Ms Eppele's Blog

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Feb. 18th Pro D Day

I just got back from my pro d day in Coquitlam and I have learned a few things! I have now started a Twitter account…but I have no idea what to twitter! I have also gotten rid of my internet explorer and now plan on only using Firefox. The last thing I have done is I have installed Dropbox! I will need to contact tech support to install it on my work lap top, but I think this tool is pretty amazing and it will save me so much time!

I was able to listen to Ross Laird in his session on the  evolution of technology culture. I think the real title was Children’s Development with Technology, but he re-worded it. I agreed with a lot that he had to say. What resonated with me was the idea that the technology is not there to make us feel overwhelmed and give us more work, but it is there to make life easier. We need to use the tools to make what we do easier. I also liked how he said that as educators we need to be facilitators.  This is something I have been figuring out about how I teach.  I am recognizing that I facilitate more that teacher talk.  I will need to re-visit this later.

A few things Ross Laird mentioned that stuck with me and I want to go back and re-think;

We need to help the students find the depth in the technology based society. We need to teach interpersonal skills, we need to facilitate group discussions, and of course wonderings. How do we do this? Laird broke it down for us. 1. Let them show you the games they play, allow the students to explain and teach us. 2. Participate with them in online activities no not Facebook! 3. Assist them in developing awareness of the risks and benefits of online cultures. In a sense we are connecting those natives with us immigrants!

Things to do; engage them in technology they are already accessing BUT we need to teach them to self regulate when they are glued to the screen. To teach them how to recognize when they need a break and to walk away. This made me think about incorporating a one day without technology theme or an hour without technology a day! I don’t know if I would last that one!

Another thing that stuck in my brain is Laird’s idea that the students’ brains are not changing but their learning styles are. This had me thinking about my field study and having the students recognize how they learn best. We all need to re-think how we teach to this new generation of learners.  Of course this is ever changing, but the rate is so much faster now!

Laird broke down the Roles of  contemporary educators;

-we need to help learners build contexts for their knowledge

-we need to assist learners is leveraging information into wisdom

-we need to point out the sign posts to facilitate navigating the sea of information

– we need to promote synthesis and integration

-we need to watch and help learners build their own skills

-we need to promote communication and people skills   HELLO!!

As educators we also need to create a presence online; websites, twitters, online collaboration of lessons etc…

Ross Laird has made a slide show for all to see. One site is for parents and one is for educators.

slides.rosslaird.com/teachers.html5.html

slides.rosslaird.com/parents.html5.html

We need to find ways to integrate technology into our practice! And I am trying my best! Next stop Drupal…wish me luck!

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How do I Create Classroom Community?

Last night’s amazing discussions about our field studies have brought me back to an essential question to help me grasp my field study. Taryn asked me how do I create a collaborative classroom? What do I do to help the students create a caring and safe environment for their learning?

A few thoughts from a colleague (AKA as an amazing mentor) I asked her what she sees I do. She said that I encourage the kids to be risk takers. I give them the opportunity to gain confidence in their own decision-making and learning. The students who “get it” become models for the other students.

Another colleague of mine, mentioned that I do not rely on pencil and paper activities. I use and modify lessons to make them big, enticing, and intriguing to engage the students.

I know for myself I like to have the students explore things before we discuss things in pairs and then in groups. I also spend a lot of time teaching listening skills to the students. I tend to use a lot of the same language during the day, in regards to how we behave towards each other. Now the kids are using it.

One thing I have noticed since I have been using the virtual classrooms and blogging, the parents have become more a part of our community. They are sharing with me and their kids in the blog and through discussions at home. The kids can not wait to go home and tell their parents what we blogged about today or what they decided to blog about.

Thinking of the classroom community in relation to technology I keep going back to the media literacy outlines we had to look at. Mine was peer-to-peer learning. I think in order to fully engaged the students in each other’s learning and development of ideas we need to remember to start at the basics. The students need to understand hw to interact with one another face to face. They need the tools to be able to listen and how to discuss. I have spent about four months with my class on those skills. I am now seeing it pay off. I honestly did not think that the way I set up my intermediate classroom community would work so well in setting up the primary classroom community. I am so proud of the students. Everyday I take time to sit and observe them during explorations or an activity and I see how far they have come. How much they are teaching each other. How often they think of one another before themselves. Of course we have a few who are still on the “me mode” but we are getting there.

Allowing the kids to explore not only in lessons, but also in their creation of  the classroom community is inspiring.

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Participatory Culture

I will admit when I first thought about my reflection on this, I had no idea what I was going to say. My brain felt like it was about to burst. I had to take a week to think about how I have implemented change in my own classroom, and where I have not. To be honest after reading through the articles I think my students and myself are heading in the right direction. Of course I am feeling hesitant and a little scared. However, over the past two weeks the students have made me more comfortable with the acknowledgement of new change.

My first job in the class is to create a safe learning environment for all learners. That is, we as a class create an environment where we are safe to express ourselves and to ask questions. A student teacher has been visiting my room over the past week and she said that she loved our class. She observed how the students were open with each other and could not believe how they opened up about their feelings during our class meeting. She said that is why she likes primary, they tend to be more open with their feelings unlike intermediates. I had to suggest that it was something else. If you had come into any of my intermediate classrooms over the years, you would have seen the same thing. It is about creating a culture of learners who feel safe in the environment they have created.

The articles discuss a lot about collaboration and peer involvement, and I believe creating an environment that is safe to wonder needs to be developed before we help engage the students into participatory culture. Watching the students blog, I have seen students not worry about the spelling but have watched them become empowered by their own thoughts, ideas, and questions. I have seen them support each other when they can not log in or find the correct blog. I have read students sooprting (supporting their word!) each other on the blogs.

This participatory culture is not something we create, it is here already. The students already know what to do. How? I have no clue. I have spoken to parents about what technology is being used at home, and many have said that they can not get over how their kids and younger kids are using ipods, ipads, internet, cellphones etc… I have always seen my role as a teacher more as a role as a facilitator. Now more than ever, I see why. I am always concerned about hiding the “bad things” from the internet, I see I need to sit with them and discuss what they already know about avoiding those things. It should not be something I am afraid to talk about, it is there and the kids see it at school, at home, at their friend’s house. The bottom line is that the parents and myself need to teach the students skills around the internet safety.

Going through the list skills in media literacy I have seen I am more comfortable with some more than others.  Here are a few we are using in the class; peer-to-peer learning,play, appropriation (diff. types of media), collective intelligence (our blogging on one topic), collaborative problem solving (the kids are doing this one!). I would love to begin working on judgement and networking very soon. We are beginning to learn about researching and I think those fit perfectly!

How do these mediums impact learning? I have seen the students become more engaged in their learning. I have seen and heard that they are sharing more with their parents, so much that they are even collaborating with their parents on their wonders!  I now have parents wanting to blog with us! The students are also taking on more ownership of their learning. They are excited to come and share what they have found and how they did it. 

How may it impact the way in which I am teaching? Hmmmm….well my brain is exploding! I am excited about this shift in learning but I feel like I am falling behind in this. I know I am ahead in many areas, but I feel like I am falling behind the students. I love when the students come in and share what they have learned with the class and myself. I love it when the students can help me solve a problem with a technical difficulty, but what I mean is I am worried I am falling behind the change and I do not want this to affect the students and their development. 

There is so much to think about, and I know that we can not do it all. By being aware of this shift will empower us to facilitate the change in education on step at a time, supporting one another.

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Hmmmm….

How do I start? I have been feeling a little frustrated with something that I have been seeing and hearing about technology in the classroom. I think this blog may become more of a little rant. But first, here is what I have observed this week in the field study of wonderment!

      I have been having the students blog twice a week, once in class and once at home. The parents’ feedback has been very good. Some have said they see the students asking more questions at home. The students are wondering how things work, and why things are the way they are. For myself I have seen that the kids are asking deep leveled questions and wanting to explore them.  I now even have parents sending in their wonderings on post its to add to our Wonder Wall.  Parents have asked if they are allowed to blog and comment on students’ blogs.  Many have said they love the idea this week of blogging a class blog. The kids come home wanting to share what they did over the day. I have only had one negative comment. As  result I tell the students it is not necessary to blog at home, they can do it in the school lab or the classroom compter. The main idea for our blog is for the students to share their wonderful thoughts and questions with each other and their families.

Currently , I have been asked the question what are the benefits of the smart board in the classroom. During this week’s student leds I was able to discuss this use of technology in the classroom.  I see the smart board as a tool, a springboard for lessons, and its screen is great when sharing our blogs with each other.  Sure, it is a great way to grab the students’ attention, but one should never use it as a substitute for a teacher or a real life experience. I will share two things I have seen and heard, I will keep names and places out of this.

I have seen the smart board as a way to subdue the students. To simply use it as a tool to entertain them and keep them quiet. Sure there are times when I share a minute video clip to tart a conversation on animal adaptations or what not, but this does not happen on a regular basis. Using Tumblebooks as a read aloud tool may be great if it is something you are teaching with, a tool to add to a lesson. I have seen this tool only used to keep the kids occupied until the classroom teacher can pick them up after their prep time is over. It kills me to see this. We have taken resources away from another area, an area where the board was used as a tool, to simply entertain the students. I am in awe of this, and frustrated. And we wonder why some parents see that it is only a big TV screen. What can we do?

Second thing I have heard; A friend of mine was discussing her niece who is in grade nine. She is now left school to be home schooled, because she finds school boring and not engaging in any way. Guess what? The school she is leaving has smart boards. My friend asked her niece why she was not liking school.  She said that it was all teacher talk, and there was not any hands on lessons. My friend said, knowing what I do with my board, what is the smart board used for in the class. Her niece gave her a great example, and yes I laughed.

The teacher was teaching them about static electricity. Now, we all  know what great things you can do to spring the students into their own hands on experiments here. Using notebook software the teacher drew a circle on the interactive white board and dragged it around the board to demo static electricty, this was followed by a teacher talk.  Again, I am in awe.

Discussing media literacy this week in class, one has to wonder. We as teachers need to support each other in this ever-changing learning of students. Things are changing so fast, and those of us who feel a little advanced in technology need to encourage, engage, and support our colleagues. I am feeling overwhelmed with all this. After last weeks discussion online, my brain hurt for three days. I could not stop thinking about it. I have decided to start teaching more about online safety with my grade ones and twos next week. I have found a great resource made for primary students, and yes I will share it!
http://www.saferinternet.org/web/guest/activity-book

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First time bloggers!

The class did it today! We actually blogged out first wonderings today on our classroom site. The students were so excited to start. At first I only wanted them to blog one wonder and respond to their wonder. WELL….the students took it further today. They decided to respond to each other’s blogs and had me blog back!

The next day the kids were so excited to take their passwords home to blog from home! So our next blog was about our Valentine’s Day party. A few of the students loved it! They went home and blogged right away and when we went back to read them the next morning….I found the kids were supporting each other when they could not think of things to blog! They are so cute!

This weekend’s blog is to respond to a quote we had read in a picture book we shared on Friday. They will blog how to give someone courage. What things can we do to help others gain courage. We already added it to our wonder board, so the kids were comfortable with their ideas. They all begged me to put it up on the blog for their weekend homework.

I have been reading a few of the blogs already and they are so sweet! I have noticed that many if not all have been doing this on their own. They are not worrying about their spelling and they are taking risks with typing big words. You have to remember these are grade ones and twos! The grade ones are not given passwords to take home! Well I did…don’t tell anyone!

The response I am getting from the parents is fantastic! I have spoken to a few parents and they love the idea that I am bringing wondering into their homes. They are seeing that the kids are exciting about asking questions at home, so much so that the parents have admitted to me that they say why don’t you ask Ms. Eppele that one! This gets me thinking that maybe we should get the parents involved in the research step of the wonderings!

So today I have just finished up setting up our official word press blog for the class! I will have the kids blog with me, using the smart board so they can see that I am putting down their thoughts. I have not decided on what we will blog yet. Ideas include; week summary, project summary, subject summary, a research summary into our wondering of the week, I think I will let the students decide on this.

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