Thursday, May 28, 2009

Schools That Learn

Schools must evolve to meet the needs of our students. Although I agree that a strong basic educational foundation is a must and very important, our students’ future also requires that they are creative, have the social and emotional skills required to work in teams and be a problem solver. Though change is slowly coming it is being met with resistance. Many teachers and administrators are reluctant to change the way schools have been run. In order for true change to occur the school (teachers and administrators) and the community have to be willing to work together for the students.
Schools That Learn by Peter Senge is a must read for anyone in the education field. The book aims to create an alliance between the community, the students, educators, parents, and the school. This book contains the theory that schools can change, be re-created, and made vital by involving everyone in becoming aware and expressing their aspirations. Throughout the book, Peter Senge uses examples and gives advice on how to make changes and not just talk about it. You can’t help but feel inspired after reading this book. I felt motivated to take action and try to make changes in my school building, although this was not an easy task. Where should I begin? I found that by joining committees and taking more of a “set example by doing” stance, I was able to contribute to and become part of the decisions that affected what and how I taught. Although my involvement didn’t alter the dynamics of the school district as a whole, it did reshape the way things were done in my building and the success led to other building following suit.
I focused mostly on the classroom section of the book because I am a classroom teacher and that is where I believe I can make the most change. I agree with the notion that teachers are the designers of the learning environment. I believe that we can learn a lot from one another.
We all have different strengths and weaknesses and its important to be comfortable admitting that we don’t have all the answers. Children as well are all different. What works for some, might not work for others. Differentiating instruction is so important. I enjoyed reading the section about “Seeing the Learner”. I work in a district with an extremely high percentage of second language learners and over the years I've seen the district try to deliver the same curriculum it had many, many years ago. Thankfully, we have made adjustments and changes. We are “seeing the learner” and “demystifying the child”. We are differentiating, using a more constructivist approach to teaching, and infusing technology. I know that change can’t happen overnight, but I am comforted in seeing its slow, steady progress in my district.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Response To Salon #10


I participated in a salon discussion about the article written by Colleen Swan and David Edyburn entitled, Social Justice: Choice or Necessity." This article was about whether the use of technology in the classroom should be a school wide initiative or a teacher's personal choice. The article goes on to explain that student access to technology is not enough for today's students. Students must also be able to use technology to communicate, solve problems, represent data and share their knowledge. During the salon we also discussed the inequities in technology that many schools still face. We felt that many schools were not equipped with sufficient technology, or the technology that they have is old, slow, or did not function properly. s an educator for more than 14 years, I have seen the improvement in the way schools are both acquiring and utilizing technology, but I fear we are stll very far from our goal. Although we are beginning to get more technology equipment into the hands of our students, our teachers are not being trained on how to incorporate technology into their curriculum. Many teachers are simply showing power point presentations or asking students to type their reports on the computer after hand-writing them on paper. Students are not, for the most part, being asked to utilize the technology on their own. In my opinion students should be shown how to responsible use an application and then be required to use it to respond, defend, create, demonstrate, or share their knowledge. However, before this can happen, school districts, teachers, and parents have to be in agreement. In order to close this digital divde between the"haves" and "have-nots", technology must be available to all students, used regularly, used in a meaningful way, monitored by both school and parents, and utilized to enhance learning. Teachers must consider how they can infuse technology into their curriculum to enhance their students learning. We as educators have to keep in mind the future of our students. We must prepare them for their future, not our past. Parents, teachers and educators are all responsible for the education of our nation's children. We do not want our students be be at a disadvantage, we must provide all students with the technological tools necessary to compete in a global world.

Response To Salon #11


I attended Salon #11 and joined in the discussion of the article, "Passport To Digital Citizenship: Journey Toward Appropriate Technology Use at School and at Home" by Mike Ribble. The article discussed the importance of teaching students to use technology appropriately and the role parents and teachers have in educating students in digital citizenship. We talked about how parents and teachers must "practice what we preach" and become positive role models. We discussed the importance of schools providing guided practice in using technology appropriately, allowing them to explore while providing them with the knowledge of what they should do if they come across inappropriate content.
The article mentions nine elements of digital citizenship. The following are my reflection to three of them. One of these elements is digital communication. Digital communication is described as the "electronic exchange of information" and an "understanding of the digital communication methods and when they are appropriate. As a teacher and mom of an 11 and 15 year old, this element has become a hot button issue. Although social communication networks, like My Space, Face Book, and Twitter advertise in their registration that participants be 18 years of age or older, anyone with an email account can join. Many young kids are posting profiles and pictures under altered names (so that their parents can't find them) that are inappropriate and possibly damaging to their future reputations. Kids do not think about who's reading their profiles. Many are posting personal info that should not be shared on the internet. I believe that schools and parents should properly educate kids so that they understand the reasons why they should be cautious. Blocking these sites or telling students that they are not allowed to use these social networking tools are not going to stop students and kids from using them, it will only encourage them to find a way to use it anyway. Instead we need to show them how to use it appropriately so that they are able to use a variety of digital communication tools without danger.
The next element I would like to discuss is digital literacy. Ribble defines digital literacy as "the capability to use digital technology and to know how and when to use it." From my experience many teachers have a fear of using technology with their students either because they themselves are not technology users or they do not know how to incorporate it into their curriculum. Furthermore, the teachers that do use technology do so in a teacher centered fashion, always demonstrating (using teacher created power point presentations for example) and not allowing students to use the technology to create anything or accomplish a task. I believe that teachers should not only use technology in their presentations, but also teach students how to share what they have learned using technology. I teach second graders and my students are learning how they can share, create, and communicate their knowledge through a variety of digital tools. Even at the young age of 7 and 8 years old, they have surprised me at how quickly they can adapt and utilize technology.
The last element that I would like to reflect on is the element of digital etiquette. In the article digital etiquette is defined as, "the standards of conduct expected by other digital technology users." Technology has made the world a smaller place. Students are now able to learn from and collaborate with people and places all around the world. Because of this students need to be taught to understand cultural, human, and societal issues. They need to know how to comment appropriately and be aware that anything they create or write can be seen by anyone at anytime. I once heard of a case where students were blogging from home about a class assignment and one student made an inappropriate comment about another student in the class. This led to teasing, hurt feeling, and angry parents. Who is at fault? Was it the school for introducing the technology and asking the students to utilize it or the parents for not knowing what their child was doing at home? In my opinion parents and schools need to work together to determine what we expect from our children. Together we must encourage our kids to use technology but at the same time we must have high expectations and make sue that they become global digital citizens.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Using Blogs to Advance Literacy In A Bilingual Classroom

I recently had the opportunity to represent my district and present at a NASTECH (Nassau Association of School Technology) conference on April 17, 2007. I was asked to talk about using blogs in the early elementary classroom. The following is an excerpt of what I spoke about and a short video that I created with my students to explain why blogging is a great tool.

I am a teacher of a second grade transitional bilingual class. I am also working on my second Master’s in Educational Technology. I noticed that my students’ literacy skills were very poor this year and getting them animated about writing was a struggle. I thought about all of the different web 2.0 tools that I was learning about, but was disappointed to learn that very few teachers used them with early elementary students. Deciding that I would try it anyway, I chose blogging because it simulated journal writing.
A blog is an online publishing tool that enables people to easily publish their loves, passions, dislikes, peeves, discoveries, and insights. The blogs are posted in reverse chronological order and may contain text, images, or multimedia. Not only do the authors (bloggers) post their thoughts and feelings on a web page for the world to view, but blog readers can comment, thus creating a dialogue between the blogger and the community he inhabits. This can lead to an online community of readers and writers.
I researched many different blog sites and found David Warlick’s “Landmark Project-Class Blogmeister” ( ) to be the best for my students. I choose this site because it was specifically designed for classroom use and because of all the student controls that are built in. For example, students and or others who wish to leave comments cannot post anything until the teacher approves it.
After setting up my class blog site, I explained to my students that they were going to keep an online journal. I discussed rules of Internet safety with my students. We talked about personal information. We discussed the dangers of posting too much about ourselves or our families. We discussed the proper use of blogs and about cyber-bullying. This was something completely new and different. The children were very excited.
I named the site “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” and decided that our blog would serve as a resource to help strengthen our literacy skills through self-expression, opinions, and communication of topics that we are learning about and exploring in the classroom.
We have been blogging for about 5 months now, and the students’ literacy skills have improved tremendously. They are taking risks with their writing and many of them are developing a sense of voice. We blog every Friday and my students are eager to share what they’ve learned, read what others have posted, and collaborate with other kids around the world. Some of my students even force their parents to bring them to the library so that they can share their blogs with their families (since most do not own computers).
In the future, I would like to focus on a way to have parents more involved in our class blog. I have many ideas. Stay tuned.