Beyond Classroom Tech Tips…

May 30, 2008

The potential folly of laptop programs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 9:51 pm

Next year our school division plans to implement a laptop program – nowhere near a 1:1 but we are putting a 15 – 20 set of laptops in each school in the division that wishes to participate in the program. I must admit that I approach this project with some trepidation. Are our teachers ready? Will the laptops be used for authentic, meaningful learning or will they simply be used to do old things in new ways? Have we provided opportunities for professional development that will ensure the technology is used to meet our students’ 21st Century learning needs?

Clay Burrell’s post, An Old Prophecy Confirmed? On the Uses and Abuses of Laptop Learning echoed some of my concerns as he quoted from a student post that speaks to the ‘coolness’ factor of their school’s 1:1 laptop program.

I’ve had too many teachers assign us to “make an iMovie” for this and that. I had to make an iMovie for my World Geography class and Asian Studies class. I was surprised when even my Spanish teacher told me to make an iMovie. It is obvious [our school] is trying too hard…to look cool.

The student goes on to describe a class where he feels the laptop has been used for real learning:

We use our MacBooks to interact with people from all over the world, and learn how to write for [a] true audience. Not just that, we learn how to accomplish stuff through networking and meeting new cool people.

While the MacBooks in the Writing Seminar classroom are shining, the other MacBooks in other classrooms are crying. They say, “what the hell am I doing here?”

Clay’s final comments on his student’s post are well worth keeping in mind as we begin our foray into student laptop computing:

Younsuk’s mention that Macbooks help learning by allowing students to connect and network with the world is something no teacher or administrator is going to understand without doing it. It’s 20th century education with a shiny bell and whistle otherwise. Just a new way to turn in homework. The immigrants in power will think it’s cutting edge, but the students will think otherwise.

It is so important that teachers understand that student use of laptops is about connecting, communicating, collaborating and creating. And yes, I do believe that in our school division we are moving in such a direction.

We are definitely more ready than we would have been a year ago for this student laptop initiative. I work with an excellent team of teachers who go way beyond providing ‘sit and get’ professional development for their teachers – hands-on, one-to-one, just-in-time, mentoring, and meaningful staff collaboration and other forms of ‘differentiated instruction’ will help our teachers ensure that we just don’t look cool but are providing meaningful learning opportunities for their students.

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May 9, 2008

Blogging and Reading Comprehension Strategies

Filed under: blogging — Donna DesRoches @ 9:10 pm
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In a WizIQ seminar a conversation about blog comments recently took place with several teachers in my school division and Kelly Christopherson. Teachers said comments that indicated an understanding of their key ideas, provided a quality critique, or shared a similar learning or action extended their own understanding and learning.

Many students within our school division are now blogging as part of their daily classroom activities. As teachers have become more comfortable with the online writing format they want to extend the audience and the conversations for their students first by encouraging them to comment on classmates’ writing and then by finding other classrooms that their students can connect, write and share their learning.

While they recognize the value that commenting brings to the blogging process many teachers struggle to explain and teach students how to make meaningful comments on others’ writing.

An ahah moment occurred one day when I was working in a teacher’s classroom and saw a number of posters on Reading Comprehension Strategies on her wall. I then had a conversation with the Language and Literacy Consultant who also became quite excited at how reading and commenting on the blog posts of their peers could enhance student utilization of the reading comprehension strategies. She suggested that teachers could help primary and early bloggers use the reading comprehension strategies by choosing one strategy and having the whole class use that strategy to comment on their classmates’ posts.

Having students use the reading comprehension strategies to comment helps them to avoid words like nice, good and interesting in their comments.

Students, especially primary and students new to blogging can use sentence frames to…

Make Connections – e.g. after reading a blog about a puppy students use a sentence starter “this reminds me of when my puppy did….”

Question – asking questions that use starters such as, “I didn’t understand this…” “I wonder what…”

Other reading comprehension strategies can be used to respond to student blog posts:

Visualization – if an entry supports visualization – have the student draw a picture and then describe it.

Infer – (for older students) – look for inferences that the writer makes – e.g. if the blogger writes with passion – comment on the evidence that allows them to make the inference or “I see that you have lots of knowledge about this topic” and again provide the evidence.

Synthesize – paraphrase – transfer the statement from the blog into their world – “what you said makes me think about this idea in my world – how this applies to me”.

Blogging is a great communication tool but it is the use of effective commenting skills that will extend and engage global conversations for our students.

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