Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Partnership for 21st Century Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century (P21) is an organization that is working with other companies to put together a plan to better prepare students with what they consider 21st century skills. They believe these skills are essential for students to be ready for the future workforce. Their web site provides some tools and resources for educators to use to integrate more technology into the classroom. They encourage teachers to infuse the 3 R’s with their 4C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity). P21 has built partnerships with educators, businesses, and community and government leaders in an attempt to get the information out there for educators to use to improve classroom instruction.
What amazes me about this site are the numerous companies that have joined in the partnership for the education of American students; Dell, Apple, Microsoft, LEGO and even Walt Disney have had input into what they believe is crucial for students to be able to do by the time they graduate from high school. They believe educators need to integrate these “new” skills into the core curriculum. The part I found most useful as an educator are the 21st century skills maps for the content areas. It gives the standard and an idea of how to incorporate these standards into each subject area. I plan to use these as I attempt to include more of the 4 C’s into my curriculum.
In looking at the standards P21 discusses blending into the curriculum, I believe it will lead to more rigorous and higher order thinking lessons. Students will be more engaged and will create more individual projects that demonstrate their understanding of the content using more technology and other innovative methods. Integrating these standards into the curriculum will take time, training and money. Only a handful of states have bought into the program. I am surprised not to see my state. Hopefully as its program expands it will span the entire country so that we will see it across the board, even in our state assessments. If the world is really changing at the rapid rate I keep reading about, then we must change the way we are educating our students if we are expecting them to succeed as adults. This partnership is working to get America there.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Using Blogs in the Classroom

I have used blogs in the past but after reading how several teachers have used blogs in their classroom I realize I have not used it to its full potential. I have used blogs occasionally to have students respond to a question or activity they participated in but their responses were short and not well thought through. Seeing how it can be used more effectively has made me reconsider how I might use it next year in my class.

I like to do a lot of novel studies in my fourth grade reading class. Students often create small journals where they respond to various questions throughout their reading. Next year I believe I could use blogging as a way for students to respond to their reading. Posting a general question each week (or every couple of days) for them to respond to will allow them time to reflect on their learning. Questions like: how is plot helping to develop the character? Or how does the author’s writing style affect the tone of the story? The questions will require them to think about their response and will not be just an answer they can pick out from the reading. What I like to most about blogging is the idea that they can read each other’s posts and also respond. Once they realize that others will be reading their responses they will put more thought into their writing and become more critical thinkers. This not only will improve their reading skills but also their writing abilities. I know students love to use the computer and I believe they will enjoy this. The biggest problem I see with using blogging is getting all students to the computer. We have a computer lab which I can sign up to use but the time will be limited. My idea is to have the students prewrite and edit their response before going to the lab or allowing class time for small groups to respond each day (I do have four computers in my classroom). Either way I want my students to be exposed to blogging and see the true nature it is meant for. I intend for them to become more aware of their writing and become responsible learners.

One other way I may use blogging in my classroom is through my math class. I love to present students with challenging word problems (you know the ones that have multiple steps to solve). I will post a word problem on Monday morning and the students have all week to work on it and submit their responses. The key is when they submit their answer they must be able to explain and/or show how they arrived at their answer. I realize they can read other students’ blogs and figure out how to solve it, but I believe when they have to write their response they will soon realize they must figure it out. It is okay if they use someone else’s reply to help them understand how to work through the problem because it will be just like a peer tutor, and they generally enjoy that! Blogging will allow them time to see multiple ways to solve a problem and also give everyone a chance to participate.  I believe my students next year are going to enjoy blogging and I am going to use it to increase their level of learning.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Begining Post

I am working with my first public blog for my Master’s class in Integrating Technology in the Classroom through Walden University. I have posted blogs for students on my classroom page where they respond to questions about what we are doing in the classroom. Through this blog I plan to share what I am learning, my feelings about technology in the classroom and hope you can share any insights, opinions or links that may help me as I learn how to improve my teaching strategies.
Many students enter their classrooms with more knowledge about modern technology than their teachers. I have had students ask me about using various websites, programs and other devices within classroom instruction. Unfortunately there have been times I had to tell them I did not know about it and have them share their knowledge with me. They became my teacher. To some this is embarrassing but it should be an eye opener to our education department. They are working to improve the situation within schools but it is a slow process due to the lack of funding. The Smart board is an ingenious tool for a teacher with limitless possibilities. Every classroom in my school received one this year. Many of the teachers at first could only use it to show videos, slideshows, or as a regular white board. They were limited in their knowledge of interactive lessons. The district then integrated short mini-lessons within the school day (during our planning period) once a month with our technology specialist to train them in Web 2.0 activities they can integrate into their lessons. This has been a huge step in the right direction. Incorporating technology into lesson plans motivates students and reduces behavior issues. Schools are gradually migrating toward more integration and attempting to get the tools in the hands of teachers. This is not going to happen overnight, but with people truly dedicated to the cause it can happen.
I am researching and exploring new technologies while on summer break so that I can pick a few to learn to use well and include in my instruction next year. I would like to share a website I found that has numerous interactive websites available for multiple grade levels. I found it on Kathy Schrock’s web page when doing some personal research. Hopefully you will find it useful in your classroom. ( I am also looking for grants to apply for to be able to aid in purchasing some various technology devices for my classroom. If you have any suggestions, please share them with me. I eagerly want to learn how to use some of the new technologies I am learning about within my classroom instruction. Let’s tackle this issue together!