Sunday, May 1, 2011

Professionally Speaking

I love going on social outings with my teaching colleagues. When we typically spend our professional conversations around tables sized for ~ 7-year-olds, there seems to stand a little more than just elbow room when we gather around a table on a saturday afternoon for brunch.

Some conversations led to the evolution of technology where some complained about contraptions I had definitely never set eyes on. One comment led to me explaining the perks of Google Applications.

The teacher in questions was organizing order's for the entire school to order t-shirts for our upcoming FIeld Day event. She explained her frantic organization of what seemed like thousands of papers screaming shirt sizes and quantities at her with names and class numbers spitting in her eye.

"Google Apps!" I said, "Would be the answer to your prayers."

She was compelled when I explained she could create one sheet to share with others and receive the information back automatically.

"I'll have to explore this," she said.

"Yes," I replied, "And you'll have to come to my chat about it on June 9th."


Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Gamer is as a Gamer Does

This weekend marked the first days of spring break for public schools in the city, which automatically meant I was flying home to California as soon as I could.

Being that I reached the Golden State last night, I was able to blissfully enjoy reading two articles by James Paul Gee about the educational impacts of video games on learners. Both Good Video Games and Good Learning and Welcome to Our Virtual Worlds offered valuable examples of how gaming has possitivley impacted student learning and picks apart the skills and challengers players learn and overcome.

Gee emphasizes that the playing of video games inherantly teaches problem solving skills, interaction and collaboprtation opportunites as well as multiple chances to take risks and learn from mistakes.
I've considered the value of video games in the classroom and would like to try and find games that would be appropriate for students in the elementary grades. I know as a young learner myself I had the chance to travel the Oregan Trail and definitely learned the hardships that travelers were up against. In my own experience I'm sure a broken arm led to a fever led to pnemonia led to dysenteri and a bear attack. It's amazing anyone made it to the West at all judging by how long it took my pixelated wagon to get across my computer screen!

As a continued gamer through my life I have experienced the triumphs and tribulations of the learning experiences that video games bring.

I agreed with the articles right away as, just last night, I turned on my parents' Wii and inserted their newset game: Michael Jackson The Experience.

Right away you are thrown into the midst of a Michael Jackson classic, challenged to follw his sparkling glove and jerk your hips and limbs matching his grace. I definitely looked afool at first, but as I started to hit his golden moves I earned mini Dance School videos to learn from :)

My trial and error and mishaps earned me the chance to learn more. Maybe by the end of my trip in California I'll be practiced enough to bust a sweet groove when Muchale bumps through near-by speakers.

One of the most profound points in Gee's articles I considered was in the article Welcome to Our Virtual Worlds. In it he explained how many individuals can be consdier ed "Pro-Ams", or professional amateurs - ones that have learned compitancies from their own interest based learning from whatever source they may find.

In the end it seems that Gee is challenging the 21st Century educator to find ways for students to guide their own learning in ways that are interesting to them - be it in a video game or elsewhere :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Wow all you out there will be impressed!
I just did a PD on creating classwebsite!
Thank, Mr. Calvert :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

No Convincing Necessary

I love interactive whiteboards!

I've been working with a Promethean Board in my classroom now for 3 years running and have gained added gadgets to make the engagement of the class even more exhilarating! Not only is an interactive whiteboard a big deal for kids and (can be)a quick learn for teachers, added tools like document cameras and polling devices make the boards even more inclusive. The next thing on my list is a wireless slate and surround sound... then I'll be set (for a while).

I'm a big proponent for Promethean but have had my chance to work with Smart technology in the past. This week one of my classes has been focusing on the benefits of these kinds of tools in our classrooms.

Did I mention I love my Promethean?

I've downloaded the Smart  program and have done a little bit of browsing on their lesson exchange. Promethean offers the same kind of lesson sharing in their own Promethean Planet. You can also use Smart lessons on the Promethean software - Can you do the opposite?

Anyway- I downloaded a lesson about Figurative Language from the Smart exchange and found the information very... informative.

Interactive, however, was not the best way I could describe this lesson.

There were however plenty of other options to preview and weed through to find a great deal of information and activities to involve students in their own learning through these interactive whiteboard tools. It's great to have these kinds of things at your fingertips - though, to me, it's even more fun creating the lessons myself!!!


Here are some screen shots from parts of a geometry lesson I made (on Promethean) with my third graders:

Wipe away shapes with hidden geometric language to reveal - ooooooo!
We highlighted angles, equal and parallel sides with 24 colors to choose from 

Guess My Shape! Each shape is erasable to eliminate shapes one by one through a 20 questions type game.
And it's reset-able :)

Claps for a good fit :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Open Sources!!!

This week I was introduced to OpenSources Apps - free downloadable programs developed and written by various Internet Communities of program writers.

After searching around, I ran into a few programs I was interested in. My initial hunt took me on a search for a program that would allow the recording of speech and an ability to transcribe that speech into text. Thinking of one of my students in particular I thought this would be an awesome find - but I only would up finding the opposite abilities - text-to-speech... Maybe another day...

One app I downloaded was called Books for Mac. This app basically allowed you to create your own computer based database of books. It is a tool I was considering to make our classroom library a little more like a real public library or bookstore. After a long series of input (a whole library full of books), you can search for books based on whatever criteria you want to input. I was starting with Titles, Authors, Reading Level, Borrowed By and Owner (since my own purchased books are mingled in with books owned by the school (;). The downside was that the program kept quitting on me :(

In choosing the Books  app I was envisioning an even more interactive and independent way for students to obtain books for independent reading where they could  not only search shelves for a good book, but also a database much like they would in everyday, adult living.

After trying out Books, I went on to try out my Professor's recommendation of Photo Gimp. If you were a big fan of Paint "way back when", you'll love this as much.

Here's a screen shot:

I wasn't trying to be impressive with this work... but there's no end to the creativity that could come out of this app in the classroom and out!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Informal Learning

Working in the elementary grades, I am a huge proponent for integrating informal learning through games and experiences rather than direct instruction and lecturing (when it's right!). Not only do students have the opportunity to take in their own learning, they also have the chance to gain shared experiences with other students by working together, turn taking, sharing and building episodic memories to rely on later to reflect on personal learning. Working with students on the Autism Spectrum it is especially important for these students to gain shared experiences with peers not only for learning content but also for building and practicing new and learned social skills. An Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is neurological behavior disorder where people on the spectrum will be "wired differently" than their typical peers, making it difficult for them to interpret and carry out various aspects of our "social norm", presenting, at times, with behaviors that seem to be of a much younger age than what is expected for his or her true age group.

This week as I have been digging into information about Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), I read an article about the direction Informal Education can be following through PLEs. With PLEs students have the chance to guide their own learning through the Internet and other web based applications guided by the community of learners a students may be in. A 7th grader explains how she works with her own PLE in her science class. It's pretty cool thinking about how fluent she is in her work and how she admits that being in charge of her own education though her PLE can be distracting (hey, it is the internet), but since she has the chance to choose where she's going to get information from, she is able to carry out her responsibilities.

When I think about my own current status as a student - working solely online thus far - I think a PLE would be an awesome way to integrate organization and a more fluid process of self-guided learning.

I went on and read an article by Stephen Downes entitled, New Technology Supporting Informal Learning (via Mohamed Amine's PLE bloglist).

In the article he discusses the incorporation of the Internet and PLEs in a course he taught at the adult level, where students continued to learn the learning network even after the course was complete.

In thinking about integrating such a high-level of internet and technology based learning in the elementary grades I have a hard time deciding where the line should be drawn between the immersion of technology and real time conversational learning.

In it's most basic sense a class that would rely solely on internet based learning (even in real time meeting spaces) can be defined as parallel play. In this form, students will be working beside each other over the same activity but they will not be trying to change the other's behavior or their own in order to coordinate their actions for a common goal. Using a PLE is  moderately similar, though students would have the opportunity to be influenced by other's input and use the information to guide their own thinking elsewhere, it does not necessarily mean that an interaction will take place directly in order to influence each other (which is fine because most of us HAVE learned how to converse in "real time" with appropriate reciprocation from all participants.)

Where I stand as an educator now, working with students in younger grades and with students with Autism, I think it is important to maintain the opportunity for students to engage in real time learning, face to face with someone to share the experience with.