Delivering and Questioning the Computer

I’m glad I’ve had this break from the kids. It reminds me of what I did over the summer. Wake up and drink coffee while writing in my paper journal, fire up my Bloglines account, just start reading and thinking, and decide on possible topics to blog about. Why does it take me several days to get into that meta-cognitive state in which I can more easily learn about learning? Two big areas I’ve been focussed on is how to deliver the instructions on using the internet apps/tools, and about the justifications/reasons for using the tools. Brian Lamb’s "big fat lousy screencast" really hit the spot with his musings over potential applications and excellent examples as well as showing what Snapzprox can do (I’d downloaded the demo several years ago but didn’t think it worth the cost). It’s not thorough, but thoughtful and spontaneous. The related wiki has the links for further exploration. Back when I started teaching my ELD students the steps for a software application I would just do a screen grab and write on the printout. I’ve found that the program called Flysketch does that as well as several other tasks. I’ve been demoing an interactive whiteboard unit from Luidia and I like the potential use by my students to brainstorm content for their podcast groups and print it out. I’m also excited about the ability to save what I write (Quicktime demo) for students challenged by taking notes or attention issues. It’s not as sophisticated as a Smartboard, but I can afford it. I also enjoyed looking at Mix-Rip-Burn which is a Web 2.0 presentation by a math teacher named Darren Kuropatwa. I add these site to my collection of good resources for those teachers at my school that have enough interest and time to invest in what this is all about.

Finally, getting down to the nitty gritty of asking myself why introduce these tools into an elementary classroom. I spend so much more time as I set up this technology pursuing this task then any other teacher at my school. Of course what would anyone rather do, grade papers or install some cool software/tool that does something that was impossible or too technical for the likes of me five years ago.  I keep prefacing and apologizing for what I am doing when I share with other teachers by saying that this is my passion, and in a way I can trace this back to the sleepless nights before I was a teacher. There I was learning to create web sites back in 1995 and leaving my classes at the SFSU downtown campus buzzing with so many ideas about finally being a part of a new medium that I couldn’t sleep. What struck me then was that a few letters separated a Disney website from a local individual website. The truth is I left the program after realizing I didn’t want to sit behind a computer for eight hours without interacting with people, but that is so Web 1.0. I have to thank Will Richardson as usual for giving me food for thought as well as another blog to add to my ungainly and in need of organization, bloglines account. His article "Uneasy Classroom Space" gets at the heart of what I am always asking myself. Is there worth in putting in hours of work while my colleagues after writing down and preparing for book based lessons go home? Am I preparing my students for the flattened world of Thomas Friedman Video, for skills that they will need in a way that is more efficacious then traditional models of teaching and learning? Barbara Ganley does an excellent and much better job then myself of articulating the dilemma and self-doubt which confronts any thoughtful educator about using these tools. I can say from my own experience that the use of blogs has made my students begin to interact with each other’s writing in a way that I could never create through an Author’s Chair format. I find moving their serious reading, respect, and praise of each other. Before the current state of the tools we have now I think that Lowell Monke does make some valid points, but the example he uses involved individual presentations using software intended for that purpose (a person as source presenting their ideas for a passive audience). I’ve never fully embraced multi-media CD’s or even really liked to use a lot of videos in the class because so much of it involved the content one on one with the single passive participant/viewer. In creating content with these new tools I can’t think of a better way to give the students the necessary information literacy (recent article I came across) they need and begin processing the content behind much of what they are exposed to. When I had my students create a powerpoint project, what struck me was the chart paper I put up so students could ask questions, write comments to each other, request help or offer to help someone in need. My use of computers is to transition that level of student centered access to information and interactivity between students to web logs, wikis, social bookmarks, etc.

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