Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Poem in Your Pocket Day

One of the fabulous teachers at our school brought an idea for celebrating Poetry Month to our administration. Thankfully the school principal agreed. Through the month of April students have been exploring poems. What a great way to look at language. Tomorrow, April 24th is Poem in Your Pocket Day. I hear the idea is to stop people and see if they have a poem in their pocket. If they do encourage them to share what they have. Being an Instructional Technology Facilitator, I figured I would Google for a computer poem. There are many. There weren't any that won me over. Certainly not something I am ready to carry in my pocket all day. But if a student stopped me and asked if I had a poem what would I say. I'd hate to see their face fall. That isn't what I want. No, not at all. So what was I to do...
Draft something myself...

"My Digital Day" by Mrs. Shields

My day begins each morning with an alarm clock to stop.
Then reach for my phone on the kitchen counter-top.
If there is time, the blue coffee light begins to blink.
Soon too my brain begins to think.
Out the door I dash, still a bit blurry.
Car alarm I push in a hurry.

Gratitude for traffic lights that keep me in one piece.
I start my day at work very early to enjoy a little peace.

Scan my security door clicker.
Convenient to let me in quicker.
Boot up my computer.
There's email to read.
“Please, no major problems today,” I plead.

Help teachers find new resources on the net.
Oh, here is one your students will love - I bet!
Research, explore, through so much to scroll.
Use the right words and I'm on quite a roll.

Chosen words of the right kind
to just right websites I will find.
Pick a few gems to share
with teachers that care.
It's a joy showing them what I have found.
From teacher to teacher it will pass around.
Time to show students so we have a common ground.

Hopefully I have found the pick of the crop.
Oh the magic that is found within my laptop!

I'd still love to find a better poem about technology for students. Maybe something about Google or the Internet. I put out a call to my personal learning network on Twitter. If you know of one, I'd love to see what you have to share. Hope you have a very happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Timely Lesson

Still not sure if this was a timely lesson or a lesson in timing. For the last few weeks, students in 5th grade have been reading a passage from about a planned solar-powered solo flight. The passage was brief but perfect for our short class periods. This allowed time to read and time to reflect in Google Docs. I used this to assist students with gaining the skills they need to create Google Presentations.
My lesson today was a little different with a particular fifth grade class. Class time quickly dwindled. So I modified what we have been doing in the other classes (working with text clues) for this class. Today, I had them figure out which person the article is really about (there are three names listed). Many accurately chose Bertrand Piccard. Those that didn't were shown how easy it is to correct our work in Google presentations. Then I asked the students to create a new slide where they would very briefly express their prediction. Would he and his team be successful? Would they find failure? While waiting for their class to arrive I had noticed the date mentioned in the article. Here is the line that caught my eye, "Piccard wants to make the first test flight by the end of 2007. He hopes to fly around the world in 2010." (  I must have had my coffee today because I realized this is 2014. I hadn't heard anything about a plane crossing the globe that was solar-powered. But that did not mean that it hadn't happened.

So I asked the students to make their predictions. I promised to followup with research with them. Together we would find out if he and his team were successful or not. This evening for fun (yes I'm that kind of educator - fun involves Googling to benefit my students) I took to the Internet to see if there were any recent mentions of this flight. Of course I filtered using the Google Tool of search by time. I am still floored by what I found! April 15th CNN posted an article stating that Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg recently unveiled their prototype of the solar-powered airplane. It seems in 2010 they were successful in flying non-stop for 26 hours. Wow! Now they are poised to try for 72 hours.

The nerd in me is cheering. The environmentalist in me is squealing with glee. The educator in me is so excited to share my new knowledge with our students. Could this have been any more perfect - recent news update, Earth Day activity, Google Docs integration lesson? A very powerful moment in time for our students and myself.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Returning from Spring Break and Easter

Tomorrow we return to school after a week's Spring Break. Prior to the Spring Recess I had posted a blog spot holder to remind me of the ideas circulating in my head. Now that I have rested (a little - lots of family commitments during a break) I am ready to blog.

The idea floating loosely in my brain as we approached Spring Break was how we need to be willing to try new things. In Edtech we need some individualized, personalized review process of tools that spring up. One size does not fit all. One size SHOULD not fit all in education as well. The tool that is perfect for one student may be overly stimulating for another. One that is engaging for one child may be too banal for another. Finding the right fit for EACH student is essential. [Now please don't get me started on the one size fits all assessments. Are they really an adequate determinate if learning and growth have taken place? Oh let's solder that synapse closed for this afternoon.]

As educators in 2014 we are blessed if not overwhelmed. There is a multitude of tools available to help us accentuate our classrooms. Some are wonderful. Some are not so wonderful. As educators we need to view these tools with a discerning eye. Will this help my students? Will this assist Susy with this one skill? Would this better suit Tommy's need to _____?

Tools come and go. Should we be teaching students how to use tools? Or how to think and use a variety of tools to accomplish a task? Things that are free today may become "freemium" tomorrow. Or even high end "premium" and beyond our wallets. I am reminded of the phrase my mother use to remind me of in growing up: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket!" Sage advice. Count on nothing. Explore new tools. Compare. Enjoy while you can today with an eye on tomorrow's future.

But how lucky we are to sort through all these wonderful options. Evaluate. Examine. Trial. Dabble. Explore. Evaluate again (Let's not overlook the review and re-evaluation phase). Seeing what school district filters will permit and block. Seeing what is too fancy and not fancy enough. What sites and programs have annoying characters or background music? Seek out tools that are just right. There are just too many tools available in today's modern world. One educator cannot possibly open every egg that is hatched. But a great educator will open a few and see if they are twins (lead to another comparable tool), fertilized (ready to take on life in your classroom), broken or veiny (not ready for use in your particular class). But you won't know until you crack a few open. So pick a few from the basket and play.

And some will hopefully be a perfect fit. I know several teachers that are thrilled when I show them how their SMARTBoard can be interactive tools for learning. They are so much more than presentation screens. I read recently (sorry I don't remember where I wish I could quote them) that if only the teacher is touching the SMARTBoard you are using it wrong! Powerful but true. Let the kids create, drag, collaborate, unveil, cover, guess, estimate, predict, draw, explain, draft a diagram, chart, etc. All those wonderful real world skills that they will need in the field (whatever field they choose).

Remember to project things of value. Look for programs and websites that enhance not just fill time. Seek tools that accentuate what you are doing not create new curriculum. Technology should be a tool to enhance student learning and performance. Not just one more subject area to cover. What tools will you personally select to sit in your egg carton of digital tools? Would you prefer the Microsoft Word egg in your carton or the Google Documents egg in your carton? And how nice that it is really easy to swap eggs in and out of your carton as time goes on. If you just leave eggs untouched in a carton they will eventually go bad. We don't want classrooms that stink. We want classrooms full of color by the use of many rich resources that are available and appropriate for the children in our rooms.

Thank you for your patience while this professional development idea boiled over in my brain during Spring Break. Hope you find the analogy useful. What will you make with all the tools available? Will you create an omelette with spice and color? Or will you create scrambled eggs with no appeal? Start slow. Crack an egg open and scramble them... Maybe add some thyme (time)... and see where that leads you. Experiment further. Add some roasted peppers (marinated thoughts of others found on Twitter). Experiment again. Taste and see if it has made a difference.