Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"How" is Important

Our JH Academic Dean asked a group of teachers to consider the following quote from Eric Jensen's book Teaching with the Brain in Mind:

If I can learn in a way that satisfies me, I will learn anything you want me to. But if I cannot learn in a way that is comfortable for me, then I will not learn anything, even if I want to learn it, let alone if you want me to learn it. The “how” of my learning governs the “what.”

I think this is the challenge for teachers. Our students come to us with such different experiences than what we have that it sometimes is difficult to understand how new approaches can actually be helping our students learn.

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, I observed in a teacher's class. Lana Garner was using a text poll set up on the Poll Everywhere site in her Spanish class. She was posing questions in Spanish and the students were working in groups to respond appropriately in Spanish using an iPod Touch or iPhone. The group that answered correctly first got a point. This little competition was very engaging for her students and gave me an idea for my 6th graders. So when I returned to school on Monday, I set up a text poll on the Poll Everywhere site. My students worked in groups to choose a vocabulary word from our word list and created an original sentence using the word appropriately. They then submitted their sentence to the poll. I was able to export the sentences using the site into an excel spreadsheet and then reset the poll to allow for more to answer.

This little activity worked great and today when we did our vocabulary work, the students told me that the activity helped them be that much more in tune with the words in the lesson.

I know for a fact that I've had students create sentences from vocabulary words in the past but never in quite this fashion. "How" we went about it seemed to make all the difference!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Examining Ourselves

Why does it sometimes take a special visit to take a close inspection of your own house? I remember when my kids were young and we would be cleaning the house they would ask me who was coming to visit. Does it take having visitors to thoroughly inspect everything? I guess sometimes we get so busy with the day to day that we don't take the needed reflection time.

This week we had a bunch of people visit our school from multiple schools: NC, SC, CA, TX, TN and GA. Apple sponsored the visit and fed us well at lunch time. I was in charge of showing one group of folks around. I hope our visitors enjoyed the day but I know I really enjoyed going around to different classrooms and seeing what our teachers were doing. One of our guests created a podcast of the event.

Our guests got to see this video where some of our students talk about our 2 to 1 initiative.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Creative Communications in the 21st Century

This year, I have had the pleasure of presenting at iSummit 2010, the Georgia Independent Schools Association annual conference and the Georgia Educational Technology Conference. The topic I presented at all three is on creative communications. There are so many tools out there to help us provide our students with opportunities for the development of creativity and communication. Amy Dean, one of the teachers in our Junior High, worked with me on this presentation. Unfortunately, she was unable to help present this fall but her fingerprints are all over this work as well.

I must admit that I feel somewhat lacking in the area of creativity myself. I have never considered myself to be particularly creative but listening to some of Sir Ken Robinson's materials have led me to question why. I have recently come to realize that there are a lot of us out there in "my generation" that feel the same way. Again, why?

Enjoy the presentation and links to the sample work. All example student work is used with permission from the authors.

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The iPad - Part 2

I feel compelled to provide a part 2 as a follow-up to my post entitled iPad - Initial Thinking. When I went back and read that post, I actually was surprised at how thorough I had been at the time. After using an iPad now for seven months, I feel so much more versed in the possible benefits of the tool.

Even though the iPad definitely has potential for K-12 education, I don't see the iPad as being able to replace a MacBook. The iPad is still limited in what can be created using that tool. It is, however, a very good "consumption" and "connection" tool.

I have gotten to know some new apps that definitely put this comment in its place. The Storykit app is one that has blown my socks away. Storykit allows you to put text, images, drawings and voice recording together in a digital storybook. It allows for sharing with other people by uploading to the Storykit server and emailing the link. You can view a video tutorial on the Storykit app from the Tech Savvy Educator.

Also, I recently sat in on a session on Cloud Computing presented by Dr. Patrick Crispen from the University of Southern California. It is clear from what he shared that solutions such as Google Docs will take the place of traditionally loaded software pieces in the near future. If this is the case, then accessing creation apps using a WiFi connection makes the iPad not just a consumption device, but also a clear creation device.