Ecology Travel Fair

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post for the Final Project of Course 1 for the CoETaIL classes. Today, I want to share some of the work our students produced in Prezi about a biome that they researched. I must give a fair bit of credit to the 5th grade team of teachers, who I think are really showcasing technology integration in their classrooms. The students researched biomes and gathered their information in an organizational chart and then began putting their new knowledge to work in Prezi. Different approaches to this activity were taken by the teachers. Some encouraged more writing within the Prezi and some encourage less writing within the Prezi, but saved the added details for just the presentation portion of the Travel Fair. Overall, I think the end results are great. The students really enjoyed learning and using Prezi and the collaborative option within Prezi for sharing is an added benefit. Since our students don’t have their own Prezi accounts, this was a little tricky, but the pair of students that tested it out really enjoyed being able to work together, yet separately, on their project.

In the future, I’d like to work with the teachers to establish a consistent routine for citing sources for our images. The students found the pictures from copyright friendly places, but their identification of this in the work is limited. So, there’s always room for improvement!!

Comments on our students’ work? I’m sure they’d love to hear your positive or constructive feedback!

Course 1 Final Project

For the final project of CoETaIL course 1, I am using the unit that is currently underway with our 5th grade students. The students have been placed into pairs and with their homeroom teacher selected a biome to research. The research was done through use of our mini-Dell laptops and print resources. The homeroom teachers taught students about source citation used a graphic organizer to help students chart their research in an understandable manner. Now that the research portion is complete, students are beginning to work in Prezi to create a presentation about their biome, in hopes of persuading their audience to want to travel to this region of the world. In the past, students have created travel brochures by hand, but in an effort to try and utilize newer technologies, the teachers have selected Prezi as their tool for publication. The students, of course, are intrigued by the zooming feature of Prezi and it’s non-linear format and we think that it is a more engaging and meaningful way to present their information.

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Here is the UbD plan:

(Just in case the embedded form is not behaving…here’s the link as well.) https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=194nzKlRUT4cDDpsVCNKMnopdDmbP5HH9W_Diu_GNPb0

Contemplating Creativity

So today as I’ve been playing catch-up, I’ve spent many hours reading other CoETaILers blog posts, and other recent posts of those in my RSS feed. After all of this reading, a little napping, and a lot of eating, I might add, the most interesting thing I came across was a TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson.

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This talk, about creativity and schools, seems interconnected with our current conversations about integrating technology into our classrooms in a meaningful and engaging way. Robinson stipulates that ‘creativity and literacy should have the same status and be of equal importance’ in schools. He offers several anecdotes and leads to the idea that kids are not afraid to be wrong; they are willing to take a chance on things. He offers that as you get older you lose this element of fearlessness. This seems to be true with many teachers who stick with the same lessons over and over again because figuring something new out takes more time, might not work, or might produce an unexpected result.

According to Robinson, we are “educating [kids] out of their creative capabilities.” I think that this is where technology has a real chance. There are so many possibilities in technology and in things that we, as digital immigrants, overlook. But for our digital native students each new technology gadget, app, or site is a new opportunity offering potential for them to express themselves in a new and creative way.

Even more reason for us to keep exploring.

Picture from: http://macbook.blog83.fc2.com/blog-entry-424.html

 

Procrastination Station…

Geez, I’m usually not one for putting things off, but when my school took a week off for “White Week” my motivation did too. I wrote my Week 2 blog in Amsterdam with some super slow internet, so slow I couldn’t link anything to the post. So, of course, I put off trying to keep up with the Coetail stuff until we got back, and then suddenly, it was another whole week later and I’m just sitting down to take care of business.

I’ve been digging around in my RSS feeds for the last few hours now and feel my head spinning with thoughts and ideas. I am, however, enjoying Feedly as my main RSS reader right now. It’s more appealing to read through the magazine-like format they offer than through Google Reader’s boring look, so hopefully it’ll keep me coming back. I keep reading other’s trying different apps and such on all their gadgets, and I’m so jealous. I’m a tech teacher with no gadgets. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I should post a picture of the phone I’m currently using here in Italy. So. 1991. I used to say things were so “1984″ or something, but I think I have to move up a bit in the timeline now.

Anyways, on to bigger and better things. As I was reading my “feed” today, I was really enjoying the posts from ILearnTechnology because they were a) short and b) instantly useful. Most were of different sites and applications to use in your classroom. I like how the author tells you about the site and then offers classroom suggestions. My only request would be to have information included about the grade level or age range that might benefit most from each site. Perhaps I should make that comment on one of the posts! (See, there’s that online community building…)

I also reread Jeff Utecht’s post about Stages of PLN adoption and was considering the big question…

Where am I?

Currently, I think I’m floating between a few stages, depending on the moment. Sometimes, I feel like I have “Perspective” about it all, or I’m forced into it because my internet connection is restricted by the amount I can “stream” each month, so I feel limited to how much surfing I can do. Other times, I feel like I’m at the beginning, just starting to “Immerse” myself in the process of building a PLN because I never stick with it long enough to build those connections that will keep me coming back. And, finally, sometimes I’m hovering in “Evaluation” because I’m looking for those blog writers and sites that really connect with me and tie into my thoughts and ideas. Good news? I’m at least thinking about it!

Picture from: http://www.simplyzesty.com/technology/8-top-tools-to-help-beat-web-procrastination/

Learning for Tomorrow

The “big idea” for this week’s learning was, “Learning is connected, networked and increasingly digital.” This is so true. I rely so heavily on technologies to learn new things, stay in touch with others and find answers to questions. When I moved to Italy in August, we were told not to worry that we didn’t have internet access or phones– we could just take a little while to “unplug”. Really? I was hired as a technology teacher and they’re telling me to unplug? I think this is an oxymoron on one level or another. Thankfully, I was able to find a basic remedy for the internet situation within a week or so and start to feel more connected again.

While reading the articles this week, I jotted down a few notes that struck me in particular. First, I had not seen the digital terms linked with Bloom’s taxonomy. I thought this was very cool and adds a new perspective for teachers while planning. I look forward to sharing this with my colleagues.

In George Siemens “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” article I took note of this statement:

“Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important that what we know today.”

I think this idea requires a shift in traditional approaches to learning, one that is probably part of the challenge I face in encouraging teachers to integrate technology and its capabilities into their classrooms. I feel that I often encounter teachers who have been using the same lessons, activities and units for many years. We must ask ourselves if this is really still effective in today’s classroom.

So, there’s my question to consider in the coming months. What can I do to help classroom teachers shift their thinking about the skills, especially technology related, students need in the future?

Fixtures of Youth Culture

The beginning of the CoETaIL program…I am so excited! Not necessarily to be back in school again, but to part of a program that I know will offer me professional development that is actually capable of changing the way I live my life and do my job every day. When you think about that, it is really profound to think about how something has so many possibilities and opportunities built in it.

I have been following Kim Cofino’s blog, and many others as a result, since I was hired for my first international teaching position this past spring. What I read about happening in other schools is very inspirational and yet, at times, frustrating, because I know that my school and I have not quite figured it all out just yet. With this in mind, I was thrilled to see an online CoETaIL program starting up so that I could benefit from this community and share what I am learning with my colleagues.

After reading the articles for this week, I found myself most intrigued by a few words in the Living and Learning with New Media article. In the very first sentence they mention how social media, iPods and the like are “fixtures of youth culture” and this is yet so true but so difficult for those of us who are “older” to recognize the shift that has taken place. Our student have grown up with cell phones and portable devices and don’t know what a CD or tape was needed for. When I try to teach 2nd graders to save a document, I always laugh telling them to press the “floppy disk” button Microsoft still uses because they have no idea what I am referring to. So, as a member of an older generation (ugh, yikes!) we must learn to adapt our classrooms and strategies to these ever changing technologies.

In the same article, a student mentions that Facebook “sets up your relationships for the next time you meet them to have them be a bigger part of your life.” I don’t think I had even thought of Facebook as a tool that works in this manner, but considering this statement makes sense. Since I’m able to stay in touch with people I don’t live near, it allows me to get to know them through what they share on their Facebook wall and learn more about them. I thought this was rather insightful from someone so young.

To sum up this first post, I’m going to reference a clip of the Today Show from 1994 that I was reminded of earlier this school year. Our school’s Director of Technology, Stephen Reiach (@sreiach on Twitter), showed this clip at the beginning of the year to remind us how things are different for our current students. The seniors in high schools around the world this year…were born the year this segment aired. Enjoy!

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