Living and Learning with Laptops

After a year of piloting 2 classes with MacBooks and 3 classes with iPads, we’ve  made the decision to go with school-issued MacBooks for the entire 5th grade next year.  This will be my first opportunity to teach guidance lessons in a 1:1 environment; so looking forward to it. This will also mean no more going off to gather laptops from a cart in the hallway at the beginning of each lesson – a seemingly small issue but sometimes so time consuming that I wouldn’t even bother using laptops in lessons.

As a counselor, I get to go to different classrooms for guidance lessons, and get to see different teacher approaches for managing technology devices. Next year, more discussion is in order with teachers, about how to manage these machines. Kids benefit when all teachers have consistent expectations for technology use.

On the personal front, this week my house became a 1:1 laptop environment (actually some of us have more than 2 devices) when my future 7th grade daughter’s personal laptop arrived.  Welcome to a 21st century household.  Even my 72 year old mother has an iPhone.

As a family, we haven’t had a conversation about balancing on and off line activities, and we definitely need to do that.  There have been times when all of us are in the living room on our individual machines connecting with people all over the world, and not connecting with each other.  In many ways, managing laptops in the classroom is much easier than at home.  My household doesn’t have a set structure with clear time periods and breaks in-between. And without that structure, it’s possible to be online all the time, especially the kids who’s friends are on-line with them seemingly at any and all times. I will use Kim’s article on Living with Laptops to guide our family conversation this summer.  Wish me luck!

Posted in 21st Century School, COETAIL, Technology | 1 Comment

Beyond Bake Sales

Course 4 Week 5:  What is the future of education? Connectivism, Massively Open Online Courses, Global Collaboration, and Badges

My brain is hurting from learning and thinking about all kinds of possibilites in education.  It is an exciting time to be a part of it all.

I am particularly interested in global collaboration for guidance classes.   I found Kim’s article A Step by Step Guide to Global Collaborations straight forward and easy to follow.  In reading this article I was amazed to notice (this happens often),  that she wrote this in December 2007, almost 5 years ago!  I didn’t know such an exciting concept as global collaboration even existed until last fall.  It’s a reminder that I have so much to catch up on.  Thank you COETAIL for introducing  me to exciting, innovative, and out of the box ideas.

My interest in global collaboration is to create experiences for elementary school students to do good for the larger community, like service learning.  For many of our kids, the majority of what they think of community service is to run a bake sale, selling baked goods made by their parents, or donating stuff/money.  Their act of service ends on that day.   I believe that community service should always be on our minds, even elementary school students’ minds. Wouldn’t it be meaningful and empowering for the kids if they could work with students from other schools, far and near, to make a difference in the world?

Fellow counselors and teachers, would you like to work collaboratively on a community service project with my grade 5 kids next school year?

*photo of cupcakes by Sugar Daze found on Flickr

Posted in 21st Century School, COETAIL, Guidance Lessons, Technology | 1 Comment

Reverse Instruction in Guidance Classes

Course 4 Week 4: What would flipped classroom look like in my classroom?

Flipped classroom  should work in guidance classes, especially if I focus more on project based learning.  Because I only teach 14 guidance lessons per year, when I move toward project based learning I will not have enough time to cover all the material. Flipped classroom would give students opportunities to check out guidance materials (like Stop, Think, and Pick a Plan, and Handling Anger). In turn,  parents would have a better sense of what is being covered (not a 21st century school term, but I am going to use it.)  Imagine kids and parents watching/listening, and having a follow up conversation at home about anger management, refusal skills, digital citizenship, and bullying.  In class, kids can work collaboratively on their projects, like role playing and creating teaching material for younger grades.  They would also have time to delve into the topic deeper than before.   This feels more relevant and meaningful.

I can also see Steve, my colleague, and I making videos, podcasts, and voice threads together.  (I am a little fuzzy on the difference between podcasts, and voice threads.)  This way, students can be exposed to both of us.  We can compliment each other’s styles as well.  We can become Dan Meyer of elementary guidance lessons! (just kidding)

Coming up with exciting new ideas here.  Creating will definitely be a challenge.  The good thing is I will have 8 weeks off starting this Friday.  I shall “play” this summer.

*photo of beach chairs by The Mitchell Group International, found on Flickr.

Posted in 21st Century School, COETAIL, Guidance Lessons, Technology | 1 Comment

Project Based Learning in Guidance Classes

Course 4 Week 3: Does project-based learning have a place in my classroom?  What hurdles do I need to over come to make it work in my classroom?

Reading Introduction to Project Based Learning helped me understand project based learning more in depth.  The article states,

 There is no one accepted definition of PBL. However, BIE defines
standards-focused PBL as a systematic teaching method that engages
students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and
carefully designed products and tasks. This definition encompasses a
spectrum ranging from brief projects of one to two weeks based on a
single subject in one classroom to yearlong, interdisciplinary projects
that involve community participation and adults outside the school.

Guidance classes foster the inquiry process very easily.  The way ASIJ’s curriculum is written with Atlas Curriculum Mapping also supports the inquiry process.  Here are some examples of essential questions in grade 3 guidance classes:

  • What kind of a friend am I?
  • How can I make and keep friends?
  • What kind of behaviors will get in a way of being a good friend?
  • What kind of behaviors will help me make and keep friends?
  • What does it mean to be a constructive community member?
  • Why would I need to say “No” to my friends?
  • How do I say “No” to my friends?

I can definitely see project based learning in guidance classes.    Children are  interested and fascinated with understanding human relationships, its ups and downs.  Sounds easy, but trying something new can be messy at first, as explained in the article, Perfecting with Practice: Project Based Teaching.   This article states,  ” students may decide to head in directions their teacher never anticipated.”, and this is what I am most concerned about.  It can throw me off when kids go somewhere I hadn’t expected at all.  But that shouldn’t be a reason for not trying something new.

I haven’t figured out the particulars of how project based learning will be organized in guidance classes, but I suspect students will be able to choose kind of projects they want in order to answer questions they have about friendships, anger management, and refusal skills.

Kids, we will have fun doing projects in guidance classes next year!

Posted in 21st Century School, COETAIL, Guidance Lessons | 3 Comments

Technology Integration

Course 4 Week 2: Be able to define and defend your definition of technology integration

I think of technology integration as a process, without a definite ending.  How could it end when there’s endless exciting innovation?  The day schools no longer need the term “technology integration” will be the day that integration is happening seamlessly and ubiquitously among all teachers.  I think of High Tech High as an example of such a school.  Do you know of others?  I would love to see examples of elementary schools with high technology integration.

Through COETAIL I have become familiar with the SMAR model and TPACT.   Frankly, I found these ideas too theoretical and not sufficiently practical. For me Technology Integration Matrix is simpler to use, and more visual.   I will print this matrix to assess how technology is integrated in my guidance classes with grade 5 next year.       

As I was thinking about my own definition of technology integration, and searching online, I came across Stratford Public School’s working definition.  This made sense to me.  Here is what they say:

To clarify what the term integration means, one must first understand what it does NOT mean. Integration is NOT the use of managed instructional software, where a computer delivers content and tracks students’ progress. Integration is NOT having students go to a computer lab to learn technical skills while the classroom teacher stays behind to plan or grade papers. Integration is NOT using the Internet to access games sponsored by toy manufacturers or popular television shows. Integration is NOT using specialty software for drill and practice day after day. Integration does NOT replace a teacher with a computer.

Integration is when classroom teachers use technology to introduce, reinforce, extend, enrich, assess, and remediate student mastery of curricular targets.

Integration is an instructional choice that generally includes collaboration and deliberate planning—and always requires a classroom teacher’s participation. It cannot be legislated through curriculum guides nor will it happen spontaneously. Someone with vision—an administrator, a teacher, or a specialist—needs to model, encourage, and enable integration, but only a classroom teacher can integrate technology with content-area teaching.

Counselors, I would love to hear how you are integrating technology in your guidance classes.   I will be closely involved with the  Think Digital unit of the grade 5 social studies next year, where digital citizenship is heavily emphasized.  Stay tuned!

*photo All Sizes by nouQraz found on flickr.


Posted in 21st Century School, COETAIL, Guidance Lessons, Technology | 2 Comments

Everybody vs (but) (and) Nobody

Course 4 Week 1 Question:Whose job is it to teach the NETs standards to students and how do we ensure they are being met in an integrated model?

I believe that all teachers  should be teaching these standards; not just classroom teachers but specialist teachers too.   That would be the ideal situation;  every teacher caring about students’ social and emotional development, not just academics.  

Interestingly, however,  there is a potential downside to  everyone’s  involvement. If everyone is teaching the standards, it is possible that no one is taking ownership and following through.  We can easily hope that others are doing the job.  This happened to us at our school last fall.  

In late October  we realized that students in 3rd and 4th grades had not seen the AUA (Acceptable Use Agreement).  Classroom teachers thought the technology coach (new position this year) would take care of it, and the coach assumed the classroom teachers would handle it.  In the past, students were given AUAs in tech classes (no longer in existence since we moved to the coaching model) as soon as school started.   When we realized the situation, counselors introduced the AUAs in guidance classes.

It hasn’t been easy to figure out who is supposed to do what, when, and how with regard to integrating technology and meeting standards in our classrooms.  ASIJ does have a draft of Educational Technology Expectations, though at this point it remains undecided how this will be shared and used among the faculty.  As a faculty, we have never reviewed nor studied the NETs Standards for Students and Teachers.  Perhaps this is the first thing we ought to do.  Look over this material together, and then decide whose job it is to make sure this really happens?  Am I stepping on somebody’s toes if I try to push this?  Or should I wait, lose my patience, and get frustrated.

I want to move away from constantly asking “whose job is it?” with regard to technology.  This year, I have found like minded teachers who can move some things forward.  That alone was an accomplishment.  I hope the group keeps growing.  Certainly, the number of teachers taking COETAIL course at my school is growing.   Let’s approach this as a grassroots change.

Posted in 21st Century School, COETAIL, Technology | 1 Comment


Working Holiday                                 

Course 3 was done almost entirely during Spring Break.  My daughter asked me several times “Why don’t you keep up with the work like Mr. Richard?”  (my daughter’s teacher, and Coetail classmate)  and I still don’t have an answer.   I did like having the entire week to  dwell only on the course and little else (like 4th grade friendship struggles.)   On the other hand, I missed discussing the readings with Carl during our lunch.

Creating was so much harder than expected, and it took an inordinately long time too.  I know I have to keep at it to create better visuals, which can really enhance guidance classes in a major way.  With my iPad 3 I shall create!

*photo by Peter Lee found on flickr.

Posted in COETAIL | 1 Comment