Friday, November 27, 2009

Make it FUN!!!

Technology or no technology?

Regardless of what you use to teach... MAKE IT FUN! If you want participation people need to enjoy it. This video is proof; just watch.

Peripheral Tools

I haven't had much experience with peripheral tools, with the exception to the "Flip Camera". Teaching PE, the Flip Camera has been extremely useful, since it is so simple and user friendly. Currently we are using the Flip to film the students teaching their own multicultural games. The students will then edit the video and put it on their blog. At the time of this writing, this was not a completed process, but some students have finished and you can see it at PE period 1, period 2 or period 3.

Another class where we sometimes use the Flip camera is my Environmental Stewardship class.

Students learn to recycle by collecting items at home and then earning a little money when we take this trip. They also learn about the neighborhood composting program that is a win-win for farmers and the community. All this is done on an eco friendly solar bus which Nichada kindly provides for us.

Dangle Your Carrot

Post is crossed referenced at Mr. Dyke's Blog

What the heck am I talking about? I'm talking about a whole new way Activism. The world is opening up due to technology and this has created new innovative concepts of changing the world. Traditional methods of activism included riots, protests, debates, boycotts, etc. Yes, some had success, but when we were 'holding the stick' often it developed an atmosphere of 'US' vs 'Them'.

This new way of thinking is about putting down the stick and tangle the carrot. With technology it is now easy to gather a large group of supporters from all over the world. A group believing in the same cause, that is able to communicate easily can be powerful. A group willing to put their money where there mouth is can shift a mountain. Consumer power at its finest!

I got this idea from Carrotmob and I want to start a Bangkok Branch. Ok, here's how it works. Get a large group of concerned citizens to join and support the cause. In this case it is ethical consumerism. Approach several similar businesses and propose a competition amongst them. The winner will have all of the carrotmob supporters show up and shop there. Not only does this give the shop extra large profits on the day everyone shows up, but concerned consumers are loyal to companies making a positive difference, so they will return. As well, the money made on the big day could pay for many of the 'good' things the business implemented to improve.

Where do I want to go with this? Right now I am looking at putting together a strong team covering many skills. Then we will spread the word and build a support base. Next step is to approach businesses. My goal right now supports another goal I have been working on and that is reducing or eliminating plastic bag use in Bangkok (join the Facebook group). I want to challenge Villa, Foodland, Carrefour, Central, Emporium / Paragon, 7-11 and others to reduce or eliminate their bags. There are several ways of doing this, but I won't go into that now. However, instead of threatening to boycott if they don't do it, we reward those who do by going there in a mass gathering and buying lots of things. To take it a step further, you make it an event with media covering it and giving the business positive press. This not only helps the business, but educates others about the movement, thus building more support and possibly attracting more businesses. I am currently in the beginning stage of this and should know more in about a week. If you want to have a positive impact on the world... stay tuned.

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Laptops in the classroom

Is this what the next generation of teachers will be faced with... starring up at a hundred glowing apples?

Looking up at your class you see an outline of a body so you can only assume someone is sitting there, but you never see their face. You hope they are listening, but truthfully there are probably 100 more interesting things they can be doing on their computer instead of hearing what you have to say.

While you are trying to get your 'ever so important' point across she is updating her Facebook relationship profile to "It's complicated"; he is watching the latest skateboarding accident on Youtube. Another student is signing an online petition, while neighbor is in a chat room.

These are real situations some teachers face today and with increase use of digital tools the problem can certainly get worse. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be a problem. Perhaps the teacher can adapt the lesson to be more suited to using the computers. Perhaps he can encourage a chat room right there with everyone in the class and later post the chat online for the class to see. It's a way of sharing notes. I have no doubt that teaching the 'old' way will get 'real old' for students and they will switch off if the lesson is not engaging.

There are several excellent resources on the internet with guidelines to laptop management, such as Basics of Laptop Management, by John Rice. However, some methods I use to handle laptop use in the classroom are:

  • Traditional classroom management techniques
  • Lid half way down when I am speaking and really need their full attention
  • Encourage and compliment good behavior
  • Computers are a privilege not a right (this may not be the case in some situations)
  • Kids want to play games, well sometimes I send them to a game I want them to play.
  • Know what your computer has. It is frustrating to try an activity only to find out you are missing something on the computer to do it.
  • Don't be afraid of the technology; what may seem distracting at first may be used as an effective tool is used properly.

How relevant are the NETs for Teachers and Administrators to being a "Good Educator" today?

I certainly agree that education is changing and we need to keep up with the times and technology has to be embraced because it will move forward regardless of how we personally feel about it.

The Nets have some really useful skills they want students to learn such as those below:

The new NETS-A emphasizes educational administrators' abilities to facilitate systematic growth in the following categories:
-- Visionary leadership
-- Digital-age learning culture
-- Excellence in professional practice
-- Systemic improvement
-- Digital citizenship

Although I feel these are 5 very useful areas to learn, I am not sure how important the NETS are. I am not saying that NETS are unimportant, but before taking this course I haven’t even heard of NETS. So to me it is not important, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important on another level. Perhaps administrators have used NETS for a long time, thus it would be important to use NETS to keep up with the changing times.

What do you need to know?

How can teachers and schools ensure that their students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy?

There are probably as many different ways of accomplishing this as there are ensuring learning (without technology) is taking place. Since technology is constantly changing and the level of implementation varies around the world this is difficult to answer. However, to have success in this area students need to be given opportunities. A 1 to 1 laptop school will have more opportunities than a school with 1 computer lab, however, even this doesn't guarantee anything if the students are not using it appropriately.

If a school is serious about this, they need to implement an atmosphere encouraging use of technology and it might be necessary to have benchmarks at certain levels. For example, in Elementary students will learn how to type, write, internet search, podcasts, etc. In Middle school students will learn how to blog, voice threads, and do collaborative work with other schools in the world using things like wiki's or Google docs. Perhaps there could be electives such as moving making, etc.

Of course teachers should have the freedom and creativity to implement and use their own set of tools, but a few bench marks along the way can help everyone. For example, right now my environmental class, which happens to be made up of a lot of 6th graders at the moment, are doing blogs. It was great knowing that all MS students actually have their own blog already so it was easy for me to implement this in my class. However, the problem I found was the students knew the tools, but didn't know how to write a good post. It either lacked content, links, pictures, and/or a pleasant appearance. This is our first year implementing all of this so it is evolving, but it would be great to know that all MS students will have the skills to use the tools and have already learned what is required to make a good post. If you know what skills students are coming to you with you know where you can start and can go further.

At ISB we have a set of evolving tech standards. However, I am unaware of how well this is known or implemented.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Solar E-Readers

Recently in our class we have discussed the usefulness of Kindle's and newer versions of E-readers coming out. However, any truly futuristic product will have to consider the environmental impact. That's why I like the idea of these solar readers. Check out this article by Megan Treacy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Standards... Are they needed and who should do it?

I am no expert on this subject and let me be honest in saying I hate this kind of stuff. I realize it is important and I'm glad someone is does it, but I'm more of a 'doer' and I get no enjoyment out of discussing statements, standards, and wording things in the perfect way. I like to get on with the job. Nevertheless, as a class we compared and contrasted standards from NETS and AASL Standards. There were some obvious differences between the two types of standards, but more importantly there were differences in opinion if we need this at all.

Some felt we needed these technology standards and it should be embedded in the curriculum; others felt many statements were redundant. If we are to prepare students for success (survival) in today's world of course we need to give them the opportunity develop tech skills; but is a complete overhaul needed? I feel like most schools and programs already have up-to-date effective standards and that technology standards can/should be included into already existing standards. I don't feel the wheel needs to be reinvented. At ISB we have a group called ISB21 who have come up with these standards.

So who's job is it to teach it? Many people have to play a role. Parents should be informed and perhaps lead in the role of teaching and observing tech safety. Teachers should look for 'appropriate' opportunities to included technology into their courses where it enhances the program. Schools should take a stance and ensure that teachers are reaching a basic minimum standard of technology and Tech departments need to ensure that they train the teachers.

Some issues I face in my elective is I have students from grades 6-8 and all have varying levels of tech skills. I wish I could say each grade level ensures kids reach a certain level, but that is not the case (although some grade levels are very tech savvy). The problem is we don't have the standards worked out and there is no minimal level that a grade level has to reach; thus this would be a good start. With that in mind, there are other problems; we are an international school and our population is very transient. As a result, even if we made sure every 6 grader has a blog, made movies, etc that doesn't mean that in grade 7 you could count on those skills being there. Therefore, perhaps a more worldly approach in needed. Think about typical school curriculum and how they have solved this problem. Transient students moved from USA, to Germany, to japan, etc. Did they change curriculum every time? Yes, until IB came along. One of the goals of IB, MYP, and PYP was to be more internationally minded and although the students moved around the planet, if the student went to another IB school, they were still in a consistent curriculum. Perhaps tech standards need to take this approach so as students are shifting they come with the appropriate skills for level.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Project: Operation Starship 2009

October 2009, 32 8th grade students from International School Bangkok took a journey to SPACE CAMP in Huntsville, Alabama, USA.

Throughout Space Camp students trained in similar conditions as astronauts as they prepared for their missions. All students found this experience to be more than worthwhile. I hope you, and future groups thinking of attending, will get a small sense of their experience through this video.