Archive for October 2010
I posed the following philosophical question on Twitter yesterday:
Why do folks spend time criticizing what is rather than pondering-actualizing what could be?
Three themes emerged from the Twitter stream of responses:
- Is Pondering Just for the Privileged?
- Is it Critical vs. Criticism?
- Is it action for change or pseudo-action to appease the masses?
Is Pondering Just for the Privileged?
Bill, via his tweets, believes that pondering that (1) is for the privileged and (2) it does not lead to sustaining change. Pondering is defined as: to weigh in the mind; to think about, reflect on; to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply. I disagreed with Bill in that pondering is for the privileged. I believe that all change begins with pondering. A follow-up question, for me, then becomes, “Can we afford to not ponder what education should and can be?”
Our Junior High students area reading-studying William Kamkwamba’s Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. He pondered how a windmill could change his village in Malawi. More about him can be found at Real Life Education ala William Kamkwamba.”
I also included in my original question a double proposition with the first part being pondering and the second one being actualizing (to realize in act and not merely potential). These two parts equal a more unified whole in terms of possible sustainable results. Pondering without actualizing leads to stagnation. Actualizing without pondering leads to shabby and non-sustainable results.
Finally, Bill expressed his concern that his pondering does not lead to change outside of the classroom. The resiliency research demonstrates that change can occur given a caring adult, often a teacher . . . but that the results may don’t show up for years. I experienced such a story with Mark http://jackiegerstein.weebly.com/peak-experiences.html
Is it Critical vs. Criticism?
The next theme that came up was the need for critical analysis or criticism for change to occur.
As you can see by Candace’s and Melanie’s tweet, there is a belief that change is driven by criticism. This prompted me to respond with a difference between viewing problems with a critical (involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit) versus with criticism (the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding). Approaching problems without a critical and discerning eye often leads to haphazard and trial-error problem solving. Approaching problems with criticism often leads to tunnel vision in terms of possible solutions.
Is it action for change or pseudo-action to appease the masses?
The final theme to emerge was related efforts to change.
Candice believes that lots of efforts have been made for educational change. I agree that there have been efforts. When I look at them, I think they are more of the same – standards and test driven reform. I believe this to be pseudo-reform that is often politically driven. These are efforts to maintain the status quo with only cosmetic change. Historically, few efforts (e.g. John Dewey and Progressivism) have attempted reform from the ground up. Given the reform efforts of the past few decades, I tend to side with Alvin Toffler’s position that “We don’t need to reform the system; we need to replace the system.”
It would be hypocritical of me if I just criticized the criticizers. It might be easier to say and do nothing – especially on my emotions and psyche as swimming up the metaphorical stream takes energy, but in the long run, I would suffer from the incongruence. between my core beliefs and my real world practices. I had a boss once who said that if we were to come to him with a problem, then we also need to bring along our solution. I attempt to live education reform in my own local settings –practicing think globally act locally.
This I know to be the problem
- Human learning cannot be measured through metrics.
- Competencies are one thing. Standards are another. Student should have some basic competencies related both to the process and content of learning. Specific age-grade level standards are counter-productive to learning. Standards assume that all students of a given age are developmentally the same . . . cognitively, emotionally, physically, socially.
- Given the previsous, one size does not fit all.
- Public schools are not preparing students to successfully maneuver in the real world – now and in the future.
- Kids are bored in school and similar to Pavlov classical learning theory, they are associating learning with pain.
What I Do “Locally” to promote educational reform
- I am an educator in both teacher education and elementary settings.
- I do not give any tests – none!
- I have chosen positions (PE and gifted) and schools where I can develop the curriculum.
- The students in my classes speak a lot more than me.
- I voice my thoughts and ideas – in my work settings and now via Twitter, Facebook, and BLogs.
Finally, these are these are the questions I believe educators, as change agents, “should” be asking themselves:
- Am I complaining or risking making a change?
- Am I contributing more to the problem or more to the solution?
- Am I a criticizer or an actualizer?
- Do I ponder what could be? Do I give my students and colleagues the time and venue to ponder what could be?
- What did I do today to actualize educational reform?
One of my hobbies and frankly, passions, is finding free, exciting, and engaging resources to enhance the curriculum at my K-8 school. Here are my finds for this week:
Got Brainy – Got Brainy features user-generated visual-based vocabulary definitions. These include Brainypics (photo/image definitions) and Brainyflix (video definitions). Students can create and submit their own Brainpics/Brainflix for their own vocabulary words. If there is enough school-wide interest in this project, we can create our own site of student visual definitions.
International Children’s Digital Library has a digital library of outstanding children’s books from around the world. The search engine for these online books include categories based on age level, genre, types of characters (kids, imaginary, animals), length, and picture-chapter books.
Tools for Educators offers free word search generators, word search makers, worksheets and programs for preschool, kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers and language teachers to make word search puzzles to print, games for lessons, lesson plans and K-6 printable materials for classes.
Zooburst is a digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books. I tried it and what I liked is that I can upload my own images into the 3D book. I think the students are going to love it.
PBS Kids: Sid the Science Guy is a science web site appropriate for our K-2 students. It includes three discovery zones: the Super Fab Lab at Sid’s school, the playground and Sid’s family kitchen.
National Geographic Creature Features allows kids to search through photographs and videos of all kinds of animals. The photographs are stunning. This was used with 1st and 2nd graders this past week, all easily staying occupied for their 45 minute technology course.
Golems is a 3D recreational physics simulator. Some of the older students, Junior High, have expressed an interest in 3D rendering. I plan to offer this as a choice project later in the year as the Junior High students will be asked to identify technology projects they would like to produce.
Google Apps in the Classroom is a Google site I created that contains an aggregate of Google Presentations on Google Docs, Calendars, Sites, and Maps/Earth. We have Google Apps for Education for our school. These resources will, hopefully, get more teachers to utilize these resources.
Stupeflix Studio is a video creator similar to Animoto. Pictures, video, titles, and music are mixed together to create a video. They are planning a version for educators. Animoto has become a very popular tool for the teachers and students at our school. It will be nice to offer them another option for video mash-ups.
Technology integration continues at the K-8 Charter School. To refresh your memory, I took a position as a part-time technology instructor at this school starting in September. The previous technology instructors were volunteer parents whose primary focus was on keyboarding skills and using the Microsoft suite. Part of my self-imposed role is assisting teachers in integrating technology into their learning activities and supporting classroom learning during the students’ technology time. A subgoal is to demonstrate how technology integration can be achieved with computers and internet connection and no other costs.
Here is the summary, an overview of technology integration for the different age groups that occurred during September.
Junior High – 7th and 8th Graders
PBWorks for African Learning Expedition
The learning expedition for the Junior High this year is studying Africa, past to present. Students have been assigned a specific African country to research, to become an “expert” about that country. A PBWorks was set up for students to post their research. At this point, the students are posting general facts they are finding about their countries. These facts will be used to create Glogs, Animoto videos, and Dipity Timelines.
Glogs About Their Countries
This past week during their technology class, the students were introduced to Glogster. They spent most of their time learning how it works. A few began creating their Glogs about their African countries.
Part of their instruction included how to use Google Image advanced search to find images for their Glogs using strict filtering and usage rights “labeled as reuse with modification”.
Shelfari for Book Discussions
The Junior High language arts teachers asked all of the students to set up Shelfari accounts. This was initiated by one of the teachers after she saw me demonstrate it during my interview last Spring. What follows is part of the permission letter she sent home to parents for permission or students to sign up for Shelfari:
As students discover wonderful books, they will share their reviews and recommendations with each other. Over the summer a few Anser students piloted an online site for discussing books. Students found Shelfari.com to be a fun and interactive way to share their excitement about books. On Shelfari, students can create a virtual bookshelf, rate the books they have read, write and read book reviews, discuss books with readers from around the planet, create a reading wish list, and much, much more. Our class will also have a private group where we can safely discuss books we are reading together. Only group members can see our discussions and reply to our questions.
Participating students will have a profile (bookshelf and friend list) on the Shelfari.com site. In order to create a Shelfari account, students need parental permission. Shelfari registration requires an email account; however, for the safety of the student, I recommend that you use a parent email to register.
A Group Shelf of books was established for the class.
They are asked to participate in monthly discussions on Shelfari where they post their own questions and respond to questions posted by other students:
Middle and Upper Childhood – 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th Graders
Where I’m From PicLits
One of the beginning of the year projects for the 5th and 6th graders was composing lengthy poems. Where I’m From. The teachers asked how technology could assist with the expression of these poems in an artistic and visual format. PicLits was the tool I believed could best support this project.
The students’ PicLits were all posted on a single page: http://anserupperchildhood.pbworks.com/Where-I-Am-From-PicLits
Word Clouds for the River Expedition
I showed the teachers Wordle at the beginning of the year and it immediately sparked the interest of the teachers for the students in these grades. They have requested the creation of word clouds during technology time to support classroom activities. I started with Wordle but wanted a tool that can easily saved as images to the desktop. Wordle does not have this characteristic. After exploring other options, I decided to use ABCya Word Cloud. The Upper Childhood students practiced using it by inserting autobiographical words. The Middle Childhood students created word clouds based on their river expedition. They included words that they associate with rivers. They will create another similar one after they finish their river study. The two word clouds will serve as a pre-post assessment of terminology gained from their river learning expedition.
Thinkquest for Networking and Posting Work
I learn about many of the technology tools I use through Twitter and blogs. Thinkquest was demonstrated to me a few years ago at ISTE’s National Education Computing Conference. I love this site and so do my students. I used it when I was a gifted teacher a few years ago. The students at my “new” school are having the same excited reaction.
I don’t understand why I never hear it mentioned in any of my social networks. It is a safe place where students can create an online identify, communicate with other students from their own school and from schools from around the world, post questions and polls, and participate in online projects (way too many benefits to describe in this blog entry).
Internet Safety with Professor Garfiled
Along with the production tools the students are learning, they have been studying Internet Safety with Professor Garfield. We watch the video together and then the students work through the Try and Apply components at their own computers.
Kindergarten and Early Childhood – 1st & 2nd Graders
Given the variance in the literacy levels of this age group, especially the 1st and 2nd grade group, the challenge has become how to differentiate to meet the needs of all children in the class. I believe that technology provides a great venue for differentiation and it has proved to be the case for this age group.
ABCya provides educational games for grades Kindergarten through Fifth with an assortment of games for each grade. From their website:
ABCya! is the leader in free educational kids computer games and activities for elementary students to learn educational computer games and activities were created or approved by certified teachers. ABCya! educational games are free and are modeled from primary grade lessons and enhanced to provide an interactive way for children to learn. ABCya! games and activities incorporate content areas such as math and reading while introducing basic computer skills. Many of the kindergarten and first grade games are equipped with sound to enhance understanding. on the web.
This site provides options for self-differentiation as students pick their games based on their grade level and interests.
For the first half of the Early Childhood classes, I focus on literacy development. Kidblogs were established for those students who have basic writing skills. The kids, at first, weren’t that thrilled about writing the blogs. But once they realized they could comment on each other’s blogs, their excitement rose dramatically. One student asked if it was like Facebook for kids. Even at age 7, they understand and are attracted to social networking.
While the students are writing their blogs, the other students, emerging readers and writers, listen to and interact with online books such as Pinky Dinky Do.
Online Drawing Tools
The kids love to draw and paint with online tools. Along with the ABCya games, students have been given the opportunity to draw during the second half of their technology classes. Tux Paint was downloaded on all of the computers in the technology lab. (Note: even the Junior High students like it!).
Up Next – Technology Integration by the Teachers: The First Month
I have several lists of online project-product creators for my K-8 technology students. I cover a new tool every week or so. But being kids, they like to explore the other tools from these lists. The ones that overwhelmingly get noticed and the ones the students get most excited about are the comics and animation creators. There were several tweets over the weekend that inspired me add to my knowledge, tools, and personal excitement for using comics and animations in the classrooms. I have aggregated and compiled the following resources for my students.
Here is what covered S. Hendy in her slideshow plus some additions of my own:
Online Comic Creators
- Toondoo – http://www.toondoo.com/
- Comic Creator – http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/comic/
- Garfield’s Comic Creator – http://www.garfield.com/fungames/comiccreator.html
- Make Beliefs Comix – http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/
- Myths and Legends Story Creator – http://myths.e2bn.org/story_creator/
- Kerpoof Story Maker – http://www.kerpoof.com/#/activity/storybook
- PiZap – http://www.pizap.com/
- Creaza – http://www.creaza.com/cartoonist
- Chogger - http://www.chogger.com/create
- Comiqs http://comiqs.com/editor/
- Comic Master - http://www.comicmaster.org.uk/
- Be Funky – http://www.befunky.com/create/text
- Charlette’s Web – http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/flashlightreaders/charlottesweb/comic/maker.htm
- Goosebumps – http://www.scholastic.com/goosebumpsgraphix/makeyourown/index.htm
The following amazing animation, shared via Twitter, was completely made using the open source 3D software, Blender:
contains minor violence but the story is excellent (and sad)
Animation Creation Tools
- Aniboom – http://www.aniboom.com/ShapeshifterAnimachine.aspx
- Scratch – http://scratch.mit.edu/
- Blender – http://www.blender.org/
Using Comics and Animation in the Classroom
My ultimate goal for using technology in education is having students love learning and creating. The tools are the means to do so. As such, they can be connected to a number of content-based assignments:
- Autobiographies – http://www.uic.edu/classes/ad/ad382/sites/Projects/P009/P009_first.html
- To Demonstrate and Record Research
- Mock Interview
- Convert a Work of Fiction to a Comic http://www.eduref.org/Virtual/Lessons/Language_Arts/Writing/WCP0013.html
- Report on Current Affairs
- Sequencing http://www.teachervision.fen.com/reading-comprehension/lesson-plan/346.html
- Story Boarding
- Practicing New Vocabulary
- Poem and Art Interpretations
- Historical Interpretations