Tag Archives: Skype

New Goals for a New School Year!

The start of school has been extremely busy this year! Before we get too far into September, I wanted to record some of my goals for the 2013-2014 school year.

After finally finishing my room setup, I realized that I actually have visual representations of all six of my goals displayed around my room. The first, on-going goal I have is to continue creating and facilitating global learning opportunities for my students.

global ed

Last year, I was able to set up a few different Skype exchanges with New Zealand, Alaska, and Minnesota as well as some collaborations through projects around social studies and science explorations. I hope to expand those projects this year and introduce more tools to students that they can use for global collaboration. I really want to help establish the idea that technology can be used as a tool for meaningful learning and exchange across the globe.

Related to that goal, I hope to use my Google Glass (won via the #IfIHadGlass competition) to connect my students with other students around the world. I recently launched The Global Google Glass Project, inviting teachers to sign their classes up to participate in a variety of projects that would take advantage of the first-person perspective of Glass. Additionally, I want to push myself to use Glass consistently throughout the year as a tool for documentation to capture moments of student learning and discovery each day. You can check out more of my exploration with Glass on my Tumblr.

google glass bulletin board

Of course, if I’m asking my students to use the Internet to connect and collaborate with others around the world, I need to be talking with them about digital citizenship. I used parts of the Commonsense Media curriculum last year but this year I want to spend a lot more time discussing topics like: staying safe online, how to search the web effectively, and understanding the Creative Commons. To help with this, I’ll be using the Commonsense Media elementary school digital citizenship poster, who we have named Danielle the Digital Citizen, to personify the qualities of a good digital citizen and make these ideas more relatable for my young students.

digital citizenship bulletin board

In addition to being digital citizens, I’m hoping my students will become Makers, who Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager define as “confident, competent, curious citizens in a new world of possibility.” I’m starting an afterschool Maker Club for my Kindergarten – 2nd Grade students to provide them with more opportunities to be exposed to tools, projects, and ideas that encourage creating, tinkering, and making. I’m excited to have this time to introduce materials like Makedo and Little Bits and also let students guide me in designing new projects and researching new tools. Outside of the club, when possible, I hope to also integrate making into the classroom when it connects to the curriculum or the technology projects we’re engaged in this year.

Maker Bulletin Board

I’m also striving to increase my knowledge of iPad deployment, integration, management, and training this year, as we introduce twelve iPads in our Pre-K class and one in each of our kindergarten classes. I had a few iPads to share last year across all of the classes I work with but I think having them in these classes full-time will create a different experience. I want to continue exploring quality app review sites and rubrics and learning more about how to adapt the SAMR model as a framework for iPad integration in early childhood. My goal is to help the iPads become a seamless addition to each classroom as a tool for creation, collaboration, and communicating new ideas or reflecting on things that were just learned.

Maker Bulletin Board

Finally, although this is probably a guaranteed outcome if I work towards the five goals above, I want to make professional growth an ongoing goal this year. Last year I participated in a few MOOCs for the first time and attended or presented at some new conferences. I want to make sure that in all of the busyness of the school year and my new projects, that I still carve out time to develop professionally and stay current with new tools and approaches to tech integration.

I think one of the most valuable things you can do as an educator is participate in groups or activities that inspire and push you to grow and continue learning and doing/making. With that in mind, I hope to attend at least one new conference this year, submit some presentation proposals, read at least one new book in my field, and participate in some online communities and/or MOOCs around my goals.

I think that’s enough for one school year! Now, it’s time to get busy with the actual implementation piece.

inspiration to grow

What are your goals for this school year?

Do you have any tips or resources to help me meet mine?

Misadventures in Connected Learning … But That’s Not All!

Before the second week of #etmooc “Connected Learning” slips away, I wanted to write a post reflecting a bit on the prompt: “Is it possible for our classrooms to support this kind of (connected) learning? If so, how?

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by dennisar

I definitely think that our classrooms can support connected learning and that technology can make the “how” much easier and more feasible to facilitate that learning. To me, connected learning involves engaging students in real-world applications of skills and knowledge. One way to do this is by asking students to try and solve problems that people face everyday, such as concerns with the environment (Inspiration from GOOD.is) or building prototypes to help the elderly more easily navigate outdoors (see the FIRST Jr. Robotics Challenge).

I also view connected learning as a motivation to teach my students tools that can empower and enable them to be change agents. With these tools, students can build meaningful connections across different mediums, connections that not only facilitate learning but establish relationships. This means introducing ideas of digital citizenship and cyber safety at very young ages so students can begin using tools that they will likely continue to use as they grow older instead of tools that they will quickly grow out of (e.g., teaching 2nd graders how to conduct safe and effective Google searches versus restricting them to KidRex and allowing kindergarten students to tweet with other kindergarten students in class).

But most importantly, in my opinion, connected learning translates into global connections and collaborations for all students and teachers.

With modern technologies like Skype, Voicethread, Google Translate, Twitter and other (a)synchronous tools, it can be simple and free to connect students, even if their time zones never overlap or they speak different languages. There is no longer a need for expensive web conferencing technologies and with web 2.0 tools, students don’t have to wait weeks for a reply from students in another country. Therefore, it seems to me that we should be scaffolding and encouraging global connections in every classroom, starting with our youngest students. These connections can blossom into meaningful relationships where students can share experiences and learn together about the cultures, perspectives, and knowledge of each community. That feels like true connected learning.

The Global Classroom Project Logo

So what does that look like in the classroom? At my school, I have slowly been working to build some of these local and global connections so students can engage in more connected learning. While we have had some success, we have definitely had a few misadventures as well.

We tried signing up for an Elementary Mystery Skype project created by some  educators who had seen it done with older grades. Three of my teachers signed up, willing to take the risk and do something they had never done before, but although all three were paired with another teacher, none of them heard a response back about setting a date to actually Skype. After following many inspiring #kinderchat teachers, I talked with a kindergarten teacher at my school about having her class join Twitter. We sat down and discussed how it could work, we wrote up a detailed letter to parents, we planned how to introduce it to the students but since their initial Twitter “launch” the class hasn’t been able to get other classes to tweet back. I think the kids are beginning to feel like tweeting means sending a message on the computer and never hearing back. Whether it’s been via Skype, Twitter, or even email, we have found that making that connection with another teacher and class can be much harder than getting the technology or other preparations in order.

1st Graders Excited to Skype with a class in Canada

1st Graders Excited to Skype with a class in Canada

Luckily, we also have some success stories to share. Thanks to the Global Classroom Project database, I was able to connect our Spanish teacher with a class in Spain so her students could Skype in English and Spanish. While moderating a #globalclassroom chat, I connected with another educator who wanted her students to be able to share their experiences of a Quaker meeting. This led to two of our fourth grade classes Skyping with their fourth grade and discussing their religious practices, as well as the similarities and differences in their schools. Comparing lunches and “specials” was a big highlight. Through Twitter, I was also able to set up a Skype session between a Canadian class and one of our first grade classes – our students were shocked to see all of their snow! And in a few weeks, we have a session scheduled with NASA for our youngest students, who are studying space, to hear about “Humans in Space,” one of the offerings in their Digital Learning Network.

So, while the actual “how” of connected learning can certainly be a challenge, I think it is doable. My students have been able to use a range of web 2.0 tools that have enabled them to develop deeper relationships within their individual classes, between their class and other classes at the school, and between our school and other schools. They are becoming more comfortable with the idea of leaving messages through various platforms and receiving comments and messages back from parents or other students after a pause (which can be tough to understand when you’re only 5 or 6). Teachers are beginning to consider ways we can connect with other students and classes in other parts of the world to enrich their units of study and make different topics and concepts more concrete while also more making them more complex. I hope that with time, patience, and perseverance  our connections will continue to grow and with it, the connected learning that we are all able to share.

The Best Laid Plans …

Some rights reserved by Luke Andrew Scowen 2009

When my winter break began I told myself I would sit down, reflect, and write a thoughtful post to close out the year. I had the best of intentions to write a nice long post, maybe even two … and then, my winter break came to an end. At first, I felt guilty about relaxing so much and not making the time to post but I slowly began to reconsider those feelings.

I started to reflect again on how nice it can be to take a break from the pressures to write, reflect, and post and how it’s even nicer to allow yourself to take that break. As my winter break progressed and I let myself enjoy the simple pleasures of reading, visiting with family, and walking around the city, I began to feel refreshed and I could feel my energy and excitement around work and learning naturally rejuvenating. I decided that while it would have been nice to post during my break, I could be happy with posting after it as well. So now that my break is over, here’s my attempt at looking back at 2012.

iPad_blog_photo2

The past year has been a year of change, full of endings and new beginnings. To start, after a winter and fall jam-packed with coursework, I finished my masters program in International Training and Education in the spring of 2012. I also had the opportunity to expand my consulting work and in addition to managing websites and facilitating Twitter chats and webinars, I led an online summer book club and traveled to Senegal. During my second trip to Africa, I saw less of the countryside but met many more people (over 300 in fact!), as I managed the social media and online spaces for an international conference. I learned a great deal about child protection systems and had the opportunity to connect with some great new colleagues.

After my African adventures, I moved from D.C. back to Philadelphia and into one of my new favorite spots in the city. I had a chance to explore some more of the local parks and restaurants before heading out to my first NAEYC Professional Development Institute (PDI) as a Lasting Legacy Scholar. It was an educative experience and I appreciated the opportunity to connect with so many other professionals in the field of early childhood education. I was also able to help facilitate the first Tech Play Date and share in technology explorations with other early childhood professionals. The PDI was followed closely by my first ISTE conference, which set the stage for our new Early Learning and Technology Special Interest Group (SIGELT) that just recently launched.

ISTE and the Tech Play Date were the perfect prelude to my new position as a Technology Coordinator at a private school, working with Pre-K through 2nd grade, which I began in late August. Since then, I have been engaged in technology explorations, troubleshooting, and collaborations with the students and teachers at my school. I have introduced a range of new tools and apps and together we have explored their applications in the classroom. For example, to start the school year, some students used Skitch on the iPad to annotate photos showing what they like to do in first grade. I have also worked to facilitate some cross-class collaborations, such as a Voicethread exchange among the kindergarten classes, where each student added an audio recording as an introduction to her or his photo and then left a comment on a photo of a new peer in a different kindergarten class.

Not long after our initial projects were finished, I traveled to Atlanta for my 5th NAEYC annual conference. I had a wonderful time talking technology and networking with new friends and colleagues at Tech on Deck and enjoyed attending sessions with people who I had only “met” before on Twitter! I returned to my school with new inspiration for Reggio-inspired, maker-based technology explorations and since then, I have continued to integrate new tools for student expression and creation into the classroom.

DNLE

As the year came to an end, I looked back on all of the posts I had written, here on this blog as well as the tech tips on my school blog, and I felt renewed excitement about all of the things I have learned and experiences I have had. I tried my first MOOC (Standford DNLE) this year, working with partners in Singapore, South Korean, and Iran for our final project and I had the chance to moderate some #Globalclassroom chats to make even more global connections. I continue to learn constantly from my PLN on Twitter, Google+ Communities, and other social media networks, as well as from new friends and colleagues who I get to see in-person.

After giving one small workshop and with another under-review, I have made efforts to begin sharing more of my knowledge and experience with technology as a tool for global learning.  Meanwhile, the small collaborations and global connections that are just beginning to blossom at our school via Skype and Twitter feel like they are a great foundation for future collaborations and the tech projects that are underway are beginning to feel truly integrated with classroom work and curricula. All in all, I think it has been a year of successful change, a year of growth and transition that I hope will lead to even more learning and discovery. Up next, I want to do some forward thinking about the future and what I want to achieve in 2013!

What Does the Future Hold?

Innovative & Developmentally Appropriate Tech Integration Ideas

After four days at the annual National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference, where the theme was Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) in the 21st Century, I have a number of questions bouncing around in my head.

Most of the sessions I attended centered around technology and young children. There were discussions about how to integrate tech into the classroom in developmentally appropriate ways; people sharing apps and tools teachers are using; presenters giving ideas for how pre-service teachers can use tech effectively; and a number of questions from attendees about whether tech was worth integrating at all. I have seen the level of tech integration that is being discussed change and grow significantly over the past few years. Just visiting the exhibit hall makes it clear how pervasive technology has become, with booths for new apps, SMART Board programs, and ways to assess children or update parents via technology.

And yet, I worry about our pacing. Technology is ever changing and transforming as new codes are written and new technologies created. Education is changing too but it seems education is simply reacting, instead of proactively working to shift and adapt in ways that allow technology to be integrated in new and meaningful ways. The field of early childhood education is conflicted as to when, how, where, and why to use technology, with some educators filling their classrooms with every tech tool available (e.g., SMART boards and pens, augmented reality cameras, and multi-touch devices) while others are fighting to keep all technology out in the name of play or tradition.

In one of my sessions this week, the presenters discussed the idea of the tortoise and the hare and the fact that each person moves at her or his own pace along their educational technology journey … and that’s okay! But I wonder if that works as well for the field of early childhood as a whole as it does for individual educators and the children we teach? I agree wholeheartedly that pushing technology into the hands of young children and forcing teachers to use it in their classrooms before they are ready is not the best approach. We need to meet teachers (and children) where they are at to allow them to truly explore and experiment with technology at a pace that allows for discovery, wonder and learning.

Yet, if our children are being bombarded by tech devices at home or expected to walk into older grades competent in using multi-touch devices for research, curation, and creation, it seems like we cannot let tech integration in the field of early childhood education progress at the pace of the tortoise. By integration, I mean everything relating to it, such as training, funding, and classroom resources. If we wait to provide  professional development on technology and only slowly develop rubrics and tools to assess whether technologies are developmentally appropriate, then the technology will continue to be used without an educational lens and integration in DAP. There are teachers who want to move faster and students who have already moved ahead, frustrated by the lack of learning they’re experiencing in school.

One of the repeated messages at the conference was that technology is not going away and we can’t play “keep away” from children (or teachers!) with technology without doing an injustice to education. Instead, we need to be scaffolding students’ understanding of digital media literacy and ways to use technology for creation, communication, and collaboration.

As we enter into the Maker age (such as the use of bananas for piano keys, as seen above) where 3D printers can print out a child’s invention, programing systems are developed for early childhood, and multi-touch devices may be obliterating the need for a mouse, we need to consider what tools and practices will soon be considered “out-of-date” and how we will be prepared for all of the tools and technologies that come next.

So I come back to the question of where our responsibility lies regarding tech integration, as educators, policymakers, developers and administrators, in the field of Early Childhood Education.

  • How can we share resources, develop professional development communities and trainings, and invite others to watch our practices so that we can all grow together?

Our children are waiting for us to be ready. They are more often moving at the pace of the hare instead of the tortoise and I think it’s time for departments, agencies, ministries, organizations, and individuals to come together and make the developmentally appropriate use of technology by educators and with children a priority. As Warren Buckleitner said at the end of the featured NAEYC session on technology, “we all need to figure this out together” because many hands make light work.

Everyone Working Together:
A Collection of Images from Tech on Deck by Giovanni Arroyo

This slideshow requires JavaScript.