Saturday, February 23, 2013

PLN (Professional Learning Network)

They say "A journey begins with a single step."  At a stretch, I am at step number two in the PLN trip. Finding the time to browse the thousands, if not millions, of sites is my biggest problem. I suppose it is a generational thing, but it takes me way longer to surf the internet than than it does my younger colleagues. Weeding through the mass of information takes time, be it time well spent sometimes. Honestly, reading what the other ETrainers have posted has been informative and I have already looked at a few of their suggestions and favorites. An SBISD blog by grade level, sharing best practices and exciting creations, would spread the wealth of knowledge that is right here in our own backyard.

Tools Come and Go

Because there are so many "tools" at our disposal, one cannot help but feel overwhelmed! The answer for this is to "just do it" and see what happens. As long as you are somewhat prepared for students to give it a go, you can journey together. Though my toolbox is minimally stocked, it is open to additions at any time. I have had great success with GoAnimate. The children love making movies showcasing their knowledge and take great pride in sharing the final product. It does, however, have its limitations and complexities and I much prefer more user friendly XtrNormal, which unfortunately costs to publish beyond an introductory offer. Edmodo, the vehicle for GoAnimate, has its own great features for responding, collaborating and communicating among groups. Odyssey and Learning.com, both similar in their format and educational scope, are fun for kids and awesome  in their reporting of results and learning paths for many subjects, though I use them particularly for Math and Science. BrainPop and BrainPopJr cannot be beat for engaging and easy to understand concept introduction or review. YouTube is usually short and to the point. iPad apps for skill practice and internet research is a favorite with students, but without Flash, some programs are not effective. What hasn't worked for me is Dojo and Manga High. Dojo is too visible to the class and requires constant access to record throughout the day and Manga High, though it says it is appropriate for 3rd grade, is too difficult and frustrating for this age. I have tried a class blog, for the purpose of keeping parents informed and involving students in discussion and activities. Parents pretty much did not read it and preferred the weekly newsletter that was emailed to them. Perhaps another year it will be better received.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Post #11 Reflection

  1. I had the most fun with Xtranormal while creating a water cycle movie.  My kids are excited to make their own movie about their planet research. I am hoping to get this started in the near future. Finding time is the biggest hurdle.  
  2. The learning in my classroom is now so much more active than before. With new ipads and additional computers for more access to the mind boggling number of websites and applications, active participation is quite easy. But with all of the technology comes new classroom management issues and lots of structure. I am less fearful of the Web 2.0 world and know if I need any encouragement, my students will help me along.
  3. Unexpected surprises? Not really. I can see the endless possibilities for 21st century learning and the excitement that the students will feel. What frustrated me the most was the difficulty we had logging on to computers in order to carry out planned projects. When you spend all your class time trying to get a cow full of computers to access the internet instead of helping students, time is not being used efficiently. Hopefully the district will successfully address the problem. All in all, I learned a ton of new skills and information and confirmed the realization that it is just the tip of the iceberg!  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Post #10 Good Digital Citizenship

With the exposure to tools, APPS, devices, and internet access comes the daunting task of teaching our students how to operate in the digital world safely, friendly, and ethically. Francie has done a wonderful job making sure our students are well aware of their responsibility as good digital citizens. It is the responsibility of the classroom teacher to reiterate, as often as possible, the what's and why's of rules of the cyber road. What a student considers "no big deal" or harmless and playful can open the door to many problems. In my attempt to incorporate Wallwisher in my class, I discovered that I did not sufficiently discuss proper posting etiquette before introducing the discussion topic. Lesson learned! I will set clearer objectives to what should and should not be posted so social comments and fraudulent names will not appear. Do not assume they all know what is right or wrong! Interactive websites that require registration and class lists make me nervous when they ask for full names of students. I will not give that out and hope students will not, either. Periodic review of safety is essential. We will revisit the entertaining BrainPop series as a refresher in the near future. Parents are a great advocate for the same digital responsibility. Including references to videos or sites that help foster discussion at home can be included in class newsletters and blogs. It is always helpful to have parents on board to support teacher efforts.

Post #9 Incorporating Classroom Devices

1. Linking our technology to content objectives is essential! (Make activities congruent with objectives)We have no time to waste during the day as we tackle the heavy load of curricula we are required to cover. 
2. Holding students accountable is also a must. Often times they get lost in the entertainment and forget that there is a purpose to their use of all technology. For those applications that render a final product, accountability is fairly easy, though cooperation and participation in the effort need also be added to the grading rubric. When no product is made, teachers need to have a written piece that demonstrates learning and understanding. Whether this is a journal reflection or a written application, students must know that they are being held accountable for their time spent on these devices.
3.  I found several new links to interactive sites that I plan to add to my current repertoire. I loved TutPup but was not able to register. Perhaps because it was the weekend and it is only available for registration during the week. I will keep trying until I am successful. I like the global scope as kids compete against students from other countries. I tried Mengahigh earlier in the year, but found it too advanced for third grade. At the beginning of the year I paid for a subscription to Learning Games. It is very easy to navigate as it is organized by grade level and skills. I tried to register for Studyladder.com but was put off by their request for students' full names. I will try with only first names and see what happens. I am awaiting an email from Ten Marks to confirm my registration. I think the kids will enjoy all of these. TESiboard has the ability to print the results of an activity. Great accountability opportunity! In August, I compiled a list of interactive sites for parents to access as a way for their kids to practice math facts. Some of the suggestions came from the students themselves.
4. I actually visited the blogs of other HCE math teachers to see what APPS they recommended. That cut down on my surfing time considerably. I liked Mad Math, Coin Genius, and Fraction Factory. For accountability, students can take a screen shot of their results and email it to me or leave it in Photos for me to check. Then I can delete it to leave room for others.
5. I hope to experiment with a technology menu this year when our new devices finally arrive. It will be a work in progress as I become more familiar with the different tools and experience how the students react and  work cooperatively (I hope) together. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Post #8 Taking a Look at the Tools

There was a lot of information given in this section that will be helpful once the new Dell Netbooks hit the classroom. I did not know we would have to synchronize our iPads. Taking a screen shot is going to come in handy. I am excited to have a webcam! That will be lots of fun. I liked the intro video and will probably show it to my classes as a refresher to me and good info for the kids.

I think the management of the devices will be fairly easy. The suggestion for technology managers is great. They can be responsible for preparing them for the day and putting them away in the afternoon. Most of the kids in my class would be very responsible!

Post #7 Reaching Outside the Classroom

Well, here is my baby step.  I am not exactly flattening the walls of my classroom, more like knocking on the adjoining wall. Having two separate classes makes this fairly easy. I will see both classes in my room and will be able to oversee the process and progress. The content objective is to better understand the water cycle by creating a collaborative project with the Google Docs presentation program. The small groups in both classes will be assigned a stage of the water cycle. They will be required to explain and illustrate their stage with pictures and text, giving multiple examples of each stage ie. accumulation, clouds, precipitation, etc. One product will be compiled for a final project. Here is an example of the tool format. I would like to collaborate with another class outside of the US to gather and interpret data on some kind of science experiment. Maybe a little later.