# The 100th Day–YAY!! (Part 1)

Whew!  Our 100th day of school was today!  Boy am I tired!  WE WERE BUSY!!

I’ve been thinking about how to spend that day (and mainly trying to figure out how to both “celebrate” and still be rigorous and meaningful in my choices), and had landed on several ideas I was pretty excited about.  The good news?  We were able to use my idea list today.  The bad news (well, just the other news I guess…)?  We just did one of those things.  Let me explain. 🙂

If you were writing down a list of what we accomplished today, it would just say “blogging.”  I even had a kiddo say, “All we did was blog today, Mrs. Bearden.”  What?  That’s ALL we did?  In a word, yes, but MAN was there a TON of learning and thinking involved in that day of blogging!  I am SUPER AMAZED at what we were able to do today.

I started the day by telling my friends that I had prepared several challenges for them to do and that we could spend the day with those things.  We usually start our day with writing, so I shared the writing challenge first, with plans to share the rest of the challenges as we went on through the day.  The first thing we planned to work on was a blogging challenge.

With it being the 100th day of school, and the fact that we just went live with our blogs yesterday, I knew they’d appreciate a challenge around the “bigness” of 100 things on their blog.  I suggested we try to write 100 blog posts or comments.  Or they could challenge themselves to write a post using 100 words (which would be a HUGE STRETCH from the 2-3 sentence posts we’ve written so far).  As I had hoped and expected, they were SUPER excited to get started, and were totally up to the challenge!

Our next step was to figure out how we could make it happen.  This was a great conversation filled with much mathematical knowledge of groups of 10, counting on by 10s (as I told them we had 17 posts right then and wondered how many there would be if we added 100 more today), and splitting 10s into 5s to figure out new groups (someone said they knew that if it took 10 10s to make 100, it would take 20 5s since 5+5=10).   We divided (without knowing it) 100 by the 20 people in the room (including me!), and as we went through the challenge we did lots of adding and subtracting to figure how many more we needed and how many we had at any given point.

We got started, and you know what?  I don’t have many pictures of the work we did.  I was as busy as they were, answering questions, moderating posts and comments and helping everyone as needed.  So with 20 people, 12 iPads and 5 MacBooks between us, we were able to complete 100 BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTS today!! YIPPEE!!  It took us almost all day, but we did it!  And when we were finished, we had this to say:

(Hopefully you can tell they’re saying, “I00 BLOGS ROCK!!”

Now, I go back to that part about “all we did was blog all day,” because even though I didn’t mean to, at one point I even questioned whether I had done enough with the day.  We didn’t have a big long list of activities to show for our time together.  No one took home anything different than a normal day.  We didn’t have any thing to prove we worked hard and stretched our thinking today.  We did, however, have this:

It’s a little hard to see, but these are the charts where we kept tally of all of the posts/comments we finished. We counted them by 10s, 1s, and 2s at several points during the day as we figured out what we’d done and how much we had to go. It hangs outside our room for others to see. I’m hoping it will elicit questions for my kids (and for me) about how we spend our100th day! We have a great story to tell!

(ok, we did have a few pictures of the day!)

We also have a Kidblog dashboard that looks like this:

Yesterday we had 17 posts and 0 comments! Check out those numbers as of tonight! We have only been on our blogs since yesterday morning–crazy, right? We’re rocking and rolling already!!

And perhaps even better, we have memories.  We have encouragement that came from our friends–“We can do this!”–when we wanted to give up.  We have full buckets from the words our friends wrote about our stories.  We have new knowledge about how to work the iPads and laptops on our own.  We have that feeling that comes with accomplishing a goal.  We have successful problem solving that happens when we’re allowed to figure things out for ourselves or talk with our classmates.  We have practice with creating meaningful writing for a REAL audience; we worked hard to make our words look right, sound right and make sense.  We have practice with letters, sounds and words and we have momentum to go forward with our writing.  AND we have a great list of things that we didn’t finish today that we’ll use to continue our learning tomorrow! hee hee

So as I reflected, I thought it would be a great visual (for me at least) to look at our district’s rubrics and match up how today’s work addressed the expectations therein.  Check out how many ways this simple blogging challenge touched our 1st grade standards:

Writing

Speaking and Listening

Learning Behaviors and Study Skills

So needless to say I am tired tonight!  I’m pretty sure my kids are, too! The amount of grit they had to use to make today happen and accomplish the HUGE goal set before them was great.  And while I know that I am a little biased, I’d say that today was definitely a day we can say we worked to get a little closer to helping Rm. 202 kids meet this mission of Robinson School:

What did you do for your 100th day?  What have you heard from Rm. 202 kids about their day?  Please share your thoughts with us!  We’re learning how blogging is all about the conversation, and we’d love to start a conversation with YOU! 🙂

# A Book Binding Machine?

I shared a couple of days ago about the class books we make that go along with our Read Aloud Timeline.   Well, today it was time to put together the books from our last 2 read alouds and so we took a little field trip to learn about this machine:

Have you ever seen one of those?  It’s funny how excited they were to learn about how it works.  This was partly (I’m sure) because it is housed in a teacher workroom where kids aren’t allowed to go (but that we sneaked into for a few minutes!) but also because it’s just pretty cool.  And old.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same machine that’s been in that workroom for the last 20 years.  And I made books on it the last time I taught 1st grade 10 years ago.  But hey–even in this age of technology and digital learning–sometimes you just need to do things the “old school” way.  That totally works in this case. 🙂

# On-Demand? Give Yourselves a Hand!

I know, I’ve been talking about on-demand writing a lot lately, haven’t I?  Well, we did it again today, as the pre-assessment for our new unit of informational writing.

The directions were pretty much the same as the last time, but I threw in a couple of wrenches.  Instead of handwriting their piece, they were expected to use technology–either their iPad or a laptop.  Instead of writing about something they knew a lot about, they were to do some research–well as least look for some facts in a book from our classroom.

I also laid down the expectation from this rubric from our writing curriculum:

The part about having to type a “minimum of 2 pages in a single setting” is new for us, and was a BIG STRESSOR for some of my friends.  We agreed that today was a try-it–that we would focus on trying to do our best and recognize that there were a lot of things to do (figure out the technology, think of what to write, find the information we’d use in our resources, editing, revising, publishing) and that we’d just give it our best shot.  So we chose our topic by deciding what book we’d use from our classroom library:

I put many options of science books (animals, weather, force and motion, etc.) out on the rug and we dug in!

Kiddos also chose from a variety of other nonfiction texts in our room to use as resources for their writing piece.

After we had chosen a seed, decided if they would us an iPad or laptop, we got busy.  And it was great!  I love how the pictures speak to what was happening–lots of multitasking and hard working kiddos!

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And when we were finished, we breathed a huge sigh of relief and stepped back to see what we had done.

Look at all those words! Do you see all that we accomplished? I’m totally impressed! 🙂

Here are some thoughts on the day:

And like the video suggested, give yourselves a hand, friends for a JOB WELL DONE!  YOU ROCK!!  I’m so proud and you should be, too!

# iPad Scout Reflections Week 3 (and 4): Getting in a Groove

I knew it would happen eventually, and I think during week 3 it happened: we got into an iPad groove.  So in some ways that makes this week’s reflection really fabulous, and in some other ways it might make it really boring.

After the first week of highs and lows, and the second week‘s videos, I was excited to see what Week 3 would bring us.  I was hoping that it would bring some sort of “normalcy,” where we wouldn’t have our noses constantly in our iPads and were somehow thinking of them as tools instead of toys.  And to some extent that’s what happened.

The most exciting part of the week for me, I guess, was how my kids are starting to come up with really great ways to use our iPads to enhance our learning.  We’d already been using Educreations for annotating videos explaining our learning, using Notability to mark up text we were reading and taking pictures to help us save documents we could use later easily in another place.  And up to that point, much of what I was asking them to do with their new tools (outside of the iMovies they’re making for fun, blog posts they write for themselves and some other stuff like Edmodo) had been my idea.  Then we started talking about poetry.

As like with every other unit, they were to publish their pieces, self-evaulate using our writing rubric, and then turn in their work (not rocket-science, I know).  And ZB had a great idea of how to do it.  Just like we had been doing in Educreations to explain our thinking in math, ZB had an idea of how we could do the same thing for writing.

First we published our poems using Pages (the app on our iPads instead of the program on our laptops), which we could now save in our Dropbox folders.  Also in the Dropbox was the rubric, which I could easily share for each kiddo to upload.  Then came ZB’s idea: maybe we could put pictures of them both on a page in Educreations and then explain why we scored ourselves that way.  GENIUS–especially since the “4” on most of our rubrics is to “explain the reasons behind your choices.”    So they took a screen shot of their poem, and laid a screen shot of the rubric right next to it:

And as they scored themselves on the rubric, they could explain to me why they thought their poem showed that, and could make connections to the text of their poem at the same time.  This type of thing, before we had our iPads, was possible, but would take FOREVER because I’d have to have a separate conversation with each writer in order to gain the information about their thinking.  Great idea, ZB!

Now, I must take a minute to insert a short story of a frustrating “apportunity” we had related to these videos.  It’s related to the fact that Educreations is a GREAT place to create videos, but not such a great app to use if you want to do anything with those videos.  And of course I didn’t know this until after we’d done all kinds of work with it.  As I struggled to find a way for my kids to be able to share their work with me, I found this FAQ on the Educreations website that helped me find an answer to my problem.  A negative answer.

Lame, right?  Yeah…great information I wish I’d had before we started.  And so this meant that what I had thought were great opportunities for my students to share their thinking with me were now just stuck on their iPads.  Well, unless I wanted to lug them all home.  Which was kind of not the point of going 1:1 and being electronic and such, you know?

Well, since then, I have learned a couple of things that solved our problems:

1.  You can get around the exporting problem if you sign up for an Educreations account.  That way you have the option of emailing your video to someone or copying the URL link of to post or use.   I found out I can also give my students a course code that will allow me to have access to their videos via the website.  They don’t even have to send them to me now; I can just click on each students’ file from one screen at the same time.

2. Notability also works in a similar way, and can be more easily shared or saved in Dropbox, Evernote, or a variety of other ways.

3. Explain Everything is a great app that combines all of the things that both Educreations and Notability can do, and has many other great options that will grow with your students as they get older and/or learn to do new things with their devices.  Downside?  It costs \$2.99, but does offer a volume discount if you buy in bulk.  We’re considering this one as an option to Educreations.    Doodlecast Pro could do the same thing, and might be great for younger students (it’s also \$2.99).

So this past week was technically Week 4, but with MAP testing taking up much of our time and energy, there is not a lot of iPad news to share.  The one thing I will mention, though, which I guess fits in the “high” category, came from our class meeting today.

As always, the last question we answered before we started our discussion was “What do you want to talk about from the week?”  As you can see, man people had the same idea:

The red dots mention are what kiddos wanted to talk about. Their conversations could be positive or negative, but these are the pressing issues of the week.

Ok, so I know Don’s birthday was a big topic of conversation (because many people wanted to wish him well and tell him how awesome he is), but they also wanted to talk about iPads.  What I loved was that unlike past weeks conversations when there was a lot of discussion about what NOT to do, today they wanted to talk about how great it’s going!  The discussion was about how we’ve all figured out how to do things, aren’t playing around so much anymore, and how they’re helping us as learners.  Of course I was interested in hearing more about that last thing, so I dug for evidence.  They mentioned things like being able to get and send documents to me electronically instead of having to always get papers, as well as how easily they can look up answers to things they’re wondering about and just how much more interesting doing their work on the iPads has been.  And I’ve been excited at how much more collaboration there has been in spite of everyone being 1:1; many people worry that kids will be “plugged in” constantly and not interact with other students.  I’m happy to see that this hasn’t been the case in our room so far.  We’re just finding better ways to collaborate, communicate and curate.

Don and Ames look at a common text on Educreations as we practice editing together.

Anna and Fiona can look at the same text on their separate devices as they discuss how they’d improve the paragraph to make it easier for the reader to understand.  Since they’d uploaded the picture into Educreations, they can mark on the text right on their iPads and then save their thoughts to come back to later.

Devan and Peter work to edit punctuation and capitalization in a text uploaded from our shared Dropbox folder.

iPad minis make it easy to have everyone look at the same text at the same time, but then interact with it in whatever way works for them as a learner.

And they’re portable and small, making them easy to go anywhere–even the rug–unlike when we were only using our laptops for these kinds of things.

So we’re about halfway home.  4 weeks in and 4 weeks to go in the Scout.  And with MAP finishing up this next week, we’ll have some more time in our schedule to explore what our iPads will help us do.  Stay tuned for more on the book trailer project we’re in the middle of.  That is definitely something that would have been inconceivable before we were 1:1.  Exciting times ahead!

Just like always, it’s your turn now.  Thoughts? Suggestions? We’d love your feedback on what’s going on in our room! 🙂

# iPad Scout Reflections Week 2: Math Revisions and Video Thoughts

So I realize it’s really only been a couple of days since I posted my Week 1 Reflections, but since today was technically the end of Week 2 and we had such a fabulous tech day, I thought I’d tell the story today.

Since our horrible experience last Friday trying to get our Dropboxes all figured out, we’ve had some pretty successful days with our iPads.  Today was a particularly great day, with many great ideas flowing about how we could enhance our learning by using our iPads to record our thinking.

On Monday, we started an investigation in math that was focused around my son, Riley’s, allowance.

Riley’s Allowance Problem

Now, the math involved in this problem was not difficult; the focus here was on using clear and concise notation to record thinking, as well as revising your work before “publishing” it for others to see.  We focused on making sure we followed all of the directions and did the whole problem (which is a great skill to review since we’re doing state testing starting in about a week and a half. 🙂 )

Kiddos spent two days working on the problem and then creating their posters.  After everyone had a poster, we did a gallery walk where groups were responsible for leaving feedback for others related to how well they accomplished each of those goals.  They left plusses and deltas for the group to consider as they revised their poster later.

Revising based on what classmates said about their poster.

One of their “deltas” was that they had too much white space and not enough numbers. They added in equations to show how they got their answers.

Creative use of paper scraps as “white out” to cover parts they needed to change.

Don’t you just love the combination of “old school” and “new school” here? IPads right alongside big ‘ole paper and markers. 🙂  They’re using one as a calculator and the other has a screenshot of the original directions where they did their draft work before the poster.

Adding headings to each section (which classmates thought included too much writing) helped their thinking make more sense.

Then, I gave them one more direction: make a video to summarize your post-its, share your revisions and explain why they would help learners better understand your poster.  Pretty cool, huh?  Here’s what they did next:

That definitely wore me out a little.  Surprised I had any energy left to even write all these words!  Is that crazy to anyone but me?  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE tell me if you know an easier way to get video from kid iPads to a usable form for me.  I want to use them more often for things like this, but I’d love to be able to do it without so much work. 🙂

(And so here I was going to add a really SUPER idea that my friend ZB had today about how to show our thinking about poetry, but surprisingly the examples I wanted to share are still on the iPads where we recorded them today.  Just didn’t have enough hours in the day to figure that one out.  Hopefully tomorrow. 🙂 )

# iPad Scout Reflections Week 1

Last week I showed you some fabulously happy 5th graders with their new iPads.  And somehow, a week (almost 2!) has passed, and I haven’t updated you.  Man–what was I thinking?  Oh yeah, I’ve been living in iPad mini world!

So…how’s it going?  That question is harder to answer than just a simple “yes” or “no,” because obviously this past week has had both its ups and downs.  Growing pains, maybe.  I realize that some (or maybe most) or our issues are related to the fact that this is all still so new, and figure they’ll work themselves out as we go along.  So I guess I’ll digest it all and share in terms of Highs and Lows.

Here we go:

HIGHS

1. From the first morning after we got our new learning tools (not toys!),  I was rethinking how we’d do things.  Not that it was a huge change, but I wanted them to be able to use their Minis from the second they walked in, and so put our morning agenda on the blog instead of on our screen.  They accessed it via a QR code that I put up instead.  It was really funny to see all the smiles on their faces as they walked in and saw what we were doing.

2. We have used a new app for our whiteboards during math!  We’re used to working out problems during small groups, but usually we’re fighting to find markers that work, spending lots of time getting them out and putting them away (not the best situation, but it happens, right?).  Now kids can easily open their Educreations app and work their problems, using different colors if they want, either writing with the pencil feature or typing with the keyboard.  Even better than that–we used the same app for a pre-assessment for our next unit!  With the recording feature of Educreations, students could read decimals to me, as well as work through multiplication and division problems and explain to me what they were doing while they did it.  A. MAZ. ING.   The only downfall?  I now have about 5 or 6 hours of videos to review…

3. Dropbox is making sharing and turning in documents super easy!  Thanks to my super-smart, tech-savvy friend Genie, who is along in this iPad Scout with me, my students and I share some folders in Dropbox that allow me to upload files to them to download and read (or mark up, using Notability, which we also discovered last week!), then upload to a different shared folder for me to review later.  Crazy, right?  It’s just the way I use Dropbox as an adult, which is great, too, because this is a real-life skill.  They were pretty much amazed by this whole deal.  I found it very cool because we could do something we would have done anyway in a new (and once we learn how it all works–more efficiently) way.

4. Our iPads fit right into what our fabulous art teacher is doing with her photography unit, but she doesn’t have to worry about figuring out a schedule for kids to share digital cameras or worry about taking time to upload all of their pictures.  They can take and then use all of the photographs they want, right on their iPads! Easy peasy. 🙂

5. We can blog at a moment’s notice!  This is probably the thing that I love the most, because we use our blogs to share and reflect upon our learning many times a day.  Previously, that meant making sure that everyone had a laptop (from the cart in our room and probably the cart next door, too), turning it on, waiting for it to turn on and be ready, going to our KidBlogs and logging  in, then writing, and repeating the whole thing in reverse.  Ok, so that’s really not hard, but it is time-consuming enough that it makes it inefficient to do more than once a day.  Now, they just pick up their iPad, which is right near them (and they were probably already using anyway), touch the app (which is always logged in as them and goes straight to their blog) and go!  They are writing more on their own than before, too, since they can add a new post about whatever they’re thinking about without having to go through that big “to do” that I mentioned previously.  WE LOVE KIDBLOG ON OUR IPADS!

6. We now have a way to do two more new things that are a part of our normal routine in a more efficient (and more motivating for some) way.  I have been wanting to look into using Google Docs and Google Forms for a while now, and I finally found a reason to do so!  On Mondays, we do something called It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (which I stole from some way-smarter-than-me people I connect with on Twitter), which is essentially just a way for readers to share with me and each other what they are reading and what page they are on.  I can then use that list to keep track of what readers are doing, and address needs that may arise.  We used to do it on a checklist that I keep, but now, using a QR code that sends them right to the link, kiddos do it on their own and send me the info!

Live view of our Google Form for It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Another thing that we now have in an electronic format is our Read Aloud Journals.  While we will not always complete them online (it’s not the best platform for every learner, nor can you record images you’re having while we read), it’s a great way for me to do check-ins and get a picture of what is going on in their heads during our Read Aloud time.  Kids love this one, too!  Plus, it’s just cute.  But not that that would ever by why I would do something. 🙂

So, overall, it’s been a great week with in our new 1:1 world.  I’m sure that I’ve forgotten something really innovative and fabulous that we did (and I’ll remember as soon as I post this!), but I couldn’t possibly put it all in one post, anyway.  Really quickly, though, I’ll share some lows.

LOWS

1. They’re new.  Just that mere fact that it’s a new “toy” means that everyone wants to fiddle.  And always touch the screen.  And figure out what settings they can change without breaking any rules.  And forget that they shouldn’t be app shopping during math class.  I’m hoping this wears off soon, as we really focus in on how this device can enhance our learning.

2. There have been some Wi-fi issues.  Even though the district did much up front work and we have amazing structures in place, putting this many more devices on the network at once is going to cause some hiccups.  It’s just annoying when those hiccups come right in the middle of trying to show 20 5th graders how to set up their Dropboxes.

3. Everything takes 10 times longer than you anticipate or want it to.  The Dropbox scenario that I just mentioned was nightmarish on Friday afternoon as we had to keep going back and forth from the Dropbox app to Dropbox.com to their email to access invite messages and back again.  It’s not that it’s anything new, or unlike what I had to do when I set up my own Dropbox, but their understandings are different (they also can’t envision how what I’m asking them to do will work in real life) since they haven’t used Dropbox before.  And then add in those wi-fi issues and we only go through 1/22 of what I wanted to do with them.  But then there’s a lesson in that, too.  Sometimes you have to put down the technology and walk away.  Or just do something the old-fashioned way that you know will work without the wi-fi connection. 🙂

Ok.  Enough for now.  My posts always end up WAY LONGER than I first plan, and this one is no different.  I leave with some questions for you:

1. What insights do you have to share with us after reading about our first experiences with 1:1 in our 5th grade classroom?

2. What suggestions do you have for us as we move into Week 2 and beyond?

# EDUC 573: Week 7–WebQuests, BYOD and Educational Equity

Yes, all those things have something in common.  Mainly that I learned about all of them this week. 🙂

One of the big projects for this class I’m taking is a WebQuest.  While the idea of a WebQuest is not a new one (the concept was created by Bernie Dodge in 1995), it’s a new one to me.  Somehow, I’ve gotten through all of my education thus far–including the teaching part–without having done one, using one or creating one.

One thing I wanted to make sure of was that I made a WebQuest that was actually applicable to my classroom and my students; this is hopefully true of all assignments in grad school, after all!   Eventually I landed on making it applicable to a science unit on animals we were about to begin, since it could be self-paced and open-ended like most of the other projects I assign in science.

Outside of the content piece of the project, there was also the process of using Google Sites to create the website housing the actual WebQuest.  The funny part to me while I was working was how much I had ragged on Google last week, and then how the usefulness of so many Google Apps became clear; if only my students had their Google Drives up and running so that they could download and save their papers to use later, or how they could better collaborate if they could use a Google Doc to record their research–at school or at home.  The whole hangup I had with it last week was that I couldn’t see the necessity of it or how it would work with elementary and all it took was one project where I needed it for it to all make sense!  That was the connection I was looking for, right there in front of me.

Another topic this week was the article Left to Their Own Devices by Jeff Weinstock (2010).  While the article was all about the rationale for BYOD, as well as the difficulties districts face in trying to figure it all out, I was touched by a completely different topic than that of the technology involved.  Rather than focusing on the money, time, or infrastructure involved in having students bring their own devices, I zeroed in on the educational equity piece of it all.

The article began:

At Empire High School in Vail, AZ, every student has a laptop, a fully loaded MacBook supplied free of
charge—to the student, at least—courtesy of the Vail School District. “We provide the entire experience,” says
Vail CIO Matt Federoff.
The 1-to-1 program is a cornerstone of Vail’s Beyond Textbooks
initiative, whose goal is an all-digital curriculum. So facing the decision on whether to expand the program to
another of its high schools, Cienega, the district made the obvious choice: No way.

Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but to me it seems that one school got the whole package of a 1:1 roll out and the other got nothing. While I completely agree that the definition of fair is not “same,” the scenario seems a little unfair to me.  What if I can’t bring my own device to school?  What if I don’t have one?  What if my phone only makes phone calls and isn’t “smart?”   Should I not be allowed to access the curriculum?

I agree that the whole topic of technology in schools and BYOD and 1:1 is not that simple, it’s not a black/white thing with easy answers.  Perhaps the school district was making a good decision in going 1:1 in one place and not another, there could be more to the story that I don’t know.  But isn’t one reason for going 1:1 in the first place to level the playing field?  To give all students an equal chance?

Ok, now I’m rambling….so I’ll ask you: what connection to you see between BYOD, 1:1 initiatives and educational equity?  Tell me your stories and share your thoughts. 🙂

# EDUC 573: Week 6–Google Anyone?

I am becoming more tech-savvy as time goes on.  For me, the best way to tackle anything new is to jump in fearlessly with both feet, get really wet and figure it out as I go.  Building the plane as I fly it, so to speak.  Not without purpose or meaning, but without having to know all of the ins-and-outs before I am willing to get started.

I’m far enough into my teaching career that I learned long ago that I didn’t have all the answers.   And honestly, I didn’t even try to fake it very long because kids are smart.  They know when you don’t know, and how much more freeing is it when we admit that?  When we learn together and not pressure ourselves to know everything.  I LOVE that it’s known that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.  I think I’ve said before (even here!) that it’s our room, not my room.

Well, then, it didn’t take long on this new tech journey to figure out that I may have times when I don’t really know what’s going to come next, or what to do about it when something goes wrong.  But I’m ok with that.  Like I said in the beginning, for me the best learning is in-the-moment-getting-really-messy learning.  I have to see it and talk about it and try it for it to make sense.  And even with technology this works.  Nothing has broken beyond repair yet, and no one has died as I’ve tried new things.  And we’ve even had a little fun.

So I mentioned that this week was about all things Google.  Well, it was about other things, too, but Google’s the thing I’m having the hardest time dealing with.

Let me explain…

We also read an article this past week by “Orchestrating the Media Collage” (Ohler, 2009).  In it, he talked about how the definition of literacy is changing, and that “being able to read and write multiple forms of media and integrate them into a meaningful whole is the new hallmark of literacy.”  He had many great points about how important writing is to the thinking process (and as much as you know I love writing, you know I totally agreed with that!), and about how quickly people (educators) these days abandon the tried-and-true for the brand new, not necessarily thinking about the consequences.  He noted that one of the most important things we need to be able to do is to know just what tool to use and when; I agree with this statement related to all things education, not just technology.  Having a toolbox full of sharp tools is crucial to any teacher, and knowing just when to pull out which tool for which job is even more important.

And so here’s my Google connection…

This week we also played around with Google Apps for Educators.  Here’s where I will boldly tell you that I am not a fan of Google Docs (I know–gasp!).  As I wrote in my discussion board post this week:

Ok, so I want to like Google Docs.  I really do.  But I’m just not sold yet.

I have been dabbling for a little while, but until this week I hadn’t really looked in earnest at the how/why/what, etc. of how Docs could work in the classroom.  I have participated in Google Docs collaboration as an adult (mainly in staff meetings and as a means of rewriting our school’s mission statement with a small group of teachers), but haven’t seen any examples of how to use it with my students in a way that makes sense to me.  In many of the videos and such I’ve seen online, the scenarios involve high school or middle school, which is obviously a very different world than I live in.  Every kid in my school has a Google account (given to them by the district), so they have access to their own Google Drive.  I know that could be a place to store our work rather than fussing with the server we usually use, but even the logistics of getting that all initially set up makes my head hurt.  Here’s another bit of brutal honesty about Google Docs–I’m a font snob and the way they look is so unappealing!  As a visual learner (and just being me in general), aesthetics and look matter to me and not having the same options as in Word or Pages is a major reason why I haven’t yet jumped in with both feet.  I like the idea of collaborative writing–and writing is a passion of mine, too, so connecting it with tech could be a great marriage–but am not sure how yet to incorporate this.

So obviously I’m on the fence.  I want to commit, but haven’t yet seen enough that Google Docs does differently that what I’m already doing in other places or with other things.  Can you help convince me?  I’d love more elementary examples of real, meaningful work that can incorporate Google Docs or forms.

I got some suggestions for what to do from both classmates and my PLN on Twitter, but I’m still having the hardest time understanding how and when it makes more sense to use this  than what I’m already doing. I cannot seem to wrap my head around this whole “collaboration” thing with Google.  Maybe the hard part for me is that we are always collaborating in our learning, but I don’t see why we’d do it online when we could just talk to each other, or share a pen.  My students very rarely do projects at home (which is one place/time that I know is mentioned when talking about benefits), but maybe what’s also good is that whatever the file is that is being created can be accessed by everyone whenever they need it?  Like if someone is gone and they’re the one who has all the “stuff”–the rest of the group can still function?  Is that it? Even in that scenario, though, I can easily see how we could figure out a way around it using what we currently have in place.

Another classmate suggested that perhaps in the beginning I use my Google Drive more as an archive for my students, uploading documents and other things that they may need to see or reference for an assignment.  Someone else mentioned how there is the capability to add other fonts to use in your Docs, which is encouraging to me.

But I’m still not convinced that right now is the right time for me to make the jump into this part of the Google world.  I don’t want to be too quick to abandon my tried-and-true for the brand-new, just because I hear that I’m “supposed to.”  I guess for now I will continue to dabble, perhaps by trying another Google App that makes more sense to me.  I am thinking about installing Google Reader, and am also working a little with Google Sites because of this class I’m taking; I can see benefits with both of these apps really easily.  Perhaps after a little more time spent swimming around in the shallow end of this pool, I’ll be ready to jump in deep and give Docs a try.

What advice to you have for this Google newbie?  Which is your favorite Google app to use with your students?  Why do you love it?  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s willing to share, but especially from elementary teachers who are farther on this journey than me and loving it.  Share your thoughts in a comment below! 🙂

# EDUC 573: Week 2–Edmodo and Twitter

Hopefully it will not come as a surprise when I say that I am a life-long learner.  I feel like it oozes out of my pores, and that if you spend more than 5 minutes with me, you get that vibe.  At least that’s what I hope.

And so I also hope that it’s not a surprise that the learning I’m most interested in these days is related to technology.  I’ve written about some of it already , in the form of how my kids are blogging, and I’m sure that somewhere farther back I explained how I got to the place that I am now with using technology in my classroom (and if I haven’t, I’m sure I’ll decide to write about it!).

This post is the second one for the class I’m taking right now: EDUC 573–Applications of Technology.  It’s a requirement for my Masters; even though my focus is not tech, it’s a topic helpful to every teacher these days.  And even in just two weeks, I’ve already learned about and tried countless things!  I’m beyond excited about “having” to do things that I’m interested in doing anyway.

So that brings me to my goal from last week.  I was most excited about beginning to use my blog “in-the-moment” and pledged that I’d try something on it the next day.  Which I did, indeed.  This week my class reflected on themselves as learners and wrote their own goals, and we used the blog for our ActivActivity in math rotations two different times this week.  And so far I’d say I LOVE IT!  Kiddos loved seeing their work all right there in one place (rather than all spread out on their individual blogs), and I loved it for the same reason.  We could quickly review what we had shared, and compare our thinking.  There have already been several other suggestions for how we might continue to use this together.  Love that my kiddos are such great thinkers, but I love even more that they know I’ll listen to and incorporate their ideas into what we do.  It is, after all, OUR classroom, not just mine.

The topic this week was related to becoming familiar with and beginning to use learning management systems in the classroom.  We investigated both Moodle and Edmodo, and considered how they could be used in the classroom to enhance the learning that’s already happening.  And that’s the key, I think, to any tech that you’re using–it should complement the learning goals you already have.  It should be the learning goal, nor should it come first.  I also think that it’s key that whatever you add be easy to use.  And for that reason, I am excited to start playing around with Edmodo in our classroom.

Edmodo is a learning management system that is comparable to “Facebook in the classroom.”  It’s a safe, private, focused way for a class to communicate on a topic, and has countless features useful to teachers, students and even parents.  I think that the first thing I’ll do (after a suggestion from a colleague) is give them some time to see what it can do.  I am sure they’ll figure out alot of the ins and outs very quickly.  Next my plan is to start literature circle conversations on Edmodo.  We’re just about to start them anyway, and it would make sense as a starting place.  I’m excited to see the difference in depth that may happen when kids have a chance to put their thoughts in writing this way.  And as always happens, I’m sure someone will come up with a great idea for what to do with it next.

Aside from the LMS, we also read the article “Taking the Digital Plunge” by Bill Ferriter (2009).  And while I originally focused in on a quote about how quickly finding like-minded learners helped me want to jump in and get my feet wet with tech, this one might even be more meaningful:

Connecting with colleagues online has helped me explore skills and dispositions necessary for
networked cooperation—skills like finding partners beyond borders, making my own thinking transparent,
revising positions on the basis of feedback, accessing valuable information from colearners, and
creating shared content. It has profoundly changed the way I learn.

This week alone, I’ve signed up and am starting to use Edmodo, created the template for my eportfolio, added over 50 links to my delicious account, and planned a Mystery Skype for next week with a teacher in my PLN on Twitter.   I believe these are all powerful tools that used by both me and my students to make connections.

I’m excited to see what continues to come out of this learning I am “having” to do here.  It’s so much fun it doesn’t seem at all like work!

What have you learned this week about technology?  Have you read “Taking the Digital Plunge?”  What did you learn?  Have you tried Edmodo, Twitter, delicious or Mystery Skype?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

# Robinson Goes HOLLYWOOD!

See the guy in this picture?:

Well, he’s a movie-maker.  A real one.   Ok, I don’t think he’s a Hollywood movie maker, but he does work at a local university as a filmmaker, and he was making a movie with footage of our class!

Our school is working on a movie to highlight the fabulous things we do each day with teaching and learning, and I was asked to talk about how technology has changed the way I teach and the way kids learn in my classroom.  I did a short piece earlier in the day, and then he came to take some shots of us as we utilized the iPads during our math rotations.  My kiddos were pretty excited about being famous!  Can’t wait to see the finished video that showcases the amazing things that happen at our school every day.  It’s a fabulous place to work and learn!

Here are a few more that I took while he was there:

I took this opportunity to introduce my friends to QR codes, which they were really excited about using!