Posted by: pelkeymatt | April 17, 2009

Reflections

Misty Forest Reflections by ecstaticist

Misty Forest Reflections by ecstaticist

 

My SUNY course on Information Technologies is coming to an end and we have been asked to revisit our goals for the course and reflect upon learning.  When I started the course, my goals were to:

1) learn about different technological tools available to help support communication with parents,
2) become familiar with the tools out there that can help support my teaching, learning, communicating, and collaborating with others,
3) discover practical tools I can use in my classroom and,
4) reflect upon the use of technology in the classroom.

The following is a reflection on where I am at in meeting those goals:

Goal #1: The current class project we are working on is blogging in the early years. I am extremely excited about the potential of this tool in sharing classroom learning with parents. A challenge that we constantly face in preschool is showing the learning that takes place through play. A blog that shows pictures, photos, contains videos, podcasts, and the student’s voice can explicitly show the learning that occurs in a play based environment. Another tool that the preschool team is considering implementing (through a link on our blog) is a classroom wiki. In the past, I have always had a notebook in the classroom for parents to pass along useful day to day information that really affects their child- i.e., John only got five hours of sleep last night, or, Charlotte’s grandma is really sick, or, we went to Ocean Park this past weekend. The culture here is such that many parents aren’t in the classroom in the morning and can’t write a note in the notebook. A wiki could possibly serve the same purpose. If anyone has an idea for a more appropriate tool for this purpose, please let me know- but I am excited about possibly using a wiki to help aid parent communication.

Goal #2: I have become familiar with tools such as blogs, nings, wiki’s, and twitter that provide great potential in collaborating and communicating with colleague’s. At this point, I can only say I have dabbled in the potential of these tools. In my dabbling, I have had some interesting conversations on teaching practice, learned interesting technological applications being used by other teachers, and started to establish wiki’s to pool together ideas. I am excited about learning more from others using these tools, but I am constantly challenged by the time factor. I get lost in the breadth of information and sometimes lose focus. I would like to increase my PLN, but I’m nervous about the time involved in doing so.

Goal #3: I am excited to try out some ICT tools in the Preschool class:
A) Blogging – Student’s would have an authentic audience to share their work and learning. They also have great versatility in the ways that they can share their work: photos, videos, pictures, and words.
B) Podcasts – Student’s will share songs that we sing in class. In addition, they could share class discussions/explorations on various interests.
C) Voicethread – though it is blocked by a firewall, I will use this tool at some point and I believe it will be so meaningful for the children. In the meantime, I may use photostory.
D) Video reflections – I have started video recording children during free play in the hopes of playing it back to them for reflection on their experiences.
E) Ideally, I would love for the children to have their own cameras and video recorders to document their own work to share with others.

Goal #4: There have been numerous opportunities to reflect and discuss the use of technology in the classroom. As I started this course, I was resistant to technology in my preschool classroom. In the beginning of the school year, I naively stated, “we can get rid of my computer to make more room for learning centers.” I viewed technology as isolating and distracting. Right now, I am excited to start trying out some of the various tools I have learned about. My use of technology in my class will be an opportunity to extend upon the rich experiences already happening in the learning environment. It will hopefully support my goal in showing student learning and it will also give student’s a voice in another meaningful context.

The course has been valuable to me.  My technology journey continues..

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Posted by: pelkeymatt | April 5, 2009

Web 3.0?! A more organized web.

posted by wasabicube under creative commons license on Flikr

Web 3.0 is being reffered to as a “semantic web” in which information is made more meaningful to users because the machine understands the content. The content of the web is tagged based on categories which allows the machine to more easily organize, correlate, and find information useful to the user. My friend sent me an interesting article written by Jason Ohler that explains the semantic web a bit more and also explores its implications in education.

I’m not sure I completely have my head around how this works, but one of the challenges I constantly run into searching for information on the internet is getting lost. I would be thrilled if the new semantic web makes information easier to find. In fact, it sounds like it goes a bit further than that. Say you were looking for a recipe for Pad Thai. It seems the semantic web would not only find your recipes, but it would go further and perhaps tell you what local stores have the ingredients you need and give you driving conditions/directions on how to get there.

We all are grappling with how Web 2.0 affects our practice as educators. One of the things that we have discussed is balance and not getting stuck in front of the computer. Perhaps Web 3.0 will help with this in its organization of information. Ohler provides a nice example of using Web 3.0 as a research tool,

One vision of a well developed semantic web includes a search feature that would return a multimedia report rather than a list of hits. The report would draw from many sources including websites, articles from scientific repositories, chapters in text books, blog dialogues, speeches posted on You Tube, etc. – anything appropriate that is accessible by the rules of Web 3.0. The information in the report would be compared, contrasted, and collated in a basic way, presenting points of agreement and disagreement, and perhaps associating these with political positions or contrasting research.

Interesting stuff! I’m sure Web 3.0 will present a whole new set of considerations to contend with, but the potential is exciting.

Posted by: pelkeymatt | March 22, 2009

Filtering without Limiting my PLN

One of the exciting prospects of starting a blog was connecting with other early educators. I was excited to share ideas, perhaps collaborate, and learn from other professionals in my field. In addition, I have started a wiki to acheive the same purpose. It provides a site where a group of teachers can contribute, share, and gather ideas. The value of my blog and the wiki is determined by the collective knowledge of the people that visit and contribute to both of the sites. In order to have more knowledge shared, I need to extend my Personal Learning Network.

Over on inDiginess, Matthew talks about the opportunities that Web 2.0 provides for a communal access to knowledge in his post Does Web 2.0 Change Teaching and Learning?. Matthew states,

Individual genius is quickly losing relevance as the importance of collective genius emerges. It’s no longer about what you know in the professional world, it’s about what the collective intelligence of your personal learning network knows. Being able to connect to the right people and disseminate information that is useful to solve organizational problems you are facing within your role is becoming of primary importance.

I have encountered a few challenges in extending my PLN and developing my access to a collective knowledge. One challenge has been in the lack of early educators using technology. Many early ed. teachers share a reluctance in using technology in our classrooms and as a result, it has proven difficult to find other preschool teachers on the internet (I must admit time is another limiting factor in that it is hard to find time to search for other people to connect with).

The other factor limiting my ability to extend my PLN is the point that Matthew brought up in “being able to connect to the right people.” I would love to open up access to my wiki and connect with the few early ed. blogs I have found out there. However, I feel protective of the content of knowledge shared. I don’t want my wiki to start collecting theme based activities, or teacher directed art activities, creating a somewhat convuluted source of information. For that reason, I made it private and have only invited four people to use it. I do recognize the value of communicating with teachers with varying ideas and values in education. However, I would prefer to collaborate with teachers that share a similar philosophy and approach as myself providing more opportunities for useful application of the collective knowledge of my PLN in my own classroom.

My PLN is tiny and I want it to grow, but I am also protective of its growth. Should I be less protective and open up to more people? Or will that just increase the feelings I have now of being overwhelmed and lost with the quantity of information out there?

Posted by: pelkeymatt | March 4, 2009

Podcasting in Preschool

podcastAfter acheiving the task of putting together a podcast for our course, I wanted to reflect on the ways podcasting could be used in a Preschool Class.   Over in ECLC, they’ve got a great podcast going in which they share songs that they have been singing in class.  This is a great place to start.  I’m sure children would be very excited to share their songs at home with their parents.  In fact, Steve has spoken about his student’s  excitement in producing a show and bringing it home to share with family.

Another highly entertaining podcast could be a podcast in which kids share observations and conclusions they come to about the world around them.  It could be a series of topics: shadows, light, color, phones.  Conversations could be scaffolded by a teacher, but these topics can go anywhere in the hands of children.  One of my favorite parts of my job is how children help me appreciate things that I see every day and take for granted in a whole new light.  Children have amazing, interesting, and hilarious ideas about the world around them and I believe a podcast sharing these ideas and comments would not only be appreciated by parents, but enjoyed even by a much larger audience. 

I hope to explore these two ideas in my classroom.  If there are any other ideas out there, please share.

Posted by: pelkeymatt | February 25, 2009

Content vs. Process- Will Technology Shift our Focus?

Today, we had Clay Burrell speak to some of his experiences with using technology in his class.  He spoke about student involvement and realizations that the students came to through class projects using blogs and wikis.  He recalled a student who reflected, “I know what writing is for now.”

Some teachers in the high school expressed anxiety about wanting to try these new tools, but feel tied down by the IB program and content that needs to be covered. 

The pedagogy behind Clay’s use of technology in class is more important then the actual tools he is using.  Ultimately, the most important underlying factor that needs to be considered is our educational system.  The experiences that Clay spoke to were authentic learning experiences because they were meaningful to the students and they were engaged.  These meaningful experiences could be acheived in many ways- children planning and constructing their own model green houses, perhaps writing letters to a local newspaper, or developing the French Revolution Ant Diary, as in Clay’s example, using blog posts.  These learning experiences are authentic only if the students are interested, motivated, and invested in their own learning.

Technology is becoming more and more prevalent in our culture.   The students are drawn to technology for all of its versatile applications.  The multimedia approach together with the varied audiences engages students.  In our implementation of technology, the pedagogy is still the most important thing to consider.  Technology shouldn’t be used just because it is available and out there.  However, technology should be used because it is another meaningful way to engage students in their own learning.  Technology can help support best teaching practice.

The dilemna of content coverage remains a challenge for some of the teachers in the higher grades though.  In a comment I posted on Clay’s blog post, Teach Broad, or Teach Deep? Coverage versus Depth I reflected on how the early years class could serve as a model to educational reform.  The process of learning is more important than the content itself.  Individuals equipped with the means to find out information and learn are better set up for the future than individuals that will not remember the majority of the content covered in IB History.

Will technology help play a role in shifting this focus?

Posted by: pelkeymatt | February 21, 2009

My Information Technology Journey

Wiki, blogging, podcasts, RSS feeds, del.icio.us- there are so many things to learn about.  One goal for this course is to become familiar with the tools out there that can help support my teaching, learning, communicating, and collaborating with others.  I hope to gain practical experience with support from others in exploring a variety of technological tools.  In the process, I hope to discover practical tools that I can use in my preschool classroom.

At the same time, I’ve already begun to think about the implications of learning and using these tools in education.   Many of the other teachers in the course have already remarked about a number of issues surrounding the Web 2.0 movement in education.  Mike brings up the influence of technology on changing student literacies in his blog post, What is Literacy?; Steve refers to confidentiality restraints in implementing Web 2.0 tools in an early years class in his blog post, Web 2.0 and Early Childhood Education; Kris questions the developmental appropriateness of utilizing Web 2.0 tools for young children in her blog post about her aims for the course.  There are numerous issues, questions, and debates to consider as we move forward with what seems to be an inevitable increased use of technology in our schools.  Another goal I have for this course is to have ongoing reflection on my own and with colleagues on the many issues technology presents as it becomes more prevalent in schools. 

It should be an interesting journey.

Posted by: pelkeymatt | February 21, 2009

Another Language for Children?

I am always inspired and driven as an educator of young children by the Hundred Languages of Children poem.   The poem speaks to the many ways that kids communicate and explore the world.  It also talks to the experiences that they have with adults (often teachers) that narrows their means of communicating and relating with their environment so that in the end, “they have just one (language).”  The title of the poem is an emphatic, “No Way. The Hundred is There.”

I have always been resistant to the presence of technology in my early years classroom.  My learning environment aims to provide a variety of mediums for kids to explore with a focus on the natural world.  Clay, watercolors, collage, paint, crayons, wire, blocks, etc. are all tools that children use to express themselves.  At the same time, playing with peers and building social skills is extremely important in an early childhood classroom.  Technology to me has always been in direct conflict with the goals stated above.  My view has been that computers are an isolating activity that prevent children from exploring the rich learning environment of an early years classroom.

Web 2.0 is forcing me to reevaluate my stance.  Steve McCallum’s post, Web 2.0 and Early Childhood Education, speaks to the exciting possibilites of using web 2.0 to open an early childhood classroom up to the world.  This seems right in line with defending the children’s right to a hundred languages.  Student’s can share their work and interact in a meaningful way with a whole range of audiences.  In Steve’s post, he referenced another post that he came upon about blogging in children’s education.  The author of the blog ICT in Early Education speaks to the positive elements of blogging with young children,

The first (element) is that blogging provides an authentic audience. It is not just the teacher who assesses children’s learning. It is not just the Mums, Dads and Grandparents who smile with pride at their children’s progress proudly displayed on the kitchen fridge (although both the afore-mentioned are naturally and vitally important). There is however, a world of bloggers, blog readers, children and educators who are addressed, considered, and valued by children who blog. And the idea that there are people out there and are interested, is easily accepted by the C generation. For young children, their own learning and achievements are the central parts of their world and they naturally accept that their learning and achievements are central parts of your world too!! They are all eager to share accomplishments with you.

Recognising and honoring children as contributing members of our community seems to require us to include them in the Web 2.0 movement.  However, there are a lot of things I have to learn, reflect upon, and consider before introducing this into my classroom.

 
 

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