Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tool 11: Reflections

I am really amazed by the number of digital tools available for my students to use in my classroom. I spent so many hours exploring them that I'm a little overwhelmed right now. However, there are a couple of tools that I definitely want to try with my 8th graders this year. My two favorite areas are the Web 2.0 tools and the tools that promote discussion and collaboration. In an earlier blog post I mentioned a way to use the word cloud that I am definitely planning to use this year. I want my students to answer questions about themselves, then create a personal word cloud from their answers. This can then be used in teambuilding activities. Two other tools that I can see in my classroom right away and very often are WallWisher and Poll Everywhere. I have dabbled in both of them, but am now ready for full-fledged implementation.

Although I have always loved the idea of giving students choices in crafting their learning plan, I have generally remained bound to curriculum standards as presented (mostly my choice). I now realize that I can still provide structure while at the same time offering flexibility. Giving students options on HOW to demonstrate their learning will motivate them by allowing them to play to their strengths. I envision students with technology in their hands every day, communicating, collaborating, creating and most of all, learning.

In concluding my investigation of the 11 Tools, I realize that my tiny little classroom is so very small in the grand scheme of my students' learning. They need to go global in order to connect with other learners as well as professionals so that their experience is real-world and meaningful.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tool 10: Digital Responsibility

There are many factors that contribute to being a responsible digital citizen. Three of the most important aspects that I like to stress especially with my middle school students include:
     1. Personal Internet Safety - In this day and time it is more important than ever that kids be very aware of their online surroundings. Sharing personal information over the internet is a big no-no that I strive to   make my students aware of. 
     2. Cyberbullying - Middle school students, especially, can bully others, often without even realizing that they are doing it. By making them aware of what cyberbullying is and what it can lead to, I can help kids make even more steps toward being responsible internet users.
     3. Intellectual property - Creating unique pieces of work takes hard work and valuable time. Students need to be more aware of how damaging it can be to take credit for the work of others.

The 8th grade science team has discussed the importance of presenting digital citizenship lessons to our students, especially with the ever-increasing amount of technology available and in use in our classrooms. We are planning to create lessons using BrainPOP! and Atomic Learning to meet this goal.

I think that leading by example is one of the most impacting ways to teach students important concepts. By modeling appropriate digital citizenship behavior, students can learn the benefits of adhering to ethical and safe internet usage. 

Through my class syllabus (handed out at the beginning of the year and again at Back to School night) and personal conversation with parents. I have the opportunity and responsibility to inform them of any and all cyberlearning that will occur in my classroom. Additionally, whenever presented the opportunity, I would like to encourage parents to monitor their kids at home so that they continue to have a safe, informative and fun internet experience.

Tool 9: Devices as Learning Tools

Almost everyone would agree that technology is pretty awesome. And, using technology in the classroom makes content more relavent to today's learners. However, using "techno-toys" without a clear direction both wastes valuable class time and lessens the episodic nature of using technology as a learning tool.

I am a huge fan of using technology resources as stations. Many of my lessons include the ACTIVboard as a small group activity. This has been especially effective when devices were available in limited supply. Technology stations allow students to take charge of their own learning in familiar territory. In small group settings, students are given more freedom to take care of themselves. Through accountability, students not only see the value of the lesson, but take on the responsibility of contributing to the team's knowledge base.

I am most excited about using the iPads in small group/station activities. The possibilities are nearly endless. Apps such as GoogleEarth, Discovery Ed and BrainPOP! can be used to present or reinforce specific science concepts. With productivity apps such as DoodleIt and Animoto student groups can collaborate on a quick little product to illustrate their depth of learning.

Probably one of the simplest but most effective ways to use the portable devices in the classroom is as a resource tool. With the vast amount of information literally at our fingertips, students can answer their own questions or those of their peers on their own. Being able to contribute to academic conversation will definitely build confidence and further learning.

Tool 8: Classroom Devices

It is my understanding that my classroom will be equipped with 4 netbooks and 4 iPads. As a Mac-user, I am very excited about the iPads and am very familiar with their basic/general use. I am looking forward to having my students use them for many of the web-based options that I've learned about so far.

As far as managing the devices, I like several of the suggestions I read about. I am going to attempt to make the procedures as simple as possible. Having too many rules, turns kids off of the learning because they are so caught up in trying to comply. Having a check-out/turn-in protocol and a few rules of appropriate use are what I am going to focus on.

Tool 7: Collaborating Outside the Classroom

Expanding my classroom beyond the four walls of the physical building is very intriguing to me as a teacher. By using technology to connect kids of differentiated experiences will help bring a dash of reality into my lessons. My students can gain insight and broaden the realm of their thinking in order to develop new ideas. For myself, I envision starting slowly and expanding in steps. To testdrive the idea of reaching outside my classroom, I want to start with the other 8th grade class. Having the students debate a topic is a great way to start. The following lesson outline illustrates my idea:

Content Objective:  Given technology, my students will evaluate man’s impact on the environment by participating in a debate with my teammate’s 8th grade class.

Implement:  January, 2013

Tool(s):  Edmodo, Google Docs

Description:  Students from each science class will collaborate via GoogleDocs to create their platform for debating man’s impact on the world’s oceans. Then, the classes will present their cases to each other via Edmodo. Classes will comment back and forth until consensus is reached. Posts must contain valid persuasive evidence.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tool 6: Digital Discussions

Online discussion tools like PollEverywhere will DEFINITELY be used in my classroom! I give my students a warm-up question everyday to get them thinking about science and to give them an opportunity to engage in academic conversation. By allowing them to use technology (and have their cell phones out in class) this is something that well embed itself into their knowledge base. Here is an example of one that I created:  

WallWisher is one tool that I experimented with just a little this year. After really exploring it today, I feel more confident about using it in class. With more student devices available, I can create a wall for each new topic and as kids have questions (and don't want to ask in front of everyone), they can add a sticky. I would also encourage other students to answer.

Tool 5: Web 2.0

Wordle: Science StuffWeb-based productivity is something that I always look forward to using with my students. I spent hours investigating word cloud generators and can see many, many uses for them in the classroom. One idea that I am thinking of using in the coming school year is to have students generate a word cloud that represents them as learners. I would have them answer some questions, then turn the answers into a word cloud.

Another tool that is very versatile for the classroom is Big Huge Labs. I have had students create magazine covers and movie posters using information researched on various topics. Many of the options on this site can actually hold a great deal of information, especially if students think a little outside the box!