Jump into the 21st Century

If you're ready to dip your toe into the pool of 21st Century technology tools but don't know the difference between a wiki and a weblog, Will Richardson's book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms is for you!

We have just entered this pool ourselves at my school, but it is an exciting endeavor. The best way to get up to date with the latest happenings on the web with instructional technology is to read edublogs (educator blogs). Here are some places to visit on the blogosphere as recommended by Will:
Alan Levine
Barbara Ganley
Anne Davis
David Warlick
James Farmer
Stephen Downes
Tim Lauer
Tim Wilson
Tom Hoffman
Ken Smith
Jenny Levine
Konrad Glogowski
Clarence Fisher
If you want to see who I recommend, see my blogroll on the lower right hand column on this blog.

When I first started trying to keep up with reading blogs I was clicking back and forth checking every blog for new posts. Thankfully, I discovered Google Reader, which shows you only the unread posts when you log in so you will always be current. Give it a try!


Needed: Grammar 2.0

When I was in elementary school I LOVED the first day of school. Getting to wear a new outfit, carrying a new lunchbox, sitting down in a desk with a beautiful new nametag and a stack of textbooks I couldn't wait to get my hands on! I imagine life was much easier for teachers back then. They knew exactly what they would teach and in what order. But...it was also much easier for advanced students (= boredom) and probably much harder for struggling students because there was no individualized teaching. Thank goodness we have come so far! Using the Readers' and Writers' workshop model I know I am teaching pertinent grade level content and strategies, but providing just as much time for small group work at each students' functioning level.

The sticking point for instruction now still seems to be English or Language Skills. There is so much research, writing and professional development done for Reading and Writing...I don't really understand why there is such a big void in the area of grammar. I did find one book of value last year, Mechanically Inclined, but that is it! EVERY year I have teachers come to me as a coach and say, "How do I teach the Language skills my students need and what materials do I use?" Everyone seems to love using Daily Oral Language because it is easy and it is quick. When did that become a valid criteria for effective instruction? Don't get me wrong...I'm the last one to throw stones...I've done things for the sake of quick and easy over the years - but I'd like to think it was because I didn't know what else would work better. I think that is exactly where we are at right now.

I don't know if this is nationwide problem - how to teach language authentically - or just a rut we are in here. I don't know if grammar, language skills are even taught in other countries. Do you???? I would really like to find a way to use blogging to teach these skills...


Mosaic of Thought

I normally label professional books into two categories: books I will shelf and books I will use. At dayle's suggestion, I began my current read, Mosaic of Thought - The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction. This will definitely be a book I use...for validation of my practice and instruction for those I coach.

This book begins in an interesting way. Ellin Keene talks about using her own reading habits to determine skills that good readers need in order to comprehend what they are reading. It sounds simple, doesn't it? Demonstrating for students those invisible processes they should be using while reading and then providing them opportunity to use those strategies as often as possible. However, I remember making that transition myself several years ago and wondering how I could design lessons if they weren't in the teacher's guide. I mean...being a good reader doesn't mean I know exactly what I'm doing when I read. It took a lot of reflection!

Many of the teaching materials chosen for schools are research-based to support literacy development. Ellin Keene reminds us they can "limit teachers' decision making about their students." We want to create readers, not students who can only "read".

As I peek ahead in Mosaic I can tell I have some deep reading ahead, so I'm signing off to dig in!


Summer Fun...Not!

Everytime I sit down at the computer I am so frustrated! Of course, as usual, I have done it to myself. I decided I would spend time this summer learning how to use computer programs I know nothing about in Adobe Creative Suite 3. Normally I'm a self-taught kind of gal. I fiddle around with something until I learn it. This thing is more than an easy fiddle.

I'm also normally really good at problem solving. In this case, I have purchased self-help books and am doing an online tutorial. It is just too slow paced for me and is REALLY trying my patience. I mean, could they possibly find more boring people to be the voices in those tutorials! I haven't given up, but would love suggestions if you have any... Take pity on me!


School 2.0 in 2007-08

Right now, technology is the roadmap that guides my passion for learning and teaching. When I want to know about something I don't understand, learn new things or read...I jump on my computer. The immediacy of having a computer nearby at all times makes it possible for me to verify, learn and explore whenever I want to. I am also able to communicate with colleagues on the other side of the building or ...the world! It is absolutely thrilling to me.

I know that the things I am just learning about now: blogging, wikis, podcasting, etc. will be important components of the successful futures of my students. It is exciting to me that by simply having internet access any teacher can put these tools at their students' fingertips.

My school district is on the precipice of moving from "School 1.0" to "School 2.0". It is an energizing time for me. (I really need to lay off the caffeine.) I have always felt limited in my ability to prepare my students for the technological future because of lack of proper computer hardware, software, etc. That has all changed - thank goodness!! For a quick lesson on the difference between School 1.0 vs. School 2.0 watch Simon's video from TeacherTube:

The biggest stumbling block during this transition will be firewalls and security features on our school servers. I appreciate that these things are in place to protect our kids from the dangers that can be lurking on the internet. I was one of those parents that refused to sign the internet usage permission slip eight years ago because I was so afraid of what might happen --so I really do get it. BUT I hope that we will be able to move through this process quickly and safely. I would love to hear how other districts have handled this issue in order to educate our 21st century learners.