Friday, January 29, 2010

Welcome Our Newest Member - Jake Bogar

Welcome to Jake Bogar.  We are delighted he is joining us as a member of our committee.  He is using technology in his classroom to further his students' comprehension of the content area by providing them with learning experiences to further develop habits of the mind (Costa).  Jake, we applaud you and look forward to learning from you.
Jake Bogar has been teaching in Western Maine for about a decade. As a father of a young family, he is interested in how young children, as well as his secondary students, develop and learn.  He is currently responsible for some physics and engineering design courses and advising the student council at the Mt. Blue Regional School District.  He seeks to create student experiences that are meaningful and relevant.

Jake is insatiably curious and conservatively optimistic about how emerging technologies and thinking strategies will affect individuals and institutions. He has been investigating this in a Master's degree program at UMF with Mt. Blue High School colleagues and students.

In the winter he can be found skiing on at Titcomb Mountain, USA with his family and in the summer he is never too far from a lake or river.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Students Think ... About Blogging!

On January 16, we announced our beginning work on collecting data from our Maine students on the use of blogging in their classrooms.

We began with Hattie Deraps' English classes.  As part of their mid-terms, students were asked to complete a survey as well as post reflections on the use of blogging on their school blogs.

Following are links to several student blogs with their reflection posted.  I am starting with 9th graders.  These students have had laptops - 1 to 1 - since 6th grade.

Thank you Hattie for giving your students voice.  

Who better to know how technology helps or hinders than those who use it?

Student Reflection #1:  The importance of audience and conventions.

Student Reflection #2:  The importance of audience and engagement.

Student Reflection #3:  The importance of audience and meta-cognition.

Student Reflection #4:  The importance of audience and being part of an audience for others =   

Student Reflection #5: The importance of audience and developing voice and awareness of self.

Student Reflection #6:  The importance of audience and being heard - when it is difficult to speak up in class!

Stay Tuned:)  More to come:) 

PS - take a look at the comments about typing:)

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Friday, January 22, 2010

3rd Grade Planning Meeting! January 22, 2010

     Elaine, Bill, and I met today to begin planning for our social studies project using e-pals.  Bill and I drove over to Jay so we could meet in Elaine's classroom.  Our meeting was full of energy with ideas and threads popping.  We worked as a team, complementing one another and building off of each other's ideas.

     We agreed early on that we would uses e-pals because of the protection it provided for the students as well as the resources the service provides - mainly, the list of other schools enrolled in the program as well as the opportunity for students o progress from e-mail to blogging.
     We had also decided we would focus on social studies.
     After a brief discussion, we selected culture as our central theme.  Our decision is founded on the following beliefs.
  1.  Third graders are aware that people are alike and different.  However, because many are still so concrete students  need to be supported in building their understanding of the causes creating the sameness and the differences.  
  2. This aligns with the standards of learning in Maine.
  3. This is an essential learning in an ever shrinking globe - one these students will inherit.

     Instruction will focus on problem solving - students will team and work individually to answer questions by employing strategies - literacy and thinking - in an inquiry format.
     Right now, we are thinking we will have students identified by numbers or nicknames.  
     Teachers will pair them up based on profiles (interests, etc.) provided each student's teacher.
     A problem solving format will be established through e-mail at the beginning of the project when students will attempt to build a profile of their pen pal through a process of inquiry.  This process will be clarified and expanded as students explore the elements involved in creating a culture - i.e. natural resources.

We are planning to begin the project after February break.

Stay tuned.  More to come!

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hearing It from the Source!

     On January 11, 2010, I spent the day at Mt. Blue High School.  A large part of the day was spent in Hattie's room with her alternative education students.  I sat in on one English freshmen class and one senior English class.
     If you will recall, Hattie and I spent a great deal of time this summer talking, reflecting, planning.  After reviewing a number of rubrics and thinking about data that would be helpful for other teachers, we came up with the idea of creating a baseline with a survey focusing on student use of technology, etc.
      We decided to kick off the data collection by talking to the students and receiving feedback from them.  So, Hattie let me talk with her students on Monday.  Following is a summary of the information we collected.

      FYI, every student has a blog.  The school system's policy protects student privacy. Students are not allowed to use their true identity online.  Hattie assigns them a number.  Students are also not allowed to publish their pictures.  Only their hands can be shown online.
Here is link to Hattie's class blog:    Welcome to Mrs. Deraps' Online Class

On Monday, Hattie had her freshman students blog on Capital Punishment.

This is part of their unit on Monster.  Last summer as we talked about teaching, she was adamant that there would be no more make believe in her classroom.   She consistently looks for ways to have students make meaningful connections to the literature they are reading:  Blogging has helped to create reality for her students as you will see from the comments below.

When asked how think/pair/share using discussion compared to think/pair/share using the blogs compared, we had an extended conversation with  ahhas.

  1. Students value the privacy of writing anonymously.  They feel free to say what they really think.
  2. Students like the time it takes to think about and reread their own point of view and perhaps clarify their thinking.
  3. Students love reading each other's opinions and exploring different points of view.  They have  specifics for giving feedback - siting what and why they agree or not.
  4. Some students preferred discussion because they wanted feedback from body language and tone of voice.
  5. Students found they remembered what they had read easier than trying to follow a conversation.
  6. Students love knowing their posts will be read and welcome the feedback (a  key to collaborative problem solving).  
    • Audience is a reality to them and it is immediate.  A number of the students have clustrmaps on their blogs and have followers from around the world.  
    • In a very real sense they are authors.  They openly admit they try harder - convention and content - knowing others will read their writing.  They spoke clearly about the image of themselves presented through their posts. 
  7.  Students love choosing images to go with their posts.  They choose their images at different points in their writing process.  
    • Some scan pictures first and use the images to help focus their ideas and visualize (Steve poem).
    • Others chose pictures to help create the tone of the piece - as a final part of the composition - post on innocence.
    • Others chose pictures to make a point, choosing them to represent a key point.
    • Others felt pictures could say things (innocence post) your words could not.
I hope you have enjoyed looking at the freshman blogs and sharing the student reflections.
I will post more later this week on senior class.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome to Our Newest Member!

     Wendy Moreau, special education director in SAD36, has agreed to join us on our literacy and technology committee.  Wendy graduated from Michigan University in 1981 (in special ed) and then moved to Maine.  She married a local man and left teaching to raise a family.  In 1993 she returned to work in SAD 36.  During this time she received her Masters in Special Education and her CAS in educational leadership from USM.  She has been the director of Special Education in SAD36 for the last 6 years.
      Wendy's philosophy is quite simple: Students come first and teachers must do whatever it takes.  Within the context of today's education she sees her role as one of a problem solver and researcher - analyzing students' needs, finding ways to support them, and then coming up with a plan to get resources and students together - including working with students herself.
     We are delighted to have her expertise.  Her intent will be to explore technology as a resource to find a way to assist youngsters in need of special services.  She is an invaluable resource  and we are delighted to have her on the team.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pilot Update - Collecting Data

With the beginning of the new year, much is happening with the literacy and technology pilot.  Our summer work is now coming to fruition.  

Beginning in May we will be offering a course, EDU 593, based on teacher feedback and research we reviewed this summer.  The course is called Guided Inquiry and will focus on 21st century strategies - the link between literacy and technology.

In the meantime, we are still crafting other parts of the grant.  Data collection is one of our end products.  We decided this summer to look at writing, reading, and critical thinking.  

After meeting with teachers, we are all leaning towards the 6+1 traits rubric published by NWREL to measure the writing. We are basing our choice on the following information:

  1. the rubic used is based on sound research and extensive use nationally,
  2. the elements it measures are independent of the format or topic being discussed, so should transfer to blog or e-mail writing,
  3. the rubrics are developmental, allowing for cross grade comparison,
  4. the Jay and Winthrop school districts (participants in the pilot) are using this instructional framework, so it will be an easy transition.
However, we decided early on that we wanted the data as clean as possible.  So, we are concentrating on creating a survey to be used by teachers to collect other data on students that might impact writing results, i.e. home computer use, etc.  So far, I have visited several classrooms and have begun to create the survey - it will be done on google documents.  This will give us another lens to view the information collected from the rubric and look for possible correlations.  Although time consuming, it will give our data credibility.

The part we are struggling with right now, is how we will identify and measure the literacy strategies needed to use the computer.  To some extent, this is new ground, so I am once again returning to classrooms to observe, talk to students, and teachers - and then research. This process should be completed by the middle of February.

Whatever we create, will be used during the course as well and will help us with overall data collection.

Friday,  I will post my visit to Hattie Deraps' classrooms.  Stay tuned!  We have some exciting information to share!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saving Time in the New Year! - Teacher's First!

Many teachers are eager to use the resources the web offers them.  Many are also new to the web and often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information involved.    There is so much and teachers are unsure of the quality of what they are accessing.  Teachers First is a FREE resource that provides teachers with:
  1. resources about upcoming holidays, historical events
  2. resources for appropriate grade level curriculum in all contents
  3. online training for available technology in the classrooms
  4. a community to share opinions and teaching ideas
I highly recommend this site.  Every resource they recommend has been reviewed and screened by a number of teachers.  

Here are some places you will want to visit. 

Finding, Labeling, and Organizing
As you arrange and rearrange curriculum units, projects, etc. around testing dates, assemblies, breaks (and snow days!), save yourself some time by collecting and organizing reviewed resources from TeachersFirst. If you are not a member or have not used TF's member Favorites to "tag" resources by unit or curriculum topic, January is the perfect time to join (FREE) and get organized. Think of us as the technology equivalent of those movable stickynote labels being advertised on TV - but for FREE!

Featured Sites
This week's featured sites include helpful tools, timely options, and more:
  • Healthy choices for bodies and teeth
  • Sites to reflect on decades and years past
  • A handy tool for classroom charts
  • A tool to view web pages without all the clutter
  • Funny Fads
  • Great resources for advanced math and chemistry
  • and more, as well as other "recent additions" (click at the bottom of the page)

OK2Ask: January Double-Header and February Whiteboards
OK2Ask is TeachersFirst's series of free online "snack sessions" for teacher professional development and exploration. Read the session descriptions and register now for upcoming offerings. Then put a sticky note on your lesson plan book or set a computer calendar alarm so you remember to attend!
Wanna wiki? Register NOW (by Tuesday, January 12) to kick-start your own class wiki during this two-meeting Guided Wiki Walk, from OK2Ask.
Guided Wiki Walk:  Step by step to create your own classroom wiki
Thursday January 14 and 28, 4:00-5:15 pm EST BOTH days or
Thursday January 14 and 28, 7:00- 8:15 pm EST BOTH days
Want to use your interactive whiteboard wisely? Join our new OK2Ask offering:
Whiteboards and the Web: Strategies for student-centered learning
Tuesday, February 16, 2010; 4:00-5:15 pm OR 7:00-8:15 pm EST

Planning ahead?
Martin Luther King Day is just around the corner, and the 100th Day of School is shortly after that. Find offerings for these and many other upcoming events quickly from our clickable Classroom Planning Calendar or search specifics via our keyword search (be sure to read the hints!). Secondary teachers will find more sophisticated offerings for specific curriculum dates, as well.
Bite into Dental Health
Sink your teeth into Dental Health Month (February). If your curriculum includes body systems, hygiene, or basics of dental health, be sure to preview TeachersFirst's Resources for Dental Health to use with students and in your school newsletter/web page to promote healthy smiles. You will want to save this one as a Favorite for back-to-school health screening season, too.
Student Teacher?
January often brings new staff or student teachers. Be supportive by sharing helpful ideas and resources from TeachersFirst with your newbie neighbor. Be sure to tell him/her about your favorite areas of TeachersFirst: the Edge, the Classroom Planning Calendar, tools for In the Trenches, Dates That Matter, our many units, or the entire site. Send the newbies to the two minute tour from the New to Our Site? link on our home page. Maybe your newbie neighbor will cover a recess or study hall to thank you(?)

Speaking of Sharing
You may have noticed the addition of a handy "Share" option next to site reviews and other features on TeachersFirst. Just click to send a link for that review or page via email, Facebook, Delicious. Diigo, Twitter, and others. As we continue adding this feature throughout our site, we hope it will save you time passing along tools and ideas to other Thinking Teachers. Not a high-tech sharing person? Just share this address: ! We rely on word of mouth from teachers just like you as our non-profit "advertising."
On the Trail
Geo and Meri spend some time on a very famous trail this week. Read the full story on Globetracker's Mission as your students learn geography, map skills, landforms, and more.
 Enjoy!  -  and Happy New Year!!  D:)

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Third Grade Project!

    Our two new members, Elaine and Bill,  have decided to team on a project between third grades in Jay and Winthrop.   These two schools are demographically similar to many of our schools in Maine, so we are sharing the project on this blog in hopes others will benefit from our experience.

    As third graders, students have access to computers on a limited basis.  Elaine takes her students to the computer lab once a week, while Bill was able to collect some older laptops the system replaced with newer ones.  Both systems have laptops at the middle school.

    Keyboarding starts at the third grade level.

          Here is our plan.                                                                                  

    Given the age and vulnerability of our students, we have decided to enroll both schools in the e-pals program.

    We will start communicating with one another by scheduling one day a week - we are thinking in February -  and a time to e-mail one another.  We are thinking teachers will assign pairs.

    We have great plans after this, but are being cautious.

    This sounds so easy, but we are finding there is a great deal involved and we will post this info as we go along:)

    Right now we have gone as far as locating computers, matching up teachers and students, signing up for e-pals, and setting a date for our next meeting.