I chose the project, because I want to learn more about Google Docs. What I know about it so far: It’s everywhere. It’s free. It’s growing in popularity. It’s not used in a second grade classroom that I’m aware of. I want to learn how to use Google Docs because it’s widely used in the upper elementary grades and is widely used throughout the upper school. I believe it can be used in an effective way in second grade too.
My initial plan is to create some type of collaborative project. I would like to create a classroom newspaper or research paper put together by students working collaboratively in small groups. I was inspired by what I heard from Laura Chesebro (http://inside.isb.ac.th/rm207/).
What are the benefits of a second grade student learning how to use GDocs? The most obvious reason I’ve seen is that GDocs are used in just about every grade level from third to twelfth grade. Another benefit of GDocs is the potential for building a living portfolio that automatically documents a student’s progress throughout the years. Finally, GDocs have implications that reach well beyond schooling. GDocs have a presence in the business world and personal realm as well.
Potential drawbacks? Students need an email to create an account and this may turn out to be an issue for second graders, because of administrative policies. I submitted a request last week…fingers crossed. Collaborating on a single document may turn out to be too confusing. Having ones peers authoring one section of a document while another is writing something on another portion of the same page may end up being too distracting.
In the end, my goal is simply to learn more about the potential benefit of using Google Docs in a second grade classroom.
Two heads are better than one: This year I’ve started having the students partner up on the laptops. We have enough for each student to have one, but having them work in pairs has proven to be a good management technique. Usually, between the two of them they’ll be able to put together all of the pieces of the lesson. Although it is not as efficient as each student working on their own laptop they are able to keep each other on task and they usually complete the assignment more accurately.
Slow, deliberate directions: It doesn’t matter if the students each have their own laptop in front of them or if they are working in pairs it’s crucial that the directions are given bit-by-bit and there are clear stopping points to make sure everyone is looking at the same screen. Check in with them frequently.
Have a table captain: You can only spread yourself so thin. One teacher, 21 students and 21 laptops can be a frustrating scenario. One technique that has worked is finding a student that demonstrates higher than average computer knowledge and make them your frontline of defense from the barrage of, “What?” ”What am I supposed to do?” ”Where’s that folder?” ”Click where?”
Plan ahead: Anticipate problems, because there will be. I have yet to simply take out the laptops and turn them on without problems. Some laptops don’t connect to the network right away, some have extra windows popping up with dialog boxes the students don’t understand, sometimes programs need to be registered before starting, etc… Of course there are times when a laptop won’t even start, because the last person that used it didn’t plug it in to be recharged. Be ready for the laptops to fail.
Pre-teach the lesson: Before getting out the laptops, tell the students what you expect from them at the end of the lesson. If it involves writing have them pre-write what they will be typing on the compter. Having a student compose a piece of work from scratch on the laptop can be difficult because of all the distractions. It is a bit like me right now. I have a window with iTunes running, my email is pinging in the background, Facebook is updating in my browser window all while I compose this post, I’m too distracted.
Why do you think we still have technology classes especially in the primary grades?
This is a really good question, and I can only guess why it’s the case. It’s easier to say how they originated, so I’ll start there. Back in the dawn of computers becoming part of a school’s landscape it was cost prohibitive to provide enough computers for students to have frequent access to them. A 1:1 program wasn’t even a consideration. It’s taken quite some time for the computer:student ratio come down to where it is today, and it is still not ideal.
Besides the original cost concerns, there were relatively few teachers qualified to lead students through a quality lesson using a computer. I clearly remember when I learned what a bookmark was. Putting me in front of a classroom with $30,000 worth of computers and eagerly waiting students at that time wouldn’t have been a good choice. I guess what I’m getting at is there was a time when the computer:student ratio was too high and there were relatively few teachers to provide effective instruction using the computers. We didn’t have any other choice than to have pull-out technology classes.
My short answer to the question above is that we are working with an old model.
At one time we taught them how to save files, use a mouse, and “work” the computer….I know I use to teach those classes. Has the purpose of those classes changed?
I remember teaching students how to ‘work’ the machine and it was much like you mentioned above: ”Here is the mouse and keyboard, they are input devices.” ”Here is the monitor and printer, they are output devices…”
At that time we were teaching students how to ride a bike, not how a bike can open up the world to you. The bike/computer is simply the tool to getting things done. It’s a means to an end.
Having pull-out technology lessons isn’t an efficient way to ‘teach’ technology. Yes, there are some basic operating skills that need to be accomplished, but I would like to see computers used like a pencil, a simple tool that can be taken for granted and used for enhancing the creativity of our students.
A while ago I wrote about the great benefits for teachers using iPads in the classroom. Clearly there are benefits for students too. One of them being that the iPad is quick to boot, rarely has network issues, and doesn’t lock up (knocking on wood).
It is that time of year again when we need to plan for next year’s technology needs. Our laptops carts have served us for few years, but are now at the end of their usable life. Yes, they still function, but the amount of time needed to maintain them is starting to tip in the wrong direction. Our fingers are crossed that the funding will come through for a cart of iPads.
Seven year olds don’t have much time to wait around for broken things to start working. They need whatever it is they need right now, not in 2 minutes, not in 30 seconds, but now. The laptops we’ve been using have proven that a 2 minute delay leads to management issues that detract from the lesson. I think there’s a solution. Drop the laptop carts for iPads. There are countless articles about the benefits of the little tablet and I hope to be blogging about the benefits at this time next year. We’ll see.
I’ve been thinking about this question the last couple weeks, because I see a system that needs repair. Having our students go to a technology class once every two weeks doesn’t seem to be the most effective way to meet my definition of technology integration.
Technology has been, for the most part, integrated into the daily lives of teachers quite well. We have computers, projectors, document cameras, etc… that are used on a daily basis as part of the normal operating day. The same isn’t true for the students.
In short, my definition of technology integration is when students and teachers seamlessly use technology as a tool to deepen knowledge and share ideas.
With all the media attention on the iPhone and its tracking software, I was naturally curious to see where I have been. I downloaded a program that aloud me to peak into some hidden files and was only surprised to see that I need to get out of Taipei a little more. I’m not a secret spy, I’m not a crook, I’m not hiding anything from anyone so I don’t see the harm in this. Doesn’t every mobile phone track your where you’ve been? I do wonder what Apple’s intention is/was. It will be interesting to hear how they answer Senator Franken’s questions.
This project was part of a much broader, Insects and Plants science unit. As a side, I wanted the students to appreciate that the important role plants play in their lives. The easiest way to do this was to have the students think about the foods they eat and how many of those are plants we recognize. Intentionally, we focused on plants that can be recognized and ‘whole’ foods, and not the chocolate in their chocolate bar even though it is derived from cocoa beans, fats and some type of sugar. We decided to stick to fruits and vegetables.
The lessons and discussions were not difficult, because it was something that everyone could relate to, food. We collected photos through a safe search of Flickr Creative Commons. It was at this point that we pointed out the ‘owners’ of the photos we were going to use need to be ‘thanked’ for letting us use their work.
Once the photos were collected we put them on our blog. Since we are studying the elements of non-fiction writing as well, the students were required to add a caption to each photo along with a basic photo credit. The photo credit was the first step in teaching the kids that when you borrow someone’s work you need to say thank you. As second graders, they can understand a thank you much more than any legal and moral consequences of intellectual property theft.
In the end, most of the students inserted five photos of plants they eat and added captions and gave credit to the owner of the photo. The lesson tied in two important goals: 1) students will identify at least five different plants they eat and 2) they will learn about giving credit to people for using their work.