Friday, February 18, 2011

Great Task Self-Assessment

Overall our task on Naming the West went very well. I strengthened my skill in using Google Docs, including creating a form for peer feedback and using their spreadsheet application to chart the reliability of websites. This last part was also a new learning from Neil Stephenson and I was glad to have had some practice at it. I also learned about how to make a website via Google. The completion of this task has lead to an increase in my ability to easily access useful technology, depending on what my task is. Furthermore, I have gained insight into how inquiry unfolds and the many ways that such projects can connect to the Program of Studies and the ICT outcomes.

In doing this task our group sometimes wondered if we were using enough technology. In discussing this we realised that we were vulnerable to falling into the classic trap of using technology just for the sake of using it. I think I learned a valuable lesson about this because we then became critical of our own use of technology, constantly asking do we really need it? In terms of collaboration, the Google Docs were really amazing. I cannot say enough about how much this tool has changed the way groups can collaborate. We rarely needed to meet in person, and worked on the project on our own time. I believe that it allowed us to do way more work in a shorter time just because we didn't have to arrange for the face to face meetings.

My initial frustration with the task was that it was really huge. It was difficult to break it down and decide when to stop. Are we doing too much? Too little? How much is enough? I think this is a question that persists into teaching though. At the end of the day, nobody is going to come into your classroom and tell you that you've done enough. You need to know where to draw those lines. It was a lot more comfortable when we decided exactly what we were going to do and delegated the tasks.

In contributing to the group, one of my strengths was in keeping up the communication. I felt that I was constantly available, replied quickly to any requests, and emailed once I had finished any component so the rest of the group could look it over. One thing that I might do differently next time, is focus more on diverse learning needs. I think we got very caught up in the task and forgot to teach it to a hypothetical class.

Overall, I think our group did fantastic and I'm very happy with our work. It was thoughtfully carried out and everyone pulled their weight. Yay team!

The Value of Peer Review

Today we shared our Great Task projects with other groups in the class and were subjected to peer review. I felt really confident entering this process because our group had been very thorough and worked hard. This means that our peer feedback, rather than referring to more surface issues, was deep and rich with ideas that we had never thought of. For example, we never thought about how our task failed to leave enough room for formative assessment. This brings up the point about how we did not clearly state how we would use our assessment rubric (i.e. formative/summative).

Another interesting perspective that was brought up had to do with diversity. Our task originated in a small Alberta town and, therefore, lacked the kind of multicultural depth that Calgary classrooms have. This really stood out to another student, making us realize that we might make explicit more comprehensive modifications to our task work to include diverse populations.

These are just examples of how peer feedback has been beneficial for our group. Some other great points that were brought up in class related to how it's fun, offers a fresh look at something, leads to the improvement of work, and more. From the student perspective, when approched with care and developmentally appropriate language, I think the peer feedback process has great potential to help children connect on academic levels. Children are really good at making social connections based on their interests and personalities, however they less often require an academic connection. What implications can strong socio-academic connections have on their future learning?

One of my main goals in early childhood is to help students connect to one another in this way. That is, to get children to consider one another as academic peers that are able to share knowledge with the understanding that the teacher is not the filter for all useful/correct information. Older children understand this more and more intuitively as they become familiar with technology. Younger children, however, find it very difficult to move from an adult-centered type of learning, to one that often relies on peers. Obviously the teacher still has an important role, and Kindergarten children will not always have a collective answer. However, this is where the beginning steps take place to open up the community and the knowledge that lives within it. A space where children begin to become comfortable sharing their ideas, rather than right vs. wrong answers. I love the way the peer review process fosters this academic relationship building experience.

Our Great Task was taken from the Galileo website with the title Naming the West. We completed the first part of the original task and invite further feedback via the Peer Feedback page:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Redshirting @ School

My son is only three, but we're already thinking about which school he's going to go to and when. Having a January baby gives you the classic double-edged sword: we get to choose if we want him to start kindergarten when he's four or five. Sometimes it's just easier not to have the choice! Or, does it really matter?

I once visited a Kindergarten class where there was a boy that, upon initial interactions and having no background information, I perceived to be well above the rest of the class intellectually. In commenting on this boy's superior knowledge base and abilities in the classroom, I was informed that he is repeating Kindergarten. This decision was made solely by the family, against the advice of the teacher. Sure enough, in the months to come, this child was clearly becoming bored. Yes, he could read better than his peers, was physically bigger, and produced more impressive work. But what did it all mean? It all lead to a conversation about his family's choice to hold him back. In questioning their reasoning, I came to somewhat of a redshirting conclusion myself.

I guess I'll never know. He ended up spending about an hour a day in a grade one class anyway. My guess is that next year he'll be spending an hour in a grade two room, and so on...

In making this decision for my child, I'm shooting for engagement. In general, he's more engaged by older children and their ideas so why not put him with these children, even though he'll be the youngest and smallest. Heck, maybe he'll even be one of the smartest. Ultimately, if teachers are cultivating truly inclusive classrooms with developmentally appropriate practice, all students can grow and learn.

The Problem with Holding Kids Back from Kindergarten (until they're bigger and smarter) by Kristina Dell:

Student Showcase on Prezi

Today we had the opportunity to present on a new presentation tool: Prezi
Throughout the process of creating this presentation, I learned a lot about Prezi and gained experience in working with it so that I became more efficient with it. I think this will help me if I'm using it with students one day.

As the three of us approached this topic, we were able to brainstorm some out of the box ways to use Prezi. The one that I chose to focus on was assessment, mainly because I'm really passionate about it and I think it's so incredibly important. I attempted to use Prezi as a means of documentation for student learning. In retrospect, I probably should have mentioned this specifically, rather than just putting it under the big banner of "assessment". That's just my early childhood-centricness coming out again. In ECE a lot of the work students create is highly visual and involves way less text. I failed to view this assessment piece from a secondary perspective which may not have demonstrated such successful usefulness. That said, I was glad to see how Jennifer was pondering its use in secondary art teaching.

Ultimately, it's not that I think Prezi should be used for assessment, but that it can in many cases. I really enjoy its possibilities, however, in creating showcases for parent-teacher interviews. I hope that we were able to provide the group with enough useful information to begin playing with Prezi and avoiding a lot of the frustrating pitfalls!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jing, Calgary Public Library, KeepVid

How can you get your students focused on proper research tools for an inquiry project?

E-library databases: library pays for them, you have access through your library card membership
  • student research center: teacher resources (incl. ERIC), curriculum Standards for Canada
Jing: screen capturing (including sound)
  • tutorial for students that they can access whenever, go at their own pace (pause, rewind)
  • good for PD? (I thought of this during the presentation. This could be used to record your teaching and reflect.)
  • tutorials on the site
Newspaper Direct Press Display (CPL)
  • many languages
  • reliable
  • can click on specific countries to find their newpapers
  • get different perspectives
  • RSS feeds
  • Interactive Radio: involove your ESL students for translating
The Free Dictionary (see Lucy's blog)

  • copy/paste video URL
  • similar to Delicious but in video format
  • saves onto your computer and doesn't require internet access to play
  • can save onto USB
  • not affected by school firewalls
  • plays in iTunes
Awesome, useful presentation! Thanks guys!

Presentation on Techonology in Second Language teaching

How does technology support second language learning in schools?
What does it enable us to do that we couldn't do before?
  • FL Teach website
  • Blogs/Wikis: interactive way for parents, administrators to be involved in learning.
  • E-book: Can click on words for translation, some can read to you
  • Webcam/camera: digital storytelling, peer assessment, Skype
  • 24/7 tutor app: iPad, iPhone, free! 
  • CD's in french
  • audio clips of teacher's voice
They have tons of links on their website, posted on the SIPS class forum. Thanks guys!