Thursday, May 27, 2010

Short Order Teachers?

In the book Web 2.0 New Tools, New Schools by Gwen Solomon and Lynne Schrum, there is a section in chapter 2 called "the customization generation." It talks about how students are used to changing technology devices to meet their own needs and using the web at home to research, learn, and play as they wish. Students are used to customization outside of school. They can customize their Twitter account, their music, their tv viewing, customize a McDonald's order, customize paint colors for their rooms, customize T-shirts, and on and on. I believe technology has made customization simpler. There are so many more choices everywhere you look. For instance, growing up, I remember wearing the same outfits to school as others--because their were fewer choices, we shopped in the same stores, and chose from the same outfits. Now, people can order clothes online, go to shopping malls with many stores, Wal-Mart or Target, Goodwill, and garage sales. Rarely do I see children wearing the same outfits.

So, has technology made customized education possible? Can teachers be the short order cooks of student learning? Here is an article from Education Week called "E-Learning Seeks a Custom Fit" and another from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about a principal who advocates customizing education for each student Both articles point out that one shoe does not fit all. Our current way of "mass teaching" is not effective for each student. The articles point out that with e-learning, with the technology of today, customized education has a promising future.

This year I have had the opportunity to work with a literacy program on the computer. This is for Kindergarten through 4th grade. When it works (we've had server/virus issues), the kids innitially love it, are engaged, and all doing something different--chosen by the computer based upon an innitial testing. This program is standards based, aligned with the Iowa Core Curriculum and all of that. You can run a multitude of reports--from individual student reports to class, grade, or even building reports. It is an extremely customizable program in many different aspects.

Although this is just the first year we have been using the program, I don't think it will ever (not in the near-to-mid future, anyway) take the place of the way reading and literacy is currently taught in the elementary school. I think it is an excellent intervention and reinforcement tool to use once or twice a week. After half an hour on the program, students start to get antsy. I don't think the program would keep them engaged enough to teach them all of the literacy skills they need at this young age.

So, an IEP for each student? Can teachers be short order cooks? My guess is not alone, but maybe with the help of technology and a few more years of perfecting e-learning. And definitely more of a possibility with secondary students. What do you think?

Monday, May 24, 2010

VoiceThread: Sewing Lessons Together

VoiceThread is another social way to share and connect with others. I like how VoiceThread allows multiple ways to respond, including text, voice, and camera. I also like the layout--the basic black and white is very calming after spending time with busy, flashy social media such as Twitter, blogs, and wiki's. Being able to focus on one picture or one video clip is refreshing.

In the elementary school, I can envision VoiceThread being used in various ways.
  • Adding a video of students performing a short Reader's Theater, then parents and other relatives commenting. (As a parent of two elementary students, I would appreciate this opportunity!)
  • Reading a book, then students adding their reviews of the book.
  • Sharing information with students in another school across town, another school in a different part of the state, another state, or another country--for example, one group shares information about a holiday, and another group comments--then reverse
  • Looking at a picture, then every student comments--threading comments together like a poem for the picture
  • A student draws a picture of his/her mother, then adds comments about mom for Mother's Day.
  • Critiquing a music concert.
  • Put up a picture of Christopher Columbus (or anyone!) and each student researches information to add. A class research "paper."
  • Put a picture of a classmate up, then every student adds a compliment.

As I look at curriculum, I know I could create more project ideas. I do like some of the ideas posted in this wiki:

VoiceThread is a great source to help sew our society together--not only our educational society which I focused on here, but also our families and communities.

Does VoiceThread have enough glitz and glammor to keep the attention of your students?