Lately, I have had the good fortune to carry on conversations about subjects I love. Yesterday I joined a master gardener’s class and found myself in garden nerd heaven. I can’t remember the last time I have had the opportunity to talk gardening with knowledgeable people who are passionate about growing plants, food, weeds, and bugs. I was intoxicated with excitement as I drove home thinking about all of the great things to come. This afternoon I spoke with my son, GOAT 2, on the phone for 90 minutes about education and technology and now I’m all charged up again. We are both passionate about what is going right and what is going wrong in education and how we can improve a student’s experience in the classroom and thereby increase the likelihood of success.
This all translates into thoughts about the new semester that starts tomorrow. One of the things that I try to avoid in class is straight lecture. As a technology teacher, my instruction generally consists of an explanation about what the students are about to do, a few instructions or a demonstration, and then I “release the hounds” to set to the task. Because I teach in a computer lab, I have the luxury of partnering with a bunch of instant project simulators with screens. I have set things up so that students can easily access the necessary tools to complete their creations. I am able to walk around and facilitate, answering questions, guiding research, and generally encouraging students to push themselves into new learning.
This semester I will be out of the lab so it can be used for test practice and testing. (Let’s leave that for another post.) As I prepare to teach technology with one computer, I know my teaching beliefs are about to be tested. I have decided to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate to my students the difference between lecture and dialogue and how we can successfully avoid the former and enjoy the latter. I want to ensure that my students are engaged in my lessons the same way I was engaged in my conversations with the gardeners and GOAT 2. I want to ask the right questions to help them understand and I want them to feel free to ask questions of me and each other to clarify instructions, to enable precise learning, and to inspire leaps of faith and big ideas. In other words, I want them to talk more than I do. I want them to carry on a dialogue, to have conversations and to be engaged with their lessons.
My methods are vague at present and based on the way I teach with computers: give the necessary information and then “release the hounds” to complete the job. This will be my challenge and it begins tomorrow. I need to make some scribble drawings now to prepare. The results, whether glory or gore, will be reported next.
Need something to blog about? Plinky may have the answer. Like my favorite quickie daily inspiration, oneword.com, Plinky.com offers daily ideas for topics to blog about. Of course teachers will find them useful to inspire students. The
prompt listed today suggests using third person to describe the scariest moment in your life. Me? I’ve got a humdinger about discovering that I had a fear of heights, AFTER I had reached the top of the Duomo in Italy. Really bad timing!
In my neverending efforts to keep myself from losing things that I’d like to keep track of by putting them on this blog, I offer some of the links I used in today’s presentation regarding Blogging and Voicethread: Give students a reason to write and an audience.
Parent information letters from Bud the Teacher
New Zealand Student Bloggers
Room 24 Colorado
Mrs. Heaton’s Class, South Carolina
Mr. Smith’s 4th grade, Hannibal, MO
There are many more terrific education/classroom blog examples in the world. Google them. Check on wordpress. Follow the links offered by the educators above. The possibilities are endless. Educators are a creative, innovative bunch of people! Hooray!
A few free blogging options:
Kevin Hodgson highlights student creations on
his blog. The create a variety of different movies
throughout the year.
Mike’s Grade Fives offers examples of students and teacher carrying on educational discussions via their collaborative blog.
For a terrific collection of different Voicethread ideas, please scroll down to the Voicethread entry or click here.
Sue Waters has a handy-dandy top five list of common blogging mistakes. I wish I’d read this BEFORE I started blogging. Since I’ve been proselytizing about blogging lately, I thought it might be nice to warn my converts. Consider yourself warned. You are are now free to make the same mistakes, learn from them and rest assured that I would NEVER say “I told you so” because well, I can hardly remember what I said 15 minutes ago much less. . . What was I talkin’ about?
Blog! Make mistakes! Blog some more! Forget to blog for a while. Redeem yourself by blogging again!
And by the way, under #4 blogging mistake regarding pingbackNOW I know what a pingback is! Thank you Sue Waters!
I love Google Earth! It’s such a cool toy. Here’s a great site that not only helps you get started, with some how-to help, but it also includes lessons to turn this great toy into a fantastic educational tool! I’ll be incorporating Google Earth in an even more productive way thanks to Google Earth Lessons. Don’t forget to check out the blog and other pages at this site. It’s chock full of resources!
ZooBorns contains photos of all different types of baby animals from zoos and aquariums all over the world. The pictures are priceless and the captions are very informative, e.g., an adorable baby owl is described as being very capable of attacking humans. How preciously dangerous! What a great way to prepare for a trip to the zoo, research life cycles and share a respect for captive animals.
Oh yeah! All the news that’s fit to be read by children! The editors of this site include children and adults. One of the editors is a 14-year-old whose claim to fame is his great duct tape ties! This would be a nice safe homepage for your classroom desk top. I’ll be asking my student of the day to choose their favorite “news” story to report on. This could be a great idea generator for writing and research. These may not be the current headlines, but they are definitely news.