Sunday, January 31, 2010

What My School Bought in 2009

Earlier this week, I blogged about what I bought in 2009. Now, as I prepare to ring in the new decade, I thought I'd reflect on what my school bought in 2009. I can't imagine ever teaching without these amazing high tech tools.
Teacher proximity is critical to good classroom management. With the Mimio wireless pad, I can literally stand anywhere in the room and control the computer, write on the interactive whiteboard, start and stop video clips, access the web -- the list seems endless.
This device attaches to the side of my whiteboard with suction cups or sticky tape. It transforms my existing whiteboard into an interactive one. Now, my students can write on the interactive whiteboard with digital ink. I can save what's on the board and show it to the class at a later date. With the Mimio Interactive Whiteboard Notebook Software, I can create my own lesson plans using Mimio's interactive flash-based media which includes reveal tools, balloon pops, right/wrong active buttons with sound, and much more.
Whether I'm in anonymous mode and just checking the class for understanding, or administering a formative assessment, these little handheld devices make grading a snap. I can ask a question at my own pace, or allow students to work through an exam or activity at their own pace. Students can use the instant feedback they receive to reflect on their work and fix their own understanding.
Goodbye overhead transparency projector -- I'm not sad to see you go. No more wasting money on costly transparency sheets. No more running to the workroom to make a transparency for an upcoming lesson. No more multi-colored fingers! No other device has been as long-overdue to hit the classroom as the document camera. I can't tell you how many teachable moments have occurred since being able to just "put it under the doc cam."
Four (4) Kevlar 2-way 6 1/2" speakers are now ceiling-mounted in our classrooms. The wires, which are hidden behind custom moulding, run down the wall and run directly to my workstation, which connect to a powered mixer. The mixer includes an input for the PC, an extra mic input, and an aux channel for an iPod.
My 24" CRT color TV is still mounted to the ceiling in my classroom and is feeling very, very lonely these days. Things to do in 2010: (1) contact the facilities department and ask them to please remove it! It's been replaced with a ceiling mounted Hitachi LCD projector, which projects everything on my whiteboard. Speaking of whiteboards, my markers are drying out, too, because instead of using markers, we write with Mimio's digital ink. (2) return unused whiteboard markers to the district office warehouse.
Since practically all of our new gadgets connect to our computers through USB, my principal decided we needed one more thing: the Belkin USB 7-port hub. Our laptops only have three USB ports, and with all our new tech tools, we require a minimum of six open ports. Now, we not only have enough ports to connect everything; there is no cable mess, and we even have a little room to grow.
Our school also purchased an English Language Development (ELD) lab that includes portable workstations, dance mats, touch screens, extendas, document camera, mimio, mimio pad, responders, ELD Unit Lessons and software: all of which I'll describe in greater detail in a subsequent post in 2010.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Don't Be a High Tech Sage on the Stage

Tech-tools like interactive whiteboards and student responders have tremendous potential in education, but it's tempting to lull oneself into thinking that merelyimplementing a tech-tool will automatically cause students be engaged. There is a danger here. I'm afraid some teachers abuse the technology by just creating more stuff for kids to look at without making their lessons any more interactive or engaging than they were before. The last thing teachers need is another gadget that supports the old sage-on-the-stage paradigm. So, when implementing technology tools in your classroom, try to involve as many students as possible with "hands-on" learning experiences. Here are a couple ideas along those lines:
Put the interactive in interactive white board. A lesson is not interactive just because you hide a giant paragraph behind a reveal tool, then make the students copy the paragraph into their notes. Similarly, it's not interactive just because a student can come up to the whiteboard, tap the screen, and reveal a bunch of text that they, again, just have to copy into their notes. Interactive means there is an exchange of ideas - a back-and-forth interaction among people, activities, and ideas. Try engaging students by setting up text to underline or highlight. Have your students move text and images into categories; match words with their definitions; manipulate graphic organizers. Design lessons that are so hands-on, you find yourself talking less, and observe students doing more during your lesson.
Use responders so your students receive the right immediate feedback. It is useless for students to simply know their score on their math test. They need to know precicely the items they got wrong and be given time to reflect and fix their own understanding. Your test was a colossal waste of time if your students go home without this vital information. Go for the teachable moment! Do it right away - right after the test. At our school, our student responders tie into an application called AccelTest. This software allows teachers to print test results for each student. For example, in my room, I give two forms of the math chapter test, one day apart. The first day, they take Form A, and I immediately print out the results. Students get the help they need on the items they missed, and practice similar items for homework. The second day, they take Form B. As you might imagine, Form B results are almost always higher; therefore, I record the higher of the two grades. Instant feedback is key!
So, don't just be a high-tech sage-on-the-stage. Design lessons that are as interactive and engaging as possible and provide assessment feedback that goes beyond mere scores.