Monday, November 18, 2013

Paradigm Shift

If we are to truly become 21st century educators, then we may need to surrender some of our archaic methods of instruction and meet today's 21st century student/learner in their experience.  For some, this will involve a paradigm shift not only in our thinking, but in our instructional practice as well.  I don't use the term archaic in a cutting or derogatory manner, but in its true sense of being historically outdated, not meeting the needs of today's experience.  I make that statement being an educator and citizen that has had a difficult time transitioning to the high technology lifestyle that is now our common experience.  I still carry a notepad and mechanical pencil in my handbag.  When a car rear ended me 5 years ago, I pulled out pencil and paper to start taking down the offender's information.  My then 11 year old suggested I take pictures with my phone.  This was a novel idea to me, but was perfectly normal and par for the course for my children growing up in this technologically advanced world.

It will take much effort on my part to fully embrace the meaning of and place of technology in today's classroom.  But I must be committed to this journey in order to ensure that I am truly providing a 21st century education to the wonderful children in my charge day after day.  I am ready.  iPads in our classrooms are just the beginning, and what an incredible resource they are.  Attending the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston this past week, enlightened my thinking and opened the floodgates to my better understanding why it is so important to see iPads as more than a sophisticated tool to use in place of pencils, papers and folders.  Yes, the iPad can be a valuable tool for teachers to gather information about our students and review and assess their progress.  We can create digital portfolios which children can carry with them always.  Students can master the numerous educational apps available, take photos and make iMovies.  But what has struck a chord with me is this idea that an iPad can take anyone, anywhere, global.  There is exposure to the greater world and connections are formed to our global family.  We have equal access to information as people around the world make their knowledge public via the World Wide Web.  Typing this phrase (www) just gave me a little chill as I finally grasp the magnitude of its meaning.  Where have I been all this time??

We have become a globally accessible community, and mobile devices have provided this accessibility at our very fingertips.  My students and I may never visit the first graders in a classroom in Peru, but we can read and write a book together using the apps Subtext and Book Creator.  When students are curious about something, instead of heading to the library to grab an encyclopedia, they are suggesting we "Google it."  Blogging and Twitter feeds reach thousands of people whose thoughts and ideas spark dialogues that lead to the sharing of even more thoughts and ideas.  We have access to people and information around the world!

The benefits from global sharing of ideas and knowledge are too numerous to list.  If our goal as educators is to help our 21st century students become thirsty learners, critical thinkers and globally connected citizens, why then would we not shift our curricula and instructional methods into the 21st century as well?  Just a thought...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sharing Personal Narratives with iMovie


My class is so lucky to have 1-1 iPads.  Too bad the students aren't in the hands of a teacher who is proficient at integrating them into our daily classroom life!  It's true - I have a lot to learn.  BUT I am motivated and I'm always looking for ways to improve.

I'm committed to trying to find new ways to use the iPads.  My first strategy was to implement Tech Tuesdays.  Students are invited to come in during lunch recess on Tuesday for app discovery.  Together we explore and learn about the apps already loaded on their iPads.  We can explore and learn together.  The best part, however,  is that they become digital leaders in the class! It's a win-win!

On our first Tech Tuesday I asked the small handful of students who arrived to explore iMovie.  We were just about to finish publishing our personal narratives using Google Docs. The kids really wanted to share their stories with each other using QR Codes. I decided to add in the  iMovie presentation.  Using iMovie allows the students to show the documentation of all their work that went into the final draft of their narrative.  
Here's how I went about the project.

Step 1: Document their work 
The students took pictures of the work they did in their reading journal, their drafts, etc. to share their process.

Step 2: Record voice
Thankfully the noise canceling headphones made this a much easier task.  This was harder than it was supposed to be for some kids.  I had to work with them on not feeling the need to hold the iPad and their narrative in their hands as they read aloud.  Once they felt comfortable leaving the iPad on a flat surface and not looking at while they read, the process got a lot easier.

Step 3: Edit photos
One thing we had to manage was the "Ken Burns Effect". It is possible to turn this effect off on a laptop/desktop computer, but on the iPad you can't turn it off. So, you have to manage it for each picture.   It took us some time to figure this out. The apple website was incredibly helpful.  

Step 4: Insert titles on photos
This is was a cool step. The students were able to put a title on each picture noting what part of the process was being shown.  So, they labeled pictures with "pre-writing" or "draft" or "revising".  

Step 5: Upload to school's YouTube site
This was new to me and took many trips to the school tech team. Now that I have done it once, the next time will be a LOT easier.

Sample iMovie Narrative

Step 6: Share URL's on class webpage
For this I just copied and pasted the YouTube Url onto our class webpage. This allows all the students and parents to each other's iMovie presentations.

Step 7: Print QR codes for students to display on bulletin board.
Athough I think the kids could do this on the iPads, I ran out of time for completing this, so I just did this task myself. I used the website Super easy but it did take a little time.

The kids did an amazing job and took the task seriously.  The number one blessing for this project was the delivery of noise-cancelling headphones for each child.  The headphones have a microphone which really helps manage the noise level with all the kids working at the same time.  

Things I have learned for next time:
1) After the students take pictures, go back into "Photos" and edit BEFORE inserting them into iMovie.  This was particularly important when a picture needed to be rotated.
2) It was easier for the students to record their whole paper in one sitting.  Some students broke up their recording into parts but most found that challenging.
3) Make sure the students don't have their last names anywhere in the story to protect privacy when published on YouTube.

Next steps:
1) organize their photos into albums so that they don't' have to spend so much time scrolling to find what they need.
This is a pretty easy process on the iPad and so necessary if they kids are taking lots of pictures. I think it will save considerable amounts of time when they are trying to sort through all the pictures they have taken with their iPad.

Although I found this project valuable, I am now thinking of different ways to make their thinking and writing process visible. I'm reading a book called Making Thinking Visible (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison) as part of Professional Learning Community at my new school.   On page 39, the authors state, "Documentation of students' thinking serves another important purpose in that it provides a stage from which both teachers and students may observe the learning process, make note of the strategies being used, and comment on the developing understanding.   ….documentation demystifies the learning process both for the individual as well as the group, building great meta cognitive awareness in the process."  

Documenting their writing process is a good step. But truly, to make the thinking visible, the students need to share what they did and how it helped them move through the writing process.  If we did this process again, I would have the students record what they were doing and why for each piece of documentation.  After sharing their process, they could add on a reading of their narrative.  

Carrie Strine
Sidwell Friends School
Grade 4 Teacher