Tag Archives: integration

Even More

27 Jun

Today I will be giving a very general overview of my time in Mountain View, CA at the Google Teacher Academy. Each Monday for the next several weeks (probably waiting to start until July 7), I will address a new application. I will be providing screencasts or links to tutorials on how to use each program, as well as giving ideas on how to integrate the technology into the classroom.

“Even More” pretty much sums up yesterday! Why Even More? Because just when you think you have seen or heard it all, there is always “Even More.” This happens to be a function to see all Google has to offer, but many of us picked it up as a theme for our teaching and professional development. When you cease to realize there is always “Even More” you cease to grow as a teacher and as a human being.

We started off at 8:30 with breakfast and right at 9:00 with a whirlwind of information. After some basic introductions we were asked to break out into groups and to discuss “What is the most innovative classroom technology?” Sounds easy enough, but we could NOT include any technology. Some great innovations, both large and small scale were mentioned. Everything from serving breakfast, to methodology, to classroom management was mentioned. Through it all though, a common theme began to emerge. Stepping out from the “norm” and truly affecting change for students. Putting students and their needs first, be it one child at a time, or broad changes.

We then headed into breakout sessions where we were introduced to advanced search, Google Docs, Google Earth, and Google Maps. We spent a very short 30 minutes reviewing each application, learning the basics about it and how it could be used in education.

Next was our Google Tour followed by lunch at the main Google campus. We are not allowed to give a lot of specifics of what we saw while on the tour. What impressed me most though, was the morale of the employees. Google demands plenty from its employees, yet gives them the freedom, trust, and affirmation to be truly innovative. How nice it would be to follow this model in our classroom. Give our students trust, skills, high expectations, and affirmation, and just see how far they can go. I would imagine that the students and teacher would be surprised at how much learning can be accomplished when that learning is authentic.

Lunch was amazing! We had our choice of everything from soups and salads, to sushi and made-to-order pasta. No one left hungry! We hopped back on our shuttle to another campus to finish our afternoon.

Vicki Davis was our keynote speaker. During her presentation she used a program called backchannel that allowed for a truly interactive presentation. Basically the participants were in a chat room and we were able to throw out questions, links, and comments relative to her presentation. For those who don’t multitask well, this was a nightmare, but I enjoyed the interaction. She made a few statements that really hit home for me.

1- Technology is a tool, much as pencil and paper are tools. We should introduce students to the technology, give them some basics, teach them digital citizenship, then let them learn and innovate.

2- Tools (in this case technology) are inherently morally neutral. The people using them make them what they are. It is up to us to teach students digital citizenship, not just take the tools away. We wouldn’t think of taking away pencils or scissors because someone COULD use them inappropriately. Instead kindergarten teachers spend months teaching how to properly hold the scissors and pencils, how to use them appropriately and safely. The internet and technology are no different. We should not take those tools away, we should however provide students with instruction on how to use them appropriately and safely.

3- The most destructive weapon: humans. No explanation needed.

Afternoon sessions introduced us to Blogger, Reader, iGoogle, Bookmarks, Notebook, Browser Extensions, and Google Apps and Sites.

Esther Wojcicki spoke to us about using Google Docs in her high school journalism class. The quality of collaboration and production was amazing. Her students exclusively use Google Docs until they are ready to turn in assignments for production. This allows students to edit their own work, work at a time convenient for them, even if that is at midnight. They could work together on projects, edit each other’s work, and provide comments and feedback. The quality of work produced was unreal.

We ended the day formulating our action plans. We paired up with each other and discussed how we would take what we have learned and share it with other teachers in a way that will impact them.

Our celebration dinner capped the night. We had another wonderful meal followed by a short ceremony in which we became Official Google Certified Teachers! What a day it was! I am still processing everything and will likely continue to do so for a couple of days. It was truly an amazing day!

Upon reflecting about the day, I truly feel that what moved me most was the spirit of those attending. People came from all over the US and from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, not so much to learn new technology skills, but to collaborate and learn from each other. When I first read the credentials of some of the attendees, I was intimidated. I felt like I would have little to contribute. Here were district level tech specialists, state curriculum people, authors, national PD trainers, and entrepreneurs, how could I ever compete? Surely they would wonder how I ended up at Google. The impressive thing was that EVERYONE there knew that they had something to learn from each person they met. Egos did not cloud the collaborative nature of the group. Resources, links, ideas, were freely shared with everyone. The networking was inspiring. The power of this group lies not in what we learned within the walls of Google, but what we learned from each other, and what we will continue to learn from each other. Out of 50 participants, 22 had found each other in the 4 weeks prior to coming to California through use of 2 wikis, countless tweets on twitter, and posts on blogs. We recognized each other as friends and colleagues before ever stepping onto the Google campus. The power of that is indescribable to those who were not there.

This was truly a life changing experience. If I take nothing else from the experience, it would be that to truly affect change in education we need to focus on the students and their needs, learning styles, and futures. The right changes will not come as part of a law, test, curriculum, or through a computer. They will come from teachers dedicated to doing what is right for kids, being innovative in their approach to teaching, and being willing to freely collaborate and share with each other.

Thank you to Google and my fellow Google Certified Teachers for an experience that I will never forget!


Palms in the Classroom

14 Jun

Palms seem to have become outdated, but I love using them in the classroom. Last year, a colleague of mine and I convinced our principal to use some latchkey money to purchase a class set (30) of palms, and we shared them with our 5th graders. At first, we weren’t exactly sure how to use them. We had gone to a training, but it took some time to figure out how to make them work for us. Once I started, I didn’t stop!! Here are a few of the ways we incorporated palms.

Beamed Stories

Our favorite activity was “Beamed Stories”. This was not a new activity, we used something similar with paper and pencil, in fact there is a Kagan Structure called Round Table which is similar.

In this activity, I had students use the WordtoGo to begin a story- sometimes I gave a prompt or theme, other times it was completely up to them. I would give them about 5 minutes to begin writing. When the timer went off, they would beam their story clockwise around a group of 4 people. That person would be given 2 minutes to read and 5 to write, then we would beam it again and so on until time was up. When we had about 10-15 minutes of class left, I would give them a 2 minute warning to wrap up the story. Then they would take turns reading their stories to their group.

Initially we started with just a drawing or writing 1 word or sentence. Once they had master beaming and how to rotate the stories, we moved into the stories. Once they had mastered story-telling, I would throw in a challenge. For example, after they beamed I would say “this round you must use 5 of this weeks spelling or vocabulary words”, or ” you must include 4 adjectives”.


On the Palms?? Yes! Using the palms to create powerpoints allowed students to focus on content first. We used the outline view instead of the traditional slide view. The kids were not all that familiar with outlines and this gave them exposure in a way that excited them. In fact, after these lessons, I was able to teach them how to use outlines for notetaking and drafting papers, and because they saw it first using the technology, it was much less intimidating. In fact, on their state writing assessments, I saw several of them using an outline to do their brainstorming and organizing!

Back to the actual powerpoints. They did their research in the computer lab and using encyclopedias in the classroom. They took notes directly onto their palms, and then could copy and paste info into their powerpoints. Without the distraction of adding graphics, backgrounds, and transition effects, the sole focus was on the content. Once they were done, they could hotsync their palm to the computer and then edit it, add graphics, backgrounds, etc. These powerpoints had far more rich content than previous powerpoints we had done, because they weren’t racing to get to the “fun” part.

Math Practice

There are a ton of free applications that can be loaded onto the Palms. Many are math related. I would use these as our math warm up time frequently. Kids could do math games, use them as flash cards, and take quizzes. We could cover geometry, algebra, fractions, computation, and many other concepts. The kids would even “play” during indoor recess. It still amazes me how you can take what is on a worksheet, put it on a computer or Palm and suddenly, not only is it not work, but it is fun! They forget that they are learning.

Now that I have moved into the computer lab, and have students able to be 1 to 1 on the computers, I don’t use palms as much. I only have 4 at this time, and that makes it difficult for me to use- ok yes, I know that is only an excuse. I have run across something I will use in my computer lab next year. The Graffiti Alphabet can be printed and run along the top of your classroom or computer lab like the normal alphabet would be.  I plan to put these around and put my content vocabulary words beneath them.  It just seems like a “techie” thing to do 🙂

Technology Integration

20 May

I have heard countless times, expressions similar to the following: “I would teach my class technology, but there isn’t any time for it.” “The district says I have to do XYZ so there isn’t time for technology.” “My kids are too young, and it takes too long.”

Common theme? No Time!! I think that the real problem is the lack of ability to integrate. Technology in the elementary years, at least, isn’t- or shouldn’t- be taught as a subject matter, rather a tool to learn subject matter. Until this year, I taught 5th grade. I had to meet my standards, I had to keep pace with pacing guides, and yes, I even had to prepare students for testing, but I did it all with the use of technology. Now it helps that I know a lot about technology, and that I grew up with it, but others can do likewise.

Technology is NOT going away. In fact, it will only continue to infiltrate our lives in ways we can’t yet comprehend. 20 years ago, it was science fiction to think that a child too sick to be at school, could continue to learn right along with her friends through the use of such programs as Skype. Now, we have that capability.

So how do we integrate?? Here are a few points to ponder. Future posts will investigate more specific integration ideas.

  • If you can do it with a pencil, you can do it on the computer- typing papers, drawing, even completing a worksheet.
  • If you can make a 3D model, you can probably use Google Sketchup.
  • If it can be written on the chalkboard, it can go on the smartboard– not to mention that it then becomes interactive.
  • If you can find it on a globe, you can not only find it, but come close to experiencing it on Google Earth.
  • If you can read about it in the library, you can access more information on it that you can use on the internet.
  • Want to take your kids on a field trip, but don’t have the funds to go everywhere you want to go? Make it a virtual trip!

Integrating technology is not hard to do. Does it take a little more planning? Yes, at first, but like anything, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

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?