All posts by Rick

Technology Coordinator - AMDSB

Thanks to Presenters and Participants

I wanted to personally thank everyone who came to yesterday’s PD Day. I had the privilege of visiting many of the sessions and meeting many of the presenters and participants, throughout the day. I saw a lot of powerful presentations. I also saw evidence of a great deal of preparation and practice. It obviously took a lot of time and energy to put together these workshops. All the presenters should be commended for their contributions to our teachers, our EAs and our ECEs.

I also wanted to commend our participants. Your engaged and thoughtful approach made the presentations even better. I also heard a lot of positive chatter in the hallways. Your open-minded and innovative mindsets make PD Days more powerful and that translate into powerful teaching and better-prepared students.

Please feel free to add your own comments here.

Sound Booths for the Classroom

I had the chance to chat with Mr. Connolly of Stratford Central SS. He showed me this amazing project he put together last year with several other teachers (Dave Bond, Tony Theodoropoulos and Stuart Wilson). They received some funding from the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and came up with this very cool design for a mobile sound booth. It comes in very handy in our NGL classrooms, with all the multimedia work being created by students.

BuildingSoundBooths

Why Technology in the Classroom Makes Sense

There are a wide variety of teaching strategies that support student success. Each of these strategies is designed to help students achieve and build essential learning skills. Some examples include: purposeful feedback, promoting self-regulation, making learning collaborative, offering inquiry-based tasks and explicitly teaching thinking strategies.

These approaches are proven to help students make real progress over the course of their education. So, with all these robust strategies, why bring iPads into the mix? The answer to this question, is that mobile technology amplifies each one of these teaching strategies, making them even more powerful.

For example, mobile technology makes providing feedback more dynamic. Text and audio feedback can be provided outside the regular school hours. Online tools allow feedback to be interactive and sharable. Technology helps to promote self-regulation by providing students with organizational tools like digital calendars, reminders, alarms and online notifications. Using these tools, students can learn to better manage themselves, and the rhythm of projects, assignments, testing and deadlines. Digital technology provides students with virtual collaborative spaces. Blogs, shared documents and online meetings offer forums to practice and build collaborative skills.

Technology can also support inquiry-based approaches to learning. With access to the internet, students have the collected knowledge of human history at their finger tips. When engaged by rich questions and guided by their teacher, this combination provides a powerful learning opportunity. With regard to thinking strategies, technology doesn’t teach students how to think. It does, however, provide tools through which students can make their own thinking more visible. Multimedia platforms allow teachers and students to differentiate their presentations and reach a wider audience.

iPads, by themselves, are simply devices. But when linked to good teaching strategies, this technology can amplify the reach and impact of teachers. In this way, iPads become a great way to support and magnify student achievement.

New GAFE Extensions

For you Google lovers out there, here are a couple of very cool tools to make your Google experience even “Googlier”. (is that even a word).

Synergyse Training for Google Apps and iChrome

Synergyse training is a built-in help desk for every Google App you are visiting. A small icon shows up in the top right corner of every Google page you are on. (Calendar, Search, Mail etc.)

iChrome is your customizable Google Home Page. You can add your email, your calendar, a news feed, the weather……to create a one-stop-shop page.

Enjoy

Enactus

Enactus

This organization seems to be a great fit with many of the socially-responsible, forward-thinking activities taking place in classrooms across our Board. Enactus Canada…” is shaping generations of entrepreneurial leaders who are passionate about advancing the economic, social and environmental health of Canada.
As a national charity and a global network, we apply our passions, talents and ideas to impact individual lives. We work side-by-side with people to create opportunity through our community projects and student entrepreneurs so every person and community we touch is empowered to live up to their fullest potential.”

Check it out through the link above.

Communication, Engagement and Creating Space

There are three things that technology does well in the classroom. Just three.

The first is communication. Most people would admit that technology has been an important factor in modern communication. The telegraph, the telephone and other devices have provided the means to get connected to people around the globe. The quality of those communications are up to the participants, but the tools work.

In classrooms, this means that teachers and students can communicate with each other in powerful ways. Teachers can gather student work, their ideas, their understanding, both quickly and accurately. Students can collaborate in class and from separate homes. Other teachers can be accessed online and a world of information is at everyone’s fingertips.

It should be noted that, at this point in time, computers are not very good at complex communications. Understanding the nuances of human interactions is currently beyond machines. Emotion, passion, and the illogical behaviours of people are not understandable. They just don’t compute. Fortunately for employed teachers, students are always ready with emotions and illogical behaviours.

The second thing technology is good at is engaging students. The power of technology often lies in its ability to draw in the user. Users feel the power of the tool and revel at what they are able to do with the tool in their hands. This can be a well-balanced paintbrush or a new iPad. The hook is the places you can get to, once the tool is in your hand.

Our students are engaged as soon as they hear the iPads are on the way. They see iPads as fun. They think about games, and online searches. They think about being successful and exploring topics of interest. The teacher can be an important guide in this process.

Teachers can use this engagement in the tool to facilitate an engagement with the curriculum. Students need to see that the real engagement comes from the creations they make and the new learning they can accomplish. I often tell teachers that we never put the artist’s tools on the wall, just their art.

Technology can bring kids into the classroom in a new way. It gives them new tools to explore and create. With a little direction, the tool quietly disappears and the content comes alive.

The third thing technology can do is build creative spaces. This includes creative classrooms and digital spaces.

From ancient Greece to modern times, the place where people learn has always benefited from technology. From drawing with a shaped stick to the iPad, creative spaces are supported by technology. Mobile technology has asked we make changes to the physical setup of our classrooms. This has included changing libraries into learning commons. Further, the classroom has been rearranged to suit digital learning.

Desks are on wheels. Tables are replacing desks. Video booths and green-screens are popping up. Teachers are recycling their old desks and moving out into student spaces. Having one-to-one, mobile, connected, digital tools is reshaping our ideas about classrooms.

The modern classroom also benefits from virtual spaces. Students can write, video, draw and express their creativity in an online environment. These “digital workshops” allow students new tools and spaces to be creative. I find that digital spaces allow students to express themselves in novel ways. They fly through Minecraft worlds of their own creation. They publish words for a global audience. The digital spaces seem to be without-end.

In the end, people make a classroom. Their complex, nuanced relationships allow for learning. The emotions and illogical behaviour are just part of the learning that takes place.

Technology does three things in a classroom. Just three.