Monday, October 28, 2013

The Many Roles of the Technology Specialist

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What role do our district technology specialist play? I can say that my classroom is a more productive place where learning is taking on a new dimension. Our technology specialist play such a vital role in the area of integrating technology in a teachers lesson. They also provide professional development during and after school to teachers on campus. They continue their countless hours working on projects for teachers at home (I'm one of those teachers) who are beginning a new project in their class that next week. The list goes on an on. When I get ready to plan what I call a "big project" Ann Witherspoon becomes part of that process. We begin our planning either by phone or by email and discuss what our time frame will be. These specialist are always ready at a moments notice. Their professional development is vital to our learning as the use of mobile devices become a part of our curriculum. There is never enough time for these "technology projects" to be completed or even started in a classroom that already has a jammed packed schedule of learning! My students have loved working with Ann and look forward to her visit each week because they know that they are in for a special treat. Some projects may take 2-3 weeks and that's ok. But the process of how that project will be executed is what I get excited about and the learning from both student and teacher. There will be hiccups along the way but working together as a team can help problem solve whatever issues may have been encountered along the way. Our technology specialist are so important not only to staff and administrators but to our students who will benefit the most as they learn the many wonders of this digital world. I am thankful for their knowledge and their commitment to our students in preparing them for the 21st century! I also have to salute Mrs. Melissa Bartlett and Mrs. Barbara Mikulecky our other two specialist who are part of the team. Here Ann is working with my boys on our big dinosaur project using the app Explain Everything. Students are downloading slides from a file that Ann shared with my class to their google drive. Examples of the finished project will be posted here. We can't wait to share our project with you soon!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

My Learning Spaces Update

Its been seven weeks since school has started and I am feeling a little compelled to give you an update on my journey into my new "learning spaces" classroom. I had the pleasure of presenting two sessions at todays @Edcampdallas and one of my sessions was on my learning spaces classroom. My journey began this past summer in San Antonio when I attended my first ever ISTE Conference and met many of my ed tech heroes through my connection with them on Twitter. It was here where my decision to give this concept a try was affirmed by other educators, not many, who decided to do the same. The first couple of weeks were a little challenging, but I love challenges, trying to grasp the logistics of the mobility level by the students in the class. I quickly figured out that "the desks and chairs" were just pieces of furniture taking up space and that they really had no "meaningful" purpose in the classroom. Where and what were the students going to use to store their school supplies? Dollar Tree came to my rescue. I bought little tubs for supplies that would be used on a daily basis like scissors, glue sticks, pencils and erasers. "Community sharing" had taken a new meaning. But what about those iPads? After all, this was my reason for going completely mobile in the first place. Those wonderful cubbies in the classroom are now the place where they are stored during transition times or when we leave to go to lunch, library and recess. 

If you're wondering what the students are writing on? Clip boards and dry erase boards are the tools for writing. Student have their own book box to store things like their math and writing journal, technology folder and whatever else you think they use on a regular basis. The book box never moves. I'm finding that students are constantly moving from one transition to the next, which is good for brain activity and allows for students to become a little more accountable for their learning. The iPad goes everywhere they go and they are not allowed to leave it lying on the floor. Its quite comical watching them hug that iPad like a book. The routines of the day have been set in place though I'm still moving furniture around to allow the mobility to flow smoothly during transition times. I have incorporated a rotation system for the two couches in my room so that the students are not fighting over who gets to use them on a daily basis. I have taken a picture of each of the couches and the pictures move along with each group during my Daily 5 management system. This may sound a little ridiculous but it has saved me lots of headaches during guided reading. They seem to like it and there are very few problems. I think its more of a "girl" issue than anything else. The boys could care less as they would rather sprawl on the floor with their buddy. 

How has this kind of learning transformed me as an educator today? Its been a big "game changer". I have started this relationship of "trust" with my students that Dave Burgess talks about in his book "Tech Like A Pirate". I have let go of some of that control that teachers struggle with. Students choose a different learning space each day if they choose. Some migrate to the same space which is fine. I'm beginning to see the collaboration between my students a little more and setting their own boundaries for learning. I brag about them when I see them working in a manner that respects others learning space by using Class Dojo as a tool to monitor behavior and making good choices. Tons and tons of modeling has been set in place and what the learning should look like. I am confident that this kind of learning will have a positive effect on my students but more so, that they begin to take "ownership" of their learning in an environment that allows taking risks without the fear of failure! My parents shared how excited they were to walk into a classroom that feels like "home" at my Meet the Teacher Night. This made my heart happy and validated my decision to give this concept a try. Next year my students will be in 3rd grade as I move up with them and I know there will be issues that will have to be addressed or not. I can't worry about that now. My students are worth the risks! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Landforms with Haiku Deck and Explain Everything Apps

Working with ELL learners requires using lots of visuals and hands on manipulatives to help support language and understanding of concept being learned. So one of my favorite apps for supporting strong visuals is Haiku Deck. The power of a picture can open the minds of young learners and tell a story. So I created a Haiku Deck to introduce my Landforms unit. My plan is for students to draw or create each of the landforms in Explain Everything. They can upload all their pictures they have created to their camera roll if they choose. They will present their presentation from this app. This will be an on going project in social studies and students will work on it during their Daily 5 stations. Here is my Landforms Haiku Deck I created.

4Pics1Word...Word Association App

I continue my search for apps that will help my students become more familiar with the English language in a bilingual classroom. Last year, one of our tutoring teachers on my campus came across a great app that helps with word associations. I am always on the hunt for apps that will help build their English vocabulary and make it fun at the same time. This app, "4Pics1Word" is a hangman type game where students must find what all four pictures have in common. They are given a certain time to unscramble the letters to make a word. The students collects a certain amount of coins if they need to use them when they get in a bind. I love this app as I use it in my Daily 5 Rotations under Working With Words. I have the students write their "new words" in their writing journal that they have learned. This is a great way to build their bank of vocabulary words and use these words in their daily writing.