Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reaching Out

Most of the people reading this realize this is a blog written primarily for the class "Creating a Digital Classroom". I have grown to enjoy this blog, so don't fall under the impression that this is just a blog full of different assignments. However, I feel I do need to mention some of the assignments I have been doing for the class, that way my "Professors" know that I am doing the required work.

One of my assignments was watch some of the NECC 2008 presentations. I went to NECC this year and it was very informational. However, watching some of the presentations I missed has sparked a desire to continue on this tireless crusade to change education to fit the needs of the 21st century. Here are two prenentations I observed and caused me to think differently about things..

Taking it Global: http://www.takingitglobal.org/home.html

I am not going to give you anything you can't read for yourself on the web page. I just joined and am anxious to see what evloves out of my membership. I am cautioning myself though. Taking it Global seems big and at times overwhelming. I want to get to that stage, but I thought I could get my students talking across my own district, county, and state; then eventually grow to bigger projects such as Taking it Global. Another barrier is the age of my students. Although fourth graders are becoming more independent, they are not completley there yet and need a lot of help and guidence when participating in large projects presented on this site. Check it out, I am going to. Maybe we can do a project together.

David Warlick: http://davidwarlick.com/wordpress/?page_id=2

David Warlick is one of the greats, but his message is similar to others: Preparing students for a future in the 21st century means
changing the way we do things in education. Warlick specializes in literacy in the 21st century (blogging is his specialty) and has a lot of links to brain research (one of my favorite topics). He's got a good site and is worth checking out.

Alan November: http://www.novemberlearning.com/

I saw Alan November in person during NECC. He is well worth the hour of sitting. A couple cool things I learned from him. (1) www.kiva.com - This is a site where people invest thier money into a thrid world country buisness, and the investors/ givers actually get paid back with a small amount of interest. How cool is it when we give to ones less fortunate and they can give back. (2) This fun little tidbit: When you google the word "november", Alan hopes to be in the top 10 hits. Today he was fourth. He said he will always be below Wikipedia, but that is just because of Google and Wikipedia's buisness partnership. Go ahead try it. See where he is on the day you google him.

Okay, nothing earthshattering or life changing I know, but definitely thought provoking. Below is the site to the NECC podcasts which has links to the three confrences I watched. Oh, and by the way, when you are watching the podcasts, try to get someone to watch with you. That way you can chat as you watch (makes it more enjoyable and more 21st centuryish).


Sunday, October 19, 2008

How to Run a TRC Classroom

This title is misleading. You might think that I will give you a detailed plan to run a technology classroom flawlessly... I won't. I will give you some of the tools I have relied on heavily that helped me manage my classroom.

Port - a - Portals


A site that I have linked to my class web page. Anytime I have a link I want to use in class, I just send the students the our class port - a - portal, and there we are.

Google Pics

I love this Google feature, and so do my students. We put vocab words into the image and quickly find picture relating to our topic, person, vocabulary word. Google images is one way our learning has come life.

Fun Brain/ Math Brain


My students start at their own grade level or a grade level lower, and work their through the different games. This is a good game when you have some extra time during math where students are engaged and they are learning at the same time. Students love Math Brain.

I realize these are not the newest or latest resources on the web, but they help me in simple ways to manage my classroom. Hope these are helpful.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Father's Dilema

My father turns 60 on Monday. My mind is on him and his life. Basically, he is like millions of other American dads... grew up in the 60s, loved the Beatles, fought in Vietnam, came home, met his wife, settled down and raised a family. What makes my dad different, he's my dad!!!

No really, my father lived a life that consisted of the evening news and the morning paper. When my dad took off in his fuel delivery truck everyone morning, he left human contact behind, not to be bothered again that night. My dad lived a very contented life, not hectic and not complicated.

My dad's life in 2008 looks much different. My dad's favorite channels are CNN and the Weather Channel. He flips back and forth between the two so he can constantly be updated on the news of the world and weather in our region. My dad can no longer use his truck as a get away from problems or stressed of life because everyone has his cell phone number. He thinks there is something suspicious with the computer (Internet) and does not like his grandkids being on it all the time. My dad no longer enjoys the hard work he does for his job, nor does he respect his boss. "There's too much change, " he states. "Everything is on the computer. I just can't keep up."

My dad doesn't feel like he fits into this computerized world. So what does that mean for the next 20 years of his life? Will he simply stop living? (I hope not.) So why am I blogging about my father, a man who has no clue on what a blog even is, when I am suppose to be talking about a technology rich classroom? I am focused on helping our students flourish in this digital world we live in, but I am just as determined to help the "digital immigrants" stay afloat. I get tired of hearing my elder peers say, " I don't have a brain like yours. I can't keep up?" I know the world looks different. I know things have changed, but Baby Boomers, you have a lot to offer. Don't just give up on the world and its digital way - dabble in it. If you don't, the younger generations won't hear your wisdom and your experience. I know the Internet can be an overwhelming experience at first, but swim in it once and a while. Look at what the generation of today is doing, there are some good things out there. I know you don't understand blogs, but come visit mine. You'll see I bragged about you and your hard work and determination.

To those who are new to the digital way of doing things, my hat is off to you. Your generation started the "free thinkers" movement in the 60s. Your generation helped our country to flourish. Your generation invented the Internet. Thank you for all the things you have done. Stay in tuned to the digital age so that my generation and the one after me can continue on with your successes in the digital way. Don't disconnect from us, please.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lessons from A Technology Rich Classrooms

Let me just say right now, this is my very first blog post and I have been putting this off for over a year. So it is time for me to reflect on what I have learned from managing, facilitating, and being part of a Technology Rich Classroom.

Lesson 1: Never rely on your plans working perfectly. Have things go they way you want them, HOW BORING!

Starting from the from the first day my technology classroom was implemented technology (last year) to last week, technology always has a chance of failing. So what do you do, you keep moving on. So you can't get to the web site you wanted, you go to Kan - Ed or Google and quickly find another educational site for the students to look at. So you can't get a creative program to work, you pull out markers and crayons and tell the students to do the rough draft on paper. So half you class cannot log in to their computers, you turn your assignment into a partner assignment. Two heads are better than one.

Lesson 2: You are no longer smarter than the kids. Who wants to be smarter than 4th grader anyway?

This is one of the toughest lessons for seasoned teachers. This is one of the toughest lessons for arrogant adults. This is one of the toughest lessons for human beings period. Nobody wants to be outdone by those below them, not teachers, not adults, not even 4th grade students... but with technology and all that it has to offer, you no longer can know it all. I had to learn to let go of making my precise lesson plans and let my students figure out some of the details along the way. On that journey of letting go, I learned loads of new stuff too. I also fostered great leaders. My students suddenly became teachers, mentors and leaders to their classmates. It was wonderful lesson, a little frightening a times, but a huge stress off my shoulders. Chaos you say, I say creativity.

Lesson 3: You are never there... and you are never done.

In most things you reach a certain point, and you are there. Well not in technology. I faced a terrifying realization last year... I will never be there. As long as I teach with technology, focusing on engaging students, and creating an environment stimulating to the mind I will never be done either. Does this thought seem overwhelming? Yes it does... but it also seems satisfying. I am a teacher, not a cook, a mechanic or lord forbid an engineer. What I mean is I can't just cook a meal, clean up, and call it good. I can't just work on a vehicle all day, and when the clock strikes 5:00 I'm out of there. I can't leave work at the office and get paid overtime for the evenings and weekends I put in. I am never done cooking up ideas, I never call it quits, and I very rarely get paid overtime. That is the crazy, beautiful thing about teaching, especially teaching with technology.

One more note: A huge thank you to the engineers, cooks, and mechanics who do work overtime overtime to make our lives better; who do cook meals, clean up and get ready for the next one; and to the ones who put in extra hours just to make our lives better. Thank you.