Monday, November 21, 2011

Technology and Self-Reflection

Every day, I work with teachers who use technology for a variety of purposes. Today was different. Mr. Sinden is a 5th grade teacher...and a really good one. We were discussing his latest inquiry-based lessons that he did with his students. During this time, he showed me his reflection journal. Using Microsoft OneNote, he keeps a journal to reflect on his lessons and units. I thought this was a great use of technology for a simple, but powerful task. In his journal, he would write down things to remember for next year, things that went well, etc. With OneNote, he can setup seperate workbooks for each subject and subdivide those workbooks into sections for the units he teachers. How many times do you write some thoughts down but then don't remember where they are? Getting them into a program like OneNote makes the reflection task easier and more efficient.

One of the features he really liked was the search feature in OneNote. The search will look for your key words in any notebook that you create. So if you cannot remember where you wrote down a particular note, you can search for the key word and it will find any instance where that word(s) appear. OneNote can also be accessible from multiple computers. Link your OneNote to a Microsoft Live account, and you can now access your OneNote from any computer through your Live account.

Don't have OneNote on your computer? No can use an online version of OneNote for free through Microsoft Live!

Want to learn more about OneNote? Two colleagues in my department recently conducted a webinar on the subject. Check out the recording here: OneNote Webinar.

Reflection is a great tool that is often overlooked or shoved to the side but its impact on our teaching practice can be great. No matter which tool you use: OneNote, Evernote, pencil and paper, etc., take time to reflect.

This is technology that actually works!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wikis and Word Work in the Daily 5

In the district where I work, teachers at the elementary school level use the Daily 5 management strategy for their Language Arts instruction. One of the 5 activities is word work. Students traditionally do some spelling pattern activities during their word work time. Yesterday, I had the privilege of working with a 2nd grade team who wanted to do more with word work. Our technology integration strategy was to incorporate wikis into word work time.

In my district, we use Microsoft SharePoint for our teacher websites. As a part of this package, teachers can setup a wiki within SharePoint and control who has access to edit the wiki. Now kids are doing their usual word work activities on the class wiki.

As you can see above, students are adding words to the wiki that follow the spelling pattern for the week. This teacher had each student choose a different font style to delineate who added words to the wiki. The teacher can look this up in the history, but this strategy provides a visual reference too. The kids love choosing their own font style as well!

One item I stressed to the 2nd grade team was to take advantage of the completed wiki at the end of the week. By revisiting the wiki at the end of the week, the class can review the list, make corrections, and delete words that do not belong. They can also have any further discussions about the spelling patterns. Revisiting the wiki also makes the work seem more worthwhile to the students. Otherwise, this assignment could have been done on paper and turned into the teacher.

An activity like this could be done with any wiki site. PBworks and Wikispaces are great places to check out if you need to setup a wiki for your class.

This is technology that actually works!