Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Same Old Problem, New Tool

One of the complaints I hear from teachers now that we've implemented a 1:1 environment with iPads is that students are playing with their iPads instead of paying attention in class.  The truth is that we've all had trouble with kids not paying attention to our lessons at one time or another, but the iPad is offering them a new reason to be distracted!  Whether students are talking to the person beside them, reading a book, writing a note, daydreaming, or playing on an iPad, the situation is still the same.  Whenever students aren't paying attention, teachers need to have some classroom management strategies in place.  Some of the classrooms I have been in try the following:
A.  When the teacher is giving directions, all iPads are turned over or are on the rack under the desk.
B.  Most directions are given before students begin using the device.
C.  The teacher walks around the room during the activity to monitor progress and engagement.
D.  Consequences are posted for students who get off task.
Overall, although iPads can be distracting, I think our teachers are handling the situation in a manner that keeps problems to a minimum.  For the most part, if you can control your classroom, you can control your classroom with iPads.


One of my strongest memories from student teaching (22 years ago) is sitting in the faculty meeting when the principal was telling teachers that they were going to be adding 5 computer stations to each classroom the following year.  Teachers were appalled!  "Why would we need computers in the classroom?" they complained.  I remember sitting there quietly (like a good student teacher), wondering how they couldn't be excited at the idea.  Times have sure changed...or have they?

Yes, we have computers in our classrooms, and our teachers probably can't imagine life without them at this point.  Now, however, we are moving to a 1:1 environment, and the general resistance is still there.  Not only do some teachers wonder why every student needs a device, parents and other community members are wondering too.

For those of us who can't fathom NOT wanting to bring technology in whenever possible, it's important to take a step back and see things from a digital immigrant's point of view, and communicate three important concepts:

1.  I think the strongest argument for technology is the world we live in.  If our goal is to prepare students for the real world, we have to expose them to the tools that they will be expected to use when they get there.  These days most people assume that others have a basic understanding of how technology works...copy/paste, web searching, download/upload, etc.  Although many of our students are very comfortable navigating a program, even a new one, other students are not.  We have to give them exposure to technology to help close that gap.  It is important to show stakeholders ways in which our students will be expected to use technology when they leave our corporation so they can see the importance of us stressing it now.

2. Another point we need to make is that in our days of information overload, there is no way for the teacher to be "all-knowing" as they were assumed to be in the past.  If we want our students to have the most current information possible, then they need to be connected.

3.  Last, but certainly not least, we need to assure stakeholders that we are aware of some of the dangers out there, but like every other danger in society, we can't stop living because of a "what if."  Instead, it is our goal to educate teachers, students, and parents on the issues relating to digital citizenship, and give everyone the tools necessary to navigate technology safely.

Getting stakeholders on board with technology is not always as easy as one might think.  Some people feel that as soon as you unwrap the shiny, new devices, people will be hooked; however, that is often not the case.  We need to share with parents and other stakeholders what our mission actually is and how we plan to get there, safely, with our students.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My Technological Journey

          I am fascinated by technology.  I'm interested enough to seek it and comfortable enough that I'll push the buttons and figure it out, but I'm no expert.  In my personal life, I wouldn't say that I'm ahead of the game by any stretch of the imagination. We live in the middle of nowhere so our wifi is limited, meaning everything else is limited too.  We don't use Netflicks.  My son doesn't do XBox Live.  We rarely Skpe or Facetime.  All of those uses are too costly.  Probably the one tech piece that I couldn't live without would be my iPhone.  I always say if I ever lost it, I wouldn't remember when I was supposed to breathe!  Siri enters all of my kids' sporting events in my calendar and reminds me when I need to buy dog food.  I use my phone to check my Twitter account...sometimes, and I burn up my ShopShop app each week when I make the trip to Walmart.  My photos are digital and so are some of my scrapbooks.  I use email and texting often to communicate, collaborate, and share.

          Like many educators, the lines between my personal and professional lives often blur.  I use Twitter, but I probably use it 10 times as much for my educational PLN rather than keeping up with local gossip.  My professional email and texting far outweigh my personal, and most of what I search on the web is somehow related to education.  Because I enjoy it, I've now entered the world of TIS which means technology has changed everything for me.  I now spend most of my day communicating with teachers, planning PD, researching apps and websites, troubleshooting, all in the name of technology education.  

Some of my personal/professional goals include the following:

  • increase my PLN through Twitter, MBC, and this course
  • complete EVSC's 30-Day challenge 
  • create a system to help myself organize all of the resources I find
  • find more ways to get inside others' classrooms to work with students and model for teachers
  • help a few change the way they use technology
  • get teachers to try something new
  • start a tech team with students
  • maintain a professional blog to share with my corporation
          Mostly, I'm just hoping to continue to bring new ideas to teachers and help them find ways to use technology to enhance what they need to do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Philosophically Speaking

     At some point early in my career, I labeled my philosophy of education as “constructivist.” Although I’m better at it now than I was 21 years ago, I've always felt that students should be actively involved with their learning to truly learn. I strongly feel that a teacher’s pedagogy should involve methods of teaching that encourage kids to discover, discuss, analyze, and verbalize new information. I've experienced many lessons over the years that kept students excited and engaged merely because they “owned” their learning.
     In a constructivist classroom, the teacher’s role is as important as ever. The teacher must plan lessons and manage the classroom in ways that allow students to take charge, yet still be productive. Teachers in this type of classroom must train themselves to ask the right questions, and lots of them, while encouraging students to work out the answers for themselves or with partners. Teachers must find ways to activate students’ prior knowledge and help them make connections to new information. Most importantly, the teacher needs to constantly foster good relationships with students so that all of this interaction is possible and productive.
     After twenty-one years of teaching, I am sure that there are some things about my philosophy of education that have changed. Much of the basic foundation, however, has remained intact. The biggest changes are not related to the philosophy itself, but the tools available. I vividly remember about 19 years ago when another teacher and I were so excited to find a student project on the internet which required students to track the migration of monarch butterflies. To access the internet was such a complicated process that involved no pictures, just text and lots of computer language. The same process now is so much simpler and engaging. Kids can not only access the project but take and share pictures, video, audio, etc. of whatever information they gather. They can create their own blogs and websites, email or tweet results, and Skype with others around the world working on the same project. Technology isn't really a new part of my philosophy; it’s just an always-changing tool that makes the constructivist’s philosophy even more of a possibility.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tech Integration 101 - Pre-course Reflections

     A LOT of changes have taken place in my career since I finished the Blended and Online Learning course that I took last spring, all stemming from my switch from classroom teacher to integration specialist.  Now, more than ever, I need a forum that will not only introduce me to new ideas, but encourage me to put them to use along the way.  If the previous course is any indication, this course will do just that.
     Overall, I most excited about taking this course from a different point of view.  Each of the modules I was assigned the last time were completed through the eyes of a teacher.  I was constantly considering how I would implement each tool in a 7th grade language arts classroom.  This time around, I will definitely have to broaden my connections.  I'll need to be able to look at each tool and not only decide how the tool can be used, but also for what subjects and grade levels it might be most appropriate.  Now I'll be looking at each idea through the eyes of every teacher in our corporation - enthusiast or critic, math or language arts, preschool or AP chemistry.  What a challenge!
     I feel like 21 years in the classroom has given me something to bring to the table.  I'm pretty good at managing a classroom with any tools, including technology.  I've taught all basic subjects in both middle school and elementary self-contained classrooms, in three different grade levels, so I feel that I know enough about the pedagogy that works in a variety of settings.  I recently completed MBC coach's training (with other's in the group) and have a pretty strong understanding of how to do most of the basics.
     During this course, I hope to:

1.  broaden my perspective on what it truly means to integrate technology
2.  find ways to turn critics into enthusiasts...or at least get them to try something new
3.  walk away with some new ideas/tools to share with my colleagues
4.  add to my PLN
5.  try something new
6.  solidify my purpose as a TIS

     Let's get started!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Google Docs Collaboration

Getting Started with Google Docs

          Trying a collaborative assignment is a fun way to introduce Google Docs to your students.  Here's how:
  • Go to Google Drive through your internet browser (I prefer Chrome) and click on "create" a new "document."
  • At the top, click on "untitled document" and give it a name.
  • Type in any directions, questions, etc. that you want the document to contain.
  • Click on the blue "share" button in the top, right-hand corner.  You will be given the screen below.

  •  From this screen you can copy the "link to share" and give your students that link through My Big Campus or email it to them.  You can also invite individual students by typing their email address in the "invite people" box at the bottom.  
  • Before you click "done," be sure to click the blue "change" link beside the people you are sharing with.  For students to be able to type in the document, the setting must be changed from "can view" to "can edit."  Then click "done."

Things we learned in Mr. Hurm's room:  
  • Don't use a URL shortener to give kids the link to the document.  When they click on the shortened URL, they will be blocked.
  • If you want the names to show up while kids are working on the document (which is the cool part), then after they click on the URL and the document opens in Safari, have them hit the home button, open the Google Drive App, click on "Recent," and open the document there.  For some reason, that activates the name pop-ups.
  • If you want to do this with small groups, have one of the group members create the document, share it with the other members (and YOU), and go from there.  That will save you some time at the beginning.  
If you want some help, let me know.  I can help you get it started or even come in and do the assignment with you.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Things You May or May Not Know...

I have had several "aha" moments with teachers this week when they caught me in the hall to ask a quick question or when I shared what another teacher was doing.  Here are some of them...

1.  When you access My Big Campus with your iPad, you need to turn the device sideways to be able to see all of your menu choices.

2.  All of the things you created in MBC last year (bundles, schoolwork, docs, etc.) are in "drive" instead of "my stuff."  When you open Drive, you will have to open the individual folders to find your files.  YES, you can create your own folders as well.  Check out this video for more details:

3.  Teacher's who don't want their test questions online in My Big Campus will sometimes create the quiz with only the question number in the question box.  They then type in A, B, C, D for each of the multiple choice answers, and then select the right answer.  When kids are ready to take the quiz, they look at a paper copy of the test, enter their answers online, then submit.

4.  Some teachers are putting a weekly assignment list on the homepage of their groups in My Big Campus.  An easy way to do that is to open your group, click on pages, and then add a new page.  You can then title the page with the dates for that week and type (or copy and paste) that week's assignments in the word processing box.  Below the box it will let you select "make this page the homepage."  The next week you can add another page, make it the homepage, and the page for the week before will still be listed under "pages" for those kids who were absent.

5.  Don't forget that the MBC library has many resources and bundles for you to use.  Find a bundle you like?  Branch it and make it yours!  Then you can add/delete materials to fit your classroom needs.

If you have any questions about any of these ideas or others, please let me know!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This Course Deserves "5 STARS"

     During the end of the year, when things were winding down and kids were winding up, who would have ever thought I could learn so much?  By the time April rolls around, I'm always ready to start thinking about how I can make next year better.  Considering that our middle school is going 1:1 next year, this course couldn't have come at a better time!  Two weeks ago, however, I learned that I was being recommended for the position of Technology Integration Specialist for our corporation for next school year.  Thank GOD I took this course!  I have so many ideas floating around in my head that I was ready to try in my own classroom; now I will have the opportunity to share all of those ideas with EVERYONE in our corporation!  What a great opportunity!
     This course has broadened my perspective on what technology integration truly is, given me a taste of what tools are "out there" for teachers and students to use, and introduced me to a group of people to contact and bounce ideas off of when I need to...all of which are invaluable.  Every module was designed to move my thinking a step further, and it worked.  I'm really planning to spend some of my summer revisiting our course's content to help me prepare for next year.  This course was truly "5 Stars" in my book, and I can't wait for Tech 101!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Social Media Dilemma

     As a 7th grade teacher and a parent of two teenage
daughters  (not to mention a son who will turn 13 this summer),
I get it.  I know all about adolescents and their social tendencies.
I have policed my own kids' Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts...just to make sure they were following the rules.  The problem is, I am very conservative by nature so the thought of turning my kids out into the World-Wide Web was a little scary.  As a parent, however, I feel better about things because I can check up on them.
     Using Facebook, Twitter, or some other social device in my classroom is just a little too risky for me yet.  Those social networks still feel like I'm crossing the line between student and teacher.  I don't "hang out" with my students in other social situations, and I don't want to hang out with them online either.
     I do, however, see the appeal.  Kids want to be social.  They love Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. because they provide a real audience for their thoughts, pictures, etc.  Kids will actually have discussions on these naturally we teachers see a real opportunity for higher-order thinking and authentic assessment.  I'm not ready though for my discussion about the character traits of the protagonist to somehow be on the same Facebook feed as someone's breakup with her boyfriend.
     The compromise for me at the moment is My Big Campus.  It has a Facebook look to it and students can be social on it, but it is easily monitored and regulated by a classroom teacher.  It definitely provides a more secure environment for us conservatives to bring social media into the classroom.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Curating on Campus

Even though our topic of discussion was supposed to include a curation tool that was used by one of our classmates, all of our classmates (besides me so far) chose to use Symbaloo, a tool I've already used.  Therefore, I'd like to focus on My Big Campus.  Although I'm not totally unfamiliar with MBC, I haven't actually used the bundle feature with students yet.  For next year, I'd like to use the bundle feature to curate resources to go with whatever unit we are studying at the time, but I'd also like to experiment with it in one of our rotation periods.  For that class, I could easily allow more freedom and student choice.  I'm hoping that I can set my bundles up in a format similar to our Blended/Online Learning course and have students work through different modules.  Each module could be open-ended, allowing for the students to learn to use digital tools through subjects of their own choosing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ready to Roll!

In a recent interview, I was asked what my best source of information was in relation to using technology, and I answered that it was currently this course, hands down!  I have learned so much about technology over the past six weeks in relation to theory as well as practice. Since our school is moving to a 1:1 setting next year, this course couldn't be more timely.  I've already referred to the SAMR model and Technology Integration Matrix in several discussions about professional development for next year. Even more importantly, my wheels are turning faster and faster with each module as I consider how I want to use technology with my students next year. I have so many new ideas for Padlet and Flipboard and Voicethread and blogging and digital portfolios and...and...and...the list goes on and on. Every module sparks a new idea. In fact, if I work on this class too late (like tonight) I'll have a difficult time sleeping because of the possibilities running through my head!  Every bit of every module is something that I can use and share with others.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Data Driven Classrooms with Socratic

     Ever wonder how you are supposed to use student data to drive instruction daily?  One thing to consider is the fact that not all data has to be gathered from a formal assessment.  Too often though, we are mislead during informal assessments such as class discussions, and often think our whole class understands a concept that really only a few have mastered. That's where Socratic can come in handy.  Fashioned after student response systems, Socratic can turn any device into a "clicker."
     When teachers log in to the Socratic iPad app, they are given several choices. They can begin a quiz that was precreated, ask an exit slip question, or choose to ask questions verbally and have kids answer in multiple choice, true /false, or short answer formats. The teacher is then given a classroom number.

Students go to and use the teacher's classroom number to sign in and answer questions.

     The best part about the whole system is that you can get immediate feedback on short answer responses, which questions your students are getting right, the number of kids who picked each answer choice, etc. depending on which type of quiz you choose to give.

     I personally can't wait until next year when all of my students are 1:1 and I can truly put this tool to the test. It will provide an easy solution to that ongoing problem of gathering data to drive my instruction.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Moving in the Matrix!

     "The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know."  Most of you have probably heard that quote before.  I have no idea who said it, but it has never rung more true than it does for me at this moment.  I am NOT technology illiterate.  Teachers in my building come to me when they have questions.  Our technology director comes to me whenever he wants a teacher to try something new.  My students expect to use computers throughout the year in my classroom.  I obviously, however, have a ways to go.  Now, in my defense, I'm not 1:1 yet.  Next year all of our students will have iPads which will move me further along in the matrix.  I'm ready to take baby steps and try at least one assignment that is student driven and see how it goes.  I hope that when all of my students have a device in their hands, that I'll be able to try at least one unit that is goal-directed and progress from there.  I would love to eventually figure out how to meet the Transformation box requirements, while still meeting the Common Core requirements.  I doubt that will happen completely next year, but I plan on trying.  For now, I'll probably coast these last few weeks within my Active Adaptation box, while planning bigger things for next year.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Walls Come Tumbling Down!

     Every day, in every classroom, there are obstacles that we teachers must overcome.  Whether the obstacles are related to a child's intelligence, experiences, interests, attitude, socioeconomic status, etc., we are expected to achieve the same outcome - learning.  Although some tools of our trade might actually create the walls that build up between our students and our goals, blended/online learning is one strategy designed to help tear those walls down.  In my somewhat limited experience with blended learning, I've found that students who are used to a brick and mortar classroom are immediately interested when first introduced to asynchronous learning.  For example, when first exposed to My Big Campus, students will get on and look for things to do.  After the first day of introducing the site to my students last year, I actually had one student comment on MBC, "I wish I had something to do on here."   His wish was granted in record time!
     Besides getting unmotivated students interested in learning, blended/online lessons can help with other obstacles as well:
  • Students who are interested in what they are learning, or how they are learning it, naturally have improved attitudes about the process.
  • Blended/online learning can make resources available to students and parents 24/7.  Whether a student has been absent, disorganized, forgetful, or just plain lazy, any resources posted for students can be accessed any time, any place.
  • Technology provides another modality of learning that will appeal to multiple intelligences/learning styles that are not always stimulated in traditional classrooms.
  • Integrating technology prepares students to use tools that will obviously play an important role in their futures, inside and outside the workplace.
  • The internet can provide a window to the limitless knowledge that schools cannot begin to print and put on the shelves of their libraries.
  • 1:1 initiatives can force teachers to move up the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and force kids to use information rather that regurgitate it.
     Like most educational initiatives, blended/online learning isn't the end-all answer to every obstacle in education.  Like many educational initiatives, however, it has true merit; and when combined with other educational best practices, the walls will start tumbling down. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Let Me Introduce Myself...

          My name is Pam Lindsey and I am a seventh grade language arts teacher at South Spencer Middle School in Rockport, IN. As a teacher, my first use of online/blended learning was last year whenever I helped pilot My Big Campus at our school. Knowing that our high school would go 1:1 with iPads this year, and that we would follow next year, we have spent a lot of time getting our feet wet within MBC. We have had several before/after school, voluntary PD sessions, many of which I have had to help present. Topics have ranged from useful apps on the iPad to how to create quizzes in MBC. I was selected to take this course because I am always ready to try the next device, website, app, tech idea that comes to my attention. Through this course, I would love to get ideas on how to truly blend technology into the classroom. I’m hoping this class will show me ways to move beyond using the iPad as an expensive calculator or dictionary, and demonstrate ways to truly change the face of education.