Friday, August 8, 2008

Journal 2

McFarlane, S.H,. "The Laptops are coming! The Laptops are coming! Rethinking Schools Online. 22. 2008. 23 July 2008, .

When the author and her middle school students became the first to receive laptops via a tech levy, they experienced a long transition period of adjustment. They were “guinea pigs” and along with that came the first-hand growing pains of classroom technology immersion. In the excitement of the unprecedented opportunity to receive laptops, no one anticipated the ensuing struggles, challenges or success stories the students and staff would encounter. While the question of student “access” seemed to be resolved, the unforeseen levels of frustration with student training, staff development time and people “disconnect” soon became apparent. The author found that there was little time to assess the negative impacts of the new technology. Surveillance during class time and ensuring the students weren’t emailing, texting or blogging, overrode teaching the lesson itself. Varying levels of student comfort and discomfort with technology became apparent. Face-to-face interactions between students and teacher became noticeably less frequent.
The situation was as if they were given a game and told to make up the rules as they went along, but weren’t given enough time to do this.

Question 1: Being aware of some of the challenges, would I be prepared if presented the same opportunity as the author? I don’t know how it would be possible to avoid many of the pitfalls experienced by the author. It seems this “opportunity” is still in its infancy, with brand new challenges most haven’t experienced or hashed through. Before reading this article, I had already considered what it might be like to have laptops for all and would never have been able to foresee the whole downside. One I had previously considered was the loss of face-to-face interaction with one another. As we now see in our homes and with kids who already have cell phones, video games and PCs, it has become easy for them to fall into communicating electronically rather than face-to-face. Technology has made communication more broad, but far less personal. There is also the lack of time staff needs to address and troubleshoot any new system. Teachers and school staff already face a time shortage, so introducing a full-blown, head-on tech immersion isn’t realistic. A gradual introduction of technology, rather than all at once seems more realistic and plausible.

Question 2: Should the students have been included in the tech immersion planning? Absolutely! They are equally as affected as the staff. While the staff would have felt privileged and excited at this tech opportunity, they soon felt apprehension and were overwhelmed at all of the unforeseen struggles. The students, most of whom were also probably excited at this new tech opportunity, would have appreciated and respected the chance to be included in part of the decision-making processes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Journal 4

“RtI: Innovations in prevention and intervention” by Richard R. Reid, PhD

Dr. Reid wasn’t as an engaging speaker as Dr. Villa, but he was tough act to follow!
RtI is an acronym for “responsiveness to intervention”. His goal was to convey the steps for a successful plan implementation. In the U.S., there are about 8 million 4 – 12th graders reading below grade level. First, in order for teachers to help these kids succeed, they need to know their students’ skill level, monitor growth in response to instruction and use that data to alter that instruction. We should also recognize that most educators are doing the very best with the resources available, but that a plan for change needs to be developed and implemented. The following characteristics need to be part of a successful plan for change: vision, peer coaching, incentives, time for training and measuring competence and an action plan. If one aspect is missing, it won’t be successful. He cautions to allow at least five years to measure success for a well-articulated plan. In order for that plan to succeed, everyone must be involved, from the administration on down to the kids. He acknowledges that change is hard, but the current system can only change if the people do.

Question: How can teachers stay motivated on the process knowing it’s a
5 – 7 year implementation timeframe? Complete dedication and commitment from the staff is paramount. Everyone must be given a specific part in the process and accountability must be measured and reported on a regular basis. Everyone must be provided with exactly what their task is and given the tools and time to complete it. Change is never easy, but with staff fidelity and integrity, success is certain.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

Journal 6: Podcasting Basics

Schaffhauser, D.. "Podcasting basics: Simples steps for introducing podcasting to your K-8 class, Part 2." The Journal. 2008. 1 Aug 2008 .

Using Garageband, you can edit and publish your podcast with drag and drop, easy editing features. Podcasts can be posted at many places on the web, including Apple.mac, Podbean and class blogs. Because these sites include tutorials, posting a podcast doesn’t have to be complicated or require that you be a tech whiz. After the kids get a taste of the ease and satisfaction of posting their podcast, it fuels their motivation and creativity for the next one. With pride, they’ll tell parents and friends about it who’ll watch and give positive feedback. Successfully managing podcasting in the classrooms has to be done with patience. It can be daunting trying to manage what so many students are supposed to be doing all at once. Working in teams and giving each student a part in building the cast, best keeps students better on task. Training a small group of students at a time and then having them pair up with the next group to train has proven successful.

Question 1: How can we address the students’ various levels of comfort and proficiency with computers while introducing podcasting? This will always be a challenge with any new technology. Teaching one small group of students at a time and ensuring their comfort level before having them train a new group should help. Also recognizing which students are most comfortable with which jobs can help team them up where they are best suited as well as help them feel an integral part of the successful podcast process.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Journal 5: Gaming in the Classroom

Gaming in the classrooms is about incorporating creative and challenging educational games into lesson plans. The teachers’ goals are clearly to teach the standards but also to engage students more fully than traditional curriculum. Teachers have caught on to the popularity of gaming and are eager to tap into the fascination it holds for kids. They seek to incorporate gaming with learning in the classroom to take full advantage of the motivation level kids have shown toward games. They are networking for advice from fellow teachers for what kinds of games, in both computer and board form that have proven successful in their classrooms. They are also eager to share feedback as to what kinds of games they have found successful. Through experimentation, they are learning which games are best at maximizing learning engagement with minimum intimidation. Overall, the teachers have had success getting kids to learn enthusiastically without making it feel so much like a lesson. Fellow educators are so willing to share their experiences, both positive and negative, about why they feel something either works or doesn’t. They are sharing links to resource sites and to people on the cutting edge in the field of educational gaming. Also encouraging is the openness with which those with their own educational sites willingly respond to teachers asking for ideas. I also saw many links for games being sent from literally all over the world. It’s gratifying to know that we’re not alone out there in our quest to maximize the teaching experience.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Journal 3: “Restructuring for caring and effective education: The possible futures of education” by Dr. Rich Villa

Dr. Villa was an enthusiastic and engaging speaker who kept the audience interested. Not only did he have many thought-provoking ideas, but involved the audience in stage activities to illustrate his points (musical chairs). He talked about how there must be balance in the “Circle of Courage” model which includes generosity, mastery, belonging and independence. He also illustrated the consequences of any of these areas being out of balance. He also advocated having the special ed kids be in the regular classroom, both for their sake and their fellow mainstream students. For the mainstream students, it’s a chance for them to see that giving feels better than receiving. For the special ed kids, they would get the chance to belong. But to succeed, we must all first view diversity as “normal and valued”. Studies show that special ed kids in general classes to better academically and socially than in non-inclusive settings. Dr. Villa’s vision of “equalence” (equity and excellence) includes the goal of all children getting the chance to participate and feel successful. The culture that will support equalence must include artistry, care, character and collaboration and foster a true team spirit. He acknowledges that even the best laid plan can take 5 – 7 years to become institutionalized. And while he recognizes the barriers of insufficient and poor use of time in implementing a plan, he encourages us to be diligent and to persevere.

Question: How can we realistically have special ed kids in the mainstream classroom, when there is less budget than ever for classroom aides? While there is an educational budget shortage in California, there’s been an encouraging shift with aides for special ed kids. In the middle school in Ramona, the aide (or aides) are present in the mainstream class to help the special ed kids. The special ed kids change classes like the general kids, but there is always at least one aide in the class for support. When I sub for a the special ed classes at the elementary schools, the kids are mostly in the general classes and only briefly came to special ed for one subject. For example, 3 – 5 kids per hour are present in the resource center and are mainstreamed the rest of the day. It appears to be a shift heading in the right direction.