Sunday, December 7, 2014

Technology and Teaching

     I  have learned from my Technology class news ways to learn about things.  I have always learned through workshops and lectures given in my district, rarely (besides my college classes) have I bothered to learn anything on my own for teaching.  I have discovered and it is amazing.  I can type in a topic, such as coding (that is so foreign to me) and learn about it from Mitch Resnick in his "Let's Teach Kids to Code" talk Jan. 2013.  I found him very interesting and he made coding seem doable to me.  Hearing him speak and feeling his passion inspired me to find out more about this topic, rarely does that happen at a workshop at school.  I learned about kids being "fluent with new technology" and how important it is for them to learn.  Technology gave me the ability to see and hear him on-line, it was awesome and I learned!
     Another way I have used technology more this fall was that I signed up to receive e-mails linked to articles from Education Week and ASCD.  To my surprise I have read a lot of the articles that keep me up to date with others educators who teach my grade level.  Not only are there articles but webinars as well.  I watched one in October called "Building Ed-Tech Strategies for the Pre-K-5 crowd.  It was cool to watch and learn from others, especially in an area I am weak in.  A few of the articles I read were about: common-core tests, STEM & Art and Kindergartners Benefit "Tools of the Mind".  I never would have read these articles in a magazine but they were e-mailed and right on my computer-easy to read!
     I tried Twitter but was comfortable using it.  I have gotten into the habit of writing down names of people I hear that are associated with a certain subject to google or follow their blog if they have one.
An example of a person blog's I have been reading is:  She writes about early childhood and technology, which is an interest of mine.
     I use to be afraid of technology but I have learned that the only way to learn technology is to use it!  The ability to learn from others on the computer is new to me.  This spring I will be taking a semester off due money issues (2 kids in college).  I will use the computer to keep on learning, webinars, going to and learning how to use ScratchJr. in my KDG is my goal!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Coding in Kindergarten???

     I have always been intimidated by computers.  It wasn't until I returned to college to pursue my masters in Special Education that I began to truly use the computer for something other than e-mail or shopping.  A few weeks ago in my Adaptive Tech Students with Disabilities class I first learned of coding.  In the past I would immediately block out that this would be of any use to me, as it involved the computer and I teach kindergarten, way to hard for them I thought.  Also I have very little self confidence in my computer skills. But during a free work time in that class I Googled it and much to my surprise the program interested me. The name of the program is Scratch Jr. and it is inspired by the the popular Scratch programming language.  ScratchJr is n FREE basic computer coding app for children 5 to 7 years.  Children do not even have to read to use this app. The program allows the children to snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters and other elements in their project: move, jump, talk and change size.  They can even add their own voices, sounds and photos. What this app does is encourage students to explore and figure out solutions to problems and be creative!  It is teaching problem-solving, perfect for kindergarten!!  
     I continued to read about it before downloading it to learn myself.  The article that made me realize I wanted to have it and learn, was by Laura Devaney-"Coding with the Kindergarten Crowd" on  Ms. Devaney wrote about how this program is aligned to younger students developmental stages. She spoke about how many technologies are "digital playpens" that are safe, narrow and adult directed, there is little room for creativity or allowing the child to discover.  ScratchJr. (coding) is a "digital playground" where students are the creators of their digital playground.  Coding allows the student to explore and make mistakes, it creates an opportunity for learning!  I love this concept as a teacher.  Students, even at this very young age are starting to think like engineers:  ask-imagine-plan-create-test-improve-share, the article states.
      This article made me rethink about how I am intimidated by the computer and how my fears have held me back from learning.  I do not want to pass that on to my students, I realized I must change the way I teach, so that they can learn what they need for their future to succeed.  This January I will be introducing the ScratchJr program to my class and yes, I will be making mistakes and learning right along with my students!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

iPads and Kindergarten

       There are 20 brand new iPads in my Kindergarten class that I share with 3 other kindergarten classes.  The teachers were given the ipads but no direction or curriculum to use with them. As of today the iPads have been used 3 times.  I could go into a long blog complaining about the district and the administrators but I hate when teachers di that in the staff room so I won't do that here. Another teacher and I have been researching how to use them with our class, which is truly a learning experience as I am new to iPads myself and feel that I am learning along with my students.  I googled iPads and kindergarten and found a great video/article by Krsiti Meeuwse and the benefits of iPads.  She too was given an iPads for her class with no direction and loves them.  She talked about iBooks Author, which is a free download for your MAC and perfect for kindergarten age.  The app is used to create books by the children on the iPad, they are interactive, fun to make and involve the children in the creation.  She then uses the books the class creates to help teach reading, she takes the same story and creates different levels for the children to read. For the best 2 years she has 100% of her class going into 1st grade at above grade level, as opposed to the 35% the past few years.  Ms. Meeuwse credits the ibooks Author for this positive impact.  She also states how the standards are being met by creating the books.  I liked how she said to start simple with the books,, play around and explore, as well as let the students help teach with the iPads.  I am still struggling with suing technology in my class but I am inspired when I hear of stories like Ms. Meeuwse and the success she has had with iPads.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wooden Blocks and Computer Games

     I attended a Reggio Emilia class at Bank Street College a few years ago and what impressed me (beside her philosophy) was the class visit to City & Country School in NYC.  This school was founder by Caroline Pratt who believed that play is a child's natural and most meaningful way of learning.  She rejected the idea of a fixed curriculum and let the children freely choose their play projects.  Ms Pratt is the inventor on unit blocks (handmade wooden blocks) that are found in almost every pre-school and kindergarten classroom.  Through the use of collaboration/problem based learning she felt children would work together as a group to solve a problem.  The materials used at the school are very basic starting with blocks-paper-crayons and clay.  Ms. Pratt knew that social interaction was important to learning and understanding the world.  The importance was placed on the group working together, this reminded me of what Prof. K was talking about in class last night and the group of gamers that worked together to solve a problem, as well as the article "Life in the Silo".  The article spoke of how knowledge is composed among and between people.  How much we can retrieve from our head is nothing compared to when we can share the knowledge.  The computer makes the ability to share this information mind boggling, yet most classrooms do not take advantage of this opportunity.  I feel blocks and the computer share the idea of working together o solve a problem, a skill needed for real  life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Helping Ourselves & Other Teachers w/ Tech.

      Just say the word computer to me and my body starts to stiffen up.  Technology use to intimadate me as I was clueless how to use it in my classroom with my students, but I have learned that I needed to have knowledge about it before I could use it in my lessons.  I have to keep learning with my students, different topics but still learning.  I know many teachers who felt (and still feel) this why about technology, it's too scary or we never needed it before to teach. The following article I read on-line would be perfect for teachers nervous about technology. The article  by Jeannie Magiera(I recognized her name from my class' threaded discussion),  was short and simple called: "Fighting Teacher Isolation with Technology". This article describes how technology can help teachers learn from other teachers, all over the globe.
     We encourage our students to learn from each other, here are 4 ways that teachers can learn from each other.  Twitter gives information in bite-sized pieces and can be used to learn more information about a certain subject, #iPadsED. was given as an example.  Need to talk to others about your kindergarten class, Mondays at 8:00pm ET at #KinderChat there is a discussion.  The second way was Google Hangouts which is a video-conferencing platform to discuss certain topics.  The third use of technology was Pinterest, which Jeannie said was "visiting" other classrooms to get ideas.  The fourth use was CTQ Collaboratory (Center for Teaching Quality's Collaboratory)- a virtual community for educators to share and learn from one another.
     I plan on leaving copies of this article in the teacher's room as I feel it shares a lot of helpful information about technology in a user friendly way. I like how the article was built on the idea of teachers helping each other through technology.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Assessing Kindergarteners

Assessment time in kindergarten is a stressful time!  My district is piloting a new assessment program for KDG, GOLD assessment program.  It involves a lot of training and technology and time!  Most of the time there are glitches in our i-pads and smart boards that cause the assessments and teaching to be put on hold. Students are left in their centers to play while how to do the assessments are figured out.   I see that while trying to get the technology to "work" the class is not being taught or assessed for much of the time.  I read an article called "Joyful Learning and Assessment in Kindergarten ( the link is below) and it restored my faith in how assessments and teaching can happen at the same time.  The used the example of AB patterning and how to use teaching and learning as a way to assess, the students learn and the teachers are observing and adjusting their teaching as needed. The pressure with the new assessment being used in my class is that we as teachers must cover every area listed, another check list in the classroom to do. Assessments I feel are really to be used to help the educational decision making in the class about what needs to be taught.  Much time is spent getting the right video on the i-pad and we are missing that "Jacob" can't write his name or the letter "J", yet I spend 20 minutes outside getting pictures of them being social.  Yes it does feel like "teaching to the test" even at this young age.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Child's World

The book I would recommend for all teachers to read is "The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida.  It is a great book of how an autistic child sees the world and how the live in it.  This book made me realize how hard it must be for any child who is different or that has a disability, to "fit in" with our world.  Imagine if we had to fit into their world.