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What have I been learning

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Well it’s been a long haul but I’m about halfway through this semester so I think it’s time to talk about what I’ve been learning.  I’ve been listening in on a lot of great conversations on twitter and I have found that twitter is a great way to get “in the know” about new ideas.  I’ve gone from a twitter avoider to someone that really enjoys it.  I do wonder about the boundaries between professional and personal that seem to get blended on twitter.  I find it hard to keep a professional relationship with people after you’ve read their drunk twitters, however that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps its a softening of the boss/teacher as god perspective that has reigned for a long time into a more approachable co-learner/leader perspective.  

Remind 101 is awesome, but I doubt I’ll be using it in kindergarten but if I was teaching older students I would totally use it as a tool to safely incorporate cell technology into a classroom.  I like that theirs a way to enter into the students world without needing to compromise their information privacy or yours.  Combined with the cool cell poll/clicker technology I’ve seen it makes a strong argument to include cells into your classroom.  The only reason I doubt I’d use it is that most kindergarteners don’t have their own cell phone however, that being said it could be a way to send reminders to parents about upcoming events and classroom requirements.  So never say never 🙂 maybe I will use it.  

That I am a google aficionado.  I listened to Michael’s talk and while I found it really interesting most of it wasn’t shocking to me.  I think that’s because I’ve been beta testing for google for a while so I’ve fallen down that rabbit hole.  I love a lot of google tools.  Google calendar I swear it saved my marriage, my late husband and I could both access our calendar, make changes and see what’s going on….brilliant! I know a friend who is divorced and remarried with step kids and all the parents share a google calendar to keep track of the kids schedules in a way that everyone can see and she swears it helps keep everything running smoother for the kids.  I love google docs and was excited by the ways Michael shared that I can use it with kids in the classroom I actually hadn’t really thought through how to use it in a class setting so that pretty much blew my mind.  Picasa is amazing! I use it when I travel to upload my photos and share them with my family back home all I need is an internet cafe.  It was great to be in India and be able to quickly upload my photos, know that they were safe and that my family could see my adventures.  I could go on for pages about the ways I use google but I think that would get boring.  However, what I appreciate the most about google products is how easy they are to use.  It’s obvious that they put a lot of time into their development and how people will use it.  I guess the most useful tool I follow is the google labs where I find out about new products.  

That students need someone to guide them in technology because it is not intuitive.  No matter how comfortable with technology a student or teacher appears their is always new things to learn and ethics to think about.  So as a teacher I need to teach my students how to think through new technology and lead the way in learning.  I can choose to stay in the comfortable area but if I push myself outside of that box my students will benefit and their learning will be increased.  

Your First Teacher

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Education begins long before students arrive in a classroom, years before children start learning in school they learn from their parents.  Today is mother’s day and as an education blogger I want to thank my mom, and grandma for being the best teachers I know.  Due to their efforts I am the person I am today.  Being a mom is hard work and I watch my sister and my friends as they shape their children and guide them through the early years.  There is no curriculum, no degree program, or formal guidelines for these teachers and yet they have the greatest impact on their children’s lives.  So today I want to acknowledge all the moms who are working so hard and encourage you by telling you that your efforts are important and will pay off.  My job as a teacher is made much easier by all the hard work you have done and I promise to remember that we are partners in education.  Image

Digital Natives?

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While I was perusing my reader feed yesterday I came across a new post from a favourite blog of mine “for the love of learning” by Joe Brower.  I’m embedding the post here for ease of reading and discussion but Joe’s blog is worth checking out as he discusses a lot of issues around education.

Digital Native myth

by Joe Bower
The idea that children are digital natives is at best inaccurate and at worst a lie.

It’s weird how the glitz and glamour of technology can hypnotize even the sharpest people into believing silly ideas. If someone came out and tried to sell the idea that some children are literacy natives, we would scoff at them because we know that the ability to read and write, like all learning, is constructed from the inside out while interacting with our environment.

And yet, as soon as we start talking about smart phones, tablets, texting and other technologies, we get bamboozled into thinking that digital natives exist.

Children who have access to technology and are encouraged to use it in a playful and informal manner grow up to be adults who feel comfortable and competent around technology.

Children who have little to no access to technology and are discouraged from using it (usually out of fear and ignorance on behalf of the adults) grow up to be adults who feel uncomfortable and incompetent around technology.

All this has nothing to do with their DNA and everything to do with opportunity and affluence.

I think that Joe is right often we assume that children are naturals at using technology and therefore as teachers we don’t put the same emphasis on teaching technology as we do on teaching things like reading.  Yes, because we live in a affluent and technological society means that kids are very familiar with technology.  However, there are huge gaps between the types of technologies children have access to at home depending on parental beliefs, socio-economic status and the child’s own interests.  As well, children that may have lots of access to technology may not understand how technology can be used to enhance their education.  A big example of this is running a simple web search, many adults much less children do not know how to judge web sources and how to tell which biases different sources carry.  Most people can’t explain why wikipedia isn’t considered an authentic source when compared to the online version of encyclopedia britannica.   This is the big gap where teachers need to enter in, helping ensure that all students have access to technology and can use it responsibly and to it’s full potential.