Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mindshift article – Schools and Students Clash Over Use of Technology

I wasn’t wild about this article.  While I appreciate the need to embrace technology in all its forms and to utilize mobile devices as a means of expanding student access in class as appropriate, I felt that the authors used their statistics without specifics, and this detracted from their message.

For example, saying that 46% of students have used Facebook to collaborate on school projects is vague at best.  It could be that the “collaboration” was “Dude, whose house are we meeting at?”  The one in ten students tweeting about an academic subject could be saying, “My math class sucks.”  Does this support the argument that schools should allow access to social media?   Their statement that over half of students would like to use their devices and that they think the devices would help them is not surprising, but there is no explanation of how the students think using the devices would support their learning.  Also, the authors didn’t define “personal devices”, although they mentioned tablets at one point. 

Overall, I think that the survey they are citing is not all that enlightening.   Of course students want to use their devices in school.  But while the students’ desires and interests are important to keep in mind, they should not drive school policy without first having an instructional plan in place that incorporates the technology effectively, as well as guidelines for the use of the devices that decrease the potential for abuse. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Digital Story - 10 Things You Need To Know About Me!

I created this digital story using Photo Story, and had a really good experience.  I watched the tutorials first, which I think helped me tremendously.  I had little or no trouble manipulating the images, adding sound, and posting it (which was a welcome change after the difficulties with the podcast!).  It also helped that my kids had used the program for their GATP project, so they were my consultants for the few questions I had (i.e., how to insert a blank slide).  My intent in creating this is to use it as an introduction to my future class and a jumping-off point for our first tech project.  Hope you like it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Revisiting Ed Tech Sites and Discovering New Treasures

In revisiting one of the education tech blogs (ilearntechnology.com), I discovered an amazing site for literacy ideas called The Literacy Shed (http://www.literacyshed.com/index.html ).  The blogger had discovered it through Twitter, I read the blog and am now following it on Twitter – gotta love the circle of tech. 

The Literacy Shed is perfect for incorporating visuals into teaching literacy.  The site is organized into different genre “sheds”, each containing video clips and shorts aimed at inspiring writing in that genre.  I think that seeing examples of a particular genre would really help students become more familiar with its characteristics.  Also included are ideas for writing prompts and other lesson ideas.  Having all these high-quality, kid-appropriate clips compiled and organized is such a valuable resource – certainly beats looking through all the garbage that comes up in a YouTube search.  Check it out!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

CommonSense Media -- Awesome Lesson Plans!

I checked out CommonSense Media’s lessons on searching, under the Research and Information Literacy section.  I was particularly interested because I saw the need for instruction on how to search effectively on the internet while I was in my fifth grade student teaching placement.   All Fairfax County fifth graders must complete a project known as the “Global Awareness and Technology Project” (GATP) and, as the name suggests, computer research is a large component of this project.  However, my students had not been given sufficient instruction in how to formulate effective searches, or how to evaluate the usefulness and validity of the sites they found, and I had to conduct numerous individual coaching sessions.  This time around, I only looked through the unit about searching, but there was also a unit about evaluating the quality of a website.

I liked how the lessons were broken down by ages, so that at the kindergarten and first grade level kids could still be exposed to searching the internet but on terms that were appropriate to them, exploring sites as a class, and using the alphabet for searching.  The lesson for second and third graders utilized a kid-safe search engine and instructed them how to find key words for searching by creating questions about what they wanted to know and identifying key words in those questions.  For upper elementary students, students take a close look at the quality of a variety of kid-safe search sites.  Students use the same key word (kites) for each search site and compare/contrast their features and content to discover how these sites are useful for different types of information.  I found these lesson plans so useful that I’ve bookmarked them to use in my own class someday.  And I’ll continue to explore the rest of the CommonSense Media site to see all that it has to offer.

PowerPoint is Evil?

The author, Edward Tufte, certainly makes some valid points.  I have seen many PowerPoint presentations where the speaker was too dependent, reading the information verbatim from the slides, or had way too much content on the slides, or, in the case of my son’s fourth grade class, was too enamored of the fun little visual effects and noises that spice up the presentation.  But I think that Tufte’s comparison of PowerPoint to “making power points with bullets to followers” and seeking to “set up the speaker’s dominance over the audience” as a metaphor for Stalin, although in jest, is a bit over the edge.  Frankly, I was surprised that he missed the “1984” connection, seeing as how that’s when it was invented.

The important take-away from this cautionary tale is to remember that PowerPoint is a tool, and like any tool it must be used correctly in order to be useful.  As the author notes, if your information is not interesting or accurate, no amount of decoration or animation will make it so.  This translates to educational settings in that students should not be made to use PowerPoint as the end but as the means to the end.  PowerPoint is not the content of the lesson; it is a means of presenting the content.  It should not be a crutch, a distraction, or a teleprompter.  But it can be a useful support to the lesson, providing visuals for those who need it and reinforcing the content the speaker is presenting.  PowerPoint’s powers can be used for good instead of evil (sorry – had to say it).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Visuals to Support Instruction


In this video clip, visuals serve as a way to activate interest, to get kids thinking about a topic in a different way.  This particular strategy is called Visual Discovery.  The kids in the video are studying the presidency of Andrew Jackson in a way that takes them back in time and puts them into the story.  The visuals help them to experience life at that time and to see the potential issues and emotions more clearly than words on a page ever could.  This could be done at any grade level and any subject, using illustrations, primary resource photographs, paintings, documents, etc.  In this example, students see a painting of the removal of Native Americans that occurred under Jackson’s presidency.  Aside from the fact that some of us are visual learners and prefer to learn by seeing, for any learner it is are visual learners and prefer to learn by seeing, ns msoldier, shown photos from suffrage marchese with ans one thing to read about the Trail of Tears, but to see the conditions and emotions will inform our understanding in a way that stays with us.  Using visuals supports instruction by making the material relevant and meaningful to the learner.