Strategy for Technology

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Tom Barrett’s reflections on being a foundation teacher is an interesting read: http://edte.ch/blog/2010/05/30/reflections-on-being-a-foundation-teacher/ . Considering the role technology has to play in the Early Years, Barrett makes several valid points:

1) Young children are aware of technology in their everyday life, mainly from the exposure to mobile and online technologies at home.

2) There is a need for a clearly thought out strategy for the use of technology with the foundation years of school.

3) Technology enhances and supports the role of record keeping and evidence gathering in the foundation stage…”Learning happens and occurs at such a fierce pace, sometimes unexpected, sometimes planned – a strong tech solution for gathering, tagging and recording these occurrences would be ideal”.

The last point highlights documentation as a key component to successful Early Years programs. Teachers are required to capture the learning that takes places using technology tools, and make this learning visible to the learning community. At ISM, more focus is being given to documentation through Learning Journals (LJ’s). LJ’s  provide a chronological record of student learning and experiences, an accurate form of assessment and reporting and a hands on resource for student and teacher reflection.

So where to from here….more student involvement/ ownership in the creation, maintenance and evolution of student’s Learning Journals, alongside regular teacher professional development and ‘tinkering’ in technology, to continue to find meaningful ways to use technology in Early Years classrooms.

Screencast

This screencast is designed to send out to Preschool families, outlining how to leave a comment on the class blog. The Preschool teachers receive very few blog comments from parents at present, and we would like to get a better sense of how many families access the class blog. We also want to encourage families to view and comment on the class blog together.

Play, Technology and Life Skills in the Early Years

There is a strong connection between play and technology, as technology too promotes
‘tinkering’…The notion of exploring and developing a range of skills to support meaningful learning and life skills for the 21st century. As we know, the key
is using the right tools at the right time…

Pecha Kucha…I’m a big fan! I love Powerpoints as pictures say a thousand words, but I have the tendency to ‘waffle”…to talk too much 🙂 Having a set time of 20 seconds per slide forced me to stick to the point throughout the presentation. I was impressed with all the presentations today…well done everyone!

 

 

The Phenomenon of Blogs

My initial repsonse to developing a personal social blogging network was incredibly positive. I think of the possibilities for connections with teaching professionals school wide and world wide, advocating for a holistic, play based approach to life and education. There have been times when I wished I had someone to converse with outside the school in which I worked,to gain a broader perspective; to access, reflect upon and respond to current  ideas, practices and advocacy of best practice. My wish has now been realized.

The next challenge is finding the right time and place to use this wondefrul new resource in a balanced way. Easy to say yet almost impossible to do for adults, yet alone children. For example, last weekend I was so immersed in reading the blog entries of my peers, listening to TED talks and making virtual connections with others, that it took my aching back and shoulders to tell me I needed to get my ass away from the computer! Mean while my children had been waiting for most of the day to go to the park….

One of the biggest concerns for me regarding blogging is the notion of a culture of people who blog first about current events, rather than be in the ‘now’ with current events. For example, a girl sees a traffic accident and her first response is to twitter about it, rather than offering to be of help as a first response. There are many real life examples of this, including my own outlined above. I knew I had been on the computer most of the day and my children were vocal about their feelings about this, yet still I found a way to rationalize in my mind a need to blog some more, at the expense of my physical health and well being, and quality time with my children….these are both things that I value in life….way more than blogging….so how did this happen?

Brandon Hoover’s Pecha Kucha presentation refered to the digital footprints we leave behind, and this is a critical concept to understand before and during one’s blogging journey. A focus on school wide dispositons i.e. balanced, ethical individuals is now needed more than ever within the blogging epidemic…but how do we teach this? And when is there time in our “standards” based grading system to teach this?

Perhaps we need to understand the system we currently use and where it came from before we can fully conceptualize the changes that are needed. Ken Robinson provides an excellent overview here:

The ideal school is one that understands the need to change educational paradims, puts new systems into place to support meaningful learning for the 21st centruy, and actively promotes students in a quest to leave behind ethical, caring, responsible, balanced and respectful digital footprints.

 

Goals and Web 2.0

What are my aims? To be perfectly honest, I need to gain a whole lot of confidence when it comes to working with IT, so that in turn I can offer more IT experiences in the classroom. Working in Preschool teaches me something new every day….and it is becoming more and more obvious that 3-5 year olds have an immense amount of knowledge of and interest in IT experiences. IT for me falls somewhere close to my fear of maths….and the self full filling prophecy that it is something “I’m not good at”. I’m determined to change both my attitude and abilities!

A close second to becoming more competent and confident working with IT is my desire to network with Early Years peeps. EDC601 totally enables me to develop a personal learning network – through blogging and twitter I’m learning just how big the new definition of networking is; it’s networking on a completely different level, and one that all passionate, play based, emergent curriculum peeps desperately seek. The thought of being connected to like-minded people regardless of distance and time is exciting. And last, my aim is to integrate IT into my classroom in meaningful ways, every single day.

So does Web 2.0 change teaching and learning?The answer is yes, and on so many different yet equally important levels. In my opinion, it has the potential to dramatically impact the rate in which education moves from a traditional approach to one that is progressive. It’s the difference between putting the concept of play/ inquiry based learning on a train and sending the train around the world to putting it on Star Treks space ship!!! It has serious implications for positive educational change as advocates around the world are able to connect, collaborate and empower others to be advocates. On the other end of the extreme, every student in every classroom will no longer view teaching and learning the same after Web 2.0….it makes it clear that a change in education is long overdue, whether you look at it from a student, teacher, administration, classroom or philosophical level.

A Question

Below is an edited version of the Preschool Team Goal for  SY11/12, designed to provide an overview of our curriculum and the philosophy behind our planning and program.

A Question: Is it possible for teachers at all grade levels to plan their lessons/ classroom experiences based on an emergent/ negotiated curriculum?

AN EMERGENT/ NEGOTIATED CURRICULUM DEFINED

ISM Teachers…

  • Observe children’s interests, needs, abilities as they play/ inquire/ interact
  • Interpret individually and collaboratively what information this tells us about students
  • Use this information to plan experiences/ activities for individuals and/or the class
  • Prepare materials/ resources/ space to facilitate the activity/ experience
  • Reflect on the activity/ experience and further possibilities for individuals/ the class

 ** NB This order is flexible and inter-changeable – ie observations may follow with reflections/ evaluations, then spontaneous enacting of another experience, then planning of further activities…what is important is that all of these elements work in collaboration with each other to inform the ‘emergent/ negotiated’ component of the Preschool Program.

Understandings:

  • Children learn best when encouraged to take some control over the directions of their learning.
  • Each child is a confident and capable learner, entering each grade level with rich knowledge, skills and strengths.
  • The program focuses on education for meaning, connections and understanding.
  • The curriculum is founded upon developing key concepts/ life skills, and achieving this goal will look as unique as each class of students each year.

Essential Questions:

  • How do students have some input/ control over the direction of their learning?
  • How do teachers support meaningful learning and connections with students in their class?
  • How do we make the emergent/negotiated learning experience component of the curriculum the focus student’s classroom experience?

Assessment of Goal: An observer will see;

  • Child initiated learning experiences
  • Teacher scaffolding/ extension of children’s interests
  • Developmentally appropriate, differentiated learning experiences for all students
  • Documentation/ classroom sessions that inform the planning of new/ extension experiences.
  • Documentation/ classroom sessions that reflect the interests, needs and knowledge of individual students.
  • Documentation/ classroom sessions founded upon quality play based programs.
  • An archive of emergent/ negotiated experiences that support the development of key concepts/ life skills.
  • A classroom environment that fosters multiple opportunities for differentiated, meaningful, student centered learning.
  • Teachers being responsive to the interests, ideas, needs and challenges of the classroom.
  • Teachers observing students, joining play and providing meaningful scaffolding as appropriate.

The Big Idea…

In this fast paced world of technology, The Big Idea for all teachers can no longer be to teach information i.e.”If you can google it, don’t teach it”…but rather to focus on key concepts such as school wide dispositions i.e balanced, self-directed individuals and transdisciplinary skills i.e communication, collaboration, thinking, research/ questioning, in order for students to successfully navigate their way through education in the 21st century…and have FUN doing it.

From this perspective, The Big Idea forces every educator at all grade levels to re-think their own beliefs and practices….to reflect on the ‘baggage” they carry regarding their own educational experiences….to be open to change….to invite professional dialogue on the qualities required today to be a good teacher…..to be a part of a community where positive educational change is encouraged and embraced. 

Wearing my black hat, I can tell you right now there are many teachers who may never take any of the steps above.  Being a classroom teacher, I know how easy it is to say “I don’t have time for that”…..but the reality is….there is nothing more important than re-designing the way we teach and assess our students….this is the Big Idea…and it is so big it calls for action NOW!

The notion of “All you need to know is learned in Kindergarten” resonates loud and clear for me right now…as an Early Years Teacher I wonder if this time of technology will “push up” an approach that teachers of all age levels should never lose sight of… to learn through play/ inquiry. The Early Years philosophy focuses less on the acquisition of specific information and more on the life skills required to reach our full learning potential. Somewhere along the way in the last generation of education, it became somewhat tolerated in Preschool (3-5 years) to learn through play… to make meaningful connections, to promote collaboration and creativity, to give students the right to have some control over their learning, to develop a genuine love of and for learning…only to make way for the ‘real learning???’ years, through a more traditional approach to education from Grade 1 up.

Dare I use the word>>> PLAY>>> , the phrase >>>LEARNING THROUGH PLAY>>>across all grade levels, as The Big Idea…a way of re-defining and re-designing  a philosophical approach to teaching and learning…a way of thinking about how classrooms should look and how they should function…

Imagine a Learning Through Play ‘toolbox’ of approaches/ strategies/ environments/ resources etc. available at every administration counter for teachers who commence working at ISM. These toolboxes will have content that varies between ES, MS and HS, but they will ALL have the same philosophical framework that clearly outlines how students learn best and what teachers must do to stay true to the Big Ideas at the core of a play based philosophy…and this does not change from Preschool through to Grade 12….Imagine….

Now there’s a Big Idea that many of us have known for a long time but have not ever seen come to life, because even when you are part of a progressive school, cultures/attitudes/beliefs and practices take time to change…and change must come from admin and teachers collaboratively…and change requires teachers who are able to articulate what they imagine, practice what they preach, re-design a written currciulum for the grade level, take a pro-active appoach to change, educate colleagues, parents and the wider community and manage a full-time class load all at the same time….(sorry the black hat came back :))

Wearing a more energetic, optimistic and super colourful hat…The Big Idea of defining what “learning through play” looks like throughout a student’s life will result in an end to what Clay Burrell accurately describes as ‘schooliness’ . Imagine a new beginning where all students may experience “a love of learning” through play…. Now that is the most awesome Big Idea of them all!…and while I’m getting excited….the fast paced age of Information Technology genuinly supports a move toward a progressive, play/ inquiry based, life skills approach to education. Giddeyup!