Archive for January, 2014

Using technology in the primary classroom

Posted on January 12, 2014. Filed under: educational, Grade 1 & 2, Kindergarten, Social Networking, teaching and learning, Technology |

I am by no means an expert at using technology in the classroom- but I will give you 3 do’s and 3 don’t s that I have learned about using tech in the classroom.
1) DO ask the kids to bring their own devices to school. I know this is taboo for some people because they couldn’t possibly fathom their 6 year old bringing a $700 iPad to school every day, but I can say that it has worked for me and the school I am at. The great part of having children bring their own devices to school is that it allows them to “log on” or start working much faster than if they had to use the school’s technology. They already know how to use it, and they are in charge of it- they have a inherent sense of responsibility towards that piece of technology because it is theirs. I have found that even though the children may be working on a small screen (iPod or old iPhone) they are still more efficient in writing activities on THAT then having them try to figure out a foreign school laptop or netbook. That said, your school’s wifi will need to be able to handle having students connect to the network, and it IS a new teaching challenge to teach young children how to connect to the wifi… but in my mind it has been worth it completely!
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2) DON’T put your apple id onto students devices. You might be thinking that this is obvious- well I have made this mistake!! I have had problems every time I have tried to get my student’s an app, or send an email through my ID on their device. One year I put my apple id onto a students iPad so that I could get her an app we needed that day, and from that point on, syncing to both her home computer and my work computer was a nightmare. I think I even gave them my apple id password so they could keep the apps on her device once they were synced up at home.
I even have a horror story of me putting my class email onto a students device so that he could email me a project, and then somehow my PERSONAL i-notes from my own iPhone ended up on his iPod. I had notes from my pastor’s sermons on there, my own personal journalling, and other random shopping lists and notes that you would have on your phone. iCloud is a great thing, but apparently it is also GREAT at syncing things even if you don’t want them synced! Thankfully, the students mom was awesome and came in and let me know what happened.
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3) DO connect and network with other educators who are using technology in their classroom- whether they are primary teachers or not! Now, I am a twitter fan, and love it for professional development, but I know not everyone feels like they have the time for this. (Might I add that twitter serves an ENTIRELY different purpose than Facebook, just in case you were going to tell me that you don’t need twitter because you have Facebook!) If you choose twitter as the way to connect with other educators, start by following great teachers. You can search for people who are having conversations about education through the hashtag #edchat, #kinderchat #1stchat etc. or follow me at @mrsmaley or my class at @mrsmaleysclass… BUT let me say that even though I am pro-twitter, there is one professional development opportunity that I am a part of that even beats twitter. It can happen right within your own school! At my school we call it Tech Tuesdays. Another teacher and I have started a little club on Tuesdays after school where we share tech tools that we are trying, or ones we have found and WANT to try out. Every second week we have Appy Hour, where we specifically share apps that can be used in the classroom. #rbeappyhour The other Tuesdays we leave it open to any tech tool; smart boards, web based tools etc. These meetings have been huge in giving me confidence to use technology in the classroom. It is not one person teaching others about a tool, but the entire group having a conversation about a tool and how they think (or know) it can be used in the classroom. If you have ever heard of edcamp, it is like a little mini edcamp every Tuesday. Sometimes it is just the other teacher and I, and sometimes it is lots of teachers from other schools too! Either way, we don’t care! Every conversation is beneficial. Don’t have a club like this in your school? START ONE. All it takes is a classroom to meet in and you- wanting to talk about tech in the classroom.
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4) DON’T jump in over your head with tech. Too many times I feel like teachers look at what I do and think that it is impossible or too hard for them to do it all. They are right! It IS impossible to do everything I am doing if you are just starting! Start small. Choose one thing you are interested in. Maybe you just want to start by Skyping another primary classroom. Great! Do that a few times in the year. Maybe you want to start a class blog- fabulous- get one set up and start slow. Look at how other people are doing it, and be a copy cat! Maybe you want the kids to bring their devices once a week and you can plan one lesson around the devices for just that day every week. Whatever it takes, start slow so that you don’t get frustrated and give up. The worst thing you can do is try too much stuff and then fail at everything. Get good at one thing and then add on!
5) DO teach the students to use technology properly. When I ask parents to allow their kids to bring their own tech to the classroom, it also comes with the promise that I will be showing them how to use it properly. Now, I don’t literally mean teaching them how to use it in terms of pressing buttons and hand swiping motions, but rather I teach digital citizenship. We tweet as a classroom and we talk about safe followers, and unsafe people- we talk about what is acceptable to post on our blog and what is not. I use the words inappropriate and appropriate a lot. But ultimately we talk about it being a heart issue. They are not always going to have a teacher or parent standing behind them when they are on the computer/idevice and they need to recognize that feeling of uncomfortableness when they come across something that is not appropriate. Tech is just another tool to talk about their conscience- and making good decisions.
6) DON’T treat technology as a reward. I know that lots of parents use technology and devices as rewards for their kids for good behaviour or eating all their supper. In a classroom setting, you can’t do this. The children need to know that technology is just another tool in the classroom. It is just like a pencil or a ruler. It serves a purpose and it will not always be the best tool for the job. Sometimes a pen and sticky note are better classroom tools than the iPad. If a kid was misbehaving, you wouldn’t take away his/her pencil would you? That would stop them from working on the assignment at hand. Treat it like any other classroom tool… If they were stabbing the kid beside them with that pencil, YES you would take it away. But eventually you would give it back after going over proper expectations. Same thing with technology. They need to know your expectations and follow them. Rewarding them with technology or taking tech away reinforces the wrong attitude towards technology in the classroom. It reinforces that it is a toy that is used for fun- and once all the “real work” is done they get to go play on the idevice. That’s not what we want. We want the students to be practicing higher level thinking skills. The iPad is a perfect example of how technology can ENHANCE learning in ways that were never possible before. It allows analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
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There are many ways to use technology in the classroom, and in this post I haven’t given you a whole lot of practical resources. But I hope you can start to see some of the pedagogy BEHIND why I use tech in the classroom and some of the do’s and don’ts I have come across. Good luck!

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5 reasons why living in and with winter is a good thing

Posted on January 5, 2014. Filed under: cultural, personal |

1) Winter helps you learn how to appreciate the sun. I am in Mesa Arizona at the moment-writing this while lounging on a deck chair.
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We are the only ones at the pool because it is a wee bit cloudy and “only” about 19-20 degrees Celsius. I can appreciate this weather because I just saw THIS post on my friends Instagram. 20140105-015518.jpg

Awful right? I know I can only enjoy this warm weather for a few hours more before going back home to “freeze your skin in minutes” cold. Living in and with winter helps you appreciate the sun.
2) Winter teaches you to be a real neighbour and friend. Over Christmas I had the opportunity of hearing the too familiar sound of tires spinning outside the front window. Sure enough, there was a car stuck; it was trying to get around the corner and couldn’t make it through the fresh powder. It was almost like an internal switch went off in me as I ran to grab my coat, mitts, and boots and ran out to help push. Clearly I am not strong enough to push a car, but something about two extra hands gave that car a supernatural nudge and sure enough, victory was ours… That car was on its way. I barely said you’re welcome and was back in the house. I don’t even know that couple’s name, but yet we share a bond. In that moment, we were a team. We might as well have won an Olympic gold medal together the way we celebrated in that moment, but just as fast as it came, it left, as no one stays out in that dreadful cold longer than they have to. Ironically our enemy, old man winter, bonds us winter dwellers together for short, meaningful little relationships where we are one in purpose and mind fighting against his ugly forces. I bet every human who lives in, and with winter, has at least one story about one of these meaningful winter connections with a stranger.
Furthermore, the cold winter shows off other neighbour-like behaviours. We have a friend who kindly offered to shovel our driveway while we were away.20140105-020159.jpg

What a servant attitude you have to have to offer to do something like this! Lets be honest- no one LIKES bearing the wind and the cold to push a metal shovel full of heavy snow across a frozen concrete slab- only to have to do a series of high performance weight lifting sequences trying to get that snow above your head and onto the growing heap of snow piled high on your once green lawn. Anyone who does THAT for you is a true neighbour and friend. Those of of us who live in, and with winter, know how to be great neighbours and friends.
3) Winter allows you to understand “quiet” in a new way. After a fresh snowfall, the silence that blankets our Arctic tundra is calming. Apparently when snow falls, it traps little air pockets within its banks, and this acts as a sound absorber. I didn’t know this until I started teaching grade 2 and read it in one of our weather units! That explains the still, quiet sound that surrounds you when you walk outdoors after a snowfall. The sound of your voice and footsteps get swallowed up into the winter abyss. Winter allows us to know quiet.
4) Winter teaches your spirit to be thankful. I try to remind myself to be thankful day to day- but as our busy schedules swallow up our time, we forget to be thankful for what we have. Fortunately God gets more glory on the REALLY cold winter days as I can’t help but say a quick prayer of thanks every time I run into my house after having the -45 windchill beat my face. Winter causes us to be thankful.
5) Winter allows us to experience its magical beauty. I believe every person should try to have a ‘favourite’ in each of the 5 senses. Today I will share with you my favourite sight- sparkly snow. If you live in, and with winter, you will know what I mean when I say sparkly snow. It is the snow that dazzles your eyes like a million diamonds when you walk outside. It sparkles everywhere you look and reflects the moon into a kaleidoscope of light. Although summer sunsets and beaches are easy on the eyes, my favourite sight of all is sparkly snow. Winter allows us to take part in its deep magic.

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Are YOU thankful for living in, and with winter? What’s your reason?

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