Monday, May 10, 2010

Recipe for Success

As I reflect on the ilearn project, I challenge myself to pinpoint what ingredients have promoted or been detrimental to the success of this experience.
The most key ingredients believe it or not have nothing to do with the ipod touches.
Any success we have accomplished is as a result of the human factor. I am so fortunate to work with master chefs Dani Watkins, Cary Harrod and Debra Simson. They keep this project cooking by providing support, resources and research.
If anyone is looking to fire up their own ilearn project, mixing in the right people is key. Our team is comprised of an administrator, technology coordinator, media specialist and classroom teacher. We meet once a week for a hour and communicate in between.
The prep work included is also a factor that should be kneaded in strategically. Preparing the students for the experience and teaching them how to use the tools appropriately was necessary.
Other key ingredients include:
  • Elmo- While I no longer have one in my classroom, I feel purchasing this tool is just as important as the Bretford cart, ipod touches and mic ear buds. It is a challenge to share and provide instruction without a means to project the screen. We were not able to find a way to connect it to my projector. But I'm always up for modifications because this recipe is a work in progress.
  • Time- Does anyone know where you can buy this ingredient in bulk? It has been beneficial to train a grandparent volunteer to sync the cart. Conducting a lot of the research during the planning process also saved quite a bit of time. However, I'd love to be able to add even more time so I could establish a stronger PLN and collaborate.
  • Apps, Apps and more Apps- I'm constantly searching for more publishing apps. I find most of my apps by researching websites and reading reviews on itunes. Knowing which apps are worth it to purchase and implement is the best way to keep the tools boiling. IEAR offers online reviews as well as lesson plan ideas.

I'm really looking forward to using these tools next year with the students. We have been able to accomplish quite a bit since February. I know that it will be beneficial to begin the year with these tools. The icing on the cake happens to be that my other teammates will be implementing them in their classrooms too.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I believe

I believe that if you enable students to possess ownership in their learning, if you give them choice and foster their thinking, it will yield problem solvers, inventors and individuals destined for success.
In writing workshop, the students are working on generating ideas for their essays. Through the support of 21st century tools, they are brainstorming and sharing their thoughts in a real time, authentic way.
The students were given a choice to post to their blog, wall wisher or wiffiti site. The significance was not in where they shared the ideas, but the fact that they were free to have their voice be heard. Even the hesitant writers were overflowing with excitement for their thoughts to be shared.
For many, the power of their voice was discovered for the 1st time. It was the realization that what they thought, felt, experienced does have significance.
Here are just a few belief statements the writers generated....
  • Nobody can be the boss of you,you are the boss of yourself
  • that the smallest child can make the biggest diference.
  • doing bad things does not mean your a bad person it means you make bad choices
  • I believe everyone should have a chance and be a part of something in there life
  • I believe that it is ok to disagree with your clossest friends
  • I beleve that if people let their children open their mouths, they can say things more powerful than audults.
  • I bileve always look at the good things in life.I bileve this because my grampa got shot and lost his leg but when somthing happend bad or good he always looked at the good thinks.Even though he past I desieded to fallow his thinking and now I call this thinking looking at the bright side of life.
Just a few of the beliefs 3rd graders were able to share and discuss with one another. I believe in a 21st century world where everyone has a voice that can be heard. A voice that now spans across the world.

Monday, March 22, 2010

In Sync

As I hear the droll beeping of my alarm clock in the morning, I no longer give into the temptation of the snooze button.
Why you might ask???? Well, I live, work, breathe, learn, grow and foster growth in a 21st classroom. We are all IN SYNC with one another. Our learning environment has transformed into a collaborative, organic room. Together, we are all growing and changing. The reason I am so inspired to hop out of bed and enter into the new world that is my classroom is because I am no longer the one in the driver seat.
While as the teacher, my job is to be purposeful with objectives, questions, assessments and new role is to be open to the PROCESS rather than the immediate product.
The students are seeking opportunities to use this learning tool in an authentic way.
We are even in sync with the technical aspect of this project. I've released part of the cumbersome, laborious duty of syncing the cart. I am so fortunate to have an all day volunteer all Tuesday. While she is a technological novice, she quickly learned how to sync the cart so it can be accomplished during the school day without pulling me away from instruction.
So what does this atmosphere look like?
Well, to understand really would be to see it, but I'll do my best.
The students are engaged, immersed rather in learning. They are reading books, blogging ideas, asking questions, mapping thoughts, drafting stories, organizing deadlines, emailing artifacts and researching areas of interest.
Learners are now empowered to find the tools and resources rather than being spoon fed them. The skills these students are learning will surpass their 3rd grade year. They are steering.
I find the biggest SHIFT for me is that I have given myself permission to STOP TEACHING THE TECHNOLOGY. I'm surrounded by digitally literate individuals. It is insulting to show them step by step all the features of an app or provide a template. They have discovered more applications and "bells & whistles" than I did when researching the apps.
Check out some of their published work!
More to follow....still trying to have the notion of "no last names" stick with the kiddos. The rest of the work samples will be revised and posted.

Monday, March 8, 2010

21st Century Learners: The Art of Transformational Learning

Lately, as I reflect on the learning that occurs in my classroom, I am energized by the realization that we are just breaking into the notion of 21st century learning.
The greatest discovery I have uncovered as a teacher is the idea of students constructing and creating their own knowledge based around specific objectives. My role is to provide the tools and ask the essential questions. However, providing a cookie cutter lesson is not the vision I have for a modern classroom.
Marazano's Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works offers several ways for this vision to become a reality. This book contains many resources and provides corresponding research. Russel and Sorge are quoted supporting this approach, "technology can give students more control over their learning." The shift that is happening empowers students to be the leaders and facilitators.
In our 3rd grade classroom, students are engaging in this empowerment. I'm encouraging them to construct and apply uses for our ipod touch as a learning tool. Instead of the old approach of teaching the technology (how to make a powerpoint, imovie, etc), students are discovering the apps and working to find applications.
My objective is to teach in a classroom where students are artists, builders, discovers and CEOs of learning (Creators of Enduring Ownership). I hope for my students to understand the difference between being handed a coloring book and a blank canvas. I want to provide the canvas, tools, inspiration and environment necessary for a masterpiece. I'm trying to divert from handing out coloring books, worksheets, workbooks and any other tool that forces learners to stay neatly within the lines.
How am I providing a learning canvas? Below you will see a list of just some of the tools I have discovered to support learners constructing their knowledge. I am eager to see this list grow. Please post suggestions.

Story Kit and Story Robes-Add photos, text and audio to create a digital book
Sketches-Insert and create images including text, shapes and drawing features
iMind Map-Interactive Brainstorming web
Notes- Make lists, take notes, write ideas
Freesaurus-Get to know unfamiliar words by finding definition, synonyms and antonyms
Brushes-Paint, layer and draw artwork
Flashcards-Make your own interactive FlashCards
AudioBoo-Record and publish a podcast

ClassPress-Student-friendly blogs including lots of personalization options
Wiffiti-Interactive virtual board to brainstorm and collaborate
Capzles-Create an online time capsule
Wordle-Design a word collage

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sync or Swim?

The project launch has already produced a tremendous amount of engagement and excitement in the classroom. In fact the title, sync or swim, has nothing to do with how successful this project has been in instruction. Students have experienced guided discoveries of all the apps on the home screen, blogged on ClassPress, emailed exit slips and found images of angles in the real world on google images. The students truly have transformed into pioneers in this process. We are celebrating successes along with mistakes. The learning curve for this project is soooooo steep the altitude is impacting us :) We love it. Visit our wiki to find out more.
SO....SYNC OR SWIM? The real challenge thus far surrounding the project has been the technical aspect of it. Our district techs are not under contract to service this equipment, leaving all the grunt work to myself and the rest of our team. As a classroom teacher, it has been a struggle to try to sync the Bretford Cart to my Tablet PC as I use it consistently throughout the day for instruction. We have changed our strategy to attempt to sync the cart to another PC. We have downloaded the most recent version of itunes. The PC and Bretford card romance has been far from love at first sight. The 2 devices do not seem to connect (picture a bickering old couple). I have logged 12 or more hours alone trying to sync the new apps.
I'm trying to network for solutions. After collaborating with my assistant principal, Dani Watkins, we have had success via trial and error syncing 7 ipod touches. Unfortunately, Apple and Bretford have been difficult to collaborate with. Several, unsuccessful phone calls later, we decided that pioneers would continue the westward movement on our own. We are optimistic! Our goal is to have the entire class set ready to go this week.
This evening, I came across a voice thread from guru Tony Vincent, discussing this same struggle:
Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Year, New Discoveries

After attending Apple's Reaching All Learners Curriculum and Leadership conference yesterday, I am left with many "Ah ha" discoveries as well as lingering questions.
Yet despite all my discoveries as wll as questions, the introductory video challenged me to reflect on the reason I entered the field of education...CHANGE-think big, bold and ahead. I can change, impact and empower the lives of so many students. The change they experience, will inspire a culture of change in others.
This ipod touch project, even from its infancy, has already inspired students to experience a digital learning environment. Along with my students and colleagues, our hope is to create, access and distribute knowledge. The change or shift in the classroom pedagogy is not ahead of the curve, but rather just playing catch up with what students are already experiencing in their everyday lives outside of the school walls.
By reading my student's blogs about the project and now about other academic areas, I realize that they own so many insightful, inspirational ideas that they now have someplace to publish. The project is entitled "ilearn." The "i" stands for each individual who will possess a greater love and ownership of their own personal learning as a result.
Last week, an inspired mind came up to me to share, "Mrs. Stacey, I have a great name to add to the project." I smirked to myself by the perpetual wheels that are spinning so silently in young minds. He continued, "We should call it ilearn at s.c.h.o.o.l. (super cool high option of learning)."
What if students did view school as a "super cool" place to learn? Many already do, but iMagine if you could reach the ones who don't? Make school a place to collaborate and communicate. As I learned yesterday, students are reverse mentors. Allow their passion to inspire your own love of learning.
i look forward to continuing to share insights, successes and struggles. Tuesday will be the 1st day to place the ipod touches in their hands. The countdown is on...