Category Archives: technology

Global StemX Conference

Global STEMx Education Conference

Please join us for the Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference, the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being be held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend! STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching. More information at the conference website, http://www.stemxcon.com.

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Map Making with #CLMOOC

Cycle 3 of the Connected Learning MOOC in Google+ is calling upon participants to create a map and share it with the community.  I thought I would try again with Prezi and this time I found success.

After spending hours weeding my flower gardens, I took some pictures and in the air conditioned comfort of my computer room, I created a map of something called a #LearningWalk.  It was yet another opportunity for reflection.

Gail's_Garden

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#clmooc – Mapping In Cycle 3

I am developing my thinking and creating new products with the #clmooc, Making Learning Connected, based in Google+ and running most of the summer.  Since this is only my first real day of summer vacation, I feel I am right where I need to be with this project.  I created a few artifacts for Cycle 1 and never made any for Cycle 2, the week of toy hacks

This week in Cycle 3, we are asked to create a map.  There’s a part of my head that is always running through ideas for a science based curriculum.  It makes sense to tackle the project early so I can bring it where I want it to be by summer’s end.  Creating a visual plan or map should serve me well.  I am a visual person. (I swear I could learn almost anything from a video.)

I am using Google Docs to create my spreadsheet. That means I need to get refreshed on shortcut keys. While a right-click helps me everywhere else in my world it seems, Google Docs wants you to use their Control-whatever keys for everything.  No biggie, but just as I find it odd moving from a Mac to a PC, from MS Office to Open Office or Google Docs, I move on a bit more slowly than I would like.  That is the part of projects I like the least.

What do I like best?  The part where I go inside my head and shuffle thoughts around.  I am an intrapersonal learner, preferring to work alone.  So mulling over tools and docs and connections all by myself works well.  Of course an overnight reflection can cause me to throw the whole thing out, but I digress, yet again.

And now I have a call to action by #clmooc.  This spreadsheet and the LiveBinder that goes with it are works in progress and their development will extend well beyond the start of the next school year.  I am always looking for great resources to help bring the learning home to my students so be sure to share some of your own ideas.

It’s never too late to join in the action on Google+ #clmooc.  With so much of the summer left to go, you really should check out the fun and interactions with teachers from all over the world!

science_curric

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Cranky!

crankyfaceYeah that’s me. Cranky!

Every day I read amazing, energized posts and reflections by teachers all across the country.  They are excited by their practice and seem to have so much fun teaching a fresh new approach to curriculum.  I however, am feeling my time in the classroom must be coming to a close. I don’t feel the drive and energy that once fueled my work as an educator of 27 years. I suspect I would be better off not reading all these posts because they make me feel more discouraged.  The most popular posts are from a core of educators who seem to have the world by the tail.

Not only do they love their jobs, but they seem to be devising their own curricula. I don’t hear any frustrations with the expectations coming down from administrators, the state, and the Common Core.

I, however, am feeling the strain. We have weekly COP (community of practice) sessions during one of our prep periods.  Our focus is always on drilling down the standards and discussing how we are meeting the Common Core. We never actually share our own personal ideas on practice. When we talk about developmentally appropriate practice, it’s just a reflection on how the academics have pushed off play time. Early childhood educators KNOW that play IS learning in a truly integrated sense.

The bloggers I follow also enjoy tremendous tech advantages. I just finished reading a post by a teacher who has an interactive white board and 1 to 1 iPads in her kindergarten class. She is not alone. Many other bloggers have great tech tools and take them for granted.

This particular blogger has Skype conversations where the classes can actually see each other on the IWB and stay engaged. Try doing that (as I have) with a poor quality projector on a pull down screen or on a laptop. It’s a lot harder to feel connected when you can’t see who’s doing the talking.

I would love to see a study or survey of the equipment and tech kindergarten and other primary grade teachers have in their classrooms. It’s not reasonable to put out a call on Twitter because so many teachers are not present there. Their PLNs are teachers in their schools and districts, if they have a PLN at all. Connected teachers are not the reality. In my school, we only have 2 out of 35 teachers who have Twitter accounts that are active and follow educators. Most folks are on Facebook but not as part of a PLN.

There are entire collections of apps and Symbaloo webmixes for well-connected teachers, in well-funded programs. I have access to a COW of laptops for one hour a week. The laptops are updated only rarely so many sites don’t work at all. Installing updates is essential, as so many sites and plugins get updated, but our part-time tech guy doesn’t get to that. He’s too busy putting out fires  during his 1:30 – 3:30 shift. After that, he goes back to being the custodian. I have updated the computers a few times this year myself but that just feels wrong when I have so many other things to do that directly improve my student’s learning.

Our district has always kept the fiscal focus on keeping staff, not buying tech or even maintaining the tech we have. Even our supply budgets have been cut by more than half of what they used to be 10 years ago. Much of what we have is low bid and refurbished. The bandwidth is a huge problem. The other afternoon, I continued an after school PD tech session with some teachers on blogging. The refurbished Macs with one gig of ram were incredibly slow. Boy, do I hate that beachball! My iPad blows these school hardware tools out of the water but I don’t plan to make that a school tool.

Would anyone care to comment? Here are a few questions that come to mind.

  • How much of school budgets get swallowed up by the needs of the Common Core?
  • How much of our PD time is focused on writing and re-writing goals so they are aligned with the Common Core and use a smart goal formula?
  • How much of our PD time is spent working on evaluation tools and creating data so others can see what we do for a part of our day?
  • How much of a student’s day gets swallowed up working toward a good score on a high stakes test created by an ed reform business?
  • Why have we veered away from student inquiry in favor of chasing smaller targets of learning?
  • When did people stop looking to the teacher for the best ideas on reform and curriculum for educating children?
  • When did PLAY become a waste of a student’s time?

I curate Scoop.it Kindergarten and posts on the importance of play always make it into the curation. I hope I can bring the creative aspect of play into a science based integrated curriculum next year. I will no doubt have to leave the expected activities and pacing that are plaguing our schools now. The revised curriculum will bring in more inquiry and exploration. The students will be engaged with learning about things in our world and will gradually build the necessary communication skills through reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities. Science based activities already use an abundance of math work.

My heart and mind know that I can get my students where they each need to be, where each student is learning at her own pace, and with her own unique challenges and support. This cranky teacher is not able to do that in the current climate of big business and the Common Core.

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We Need Africa!

Anyone with Clustrmaps can see that the continent is just not engaged in the collaborative conversations we are having. There are millions of people on this large continent. Where are the little dots that spread across our maps almost everywhere but Africa?

The graphic representation of Clustrmaps really brings the message home. The only dots visible on the continent of Africa are along the coast. When we talk about how far we have come over the last few decades in terms of outreach and technology, we forget that there are people, especially children, who don’t get an education, people who don’t have access to technology.

Looking at the big picture, we can readily understand that there are some fundamental needs at the head of the line for our attention, things like food, clean water, health care, and safety. Some world organizations are helping.

One of my favorites is Ryan’s Well Foundation. (Supported in my sidebar) It was started by a young boy, now a college student, who wanted to take action to help some needy folks on the other side of the world.)

In this ever-changing world, we just can’t allow the gap to grow exponentially, year after year.

We are educators.
What can we do?
How can we help level the playing field and get these folks living, learning, and growing  alongside us?

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100 Day Fun!


Early childhood teachers know the excitement that surrounds the 100th day of school and our class had plenty of fun and excitement. We started the day on the Mac laptops, just as we do every Thursday. We explored Getty Games, ABCYa!, and finished up with Build Your Wild Self. All of these are fun for the kids and they have so many choices to make for creating their own experiences. I enjoy watching them work and play while providing tech support. Our parent volunteer and our para are extra hands as well.

We did at least 100 exercises. Along with the usual push-ups and crunches we did loads of jumping jacks. All children should do jumping jacks at the start of their day. The exercise really oxygenates the brain and is fantastic for getting ready to learn. Any exercises that call for coordination and crossing the midlines of the body will help the brain be more available for learning new things.

Then we moved on to their collections of 100 objects brought from home. They worked on displaying their items so they could prove they had 100. We had some cool results. Several kids made 10 rows of 10 – pennies or marbles. Others made 10 groups or piles of 10 – legos or bow tie pasta. Being accurate in representing data is important and trying to display 100 green army guys was quite a challenge for one student so he opted for the pile method. Another child had trouble displaying his collection of small books as he needed too much of the floor space. So we talked about how many 10’s are in 20 and then made overlapping rows with 20 in each.  We checked by counting each row as two of the 10 counts.

Next, we moved on to creating our 100 Day crowns. These came out just  beautifully. (As I write this, I realize how few pictures I am taking these days. The children have so much to say and do and share with me that I never get to record cool projects like this.) This project continued after lunch as the children were wonderfully creative in their design ideas.

As if they didn’t have enough fun, they spent their Specials time in Art, always a big hit. A quick snack and 20 minutes out in the cold and snow for recess took the edge off their energy and prepared them for a great Choice time.

My friend and mentor teacher Kevin recently completed some puppet shows with all four of his grade 6 classes. When they were finished, we got the puppets!! I set up a drape to act as a curtain and children lined up on both sides of it to create spur of the moment puppet shows. It was great! They expressed themselves in totally new ways. I like to see the growth in the children through the year. We have reached the place where they feel really comfortable with each other and want to take the reins. And their love for school is so heartfelt. One boy told me that he and another boy talked with each other and they never want to go to first grade because they love our class so much. Mrs. Piper and I feel the same way about them.

As for the puppet shows, well, tomorrow is Fun Friday so time with the puppets is in order as well as the Valentine Arts & Crafts projects.  I’ll really try to take some long overdue pictures. You’ll be able to find them over at Mrs. Poulin’s Blog.

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