Day 8 Slice of Life – Problem Solving

Today was our first day back at school. It was so great to be together. It’s so important to have face-to-face time to figure out kinks in programs that are new for all of us with this virtual learning initiative. My day of grading online assignments, meetings, and learning new skills was sandwiched between trouble-shooting sessions.

This morning started with some teachers needing to learn to share their Google Docs so parents can view them. Some came into school this morning to a long lists of emails from parents requesting access to the Google Docs the teachers thought they shared the night before.

Tonight I was on the phone with someone, making a screencast of how to create an assignment in our school program. Same thing–parents sent lots of emails. “Where is your assignment to upload my work to the E-Locker?

We got it done, and now I’m going to bed.


Day 19 – #AprilBlogADay – Tech

Tech in the classroom – Should we? Why? How? 

Yes, of course we should use technology in the classroom. If we need it, we should use technology. Technology is great when it improves the way we get things done. Writing with pencils is definitely better than using a lead stylus on papyrus, a quill dipped in a bottle of ink, or chipping away at rocks to make a mark.

I wrote a post a couple years ago because I was asked by a junior higher, “Why do we join so many websites?”

Too Much Technology?” I asked in the post. After reflecting on it, though, I came to the conclusion that I was not asking too much of them. All of them needed practice and skill development to use the various tools in our classroom and online. The fact that digital natives still need practice to develop skills is reason enough to use technology in the classroom.

How we do technology in the classroom depends on our situation and what’s available. When I taught junior high in Iowa, we were blessed to have enough Mac Books for all the students. We used technology readily and regularly. Now I teach Kindergarten, so we don’t use technology like I used to. We do, however, have a Mimio board, and we blog to connect with pen pal friends in Iowa.  Oh, and we use pencils too.

Here’s another related post: “What Does Technology Have to Do With It?

What Does Technology Have to Do With It?

Technology, circa 1980s & 90s

Technology is just a tool, not an end.

I used to think it was more. Technology was novel and cool and I wanted as much in my classroom as I could get.

I asked the essential question, “How can I use technology as a tool to improve student learning?”  I learned that mantra from the Intel Teach to the Future program I was a part of at the turn of the century. (I love the sound of that…turn of the century. I used to think of automobiles and electricity coming at the turn of the century. Now it has a whole new meaning.)

Most people in the year 2000 didn’t know about using technology to connect and collaborate with people in other parts of the world. The technology I used was really just an enhancement of typical curriculum. With all my cool technology — and it was cutting edge — my classroom was still teacher-directed. We had a projector, the Internet, a laptop cart with Microsoft programs, yet, it seems I was still up front a good portion of my day.

My Student Sample, Circa, 2000

In the Intel program I took my second grade rocks and minerals unit and enhanced it with technology. I created student samples of a PowerPoint and Publisher web page and newsletter, all with content and links from the Internet. It was high-tech, and, in theory, I was to bring it back and have my students create PowerPoints, web pages, and newsletters using the Microsoft programs. It was powerful and intimidating, difficult and unwieldy. We tried in second grade, and we did some amazing things, but in many ways it just ended up being a “cool” way to share the same content that I had always taught. I think it was some of the most innovative and cutting-edge use of technology in the classroom in 2000, but I didn’t quite get the vision. Most of us didn’t get it.

Twelve years later and now I know that technology is just a small part of it. Today, my mantra is “How can my geniuses be empowered to connect, create, contribute and collaborate in an ever-changing world?”

It’s not about technology. Here are two reasons why.

  • The tech has lost its novelty. Kids have been raised in a digital age. (Not the same as “they all know how to use technology” because they don’t. Some of them love technology and take to it naturally. A few don’t like technology, and they think they would be happy to avoid mastering all the programs and possibilities.)
  • We like to get our hands dirty with the real things — good old “analogue” rocks, for instance, in my rocks and minerals unit. (Can I use that word “analogue” as the opposite of “digital”?) We’ve all figured out that we can’t and don’t want to do everything on computers.

However, it’s a little bit about technology. Since I became a connected educator, the technology has done something radical to my students and me. Though it’s not everything, technology is vital. I found that the Internet has been a catalyst, a fuse, a fire starter connecting me with other like-minded, fiery educators, amazing innovators and educational reformers who I otherwise would not have met. These people (aided by technology) have launched, spurred, carried me to a whole new way of learning, thinking, and teaching (and a great bag of mixed metaphors).

My students have experienced the benefit of my transformation. They are truly geniuses, empowered to connect, create, contribute and collaborate in an ever-changing world.

It’s not about the technology. It’s about the learning. I’ll say it again and again, you are going to become irrelevant if you don’t become the chief learner in your classroom. (However, I do still think technology is cool.)

Too Much Technology?

Am I overdoing it?

Today was our second day of introduction on a wiki on which we will share our American history learning. Hmmm…I expected jubilant excitement from my group of eighth grade geniuses, who are always game for more. These are the students who are earning hundreds of dollars for the American Cancer Society (actually over a thousand is a more realistic estimate before we finish). They are in the middle of writing novels in November. They planned and carried out a beautiful Veterans Day program today. They have learning attitudes that are second to none I’ve ever encountered.

However, today I had a bit of attitude from a few of them. “Why do we join so many websites?” was their cry.

“What? We don’t join that many, do we?” I said that, but I was really thinking to myself, ‘Good question, why do I join so many websites?’

“Yes,” J said, “we have blogs and Google and now wikis.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew it. I am the one with too many websites, not them. “That’s perfect!” I said. “When you fill out a job or college application, you’ll be able to say you are proficient in using blogging and wiki platforms and Google apps. That’s awesome! Those are just basics that are very common for the 21st century. Everyone should know how to do those things. And furthermore, I want you to be a leader in the global community. I want you to have a powerful, safe, and positive digital footprint.”

At this point I was talking to the reluctant small group and most of the others were checking out the FAQs about Wikis, which were questions they had written on 3×5 cards the day before, and the RAFT suggestions, and I could see some ideas forming.

However, these two or three continued. “I don’t get it, though.” “I’ve never done a wiki.” “How will I contribute?” “We should be outside playing, not always using the computers!” (Interesting, I thought. We aren’t even a 1:1 school yet.)

I quickly showed the class how to make a new page on the wiki and how to edit existing pages. Some were starting to catch a vision, but at this point, the class period was quickly winding down. I had expected this enlightened group to catch on much more by this late in the period.

My small group of whiners persisted, so I said I would add a page on the wiki just for them to edit.

Others could join the whining party if they wanted to (OR, as they were billing it, a rebellion, which is what we have been studying), OR the others could contribute their history learning to the wiki. It was their choice.

On the wiki there was a little activity in various places, and then the bell rang.

I can’t wait until tomorrow to see what happens. And I’ll be sure to share their progress next week, but for now, I can’t help but wonder:

Am I really asking my students to do too much technology?

What is too much technology?