Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wicked Problem D

My wicked problem was two parts.  The first part was that the children were not fully accountable for their technology learning.  The second problem was that we did not have adequate technology resources at my school.  Originally I thought that these were two separate problems.  But the more time I spend analyzing this project, I realize that they are fully intertwined.  The children were unable to feel fully accountable because of the lack of technology.  So the success of this project was fully dependent on how much technology the children were able to use. 

The project was fully implemented.  I made some modifications during the planning process, as I realized that Skype really wouldn’t work.  First graders do best with smaller, easier to manage projects, such as a video.  So I decided to switch it.  This was easy, since I had recently acquired an Easi-Speak and with use of my digital camera, the kids became mostly accountable.  This is what I would consider my summative assessment data.  The kids used an Easi-Speak.  They used the digital camera.  When we ran out of time thanks to our snow days, the kids used the internet to come up with pictures of our community.  Right there are three technologies used by the kids.

When I complete another project similar to this, I would first check the weather.  The snow days definitely messed up my plan!  I would keep the video portion similar.  What I have learned about Wicked Problems, specifically to technology, is that you have to use what you have!  There is no sense in moping around because you don’t have the latest piece of new, expensive, instructional technology.  The technologies we used were simple and cheap.  A digital camera is something that is easily accessible; old, used ones could even be donated to the school.  I used the Easi-Speak and it was fantastically easy.  It cost about $50 out of my pocket, but I bought it before the project for other purposes.  When it comes to technology, as Tim Gunn from Project Runway would say, “Make it work people!” 

I now know that I have to consider the implications of the project.  I thought that the brainstorming, writing, editing, recording, and photographing was the entire project.  But I didn’t plan for the events that might come as a result.  We just watched the North Carolina video today.  My students were stunned!  I feel like I do a great job with the resources I have in my classroom (and by resources, I mean four computers!).   But when the video started, we were introduced to center time.  My kids said, “We have centers too!”  But then they zoomed in on these children using an assortment of tablets.  Minutes later, the kids saw a math center which featured a few iPads.  Moments later, we saw where the COW’s (computers on wheels) were stored.  This was in addition to what appeared to be a SmartBoard and multiple classroom computers.  By this point my students had their jaws hitting the tables.  When the video stopped, my students were mad.  “Mrs. Plank, why can’t we have that?”  Or, “Mrs. Plank, will you buy use iPads?”  Sure kids, forget my mortgage payment for this month.  

I have immediately thrown out my plans for the next week.  We are going to focus on the Social Studies standards for, “Writing about a public issue.”  The kids are going to spend the next week discussing differences in school policies (in a kid appropriate way).  They will then gather data and work to develop opinion pieces.  Now will next year’s class have the same response?  Maybe not.  But something meaningful, such as this project, is very likely to develop some other sort of project.  If the kids are motivated by what they are doing, they will want to learn more.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wicked Project Part C


For those who are new to my blog, for one of my grad school courses we were asked to think of a wicked problem we face in our work.  As the degree program is Educational Technology, I decided to focus my problem toward that.  Every time I have ever utilized technology in my class, the kids aren’t really accountable for their work.  For example, when we created our first digital story in the fall, the kids couldn’t use the online program Little Bird Tales.  They could write and edit their story.  But, it was my responsibility to pull the kids into the hallway to record their voices.  I also had to take pictures of their to upload.  Once I had everything uploaded, I had to put it together.  As you can see, they really didn’t do much with the digital story other than write it.  I wanted the kids to complete a project based lesson that was all written by and written for kids.  I also needed to consider technologies that I could use, as my school doesn’t have much.    The original plan was to have the children work on a whole class project informing another class all about our school.  The other class would work similarly and we would Skype all of our findings. 


The entire plan for the Wicked Project was to make the lesson as kid friendly as possible, in order to minimize adult work.  If you have never taught first grade, the thing about I will tell you is that structure is incredibly important.  They also seem to work better with little mini-projects, rather than huge concepts.  The intent of the original project was to use Skype to share a project based lesson.  We continued use of the project based lesson.  However, we modified it.  One huge project was too much.  Six year olds have difficulty following more than two steps at the same time, let alone several.  The more I structured and planned for this lesson, I didn’t see how the big project idea would work.  The first thing I replaced was Skype.  We still plan on using Skype, but as an end of the unit visit, in which the kids can ask any remaining questions.  It was an issue with structure:  how do we structure something as live and open as Skype, while presenting a project?  This starts the modifications we had to make.  First, I took the “Big Project” and broke it down into little parts.  For example, day one we focused on introductions and places in the school.  The kids came up with a list of places.  It was still project based, as the students went into groups and developed a script to say.  They also edited their work, recorded their pieces with the Easi-Speak Recorder, and went around the school to document their assigned area with a digital camera.  I know that a part of my wicked problem was making the students accountable for their technology work.  But, I decided it was okay, as the teacher of novice technology users, to do a little work as long as the students do most of it.  They made the script.  They edited.  They recorded.  They took pictures.  I didn’t do any of it.  My only responsibility was to pull the files and put them into iMovie.  In fact, when my husband was watching the video he asked, “Did you tell them to say that?”  Everything they did and said was completely planned by the kids.  With that in mind, I really didn’t do much and spent little time putting it together.

Unexpected bumps in the road

I feel as though we would’ve had many more bumps in the road if I didn’t review and modify the structure I spoke about before.  As I said, when I was doing my plans for the week, I couldn’t work out the ideas logistically.  But, there were several other bumps.  Our Wicked Projects had two weeks for implementation.  The first week fell on the week of Valentine’s Day, Hundred’s Day, a visit from the dentist, and a snow day.  So, the first week wasn’t a choice.  The second week wasn’t as stressful.  It was a four-day week with teacher inservice on Friday.  If working during the writing block every day, the students would have four days to complete the project.  But, Mother Nature had other plans.  We had an ice-day on Tuesday.  Although things had to be rushed to meet my February 24 deadline, I still believe that things turned out great. 


In my classroom, we really haven’t done too many projects, especially ones that last several days.  I’m not sure if it was the project based learning that made my students so actively engaged, or the nature of the assignment with target audience, but they were so into the entire thing.  They worked well with partners.  For the introductions, the students had to take pictures of certain places in the school.  My teacher colleagues approached me later in the day about how professional the students were about their job.  They walked in with clipboards, explained the assignment, and politely asked permission to take a picture.  Some of the kids even posed the teachers for a “perfect” picture.  I had also recently bought the Easi-Speak recordable microphone for my class and the kids had been dying to use it.  They took turns reading or holding my microphone while their partner read the script. 


I didn’t have a chance to take pictures of my students, as they were hogging my digital cameras all week.  But, the iMovie we made has been uploaded to YouTube in order to share it with our partner class in North Carolina.  Take a minute to check it out!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mobile Lab

While visiting Classroom 2.0, I wanted to pay particular attention to the usage of texting.  In an article I read on Pew Internet, 77% of Americans in rural areas (where I live) have a cell phone.  This includes the elderly, who statistically do not own cell phones as frequently as younger adults.  I know that not all, or not even most of the families in my class have Internet access.  However, they do have phones.  During student teaching, newsletters were all sent via email from the teacher weekly.  This is not an option in my school, as too many students do not have that access (should I say #perksofcountryliving).  I’m really interested in setting up classroom texting.  This text can be sent from my phone directly to the parent’s cell phone.  Classroom 2.0 led me to Remind101.  This site seems easy to use and free, which is a perk for me.  It will be nice to remind parents of things like: “Don’t forget conferences are Tuesday and Wednesday” or “Your child’s project is due tomorrow!”  I don’t necessarily foresee any issues besides the fact that I know not everyone falls into that 77% of Americans with cell phones, so there will be a few without access.  But, if I get 77% of projects turned in, it is better than nothing. 

I also took a ScreenShot of the first thing I saw on the Classroom 2.0 site.  Every iPad and Tablet related discussion in the forum.  I just want to say that it breaks my heart every time a teacher tells me about how cool iPads and Tablets are and the positive impact they have in the classroom.  I suppose that is just the little, jealous, green monster inside of me. 

On the cellphone page, I did see a forum discussion about using cell phones in early elementary (kindergarten specific).  The author was asking how others used it.   There were no replies to the post, but over 40 page views.  It looks like there is a lot of us out there in early elementary in the same boat.  I’m hoping the Remind101 will be a great outlet for us to use cell phone technology, but just with parents. 

***On a side note:  I love my iPhone.  But as a first grade teacher, mobile devices stress me out.  The kids who have these iPods, MP3 players, mobile phones simply to not know appropriate usage of them.  After Christmas, a handful of my students had been bragging about these new mobile gifts they received, including the fact that these items were in the student's backpacks.  They don’t know how to take care and protect them.  Last week for example, my little Mr. Sticky Fingers in our class swiped an iPod touch from another student’s locker.  This somehow becomes my responsibility: the retrieval, the return, etc.  I am all for using technology in the classroom, but they are six.  For CEP820, I'm focussing on digital citizenship.  But, some things, in my opinion, are very parent oriented,  If you have a child with an iPhone, tell them not to show it off to others.

Data Visualization Assignment

After skimming at the Free Visual Tools Wiki, I made the immediate decision to look at tools that would be applicable in my classroom.  By applicable, I mean things that the children already can use, are standards related, or supportive of my instruction.

The first Visualization Site that I went to on the Wiki was in the comics section.  My kids love comics and I thought immediately that it could be something I could use.  I immediately went to the Marvel link because my students especially love Marvel comics.  But I was disappointed that the link went to an episode of “The Super Hero Squad Show.”  I never could find the Marvel Comic Creator.  

After feeling defeated on the Marvel Comics Site, the next visualization I went to was the open clip art.  The concept seemed great, as when I create lessons and center activities to put on Teachers Pay Teachers, I will sometimes purchase from Scrappin’Doodles.  Other times, I’m sorry to say, I do a Google search for a specific type of clip art and use it, without even checking a copyright.  I found the Clip Art site very challenging to use.  The clip art wasn’t at a very high standard and it left me disappointed.  

The last site I went on was Time Toast Timelines.  At this point, I didn’t feel as if the search was working very well.  But, after playing around I realized that I really liked this page.  It is perfect too, as Social Studies GLCES ask K-1 students to use tools, such as timelines, to learn and discuss the past.  I had my students make paper timelines in the past, so I thought this could be a great tool.  I really had fun playing around and decided to use it for my visualization.  

I know in many of my reflections for CEP courses, I have to reflect on my progress so far in achieving goals.  My goal was simple:  use more technology!  So I decided to use this concept to track my progress in achieving my goals.  I used a time progression starting from my switch to first grade until today.  The ah-ha moment I had was when I used the visualization tool to analyze the data.  As you can clearly see, the increase in technology use has a positive correlation with my entrance into the MAET program.  It took putting these things down on Time Toast to realize that yes, I am making some progress.  Check out my time line here!