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With and Without

This year we piloted our first ever 1:1 program with Chromebooks. We have two teams of four teachers who have enough Chromebooks for each student to use during the day, when needed. We are not using the term 1:1, as that often gets misconstrued. Our students do not take the Chromebooks home. When they move on to another team or class next year, they won’t take their Chromebook with them, but they will get one to use for that year in the new class.

learningWe have six more teams of teachers waiting in the wings for next year to see how this turns out. Having had great success on many levels, we are planning on moving forward and purchasing Chromebooks for 4 more teams for next year. Sadly, our budget doesn’t have room for all six of the remaining teams in this building. We are developing a whole new replacement cycle with these devices and the remaining two teams will use the existing laptops to serve the same purpose; they’ll have enough devices for each student to use, when needed. The plan is that they’ll get Chromebooks the following year. Hopefully.

Interestingly, at last week’s School Board meeting, when the Board heard about with our hopes and dreams for next year, they balked. Were they worried about budgets overall? We’re not asking for additional funding and intend to work within our budget. They want to know how having more access and more devices transforms teaching and learning. They think we’re doing great things with our current set-up. We are. Thanks to amazing teachers who are flexible and patient.

contractorsThere comes a time when our old structure, having a shared cart of 24 laptops for each team of 80-100 students sufficed. That’s no longer the case. School needs to mirror the real world. Would you ask an employee in a place of business to do their work, but they only have access to a computer for an hour a day? The cost of Chromebooks allows us to move forward in providing more access to learning and the world to our students. We’ve seen the change in students having access to devices when they needed them on these two initial teams. Students are so much more comfortable, fluent, and confident. The device fades into the background as they focus on ways to demonstrate their learning, participate in class, reflect, and grow.

The bottom line is this: it still all comes down to good teachers and great teaching. Teachers are the ones who create the experiences and the culture for success.

We are preparing an updated report for the School Board and for parents, with clear examples of the difference for those in our building with ample devices and without. I’ll share that soon, but would appreciate your thoughts. What can you and your students do if you have ample devices that you can’t do otherwise or if you have to share devices with a number of other classes? This is about the learning, but having the access is a part of it.

Feedback and insight are always welcome!

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I have always wanted to use this blog for reflection and celebration. A good deal of my work in recent months has been focused on details for the SBAC assessment. I’ve been given the job of coordinating the entire effort- creating materials, gathering and curating resources, training teachers, determining logistics, being on call for any issues, and more. The tests are underway (finally) and all is going smoothly. It has been a struggle for me because I’ve been pulled away from the work I’m most passionate about – my role as a technology integration specialist. I felt that I didn’t have much to offer for this blog that would be positive.

But that changed in the last few weeks. I had the opportunity two weeks in a row to facilitate the faculty meetings in each of our buildings. We start each meeting with a time for people to share. It’s great for us to hear about things happening in our own building! That’s what turned my outlook around.

Here’s a sampling of what people shared (with examples where possible):

  • A kindergarten class using Skype in the Classroom to find an expert on animals in the forest. They Skyped with a forest ranger from Yellowstone.
  • A kindergarten class creating “How To” books using BookCreator on the iPad
  • A first/second grade class creating their own version of “All About the Books
  • Third/fourth grade classrooms collaborating using Twitter to share their thoughts on Red Clover books. They even pulled the authors of many books into the discussions. Check out Ms. Ward’s class and Mr. Willis’s class on Twitter.
  • Third grade classrooms used Google Slides to share and present about Passion Projects
  • Third/fourth grade students creating videos featuring reasons not to drink or smoke for Health classes.
  • Middle school students use their own blogs as a tool to reflect upon a long-term project and keep themselves organized.
  • Middle school students using LucidPress (via GAFE accounts) to create literary magazines.

And finally, here’s an additional snapshot of what’s happened recently in our schools. Teachers contributed to this Thinglink on or around Digital Learning Day and shared happenings with digital tools.

So, even though I’ve been pulled in a different direction, our wonderful and amazing faculty continue to move forward in innovative ways.

We are making plans for our annual Theme Week which takes place the third week of February. I’ve written about Theme Week in the past here.

theme weekThis year’s theme is Connected Cultures Through Wellness. That seems to encompass many ideas, almost too many! In the workshop that the tech integration team offers, we like to offer something inspiring, fun, and that hopefully will filter back into the classrooms and influence teachers and students to try new things that enhance learning.

Last year we did that with the Aurasma app and augmented reality. The year before that, iPads were fairly new in our school and we offered a workshop around digital photography using various apps. Both were successful in getting students excited and they transferred that excitement back to their classrooms.

So, this year’s brainstorm is now upon us. We will have 4 groups a day for 4 days. Students in each group will come to work with us twice. One group comes at the same time on Monday and Tuesday, and then another group on Wednesday and Thursday. That’s a total of about 2.5 hours to get something accomplished. By the end of the week, we’ll have worked with about 200 students.

Please help us- we’d like to use the power of our networks to get ideas. What ‘new-ish’ technology tools can we use to address the theme, while having it not feel like traditional school work? Students love Theme Week because it’s a break from the normal routine; the workshops provide opportunity to do something fun and different.

Feel free to help us with the brainstorm in the comments below or on this Padlet. Your input is greatly appreciated!

I recently had a conversation with our District Leader (the administrator with whom I work) about why we use technology in schools. We realized that it is important to have those reasons at the tip of our tongues, especially during budget season in our town. Rather than the two of us developing the list, we asked faculty and staff for their input. We got great responses! We looked through them for common themes and narrowed it down to 7 big ideas.

I’m sharing our list here – hoping for feedback on the wording (For example, is ‘digital tools’ the best term?) and the content. Do you have suggestions or thoughts on what else might be added to this list? We wanted to keep it short and sweet and as jargon-free as possible so that any member of our town or community would understand them. Do you think we’ve accomplished that?

reasons for tech

Grateful for My Learning

I signed up to participate in the @TeachThought Attitude with Gratitude 30-Day Blogging challenge for November. But something seems to have happened and we’re halfway through the month without many posts! I’m going to try, when possible in the next few weeks, to blog more often.

Today’s prompt is this:

5 things you are grateful to have learned in your teaching career

1. Stay true to the principle that all children can learn. (This one took precedence in a conversation about beliefs and principles yesterday. Make sure that your principles guide what you do.)

2. Relationships are key. (Enough said.)

3.  That there’s always more to the story than you know. (I’ve learned that before I get myself all riled up about something,  do some research and find out more from different perspectives. Take a deep breath.)

4. Technology is not even a tool, it’s a digital assistant. (I recently started reading the book 1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs That Work, by Pamela Livingston. I’m only on the introduction and already there are so many ideas that resonate for me! The idea of changing the language about technology and tools to digital assistants works. This is also attributed to Prakash Nair – “Student Laptop Computers in Classrooms – Not Just a Tool“)

5. All of us are smarter than one of us. I attribute this one to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, who stated this frequently in our work with PLPNetwork during a formative year of professional development. I strongly believe in the power of my PLN and collaboration.

Obviously there are MANY more lessons that I’ve learned, but these come to mind this morning.

 

 

I’ve had quite a few conversations recently about writing and technology at the elementary level. Some teachers feel that it’s not developmentally appropriate. Many of us are using the Lucy Calkins’ Writing Workshop materials, and there’s either no mention or very little mention of integrating technology into that model. These concerns are definitely valid, especially for me as a past primary level teacher. I don’t think we need to scrap using pencil and paper to teach learners how to write. However, as much as I honor these perspectives, we need to push through and find ways to provide some opportunities for our students.

This past summer, I worked with primary-level educators in a course and we focused specifically on this topic. Lo and behold, a few months later, all of the teachers have found ways to weave in digital tools in support of the writing process. Some have delved into Kidblog, others are introducing the tools in Google Drive, and others are using various iPad apps. This is all happening with students at the K-2 level! Yes, they can!

writing techLast week I attended the VermontFest conference in lovely Killington, Vermont. It was sponsored by Vita-Learn, our ISTE affiliate. I did a presentation on the topic of writing and technology at the elementary level. It was well-received. I’m sharing the site I put together for the presentation here. There are many resources, ideas, and examples there for you to peruse.

One component of the class and the presentation was to build a repository of ideas collectively. I borrowed Tom Barrett’s (@tombarrett) idea for the Interesting Ways series and have created our own Interesting Ways to Integrate Technology into Writing at the Elementary Level. Feel free to add to it.

I encourage educators to use these resources and let me know how things evolve. Writing permeates most of what we do; let’s make it engaging and powerful.


Comments and ideas are more than welcome!

Image created by me at canva.com

Primary Productions

I’ve had a few experiences lately where I’ve been so impressed with what’s happening at the primary level. By that, I mean grades K-2, but this is certainly prevalent at other levels as well.

I taught some courses this summer and had the privilege of working with teachers at all levels. Recently, teachers from two different courses, who teach at the primary level, have had things to share with me.

One course was all about integrating Google tools. During our week together, a few teachers and I got to talking about Twitter. Yes, not a Google tool, but still a powerful one. They wanted to hear more about how to use Twitter to make classroom connections. I continued the conversation with one teacher beyond our summer work. Last week, she came to visit one of our kindergarten classes, Sharon Davison‘s (@kkidsinvt), and watched the class use Twitter to share with other kindergarten classes (class account: @vermontkkids123). Our guest, a first grade teacher, also has explored the #1stchat hashtag and has lurked in a Twitter chat as well. She is overcome by the sheer numbers of primary educators that are out there sharing and connecting. Her visit to our school helped her get underway.

bloggingAnother summer course was about the integration of writing and digital tools. All of the participants in that one are primary teachers, plus one principal. Two of the teachers, who teach in our district but another school, have added blogging with their students to the vast array of things teachers are responsible for these days. They approached it systematically by paper-blogging and paper-commenting, leading up to using the technology for those tasks. The second grade teacher got things underway with her students and they blogged a few times and left one another comments. The teacher was thrilled and set up a future session with her colleague, who teaches first grade. Today, the second graders taught the first graders how to access and create their blog posts. I was invited to observe and help out. They didn’t need my help- these students were ALL engaged and on task. They all felt successful and the first posts by first graders were a huge hit.

I got back to my school and walked into a computer lab filled with a first/second grade class (multi-age). They also were blogging! The teacher was so excited at how well things were going, how easily the students were navigating Kidblog, and how many skills are embedded in the experience. She is eager to try to help more of her colleague see the light.

Finally, one of our third/fourth grade classes (multi-age) has been participating in the Global Read Aloud author study of Peter Reynolds’ books. They’ve been blogging about his books and including some amazing reflections. They have also learned a lot about commenting – from penny comments to dollar comments, as well as highway and dead-end comments. The teacher used the Global Read Aloud hashtag #grapeter to share a set of recent posts about Peter’s books . What came next was the biggest surprise of all; Peter Reynolds commented on her students’ posts! the students and the teacher were jumping up and down with excitement. What a fabulous way to understand the power of a larger audience.

It’s been great to have more and more positive examples of how our younger students can and do achieve a lot with digital tools.

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