Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lessons Learned at #iste12

Last year, I sat on the edge of my dinning room chair, anxiously following ISTE 2011 Conference in Philadelphia via twitter. I wanted to be there so badly! Fortunately, through the remote sessions, I was able to learn a lot and found some cool people to follow on twitter. So, when I found out the conference this year would be in San Diego, so close to my house, I signed up to go right away.

I had huge expectations for ISTE 2012, and I wasn't disappointed. I learned about SketchUp and how to create it to design a 3D model of a house, complete with a raised roof, window, and door. I took a class on how to make Google Treks, interactive maps, for literature and social studies projects. I also learned to make and use QR codes to share student work.

Most of all, I learned more about the kind of teacher I want to be. I learned more about who I want my students to be when they grow up.

One of the best things at ISTE was the students who presented their projects In Poster Sessions outside the Exhibition Hall. I met 4th graders from the east coast who taught me how they make daily podcasts that are broadcast at school and on their website. The little girl who explained the process to me was articulate, confident, and knowledgable. I was so impressed! Another group of high school girls from a private school in Mexico showed me how they started a Facebook campaign to collect food for those in need. The young presenter spoke in fluent English and showed us a YouTube video they had made to drum up support for their cause. I also ran into first graders who drew a monster, wrote a written description of it, and then shared their descriptions with a class in Turkey to see if those students could draw the monster from the description. How great is it that these first graders have an authentic audience in another country!

As I move forward, I will take what I learned at ISTE and apply that to my teaching. My focus will not be on tech tools or toys. It will be on creating confident, knowledgable, creative thinkers and doers. My focus will be on students.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

First iPad Lesson

The decision to roll out our new class set of iPads happened quickly. They had been in our IT guy's office for a couple of weeks. And then all of a sudden they were in my classroom and we were putting them in the hands of students.

I had about 30 minutes to put together a lesson integrating them into our class. Here is what I did!

Edmodo App for iPad
Our class uses Edmodo regularly so I quickly set up a short quiz about our novel, Esperanza Rising, and downloaded the free Edmodo app to all 10 of the iPads using my personal apple ID and the syncing tray. When the students came in, we cleared our desks, discussed expectations for how to handle them gently and with respect (we didn't even have any covers, yet...), and passed them out.

The students logged into their Edmodo accounts from the app, and took their quiz. They could see their results immediately, which is a great benefit of using Edmodo for quick formative assessments. After the quiz, the students posted comments on each others posts. Everyone was so excited! The publicist took great photos for our website, and our IT guy was happy that all students were able to connect to our wireless network to get online. I couldn't stop grinning.

Now I know this may not be the most exciting lesson anyone has ever done on the iPad, but since it was our first time using them, it made sense to start small and with something familiar. It was fortunate the students already knew how to use Edmodo, so I didn't thave to take time demonstrating how to take a quiz or make a post. We could just enjoy using the iPads and being on Edmodo at the same time. (Due to limited access at school, most students access Edmodo from home, and are rarely all on at the same time, so this was quite a treat.)

I'm looking forward to creating and sharing many more iPad lessons in the near future!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Two weeks ago, my class was presented with a set of iPads! My students and I are so excited to add these exciting learning tool to our utility belt!

We are sharing them with two other classes, so right now we have access to them on a daily rotating schedule. This was what we decided so that our teachers could plan to create projects that can be completed with in one school day. My goal is to try new ideas, apps, and projects that integrate technology using the iPads with our content.

My students are known globally as Fifth Grade Orange. One of our goals has been to share what we are learning and doing with a global audience of parents and classes around the world. Feel free to check out all our integrated projects on our class blog!

NH Tech Teacher was created so I could share what I've learned with other educators.  It will also serve as a platform for me to share what my students are doing as well as how I am using my own iPad for teaching.  I hope you will learn and share with me, too!

Please check out the new page for our iPad Projects!

Monday, February 20, 2012

1:1 Laptops in Schools. Is it Necessary?

This week I went to Chaparral Elementary in Ladera Ranch and observed a 1:1 laptop school.  At this school, kids in third, fourth, and fifth grade bring a laptop to school each day. I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw.  Kids were engaged in meaningful learning activities, positive about learning, and excited to show us what they were working on.  The focused commitment to learning independently (or in groups - depending on the classroom) was inspiring.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I advocate for using technology as a tool for differentiation in today's 21st Century classroom.  I see great potential if each student has 100% access to a computer during the school day.  This year, my class has done many wonderful, tech integrated projects.  We've made Animotos of the US Regions, Vokis for Character Analysis, Blogs for journaling and responding to literature, and Glogsters to showcase our values.  And these are only a few of the things we've done. My kids are learning, collaborating, creating, and engaged!  The biggest barrier we have is access.  Waiting a week to get back into the computer lab drags out the time it takes us to complete a project and move on.  Or rotating kids through a computer center during language arts, doesn't allow everyone to have enough time to type their final drafts, or comment on other students' blogs.  Many students have to complete their technology related tasks at home due to restrictions of access to computers.  And that just isn't consistent with my philosophy of "no homework other than math".

But is it necessary?  

Immediate Access to Information
I am a firm believer in 21st Century Learning.  To be successful in an unknown future job market, kids today need to learn to be critical thinkers, collaborate with others, communicate effectively and clearly, and create new products. As an educator, I believe these are the skills that will be most valued in our future society. If our children are to really change the world, they must think of things that have never been thought of before. They must be producers and innovators. That means our kids must think "outside of the box" and the textbook merely becomes a resource as apposed to content to be memorized and regurgitated on a test. Gone are the days where all you need to know comes out of a textbook.  Additional information is readily available online and much of it is free.  Computers make access to information immediate so students have the tools they need to ask as many questions as they can!

Kids today learn through Technology.
Kids are already using technology at home.  How many times have you seen a toddler using an iPhone and been impressed with how well they manipulate the applications at such a young age? They are growing up in an age where technology is everywhere, so we should be using that technology for education, not just play. If we bring computers into the classroom, we can educate students about social and safety issues related to being in an on line environment. We can also use computers to engage students and motivate them to learn. Think about how much more motivated kids would be if instead of telling the students to open their social studies book, teachers tell them to open their laptops and view the files and websites that are uploaded to the class wiki!  This is an example of how personalized instruction can be using the computer. And it's already happening at Chaparral.

But won't they be on the computer all the time?
Different kids learn in different ways.  Each has their own set of talents and interests.  A knowledgeable teacher finds out what inspires kids to want to learn and differentiates lessons accordingly. So while the computer certainly inspires many students, there should be other time set aside to incorporate hands-on learning. The computer should enhance learning, not replace everything in a classroom.  Kids need to be well rounded and spend time developing other skills, too. I recently saw and interview with Dr. Mimi Ito that addressed this topic. When discussing how to use technology in education, she said, "It's not that we should abandon formal learning, but that we should get those working together in a much more coordinated way."

What about Social Media?
Dr. Mimi Ito also addresses a concern that kids spend too much time on line. Although most kids in her 3 year study "hang out" on line, she identifies a smaller group of kids who use media literacy as a jumping off point. These kids are using online environment to create, or develop more specialized interests. She advises us that schools have an opportunity to support all kids using technology and direct them towards specialized learning.  Most of my class this year falls into this smaller, more specialized category.  For example, we use Edmodo, an on line educational tool, for chatting and hanging out, but also to post videos and links that connect to content we are studying in class.  I've been impressed that when the kids go home, they find resources on their own and post them on Edmodo to share them with others.  When they are online browsing for connections to curriculum, that is true, independent learning facilitated by technology and it should be encouraged and guided by educators. 

Necessary?  Absolutely.  Welcome to the future of education.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Following My Students

My students have blogs. They really enjoy them because they have a real, authentic audience (besides me of course!).  They are always excited when someone from far away comments on one of their posts.  This is the first year I have used blogs so heavily in Language Arts, but I have to say I am loving the result!  I've seen a lot of growth, which I believe is because they have an authentic purpose for writing.

Today, we read a comment from a pre-service teacher at the University of South Alabama.  She said she was assigned to watch our blog for her class!  I was so excited to see that others are watching what my kids are doing online!  Not too long ago, I sat in their shoes, up to my eye-balls in Master's classes.  I was so eager to have a chance to implement all that I was learning about technology, problem solving, and critical thinking with others.  Well, today I am so excited that (at least one person) is looking to me and my class as an example!  Emily had posted on my student's wall so I felt obliged to post on hers.  Here is what I posted on her blog:

Hi Emily,

You posted a comment on one of my student's blogs at We read it today and we are so excited that you and some of your classmates are following our kids. Thank you so much for taking the time to post!

I would like to comment about your #4 21 Century Learning. I have not seen the video you refer to, but I understand your conflict over how much time students should use the computer. In your comment, you state that kids still need time to interact face to face. I agree with you and can assure you that the students in my class cooperate, collaborate, create, and inspire each other while using the technology. It is so gratifying as a teacher to look on a class full of students who are all engaged, all learning, all problem solving and thinking critically about their work and helping each other. They are helpful and they share resources and links with each other. In addition to our blogs, we have a class Edmodo. The students are only allowed to access it from home, as its purpose is to connect what we do in class to our homes. Kids post articles, websites, and videos that I did not ask them to find, just because they love using the technology and want to know more. Now, I have to confess, not all my students access from home, but those who do are enriched for doing it.

One of our favorite things to do is read a novel and create Voki's based on the characters in the story. The kids complete a character analysis worksheet and then once they are done they use it to make a voki. But not all our projects are integrated with technology. Some are integrated with visual or performing arts, or whatever creative thing we come up with. It's about problem solving, thinking critically and creating that are important, not the technology behind it. Technology is merely the newest, coolest tool.

Good luck with your studies. I was doing something similar to you in my master's program last year. It's really cool that you are following my students!

Jennifer Diaz

PS. Here is the link to our classroom blog that highlights some of the projects we are doing.

Thank you Emily for making my day!  Good luck to you!