Text vs. Skype vs. Email vs. Chat vs. Face to Face

I love technology. I love technology in school. I think students need to use a know the different technology that is out there so they can design, write, or engineer the new technology for the world. I like the options that it provides for students to use in school. New homework options instead of just pencil and paper. New ways to communicate with other students and teachers.

But communication can get lost the tech. The one thing that technology needs to be careful of is communication. We have so many different ways to communicate that the most important one of all might get lost in the shuffle. Face to face communication. We like to text or email our friends, chat or Skype our family. We use tech to communicate our thought and sometimes we just need to stand in front of our friends or family and talk. We need to focus on what is in front of us and not let out tech break the focus to text someone or take the call.

Technology is great, but the personal relationships we make with those in front of us will build us up. Using technology in school should include the lesson about communicating with those sitting right next to us. 1:1 computers gives us a path to using technology and prepare them for what might come later, but so will communication. Collaboration with partners and teams should become more important in a technology laden classroom. We need to be careful not to assign too many individual projects and work on more cooperative and collaborative assignments using technology. Brainstorming, discussing, revising, discussing, solving, discussing, completing, communicating.

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When We Understand Computers

Time Bandits was the visor of choice today. Some funny quotes about technology came up.
Evil: If I were creating the world I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, Day One!
[zaps one of his minions accidentally, minion screams]
Evil: Sorry.

Evil: God isn't interested in technology. He cares nothing for the microchip or the silicon revolution. Look how he spends his time, forty-three species of parrots! Nipples for men!
Robert: Slugs.
Evil: Slugs! HE created slugs! They can't hear. They can't speak. They can't operate machinery. Are we not in the hands of a lunatic?

Evil: When I have the map, I will be free, and the world will be different, because I have understanding.
Robert: Uh, understanding of what, Master?
Evil: Digital watches. And soon I shall have understanding of video cassette recorders and car telephones. And when I have understanding of them, I shall have understanding of computers. And when I have understanding of computers, I shall be the Supreme Being!

Evil: I have the map! I have the map! And the day after tomorrow... The world!

Evil: Oh, Benson... Dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.
Benson: Oh, you say such nice things, Master.
Evil: Yes I know, I'm sorry!

Evil: Suddenly, I feel very, very good.
Robert: Oh, I'm sorry, Master.
Evil: No, it'll pass, it'll pass.

Supreme Being: I should do something very extroverted and vengeful to you. Honestly, I'm too tired. So, I think I'll transfer you to the undergrowth department, brackens, more shrubs, that sort of thing... with a 19% cut in salary, backdated to the beginning of time.
Randall: Oh, thank you, sir.
Supreme Being: Yes, well, I am the nice one.

We I'll all be Supreme Beings one day, once we understand computers.

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Too Much Tech On My Hands

I have been looking for great technology to use with my students for many years now. I have found some great software and websites that have enhanced my teaching and student learning. Some apps has made it easier for the students and more work for me, and I have found some apps have made it easier for students and less work for me.

What I have also found is the amount of products that are out there and how I have been trapped in the notion that I need to use as many as I can for the students. I don't think this is the case. We don't have to use as many programs that we can. We just need to use the ones that will enhance the student learning. There are so many different apps out there to use and many of them do the same thing. I heard about Spicynodes a few days ago and I started playing on it. It is a fun program. After I made a project on it I found that it is the same as using Xmind. My students use Xmind when mind mapping. It is easy and not web based, yet we can post the finished products on the web. It is also similar to Mind42, which is also a beautiful mind mapping program. What we use is what is best for us.

We do need to keep our eyes open for useful programs that can be used in our classrooms, but do we need everything we can get? I don't think so.

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What Did He Say?

I have been following the tweets of Bill Ferriter the past few weeks. He was at a conference listening to Andy Hargreaves speak and was tweeting some of Andy's sayings. I was struck by these sayings and feel I need to put them here for me to remember and for others to read.
•As a leader when we say it can't be done, your job is to get in the and show them it can be done.
•As a leader are you willing to go into the dirty, dangerous places where others are willing to go?
•Going into the dirty, dangerous places as a leader show others where change begins.
•Organizations that perform beyond expectations aspire to improbable, collectively held dreams that a bold than any plans.
•We are who we learn from.
•First fit the curriculum to the child, then monitor, track, and measure. Not the other way around.
•Never make demands on people that you don't have a relationship with.
•Late spikes in improvement are a sign of meaningful change.
•Friendly rivalry—on field competition combined with off field collaboration—leads to growth for all.
•The first method of estimating the intelligence of a man is to look at who he has around him.
Andy Hargreaves

These are sayings I will be thinking about for a while.

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Survey Says...

My students started using a Student Response System in my class a couple weeks ago. We have had a set in our library that was unused last year. I decided to get it out and see what I could do with it this year and our Title 1 Department bought each Title 1 school a set of each classroom. So I dove in and found it to be a very useful tool.

We did a few yes/no questions and then started to text in answers. The students payed more attention to what I was doing. Then came the accountability. They found that they could not look to others for answers. They had to come up with it themselves. He answers became more varied and thoughtful.

We brainstormed a fictional narrative the class was starting to write. The ideas came out about a theme. We learned about different Cinderella stories last week and so that became the theme. The setting was Christmas time in the North Pole. We discussed the events that should happen because of the framework of a Cinderella story. They came up with the framework. They came up with names. They came up with a few events. All ideas came from the students texting in their ideas with the SRS. Another tool in the long list of great tools to use in the classroom.

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Does a PLC reach across school boundaries?

We had a principal from another school visit us on a Learning Walk. There is a purpose for the Learning Walk and I think it is for the people coming to our school to learn about some of the things we are doing. I think this mint have been lost on this walk. When it was finished, we heard back about all the wrong things we were doing in our school. How we were not following the strict guidelines on the district on the curriculum map and how we we not using the right materials to teach.

First off, the guidelines are guidelines right? See How To Stay Up With The Curriculum on the editions website. We do the best we can, but we still teach kids. We are taught not to teach to the test, and yet, we are to teach the curriculum at the exact time everyone else is. It is great to have a map and a guideline of what and when to teach it, but some kids need a little more time here and a little less time there. That is the teachers guide to how fast to teach. Am I wrong here?

But the main point of this, for me, is the PLC aspect of it. If we are going to have a Professional Learning Community, we should find the best in the schools and spread it around. Each school should work at getting better by building a collaborative atmosphere and the district should follow suit by building a collaborative atmosphere among the schools. How can we collaborate with people that tear us down? Is competition good among schools academically or should we be working to raise everyone's skill level.

So how do we do this? How do we stop finding the bad in other schools and find the things that a good and try to incorporate them into our school?

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How Do You Spell Assessment?

We are using a "Words Their Way" type of spelling program. It is more of a "Words Their Way" lite. My question is how do we grade? Do we grade the pretest because it tells us what they know? Do we grade them on the Friday test after they have gone over the words and practiced them all week? Does the Friday test show students know the words and can use them in their writing, or does is show they can study words for a week and spell them on Friday and nothing changes in their writing?

"Words Their Way" is a great program that concentrates on patterns in the words. We are told to grade the last few tests, yet each test concentrates on a whole different set of patterns. Students may get an easy pattern on the last few weeks and hard ones throughout the weeks. This is not a true picture of how they are doing with spelling. So do we even grade the weekly tests? Our team is always trying to show what the students truly know on the reports we send to parents. I am not sure if we are there yet with spelling.

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The Major Award

Our school received a major award this week. We have become a Distinguished Title I School. This is a culmination of what our school has been working on for the last few years. The staff did not know about this award and we were not looking to get it, but there it is, right at our doorstep. All the innovation we have been doing, all the research, all the practices we have put into place have given us the opportunity to be recognized for our hard work. All teachers are hard workers and deserve to be recognized. The students performed to our expectations.

We teach and teach, we research and change our teaching styles, we practice and replace ideas, we read about others ideas and write down our own, and we worry about the things we did not do. We are being recognized for the hard work we have done over the last few years of changing our culture and attitudes about students and learning. We are thankful for the award. We have not desired it. We did not even know it was there for schools to earn. We were just doing our jobs to help students learn and be prepared for the world when they enter into it as an adult. We want them to be ready for whatever comes their way. We are not sure what we will see in ten years when those fifth graders are in college or entering the workforce. What we do know is that it is changing and we need them to be prepared for whatever comes their way.

We accept the award on behalf of all the teachers, professional development teachers, conference speakers, district support, and others that have had a hand in making our school a wonderful place to teach and to be taught. Our job now is to keep our standards and expectations high and to keep our students learning. We can do it.

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The Trouble With Homework

No other word drives a parent more crazy than Math homework. They know it is needed, but it gives parents the opportunity to teach their children how much they hate math and how they cannot do it. I hope that with a better homework plan that will change. I don't think we will ever change parents attitude for doing math, but we will end the frustration of parent and child sitting trying to complete a math page that neither understands. There needs to be a purpose and a need for homework. If there is not, there needs to be no homework for that night. There also needs to be a way out, if needed.

I was a teacher that did not like to hand out homework. I wanted the students to a go home and read each night and spend time doing a child's work (play). I never really knew what homework oils do for the student because when I was a student I was given busy work each night. Fifty math problems a night, with the answers in the back of the book. I don't think I ever learned anything doing homework. It was just something I did before I went out to play. I have changed my thought process. Our team has come up with a plan to make it more purposeful and meaningful for the students and the parents.

So what is the purpose for homework? To review what has been learned. Students need to review what has been learned so they can cement it into their minds. The learning does not end with the lesson. There needs to be practice. The homework should be a short practice page of what was learned that day. Short.
Another purpose is for the students to show their parents what they learned. We tell them to go. Home and teach their parents what they learned and if they say they are not good at math, teach them to be good at math. Show them how to do the problems. The student becomes the teacher and learns more by teaching.
Students need a way out if they cannot do the work. There needs to be a "parent signature" clause for our homework. If the student does not understand the work and the parent does not understand how to help or what they are doing, the parent can sign the pare and write a little note saying "we tried". This will let us know the student did not understand the work and we'll go over the problems and algorithms again. It also prevents frustration for the parents and students at home. We do not want frustration with any homework. We want them to understand it and feel they can do the problems.
One last reason for homework is we want students to learn how to work. We want them to understand that they can work on something and give it their best work, even if they do not succeed at it. We want them to learn tolerance for work. They will have work that will take them time to complete and will be done in small pieces. This is important for students to learn as they grow.

The problem with homework is that when it is used as a tool to give students something to do after school or because the book said to, we teach students to hate homework. That just produces people that hate homework.

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Is there a Learner in the House?

I was reading about the student vs. the learner in schools. David Warlick has a great chart showing the difference between the two.

Since reading this I have talked to my brother-in-law about this same concept and his take on it is that some teachers still have that need for control in the classroom. If we are going to teach the students how to work cooperatively, be able to work in teams, and to learn, we are going to have to let go of the control and get to the actual learning. Lecturing the students does not help them remember much. They will glean information, but gleaning is not learning.

I have looked at what our team is doing and how much time we spend talking to the students and not having them participate or talk to the class. We are about 60-40. That is so much better than what we used to be. It more like 90-10. I still feel we need to be more like 40-60. As a teacher, I still need to get the information of how I want the students to show me what they have learned and they still need me to give them some information. The reattach thing is that when we have taunt the students to learn the information themselves, they can find most of the information themselves. After we have taught them what to do with the information after they have found it, they can lead a discussion, or learn from others by listening and discussing.

Teachers like control. I can admit it. We like to set the rules and have a quiet class with no one getting out of their seats. We don't want anyone talking with their neighbors because they might cheat. These are the old rules. These are the old attitudes. We need students to become learners. Students want to learn. We just need to show them how and then stand back and be quiet so they can do the talking. So they can do some learning. If we do this, we will become the guides and facilitators of the information we want them to learn

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Back to School for the Teacher

I have started taking English Language Learner classes. I have been fighting the system and doing the bare minimum with my endorsements, but it has come time that I do what is needed and get it done. I need to help my team and the students in fifth grade and so I need to buddy up and help. Getting my ELL endorsement will give me more strategies to help all the students. I do love to learn. So my question is this. Shouldn't all teachers learn these strategies to use with all their students? The best strategies I learned in college were the ones I learned in my Special Education classes. Shouldn't they be taught to all teachers?

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You Got Some Splaining To Do

Our Fifth Grade Team was asked to talk at a Title One meeting in Northern Utah. At first we looked at our schedules to see if that would be possible. Then we looked at what we were teaching to see what we would have to turn over to a substitute to teach. Some concepts are best to teach ourselves and, even though we have great subs, have the sub teach something else. We finally worked it out and we will be heading up on Friday. We will be talking about what we did to help our students do so well on the year end tests. There are so many things that we did and so many ideas we tried to get going last year that it would be hard to narrow them down

Our district Superintendent of Elementary Education visited with our school a couple of years ago and told us to "think out of the box". We were in the middle of the legislative time when our state lawmakers were deciding whether to take away days from the teachers to learn and prepare for the school year. He wanted us to do what we could to help our students with less money and less days to prepare our lessons in. So our school went to it and came up with a few things to change, morph, or get rid of. This was the start of what we did to help our students.

We looked at a few things to change in each subject in our grade level. We refined our lesson plans in Social Studies and put the lessons and activities on a wiki. Spelling became more of a focus and we added word sorts and Kagen Activities to help practice their words. Science was retooled and we took the lessons, added experiments and activities, and limited the lecturing where possible. Guests were invited to help teach the curriculum. Zion National Park Ranges aight about land forms and erosion while Discovery Gateway sent a presenter to show off experiments with matter. We wanted the students to have fun with what they were learning, but we made sure the learning was happening.

When we tested, we added two little things that made a big difference to the testing outcome. We tested in our own rooms to make the students feel comfortable and we made them explain their answers. We take all our year end test on computers. Testing in our rooms helped the students feel like they were taking another test in our rooms instead of taking the test in the computer lab where we visit once a week. We had parent volunteers sign up and get trained on the ethics of testing and on how to be in the testing environment and observe, but not help the students. Parents were not allowed to be the same rooms as their students.

Having the students explain their answers helped them focus to get the right answers. It made the students that hurry through the test slow down and have to think about why they answer the questions. We had them fold a paper into 32 squares and show their work in math or explain their answer in language and science. When the test finished, they turned in their scratch paper to the Escher to look over and then destroy. Students are allowed to u scratch paper on all tests, the paper just needs to be destroyed after the test.

These are not the end of what we will do the help our students succeed, but they are the start of our journey to helping these kids succeed.

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It's all about the Teamwork

We just saw the end of year scores from last year. They look great. We are now in reflection mode. What did we do that was with and how did it affect our scores so we can do it again. We will also look at what we think did not work last year and change those so we can make it better. We have some work to do.

Changing our language program will be an interesting part of this reflection. Our greatest jump on the testing was in language, so what we were doing worked well for us and the students. The program is similar toss what we did last year, so we should do as well or better an we did.

The Kagen strategies we used this last year were a big part of our success. When we moved students around in our flexible groupings, we used the Kagen strategy of pairing students with another student with a different level to help both of them improve in their lessons. Having three classes, we split the students into six groups and put two groups in each classroom. With group six being the highest, we paired group six with group three, five with two, and four with one. This gave each class a group of students that first off did not know why they were in that class(highest, lowest) and that made for less chance of teasing or segregation of students. This also helped with the lower students having a partner to help them, if needed. The higher student gets the opportunity to help, learn from the other student, and gets to teach a little. This helps the higher student cement what they have learned by explaining the concept to another student. Both students get to work with another student that is not two levels higher than themselves, but close to the same level as they are. This helps the confidence of both students when they feel successful and one student is not always doing all the work.

Another piece that we felt helped our classes was the partnering up of the students to help each other. In math, we have the students paired up by mixed ability. While doing our opening review problems, the students have "one book, one pencil". One of the students works on the problem while talking through the process they are using. The partner listens and uses the "tip, tip, tell" method of helping. If partner A does not know how to work the problem, partner B gives a tip to help. They can give two tips before they tell partner A how to do the problem. They cannot do it fro partner A but they tell them the process to get it done. Then they switch and partner B becomes partner A and so on until all the problems are completed. This process has been a wonderful way for students to explain what they are doing and help them help each other understand the algorithms and processes of math.

When looking back at what we did the best throughout the whole year to get the best scores from our students, I would have to say that it s all about the teamwork. Our fifth-grade team worked together on every problem, we worked with each child, and we let them know we were united in our teacher, lessons, disciple, expectations, and a friends. While showing the students this, we let them know we expected the same form them. All for one, and one for all.

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Anyone have a Groove I can borrow?

We have been working on the language for a few weeks and we like it. We have had some hard times adjusting to the amoUnt of planning we need to do. With a new program the planning always increases until it becomes more of the plan. Right now we are getting the plans down with all the different parts of the program. They are similar plans to what we have used in the past so it has not been difficult, but it has been time consuming. We have not found our groove yet, and we definitely need a groove.

We have planned our spelling just like we did last year with the words and word sorts. We feel that was a big success. In fact, our scores for last years End of level tests were great. The students were amazing and worked their best and showed us what they knew. We are getting this group ready to do the same. But I digress. So spelling is not too hard. Vocabulary is a little different. We have née lessons and ways to work with vocabulary. We work on Word Squares each week. I love this part of vocabulary. The kids love the Word Squares. The one thing I miss is the cloze stories we used with the previous vocabulary program. The stories were great and they used context clues to put the words into the stories.there are some great hinge about thetas. Program, but I miss that piece from the last program.

Reading is good. We use a basal that has a lot of lessons in it and with the allotted time we have for it, it is hard to fit it together. But the stories are good and the lessons work with the writing to create great opportunities for students to learn. We are working on writing a story and we are talking abut problem and solution in writing while we are discussing problem and solution in the reading we are working on. Writing and reading go hand in hand and fit in with the lessons that are taught in the Readabout program we use on the computers. Readabout discusses problem and solution also and the whole lesson fits together.

We just need to get into a groove so we can feel better about what we are doing. It took a us a few years to figure out the math program we are using, but we are using it well now and the student scores are on the rise. It may take this year, but we will get it. There are many parts to this program that we will fit in throughout the year to see how they fit in and how they will work. We are just out of the comfort zone and it has taken a little longer than we had hoped to get comfortable.

The newest part we will be working on is the computer testing part. This will help us because the Unit tests are very long and involved. We will have to do them in parts during the assessment week. It will be interesting to see what the tests tell us compared to what we teach. That is always the most interesting part of a new program is the testing to see what it tells us. Life goes on and so will the teaching.


Just Teachin' with the iPad

I got an iPad this week and after a week of using it for class, I have to say... It is a good tool for me as a teacher. I love how light it is and how versatile it is. My class uses the internet each day to work on and complete assignments on our class wiki. Using the iPad I can check how the students are doing on their assignments and comment on their discussions. It has made it easier to move around the classroom and not have to head back to the desk everything I want to do something on the Internet. I take roll from the back of the room, use the air mouse to move around information on the smart board, and even control the music on iTunes as the students are working. I use Pages to type up information and letters to parents. I use keynote to finish or start presentations for the students. I use numbers to input student information and keep tack of their progress. All of these activities I did on my Macbook Pro, but with the iPad, it is less cumbersome and more portable.

The bad is that it does not print (yet), and there are a few hints I want on pages (columns, tables), but I also understand that it is an iPad, not a laptop or net book. I still feel I am in the honeymoon phase with this device, but what I am using it for right now, is what I will be using for each day. I am sure I will find things that I will not like, but for now I am loving it.

I have been watching iPad Weekly on Twit to get a few ideas on how to use it. Leo Laporte is enjoyable and informative about apps, tips, and tricks. I suggest it for all that have an iPad and want to learn a Little more about it

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A Trip to Korea... Without Leaving My Classroom

Our school has had the opportunity to have a few Korean interns spend a couple weeks at our school observing, learning, and teaching. It has been a great opportunity for the school. My class had two wonderful interns teach them culture lessons about Korea. They learned how similar and how diferent our countries are. Birthdays are very different in Korea compared to the US. The games the students play there and what we play are different. The school schedules are very different, and yet they are similar.

The one thought I had from this whole opportunity is how important parents are for their children to learn. School is longer in Korea, but as I spoke with the korean interns, I found that we were similar in curriculum and style of teaching. THe biggest difference is the after school time for the Korean children. Parents have their students study and work until late at night each night to be prepared for the next day in school. There are tutors and classes they go to. We tend to have a different idea about what happens after school. Children should have a little time to play and relax with minimal homework in elementary school. And yet I wonder how our students would improve if we had tutors or classes until late each night for the students? We do pretty well in America, but the legislature is looking for higher test scores and the schools are the ones facing the blame. I see it as not one situation is to blame, but how will society change so the change can come to society?

The other thing that was interesting is the technlogy comparison. The elementary schools do not have any more computers in them than a normal school does. My school has a 1:1 in the upper grades and the schools our interns were from had only a couple computers.

So should we compare ourselves with other countries that have more of an educational focus at home? What are we willing to do at home to help our students? Do we even want to put forth the idea that we as parents need to do more and give up more personal time to help our students? What do we want with educaional change?


Growing Pains

There is some serious growing pains when learning a new program. We had our first week of using the program. It has a "Smart Start" to prep the kids for the rest of the year. It includes much of the information we go over throughout the year, but the students get some notes on paper so they can refer back to them. We have them put an index in their language books so they can find the notes easier.
The hardest part of the program so far is that I am ready to get to the schedule, and I think the kids are also. I figure next year we will schedule ourselves a little better to get the schedule into play the first week. We can do the "Start Smart", but the schedule will start earlier.
Planning the first week of the daily schedule has been fun. Figuring out what exactly we are supposed to do has been very time consuming. The best thing about the hard work we have had to put in planning is that w are doing it together. One of us would figure out one part and the ideas would come on what were to do. We planned put each day, the time we will spend on each piece and we will see how it will be used. A team is the best way to plan. We each trust each other, we rely on each other, and we know that one of us will have the idea that will work the best. The group works because we believe that we will each bring our best to the table. We look out for each other. We also have fun. We all love our job and we have become "workafrolics" (a word coined by Robert St. John).
We are working through a program that has similarities with the programs we have used In the past, but putting it into play each day, everyday is not always the easiest for a new program. Marking the pages and the activities we will be doing would be miserable if I was to do it on my own. Working as a team has made my teaching better.


The Gate has Opened and We Can't Go Back

School has started and we are all tired. The kids are tired, I am tired. The first few weeks are rough. Rules, procedures, activities to get to know the kids, team building, not to mention a full day of teaching after a month of no school. Whew. In a couple weeks it will be all over, done in a whirlwind, not literally, but it will feel like a few weeks.

Before school started, i sat down to upgrade all the computers in my room for the start of the year. I laid them all out on the desks and went one by one updating windows, running the disk clean, defragging the drive, and in the middle of it all, I thought, what am I doing this for? I have a class full of computer users coming to me. I can show them how to update, clean, defrag, and manage their computers. This way, they can head home and manage their computer that has never been updated, cleaned, or defragged. It will be a monthly oil change for the computers. How nice it will be.

We dived right into the new reading program with gusto and, like any new program, we had a few glitches, but we will work them out and get after it. It will be another great year with new group of students that are full of ideas and wanting new experiences to help them learn. Let's Go!


Uh, Oh, He's Reading Again

I have been reading a couple different books about teams, collaboration, and community in the classroom. The Art of Collaboration by Jono Bacon is a good book about online collaboration and building teams. Reach by Jeff Utecht talks about building networks and the use of wiki's, blogs, and online communities to build a network. These books have taught me quite a bit about how to put teams together so they work well together.  This will be come a major part in my classroom. I have put together teams and they worked, but I am looking for more. I will go over what I intend to do in the next couple days as I get it all put down on paper. I will be taking all the books and synthesizing them into a manageable plan to use for fifth graders.

One book I read was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. This book is about success and what helped successful people become successful. The one thing I came out learning, as a teacher, is that I need to provide opportunity for my students.  Do this already for my kids. We take vacations and go to places most of the kids in my classes have never been. We do not go to lavish places, but we do things and see things to give our kids experience in many different areas. This is what I want to do with my class. This is one reason I want a one:one computers in my classroom. Each child will use and become fluent with using and managing the computer. They will be able to research a topic and cross reference to see f it is true or not. I want to give them a chance the creative with their writing and ideas so they can make our world better. They are the future. They will be using technologies that have not been thought. Up. I want my students to be the pens that will think up these technologies and ideas for the world. I want them to make our world q better palace this is my mission. This is my teams mission. This is my schools mission. To build a better opportunity for our children.


Who Has Need of a New Program?

We have a new program for Language Arts. It is an all encompassing program with Spelling, Reading, Writing, Vocabulary, and Grammar. There is always much to learn with a new program. It seems as though we have had a new program each year since I have been teaching. There are a few things about this program that I am liking and that are closer to what I am personally looking for.

I like the fact that it is using the same basic principles and lessons we have used in the programs we have used over the past few years. We have found success with some of these programs and to see them in the McMillan-Hill Treasures Program we will be using will make it easier and more familiar to the teachers and students. We will be using the same spelling ideas and the same grammar ideas. We will be using the writing traits program that we have trained the students on. They will still hear the same vocabulary with the programs we are using as we have given them with the other programs. The biggest difference is that this is a program with more scope and sequence, more schedule, and more spiraling.

The technology part of it is the most exciting to me. It has some parts that are still developing, but the beginnings are exciting to me. There is an online student book for students to use, to mark, to make notes, to have read to them. They will learn to identify Main Ideas in a story and mark them, in the online book. They can access the book and information from home so they can reread the information and complete assignments at home. Assessments can be done online for easier assessing for the teacher. We use our Utips program for testing in Math and Science. We have practice tests for Language, Math, and Science. We take our end of year tests on the computer, so it is wonderful that we can take most of our tests online.

My team has been working on getting computers in the hands of our students for years. Our ideas were hard to grasp and harder to finance, but we worked and gathered ideas for what we are doing now. We still have many ideas we want to put into practice. We are getting there, one computer program at a time. This program helps us get another step closer to our goal.


The Learning Starts....for Me!

I have taken my summer to learn a little more about education and what is out there in education in the world. I want to get better at teaching. I want to see what else I can do to help me teach the students. What ideas are out there that I have not heard of or that can refine what I have been doing? So spent time with Ted. Ted.com is a website about ideas. Great ideas. The cutting edge ideas... about everything. Ted is a collection of presentations from Ted Conferences over the years. This has become my personal professional development.

I spent time with Sugata Mitra teaching me about how kids can teach themselves. I found that I need to stop pushing the information to the students and I need to present and let them learn or give them time to teach themselves. As we use technology in our school I have heard teachers say that we need to know how to use the computer completely before we teach the students. We can't let them go on their own because we don't k now what they are doing. We are not going to know everything so we need to let the students go (with some guidance) and have them show us what they are doing. We can have them teach the class if they find something new. We want the students to stretch themselves and yet we prevent them from stretching by holding them back from teaching themselves. I need to let go.

Another I learned from was Ken Robinson. I had heard about him on a few other blogs so I listened to his ideas about creativity. I will be looking at my class to see where I can increase creativity in my class. I learned that I need to let kids come up with ideas. I want them to feel comfortable to come up with crazy ideas. In another presentation about Learning and Working in the Collaborative Age, Randy Nelson talks about improvisation and how improve is going with any idea. Go with every idea. When an idea is stopped, it goes dead. I want kids to have the opportunity to present their ideas without having to have these ideas getting squashed. Building creativity will mean I need to hold back on toning the kids down. I will try providing a place on our wiki that the students can type in their ideas so we can all remember what it was. Using a back channel will also give the students a place to ask questions and write ideas.

Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech at Stanford University in June 2005. It is one of the greatest speeches about how to "connect the dots" in our lives. It is not just because I am an Apple guy, but it is a great speech. Steve shares a few stories from his life that might have gone a couple ways, but he made the best of what he had and moved forward. The dots were put n the page and now he can connect them to see where he was and what helped him get to where he is.

A few other presentations I enjoyed were...
David Logan on Tribal Leadership
Tim Brown on Creativity and Play
Elif Shafak on the Politics of Fiction


How Much Longer Do I Have?

It is time to get ready for school. The kids will be back in a few weeks and I am now starting to put my ducks in a row. What programs are we going to use? How am I going to use the new Language program? What online programs will it offer and will I want to use them?

I am also watching a few more podcasts to get a few more ideas to incorporate into the team before school starts. I find it easier to start an idea in the beginning of the year. It helps me get it going and if it works it will keep going strong.

I am always excited to start a new year with new students and new ideas. I try to push myself to go farther and get better as a teacher. Years ago I had a student ask me if the previous year's students' did the same activity? I took that as a challenge that we need to change it up a little each year. We need to have some consistency and the best lessons can be tweaked, but do not need to be revamped.

This week will be teachers teaching teachers the ideas they were taught at different conferences or some of the ideas they have found successful. We will also learn about our new Language program. We get to learn a new program this year. We seem to get a new program each year. We will get it learned and see how it does.


Walking a Tightrope Without a Net..book!

I have been doing a lot of reading this summer about using our students netbooks better. I have found a few programs that I want to use. As I was reading Dave Warlick's blog he mentioned using Xmind as a brainstorming program. I was using Freemind but Xmind is so much easier to use. So I will be installing it on the student computers when we start school.

I was searching around on the net and ran into a blog by Brad Flickenger. He talks a lot about using netbooks in the classroom. He has some great ideas about using them in the curriculum, classroom management, and basic netbook stuff in the classroom. It gave me some ideas about having the students sign a netbook contract. We will put together a few rules and consequences for the netbooks. He also mentions that he has the students do a monthly maintenance checklist to keep them clean and orderly. I will be putting one of those together also to keep them running as well as giving the students a sense of ownership for their computer.

One thing Brad talked about was using flash drives in the classrooms. If the students have their own computers, why use a flash drive? I can see a few reasons why we should use flash drives. Taking documents home for use on their computers and going from one computer in the school to the computer lab to complete a reports or to show a presentation. I have not been sold on the Google Docs yet for Elementary School students. I want to use it, but I have parents that do not want (or do not have a computer) email addresses for their children. I want a way for the students to get a Google Docs account, but I am still trying to figure out how to get all the students an account. I was hoping that Google would let me put a class of students into a group so I can manage them. I am hoping that we will get to the point of having parents set up the account for the students. We will see this coming year.

I really like his idea about sending the students a question each morning before school for them to answer in the morning. We have the students do Morning Work (a language question, geography question, analogy question and a math question) and work as partners to complete the questions. Adding a message on our Wiki would be a great addition to the morning work. It could be a starter for Social Studies, a topic in math, language, or even a situation in class. So many ideas. I can't wait.



I have been reading a book by Clay Shirky called "Here comes Everybody". He talks about how Social Media have changed our lives and how it keeps on changing. He started telling about the beginning of Wikipedia and how it evolved from Nupedia.

As he was telling the story a thought came to me about school. We could make an encyclopedia on our wiki for the students to add information on. When students complete a report they can add the information to the wiki. When the next year's students start on their report, they can gather information from the school wiki and then add information the found that was not there. They will be required to come up with at least three sources for their report. One could be the wiki, but they would need to find other information to add to the wiki, or find information that will dispute what was already there.

This could be an ever changing and building source. We could use it for all reports we do. We would add more people each year and more information each year. we would have our very own elementary Online Encyclopedia.



So what did I do this year that I liked? Here are few of the ideas that we will keep.

PLC- I have loved the power we have working together. Our lessons have been better and more refined. The opportunity to hear other ideas helped me. I have become a better teacher because of it. I used to keep some of my ideas to myself so my class had a few extras, but that is not what teaching is about. I want others to see what I am doing and to use it if they want to. I also want everyone's ideas so I can get the best for my students. In a PLC team the students are not mine anymore but all the team students. We take credit and criticism for all that the students do or don't do. The year ending scores are a reflection of what the whole grade level does, not an individual teacher. We share students successes and failures. We share planning and lessons. We share activities and ideas. We share.

Computers- at the beginning of the tear we had a 2:1 ratio with our mini laptops. It was great to have the students working together to get work done. We have gone to 1:1 ratio and that has brought some great opportunities with testing, research, and writing. One thing I want to do more of next year is dropping assignment onto our Utips website. Utips is a state-run testing practice site that gives teachers a drop-box for students to drop assignments in instead of printing everything. This will help with our morning work.

Morning Work- We have used the 4 question bell work for years and it helps give us time to teach a language mini-lesson for grammar. We have used a single paper for each week and I would like to change that so we are checking the work over a period of time and not each week. We review all the questions each day and students are called "by the sticks" and they explain their answers. Turning them in is more of a formality rather than an assignment. I wonder if we could Morning Work into the breakfast club activity with the planner? Hmmm. We will talk about it.

Math- We will still use the math books for the work and practice. The Topic tests will be put on Utips to use less paper and for a better view of how the students do overall. When the students get a problem wrong on the test they will write the problem down in their math books and take them home to correct their work. Parents must sign the corrections and they come back to school. The math book will have notes about the topics we are working on and they can use that information to help correct their homework. One math book for notes and practice. They can use the book for the check-up to help prepare for the topic test.  The Periodic Test will always be on paper and students will have to show their work on a separate paper (Folded into the amount of boxes needed so each question has a box).

These are a few of the changes we incorporated this year. There are so many more to add for next year. There are so many good ideas out there.


That's Entertainment!

My team finished our last major project in our classes. What a project. I have made movies with my class before. I love teaching the movie making process to students. All the ideas, writing, storyboarding, planning, preparing, performing, and best of all, viewing the final product. This is a new way of doing our films. We have done individual films in our rooms and have put together some pretty big productions. With us doing PLC's and seeing how powerful it is we decided to incorporate the while fifth grade into one big film. This gave each student an opportunity to have as big a part as they wanted and to be able to do more with the filming.

We started out picking the subject of our movies. Our Social Studies Curriculum is about the United States and so we went with U.S. History. We had decided weeks ago that we would each do six movies in our rooms. that would give us 18 short films to put together into one big film and we would have a Journey Through History. And so we did. We split the topics into different perspectives of the different groups involved in the topic. When we picked the Revolution, we split it into three topics; British, Hessians, and Americans. All three groups we set during the night before the crossing of the Delaware by George Washington.

We picked the topics and assigned them to our four-person groups in our classes. We wanted to keep the movies down to about 2 minutes and everyone in the group needed to be in the movie. The could use others from the class, but the main characters needed to be from the group. Each group researched about their topic and wrote a short script of the major points to help the audience know what was happening and what people felt a that time. Once they had a story and dialogue, they tackled the storyboard. they were allowed 6-12 boards to tell their story. The hardest part of storyboarding is fitting what needs to happen in the story into something that looks similar to what they want and still being able to film it on the elementary school grounds. It is kinda hard to film a ship scene in a big storm.

After the students filmed their shorts we had them edit their own films. They used their scripts and storyboards to keep themselves on track. We gave them a short overview on how to use iMovie 08 and turned them loose. They worked pretty well with their group and put together a basic edited version of the shorts. The teachers came in next and did a final edit of each film. Thus is where we get to refine the cuts, make sure the sound is loud enough, and they followed the script. Anything that should not be in the film is cut and a final product is produced. When each of the films have been finished, they are exported and combined into one bug film in Final Cut. This is we add in sound effects and colorized the film so it has a consistent look. It was then burned and shown at our Film Festival Night. Parents are invited and popcorn is popped.

Overall the students get real writing and organizing experience as well as getting a final product that they can keep forever. Making movies is a great experience for the students. As a teacher, it makes for a great final test in writing, organization, research, and presentation.


Your Homework For Tonight Is...

I have always had mixed feeling about homework. I never liked it as a child because I felt it was always busy work and I wanted to play and do other things. I didn't do much homework when I was in high school because I was too busy. I had friends to be with, fun to have, and high school was a place I went everyday to be with friends. The education was more of a by product of my social life. As a teacher I can see the benefits of having homework but we need to rethink how it should be done and why we need it. If it is not needed then it should not be handed out just to have it done. Busy work was never something I wanted to do... Unless I had to get something done during class then I gave the students something to enjoy. Killing them with work just makes them hate to work.

When students get home from school they need to have time to do other things if they want. They need to spend time with their family and friends. They need to participate in extra-curricular activities if they so choose. They need to have time to relax and do kids work(play). They need to explore, run, build their interests, research, build their talents, or do what they need to do for their family.

Homework can take away from these activities and make it harder at home for the student and the parent. Then there is the issue of the parents not understanding what needs to be done. When the student does not know how to do the homework the parents might have the same problem. There needs to be a safety net for the parents to either be able to do the math we teaching or we need to make sure the child knows how to do it.

So what do we do? We need to do a few things.
- There has to be a reason for the homework. We can't just send home a page because it is the next one to do. If the child needs to practice then send home a couple practice problems. There is no need for a big page of drill and kill. A few problems will help the student and the parent know the work and the. Have time to do other things.
- The safety net for my team is the parent signature. If the student cannot do the work and they give it an honest try, they are supposed to ask a parent to help them. If the parent does not understand what is too be done they sign he homework and write a small note saying that they tried. The teachers will see that and know that they tried. Safety in not understanding and yet they tried to get it done he best that they could.
- Homework should not take very long to complete. There should not be a hundred problems to do each night. 6-10 problems a night for math, 30 minutes of reading is more than enough for each child. If there is language or writing. The problem and time limit should be the same. Writing for 30 minutes and no more than 6-10 problems.
- 5 minutes of work for each grade level. (2nd grade=10 minutes of homework) I have not considered reading homework. We should be reading everyday and so that does not count for me unless I have a specific book a student needs to read for a specific reason. Take home library books are homework. They are sent home for the student to read and the student has no say in which book they get. That is not fun, that is homework.

Homework should have a meaning and an understanding to the student that they need it to be successful. We all need to see a need to do something. They might never see the need but it should be explained to them and they should know that it is important even if they do not like it.

    Homework is not a bad thing, it just needs to be managed wisely so we help students and parents learn what we want them to know and not learn to hate education.


    What's your Motivation?

    A parent came to the last Student Education Planning meeting of the year with me years ago. He asked me what I have been teaching his child for the year. I started to talk to him about the curriculum we had gone over and he smiled and stopped me. He said, "My child comes home everyday and I ask what was learned at school today and everyday the reply is, nothing." He went on to tell me that he knows that I taught him something because his child loved going to school and he appreciated what I had done for his child. He joked with me about how children are and that he felt his child had learned more than he was letting on.

    I was reminded of this story as I read David Warlick's blog about the responsibility of learners. He talks about how we need to have a purpose to want to learn and there are three components to education we need to look at. 

    My team was talking about the levels of students during our first year flexible grouping the students for Math and Language. Mark had noted that the middle group of students have the ability to be in the upper group except they are not motivated to do so. They understand the work, they get it done when we ask, they do the bare minimum and no more, and are the first to get out of the class when it is time. The lower and upper group does all their work, they stay in a little longer to get more help, they try to do more than is expected and they show improvement. So the difference between the top and the middle is how motivated the student is. 

    As I look at these experiences, they are telling me that we need to motivate the middle group. How? I am working on that, but they need to have ownership and a need to do the work. They need to see that it is a benefit to them and will be in their life. Part of the motivation should come from the use of technology in the classroom. This has brought motivation to a few students and brought them to life in our classrooms.


    Why Are You In That Box, Creativity?

    I have been spending a lot of time on my computer looking up blogs and videos of speeches that might help myself and my team be better teachers and learners. I feel that a teacher must also keep learning to be a good teacher. Once we stop learning, we should stop teaching. That is the opinion of Glen.

    I found a conference speech of Ken Robinson speaking about creativity. He says that schools kill creativity. Schools were set up to teach the head and not the body. So what do we do? I am thinking there has got to be a way to integrate more movement in our classrooms and still get the work done. this could be done with more collaboration on subjects, we could dance more, we could express ourselves without voices and just movement. I am seeing that we are creating a whole lot of minds and they are not creative. We need to feed the creativity.

    This is going to be a hard one to do, and yet we need to incorporate more into our curriculum and lessons. We ask the students to be creative with writing and art and to think out of the box, and yet we put them in a box and wonder what they are doing there? We must break out of the old habits and create new ones. So another thing goes into my bag of "what I want to do next year" ideas.

    I am wondering if there is a way to have students show what they learn through video and show what they know by movement. I will do more thinking and research about this.


    It's the End Already?

    It has come time to evaluate what I have done this year with my class and what I will change for next year. I was reading on Silvia Tolisano's Langwitches Blog and she has a great post quoting Heidi Hayes Jacobs about assessment and curriculum. So I am taking the advice and I will take something traditional and replace it with a new kind of assessment. I am pretty excited about doing this. I want to do this with more of my curriculum also. I want to incorporate some of the programs and ideas we tried out with the students to get some better results.

    The other thing I want to try this year is having our team use blogs and conferences during out PLC to learn more about best practices an try to find the best of what is out there and using those ideas to help us be better teachers.

    My next idea I want to work on is having the students do more online research for subjects they want to learn about. This will be the fun part. My district frowns on free browsing on the internet for Elementary school students. I need to convince them that they can do it with the proper training and guidance. I need to train the students on how to use the internet and filter through the unnecessary to get to the good information. I will be working on that this next year.

    I also want to put more information on our wiki/website for students to access and use. If there is a way for us to use ebooks, that is what I want to do, but I am trying to get what I can online for student s to access at school and at home. We will get there.

    Technology is wonderful, but I need to make sure it is better and not just different. It is kinda like changing out all the light bulbs in my house with fluorescent bulbs. Is it worth the price or should I keep with what I am doing because the end result does not save me money? Will it make a difference for the students and the outcome I am looking for? That is the question.


    Eek A Mouse!

    I wrote a grant for 40 mice in August 2010. We have just been funded and the mice have arrived! I want to thank DonorsChoose.org for helping my grade level get mice for our computers.

    The greatest thing about this is Donors Choose helps educators like me write grants to get what we need to help our students. If you do not know about Donors Choose, they are a company that provides a place for educators to tell what they need to help their class. Donors Choose then puts in on the web and anyone (individual, business) can donate however much they want or can to the cause. This is the second grant for my class that has been funded by people and businesses going to Donors Choose. We received a video camera last year and have used it on our class movies this year.

    Thank you again Donors Choose! You are a wonderful resource for education!

    Don't Get So Testy!

    We have been testing this week. This year we decided to test in our own rooms using the netbooks in our classrooms. We have a one-to-one netbook in our classrooms, so we decided to not worry about scheduling a spot int he computer lab. Each computer was set up with the computer-based testing module and each student practiced using it during a practice session in our classrooms. We used Google chat to get the testing codes from our testing guru. The students loved being in our classroom where is wasn't as stuffy, cosed in, and they were more comfortable in here.

    One of the strategies we used this year to help our students achieve a better score was to require the students to write down their reasoning behind choosing each answer. each students had two pieces of white paper folded into nine boxes. That gave the students 36 boxes to write one sentence about why their answer was correct. We collected their papers afterwards, checked to see if they explained each answer, then shredded them. They looked pretty good. We are pretty excited about how well all the students will do. We are really excited to see how the below grade level students will do, but we are also excited to see how this affects the on and above grade level students. Will it increase their scores because they made sure they read the problems more closely? We think it will.

    Using the computers has been great. The best thing is that we get the raw scores back within a few days so we can see what we as teachers need to change and add for next year. The paper/pencil tests took until August to get the results and we had a few days to plan the year. This way we can use what we have now to start thinking what we can change for the next year. This gives us the summer to think, learn, and plan better lessons, not just a couple days.


    What You Talkin' bout, Teacher?

    It has been a few weeks since we started our last new program on the computers at school. It is about time we start using another program.

    We have had some success with the our Wikipage. It has become the big hit with the students and with us, the teachers. Assignments have become easier to grade, easier to give, and to explain if a student does not understand, and they are at home. We have used Open Office for word processing, and Scholastic's Readabout program for reading help. We use the Utah Writes website to help with students writing. It is not a perfect writing tool, but it helps students get an idea where their grade might be on the site's rubric.

    We have started trying out Free Mind for mind mapping and brain storming. We have started looking at what we can use it for and we are getting ideas for Social Studies, Science, and writing. There are more, but that is the starting point. We just bought a license for Voicethread. This is a commenting site for students to type, voice, draw, and video their comments. I think we will leave out the video right now, but we will put up a pictures or comment for the students to express their opinion and knowledge about, and get more options on completing assignments. This one is a site I have been looking at for a year and I am excited about it. Another site is Prezi.com. When I first looked at it, I couldn't see a way for my students to use it without paying for it, and I am willing to pay for something that e will use, but it is a glorified Powerpoint. A little more exciting in some ways, but glorified. I was at a training that my team and I were presenting our wiki information and a teacher told me that they had an education place on Prezi. I get back to school and set it up. We will be playing on it in the next little while to see what the students think of it.

    So there are a few new programs for my students to try out before the end of the year. I am excited to see what they thin and what they will be good for. This is a grate bunch of students to try things out on. They love what we are doing, and they catch on pretty quick.


    Oh Where, Oh Where, Can my Program be?

    When we start looking for new programs for the students and us to use, I have run across programs that are fun and exciting, but not very useful in the classroom. They are great games for the students to practice and use outside what we are learning, but do not make my job easier or let the students use the computers for actual learning. So that has been our goal, find programs that we can use instead of paper-pencil, or can take the place of another activity instead of adding something else to our day.

    I love our Readabout Program by Scholastic. It has helped the students read Non Fiction better and in turn that helps their Fiction reading become better. We have always done some sustained-silent-reading time for the students. Readabout fits right into a day or two of that program. We do not have to take other time during the day to use that program.

    The Wiki has taken part of our reflection writing and 5-minute writing practice and put it together in a medium that the students can not wait to write on.  Information and homework has been more available to them and we have less problems with homework and assignments not being completed.

    So our job here is to find programs that work with us, with what we are already doing, that will excite and engage students in learning. That is what it s all about. The students and them learning... and us being able to play. But mostly the learning thing.


    Can't We All Just Get Along?

    Who will win?... Mac vs. PC in schools. I have taken the side of the Mac since I started using computers. I loved the Macintosh when it came out and I loved how easy it is to find things, get things done, and I don't have to search for much. It is all there and it works. I used the PC during college and found it discouraging at times. It got better with each OS output and I had my first PC with XP. It worked. It had one program I could not use on a Mac and it was a wonderful program, Publisher. I still use it to this day. My Macbook Pro has OS 10.6 on one side and, with Bookcamp, Vista on the other. They both work. I choose to use the Mac side, but I use both, depending on the need. One is not better than the other, we are just comfortable with what we use.

    So what does this have to do with anything? Does the platform mean much in this web-based-program-world? I think not. Kids are not going to notice much of a difference. The programs work the same on a PC as they do a Mac. The word processors are similar and, depending on what is being used, look similar and do the same basic thing. In my classroom we use Open Office for the students and I use Microsoft Word, Apple's Pages, and Open Office. They all do the same thing and the students will figure out what they do and what they need.

    This is where we get a bit off subject. Will the platform keep the students from learning? No. Most of the programs I am using in my classroom are web-based and will work no matter what platform it is used on. Students will make the change. They are amazing in the fact that they can assimilate better than we think and much better than we can. Do we have to know the computer inside and out? No. The students can help us. They can teach us. We as teachers need to know the basics of safety and we need to set guidelines.

    So does it matter what we use? No. The fight will still go on, but it will only matter to those on each side of the fence, not to the students. They will sit by and wonder, "Why all the fighting? Let's get to creating and learning."


    What's on your Mind, Map?

    I have decided to start looking for more software that the students cna use on their computers. Software that will help them, will save them, and me, time, and will not be something new to work on, but will take the place of something they are writing already. I used to think that we need to be a "paperless classroom". We would use the computer for everything... but I now see the error in my thinking. We need the students to write.

    Students need to learn to communicate with others without a computer. They need to have good, readable, handwriting. Students need to write. The bonus with the computer is that with the amount of technology in the world, they will need to practice using a computer for their information gathering, producing, and presenting. They already know how to use technology, but students need to learning and practice communicating with technology and maneuvrering around the amount of information that is out there. We, as teachers, need to show students what is out there that can help them and how to find what they need. They can assimulate to whatever technology is out there. They have used cellphones, MP3 players, calculators, computers, and other tech toys and have come to play. They have come to be challenged and we are here to give them a challenge.

    So back to the software. I found a website called Mind42.com from the Inernational Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology in Singapore, March 2010. It is a Mind Mapping Software to put together a web of ideas. It can be used for mapping anything and everything. It was a great tool to use. It was also beautiful. The only problem is that the user needs to have an email address. I have a problem with that being that I teach Elelmentary School. For security reasons I will not have students use an email address to sign up for a program. So, I started looking and came up with two other downloadable programs. They work in Java, so they will work on all computers. FreeMind is a great alternative. It can be found at FreeMind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page FreeMind is the Mind Map I will go with because of the amount of things the students can put on this Mind Map. The other is a program called VUE from Tufts University. It can be found at Vue.tufts.edu and is great, but a litle harder to use than Free Mind. We will be using this is our writing and Spelling. I am pretty excited to get started with this little program. The students can print out the maps or save them as a pdf file. Sweet.


    The Three E's in Education

    The three E's is a blog post from David Warlick on his CoLearners blog. I found it very interesting and enlightening that he would want to change the three R's to the three E's. He wants to change the three R's to Exposing information (Going beyond what is there, evaluating the information, organizing it, and decoding it), Employing information (adding value to the information that is there), Expressing ideas compellingly (producing a message that will attract and audience and communicate an idea). I am not sure that exposing is the right word to use, I would have used Evaluating instead. In elementary school we evaluate information to find out what it does for us and how we can use it in math, reading, and writing.

    I see the students not relating to the basic of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic in this world of technology and innovation. They are seeing innovations monthly and using most of them within a short period after they are presented. Students need to learn to Evaluate information, Employ that information, and Express that information to others in many different ways. How are we as teachers doing this? What can we do to not just teach information, but teach how to get it, evaluate it, and use it? This will be our challenge over the next generation.


    Care to Discuss it?

    One of the great things I like about using a wiki is the discussion page. Having the students complete an assignment on the discussion page is a wonderful way to get the students writing and enjoying the method of writing. When completing a topic in social studies and science, having the students do a short summary about what they learned helps the students review information in the lesson. They have to recall and put into words the information they learned. It also gives them a place to review the information before a test. The discussion also gives the students the opportunity to read other student's information to help recall other information in the lesson. Students also reply to other students' writings to ask questions, give support, and comment on something they liked. It gives the students an opportunity to learn how to use writing to communicate with others. We have moved into an age where we are communicating by text a lot: texting, Facebook, email, blogs, and messaging. Students need to learn etiquette online when writing. The discussion page in one way to learn how to communicate with others online.


    Got a Utip I can use?

    Our firendly neighborhood Utips representative trained us on some of the new features in Utips(Utah Test Item Pool). One feature we are happy to have is the media piece. This is one of the pieces that we have been missing. It provides a place for teachers to upload files (.pdf, .doc, .whatever) for students to download at home. We have set up some testing for math, language, and science for the students to practice, and now we can have them download their assignments. We have set up the math for each topic by including the student pages and the check-up, the vocabulary and cloze story for each set of words, and the spelling words will be put up as soon as we can. Utips also added an upload option for the students. We have set it up so the students can complete an activity on a Word Processor and then upload it for us to correct. Wow. We are trying to get all of these thing in play, but they will get used as we need them. It is nice having all these options, because there has to be options.

    If you are absent...

    During the summer we worked on the wiki by changing the pandemic stuff to "If you are Absent" information. We started wrting our lesson plans so students could get on the wiki and find their classwork adn homework if they were gone. This made it easy for studnets to keep up with the basic work we were doing. We started on basic subjects like spelling, vocabulary, and math. These subjects and pages the students could download nad complete. Then we worked on the reading and writing pages for students to know what we want them to do each night. The biggest task we took on in the 09-10 years was Social Studies and Science. We put together a page for each topic and included everything we would need to run the lesson as a teacher. We include the test questions, objectives, assignments, timeline, vocabulary, and materials (books we will use, pages to download, and websites to view and learn from). These pages are used to show what we will be doing and to complete discussion assignments on.


    At the end of the 08-09 school year the swine flu broke out and we were in pandemic mode at school. We had to take steps for the students so if they closed the school down for any period of time, we needed to have lesson plans ready for the students to complete at home. So we thought, and thought, and thought. What about putting it on the wiki for the sudents to access at home? So we starteddiscussing what we wanted the students to do if they could not be at school. We made pages for all the major subjects in school: Reading, Spelling, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Under each of the subjects, we put information that would help the stuents find what they needed to do and pages they could download for help and to turn in. It was very basic in the beginning, but we found it to work. We added a few weeks worth of spelling, vocabulary, math pages, and had a few reading and writing activities put on. The students could all access it from home if they had the internet. If they did not, we could get a copy of the pages and work run off and ready for them at the school. This way we only had about 1/4 of the students to run information off for. It made it so easy.

    Other Programs

    I use a few other programs online, besides the Wiki and the Blog, to complete my social network. I use Shelfari for a dscussion with others on books, and I use Delicious for my bookmarks I like to share with others. I also subscribe to Classroom 2.0 for information about technology in schools. Together, these are the core of my personal social network. I do use other personal social sites, but not for school.


    Bloggety Blog

    I started to use a blog, this blog somewhere about the same time I started using a wiki, so they were interchanged and used a little at a time. The wiki won out by being the media of choice. I published on this blog here and there to say a few things, but not many. I can se now that this blog can become more of a personal reminder to what I have done so I can go back and review mistakes and successes with the things I have done. This way I can remember what has happened and the reasons I did cetain things, and why I should never go back to some of the ideas I had. Never go back to some of the ideas. Never. Ever.

    Wiki Wiki Here we go

    It is time I get started talking about how I use the wiki in m classroom. This is the perfect place fr me to do that, so here I go. We(the fifth grade team) started to use the Wiki during the 08-09 school year. We set up a username and password for each student. We decided to use Wikispaces because of the simple set up and eae of use. We looked at others, but felt comfortable with Wikispaces.

    We discussed security and netiquitte with the students. We put together a few pages and started showing the students how to do a few things on it. We showed them how to use the messages, a little about the discussions, and a little about collaboration.

    We started with an activity to have the stuents use the collaborative part of the wiki. We posted an assignment to have the students tell one thing about them that other students would not know and do not sign it. This helped the students fumble around with it, accidently deleting each other's work and trying to fix the mistakes. We made it and it worked. We talked about the messaging and how I would send a message to let students know what was happening in class. They could ask me questions about assignments and such. It worked. Half way through the year, it started to slow down becuase we did not know what else we could use it for. A few assignments here and there with the collaboration and discussion, but not much.

    It was a typical first year with something new. A learning experience, that was what it was.


    SEP Time

    It is SEP time. We are having the parents take some time and use the Scholastic Readabout program on the netbooks the students use. That will be some fun for them. It will be interesting to hear what their reaction is to the program. It has done wonders for some of the students. I hope the parents see the good it has done.


    Mmmm Delicious

    I have started to use the Delicious webpage. What a wonderful tool. I used to use backflip for managing my onine links, but when it went down, I needed to find another. Delicious not only holds my bookmarks, it is a social bookmark site so I can send others my bookmarks. I love it. It is so Delicious!


    We are heading into the final stretch of the year with lots to do. We are coming up on the last of our assessments to move students into their last set of groupings of the year. We can see the growth in the students on all levels. Using the Kagen strategies and rotation schedules, we have seen improvement and growth in all students. I am excited to see what the next grouping will be and where the students will go from here.