Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye, 2012

The last day of 2012 and besides my two computer technicians and me, there are few people working in the district. We love days like this, though. We get so much done! Justin and Jorge have finished reconfiguring all the middle school laptops so that they will log into the network faster, and they have have swapped out the batteries in the UPS that keeps the middle school network up in the event of a power outage. In addition, they've worked hard to resolve and close trouble tickets.

Me? I've spent every spare minute the past couple of weeks preparing for our EdTech day for teachers that is scheduled for January 21. The plan is to work collaboratively in PLCs and online in the morning and then to work collaboratively across building lines in the afternoon with facilitators and other teachers who want to implement similar technology integration in their classrooms. The focus is ultimately completely student based. "What will students do with technology to further their learning of the curriculum? is the guiding question. On the other hand, teachers will have the time to explore the available technologies to choose what will work the best in their classrooms. The hope is that the guided practice and modeling will give teachers the confidence to take the necessary steps to student independence. This is the second EdTech Day for the school year and the third full day in the past calendar year, so teachers are refining, expanding, and adding to student technology use for learning in the classroom.

It's been a great year EdTech-wise in the Storm Lake Community School District. We've added lots of equipment, but more importantly, we've expanded what students do with the technology, and that afterall, is what's really important.

Here's to 2013. What awaits us for learning in the new year?!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Technology in Classrooms

My greatest pleasure on the job is hearing from teachers about the work they have students doing in their classrooms with technology. It is gratifying to know that as a district we have made the move from "teaching technology" to "learning with technology." With approximately thirty labs of computers for student use, as well as many individual computers for students to use, technology is a regular part of our classrooms. We are asking students to research, to create, to solve problems, and to collaborate with others. Rather than focus on the acquisition of the latest technology toy, we focus on what we want to students to do, and then we decide what best works for that. Usually it's something we already have right here in the district, although often we determine we need more of what we already have!

Here are some examples of what our students are doing right now:
  1. Mrs. Warkentin's and Mrs. Jacobsons's third graders are creating Google Presentations about different Native American tribes. They are comparing and contrasting "types of clothing, hunting methods, food they ate, the location of the tribes...affected their way of living." This has been a cooperative learning activity as the students have all worked in pairs.
  2. Mr. Baker's fourth graders are studying immigration. Their project is to do "family history interviews," tying their knowledge of immigration to their own families' experiences.
  3. Mrs. Huntress' third grade students continue to blog. Recently, they have been blogging about Native American tribes, both current ones and those from the past, allowing comparing and contrasting. From this study, the students have written about the needs of Native American communities today, and they have collaborated with a classroom in Okoboji to get input on their writing from students from outside the district. They even Skyped with a Lakota reservation school.
  4. Kindergarten classrooms continue their collaboration with schools outside the country, including Canada and Japan, among others. They've created classroom presentations to share. They've recorded introductions about themselves to share. And, they've Skyped with students in other classes. What a great way for our little ones to think about culture!
  5. Mrs. Tucker's seventh graders are writing their own music compositions.
  6. Mrs. Cole's students are creating book trailers that are available on the SLCSD YouTube channel. You will also see video projects from other district classes on our YouTube channel.
  7. Mrs. Hixon's seventh grade science students are "researching environmental problems...such as habitat loss, endangered animals, and global warming." They are taking the next step, though, and they are using technology to "create awareness of the problem and/or to provide a solution to the problem." They are creating and publishing "websites, PowerPoints, and make the public aware of what they can do to help."
  8. Mrs. Green's high school English Language Learners are creating "web-based portfolios" that can be used not only for assessment but also "as a tool for future job or college applications." The students are using Google Apps as the place to work on their projects, because they can collaborate there and get almost instantaneous feedback.
  9. The high school geometry classes taught by Mr. Grant are using software called Geometer's Sketchpad for "hands on demonstration to help visualize different parts of a triangle."
  10. Mrs. Vieira has her high school Spanish students blogging, researching poets and creating presentations in Voicethread, using Google Docs to share vocabulary in sentences for immediate feedback, and accessing Spanish resources to increase their Spanish skills. In addition, the Spanish 3 class collaborates with three other Iowa schools regularly for learning.
  11. Mrs. Mouw's Accelerated English students are doing a research project about cultural history, that makes extensive use of technology. They have "researched, questioned, created, written, revised, problem-solved, collaborated, and exercised their inventive individuality in how they are choosing to fulfill the assignment's requirements." I've seen the assignment, and it is authentic, cross-curricular, collaborative, and demanding. Combining family history with research, history, literature, creative writing, reflection, and collaboration is enhanced enormously with technology.
Realize this is just some of the learning that is going on in the district this very day using educational technology.  It's becoming the way we do business here in the Storm Lake Community Schools, and that is a very good thing!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Attend EdCamp Iowa

Attend EdCamp Iowa

This is your chance to collaborate with and learn from others in Iowa who are interested in improving education for Iowa students. Teachers, administrators, students, parents, interested community members. Come one, come all!

You really must reserve Saturday, February 16, 2013, for this event: