Friday, June 26, 2015

Project 4 Digital Rights/Responsibilities

My district is a one-to-one school, and the students have had tablets for two years now. Every K-4 classroom has their own set of tablets, and the fifth grade students each have their own net-book. While we have had the tablets for quite a few years, students still tend to vary on their technology capabilities. Some classroom teachers use them all the time while other teachers rarely use them. In addition, many children have access to technology at home while other students do not. We have a high number of low income students who only have access to technology at school.

Every year I find it difficult to introduce the tablets to my new students. I am always overwhelmed with how many topics I need to go over with them. I usually start off with my set of rules that the students are required to follow while using the tablets. These are basic rules: form a line at the tablet cart, use two hands, no food or drink, sit on your bottom, plug it in when finished etc.  Just introducing those rules takes a whole lesson, and then we usually practice retrieving our tablets and plugging them back in. Even simple lessons like this can pose problems: “mine won’t start”, “he’s pushing in line”, “I can’t find my number”, “she cut me”, or “my charger doesn’t work”. It can become very overwhelming.

Then I have the daunting task of how to use the tablets: opening the browser, typing in a web address, where to find the apps, how to use the camera, how to adjust the screen, how to adjust the volume, how to plug in headphones, websites that can/cannot be used, apps that can/cannot be used, how to connect/disconnect from wifi etc. Sometimes the list seems endless. I usually introduce one thing at a time, and try to spend one lesson on each of the sites I use. It can be overwhelming and frustrating because it’s like starting over each year.

This week Jacqui asked us to pick a tech ed topic that we felt would interest us. Since I always struggle with introducing technology at the beginning of the year, I felt that researching “digital rights & responsibilities” would be an ideal fit for me. I struggle to teach students what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to technology use, and tablet use. While reading on this topic I found quite a videos and posters that I will use next school year. Many of these videos are from Jacqui's site, and I am so glad that she shared them with us.

This Video was my favorite and I plan on using this to introduce tablet expectations to the class. This video will the lead the discussions of what I expect when I using the tablets. 

I plan on using these tools to introduce the topics of digital citizenship, internet safety, and digital rights/responsibilities. I will take these one step at a time, and fully focus on each topic. The games can be used to follow our videos and class discussions. The quizzes can be used to assess whether or not children understand what is to be expected of them. 

I also found two posters that I would like to include in my classroom for next year. I think this will help encourage students to use technology responsibly throughout the year. 

Lastly I found a bulletin board idea that I plan modifying for my classroom. I'd like it to include websites apps that we commonly use in the classroom that way students can refer back to it before asking "can go on-------- site?".  

I think spending more time discussing digital citizenship at the beginning of the year will help my students understand what is to be expected of them during tablet time. It will also help with safety and bullying concerns when I introduce Kid Blog later in the school year. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Project 3: Teach Your Monster to Read

This week I was overwhelmed with the amount of web-tools we learned. Overwhelmed in a very, VERY good way. There were so many tools I had never heard of, and some that I had used before. I have always found myself to be pretty tech-savvy, and many colleagues turn to me for technology assistance. I was surprised at the amount of things that I had never heard of before, and excited to try them all out. I have so many math sites and apps that I use on a daily basis in my classroom, but I always struggle to find grade appropriate sites for reading. Second graders tend to have a wide-range of reading levels, like many other grades. This why I was most excited to try Teach Your Monster to Read.

Typically majority of students who are early readers (between a first and second grade level), and I have some students who are much more independent readers (between second grade and fourth grade levels). Also, I usually have a good handful of students who are struggling to become early readers (kindergarten or below levels). This is always a struggle for me because it is hard to teach students who need to work on letter sounds or patterns, while still teaching the students who can read chapter books! I was really hoping that Teach Your Monster to Read would help me with this struggle.

Here is what I learned:

The Teach Your Monster to Read site was inviting, entertaining, and easy to maneuver. I created an account which I plan on using for next school year.

 On the home site there are links for adding players (students). Downloads which include parent letters, password cards, and posters! There is also capability to group students, which will come in handy when I use centers next year.

Once students are logged in they can create their own monster which will navigate them through the games. They can change, size, shape, color etc. I also discovered that the monsters can be changed when you start new levels, so students can change them over time.

While logged in as a student I discovered there are 3 different levels (first steps, fun with words, and champion reader). Students can work their way through each level or the teacher can assign students to a level at the beginning of the year. I have embedded a short clip from each of the three levels below.

Level 1 First Steps

I think Teach Your Monster to Read will be a great asset to my classroom next year. I plan on using it during my reading centers or during free time. I know that some students will breeze through the first two levels, but I am hopeful that my struggling readers will benefit from that additional support. My confident readers will have lots of fun in level 3, and I am hoping they will also enjoy the game. It appears that level 3 was added recently, and I am hopeful that Teach Your Monster to Read will add additional levels for readers soon! 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tech Problems

I currently teach second graders, and I typically have about 25 kids in my classroom. Sometimes I am lucky enough to have an aide come in during tablet time, but majority of the time I am on my own. We are a one-to-one school, so all of the students have access to tablets for everyday use. A common tech problem I face with the tablets is the internet connection. Sometimes it is a simple fix: a child accidentally put the tablet on airplane mode, they accidentally turned off their wifi, or didn't refresh the website properly. Other times we have much bigger problems: too many students using the internet at once, slow connections, or simply the websites won't open. Our school is an older building, and we as a staff have heard many times that they are working hard to update our bandwidth. Our tech guy usually tells me that our school is old, and it is hard to maintain all this new technology in an older building. Most of our desktop computers use regular internet connections, and each teacher has their own wifi for tablet use. 
Most of the time, our internet issues occur when we use the Pearson website. Out students have the entire reading curriculum on this website. There are videos, games, textbooks, leveled readers, and tests. I have my students take their weekly reading test on this website, but we ALWAYS seems to have problems every week. At first I thought it was the Pearson website because we would log-on on Friday mornings to take the tests, and I would be lucky if 2 or 3 students could connect and finish a test. My thinking was..... maybe there are too many teachers and students logging-on to the website on Fridays to take tests. So I changed my testing day, and started giving my weekly Reading tests on Tuesdays. It made my problems much smaller, but we still had difficulties. I still have students every week that cannot connect to the site or get kicked off in the middle of their tests. I am always teaching troubleshooting techniques and strategies, but it becomes very overwhelming. It's hard to have 25 kids running up to you in the middle of a test with problems. 
This year our school started taking the PARCC test, which is all done online. We had so many problems during both sessions of the testing process. Students got kicked off the site or couldn't get logged on. At times that had to test a few students at a time!Teachers who were not testing were told to stay off the internet connection, to hopefully alleviate some of the bandwidth pressure. It was very difficult for all of the teachers and staff involved. Luckily, they figured out how to fix some of the issues and things started to go smoothly towards the end. Now that we have had this reading series for a few years, I have become much more familiar with the site and so have the children, just like they did with PARCC! We still have our connection issues, but we are learning to adapt. Maybe it truly is an older school trying to adjust to newer technology. : )