February 28, 2013

Washington Post Article: High Tech vs. No Tech Extremes

Last year, the Washington Post featured this article on technology in education.  It's no surprise that there are multiple schools of thought on the importance of instructional technology, and some questions that come up are related to why and how technology can be used to enhance a student's learning.  In the above article,  two schools, only a 20 minute drive apart, are compared by two extreme technology philosophies:
The Flint Hill School in Oakton is ultra-wired. Apple hails it as a model for its embrace of devices. Teachers here believe technology immersion will make their students more excited about learning and better prepared for college and careers. So they’ve given each child a device — starting with an iPad for every preschooler and MacBook Airs starting in the fifth grade.
The Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda is trying its best to stay unplugged. Its teachers think technology is a distraction and overhyped. They believe children are better taught through real-world experiences in the school’s vegetable garden and woodwork shop. Educators here fear that the immediate gratification of texts and Wikipedia threatens face-to-face communication and original thinking, so they ban cellphones, laptops and tablets and require students to hand-write papers until high school.

When I think about how I approach instructional technology, I find that the answer to the big question "To Tech or Not To Tech?" is partially determined by how I envision using technology tools to transform what I am already doing.  If the tool is able to enhance a classroom practice, and if it pushes the instruction to the next level, then the answer is clear.  Without a vision on how the technology can be used, the tool is in danger of becoming an entertaining paperweight. 

In paragraph 12, Michael Rich, director of the Center on Child Media and Health at Harvard, mentions,
“... an iPad is great, but does it really do a better job than a hunk of clay or paper?”  
I invite you to consider this question:  In your own use of technology, what helps you to decide when to use technology and when to use traditional means?

February 22, 2013

Recording with Educreations on PCs and iPads

Whether you are using a Promethean Board, SMART Board, computer, iPad, or webstation, you have a way to record your notes, student responses, or "flipped" classroom demonstrations using Educreations.

What's great about Educreations is that you can save the lesson you gave to students who were present, and make the lesson available again for absent students or for those who need to come back to it later.

Educreations is web-based, which means any computer with an internet connection can access it.  MMSD iPads have this app installed already.  If you have created an account, you can save all of your recordings and share them with a link.
   *  Send the link to students via email.
   *  Send the link to parents to show a lesson your student recorded.
   *  Save the links to student work in a portfolio to demonstrate student progress.
   *  You can take this one step further by generating a QR code for access on smart devices, such as the iPad, smart phone or any other tablet with wireless access.

Being able to save this work digitally opens up options for issues that have limited teachers in the past, such as assessment or differentiation.

Recordings can be stopped and started again at any time. When recording a lesson on Educreations while teaching in the classroom, you'll need a microphone.  Usually a headset with a mic connector is good enough.  Computers and most interactive whiteboards have microphone and speaker capabilities if you have a head set.  Smart devices have a built-in microphone.

Most boards have ports for these connectors.
Because of the limit in cord length, you can buy an extension cord for it.

Prices for these range from $4.00 to $20.00
On iPads, drawing with your finger to illustrate ideas is why Educreations works well for students recording their work.  However, as a teacher, preparing a lesson or using a data projector, drawing with a mouse connected to a PC is difficult.   You can work around this if  you have an interactive whiteboard.

SMART Boards or a Promethean boards allow interaction with websites.  So, drawing on the board with your finger (SMART Board) or a pen (Promethean) will give you the same results as drawing on an iPad with your finger.  Connect a headset mic to the board and you have a recording device for your lessons or for recording student work.

February 13, 2013

Foreign Language on the iPad

I think that sharing classroom practices helps us to reflect on our own practices as teachers and offers a bit of inspiration as well.  A high-school Spanish teacher from my previous school district uses iPads for her students' linguistic practice in a shared environment of between 20 to 34 students per class period.

This teacher believes strongly that a student is more likely to learn a language if he/she is immersed in a way that is authentic.  So she changes the SETTINGS on the iPad to Spanish.

As many language teachers do, she assesses student progress in multiple ways: by evaluating skills such as proper noun use, correct verb conjugation, fluency, etc.  Some of these ways include quizzes, essay-writing, read-alouds, and presentations. I've included below some of the ways she uses the iPad that I've compared to the SAMR model.

The teacher uses the iPad for skills review, such as flash card apps, dictionary apps and word translation games.  Some of the apps she uses can be found here:  80 Apps to Learn a New Language

REDEFINITION (transformation):
The teacher uses the video and audio recording tools to get a "Before and After" comparison of the students' progress over the year.  Every month, the students choose either to video or to audio record themselves reading a passage from a piece of Spanish literature and vocally responding to it in Spanish.  The videos are between 2 to 5 minutes long.  The student then emails the audio file to the teacher or uploads the video to YouTube and shares the link with the teacher.  She then assesses the the students' responses.

What makes the iPad transformative in the latter case is that she saves these videos and audios for the students to reflect on at the end of the year.  Each May, the students watch or listen to themselves and rate their own fluency, pronunciation and overall growth. They then write a reflection in an online journal (in this case, Blogger) in Spanish detailing how they have improved and what they can continue to work on. 

February 01, 2013

Online resources for Math, ELL, ELA and History

If you find yourself looking for more resources on Math, History or ELL, your best chance is to check out blogs or feeds dedicated to these topics.  A lot of them include video archives, tech tools and tutorials for them, and pointers for effective instruction.  The most important characteristic, though, is that most of these are written by actual teachers in the field.  These were borrowed from Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers blog.

Colleen Young's Mathematics, Learning and Web 2.0
Mathematics and Multimedia written by Guillermo Bautista
Dan Meyer's blog on challenging the way that math instruction is delivered
Numberphile,YouTube channel about fun number facts, rules of mathematics, and the ways that our brains handle numbers.

ELL and ELA:
Kevin's Meandering Mind written by Kevin Hodgson on Digital Storytelling
Larry Ferlazzo Blog for sharing websites that will help you teach ELL, ESL, and EFL
Life Feast written by Ana Marie Menezes, for teachers interested in using technology in elementary and middle school ELL/EFL lessons.
English Companion, by Jeff Burke, is more of a website of excellent resources than it is a blog.

History Tech ,by Glenn Wiebe, blogs about blending tech, history, and current news into his posts.
Teaching the Civil War With Technology, written by Jim Beeghley
Social Studies Central which houses a good collection of resources for social studies teachers.
US National Archives is an all around good resource for history teachers
Today in History from The Library of Congress  offers a daily artifact feed similar to the one offered by the National Archives.  It includes a new image or document along with the story of the notable event or person connected to it.