Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blogging hits the elementary mainstream

This week I felt a huge sense of accomplishment...blogging is becoming mainstream in our elementary classrooms. For the past three years, teachers had the ability to blog through our Microsoft SharePoint based classroom websites. The blogs are hosted in district and teachers give rights for access to the blog, who can contribute, etc. At first, our techie teachers dove in and got the ball rolling. Other teachers took notice and more teachers started to dabble. Then came the beginning of this year...a majority of the teachers I have assisted had a blog on their website. That was enough to get me excited, but that was not the reason for my elation. It was the application of the blogs to their curriculum that was so exciting. Students are now blogging about a wide range of topics:

  • reader's response journals 
  • written response journals
  • science reflections
  • free student writing

Students are having online conversations with each other and their teacher. Instead of writing just for the teacher, students are writing for each other. This expanded audience equals greater accountability and greater effort. Teachers are taking advantage of the blogs by showcasing and discussing blog post and comments in groups at the SMARTBoard. From there, students can provide analysis of the writing and its ideas. This is more than just is writing with a purpose, an audience, and the ability to apply 21st century communication skills to their daily work.

So what is next? I would love to see teachers offer students more choice and freedom on their blog assignments. Allowing students to have a "Passions Blog" so that they could express themselves about topics that are a passion would be fabulous. Incorporate some language arts standards here with some 21st century research skills, and now you have a motivated student ready to write with a purpose!

So you are an elementary teacher who wants to blog with your students but your district does not use SharePoint for teacher websites. SharePoint is just the tool. Find another blogging platform, such as Kid Blog. It is free and easy to use. The same results can be achieved regardless of the blogging platform.

It feels good to see blogging as a mainstream teacher tool in the elementary school!

This is technology that actually works!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Technology and Project Based Learning

Today was our first day back to work. There is some sadness that summer is over but you can feel the excitement as teachers return for another school year. As I had a moment today between back to school meetings, I reflected on the work I did over the summer. As usual, I taught some summer workshops on items like CPS clickers, SharePoint websites, etc.

But.....none of these compare to a new workshop that I taught with my colleague Elaine. The workshop was titled Designing Technology-Infused, Project-Based Learning Experiences.

For two days, we showcased various Web 2.0 resources and collaborated with our teachers to see how these could fit into a project based learning environment. The work they did and the ideas they shared were truly inspiring! Here is my favorite idea from the session.

1. A 5th grade teacher wanted his field trip to be more than an isolated event. So he decided to tie this field trip in with his animals science unit. Our local zoo has a list of endangered and threatened species that are housed in the zoo. So, students will be doing some research while on the field trip about one of the threatened and endangered species. This entry event will lead into their study of animals, how they become endangered. I love this idea because it takes the field trip from being just an isolated event to one that sparks curiosity and wonder for the students. To incorporate one of our technology tools, this teacher is going to use  as a central note taking/thought area for students. By using this resource, the students have a running list in which to refer during the project.

During our 2 day session, we highlighted many resources. Here are a few that became our participants favorites.

Data for Projects
Presentation Tools
Collaboration Tools
Multimedia Project Resource List

Project-based learning just seems to make sense. When done successfully, it allows students to practice/learn 21st century skills, makes the learning just more exciting, and is a great opportunity to use many technology tools.

This is Technology that actually works!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My blog...about time

Welcome! My name is Bob Deneau and I am an Instructional Technology Specialist for the Rockwood School District in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. This year will be my 5th in my current position where I work with elementary teachers to effectively integrate technology into their teaching...and that is what this blog is all about.

It is my goal to blog as a reflection on the work that I do and to share technology integration ideas that "actually" work. We often hear the phrase "Technology is great when it works!" I want to share what my great teachers are doing in their classrooms so others can use this knowledge for their students.

If you are an elementary teachers, work with elementary teachers, or know someone who is interested in quality technology integration, please follow this blog and offer your comments to me.