Category Archives: Web 2.0

Creating equity in the classroom with technology

It’s quite exciting to watch how technology tools create equity in learning environments.  Research shows that IWBs help to build equity in the classroom and we’re seeing evidence of this at Variety School, a school dedicated to educating students with learning disabilities.  Since implementing the Promethean ActivClassroom, Variety School teachers report that students are more engaged, attentive, patient, and cooperative.  Behavioral disruptions have decreased.  The technology gives teachers the ability to isolate and target specific skills and concepts, reducing student frustration due to other deficiencies (i.e. fine motor skills). 

It seems that yet another technology tool, the iPad, has the potential to build equity in the classroom.  It’s not that tablets are new devices but the slick, cool iPad seems to be catching folks’ attention.  The real power behind the iPad as a learning tool or assistive device are the apps it can run.  An Education Week story today highlighted how some schools are using iPads with special needs students.  One powerful example shared in the article was how a student with Down syndrome and apraxia (which makes it difficult for the student to form words that others can understand) used an application on the iPad called Proloquo2Go to effectively communicate.  The student scrolls through pictures or choose from phrases and the computer speaks for her.  Powerful! 

So, where do you begin finding the perfect app?  I found this resource Teachers with Apps.  It is evident from the reviews that these teachers understand how children learn, how children interact with technology and have actually  spent time using the app with kids.  Check it out – you’ll likely find something useful and interesting!

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Empowering Learners

I intended to write about the recent talk and data surrounding science education both locally and nationally but stumbled upon this Education Week chat that grabbed my attention and deserves some props.  The session, “From Engagement to Empowerment:  How 21st Century Tools Put Students in Charge of Their Learning”, featured Darren Kuropatwa, educator and founder of the K-12 Online Conference.  Here are my take-aways:

  • “All voices speak at the same volume online.”
  • “Technology helps students see their thinking.”
  • An interesting way to use blogs – “Scribe blogs” – each day a student is selected to summarize what he/she learned in school that day, with enough detail that an absent student could get up to speed.  So, essentially, the students are creating a running log of learning over the course of the year.  Kuropatwa describes this as a “distributive approach” to technology use.    
  • He also discussed how he uses blogs to identify student misconceptions and to help students reflect.  He referenced a resource http://kidblog.org/home.php as a good, safe option for K-5 students.
  • Interesting science resource –  Symphony of Science offers unique science music videos, good to pique student interest.

If these take-aways resonate with you, you may want to review some of Kuropatwa’s presentations.  He provides links to them in the chat.

What kids learn from digital media

A forum on digital learning was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, the National Writing Project, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.  The hour webcast of the forum is a little long but presents some interesting big ideas about youth empowerment and digital media creation.  I’ve summarized some of the big ideas here:

  • With today’s technologies and applications, there is a low barrier of entry to create media as well as a world wide reach.  “Universal authorship” is the future.
  • The “potential” exists but need to be intentional in helping all kids become digitally literate.  We could see a “participation gap”.  The responsibility to help kids become digitally literate should not fall solely to schools but requires supporting students in all the spaces they learn (home, libraries, after-school programs, etc.).
  • Four core principles:
    • Re-think the definition of who are teachers – i.e. bring in new media artists into schools, existing teachers can not be expected to teach it all
    • Create bridges between all the spaces where kids spend their time to address students’ feeling of disconnect between school and “real-life”
    • Ensure students have the opportunity to showcase their work – by having real audiences, students will iterate and put forth effort
    • Help students understand the pathways available via digital media – taking a lesson from video games where it is very clear what is required to get to the next level
  • The role of the “adult” (whether that be the teacher, the parent, the mentor, etc.) in guiding and supporting youth in this space is essential and yet, hard to define, especially given the fact that norms and ethics change very quickly.

It’s a lot to digest… and because of this often gets pushed to the side.  However, the power of digital media creation and the overall changing ecology forces us, as educators, to be more thoughtful about engaging students in media creation.  Thinking about these big ideas is a start…

Does audience matter?

The role of the internet to connect students to a global audience has been a long-standing benefit and draw of the internet for learning.  The premise being that if children had an authentic audience to present/share their work to, the work would be more relevant, and the learning more meaningful.  However, Chris Lehman’s recent tweet has created quite an interesting dialogue.  Lehman posted, “When having an audience is no longer novel, simply having one is no longer motivating.  We still must help kids have something powerful to say.”

Katie Ash author of the Digital Education blog wrote about this topic and pointed to some very interesting comments/responses to Lehman’s tweet that are thought-provoking.  I’ve summarized it here…

  • Dean Shareski’s comment decomposes the core of the statement by defining the different types of audiences.  1)  Audience as eyeballs – this all about numbers.  Think YouTube.  This tells you how many people watched (which is important) but tells very little about the quality of the product and lasting value.  2)  Audience as teachers – this involves interaction via feedback, responses through blogs, emails, etc.  As Shareski puts it, “You have the opportunity to grow and get better.”  There is growth and learning in critiquing a product/thought as well as receiving a peer review.  3)  Audience as co-learners – this is the ultimate, an authentic exchange between learners.  While Shareski says this can be achieved within the walls of a classroom, he reinforces the power of the internet, “A little anonymity and distance seems to be a good thing in some cases. It’s less about personalities and more about learning.”   His final statement is quite powerful, “Audience for the sake of audience is fleeting. Audience for the sake of learning is lasting.” Continue reading →

Punahou’s Summer Technology Lab

Today I attended two sessions of Punahou’s Technology Lab School.  This summer’s lab school theme is Creativity and Innovation covering such engaging topics as “Geotools in Education”, “Immersive Environments”, and “Creative Expression”.  The focus of these few days is on “Creative Expression”.  The first session presented by Punahou Spanish teacher, Jose Gigante, focused on ways to use online tools to spice up the classroom.  He shared a number of free applications, some more well known than others, such as:

Continue reading →