Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach

Sunday, December 03, 2006

K-12 Online Conferencing: Personal Professional Development
"Toward a System of Online Curriculum Development"

"Teachers are busy people," a quote from Robert Lucas and Kevin Driscal's podcast. The podcast I listened to basically summed up the generalization I have learned in my second semester of the School of Education. Even though I do not spend all my time in the classroom yet, I have already spent many hours planning lessons and preparing materials for my fifth grade class. Robert and Kevin's approach to sharing lessons online may become my new best friend as I transition to student teaching in the spring.

I also liked the quote that "it takes longer to find a quality lesson online than to plan one yourself." I couldn't agree more. I know I have it better than the teachers of the past because of my access to Google and all the education websites geared to help teachers. However, it is difficult to filter through what lessons are applicable in the classroom and which are less useful.

Giving teachers the opportunity to collaborate with a creative common license really captures the essence of what teaching is all about. Sharing ideas, tweaking them to your preference, and becoming reflective practicioners are key to creating good teachers. In the world of education, teaching is not a competition; it is a combined effort to prepare the youth of our society for the real world. Teachers main objective is to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to accomplish their goals and dreams, and teacher collaboration facilitates this unifed goal.

I plan to visit this site in the future and bookmark it as I prepare for the many upcoming lessons that I must plan and teach. Robert Lucas and Kevin Driscal have created an innovative approach to teaching that will help make the lives of teachers better throughout the world!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Implementation Project

Today I conducted my implementation project with my fifth grade students for my teaching with technology course. My lesson was designed to revisit concepts of absolute location using longitude and latitude. I used Hurricane Katrina data for my students to plot coordinates on a PowerPoint template I created.

I can begin by saying that my directions were clear and the lesson started out great! I reviewed concepts of longitude and latitude, and I even made my students perform a longitude and latitude dance to help them remember the direction of the lines. The students were engaged and excited. I had strategically planned partners for the students to minimize problems in the classroom, and I even had a few colleagues observe and help with my lesson.

Using the laptops was exciting for students, and they enthusiastically tackled the task. However, nothing can prepare a student teacher for the laptops that shut down in the lesson, the students who won't share the computers, and the overwhelming noise of the classroom. I am still an advocate for technology in the classroom, but I feel that individual use of technology must begin only when clear behavioral control have been established and asserted by the teacher in charge. I did everything I could to constantly redirect student attention to me, but the laptops were very distracting for the students.

Even though the lesson did not produce beautiful products for me to present, I can without a doubt, say that students were "learning." The most successful aspect of my unit was the review of longitude and latitude before the plotting of data points. One of my colleagues told me that she saw one of the students doing the longitude and latitude dance quietly to himself during the lesson, to help remind him the distinction between both lines. And, although technical difficulties impeded the progress, I saw engaged students who were working collaboratively.

My perfectionist tendencies will continue to be my best and worst enemy, especially as I prepare for next semester. It's disappointing when I teach a lesson that doesn't meet my expectations, but our mistakes and imperfections can provide a valuable learning experience for the future. I now know my students respond positively to technology, but I have to establish behavioral control in the classroom before I can implement some of the activities I have in store.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Science experiments + Blogging = Formula for Success

I stumbled across a blog the other day by Joseph Hartman about a neat science experiment that uses a blog to record student progress. Unfortunately I couldn't comment on his blog because it's restricted to team members, but I still thought it was worthwhile to share his work.

The assignment invovled students picking a experiment topic and then blogging daily to record progress and observations. So often as teachers we want to create and plan elaborate projects for our students, but we have a difficult time checking student progress and ensuring that they are not throwing the project together at last minute. If students had the opportunity and obligation to blog about their science experiment, they would be excited to see their progress and that of their classmates. I think Hartman really captured the essenence of using a blog when he wrote: "The unique properties of blogs is thus taken advantage of by allowing the outside world to see exactly what steps each student has taken in their experiment recreation (not to mention the students themselves having access to this information) which enables the audience to then judge the validity of the recreation almost immediately after each step has been taken (rather than after the entire experiment has been concluded)."

I also think this would be a neat addition to a science fair. Students could read up on their classmates blogs before attending the fair, and maybe even be required to prepare a few questions for certain students about their project.

Next semester when I teach a unit about the scientific method, my students are responsible for creating their own experiment. Maybe I will incorporate the blogging component to my project!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Student Produced Webpages

One of my assignments this semester is to spend at least 10 hours observing or teaching with technology. I have worked with Mr. Morse, the technology teacher at DJ Montague, and he has introduced a project with the fifth graders that I am really excited about. I wanted to directly quote his lesson plan to preserve the key elements:

"Each fifth grade class will be assigned a habitat--Ocean, Rainforest, Desrt, Arctic/Antarctic, Freshwater, Plains, and Mountain. Students from each class will pick animals from a 'Mystery Box' which will contain animals form their assigned habitat. Using online resources, students will collect information on a worksheet. Using Google 'image search' they will collect images for their report. The reports will be created using SchoolCenter web authoring tools, allowing students to create their own individualized pages, and previewing pages of other students in the class and grade."

Although not mentioned in the lesson plan, the really neat element of this lesson is that the students never specifically say what anima their page is about. They write clues about the animal, like what it eats, distinguishing features, where it lives within that habitat, etc. The goal for the website viewer is to use the clues and online resources available to figure out what animal is being descibed. Mr. Morse told the fifth graders that a younger grade would be using this project, so they should carefully plan and create their page.

I just think this is an excellent way to have students learn how to create a webpage and investigate the animal kingdom. I watched the students today shout interesting facts about their animal across the room, reiterating the idea that learning should be FUN, INTERACTIVE, and PURPOSEFUL.

Even thought this project was conducted in a technology classroom, there is no reason why it can't be done in the general education classroom. I also really like that this page may be used within another grade level because it shows a school wide initiative towards fostering good thinkers and creative minds.

I will try to post a link to the website when it is finished.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's parent-teacher conference week at my school, and as always, I am looking for interesting ways for parents/teachers/students to stay connected when I begin teaching.

I came across a blog by Anne Davis, suggesting that parents really get involved in commenting on their children's blogs. Anne Davis showed an example of a blog where a parent had wrote on her son's blog, and her comments were very positive and thoughtful. In a world where papers don't always make it home and progress reports get lost in the bottomless pit of student bookbags, I think having student work online and parent posting is a great way to encourage invovlement from the home.

In addition, in my special populations class, we were learning a lot about grading, and this blog triggered my thinking about the importance of parent as well as teacher observation of student progress. To me, grading is a grey area that I still feel like I don't know enough about. However, I do know that nothing causes more of an uproar then a parent who finds out that their child made a bad grade on his or her report card. I can almost hear the phone ringing, "Why didn't you tell me my child was failing? I never saw any of his bad grades?!" With a blog that showcases student work and parents having the opportunity to observe it, comment on it, or praise it, this problem is eliminated. Once again, three cheers for blogging!

Are parents afraid to step into the blogosphere? Maybe yes, maybe not. However, if I were a parent, I would find it refreshing to have a way to see what my child is doing everyday and have a way to be a part of it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Extra Extra, read all about it!

As I was studying last night for a quiz, my mind began to stray off to think about units I would like to teach next semester when I am student teaching full-time. My cooperating teacher said that he always welcomes enthusiastic student teachers who like to think of creative lessons, so I went ahead and e-mailed him with what I had in mind.

I was a yearbook editor in high school for a nationally renown yearbook staff, so I figured, hey, why not pursue this interest in the classroom? I thought it would be neat to modify what I learned in high school journalism to my fifth grade class and develop a mini staff to create a fifth grade paper.

Because of the variety of learning styles, I thought it would be interesting to assign students different tasks, based on their strengths and interests. For instance, I could have some students take pictures, others write sports stories, others do special features, cartoons, etc. I want to create an editing table, so whenever there is free time, students are working on editing the work of their peers by providing positive feedback.

Because this is a SOL year in the state of Virginia, it is imperative that this incorporates SOL's...editing is the primary skill I want students to develop throughout this unit, because by the time they begin, they will already have a solid understanding of what makes a good paper.

I am still in the process of conceptualizing this unit; I think the best thing for me to do is to begin to outline tasks for each student and assign students to these tasks based on ability. For instance, high ability students can be given the role of editors, since they may finish their work more quickly. Students who have difficulty with writing may work with a co-author, or have the opportunity to take pictures or express themselves using an alternative means.

I will have students type all their work, and I will copy/paste all their items into a newspaper template in Publisher. I think this will be a great thing to send home toparents and to have as an artifact when I apply for jobs.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Webquest about Blogging? http://anne.teachesme.com/2006/09/19/webquest-on-blogging/

In my educ 401 class, we are currently working on webquests, and I happened to stumble upon a great webquest about blogging...This webquest is designed for students to understand the essential elements of blogging and how to maximize its potential.

I agree that technology should not be taught in isolation, but in this instance, this webquest is a great tool for providing background information about blogging, which will become a springboard for future application to core subjects. For students who have never been exposed to blogs, this is a fun way to introduce them to the topic. In the elementary grades, modeling of work is essential, and what better way to show students your expectations for them by providing a webquest?

I was really pleased that the webquest included steps for safe blogging. How imperative it is in this generation to teach proper internet etiquette. It would be a shame to completely isolate children from the vast amount of information on the internet; instead, we should empower them by providing them with the tools to protect themselves. I was also interested to read about the think-pair-share. This tactic has been used in multiple education classes, and I am always interested to see real-life application of concepts taught in class.

Also, I might add, that I think this webquest would be great to show to parents! Parents can be reluctant sometimes to have their children exposed to the web, but it will provide them with a better knowledge and understanding of the uses of blogging in education.