Sunday, October 31, 2010

Go Ahead...Be Human

I can't say I am a huge fan of Halloween, but being a teacher I have discovered a fairly consistent truth. Kids love Halloween. Year one, I was Paul Bunyan. Last year, I skipped out on the teacher theme of crayon colors. This year I decided to get a little crazy for the sake of the kids. Our theme was board games, so I jumped at the chance to be The Old Maid (I am one of two guys at my school). I figured it would be a great chance to make the kids laugh and let them see their teacher in a different light. Here is the result:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting The Best Elementary Web Tools

I have discovered in the past couple of months that there is an ever growing need for more categorization of Web Tools. It also a no-brainer that the "desired-user" needs to see real, practical uses for the tool. In other words, show me how I can use this right now and you sold me.
With categorizing, a post will become more exclusive to a certain subject or grade level. The problem some may have with being more specific in a Web Tool's use is that they reach a smaller audience through keywords. Yes, you may have less people visit your site. Get over your numbers game. With a better focus on categorizing, it would be my hope that we have smaller, detailed, and example based sites and posts. Instead of having a large cloud (aka: Top 50 Lists, etc.), where educators have to spend oodles of time signing up for tools they may not be able to use, I would love to see a site dedicated to Web Tool Reviews and Categorization. I think they folks over at IEAR have started in a great direction. It would be great to see something similar down for Web Tools. Obviously there are the tools that reach across multiple subjects and grade levels, and they can certainly be categorized as such. In that case, the focus should become practical uses clearly shown for various grade levels and subjects.
The need for showing practical use is one of the main reasons it is hard to get older teachers to jump on board. Web Tools are often seen as just the "next thing," because they are not shown ways that they could use the tool in their classroom tomorrow. I realize that there are the teachers who are stuck in their ways, but in my little time in teaching I have come across many who simply need to be slowly taught. You can make them a believer if you go slow and show them how the tool fits perfectly with their curriculum.
In closing, let me say again, be more specific! We don't really need a million "Best..." lists. We need focus and practical use.

*Twitter Tag: #elemtools to join the discussion!

Photo by Margolove

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Something I Hate to Hear!

Being busy in the class has certainly cut down on my time to blog and get my thoughts out. This little rant has been with me for awhile, and I just now found the time to get it out.

As educators we talk a lot, but we also hear a lot. If we are decent listeners. I am pleased about most things I hear, but there are some big-uglys that sting a bit when I hear them. The phrase I most hate to hear actually comes from parents.

The scene looks like this. I am talking to a parent about their child who is having some difficulties. They are listening to the interventions I have tried, the assessment results, and my plan for going forward. Then it is their turn to talk. Inevitably, I usually hear one of two answers. The first answer, "What can I do at home to help?" (Woohoo!) The other answer is the phrase I despise. "I was never really good at __________ in school either." (Noooo!)

There are many things we automatically pass down to our kids. A child's ability to succeed in a certain area is not always tied to your past failure. I understand that you may not be able to provide a lot of help at home because of your past. I understand that you may not have a lot of resources at your disposal to boost success. That is okay with me. What real gets to me is a mindset in parents that sets the bar way too low. A goal for every parent should be to see our children achieve more then we ever did. We have to be okay with our kids being smarter than us. It has to be okay when they reach your aspirations and go even higher. It is not always easy to lay down and let our children boost higher from our backs. There is pride to swallow.
One of my favorite lines of Jesus is from John 12:24, "I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." In dying to our own desires, we produce so much more in our kids than we could ever have done in our own strength.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Weeks 3-5 Using Technology

I have to say the IPOD TOUCH is getting used a lot. It has really helped me achieve my goal of using technology to stimulate learning. So the past three weeks, I have been trying a couple of things.
  • I picked up a cheap microphone for the touch. Now I have kids record themselves reading books. They absolutely love it. I can then listen back to the recordings to hear their reading. The recordings reveal fluency, expression, self-correcting, sounding out words, and other strategies. I am also surprised at how it builds confidence.
  • I have also started using the touch for one of my learning centers. I downloaded the Brain Quest App and now the students work together through various games and subjects to achieve a high score. The kids have done a great job taking care of the Ipod without my close supervision and they are learning across all subject areas.
  • We have been tapping into the awesome videos on United Streaming. There is a large collection of books that can be downloaded, converted to ipod videos, and easily synced to the touch. The kids love watching the videos.
  • I started using Kidblog (Thanks Rich) with a few of my students, and I hope to have them all blogging by Christmas.
  • I have also been having my students access our 2nd Grade Wordpress page for our computer center. The kids love it and with frequent updates, they are usually engaged for a solid 40 minutes on the learning activities I post.
  • One thing I have been using with my parents to show class needs is our easily updated wall over at Wallwisher. Parents can see what things we need and what items have been completed. Check it out here.
I am sure I am missing a few things here and there, but this is a sufficient update. How have you used technology in your class? Got some good tips for 2nd grade use, please leave a comment.