Posts Tagged ‘sendkathy’

Inspired Classroom – Inspiration and Persperation

January 3, 2010

inspired classroom logoThe Inspired Classroom is now part of an experiment for a handful of teachers in my elementary school. Thanks to our innovative principal, Matt Rogers, our focus will be to provide greater and more timely access to web based tools, data and opportunities for interaction, for our students. The model, pioneered back in ’06 by Darren Wilson from Texas, is being used in pockets around the country and perhaps elsewhere but it is largely an underground movement. It’s partly an issue of branding, lack of central leadership and the use of private classroom wikis or LMSs creating sealed pockets of experiences.

The set up involves creating a 4-5:1 ratio of computers to students in your classroom and making the computer a part of individual PBLs. In other words, each group of 4 students has a computer sitting at one end of their cluster of desks or table. Lessons follow the typical, direct instruction (mini-lesson) a guided practice (demonstration) and then the students perform a group task independently using the computer as a resource for data, place to post reflections etc… depending on the project requirements. The teacher facilitates the activity and the class reconvenes to share their experiences. Students in each of the project learning teams have individual roles and responsibilities. I have established 4 distinct roles: chooser, recorder, driver and manager. These roles change daily giving each student a new responsibility to look forward to and a new job to learn each day. So far I have only implemented one project and although it was a big hit among students I was baffled as to how I might build in a better mechanism to track/assess the group progress.

I have loads of great ideas, some borrowed and some blooming in the poppy fields of my own imagination. The trouble is, how can I help students record their experiences effectively and use the process as a KWl, a study guide creator, and so on? I am investigating blended learning approaches and virtual school curriculum for clues. Stay tuned for my observations, student and parent reactions and feel free to give your feedback, suggestions or links that might help my students succeed on this new path.


Plausible Digital Disasters and Media Mayhem

May 6, 2009

We live in a world with rapidly eroding barriers. The barriers separating the adult knowledge base form a child’s knowledge base are surprisingly thin. When the internet first posed a threat to my own children in the form of obscene material, I was all for censorship and lock down systems to help them avoid being subjected to reprehensible material available in Pandora’s box, the world wide web.

Knowledge is power and the more kids have access to detailed information, the more likely they are to share their knowledge with peers. I don’t think sheltering is such a wise idea anymore. Perhaps opening up a little would lead to actively teaching web decorum, responsible digital citizenship and more importantly how to determine fact from fiction. We need to give the students coping skills and ways to handle objectionable material in the primary years. But we as teachers must be equally prepared to handle objectionable material. Consider this scenario.

Are you prepared for this? A parent or students brings in their own camera/phone to use in school to help photograph the class party. It seems like a good idea until you place the SD card into the computer, and along with pictures of the class party, you see previously photographed pictures that don’t belong in school. What would you do? Are teachers prepared to handle this all-to-realistic scenario? Don’t kid yourself. Not only can it happen accidentally, it may actually happen intentionally.

We can’t expect to completely sanitize the schools simulating an ICU-for-learning when the kids do not have the same kinds of life support systems available in their own homes. How in the world can we prepare them for the real world if we present an unrealistic version of reality in school? Students at home use youtube, google and many have digital cameras, phones and email accounts but they are completely restricted in school. I know we have to provide a safe environment but the real world is anything but safe when it comes to media. Exposure to adult content acts like strong UV rays penetrating a child’s skin and laying the groundwork for future melanomas or in this case, what? Future abnormalities? Do we offer some kind of media sunscreen to mitigate the potential long term damage or am I overreacting?

The internet is only one of the many potentially hazardous mediums and like Oleander, it is both captivating and to the uninformed, may also become deadly. Children listen intently when they are offered knowledge they consider to have street value. In other words, if it’s worth sharing with their friends then they will hang on every word. Consequently they hang onto some of the juicier bits of conversations in TV shows, youtube clips and they look for words of wisdom from kids a year or two ahead of themselves in school. This is all part of the school sub culture of kid exchange. It’s a big reason some parents insist on homeschooling. Parents cannot control what comes out of another child’s mouth, they can only control their home environments.

Adult programming is often aimed at young children. I wonder, don’t these people have children? What are they thinking? I don’t get it. Cartoons about families who have a babies and a dogs are kid magnets. Consequently, the quirky humor of complex pop culture parodies are becomming the background knowledge our students are bringing with them into the classrooms. Does it have any redeeming value? I just see kids using it as a model to get away with offending friends or hurting feelings in the guise of humor. Is it OK if you just mean to be funny? Sounds like blaming the victim if you ask me.

Yikes! What in the world can we do? How can we reconcile the benefits and responsibilities of protecting our children, as compared to the equally important role of preparing them to become well informed responsible citizens and future leaders? in my own mind. I know that allowing children to participate in online media creation is one way to get them to realize they have equal power to create, challenge and persuade others. Perhaps this approach will make students better consumers of media affording them with a modicum of protection from fictitious an faulty messages along the way.

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!

Jen Wagner Steels (not a typo) the Show!

March 26, 2008

Today I facilitated a session introducing some faculty members to Web 2.0. This was a new PD topic for our school and the participants had no prior knowledge of Web 2.0. In fact they hadn’t a clue what it might mean. It reminded me of my own reaction a little more than a year ago when I first heard the term Web 2.0. I couldn’t pin down a definition. After much blog-reading, conference-attending and experimentation I finally have a handle on the term. So I ask, how do we typically describe something that is new and improved? I might hear, “This new generation of flat screen TV lets you view in TV in high definition.” New generation, an improvement, that’s what Web 2.0 is. It is a new generation of online internet tools. (see jeff Utecht’s video explanation) Most of these tools have two things in common that enhance internet user experience. Firstly, they are free. Secondly, they embody some collaborative features. In short, Web 2.0 is to the internet of yesterday what Vista is to Windows XP. It is new and improved. (theoretically)

The mystery of Web 2.0 quickly disappeared. It was now time to demonstrate some of the features and benefits. I opened Delicious to the CreekViewElementary page and displayed the contents on the Promethean board. I explained the benefits to using this kind of system for bookmarking over the traditional ‘favorites’ . Delicious links are available any time and anywhere you have internet access. Next I made four simple requests.

  1. Each participant had to download and install the Firefox browser.
  2. They had to sign up for a Gmail account.
  3. They had to set up a Delicious account.
  4. Next they imported the Delicious add-on to Firefox.

This took about 15 minutes and they were able to help one another in the process. Next I asked them to enter and then click the handy little delicious TAG button now found in their browser tool bar. I just love this feature. I explained how tags are used to file things by topic. The best part about tagging is being able to file one site under many topic headers. For instance, I put Voicethread under interactive, multimedia, projectbasedlearning, and web2tool. Now when I click on interactive, it appears as one of the options.

I pulled up an example of a 4th grade language arts project in Voicethread. The teachers could easily see how VT could be used within the classroom and even as a collaborative grade level project. Once teachers realize they has the necessary computer skills they get very excited about the prospects of using new tools. The necessary computer skills are very minimal and are virtually the same as the skills required to send an email. This is really another wonderful feature of Web 2.0. It is easy to use. Ahhh, finally and it keeps getting even easier. It really does. At this stage is you can read, type, attach pictures or documents and are willing to follow instructions, then you can enjoy all the web has to offer.

At this point, the participants felt fairly comfortable and were beginning to grasp the intrinsic collaboration component found in Web 2.0 tools. Suddenly they noticed a dialog box open on the Promethean screen from my laptop. It said, ‘ready?’ Oh, that’s my good friend Jen Wagner from California Skyping in to join our session. I will let her know we are ready. I typed back, ‘OK’.  I clicked the green call button and we connected. Jennifer Wagner is so warm and friendly she instantly gained the groups’ attention and started us on a journey exploring Google applications. She started with Google Reader and had everyone subscribing to her blog,! She is one smart cookie. She spent 45 minutes with us, covering Google-Calendar and Docs. Jennifer has an amazing way of bringing concepts to life with spot on analogies and concrete examples that teachers can relate to. She was the highlight of the session. Why? Because she is an amazing teacher and because she was speaking to us from California and it felt like she was in the room. Not only did the participants learn about Google apps they also saw the wonder of Skype in action. I was able to walk around and check on progress and offer assistance. It was a wonderful experience for me and I think now, it is the only way to really get teachers interested in the power of edtech.

Jen, I owe you one! You did ‘steel’ the show by strengthening the case for integrating technology. Now if we can just get one or two of them to listen to Women of Web 2 on Tuesday nights from 9-10PM EST … If you are a teacher who thrives on new forms of communication and enjoys participating in lively chats about the latest greatest teaching tools then you really must tune in to Jen’s Show on Tuesday nights. She and 3 other stellar women host a variety of edtech gurus. You listen and chat while they have a conversation. If you do decide to test the water by joining the chat on Tuesday nights please say hello to me (sendkathy) and Jen (jenuinetech).

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.

Why Tuesday Night is My Favorite

November 7, 2007

You may be saying to yourself, I know why, Lincoln Heights, Biggest Loser or Beauty and the Geek! As far as I’m concerned, those shows have nothing on Cathy Evanoff’s Making Connections or WOW2.0’s Women of the Web. I get such a rush from the fast-paced drama, excitement, back channeling and scintillating technological tidbits that I just can’t wait for Tuesday night. I know at first it is hard to conceive of a live interactive webcast involving some 60 people in the chat and 5-sometimes 8 in the live streamed conference but it beats asynchronous TV any day.

Last night was particularly exhilarating. First Cathy E. an award winning edtech educator hosted an innovative experimental show featuring uStreamTV. Jeff Lebow, Webcast Academy founder, his bio which I snagged from the TESOL conference site:

Jeff Lebow

external image jeff4.gifJeff Lebow’s educational career has included teaching 3rd grade in New Mexico, ESL in Thailand & Korea, and Computer Assisted Language Learning in New Hampshire. He founded Worldbridges in 1998 and has been experimenting with live, interactive webcasting and collaborative community building ever since. Worldbridges met the Webheads during EdTechTalk#1 in 2005, and the EVO2007 Webcast Academy session was only the latest in a series of webcasting adventures that have resulted.

During our meeting Jeff was able to host at least 5 streams simultaneously and feed them into the edtechtalk page in a single embedded window. He is quite simply a magician. Cathy E is very technologically adventurous and infuses her audience with confidence. In new age jargon I felt like my being was vibrating on a higher plane after the show.

An hour later and somewhat subdued and philosophical I joined the Women of Web 2.0 group who include: Sharon Peters, Jen Wagner, Cheryl Oakes and Vicki Davis. The special guest was Melinda Miller – The Podcasting Principal. Upwards of 50 people, fingers flying in the chat room while the talk begins. Melinda is redefining what it means to be a principal by modeling a feet first approach to experimenting with new forms of communication to enhance community. She is full of surprises. For example, she made a very personal announcement via her Meez character which is embedded in her blog page for her staff. By changing the background of her avatar she provided a clue to baby news. Can you imagine a leader so dynamic and spirited? Well actually, my own principal could give her competition when it comes to the element of surprise. I think random acts of kindness started with him because they come so naturally. But back to Melinda and the WOW ladies. The banter over their Skype conference call is witty and personal. I’d liken it to the view only without the political barbs. It’s kinder and gentler but manages to pack the hour with more content than you imagined a brain could hold. Fact is, you can’t hold it all so you have your tabbed browser set up and your delicious tool bar to capture any of the amazing links they mention.

So when people ask me how I know so much about technology. I tell them it’s all how you spend your Tuesday nights! Catch me in the next Tuesday chat with Cathy Evanoff or WOW2.0, I’m sendkathy.

Reflecting on the Need for Teacher Education

November 6, 2007

This is not a sappy soliloquy or surreptitious sermonizing on the merits of the teaching profession. Nor is it an indictment of the standards or programs designed to groom and prepare new teachers. This is just me reflecting on the path I chose to become a teacher. It should be called the long and winding road, because it brings me back to my mother’s sage advice, “you should become a teacher.” How many of us heed the wisdom of those who know us best?

After college I followed my desire to travel and became part of the business world. I traveled, trained people on new technology, sold property management systems in the UK and provided account support for the bulky computer systems we had back in the 80’s. I have always loved innovation. In the 90’s determined to keep my skills sharp and my knowledge fresh I attended Parson School of Art & Design in NYC. It was a cert only program but after 10 courses and fantastic, working-in-the-field instructors, I was very high on creating Flash sites for businesses in my local community and doing several newsletters and logos for non profits. At the same time I was an inside sales rep proffering motherboards and volunteering in the local elementary school. Two friends and I started the after school newspaper program using a basic desktop publishing. I continued it for 3 years. It was through my experience teaching these students various aspects of journalism that I became interested in teaching as a profession. I loved to see student growth and I enjoyed using creative ways to engage and challenge students to succeed.

The 2000’s came along and I moved to Atlanta with my family. I became a technology assistant in a local elementary school. I had a business degree but the school required teachers to be licensed educators. I felt like a teacher, I taught classes in the lab, I created lesson plans to integrate technology and I wondered when someone would realize that they should just make me an honorary teacher. After all, with 20 years of life experience, a college degree and a teacher’s ability to communicate why shouldn’t they just make me a teacher. I had more technology experience than most teachers ever would. It was humbling to realize that all my experience counted for nothing in the eyes of the State of GA. The same would apply anywhere else in the country and most parts of the world. Teaching is a profession and like doctoring, lawyering and psychoanalyzing requires a professional license.

No, what I needed to do was to go back to school and earn my credentials. I am nearing the end of this process and I have one profound reflection to share… you must become a student in order to become a teacher. Not profound you say? Well for me I realized that all of the books, articles and lectures I heard could be listened to or read by just about anyone who wants to shell out the money to buy expensive text books or search online. The real learning occurs through the constant evaluation/collaboration between peers and professors and in the reflection process. So for all of you who know in your heart you can teach I urge you to go the extra mile. Get your teaching certificate. The kids NEED you! The stakes are higher now than ever. No Child Left Behind insists on highly qualified teachers. I wish there had been some kind of short cut. I wish there had been some honorary degree, but the truth is I worked hard and now I have earned the real thing. We require students to jump through hoops to perform, why not us? If you have your undergraduate degree it will only take you about 2 years to complete and it is time well spent. It flies by. In fact, I may even take my education to the next level. Let’s see if I take a semester off and start next fall…I could have my PhD by… 2011?

K-12 On-line Conference

October 17, 2007

I swooped down on the k12 online conference and it left me breathless. My heart is racing the way it races in compulsive gambler entering a casino after a long break. I’ve been tied up with classes and sadly, the edtech world has been zooming along without me. With little time to explore even now as I prepare for my comprehensive exams, I investigated the presentations posted today and landed on one by Konrad Glogowski. He really put blogging with students in perspective for me. He presented a wonderful metaphor for blogging entitled, How to Grow a Blog. The visuals displayed a graphic organizer based on the physical characteristics of a flower. The most compelling aspect of the presentation for me was Konrad’s case for intrinsic motivation via blogging. I plan to visit as many of the presentations as I possibly can in any moment of spare time. The k12 online conference contains the very essence of edtech available on your own time and in your own home. If you listen to any notable presentations please share them with me.


October 15, 2007

Turn the pages with a click of your mouse and listen to the scrunchy, scratchy sound of slipping over to the next page. If you have your speakers on people will assume you are reading the paper or a crisp new magazine. If they guess the later they’ll be right. DMW Daily reported in May 2007

“Larstan Publishing Launches Blogger & Podcaster Magazine
Submitted by Mark Hefflinger on May 3, 2007 – 2:48pm.

Potomac, Md. – Looking to target the ever-growing population of serious bloggers and podcasters, Larstan Publishing said that it has launched a new monthly trade magazine, believed to be the first publication to launch simultaneously in print, digital and podcast formats. “

It’s really something to experience. You get the sights and sounds you expect from a magazine but you also get the unexpected. Listen for the voice of the editor. You can take that literally. The ezine has audio clips built in and you control what you see and hear. Zoom into cool images and admire the artistry or just zoom into the text. I like it.

The subscription is free but the content is invaluable. The ads are well targeted and relevant. No commission here, just a plug for a company who seems to be doing something well. Now I must read 7 Steps to a Better Blog, page 26!