Archive for January, 2010

Exploring the Possibilities

During the discussions about Teen Second Life it was noted that earlier Regina Public Schools groups have been restricted to the RPS island.  I fully understand the risks of exposing students to the outside world of TSL but I am  interested in exploring the use of TSL as a venue for  global interaction with other teens around the world.  I was very intrigued by the possibilities in Adult SL of visiting art galleries and ancient civilizations and I am disappointed that those types of activities are restricted in TSL. I think that it is important for teachers to introduce students to the possibilities of using social media for global interaction in a constructive and educational way.  They know how to use it to socialize but by the time they begin to enter post secondary education and the work force, social media will be used routinely for so much more than social interaction.  We began this course with discussions about teachers being responsible to use media and technology in the classroom because it is the reality of our students world but  maybe we should also try to keep ahead of the trends when we can.  I know that that sounds daunting given some previous discussions about teacher fear, resistance and lack of ability but perhaps for some of us that are comfortably working with technology this should be a priority.

I was exploring YouTube and came upon this video that made me think of the global possibilities of TSL. I think that participation in a project like this should be explored with students that are comfortable using Second Life so activities that I have seen like RPS Culture Project and Social Issues Project would be a great introduction to using SL.  After this, I think it would be interesting to explore the options for global collaboration.

Or how about this project.  Talk about immersion!

What I began to notice was that all the projects and interactions that I was drawn to seemed to be organized by Global Kids.

Hmmmm. Interesting.  This is something that I would like to explore.  I am thinking not so much to be involved in the organization directly but perhaps to take some of their  mission and adapt it.  Using technology opens up so many possibilities and it is very frustrating to me to see how often and easily the access can be restricted.  Just the fact that RPS employees in this class were unable to access SL from school shows a lack of understanding of the possibilities.    There are so many things that are possible!

And then I found this:

That was just entertaining!


Evening in SL

I just spent an evening in Second Life and saw some cool things and went some cool places.  I can definitely see the educational merit and the possibilities of the application.  I was interested in using SL as a tool to submerge students in a location so that they could take a 3D virtual tour.  My first stop was my favorite city, New Orleans.

Daiquiri on the BalconyHere is me enjoying a Daiquiri on the balcony of a French Quarter apartment

Inspired by New Orleans, I then travelled to Bon Temps, the fictional setting of the Sookie Stackhouse novels and the HBO show True Blood.

In front of the sign

Standing in Front of Merlotte's Bar

The view from Vampire Bill's porch to Sookie's house.

I had a lot of fun exploring the setting of my favorite book/show and I was thinking about what I could do with this experience in the classroom.  Islands like this are not available in Teen SL and that is unfortunate but I thought instead that students could build the setting together, take on roles from the book and other town citizens and role play parts from the book. We could also expand the events of the book past the ending.  I think that that would be an amazing way to have students immerse themselves in what they are reading and respond to it.  This would be very similar to the project that I did where I had my students simulate being homeless in the game The Sims 2 however the major difference would be the interaction between all students that was just not possible in The Sims 2.

It is unfortunate that places like this are not available to students in Teen SL.  I think that taking an art class to tour The Louvre and discussing the art or to view architecture in ancient Rome would be an amazing application.  There are options for SL that I can think of but I am disappointed by the restriction and limitations.  By no means am I saying that we should take students into SL, it is no place for a child, that’s for sure. I wish that some of the same locations were available on Teen SL.  Maybe someday someone will create these kinds of locations for educational groups to visit and use in the future.  Hmmm?  Maybe I have a new career option?

Whatever the case may be, I will give SL a try in the capacity that I described above next year.  I will give myself a lot of time to explore the possibilities and learn to use it before I jump in with my students.

Active Patience

I just read a blog posted on Teach Paperless that I think was written just for me!  I have been posting about many of the frustrations that I have with other teachers, the school and the school board and the inclusion of various technologies and low and behold there is a blog written all about that!

The author talks about having active patience with others and by that she means the kind of patience that you have when teaching someone something.  She calls for allowance of time for teachers to use social media and technology to pursue personal interests (oh no, there is that time thing again.) in order to give them a space to become comfortable and familiar with what is available to them personally before they use it in their classroom. Maybe teachers should be encouraged to subscribe to a blog or join a group or even start by signing up for Facebook and get used to integrating technology into their lives first.  Maybe we all need to sign up for Twitter and Tweet out to each other everyday!  Not only will this integrate technology into their lives but it will create a friendly workspace!

There is no way to avoid what is happening to our world. We are connected in so many more ways than we could ever have imagined.  Being frustrated does nothing to help.  We should celebrate each other’s strengths and encourage each other to learn and use new things.  Any suggestions for how to get this started?

The Song Remains the Same

I remember using computers in school all my life.  From Commodore 64 in elementary school where we would practice our typing to the first computer in my high school that had internet access (one, in the library when I was in Grade 12).  Comparing that time of computer access in schools seems so slow compared to what our students are now experiencing.  I went through all of high school with a computer that did not even have Microsoft Office on it and did just fine.  All I needed was a word processor.  Now, with new web tools, hand helds, updates, programs, operating systems it is hard to keep up but I manage because I want to.  I have only had a Blackberry for two weeks and can not imagine how I walked around before without constant internet access.  I am a “techie” and it can be a lot for me.  I get frustrated with other teachers often and I have to remind myself to step back and put myself in their shoes and imagine how overwhelming this must be.

I had never really thought about a time when TVs in the classroom or overhead projectors would have been new technology. Reading it, it seemed funny to me and my first reaction was to laugh.  But it’s true, those inventions that are so common to me from my schooling, would have changed the face of teaching.  (Actually, I very rarely use the overhead projector, both because we don’t take notes in my class and because I have SmartBoard access) The difference now is in the pace at which it changes. It is hard to keep up, but fighting it is not going to make it go away.  Almost every student in my class walks around with a computer on them at all times whether that be their iPod or their phone and I would love to encourage them to use them to their full capacity but I am held back by resistance from others!

I am reminded of a project last year that I was doing where I needed my kids to research and asked them to use one print resource (just so they would know how).  I had a couple of girls that needed information on the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I told them to use an encyclopedia and was met with “what’s that?”.  I told them it was like Wikipedia but in a book and they understood.  So off they went to the library only to return a few minutes later telling me that there was a major problem.  I looked at the encyclopedia page that they had opened and saw that it was published before the wall fell.  I laughed and told them to get a lap top.  It was then that I started to really think about how the Internet was effecting my teaching and their learning.  How important is it that they use books because really, are they going to?  How many times a day do I reach for my laptop to Google something I don’t know compared to grabbing a reference book.  It’s a 10:0 ratio.  If I don’t do it, they won’t.  This has also changed what I teach.  In the article a reference was made to the article “Is Google making us stupid?”  My answer to that is an emphatic “no”.  I think it is just the opposite.  We have instant access to any answer to any question we could ask, I think it is making us smarter.  It’s easy, it’s instant and if we really care, we will look it up.  This has changed the way I teach in that I do not teach facts, I teach strategies, ways of wondering and ways of finding out.  I also try to teach caring enough about something to want to know.  This is an entirely different realm of education than what I was taught in and personally, I’m loving it!  And this is only the tip of the iceberg as I have only referenced Internet use in my classroom.  This year  we have used Facebook, blogging and the game Sims 2 to learn.  But again, all this is because I am comfortable with it.

The article talks about TPACK and making sure that pre service teachers are “trained” to use technology as part of their pedagogy and not an add-on.  I am not concerned about new teachers.  Right now the issue that we are facing is the fact that so many current teachers are afraid or unable or even unwilling to adjust and keep up with the students.  It’s not fair to the students to sit back and just wait for them to be replaced by teachers that are comfortable. When reading the article I took comfort in knowing that eventually, just like the TV and overhead, eventually modern technology use would be just a standard component of the profession.  As the kids we teach now become the teachers, keeping up with the rapid changes will be common place but what about now? What can we do?  Right now in my school board there is no Professional Development offered to teachers in technology.  Is it fair to expect them to learn on their own?  What about the teachers that are just becoming comfortable with email? When are they supposed to learn or be exposed to what is available?  There needs to be time set aside to expose those that are not comfortable with or aware of technology to play.  Maybe a forum where teachers who are using technology in their classrooms to share with others is needed.  But with that again, time is needed to access it.  The most common complaint from teachers that I hear is that they just don’t have time.  Having said that, I think it is the responsiblity of the individual teachers to take advantage of opportunities that are there.  Go to conferences, attend anything that is offered.

There is also another issue that the article did not address and that is the availability and access to technology, which is a constant frustration for me.  If we have people who do not use technology and are not exposed to how much kids use technology making decisions for how much access we are given in schools, we will continue to fall short on the possibilities that are out there.  We need people who support and understand the importance of technology making decisions for our schools. The only conclusion I can come to is for myself and others like me to continue to advocate for these things and share what I can. I will patiently wait for the day  that I will read an article about a time when cell phones/iPods/Web tools/etc. were new and scary. And I will again quietly laugh to myself.

Why “The Sticky”

Welcome!  Before I get into the meat and potatoes of the class, I thought that I might take some time to explain why I named my blog “The Sticky”.  I have been working very hard on creating an Inquiry based classroom and one of the more common things that you will see my kids do is making notes on stickies that they then will attach to various places.  These stickies hold their authentic thoughts, questions and reflections from the moment they come into their heads. I am thinking of this blog as my big, virtual cyber sticky and thought the name was appropriate.

Wow, already

I have already been inspired!  I was reading TeachPaperless (which I believe will be my blog of choice) and just read something about student created digital textbooks.  We have been spending a lot of time in my class lately talking about understandings of race, poverty and history and have talked a lot about how history has been presented to us.  We are just beginning to slide into talking about racism and genocide including the scientific origins of racial hierarchy and how it has lead to some of the most tremendous tragedies the world can imagine.  I think that I am going to stew on the idea of having them compile a digital Social Studies textbook as an inquiry product that tells history through their eyes.  It could be compiled of newspaper articles, websites, video… oooh this is so very exciting.  Any suggestions?

My Compass Points

After reading the LoTi Framework, I found myself drawn between two levels of the Framework.  I think that personally, in my classroom I would place myself at Level 4b.  In the context of looking at my compass points within my whole school, I would say I (or should I say we) are at Level 4a.  Within my school there are some frustrations between what access I (and others) think students should have and what access others think they should have.  Within my classroom, I openly encourage students to bring their own lap tops, use iPods as computers and maybe even in the future, their Blackberries (oh!  The forbidden cell phone in the classroom!)  but there is some dispute to allowing students to access the wifi on their personal devices.  To go along with that is the never ending frustration of never having enough computers to go around and the restrictive schedule that we have in place to meet the demand.  Good news is, we’re using them!

Without these frustrations, my class is full steam ahead charing towards a solid 4b and beyond!