Archive for the ‘educating’ Category

New Discovery – The Joy of Learning

October 17, 2009

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium

We are geared to teaching what we can measure, and we can’t measure the joy of discovery. These words are paraphrased from an interview of K.C. Cole on her book entitled, Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up. Frank Oppenheimer helped develop the atomic bomb. He was a pacifist and felt betrayed when it was later dropped on civilians. He felt he had a responsibility to show how to make sense of the world through discovery and went on to develop the Exploratoriumin San Fransisco. He hoped to rekindle peoples’ childhood search for enlightenment, a quest for discovery and a confidence in problem-solving things (typically brushed off) too difficult to understand.

How can teachers provide students with the opportunities to make their own discoveries and follow their innate curiosity? Do we provide too much guidance in guided learning? Is it too contrived? Can we replicate an Exploratorium feel in the classroom making discovery an individual and not a group think kind of activity? Science is sight-seeing! That was Frank’s message as a teacher.

Teachers walk into a museum expecting a guided tour. It is an efficient way to cover a large area in a reasonable amount of time while absorbing research based information. Is that what we want for our students? It this the learning process? I wonder. When I consider adults seeking professional development there are several different approaches people take in pursuit of learning. Without reaching for any statistical documentation I think it’s safe to say that most teachers expect to have the learning delivered to them in the ‘guided-tour-style’ of learning as seen in museums. This is a relatively passive activity. They expect a modicum of exploration (a chance to practice and converse, socializing) and then they expect to produce a lesson based on the content.

What do children expect from a classroom? I think perhaps they expect exactly the same thing. They expect an organized, guided introduction to knowledge, a time to socialize and play with concepts and then to apply the knowledge to their seatwork in hopes of attaining good grades. Hmmm, I’m very interested in ways to give students more of a responsibility for their own learning. If I expect them to rely on me for what they know, or even on their parents then they will not have the skills to make new discoveries. What are the ways teachers turn on and turn over the learning to the students? How do teachers create the sense that anything is possible? How do we celebrate a students joy in even the smallest discoveries?

Can learning develop naturally in a contrived classroom setting? How can a classroom become an Exploratorium? Is there a way to blend more opportunities for authentic discoveries to develop among students? My favorite teacher was Miss Papora, my 7th grade science teacher. When I think about why I enjoyed her class so much, it was the excitement of making discoveries. I had the sense that every time I entered her classroom I would be given the task of making a discovery, with a lab partner and I couldn’t wait. We were on a journey of discovery.

This is exactly the feeling I get when I go onto the internet in search of new ideas, materials, and tools for teaching and learning. People ask me why am I so motivated to learn all these things on my own. Why when I don’t get any PLUs (credits) do I spend time discovering new ways of doing things? The answer is simple. I don’t want to be hindered by anyone else in my personal discovery process. I don’t want to wait for a certain date and time or for someone to tell me what to do. I do want to be given clues, encouragement and take the time to share what I’ve learned with others who are following their own paths on my own time. I love the process of discovery and it frustrates me that I still haven’t found a way to truly incorporate this process into my students’ learning. Discovery is messy, a bit chaotic and unpredictable. It can be time consuming. My mission is to add the element of discovery into each new day for my students. I am on an endless quest for new ideas. Fortunately, the world is full of them!

Maximize Your PLN

October 4, 2009

Increase the range of your Personal learning Network by finding diverse groups on the net. Chris Shambles has redesigned his site which is full of resources and ways to make new connections. He is also using Screenr to screen capture, how to sessions which will help you find what you’re looking for more efficiently. Watch and learn.
Chris Shambles talks about global learning links

new small voices vodcast on podomatic

April 14, 2008

I just completed editing and posting episode 31 of small voices.  This is my third annual play based on a piece of childrens’ literature.  A friend and coworker of mine, Heidi Holcomb, soon to be EdS in EdTech loaned me a containing examples of literature illustrating the butterfly effect.  I wondered how readily my students would make the connection between the cats in our story and the safety of the island. They listened intently to the tale.  I told the initially to listen carefully to see if they could solve the problem on the island. They each wanted to be the one to find the answer! Stories can be excellent teachers when students assume a role/purpose within the context of the a book.

My role was to ask questions and to help the students take ownership of the play. I call it a play but in reality it would take months to be able to produce this kind of thing sequentially and before an audience. Videotaping is the answer.  It enables the teacher to reduce each the play to scenes or even parts when filming. With 18 enthusiastic kindergarteners, the rule is divide and conquer!  Parental help is key as is a mind reading assistant.  I had both!  See for yourself. The editing is so so but I think you’ll agree, the movie is a living lesson for these children.

I found this lesson plan today based on the book I used.  Some of you may find this helpful in creating your own plans.

Teacher can hinder learning, agreed?

April 9, 2008


Read this recently published article from Education Canada by Michael Wesch and challenge yourself to consider the possibility that teaching hinders learning.

Wonderful Project HP & Brian C Smith Support Teacher Innovation

April 9, 2008

pond partner project

This is a wonderful example of what children can be motivated to produce with guidance from motivated teachers! This is by far the best example I have see thus far of teacher,

student and technology integration/collaboration at the elementary level. I am very encouraged by Brian’s work on this project and plan to get more details from him, show parts of the recorded video to my staff and hopefully inspire this kind of innovation at my own school.

ELA integration into science curric

Brian’s project also has a wiki:

This incredible collaboration shows teachers how they can develop a strong interest in science investigation among students, compassion for the environment, the use tech tools such as probes to collect data, ELA skills of documentation, the excitement of project based learning and collaboration across grade levels.

inquiry based learning

This is possible. This is what we should be striving for. Please, can we move beyond dioramas and posters. Think big! Use Multi-media and empower students to educate the world!

Listening to a New Voice, Springs Alive Uganda!

March 30, 2008

It is with great pleasure I announce the new blog, Springs Alive Uganda. As many of you know I have posted several times about my friend Martin Sebuliba and his vision for peace, wellness and education for the disenfranchised children of Uganda. Martin has limited access to theSprings Alive Students internet due to the high fees charged at internet cafes and the lack of electricity and no internet signal in his rural village. I offered to set up a blogger account for him so that he and members of his community could type off-line and then simply make their posts quickly and inexpensively when convenient.

If you use the internet regularly as I do, then you will understand how time consuming it can be to try and figure out how things work, or even to do research online. By providing technical support I can be an advocate for Springs Alive and I am blessed to be able to help. Martin is working on creating a logo representative of his community and their goals which begin with the children and feed into a larger picture of a healthy, self sustaining community in the future. They will need lots of support to make this dream a reality. Track their successes and struggles by listing the Springs Alive Uganda blog on your blog roll or by subscribing to the feed. Your comments and questions will be welcomed. You will witness firsthand the hopes and dreams emanating from a small village in Africa. Tell everyone you know, you are listening a new voice!

YOU are your child’s best teacher.

March 9, 2008
  Question posted in recent forum I frequent:

Child Reading SaundraG flickrI heard that up until about 20 years ago, you could buy from the Broerderbond in South Africa a child development pack for the first 6 years of you’re child’s life so that they can read, write a bit, etc… by the time they go to school (as well as exposing other parts of the brain to development).

Does anyone know if there is anything good around like that today? I suppose there may be more than one company competing with that sort of thing. Does anyone know who the market leader is?

My response:

Do you really think sitting your child in front of a computer is the best way to go? I teach kindergarten and my experience has been that children gravitate to reading and writing when they are developmentally ready. This happens between 4-7 years of age. My own children love to read. (They are older teens.) I attribute this in part to my good friend Pam who insisted I start reading to my kids from the day they were born. I took her advice and my children began to associate reading and listening with the pleasure of bonding with their parents and caregivers.

I read to my children until they were 12 and they no longer had time. We all missed the togetherness. Visits to the library and bookstore were frequent. Gifts of books were common and interest in books praised. And yes, they also read independently! The read aloud experience is invaluable. If there had been when my children were small I would have exposed them to it, but never require them to do it.

My kindergarten students enjoy the program and the students who entered as readers tell me they learned to read from which is a free phonics based reading program. I also know from meeting their parents that education is an intrinsic family value and they have exposed their children to countless classics in children’s literature. I can guarantee for FREE that if you take the time to read to your child and elicit their responses to reading by asking them to predict, identify common words and engage them in the illustrations they will love to read and learn to read more easily and more naturally from intrinsic motivation.

You are your child’s best teacher. aunty raffi by kim hotep flickrModel enthusiasm for reading and the power of the written word. Don’t completely outsource this very important role in the early years. By the way, I am very high tech in the classroom and do lots of great things with my students using technology to extend literacy skills so I am not opposed to a little software extension or intervention.

Small Voices Has Small Simeon Friend

March 7, 2008
Yesterday I received a brief missive from my small Simeon friend HiMonkey to my podcast site small voices. The little terry cloth critter commented on one of the cooking podcasts I helped my students produce in the Fall. One my student-groups used his Panda Cupcake recipe.  Since then HiMonkey has sent a stream of his fans to savour the fruits of his influence. My students were delighted with his recipes and the humor found on his site. Thanks HiMonkey for alerting me to several new unsavory comments that were spammed to my podcasts. I have removed commenting but people may still email me via podomatic. It’s nice to know that small voices has a small friend looking out for them!
clipped from
5. i believe that sharing snacks and laughter is the key to world peace.
clipped from

le singe est devant les flures.
  blog it

The Problem with Overexposure

February 28, 2008

The problem with exposure is overexposure. How can teachers create safe spaces for children? For that matter how can parents? The internet is a Pandora’s Box, alluring, mysterious and enlightening. Is the incidence of occasionally unfiltered audio of video a threat to internet use in elementary schools? angelDo the benefits of internet use outweigh the pitfalls? Several posts ago I commented on the surprising use of youtube by young students. I didn’t teach them about it nor have I even even mentioned it because I don’t feel it is a safe place for unaccompanied minors. Our county has excellent filters and they certainly seems to be 99% effective in eliminating unwanted material but the filters can fail and students can run the risk of overexposure. Take Google images, regardless of the setting an search on any term may result in image overexposure! It happened to me one time when I was searching for computers. Mixed among the computers was a random photo labeled computer but without any computer in view.

Media Specialists have grappled with questionable content since the dawn of libraries. Parents dissaporve of some books for religious, political or content about the human anatomy. Some illustrations or photographs may depict strong sequences of violence. I have been on the critical end of this debate when my own children were in elementary school. In fact a middle school teacher showed the class an R-rated movie without parent consent. It was Schindler’s List. My daughter loved her teacher. I felt the woman had exercised poor judgment. I emailed the principal and let her know that perhaps the teacher was not aware of the rules concerning movies. She thanked me and handled it discreetly. No one lost their job. In fact it was a teachable moment for me and my daughter.

I recently encountered some unanticipated pitfalls using audio on the web. Think about still images, screening them is relatively simple procedure. You can see with your own eyes in short order and assess the content. With video alone, you could fast forward and scan the scenes. A different kind of problem arises when using audio. How can you and I be sure the audio content is safe without listening to every word, every second? What kind of warning do you have before it’s too late to stop the sound? What if the unexpected happens? How do you recover? What do you tell the students? I have been asking these questions of my peers and the most frequent answer is to fudge the offending word or phrase and change thlisten and learne meaning, if possible to placate any innocent listeners, but what if that isn’t possible? How can we trust the content even when it comes from a reputable source? Is what we hear online as damaging as what we hear in person? These are the questions creating cob webs in my head. Teachers have to protect their students. I think we have to consider these questions seriously. The advent of phone comments on blogs and VoiceThreads and even audio comments on websites or podcasts raise the chances that some unfiltered audio will reach the ears of innocents. Are there any guarantees save removing internet access? Let me know if you have any answers. I’m all ears!

Short Post

February 12, 2008

Several weeks ago during center time I discovered my kindergarten students had access to Youtube.  They were searching for Disney movies, cartoons and apparently a recently posted video of someone’s brother. At first I was simply shocked that our school firewall didn’t catch this since it keeps me from even accessing BubbleShare or any other file sharing site. I informed the students calmly that Youtube is not permitted in school and that they should only use it at home when they are sitting with their parents who can help guide them to make good choices. I got a lot of “why, my parents let me use it at home?” I haven’t taken a poll just yet but I have a hunch that they may not be exaggerating the extent of the freedom they have online in the home.

So I ask you.  How do you feel about free exploration of the internet by children of all ages?  Would you encourage your child to search for funny movies on Youtube?  I need a little perspective and I’m afraid that since my own children are in their late teens, I can’t fully understand the point of you of the young parent. Maybe some of you can help me in this regard.