Tech, Teaching and Me

Trying to turn off my brain by writing it down

Do I Empower My Students?

Students today have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips-literally. When I was growing up, a research paper would be assigned, and you would head off to the local library. Research was done with Encyclopedias at home (if you were lucky enough to have a full set!) , the library and a pocket full of dimes for making copies of the resource books. The process has changed so much over the years.

I teach grades 1-4 and that age group can be challenging for any research projects or topics. For most of my classes, I create a Wiki where I post various links and allow the students to access any and all of those links for their research. This allows me a sense of comfort that the students are researching, refining their knowledge and still learning the material. But, am I allowing them to develop their skills on filtering through to discover quality knowledge? I am not sure.

For example, my 2nd graders have studied Habitats, Christmas Traditions Around the World, and most recently Chinese New Year. I have done all the searching and found the links and placed them on my classroom wiki. Students click and read the links, find information and make notes about various facts of the subject. Students use the information and create an outline using Inspiration. Then, we use various other sites such as www.wallwisher.com, www.linoit.com, www.voicethread.com and www.voki.com to bring our information to a new level. The process of research, gather facts, and create a product is good, but after some review, I realize it could be better. My students need to be taught how to decipher through all of that information. I will continue to use my wiki to post sites, but I will add a lesson or two where I am teaching them how to find the best links for our project.

Interestingly enough, the posting for this week’s forum is “discuss ways in which technology resources enable students to explore questions and issues of individual interest and to plan and manage related research” and for many days all I thought about was, “I need to write about how my younger students do research on the internet”. I realize now that “technology resources enable students to explore questions and issues” in so many different ways than just “Google” it.

When I show my students videos from www.youtube.com about high schools in China celebrating the Chinese New Year, I am enabling their research. According to http://www.reelseo.com/youtube-search-engine-domination/, Youtube is now the #2 search engine on the internet (Google is #1). I am modeling the effect use of this site, when I present it to the class. When I create a Wiki for my class and organize their links, I realize I am modeling a basic bookmarking skill for my students. If my students were older and had access to email accounts, I would teach them to create their own Social Bookmarking sites like www.delicious.com or www.diigo.com and create stacks/groups for each of their various projects. What a fabulous organizational tool for our students to have! If teachers find it useful, wouldn’t students?

For me as at technology teacher, I realize almost daily the material I teach is important, but understanding the process, the programs and the application of the technology is my goal. I teach my students about effective, intelligent and time-saving research. Deciphering through millions of web pages is a waste of time. Learning how to do a research with a Boolean search http://www.internettutorials.net/boolean.asp is a life skill students will greatly benefit, regardless of the topic being researched. Using Youtube to help find a video that teaches the student a previously confusing Math concept, is thinking smarter not harder- www.khanacademy.org.

As a technology teacher, I hope to show my students digital resources available to them and how and when to use them to their fullest. Teaching students how to use digital tools in the most effective way will empower them to learn in ways suited to their needs.

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Just Keep Trying….

As I read the article, “Developing a Community of Learners: What Will it Look Like and How it Work?” I was very interested in the focus of what it takes to foster a community of learners. The late Ann Brown developed a program in California that others have modeled ever since.  FCL (Fostering a community of Learners), according to the article is a system of 5 important pieces, working together. Those 5 steps are active, purposeful learning, a learning setting that pays attention to multiple zones of development, the legitimization of differences, a community of discourse and a community of practice.

When others break down these ideas for me, I marvel at the simplicity. Basically, the article says, people learn when given a purpose, ability to learn at their own pace, the ability to bring various opinions to the discussion, have discussions with varying view points and a clear sense of responsibility to the group. I bring this perspective to my classrooms and to my own learning outside of my classroom. I give my students a clear purpose, freedom to learn in their best style and  engaging debates and opinions for broaden their perspectives.

From my own learning community, I expect and contribute a clear purpose, different learning styles and intelligent discussions. According to “Finding Your Learning Community” by Anita McAnear “educators committed to continually learning and improving their practice stand to see the greatest gains in student achievement.” My personal growth and a sense of accomplishment is important to me, but the bottom line is my students and their learning.

Learning comes in stages. According to “The Legacy Model”  learning can be addressed in eight steps: 1-Look ahead 2-Challenge 3-Generate Ideas 4-Multiple Perspectives 5-Research & Revise 6-Test Your Mettle 7-Go Public 8-Reflection.

The other readings in the Capstone I, Session I week were very beneficial and I have added them to my Delicious Bookmarking site for future review and implementation. “Doing Research: An Introduction to the Concepts of Online Searching“, “Checklist for Evaluating Web Resources“, “The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education” have all given me information to add to my future lesson plans and to incorporate in my daily teachings.

This session of my Capstone I course has reminded me that learning comes in many forms, for students and teachers.  Enhancing our professional learning circles,  conducting smart searching, and critically evaluating our web resources are all a valuable part of the learning process.

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