Thursday, July 10, 2014

My power point link.


In my opinion, this project still keeps me in the techno-traditionalist category. My goal is to become a techno-constructivist and for the first time I think that this might be an attainable goal for me. I think that this project is going to change the way that I teach and the way that my students learn.. My project has not even  begun to scratch the surface as to how I will be using this into my classroom.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Final Project

A few years ago, my principal asked the math and science teachers if we would be willing to spend four weeks in the summer learning about technology in the classroom. The bonus was that we would receive computers for our classrooms. I will do pretty much anything to get free stuff for my students so I readily agreed along with all the other teachers. I was happy to commit to the four weeks but I was so out of my comfort zone. I knew nothing about computers and technology, but the promise of thirteen new computers in my classroom was too good to pass up. I have gotten much better since that summer but not nearly where I should be. Technology is something that I am uncomfortable using as a teacher. I do use it, and so do my students but I have not embraced it, until this year in graduate school. My first class in graduate school I had to create a blog. I had never even been on a blog let alone create one. I immediately felt inferior to the other teachers in the room. My fears were unfounded however. I found myself surrounded by people who were willing to help me. I gained some confidence. Through out the year I have had to blog in other classes, take an online class, and learned to use excel as an assessment tool. I have gained both knowledge and confidence along the way. However this class has actually changed the way that I think about technology. For the first time I feel convicted to change the way that I teach. The first time I watched Mike Wesch's YouTube video, "A Vision of Students Today" was during a family dinner. One of my daughters showed the video after dinner one night and we had a lively conversation about it's message.I had a different reaction however when I watched it recently.When Wesch is writing on the chalkboard at the end of the video, I saw myself. I really don't write on a chalkboard but sometimes I want things to go back to the "chalkboard" times. They were easier for me. I was confident teaching on a chalkboard. But that is not what is best for my students.


I teach in a school that over 80% of students receive free or reduced lunch. Many students do not speak English at home. Some of my kids do not even have a home at all. They certainly are not digital natives.  When I read Danah Boyd's article, I clearly saw myself as a digital immigrant but because of the circumstances that my students live in I know that they are digital immigrants as well. The responsibility is on me to lead the way for these children to become competitive with the students from higher income neighborhoods and schools. Patrick Finn would argue that, these kids are not able to get the knowledge and support that they need at home or at school. It is my job to try and level that playing field for their future success. Wesch's message is clear. Technology is coming fast and hard and I need to make my students ready to receive it.
We were all asked the question, what does media literacy look like? There have been so many different things that I have learned these past two weeks it is going to take me a long time to go through it all, but this is the first time that I am looking forward to doing just that.
One aspect of media literacy that my students are pretty good at is in the realm of social media. They are constantly engaged in different forms of social media. They are secretly texting in school or they are on Facebook, Snap Chat, and Twitter till all hours of the night. They are even communicating on X Box with each other. The term friend has a new meaning, one I don't really understand. One thing I do understand is that I am staring to believe that we as educators and administrators need to rethink the use of smart phones in the classroom. I am starting to agree with our guest speaker Dr. Josh Stenger, when he suggests why not let the students use their phones in the classroom for learning purposes?  As I stated in an earlier Blog, I allowed my students to use their phones to go on Pinterest and to search the web to decorate for the eighth grade dance. The results were amazing.
 I am  also aware of the dangers of too much social media. Sherry Turkle makes a valid point when she states that social media has made conversation a lost skill. This spring we took the whole school to Mystic Aquarium. The principal told the kids that they had to leave their phones and other electronic devices at school, nothing on the bus. Some of my students brought this up in class and asked if I would intervene. I said no. One student asked how long the ride was and I informed him that it was about an hour ride. Another kid asked me what was he supposed to do for an hour with no phone. I told him to talk to his friend. Other students chimed in that was boring.
A few years ago the city of Cranston decided to use the DANA center out of the University of Texas at Austin to develop a new science curriculum. There are many opinions whether or not this was a wise choice but the bottom line is that it is what I have to follow. One of the results was that we were left with no textbooks. At first we all thought that this was a good thing. Science textbooks become out of date so rapidly anyway, and we were always criticizing how poorly put together the textbooks were. We did not think that we would miss having a textbook at all. We were wrong. For the population of students that we have, textbooks are necessary. Students need them at home to help them study, to go over things that they learned in class. The science departments in all three middle schools asked for books but we were turned down.
Another part of the picture is that Cranston is piloting a new ELL model for the state.All sheltered ELL learners will be in a classroom with both a content teacher and an ELL teacher. I have been asked to be a part of this new initiative.
My dilemma  for textbooks got more complicated. Until two weeks ago when Flexbooks were introduced to me. For the past four or five days I have spent hours investigating the Flexbook site. There is so much information. The beauty of it is that I never have to really complete it, I can just keep adding to it and modifying it to meet the needs of my students.
I am in completely new territory. I have no idea what my classroom is going to look like. I am also teaching 7th and 8th grade next year so I will also be learning the 7th grade curriculum. Flexbooks will make this easier for me. There will be so many resources that I can choose from. So far I have modified two chapters on the metric system. I have looked at some interactive assessments and some labs which I plan on using. I will be able to put my classes into groups which will be helpful. They can work with each other online at home or maybe even with me. Many of my students are unable to stay after school for extra help because they have to take care of a younger sibling. I am thinking that I might have a set time for a group chat. I have peer tutoring after school. It might be possible for this to occur on line as well. Another feature of this program that I am excited about is that when I modified my Flexbook, I could press a button and it could be translated into many different languages. So far there are five different languages spoken in my new class next year. All of those languages are on the Flexbook site. I asked a friend to check the Spanish translation and she told me that all my modifications were translated. I am psyched about this. Science concepts are pretty universal. This might make it possible for some of the parents of my students to help their kids with their homework. Finally, the book can be used online or it can be printed for kids who have no technology resources at home.
I am not implying that this site will be the end to all of my problems  and I am positive that I am going to make many mistakes this year, but I am excited to get started. I think that my ELL teachers will be excited as well. I am going to complete the metric unit in the next few weeks and then meet with my team to see what they think. If they like what I have done I will move on to another topic. My goal is to have two units done for both 7th and 8th grades by Christmas break.....we'll see!
When I was creating my Pecha Kucha, I stared to reflect on what a journey this year has been for me especially with technology. Ken Robinson, states in one of his TED talks that "if you are afraid to be wrong you will never come up with anything original." I think that is one of the most important things that I have learned on this process. I tell my students that all the time that the best inventions have been made from mistakes. I am beginning to take my own advice. This is my favorite Ken Robinson TED talk, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" My goal this year is to get my students to focus on the process, not just the product.