Tag Archives: collaborating

BYOD = BYOLearning

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My district has adopted BYOD and students can bring their own learning device. And even 8th graders brought their phones, Ipods, Ipads. I actually thought they would be too cool for school. The problem is that they do not understand how to use their devices for learning – they take pictures, videos, selfies, and play games. I get it. They have no idea the power they are holding in their hands. Ok, I am one one of a few teachers in my building who is excited about this new development and understands what a game changer it is for my classroom. And I plan on creating digital citizens in an environment that brings digital literacy. I plan on connecting them with twitter and class blogs, not to mention classrooms around the world.

Ok, first day my students had tasks ( their choices) of finding out how internal forces of change affect geography and ultimately, our lives – earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, plate tectonics, and Mariana Trench. Wow! I was blown away by the amount of reading these kids did about these subjects. They read more in one day than in all the years previous. And they understood what they were reading. I heard science terms, I saw writing, and heard “look at this” as they researched. Yes, it’s a start, yes, I will teach them how to research more effectively, but today I savored the thought that these “devices” will change my classroom in ways I can only imagine and my students can’t imagine.

I plan on blogging about this- the good, the bad, and the ugly as it happens. Reflection was an integral piece of my graduate degree and it changed the way I look at education. (Initiatives in Educational Tranformation, George Mason University), so who knows where this will lead? I don’t know, but I am excited to find out. Image

The Dilemma

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My daughter was born to be a teacher. Just like I did when I was young, she would line her dolls up in rows and stand before them and “teach” the old fashioned way. They were quiet, she would talk. But they were taken to make-believe worlds through her books and they were given her diagrams and sketches of the world according to Allison. Fast forward and she walked across the stage at her University accepting her degree in Elementary Education.

Her world is different than mine as she enters the teaching field. I entered pre-test and I remember walking into my first classroom in urban Cincinnati, Ohio bursting with excitement. My students and I created our own lessons as we made our way through the curriculum. There was no “map”, no standardized test at the end of the course, there were no parents asking for grade sheets for me to justify their A or B. Oh, there was the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and other national standardized tests and parents were concerned about their children. To be fair, I taught in an area where those kids, for the most part, would be first generation college. It was 1979.

Allison enters the teaching world with as much excitement as I had as she has worked extremely hard to get prepared to enter the profession. But the reality is that she is entering the post-test era and it is becoming increasingly clear that her “success” will be based on her students passing a standardized test (called SOL’s in Virginia, ironically, for Standard of Learning). She will be given a curriculum map, a pacing guide, and a fat set of facts for her students. She has had a taste of this as she substitutes around Northern Virginia in many of the premiere public school districts in the United States. She has embraced this profession and understands student learning, collaboration, and that she is the facilitator in the classroom. She is substitute teaching in several public districts and one small parochial school.

Here is the email I got from her Friday: I was offered a job in the parochial school for next year and I may be offered a job at the public school I am in now. What should I do? They are both excellent schools. The main difference in SOL’s. All I do now is have to practice and prepare for the tests in May/June. The parochial school doesn’t have that focus, it is about learning. There is a different vibe. They still have the curriculum, but I have more freedom. Help.

She knows I teach in a public school (not where she is substitute teaching). She knows I have taught at a parochial school. I HATE the end of course standardized tests, as well as all the benchmark tests in between. My classroom is Project Based and I am passionate about student learning. But the reality is that I have a pacing guide, curriculum map, a textbook (they only use for reference). And most of the time I feel isolated because of it.

I know what I told her, curious as to what advice you would give?

The Sky’s the Limit with Skype

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connecting classrooms

connecting classrooms

We’re willing to pay thousands for computers, interactive whiteboards, the latest software, document cameras, and digital video cameras. Yet, how much are we willing to pay to connect classroom to classroom, school to school, district to district, state to state, or even country to country?  What is the value of being able to interview content experts or authors, conduct discussions or debates, or collaborate in real-time?

We did it today.  Once my friend and I each bought a $50 web cam and installed Skype, we connected from school to school with ease.  I was thoroughly impressed by the clarity of the audio and video feed.  All you need is free Skype software, Internet access, a microphone and speaker (the web cam is optional to send video along with the audio).  I just used the speaker from the laptop and the microphone from the web cam.

Imagine the possibilities!  Connecting and collaborating are key 21st century skills.  It struck me as odd that this tool has not been marketed more often for education.  And I wondered where I’ve been.  How could I have missed this?  I really haven’t heard much more about Skype since I returned from the VSTE Conference in February.  Yet, as Alan November reminded us at the VASCD Conference, we need to teach students to connect with real people across the curriculum.

 So is $50 worth connecting classrooms of kids from around the world?  I’d say so!  In the 21st century, we can’t afford not to…