April 18, 2011

Global Interactions & Global Collaborations

In Maine we have a Social Studies expectation that students understand the geography, economics and diversity of the community, Maine, the United States, and various regions of the world. This progression from local to the country to the continents of the world is pursued using Google Earth and other classroom geography tools. In the last two years I have been looking for ways to encourage 3rd and 4th grade teachers to incorporate global collaboration as a regular part of our curriculum. I see this as an expansion from our state learning "parameters" to learning that includes 21st Century global awareness and involvement.  Several years ago I started using the Journey North materials with our K-1 classes and found interest in some 2nd & 3rd grade classes learning about life cycles and our seasons. This year all of the 3rd grade classes are taking part in the Mystery Class module and they are finding it an expanded opportunity to explore geography and climate information about places around the world. Conversations about latitude, photoperiod, the equator, the Poles, the rotation of the Earth are all taking place as students try to determine the location of ten Mystery Classes

I would like to explore adding a Flat Classroom aspect to this participation that involved direct communication once the students have all figured out the locations of the Mystery Classes. How might we do this? I would like to start using Edmodo with pilot 3rd and 4th grade classes in the fall to develop links between classrooms and to support collaboration on Google Docs for a shared project that had the conversation going in Edmodo. If we find this works for classes then we can expand the idea beyond our school to connecting with other schools. We could also create a Voicethread and invite the Mystery Classes and the classes that are trying to identify the Mystery Classes to contribute a photo about their location and student comments around it. I have just joined the Journey North Ning and I will see if there is any interest in the Voicethread idea. To make it truly within the guidelines of a Flat Classroom Project there would need to be more than a Voicethread, but I hope to try it as a start.

April 5, 2011

A Sample Day as an Instructional Technology Integrator

What do I do all day? Sometimes I am asked if I have a job description and I don't actually have one. This is a job that varies day-to-day and keeps changing over the months. Here's a snapshot of today:

7:45 - Elmo demonstration in the Lab - Teachers who have had this document camera in their rooms came and showed the possible uses for it to teachers who are interested in using the new ones we recently purchased. Lots of excitement for sharing and teaching from Math journals, writing samples and more.
8:15 - Moved the Elmo to a 2nd grade classroom and set it up for use during the first class of the day.
Hallway conversation about Photo Booth for recording reading fluency with the Literacy Specialist who is new to Macs this year. We agreed to meet later in the day for me to show her how to video the student.
8:30 - A 2nd grade class used laptops in their room with the goal of writing an idiom, its meaning and adding an illustration. We are hanging on to using AppleWorks for this as it is the only program that allows students to add an illustration on the same page with text. The class had used Clicker Paint, but this was their first time on AppleWorks paint tools. They had a very easy time transferring their drawing experience to new program and the class of 20 students were able to finish and print in about a half an hour.
9:15 - 3rd grade classes are in the midst of a Biography unit and the students in the Lab today were looking for Internet photos that they added to a Pages document and wrote captions. These will be cut out and pasted on the characters they have been creating. The Lab printer is waiting for a part so due to printing issues we planned for the class to come back at 11:40 to finish.
10:00 - The 4th grade class across the hall had a sub so I helped her move the laptop cart and prepare for a Google Doc writing assignment of continuing their fiction stories.
10:15 - A 4th grade class came in to work on their fiction stories in their Google Docs and the teacher met with individual students for editing. I was able to check on the printer issue and fix it.
10:30 - A teacher came in with a question about Google Calendar and how to use the new Resource options to sign up for the Lab and the Carts.
11:00 - Went to Rowe School to help the School Counselor install NoteShare as she had been working with colleagues who were using it to keep notes on student interactions in an organized way. While I was there I dropped off some plastic bins I had bought at Target that we agreed to use to organize the Flipcams and their various parts.
11:40 - The 3rd grade class returned to finish their Internet photos and captions. Students who had finished were to pick a choice activity. I took note of their choices: Clicker Paint drawings, Timez Attack to practice multiplication facts ("This is surprisingly fun."), or Google Earth ("Are we allowed to do that?")
11:50 - Spent 10 minutes showing the Literacy Specialist how to use Photo Booth to record reading fluency.
12:00 - Went to a classroom to help a teacher with Gmail questions about "Undo" and adding a signature.
12:30 - Lunch and email check. Phone call from a teacher whose computer crashed - I setup a loaner, took it to her and packed hers for repair.
Email catchup. Wrote a Resource Calendar How To Sheet and sent an email about it.
Went to see the YES secretary about using the new Resource Calendar for the YES Conference Room.
1:30 - 2nd grade class used the videos and games I had set up online for a self-directed lesson on ideas in the Force & Motion unit they are doing.
The Literacy Specialist stopped in to tell me that Photo Booth had worked just as she had hoped with the student.
2:15 - 4th grade class came in for their second session on the program Scratch. I encouraged them to move to work with partners or share computers to work together. Ideas flowed and the kids worked through ideas and possibilities. For the last ten minutes they viewed each others projects. Many students have reported downloading the Scratch software at home.
3:15 - Met with two teachers about a grade level website that we have been working on all year as a place for descriptions of common experiences for students in 2nd grade.

I had an appointment so I left school at 3:45. Work at home tonight will include the Flat Classroom Certified Teacher Class online conversation for an hour, editing a biography interview for a 3rd grade class, some reading, and, and... While there isn't any job description, I treasure the opportunities, the connections and the learning that occur every day.

April 3, 2011

Flat Classroom Certified Teacher Course

Our reading for the course this week revisits the ideas of "push" and "pull" technologies. For my purposes there are so many resources that I could pick up and read that I prefer to use some form of "pull" to select certain items and have them come directly to my desktop. Several years ago I set up a Bloglines account and had feeds coming in from educators, technology colleagues, newspaper columnists and others. I rarely took the time to check the results and kept looking for ways to select the ones I would really read and learn from. Then came Google Reader and I could organize and winnow a bit. I still have both accounts, but my latest attempt at seeing many headlines and blog posts at a glance is m renovated iGoogle with my Google Reader gadget coming into it. I have set my iGoogle as the start page for my favorite browser and I am making a commitment to set aside pieces of time each week to scan and read.

My reality is that I most often use Twitter at a glance during my work day and I rely on the people I follow to send and resend links so that I don't miss too many posts. Some of the people I follow are in my Gmail Buzz and I value having their posts stay there in case I miss them in Twitter. My original reason for establishing a Personal Learning Network was that I am the only one in my district who does what I do. While I'm fortunate to have two colleagues who are also Instructional Integrators, I am the only one who is at the elementary level. I have an amazing colleague in Southern Maine in Bob Sprankle and he and I have sometimes collaborated on presentations at the annual fall MainED conference. There are other people I connect with who are geographically available for occasional face-to-face contacts, but much of my professional collaboration is online in some form.

Diigo for sharing bookmarks, reading and communities of learners is a "pull" tool that I can't imagine not having. The possibilities of tags for organizing, making lists & slideshows and sharing with groups make it essential to me. While I have taught Diigo in courses I teach, I have been trying to find a chance to introduce it to all of the faculty at school. I hope to be able to do that in May of this year.

This week I expect the arrival of my new iPad2 and I look forward to that as a new tool for viewing, reading, and occasionally responding to my learning network.