Monday, July 25, 2011

Technology Podcast

Today I interviewed some students about how they use technology at home and at school. I initially recorded their responses using Garage Band and then I uploaded the file on PodOmatic. This was my first attempt interviewing different individuals and rearranging answers into a podcast. The last few words in the podcast mysteriously disappeared on PodOmatic. At the end it should say, "in the classroom." Here is the link-

After working with podcasts, I can see the potential of students using this tool in many areas in the classroom. I look forward to exploring this more with my students this upcoming school year.

~Jill Morris


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

21st Century Skills

One of the most common catch phrases in education recently is 21st Century Skills. What does this phrase really mean? This week I explored the Partnership of 21st Century Skills website.

The first thing that caught my eye on this website was the graphic of two arches on top of each other and rings connecting the bottom of the arches. I have seen this image before, but always felt that I did not quite understand the importance of each part of the arches and rings on the bottom. After exploring the site more, I found that the arches represent student outcomes and the rings (or what they call pools) represent support systems where every part is working together and connected. This is the framework for 21st century learning. Being a visual learner, I thought this graphic would help me understand the complex components to 21st century learning. Honestly, I fount this graphic too complicated and confusing. Without further research, 21st century skills are not explained by this graphic. In my research, I found that the 3 Rs and 4 Cs represent 21st century skills. I knew the three Rs are the basics in school, like reading, writing and math. However, I never heard of the 4 Cs before. I learned from this site that the four Cs are: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. For me, these words really helped express the core of what 21st century skills are to me much more then the arches and pools.

Even though these four Cs seem fairly simple, I found the website a bit overwhelming. As an elementary school teacher who is in charge of all of core content for my students learning, the vast list of skills students need to be prepared for the workplace is daunting. The main thought that ran through my mind when searching this site was, “How in the world am I going to fit all of this in?” The other part I personally felt disheartened about was Washington State (the state I work in), is not part of the leadership states creating new standards, assessments and professional development programs to commit to 21st century learning for all students. I then thought, “How long before my state gets on board? Or will we also be left behind?”

Having said this, I must say that I am impressed that headway is being made to help make sure all students have essential 21st century skills to be competitive and successful in the workplace. I also really like the collaborative development of these ideas from many corporations. I look forward to see how these ideas are embraced by all states and how this will actually affect the classroom. Project Based Learning and more access to technology will be essential to implement in schools to embody the 4 Cs effectively. Now the big question for me is, how do we do this effectively with our current resources? I think I need to do much more research to answer this question!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blogging in the Classroom

I have never used blogging in the classroom. However, I see the potential of blogging as a very powerful learning tool for students. Next school year I intend to develop a classroom blog. In this blog I want to accomplish a few different goals.

1- The first goal is to have a collaborative environment where students can post thoughts and ideas based on learning targets in the classroom and questions based on classwork. I love the idea of positing a question and having all of the students answer the question on the blog. Students then can be responsible to comment on each others' work and learn appropriate communication skills when blogging. This will not only allow students to learn from each other and promote higher order thinking skills, but it over time also will give students a chance to see what makes great responses.

2- The second goal is to give students a place to publish and showcase their writing and ideas. What a great way to receive feedback from others! This also will hopefully make students look closely at their writing to see if it truly is a quality piece of writing. As an upper elementary school teacher, I constantly am amazed how often students do not edit their work for even basic writing conventions before turning in their writing. Hopefully by publishing their work for the world to see, students will take more time and effort to make sure they are publishing quality work.

3- I love the idea of keeping a blog for past classes as well. Next year I will teach 6th grade in elementary school. I would love to have these students give advice to future students on how to be successful in middle school, much like what was seen in one of our videos this week. I think this is a fantastic way to build up the community in a classroom. It will give the shy students a chance to have more of a voice and help everyone get to know each other better.

4- Finally, I love the idea of having a homework help or a questions section of the blog where students can go on and ask questions. If students get in the habit of monitoring the blog, they can help each other. I can also monitor the blog and answer questions and make comments as necessary.

For all of these reasons (and I am sure so many more), I think blogging can be a very powerful tool in the classroom. Working with 10-12 year olds, I have the opportunity to really help students learn how to use this technology safely and appropriately. Truly, now that I started using blogs, it is my responsibility to share this with my students as well.