iPads in the Classroom

iPads in the Classroom
This weekend I read an article What Students Think About Using iPads in School from NPR’s facebook page. The article – linked above- is a short one loosely covering student feedback at the prospect for using iPads in the classroom. Most of the students were excited, and seemed tech savvy enough to see the benefits of easier homework and teacher feedback access. A few were weary of the expensive devices , having to repair them if they break it. One noted that there will be fewer school field trips that next year, indicating that this was due to a budget cut because of the iPads. I myself am still on the fence with spending money to put an ipad in every studetns hands. One of the issues that keep coming up for me is that this is another way to identify the “ haves” and “have nots” of the school districts. Schools with the right budget can afford this, lower income schools cannot. The question that comes to mind as well is what happens to everything else after we have spent money on individual iPads, teacher and staff instructional workshops, student workshops, tech support etc? Will these schools field trips become spares throughout the year? What about school clubs and academic support? I am 50/50 on the iPad phenomena. There is no escaping its glitz and glamour, and yet some aspects of it are enriching for student learning. But at what ( literally) cost? When our public school systems have so much to work on , student attendance, dropout rates, free/reduced lunches, the new CCSS and so much more, I feel that the ipad needs need to take a back step. When we have improved much more pressing matters of our public school system then I can feel ok with spending money on devices when in the words of one student, “ pen and paper would work just as well..”.

Project Learning Tree: Environmental education

Project Learning Tree
This week I was fortunate enough to listen and participate in a PLT workshop. I learned how to incorporate environmental education into my curriculum, what some of those lessons were like by way of doing them and why it is so important for our students. I really appreciated that starting out the discussion was the central idea that we cannot tell our students how to take care of the environment and the care won’t come from them unless they learn to love it. Starting off with the connection and love for the environment (which will eventually lead to action) is supported by the Pyramid Approach.
What I love about this approach it that the objective is not to tell our students how to take care of the environments but rather expose them to the beauty of our world, take them outside , open up conversations of where our food comes from or the type of energy they use in their daily life. This is more than just teaching them about environmental care, it modeling how to think critically about our world and environment we live in. To question if there are ways to improve our environment and how can we do that? More importantly this type of thinking leads the student to choose what and where they want to take action because it is something they specifically care about.
I am a huge proponent of not force feeding ideals or values to my students, so this is great for me as a teacher because this leads them to make their own decisions because they are in tune with what part of environmental education matters to them and what type of action they can take. Needless to say I am super excited to integrate PLT into my lessons next year.

Teaching with Urgency Part One

When I suggest that we need to “ teach with a sense of urgency” I’m not talking about teaching prompted by anxiety but rather about making every moment in the classroom count, about ensuring that our instruction engages students and moves them ahead…”(Routman, 2003, p. 41).

PART ONE

This quote makes me look back on my preliminary observations during the September experience this past fall. What Routman is shedding light on is the importance of making every minute of every school day matter. Routman talks of the idea that the stressed and tense teacher will produce students who are also stressed and tense. If this is the case, fluidly transitioning from lesson to lesson becomes a challenge. This reflects in her own teaching style, “ I am relaxed and happy when I am working with my students.”

The connections I am making between my own student-teacher observations and reading Routman are those of the urgency we must have in teaching is imperative, and that urgency is not the same as rushed or stressed. Sometimes I observe teachers feeling the pressure to complete a lesson to start another lesson on time. Sometimes it seems difficult to use the available time given per lesson , more specifically reading, and making that optimal learning time.

When this happens, I think, some teachers have a tendency to fill the time lost or try to make that up by adding a filler activity to the lesson. The outcome being a lesson that could have been an engaging, and achieve optimal student learning, turns into a haphazard cloud of what could have been.

I have been lucky enough to observe in my cooperating teacher is the way she uses every minute of the school day. When a lesson cuts into another lesson time she makes the best of it. By that I mean, she is quick to incorporate reading or writing into the two lessons. By integrating the reading and writing component it enriches student learning. It also models to students that we use reading and writing skills in all aspects of school. From science to time with an art docent, the students will find engaging reading and writing components in the lesson.

This seems like the most effective way to get the most out of the whole school day, by integrating subjects and being urgent with the teaching. As a future educator I foresee myself not waiting till I need to think on my feet to test our integrating subjects but rather utilize every minute of the school day by planning on integrations. This, paired with teaching with a sense of urgency will lead to optimal learning for myself and students.

Half way to Full Circle

The beginning of my blogging began with the beginning of my teaching program. I was incredibly hesitant, dare I say frustrated with the prospect of “having to blog” (insert heavy sigh and eye roll). The first quarter was rough. I struggled to blog, the idea of having to blog on top of everything else required in my life only added to my developing discontent for it.
With two more quarters passing me by I surprised, however, to find blogging an effective tool for reflection. Blogging has become an outlet for my deeper thinking on some heavy educational topics. It has pushed me as a writer- something I normally feared in my coursework. The Blogs I look back on that show this growth is my first blog and my most recent. I can clearly see the style which I write change from a stiff formal platform to more relaxed and reflective. I am no longer concerned with length or if “I sound deep”.
This past quarter has been one of growth in terms of my commenting on my classmates blogs. The number has gone up and the questions and ponderings have strengthened. I love that I feel more confident to respond to a classmates blog, and relish when we actually communicate back in forth! I also find it incredibly helpful to read their responses and find myself thinking deeper on the questions I bring up.
As we have reached our half way mark for the program, I am excited to see where my blogging takes me in the next few quarters and beyond the program.
Happy Holidays everyone!

Reflections : round two

Reflective thinking is exhausting as a student teacher. There are so many outlets for it, blogs, tweets, social media, journals and of course coffee meetings with friends and co-workers. With the end of this quarter nearing, and the pile of coursework getting higher and higher, it makes me think how our students handle this reflection. It saddens and angers me some when I overhear a teacher saying “ they just don’t get it” or “ in one ear out the other”, or worst “ my students are just unmotivated to think about this stuff”. This is simply not true. Student has just as much as reflection as we do, It just doesn’t look the same as ours. What makes this idea terrifying is that their reflections may include thoughts of “ I don’t understand this..” or “ Miss. So-and-so is really hard on me..I don’t get it..”. I think it is up to us to give them some more reflective tools and outlets so we can see where they are at in learning and what is weighing heavy on them. Besides journaling or blogging I am still mulling the ideas over, so any help or ideas will be greatly appreciated below!

Keep It Cool and They Just Might Take Reading Seriously…

Last week I did a read aloud with my eight graders on Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The students enjoyed the book and handled the tough concepts of internal struggle and duel identity well. And though my exit activity proved to me that they were engaged in the reading, and they were thinking critically the real results of the reading reveled themselves this week. Three students asked where they could get the book to read on their own time. I will repeat this, three students asked to read the book outside of school, a book not assigned or to be graded, and something that will be devoured with pleasure not in the troughs of homework agony. When this was asked of me “where can I get this book to read?” I had to “check myself” not to respond with a loud three cheers for reading and above all resist high fiving them! Least I deter them with my teacher “un-coolness” , but rather I helped them track down the book and gave them a hearty , “ I am so excited for you read this- let me know what you think when you are finished .”
No, this was not the entire 89 8th grade English lit student body begging for the book, and yes, I am aware that the goal is the get them all reading, reading and more reading. But, this felt like such a victory! And you know why, because they reached out to me, asking for the book and it was a book they heard in class. Though a small amount this has huge success written (or should I say read) all over it. This is a perfect reminder that all those hours we pour into lessons and units and scaffolding or teacher tricks that feel lost on glazed eyes and foggy brains focusing on homecoming or food or anything else rather than class – that we can still reach out to the students. We can get them perked up in class to learn and discover on their own outside the classroom. Because isn’t that the point of why we teach? I want my students to become lifelong learners! I do not want a former student to come up to me and say “I just loved that very specific but random thing you said about Shakespeare that one day a long time ago…” that would just be unrealistic, and a little surprising at such a fabulous memory. But rather I want to hear “hey that book you read really got me into reading that authors work..”. This week as the perfect reminder of why I want to teach and why I think reading is such a magical experience!

Issues on student abuse/neglect: a small reflection

Today I participated in a workshop on identifying and reporting neglect/issues of abuse in our students. I came into class this morning with an attitude of “I already know how to identify these concerns”, this is mostly due to my background of working in health care. However, I quickly realized that I did not in fact, “know everything” in terms of what constitutes abuse/neglect and reporting from a teachers perspective. I found that issues of neglect and abuse are not so black and white. For example, what will I do as an educator when a student’s parent simply cannot afford to buy them prescriptions glasses? Is that a form of neglect? This is the type of question that brings into play the idea of how we view poverty and its effects on the student and their families. I was reminded to not be quick, in some scenarios, to judge the parents ability of caring for their child when facing other challenges such as poverty. Rather then labeling them as neglectful, I could guide them to other resources to help, in this case, get proper glasses for said student. I realize this is just one minor facet of a heavy issue for an educator, but I feel satisfied, thus far, with some new revelations on the matter.