*Please note all opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect on my Principal, School, School Board or even my own husband.

**Also note that although I am a teacher, I do have a learning disability. You may see evidence of this through my writing with my many run-on sentences and homonym mix-ups. I still have good ideas and won't let that stop me from expressing them and I tell my students the same thing.

***Even though many people think teachers know everything, I do not, in fact I know I have a lot to learn and that is part of why I love teaching. Feel free to teach me knew things, but when you leave comments, I ask that you be nice about it - thanks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thoughts on Digital Learning

I will admit that I personally, am not a very “Techie” person, I mean... I don’t even carry a cell phone around with me and I still type putting two spaces after a period (apparently young people don’t do that anymore). That said, I believe that we live in the 21st Century and that if we do not teach our students how to use, and be safe with, technology that we are doing a real disservice to them.

As a teacher, I always have a stream of questions on my mind…. What does this kid really need to know?  What is going to help them be a better person in the real world?  What is going to help them get a job in 10 years? 16 years ago when I started teaching, that wasn’t quite as challenging to answer, but nowadays, technology is changing so fast that I can NOT even predict the skills they will need to know in the future. Will they have to know how to write cursive anymore?  Likely not, but let’s hope they can still read it by then ;)  

Example: Last year one of my former students “invited” me to “like” his Facebook page and “follow” him.  He was taking a travel course at Algonquin College and his final mark depended on how many “likes” and “followers” he had on his Facebook page. He created a fake page about a Segway Tour you could take around the market and Parliament Hill.  When I had him in my class 10 years ago, I did not even dream that is what a final project might look like - I mean, Facebook barely even existed then.    

So, how do I teach technology, if I myself am not an expert with the technology and I cannot predict the future?   The answer is… I don’t teach it.  The kids teach me.  I allow the students opportunities to “play” on devices, not play as in fool around and play games, but play as in tinker. I give them opportunities, choice and options: I point them in the right directions, I guide their thinking, I discover cool programs and show them… guess what, if they like it… they use it! AND if they don’t want to use technology, they don’t have to. (Well... unless, I’m forcing them to answer a survey online or watch a youtube video to reflect on or revise a peer’s work on Google Drive…)  

Example: In my recent “Not-So-Book-Report” assignment students had to make a creative portion to help prove their understanding of what they read.  I had many students choose to build a diorama or draw pictures of their characters, but I also had students make: stop-motion videos, imovies and use drawing programs to walk us through the plot of the story and these were some of the most engaging projects for the audience to watch.

The single most important thing I think I can teach a child right now, is to be adaptable. Technology is changing and changing fast. It doesn’t matter if they know and understand every program, it matters if they have a basic sense of how programs (and social media) work. I think our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and President Obama would both have a thing or two to say about how Social Media helped them win their elections. Did you know that Trudeau has 2 million likes on Facebook?  Did you know that the highest number of likes come from the age group in their 20’s - amazing!  He is targeting young people, the future of the world, and it is working.  He is engaging them through Technology.

Okay, so I’m ranting a bit, but you can see I am passionate about this, right?  

What is actually happening in our classrooms?

-In the last 3 years my school has become more Google Savvy, using Google: Drive, Mail, Slides, Calendar, Sheets, Forms and slowly moving into Google: Read & Write, Classroom, and Sites.

Examples from my class: I send my class emails with instructions for their “Weekly 5” language stations and links to videos I want them to watch.  We used Google Drive to look at photos and then wrote the BEST sentence we could and any student with a device could be typing AT THE SAME TIME - cool, right?  They could see what the other was writing and be inspired!  Students who choose to submit journal entries on Google Drive receive teacher comments right on their document and can “resolve” issues after they fix errors or add more information. In fact, I can be at home in the evening making suggestions on a student document and they can be working on it at the same time. Group work projects can be done in the same manner. Math surveys no longer have to be tabulated by hand, we can do our survey using Google Forms and it does a lovely tally and will even make a graph for us (although, I still make my class draw their own graphs in most cases to keep learning balanced).  We use Google Slides for our spelling lists and each time I give them new words to learn, they type them into their slide show, so they can always reference it.

-BYOD- students are allowed, even encouraged in some classes, to bring in their own device to enhance their learning.  Students who have quick access to their own device can use them as a: calculator, dictionary, thesaurus, research tool, voice recorder, camera to take photos of notes or anchor charts, agenda/homework tracker, math converter, calendar, timer… and of course they can access everything GOOGLE.

-Digital Citizenship, is being added to the OCDSB Character Wheel, because a good citizen is a good citizen in the virtual world, too!  Teachers are being encouraged to embed mini-lessons on internet safety, security of devices, importance of communication with parents, keeping a balanced life and not always being behind a screen… into their everyday classes as they would with other Character Education traits.

Where we are headed?

I think as parents we look into the future and see a land where paper and pencil are obsolete. We envision that our children won't be able to read cursive writing and that they will no longer know how to communicate face to face with people. In the movie Back to the Future they predicted we'd all be on hover boards right now, but I don't see that happening, but who's to say what will happen. All I can do is control what I feel is appropriate for right now.

My mind is working on the idea of a Learning Commons in our library and a Maker Space for extra-curricular use. They are being talked about in great length online and I even went for a tour of our local library’s “Imagine Space”, which includes: 3D printers, Makerbots, a Green screen and Laser Cutters for public use.

-The most recent new learning tools for students I want to look into more:

Other websites you may have not seen that have been on my radar for awhile

English Resources:

Storyline Online: http://www.storylineonline.net/ (stars reading stories)

Wordle: http://www.wordle.net/ (word clouds)
Tagxedo: http://www.tagxedo.com/ (word clouds)
Prezi slide show: http://prezi.com/
Vocaroo: http://vocaroo.com/ (Voice recorder)
Math Resources:
Science Resources
National Geographic for Kids: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/

Social Studies Resources
Art/Music/Dance/Drama Resources
Reader’s Theatre’s Scripts: http://www.thebestclass.org/rtscripts.html

General Resources

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/ (pinboard)

National Film Board: http://www.nfb.ca/

Khan Academy: Khan Academy