Out with the old, in with the new. It Ain’t Easy

I have spent the better part of my teaching career just “dabbing” in technology. As of three weeks ago, most of my technology use was simple. Marc Prensky explained it well in his article, Shaping Tech for the Classroom:

We use it mostly to pass documents around, but now in electronic form, and the result is not very different from what we have always known.

I have found an “old way of doing old things” and constantly rejected or resisted using it beyond the basic uses.

old things

My mindset and ideas about technology are quickly changing the more I learn and read. In her closing statement in Living with New Media, Mizuko Ito, et. al. inquired:

Rather than thinking of public education as a burden that schools must shoulder on their own, what would it mean to think of public education as a responsibility of a more distributed network of people and institutions? And rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of education as a process of guiding kids’ participation in public life more generally, a public life that includes social, recreational, and civic engagement? And finally, what would it mean to enlist help in this endeavor from an engaged and diverse set of publics that are broader than what we tradition-ally think of as educational and civic institutions?

I am beginning to realize that schools (both public and private) should build bridges and networks. I have already been building networks with other educators as well as professionals in specific areas. When learning about different weather patterns, it would have been very easy for me to just use books, look up information on the web and simply tel the students what I know about weather. However, I am taking a step back and learning along with them how to use some new tools to research the weather with the app called Kid Weather. The app has allowed  the children more access to do their own research. This has been a very motivational tool. The children are looking at what the app says the weather is and comparing it to what it feels like outside. They are always asking for updates and love to learn about the weather in other cities. The children were so interested in exploring the weather in different parts of the world so we began Skyping with other schools to talk about their weather.  (Japan, Africa, U.S.).

weather

As I reflect on how this technology is being used,  Scott McLeod and Julie Graber remind me to think of the purpose technology plays in their article ,  Toward Better Technology Integration:trudacot:

Technology integration should be purposeful. That very simple statement is at the heart of the trudacot template. When we use digital technologies for learning and teaching, those uses should be intentional and targeted and not simply ‘tech for tech’s sake.’ Our team continually asks the question, ‘Technology for the purpose of what?

The Trudacot is an excellent resource to look at while thinking about how technology is integrated in different lessons I know that the original weather app was just a tool to allow the children more access to the daily weather, but as we explored other features in the app, we have taken it a step further to reach out and network with other schools.  This is a new form of social networking for the children and it is the beginning stages of their social networking life. I must help them at their young age learn ways to use social networking in a safe and beneficial way.  With no idea of what their future will be like in terms of technology, it is important that I help them realize how useful technology can be.

Already, through conversations with a fellow Early Childhood teacher in COETAIL, Holly Fraser, I have learned that it is possible to integrate and teach social technology skills to young students in the form of blogging. She introduced me to Easy Blog jr as a tool for my students to blog their own learnings! I am still learning how to use it (easy is not so easy for me) but I will learn and explore it more with the children in the upcoming weeks. I intend to use it for a variety of purposes once I understand it more, but in the meantime I will allow the children a chance to video record or take pictures of interesting things they are doing or learning. There will be a lot of freedom in what they choose to blog, so I am excited to see what stands out to them.

blogger

This new tool will be useful in many different ways and I will use the trudacot as resource to check the protocol and determine what the main goal of the blogs will be. I have also created my own blog, Ms. Amber, to share exciting classroom happenings with parents (I usually just send emails with some pictures). I hope as I learn more, I can also share some of the students’ posts with the parents.

Many things have changed and developed this past month.  My mindset about technology is shifting and I am quickly becoming more aware of the importance my role is in making sure my students are ready for the changing future. I am still working on building more confidence in the area, but I am having fun exploring and learning with my students!

New perspectives, thoughts and ideas

I’ll admit that the many times I have used technology in my classroom, I have never put much thought as to the degree of learning (if any) is happening or how effective my use of technology is. It has often been embedded for the purpose of something fun, making sure it’s included to meet the standards, or to simply fill time (especially at the beginning of the school year when a five year old’s attention span is not much longer than five minutes).

However, after reading the mindshift article, How to Determine if Student Engagement is Leading to Learning, I realized that even if the students appear to be actively engaged, they may not actually be taking a new learning from their engagement. As stated;

Having fun, collaborating, communicating, and being creative are all very important elements that should be embedded elements of pedagogically sound lessons, but we must not lose sight of the importance of the connection to, and evidence of, learning. Thus, students can walk away from a lesson or activity having been very engaged but with very little in the form of new knowledge construction, conceptual mastery, or evidence of applied skills.

Children singing and dancing to a song counting by fives might not translate to a skill that during a math lesson. They may be able to sing the words, but they are unable to actually apply it to help solve a mathematical equation.

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fives

I must begin to think about exactly how I am going to use technology in ways that students will  not only be engaged, but also learn and walk away with specific skills.

 

In his recent blog post, Integrations, connections and wonderings,  fellow cohort, Brendon.pe,

used the SMAR model to explore how authentic his technology he was using in his PE class was.

SMAR

It was interesting to read how Brendon rates the apps he used. I had never seen the SMAR before and realize this is an excellent to evaluate the technology I use in my classroom. If I were to look at my count by five’s song and use the SMAR model, I believe that it is simply a substitution and does not really act as a tool for creation nor does it allow for higher level thinking skills. In fact, a good portion of the technology I have used in the classroom simply acts as a substitution or Augmentation. I realize that I need to create more authentic uses of technology to allow for modification and redefinition. This is quite a challenge for me as I am not tech savvy and often stick with the easiest tools I can figure out quickly.

As I’ve said many times, I am very nervous, yet excited  to continue in my COETAIL journey in order to gain more insight on how I can incorporate more technology on a higher level in my classroom.

While exploring more of the RSS readers and Flipchart, I came across an excellent article by George Couros, ​The #InnovatorsMindset: What We Can Learn from Carly Rae Jepsen and the Harvard Baseball Team #CE15, explaining just how well one teacher can still be a “luker” yet gain a lot of ideas and best practices for the classroom.  George noted three main elements a teacher used to accelerate his classroom practices:

  1. He connected with other educators not only in his school and district, but also through social media (the crowd).

  2. Their ideas were shared openly (the visibility) and he was able to disseminate what would work best for the community he served.

  3. Ultimately, his want (the desire) to become better fueled his classroom to become the innovative environment that our students need.

I have a lot of learning and growth to make, but I hope connecting with this community and other new communities will enable to learn what works best use technology in a way that will challenge and inspire the young minds in my classroom.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Kung Hei Fat Choi

As I am about to embark on a weeklong celebration with ancient Chinese customs and traditions, I think about how different learning is now than it was hundreds of years ago and even just ten years ago (not that long ago)!

In his elearning article Connectivism, A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,  George Siemens made a shocking statement:

Learners as little as forty years ago would complete the required schooling and enter a career that would often last a lifetime. Information development was slow. The life of knowledge was measured in decades. Today, these foundational principles have been altered. Knowledge is growing exponentially. In many fields the life of knowledge is now measured in months and years.

My students will be connected in ways I never thought possible. “ We can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from forming connections” (Siemens).

Even though my students are young and do not come to me with the ability to read, it is amazing how quickly they were able to pick up an ipad and figure out how to find a game. Those that struggled or had never used an ipad before quickly seeked help which was always readily available. They did not learn how to use the basic functions of the ipad from me, they learned from each other.

ipadkids

Children are often tinkering around, no matter the age. Living with New Media  discussed how children are constantly tinkering or playing around with technology, learning from with often on their own or with others. They create their own communities either socially, for gaming, or educational to communicate learn together. It may appear that they are just playing or working alone, but in reality, they are working with a much larger community than we may be aware of.

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical. (Siemens)

Children tinkering around on the internet are developing the ability to determine what they feel is important and will spend the time learning more about what interests them. Students are able to basically teach themselves more about what interests them.

This is a huge change from the traditional classroom where the teacher would give out the information. Often using Bloom’s Taxonomy, teachers would start with lower order thinking skills on a concepts, teach the concept then work their way to the higher order skills.

blooms old

With the digital age, Bloom’s Taxonomy has been modified, yet still uses some of the principal verbs.

blooms new

In The New Bloom’s Taxonomy(Digital), Andrew Churches states,” we don’t need to start at lower order skills and then build piecemeal throughout the taxonomy towards higher order thinking like creativity. By providing a suitably scaffolded task, the lower order skills of remembering and understanding become inherent in the learning process. By challenging our students to be analytical, evaluative or creative, they will within these processes develop understanding.”

This is a shift in my thinking as a teacher myself. I had always used Bloom’s Taxonomy from a lower level skill and move up, but with the new technology, and the way the students often teach different skills, it is possible to start at a higher order thinking skill and provide the remembering and understanding while working on a higher order skill.

The way people are learning is shifting at a dramatic pace. As an educator, I must restructure the learning environment to provide opportunities for my students to develop their skills with technology so they have the ability to adapt and change and keep up with the pace.

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

Jumping in!

I began teaching with the typical whiteboard/chalkboard, overhead projector and teacher computer (and that wasn’t really that long ago!). I was lucky if there were computers for the students, but for the most part, they usually went to the computer lab to learn more about technology. I was able to avoid incorporating technology in the classroom and therefore never really forced myself to learn more than the basics.

overhead
We were always so excited when we got a new projector!

         A lot has changed (in a short time) since I began teaching and I realize now that I HAVE to learn more than just the basics about the technology that my students (even at five ) use on a daily basis.

Even after reading Living and Learning with New Media Report ,  I realized just how connected the students are while using the internet.

“Social network sites, online games, video-sharing sites, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now fixtures of youth culture. They have so permeated young lives that it is hard to believe that less than a decade ago these technologies had barely registered in the lives of U.S. children and teens” (p. 4).

aol  I  think back to my own teen years when AOL and chat rooms were just beginning to take off. Even at that time, I used the chat rooms as a tool for connecting to complete strangers in other states. I remember learning the different codes and language very quickly. Even today, I still use facebook, Twitter and other networking tools to stay connected to people around the globe.

While reading Jeff Utecht’s book  REACH, I quickly learned how many wonderful tools there are on the web to build Personal Learning Networks (PLN) and connect with others for a variety of reasons whether school or hobbies. I have never really heard of the RSS reader until I began this course and read the book (and to be honest, I am still trying to figure it out). What a wonderful tool for researching information quickly! I think about all the time this could have saved me in my research or when I had students do simple research in a google kids sight.

I am amazed at how well the internet connects us to the world and how much we can learn from it! It takes just a click of a button to skype my family across the world, look up a fun song for a brain break or research information on reading workshop!

However, I need to continue to grow and learn in order to keep up with my students and prepare them for a future that will continue to advance.  In the article, World Without Walls, Will Richardson says it best:

“We must engage with these new technologies and their potential to expand our own understanding and methods in this vastly different landscape. We must know for ourselves how to create, grow, and navigate these collaborative spaces in safe, effective, and ethical ways. And we must be able to model those shifts for our students and counsel them effectively when they run across problems with these tools.”

So here I am, ready to jump in and embark on this 18 month journey through COETAIL to do just that!