using technology. Compared to friends in my same generation I am pretty technologically literate, but not in games.

So, I am one of those teachers who sees the value of technology in schools, but is suspicious of those who advocate lots of video game playing. I have watched kids disappear into an imaginary universe for hours and thought that it was a bad thing. This TED talk says that gamers are developing four really important qualities needed to come up with a solution for the big problems our world faces. Jane McGonigal says that “gamers are a human resources that we can use to do real world work, that games are powerful platform for change. We have all these amazing super powers blissful productivity, the ability to weave a tight social fabric,  the feeling of urgent optimism, and the desire for epic meaning.” You really need to listen to her talk about it to understand what she means by these four qualities.

Her talk tied into something I have been feeling deeply for many years. Brains are changing. I used to say this and my husband, the professor, laughed at me. Now people are talking about it in many places. However, I have never heard it tied in this way to games and saving the world. It has always bothered me that we are creating these machines that just seem to add to our toxic waste problems and create a need for more energy use, but somehow are important to our future survival as a species.

Maybe this brings all of those things together. Maybe brains are changing and younger generations than I am do not need to be made to stay away from computer games, but instead need to be encouraged to play certain ones to develop qualities that will save us as a species. Jane McGonigal talked about three games that she has designed which pose real world questions. It will be interesting to see if they really do make any difference and are as motivating as World of Warcraft. The games are:

2007 World Without Oil http://www.worldwithoutoil.org/ From this game they came up with lesson plans that a teacher could use in a classroom http://www.worldwithoutoil.org/metateachers.htm

Super Struct Everyone is part of the dream team and constructs a solution to different world problems. http://archive.superstructgame.net/ The game is no longer live, but it has an archive online of about 500 highly creative solutions that the game came up with.

Evoke-http://www.urgentevoke.com/ If you complete this game you will be certified by the World Bank as a Social Innovator class of 2010. Imagine social enterprises to save the world.

One thing she did not talk about at all was what she thinks about having more than one life to live. That happens in video games, but not in real life. It is hard to take the same types of risks when you know you only have one life.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thoughts on Laptops

Yesterday I was in a classroom that had a COW (Computers On Wheels) to do a lesson on Keyboarding. Something happened that happens pretty often when classes that I have been working with try to do a lesson with everyone on laptops. A bunch of kids cannot get on and it took about 20 minutes before we ditched the lesson because there were only 10 minutes left. Plan B was practice on putting their hands on the home row several times with their eyes closed with no typing. 

I have observed this type of thing often with laptops. I like laptops in the classroom and it seems better than a lab to me, but it is always time consuming passing them out and putting them back. They seem much better suited to be available when needed for a small group or individuals. As a teacher you can then say to the students to get a laptop and let them switch if the one they get was not plugged in or is not working for some reason. 

I wonder about the experiences of other people. Have you had success using the laptops on a cart with the whole class? What tricks do I need to learn to make it work more smoothly?

Here are a few links to what others have said:
http://edtechie.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/managing-laptops-and-carts-in-the-classroom/ - This one is from New York. He includes links at the bottom to others.

http://it.seattleschools.org/blog/schools/laptopcarts/ - Concentrates on management issues (ie. how to sign the cart out, etc)

http://blog.classroomteacher.ca/841/pros-and-cons-of-having-a-class-of-laptops/
This is the best one and the most current. It talks about the pros and cons of having laptops in the classroom.



Friday, January 20, 2012

Promethean Boards


For the last few months I have been working with University of Texas Elementary school as a substitute Tech Teacher. I came from a school with SMARTBoards, but they have Promethean Boards. I never thought Promethean Boards could compare with SMARTBoards, but they are actually very interesting. One reason I didn't like them is that you cannot just write on them with your finger, you have to have one of their pens. They actually have a lot of really great features. 

Switching to the Promethean Board has not been easy. It can do many of the same things as the SMARTBoard, but in different ways. 

This morning I came across this blog from a teacher who uses a Promethean Board and she is having a contest. Here is the link. I am going to explore this blog and see what I can learn.

http://teachingmycalling.blogspot.com/2012/01/100-followersgiveaway.html

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finland: Example for Education in the US?

There is a very interesting article about Finland's Education system compared to ours by Diane Ravich in the recent Education Weekly magazine. It is also very interesting to read the comments about the blog post.

I think that the most important things that it brings up are the differences in our goal in education, raising test scores and these stated goals in Finland:

"Finland has this singular goal: to develop the humanity of each child. Isn't that a shocking goal? Their guiding principles: equity, creativity, and prosperity."

It is hard to compare such a small country with our own, but when you think about what is important to a nation you can at least see huge differences which might make a big difference in outcomes. We have a 22% child poverty rate compared to their 4% rate. I think that the effects of that are MUCH larger than the effects of teacher quality. The way we are trying to deal with this is to create more accountability with test scores and measuring teachers based on test scores. This is demoralizing and crazy.

Take a look at the article and let me know what you think.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2011/10/what_can_we_learn_from_finland.html