Today I participated in an ISQ webinar which was run by Michelle Webster from eSmart Schools and it really got me thinking about how we need to be teaching our students more than just how to access content and demonstrate learning in flashy ways. While the internet and associated technologies have opened up a world of possibilities to our students, they have also opened up our students to the world and provided them with many possible ways to misuse technology or make poor choices with it.
Recent events in the media see young people using technology such as social media to bully or behave inappropriately outside of school. In some cases parents are demanding that schools deal with these issues. Meanwhile some schools take a step back claiming no direct responsibility.
Now I am not totally saying this the wrong way to respond, but...If schools are making the integration and use of technology a priority then I believe that equal priority must be placed on teaching students to use technology in safe, smart and ethical ways. We are not just responsible for teaching children how to use technology but also how to be the digital citizens of the future.
There is a definite role that parents need to play in all of this and a certain level of responsibility that only they can be accountable for, bit I think that schools can certainly play a part and maybe even lead the way.
You can turn on as many safety filters as you like and lock down devices as much as possible, but the fact remains that if kids want to find inappropriate content or do something inappropriate with technology - they WILL find a way. We need to educate them to KNOW better and DO better and then trust that they will.
More about eSmart Schools.....
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed it. I would love to know what steps your school takes to help you students develop as digital citizens. Feel free to ask questions or comment below.
For anyone unfamiliar with Kahn Academy, it was founded by Salman Khan who was making YouTube videos to tutor his cousins. The videos became popular and the idea grew from there into a website that now offers free world class education for anyone across a variety of subjects. You can watch Salman Khan talk more about Khan Academy here - seriously click the link - it is worth a listen!
I had used a few videos here and there for maths lessons with success, but had never signed my class up as a "coach" (as it is known on the website). That was until I noticed that computer programming was offered as a course on the Khan Academy - and this got me thinking "why not?" We had some time each week in the computer lab where I could supervise my students a little more closely and guide them in this little experiment. From the minute they watched the introduction video below, they were hooked:
We started out very structured. We watched the videos together. I demonstrated and broke everything down and then they would go and try it themselves. We did suffer a few hurdles as the lab computers were not really up to the task, but we got there. With each task, the kids enthusiasm grew and soon I was noticing that they were spending time at home working on their course - and not just a few minutes either! The children found the tutor very relatable and the activities challenging but fun. If they ever got stuck, the website had built in features to help them (way to make me feel useless!) It wasn't long before I found myself thinking "how did they do that?" and noticed that the skill of my students was surpassing my own - quite hard for a teacher to admit at times!
Here are a few of the pictures the children produced using java code:
One of the biggest shocks to me was the success that my learning support kids were having. I had my hesitations about throwing something so seemingly complicated at them, but they surprised with me with what they achieved and their enthusiasm for the course in general.
Do I think kids should learn to code? Absolutely! Why not? My students felt empowered and suddenly saw themselves as creators. I think it is a skill that is going to become more and more valuable over time. Even exposing the children to this introductory level of programming gave them a lot more perspective on technology in general and had them asking a lot more questions. A few have had some ambition ignited by the experience and want to go to learn more.
Would I recommend Khan Academy as a tool to teach programming? Again, absolutely! It was a wonderful platform - easy to navigate for the children, it gave me a way to monitor their progress, the course was well structured and suitably paced.
...and will I do it again next year? For sure!
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.
Enter Padlet. Previously known as WallWisher, this handily little web based app is completely free (sigh of relief) and works on virtually any device that is internet capable - no need to download an app or make a heap of student accounts. Bonus features include the ability to password protect your wall and fun ways to personalise the way it looks - 'hooray' cheer the creative types!
How it works
The basic idea is the same - you have a blank wall were you can double "tap" (iPad) or click (computer) to add a digital post-it note. What is special about these post-it notes is that you can add more than merely text. You can also add videos, links, pictures and even whole files to share! Let's see your average post-it note do that! This of course opens up a world of possible applications in the classroom.
And to illustrate just how useful a tool it can be - I made a Padlet to demonstrate! As you can see, Padlet's can be shared. You can embed the code on class website, print it, save it as an image/PDF or broadcast it on a social media platform. Explore what Padlet can do and learn a little more on my example below:
Ideas for the classroom
After something of a break from Padlet, I recently found myself using it again at a PD session on collaboration at ISQ. This inspired me to use it again with my class and got me thinking about other ways it might be used in the classroom. Once I got started I found it hard to stop.
Getting you kids onto a Padlet wall that you have created is as simple as sharing the link to it, which they can then pop straight into their browser. You can customise the address of your wall to something easy to communicate or you can host the link on a LMS (Learning Management System) such as Edmodo or a class website for super quick access.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog entry. I would be interested to know how other teachers are using Padlet in their classrooms or if they are using something different. Leave me a comment and let me know!
Communication with parents remains one of the largest challenges for teachers. The facts are that teachers are busy people....but so are parents - so as a teacher, how do we find a way to effectively communicate with our parents that doesn't put a strain on our valuable time or theirs?
Over the past two years, I have used both newsletters and a class website to communicate with parents. I have also worked extensively with ClassDojo and Edmodo, which also have their own angle on communication with parents - but those stories will have to wait for another day. In this blog, I want to share what I discovered about e-Newsletters and Class Websites.
My class newsletters were simple enough to create. I just made them in Microsoft Word and saved them as a PDF to prevent any design issues as parents opened them on their different technology. I then attached it to a group email and sent it out to my parents. Most teachers can create a document using Microsoft Word and so I was not really breaking any new ground here, but I did find it easy and effective. Once I had my template created, I just edited it every week with new key dates, photos and little blurbs about what we had been doing and sent it on its way.
I had a good response from parents. Generally they liked knowing what we had been up to but also were appreciative of being informed about when things were due and other important dates. Parents found this easy because it was right there, attached to the email and was only a click away. At the end of the year some parents had printed out the newsletters and created a book of memories for their child, which was nice for me to see as it made me feel that my efforts had been appreciated.
Want to try doing your own class e-newsletter? Here are some tips:
Class Websites and Blogs
I created my class website using Weebly (just as I have created this website). I have completed a course in Web Design and quite honestly cannot be bothered when Weebly makes it so easy (drag and drop - my Grade 3 kids could do it!)
So, prior to the commencement of the school year I spent some time putting together my class website. By some time, I mean hours! It took a long time. Partly because I am fussy, but partly because you are building a website - it is going to take time, end of story! I was proud of the result and was able to provide the link to my class before the school year even started, which excited the kids greatly. I noticed their comments on my blog posts pouring in over the school holidays.
In the beginning the website was quite a novelty and I used it for everything:
Sounds amazing right - it was! The kids loved it and I loved their enthusiasm.
The problem - parents were not really accessing it. The website was password protected to help ensure student safety. What this meant however was now parents has to bring up the website and type in a password before navigating to my newest blog/ photo gallery or other resource. Not just one click away like the e-newsletter.
Keep in mind, this doesn't mean you shouldn't give a class website a try! My tips are:
Both options have their merits and certainly the class website does much more and really borders on a Learning Management System (LMS) which I plan to cover in a future blog. BUT in terms of communicating with parents, I have to say the simple e-Newsletter wins out on its ease and timeliness of creation, plus its more direct delivery to parents. Not as fancy - no - but it does the job (and I forgot to mention the fact that as a digital method of communication, it's saving paper!)
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or ask questions below.
Until next time...
Remember that you are the driver and technology is just the vehicle.
“We ask them to post the picture with #Poppyproud, so that we can instil a bit more of the spirit of Remembrance Day in our generation and people of our age.”
While social media is not commonly found in the average classroom, some technology :
Around the World
The great thing about technology is that it can bring the world into your classroom. This week I was captivated by Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, an installation art piece at the Tower of London in the lead up to Remembrance Day. I will be sharing this video in my art class this week, but also using it to generate some discussion about Remembrance Day in general.
Connecting with Literature
What surprised me was just how taken the children were with the story and then the interest it sparked in the wars of the past. This book would make a lovely discussion starter and also a nice way to compliment Remembrance Day or ANZAC Day work in the classroom. I usually set up discussion forums for the books we read in the classroom and this book would certainly lend itself nicely to that.
Hope you enjoyed reading this blog and found my ideas useful this Remembrance Day. Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.
Read all about my thoughts on teaching in the 21st Century, my experiences with technology in the classroom, running a Maker Space, launching STEAM and Design Thinking with students, coding, robotics and much more!
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