Christmas came early to Singapore! We had the great honor of having Alan November at our school this week, and I sit here now, trying to hash out and piece together coherent thoughts, head still swirling with ideas and discussions from this afternoon’s workshop. I think the most useful post is one that shares what was learned that will be useful in the classroom the next day. What have I taken away from the workshop that I can turn around and begin using in my teaching that will enhance and improve student learning? Below I have outlined the key take-aways and how I plan to implement them.
Diigo is a fantastic tool. One I’ve used for quite some time now to keep my bookmarks organized and available no matter where I am. During the workshop, Alan said something to the effect of, “In the library, Dewey did all the tagging. Today, we have to teach kids how to do this.”
For those who do not know, Diigo, according to Wikipedia, is:
Diigo (pronounced /ˈdiːɡoʊ/) is a social bookmarkingwebsite which allows signed-up users to bookmark and tag web-pages. Additionally, it allows users to highlight any part of a webpage and attach sticky notes to specific highlights or to a whole page. These annotations can be kept private, shared with a group within Diigo or a special link forwarded to someone else. The name “Diigo” is an abbreviation for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff.”
What I didn’t know, (or knew, but forgot) is that educators can create groups and student accounts for free. It’s a fairly simple process that does take a bit of initial set up, but once you have it rolling, you and your students will be tagging, collaborating, researching, and learning at a whole new level. Here’s a link to specific directions on setting up your groups and student accounts. Ed Tech Ideas: I teach 3 different grade levels, and my different classes are always researching for one project or another. Students are always finding great sites, but at best, they bookmark it to their local computer, never to be seen by others. Now with our Diigo groups (I created one for each grade level), kids learn how to tag, organize, and share their finds with everyone else in the group. Everyone benefits from group knowledge, and the students learn an important skill that will stay with them and grow throughout their academic lives.
Who Owns the Learning in the Classroom: Teacher or Students?
This was a question Alan posed an hour or two into the workshop that really got me thinking about how the traditional role of a teacher has changed over the last 20 or so years. Gone are the days (hopefully) of the sage on the stage teacher at the blackboard spewing out information to struggling students with 30 different learning styles. However, we do still need to recalibrate the balance of learning between teacher and students.
Who works harder in the classroom? The teacher or the students?
Ask yourself this question and see what answer you come up with. Then ask yourself, what can I do to recalibrate to enable students to own their learning. For inspiration, watch Michael Wesch’s Ted Talk called, “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able.”
EdTechIdeas: Have students take a photo of something in your life and use it to explain a concept. Take a character from a book and have students write dialogue of a topic that is not in the book, that shows their understanding of the character’s qualities/personality. Use a hotseat-type activity and ask students questions. Have students go to the cafeteria and video what kids are eating for lunch – make a production about healthy choices; graph the results. Take photos of simple machines – use photoshop to diagram the parts of what makes the subject a simple machine. Ask Google-proof questions. Create a Google Map assignment. Have students make book trailers instead of writing book reports.
As with most workshops, the overwhelming influx of ideas from Alan’s workshop left teachers with a mix of emotions, feeling somewhere in-between, “I’m not doing enough” and “There’s so much out there, I want to try everything now!” A suggestion that Mike Pelletier aptly calls, “TBC” (Tech Baby Steps) is always a good idea. Begin with just one thing that grabbed your attention and go with it – make it work for your classroom, not as an add-on, but as an integration.
Notes, take-aways, the Tweet Sheet, and workshop info can be found here, thanks to Jay Atwood. Also a very special thanks to Alan November for an inspiring, thought-provoking, mind recalibrating day!
PicLits is a site that allows users to choose a photo and then drag words onto the picture to create sentences. There is a freestyle option that allows you to simply type on the picture, and keywords are suggested to help you out. When finished, you can save (free account required), email your piclit, or share it via Facebook, your blog, or other places. Soon there will be a print feature, a weekly contest, and the ability to search and tag photos. EdTechIdeas: This is a great site for inspiring struggling writers and for those times where you hear the complaint, “I don’t know what to write about.”
CyberChase from PBS is a fun place for kids with 45 games that focus on problem solving abilities. Challenging games like Crossing the River, U Fix It, Tangrams, and more will have kids thinking out of the box in no time. EdTechIdeas: Fantastic site for problem solving and creative thinking. Would make a good go-to site for center time in your classroom or a fun activity to spend time on after working out difficult concepts. Use the lessons and activities section for ideas that are tied to the NCTM standards.
Incredibox gets my nod for the Odd Site of the Week Award, and I’m throwing it in, just because we all need a little obscure fun in our lives. Not sure of its educational implications, so I don’t have too many EdTechIdeas, but perhaps for music teachers, it could shed light on rhythm, vocal appreciation, harmonic structure, and polyphony. For the rest of us, it’s a great diversion and a good way to bring a little music into your life.