Monday, April 28, 2008

Marvellous Machine

This is the final result of the Marvellous Machine Project. We have had so many students participate, we have had to create a Marvellous Machine Project 2! This is because I don't have the "Pro" version, and therefore can only put 50 slides with narration per project. The "Pro" version costs around $60, and I might hit my school up for the money, if the administrator and/or staff find it is a valuable presentation tool. I believe that this is not the last voice thread my students and I will do, as students of all ages found they could be successful with it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I am Not a One Trick Pony

Somehow I think some of the people I work with have gotten the wrong impression of me. I am not only a computer teacher. I am a teacher. My job description currently is teaching K-5 music, K-5 computers, Gifted Education, and a couple days a week I teach a class of Grade 3's. I have interests in combining different disciplines, such as Art and Music or Math and Writing. I am learning about the 6 Traits of Effective Writing. I am studying "Reading Power" which is another method of teaching Reading Skills to students. I just incorporate computers and the Internet into these different disciplines.

Yesterday I taught a lesson on abstract painter Kandinsky. I had a great song about him on a CD, (Thanks to Rachel at Wind and Tide schools - so I put the words on the overhead, and sung it with the kids. I typed up the activity sheet on the computer and printed off for the class. I found paintings of Kandinsky on the Internet, so my students could see his various works (we didn't have any of his works in books in the library). The students then had to say:

1.) What geometric shapes they saw in Kandinsky's work
2.) What these shapes look like they might be in the real world
3.) What kinds of sounds or music would be associated with these kinds of objects

One of my students noted a set of crossed lines that looked like a tic-tac-toe game. She said the sound associated with this would be someone singing "I'm-a-gonna-wiiiinnn" in a teasing voice. Another student said some crooked rectangles looked like a group of buildings . He said the sounds you would hear would be phones ringning, people talking, elevators going ding, and someone saying "you're fired!"

I then uploaded this worksheet to my class website, with a short description of the lesson (two - three sentences). This is for parents to read, and students to download if/when they lose their homework. That way they don't show up with their work not done the next day.

This lesson was a great success. It is not unlike the lessons taught by the teachers I had growing up, except that I found ways to seamlessly and painlessly introduce a lot of enriching media into my lesson. That is how I see the future of teaching. I see all teachers being multi-media teachers - we just need to tap into what is on the internet to bring stuff into our classes; we need to share it with our students, their parents, and our community.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The More Things Change...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. One of the biggest obstacles I have in sharing my passion for computers in education with other teachers is that many feel that as soon as new hardware comes out, or the next version of a piece of software comes out, that the old stuff is obselete. This would mean to them that all that they had learned was obsolete.

Folks, it's just not so. What are some of the things that change:

Hardware - just like cars, computers age, and they do not improve in performance with age. It needs to be replaced. Computer labs are best replaced as a whole, not piecemeal. This should be done because then you can have longer stretches of time where your lab is under warrantee as a whole. Most importantly, you can provide your students with a consistent environment, and that is key for success. If your students spend a lot of time on hardware glitches and reboots, then your lessons will be less impactful.

I have approached my parent group about having a parent spearhead a committee to focus on raising funds gradually to replace the computer lab as a whole in the future. We haven't had any takers yet, but I am still hopeful. We have a small dedicated bunch of parents, but I hope we get even more parents putting their hands up in support of their school community.

What stays the same - Software (sort of). While Microsoft has added a lot of features to Microsoft Word over the years, the edit menu still contains "copy, cut, and paste." You can save a file by clicking on "File" and choosing save. In fact, many of the commands are in the same place as always. There are common factors between programs, and with so many applications these days on the web, it doesn't make as much difference what kind of programs or operating systems you have.

What stays the same - kids like collaborating with others, kids want to share what they have learned with others, kids like being engaged in what they are learning, and kids like be offered choice as to what they learn, how they learn, and yes when they learn.

What stays the same - we as teachers have to keep our eye on what is going to be relevant to our students' futures, and equip them with the skills they need to be successful at whatever endeavor they choose. This means moving out of our comfort zones, an inch at a time, on a daily basis. We the teachers must keep moving forward.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Missed opportunities and Bengal Tigers

I believe that more people have missed opportunities in life because they fear disappointment more than they fear bengal tigers. Bengal tigers in the wild will stalk humans and eat them if they can. What did disappointment ever do to you?

Don't fear disappointment. Envision yourself a success, and it will be so. Additionally, it may be worthwhile to develop a healthy respect for bengal tigers.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Students With Learning Disabilities

Last night was my first night teaching a course for students with learning disabilities of different descriptions, and their parents. The students paid for the course, but the parents attend for free. My reasoning was that parents have always been the strongest advocates for their children, their best teachers, and their greatest source of support. I was overwhelmed by the response to the course, and pleased to see that every child had a parent in attendance.

Our learning intention was to establish what the course objectives were, and then to begin talking in the language of computers and the Internet.

Our course objectives are to find common factors between programs so that we can learn them more quickly, to learn some basic file management ideas, and to get comfortable navigating the computer folder system for future assignments.

Our next assignment will involve graphics and art. I took all the kids pictures with a webcam, and they moved them into folders. Now we will learn some basic graphic skills, and make "disguises" with those pictures. Then they will use their pictures to plan a story, using an online story planning tool which creates "bubble diagrams." These bubble diagrams are better done on a computer than with pencil and paper becuase you can change their organization, cut and paste parts of your plan, share your plan with other students, and then save it in different places (a document, or a blog) so that you will not lose it. And its free. I will write more on this series after Wednesday. And if any of my students from the course are reading this - how smart of go do your typing homework!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Toolbox

I would like to thank the many other educational bloggers out there, like Vicki Davis and Jennifer Wagner. These are only two of the many people who have helped me to build "my toolbox."

On the topic of irresponsible Internet use by elementary and especially middle school children. We must not be so afraid of it, any more than we will be afraid of children not completing their homework on time, or calling each other names. Of course it will happen from time to time. It happens in elementary schools, and it happens in middle schools. There are ways to right the wrongs in other behaviour situations, and we as teachers must be aware of the nuts and bolts of Web 2.0 to know wrongs can be made right on the Internet.

What needs to happen is that we have good policies in place, make kids aware of them, teach them the difference between right and wrong, teach them the value of making the right choice over the wrong choice, and offer them really interesting lessons. The more interesting the lesson I created this year, the more sustained effort I saw from all students. Including very defiant students. Students with Individual Behaviour Plans. It is also in how you "pitch" your ideas. If you are passionate about an idea, if you believe the idea, if you can communicate its power, then they will believe. Powerful ideas and really interesting lessons taught with passion are the three greatest ingredients that go into one classroom management plan.

Children want to collaborate. Many kids need to be taught how to collaborate. Learning this lesson is more important than any computer program, or any computer skill. Many will do it right if started with the right foundation - they think they are learning a computer program to do a task. What they are learning is how to create something bigger than themselves, by working with someone else. And, in my computer class, I can offer more choice of topics than can be offered in any other course. Here are some important collaborative web 2.0 tools. - an incredible collaborative drawing program. You don't have to collaborate to use kerpoof, but why wouldn't you?!? You can paint online, experiment with different classical styles of art. It comes with lesson plans with teachers. It is free! - collaborative presentation making. You can as a teacher sign up an account, and have students create art and narrate stories about their art online. It is free to make the first 3 voice threads. I love free! - like twitter, but angled towards providing a safe place for teachers and students to interact, ask questions, share projects, etc.

While we as "digital immigrants" see these projects as students learning computer skills, the big idea, the Learning Intention is developing a value system within our class and our society that instills in each child the desire to be socially responsible "digital natives."

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.