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What are we here for?

20 Jun

This morning I read a great post by Vicki Davis AKA Cool Cat Teacher. The post titled Mainstream Media vs. Blogosphere: Mainstream Ed vs. Edublogosphere? In the post, she talks about how the media is dealing with the change that everday people now have the ability to give “breaking news” to the world. The media is scrambling to deal with this. In a similar way, there is a shift going on in education, especially in edtech. One section really hit home for me:

What are we here for?

The way I feel about it is that we should all be here for the students. It is about making sure our classrooms are doing a great job of not only educating students but helping them find their individual talents. It is about helping our country thrive in the years to come.

I would highly encourage you to head to her blog and read the full article.

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SMART Technologies

19 Jun

SmartBoards are very big in our district as are many of the SMART Technologies. This week I took a class on the new Notebook 10 software. I thought I would take a minute to introduce you to some of SMART Technologies products.

Notebook 10
I was pleasantly surprised at many of the changes. They have added the ability to animate items on pages, albeit not as well as powerpoint, but much improved. They have also added a desktop recorder. I have used Jing for this in the past and wasn’t thrilled with it. I then found some other shareware that was better, but still not ideal. I must say though, I really love the Smart Notebook’s Recorder. Some other new features include themes, page grouping, and new interactive items in the gallery. If you had tried their previous Teacher’s Toolkit, you will be delighted at some of the new additions.

SynchronEyes
This is a product that I had seen about a year ago on Smart’s website, but quickly forgot about. Then this week I saw it’s use in one of my professional development classes and am now determined to get it for my computer lab, even if I have to write a few grants to do it. It is a fabulous tool for lab use! It will allow you to monitor all of the lab computer’s from your own computer, will allow you to lock down computers, or take what one student has on their screen and show it to everyone in the class. It also will allow collaboration while keeping kids 1-1 on a computer. There is a chat feature monitored by the teacher that can be turned on and off. The teacher can also send a file or website to all computers at once. No more walking to 25 computers and opening starfall.com for my kindergarteners! I can see endless possibilities with this one!

Senteo Clickers
I have not used these much, but have seen them in use and would love to have a set in my lab. The clickers allow you to not only set up SmartBoard lessons with quizzes embedded, but they allow you to ask a spur of the moment question with almost no prep. I hope to learn more about these in the future.

If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing SMART Technologies products, I would highly recommend you look into them. If you are an avid Smart user, I would like to recommend our district’s website. Our district has posted many SmartBoard lessons and activities that are downloadable at this site.

Predictions

10 Jun

It is common to hear predictions of what technology will look like in the future. No doubt some are close to the mark, and no doubt that some will prove to be way off. Here is one such prediction. I found this at a KU blog http://blogs.soe.ku.edu/~helpdesk/ Hard to believe that 50 years ago the thought of a computer in the average home was not feasible, yet today, many homes have several. Gotta love the steering wheel!!

The Problem with Schools

9 Jun

I was stumbling along and found a blog post titled

Sucky Schools – How To Repair Our Education System

I read through the post and could not help but pass along a link to it. There are a ton of reasons why people THINK that schools aren’t what they should be, tons of reasons people KNOW they are bad, and tons of reasons the schools don’t change (at least not very fast). We still educate students as though we were preparing them to go to a factory during the day, and come home at night to a lovely two parent 2.1 child family, complete with picket fence and dog. We all know how far THAT is from reality. Yet we continue to keep teaching in the same way and wonder why the kids don’t know what they need to know, why they are bored, and why many think schools are failing.

All kinds of people are willing to point the fingers and criticize what is wrong with “the system” but solutions are few and far between. NCLB was supposed to change it all and whip schools into shape, that didn’t happen. These problems weren’t created over night, the solution won’t come easy either. It is up to every person in our society to really look at what is best for kids, even when that is not the easy way out. We need to support creativity and innovation in the classroom, we need to stop expecting cookie cutter results, we need to start preparing kids for the future instead of the past. We need to open our own minds to what is new, different, and often uncomfortable. We need to challenge the old ways, and replace them when we see they are no longer effect. We need to look at the big picture. Until every one can embrace this type of thought, we are going to continue to beat the proverbial dead horse. Too often we hide behind the scenes, pointing fingers and waiting for the educational fairy godmother to wave her wand and fix it. Not going to happen!

I got in!!

5 Jun

I got my invitation for the Google Teacher Academy this morning! I am so excited!! I will definitely be sharing what I learn on this blog, so make sure to stay tuned! I will be heading to California to Googleplex (how cool does that sound?!) June 24th-26th. I can’t wait!

How are schools doing in technology?

16 Apr

Education Counts has released its latest study on technology use in schools. How does your state compare to other states?  Find out by visiting Education Counts.

Here is how the state of Kansas scored:

Access to Technology    A-
Use of Technology    B-
Capacity to use Technology   C
Overall    B-

Not too bad of a score, but there is certainly room for improvement!  Capacity to use technology is the primary area needing work in our state.  We do not have technology requirements for teacher or administrator certification or recertification.

Where I see the most need for improvement in my school is giving the teachers the skills to use technology to enhance what they already do.  So many teachers see technology as a separate entity.   It can be integrated into nearly anything, but you have to have teachers who are comfortable using it.  Does this scenario sound familiar?

You go to an inservice and a new technology is introduced.  The leaders of the inservice or workshop are super excited and spend 2-8 hours showing all of the cool tricks with this technology.  They spend the last few minutes answering questions and send you on your way to use it.  That was Friday!  Come Monday, you can hardly remember the name of the technology let alone how to use it, and FORGET integration!

All too often this happens to teachers in my building.  They watch someone use a technology and then are expected to go back and use it.  Now I am lucky in that MOST of the time, I can pick up enough and play with it enough to figure it out.  As a person who grew up with technology, it tends to come easily to me, but I know that I am among the few.  Our district could do a lot more to help teachers feel comfortable with technology.

How does your district handle technology?

Future of Education

28 Mar

Few people in the field of education would dispute that we as educators need to do a better job of preparing our students for the world in which they will be living. However, there are plenty of debates about how best to prepare our 21st century learners. I ran across a quote today that made me pause. It is one I have heard before, but today it struck a chord.

If we don’t change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are going” – Chinese Proverb

How true!! Do we want to end up where we are currently headed? Not much has changed about teaching in the past hundred years. Sure textbooks have changed and we have technologies undreamed of a century ago. But just because we have these technologies, doesn’t mean they have changed education. Students are still expected to read from the textbook/listen to a lecture, do a worksheet or activity, then regurgitate said information in some sort of assessment. Is this really what’s best? Is this really where we want to end up?

I should hope not. We need to give kids tools and the freedom to use those tools to help them learn. Kids are naturally very curious. They love to learn, they just don’t love to hear a lecture, do a worksheet, and take a test. In a standards driven  educational society, we have all but sucked the fun out of learning.  Thank you NCLB!!

Skills that were necessary 100, 50, or even 10 years ago are not the same skills they will need when they enter the workforce.  They need global literacy, problem solving skills, interpersonal skills, and technological skills in order to survive.   What’s the best way to achieve this?  That’s the million dollar question!  What are your thoughts?