Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tool # 11 - Self Assessing and Reflecting

I don't feel that my thinking has really transformed about the uses of technology in my classroom. Technology can be a very valuable tool... especially since my classroom runs on differentiated learning. I have always believed the more tools in my toolbox, the more I can pass on to my students. There is a plethora of apps and other tools that can be utilized, and I am happy to have found some resources that help narrow some of that information into something a bit less overwhelming and more manageable. I love some of the sites that I have found through Diigo that help me stay abreast as a teacher, particularly The Book Whisperer and A Year of Reading. And I really like Thinkfinity...especially the Story Cube. I think I will use some of those activities toward the end of our novel unit that we are doing in English right now.

Will I need to make changes to my classroom to accommodate the 21st Century Learner? My room is about maxed on connections to power and ethernet, so I am really happy to have a charging station and wireless devices. :) I will need to do some different forms of grouping to make my room more effective... I have a structured format for my reading program that I will need to rework to make it more user-friendly with all of the new tools. A lot of that is affected by the number of students in the room at a time since the class is for special learners. The higher the number of kids in the room, the more difficult it is for some of them to focus and learn...no matter what tools they have.

I don't think there have been any unexpected outcomes from this program other than the horrendous amount of time required to get through it. I love to learn new things, and technology is a bit harder for me than for some of the younger teachers who have been playing with these tools longer. I felt pressured to get through the program along with all of the other things I do as a special ed teacher, so there is a lot that I will revisit through Atomic Learning this summer to help move my classroom in the direction I want it to go. This has been a good experience... one that I will continue to work with to adapt these tools for my struggling readers.

Tool # 10 - Underneath It All - Digital Citizenship

 I think the top four things I would want my students to know about Digital Citizenship are:
1) How to keep themselves safe...not posting information that will allow them to be identified and tracked, 2) The responsibility they have for information that they post and the awareness that just because they can say it on the internet doesn't mean that they should. They need to understand that what they put out onto the web is there...permanently, and it can be damaging to themselves or to others, and 3) That just because the information is on the web, doesn't mean that it is reliable. They need to read carefully and evaluate their sources, checking and cross-checking to make sure what they are reading is indeed correct. This is a big one for my students because they struggle with reading anyway,and 4) there is an etiquette to using information that is posted on the web. They need to understand how to give credit for work done by others that they access whether it be print, picture, or video.
I really like the Brain Pop movies on digital citizenship. They have activities that can be printed out and completed as the movie is watched or afterward that will allow me to check my students' understanding of what they have seen. I think for my parents, I would create a form that discusses some of the main points of digital citizenship and attach it to a contract for them to complete along with their student. I could then keep those contracts. Once the students and parents have completed everything in the digital citizenship workshop, the students could receive a certificate signifying them as digital citizens.

Tool #9 – Incorporating Classroom-Based Devices as Tools for Learning

 Why is it important to tie the technology to the objective? Students need to learn how to focus their learning, and how to best apply the technology tools that will achieve their learning objective. It is very easy to get lost in playing with technology but not really be able to use technology effectively as a tool to enhance learning and productivity. By tying technology to specific objectives, students will start to learn how to apply technology as an effective tool that improves the quality of their work and their life. As with any work we do in the classroom, students should be held accountable for the stations/centers so we can assess how much they are learning and know where to go next with our instruction.
I really like Thinkfinity as an interactive website for my students. It has many activities that allow the students to produce product that can be e-mailed or printed out as a final piece. It isn't too immature for the age level of my students,but at the same time, it can be tailored to meet their individual learning levels. I could use it either as a writing or a reading station, depending on exactly what I want to focus the student on at the time.
As for the iPads and iPod, I really like the ability to use Dragon Dictation. I think that will allow my students to express more of their ideas and they can be saved into a document to be e-mailed. The flashcard app is also one I would encourage my students to learn to use. I can also see my students using these devices to do research, read a book, or create videos.

Tool # 8 - Taking a Look at the Tools

I'm really happy with the tools that we are getting in our classrooms. I have computers already because I have the READ 180 program for my students, but to have the iPads, the iTouch, and the netbooks will be a great asset. I own an iPad2 and an iPhone, so I already knew how to set up an iTunes account, both with and without a credit card attached, and I know how to sync to the computer. I was happy to learn about the database of approved apps that the district has and I learned how to find it. I also learned how to set a frequently used page to the home screen, which will be a blessing when my students get to start using the devices. :)
I haven't really used a netbook very much, but they aren't much different than a full-size laptop. I do like the webcam capabilities, and I did learn how to use those.
As for managing the devices... I will only have a few, so I will probably set up a very visible station for them to be kept at during the day. I'm thinking that each period will have a technology person assigned to assist with any issues and to verify that all equipment is back in the station at the end of the period. My students will need very clear cut rules about access, maintenance, and usage. They will also need to understand that there are consequences if they abuse the technology rules.
Throughout 11 Tools it has been said “devices that will be in your classroom this fall”, and I think it will probably be fall before there is much activity with these devices, It isn't that I don't want to jump in with both feet immediately, but there is the need to research appropriate apps and get them loaded. There is the need to teach the students the correct procedures, behaviors, and expectations for use. Most of all, quite frankly, the clock is running down for this school year, especially when taking into account the testing schedule that is coming up. Over the summer, I hope to find appropriate apps and have a unit ready for appropriate use of the devices and digital citizenship that will be taught in the first two weeks of the new school year. There will be some usage this year, but since I don't even have everything yet... no promises as to how much. :)

Tool # 7 - Reaching Outside Your Classroom: Online Digital Projects

I'm not certain what a flat classroom would look like for a Resource setting. Right now, I think asynchronous collaboration is probably going to be the first step. My students, by the nature of where their skill sets are, are not collaborators. It is still outside many of their comfort zones to contribute to a poster or a story board or, for that matter, a discussion. By fall, I hope to have the students blogging through Blogger in a class blog about books they are reading. And I want to get my students to a point where they will perform peer edits for fellow students through the use of Google Docs. As for joining to other classrooms, since I teach Basic Reading and Basic English, I need more information about the legalities regarding disclosure. Information about my students is only released on a need-to-know basis, but for some of them, their skill level is such that it is obvious that they are a special needs learner. I need to do more research and communicate with some other Special Ed teachers before I will be comfortable connecting outside of my student group. That being said, I would like to get in on some Skype author talks next year with some of the authors that are popular in my classroom, and I will look more into that during the summer. I'm all for collaboration... it will just take a bit more planning and consideration to make sure that I am not violating my students' privacy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tool # 6 - Using Web Tools to Promote Discussion In and Out of the Classroom

Of the twelve tools listed in the chart, I am already experimenting with four of them in my classroom to see how they might be most effective for my students. Google Docs has possibilities, especially the forms. I have used Edmodo for some lessons, and the students seem to like using Edmodo. It is especially useful in keeping students connected to what is happening in class when they are sitting in ISS. I enjoy my Diigo account and see some definite possibilities for connecting students to information by sharing links. I think this will allow them to start to learn how to use some of the information on the Internet more safely than they currently do. I also have another blog through Blogger that I am setting up for students to use for book discussions.   Wallwisher is fun.  Based on a STARR Released Test Essay question, I posed a question about instant communication to get my students talking about the effects technology has on our daily lives.  It will be interesting to see what they post when they come back from Spring Break.  Poll Everywhere is a nice way to gather information; however, since not all of my students have phones that can text, I will probably use the ActivVotes more for now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tool # 5 - Time for Some Creativity - Producing with Web 2.0 Tools

 Finally … time for some creativity and fun! There are lots of wonderful, fun tools out there for creating products both for instruction and for fun. This is probably one of the parts of technology that my students will enjoy and relate to the most. My special population gets into graphics much more than the printed/written word.
As I looked through the list of 2.0 tools, I saw several that I wanted to play with and explore. I got lost in the clouds as I played with Wordle. It's such a neat tool to play with words and language. A word cloud of new vocabulary for a unit would be a great “hook” to have up on the ActivBoard for students to explore at the beginning of class. They could read the words and make a prediction about what they might be studying in the upcoming material. It would also be an interesting visual for synonyms and antonyms, or maybe to demonstrate the mood of a poem with the most important words. Repetitive words and phrases an author uses could also be analyzed to see how frequently they appeared in a text, leading to a discussion of why those particular words were chosen to be emphasized. Thinking of repetitive words, it would be a strong tool for students to enter their own writing into. By creating word clouds from their own writing, they could begin to focus on overworked words and find ways to broaden their writing vocabulary. Below is a word cloud created on www.wordle.net:



Another tool I thought would be interesting to my students was Big Huge Labs. When I started playing around in it, I got into ShapeCollage.com which probably isn't a tool for the students. Not only is there a fee, it was kind of difficult to create the collage. With enough time, I was able to come up with a collage I liked. Big Huge Labs would probably be fun for the students to do a pictorial representation of something they have read. It could also be used to stimulate interest in an upcoming topic. Truthfully, I like Glogster better and will have to get with Angela to see if I can get set up. In any case, here is a sample of what can be done with ShapeCollage.com.