Saturday, March 04, 2006

Fifth grade Podcasts

Check out our podcasts put on by fifth graders.
1. Fur trader-

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Spring, Time for a Change

Spring is always a time of change. I enjoy trying new things in my classroom to see if they are worth doing the following year. This years projects are podcasting and epals.

Check out to discover all the possiblities for students and teachers. You can connect to classrooms around the world and help your students discover their likes and differences to other cultures. My class is presently hopeing to connect with a classroom in Australia and they are very excited about it. As we get more involved in this project I'll let you know how it is going.

The second project is podcasting. Podcasting is a form of broadcasting that you can then download to your ipod, computer, or handheld to listen to when you have time. This is growing on the net and has great potential in the classroom. As a teacher you can make your own podcasts for the students to listen to, or the students can make their own. For the classroom this is a great feedback tool that the students love to do and far better than a test from the students point of view. Again, I'm just starting this project and will nlet you know how it works. For more information check out

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Handheld Integration (a look at the future in the present)

This is the third in a series of blogs dealing with the importance of changing the way we teach while integrating technology into the curriculum. In the previous blogs I discussed the importance of involving the students into the learning process and teaching the students to become self directed learners. In this blog I will present one way to achieve this goal that is exciting to the students and captures their interest.

Integrating handheld computers, formerly called palm pilots, into the curriculum can be exciting to the students and unsettling to the teacher, but as you will see very rewarding. I introduced handhelds into my classroom one and a half years ago. It has certainly been a learning experience.

From the beginning the students have been willing to do things on the handheld that they fight against doing with pencil and paper. They study harder for tests, take more notes, organize themselves more, and have the ability to learn through ways that can’t be accomplished in a classroom without them. I could go on and on, but here is a sample of what the students say about them:

I think handhelds are great! They really help you organize and they are WAY better than just paper and pencil. Brooke

Handhelds have helped me out alot this year. With handhelds we can study alot easier with quizzler. Also we can stay alot more organized with the programs tasks and calendar. We often take our handhelds home to use quizzler to study for our tests. We can practice our typing with the wirelss keyboards and a typing program called Words Per Minute. Josh

Handhelds are very cool and make school very fun. They make it easy to write assignments so you don’t lose them. They make it easier to study for tests and keep track of homework. Having handhelds in school is a big responsibility and it teaches us respect to expensive items. Without handhelds school would be boring and slow. If we didn’t have handhelds many of us would lose our writing assignments. Without handhelds our grades would be lower and we wouldn’t do well in school. Noah

Handhelds have helped me in school a lot compared to a classroom without them. Handhelds keep many kids organized knowing that their work is always there and cannot get lost. They are faster and a more improved way to check your work or spelling. There have been tests showing that kids get better grades and improve their schoolwork. When tests do come up, handhelds are a better study program when you practice on them. They do have games…. But, the games are also put into practice typing or spelling programs. The handheld can also be used for enjoyment. Such as, non-educational games or reading. A classroom without handhelds would be at a bit of a disadvantage. I am glad that I am in a classroom that has them. Emily

Handhelds have helped me work faster and easier. Jack

Handhelds have helped me this year by being able to do my work faster and more fun. Also, I do not go through as much paper because I can store information in my handheld. On the handheld there is a program called quizzler. This program helps me to study by the teachers beaming us the quiz. It has the practice quiz on it so I can study as much as I want at home. It makes studing a lot more fun and easier. This year would have been extremely different without handhelds because learning wouldn't be as exciting and tests wouldn't be as easy to study for. Austin

I think having handhelds is a privilege for several reasons. One because it keeps me organized. Another reason is that if you do an assignment on paper you could lose it, but if you do it on a handheld it will not get lost. Another is that with memos you can write anything at anytime. Also there is a palm reader that you can read books on it for reading or free time. Another reason is that there is a dictionary so you can look up words you don’t know how to spell or for there definitions. Also there are education games and games for free time or after a test if your teacher says. Those are some of the reasons why I like to have handhelds.

I’ve had two years of students using handhelds and the sampling of students above duplicates what they said last year, also. As I said in the beginning, using handhelds in the classroom is exciting to the students. Now how about the teacher.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that as in any technology integration I can’t begin to understand it all. The students learn it far faster and easier than us older folk. My job is to be the coach. I introduce the lesson, provide the tools, the parameters, and then let the students take charge of their learning. My job is to be the coach, available to guide at all times. This means I can’t sit on the sidelines (at my desk), but I must circulate among the students working with them.

This is certainly a different way of teaching, and can be unsettling if you are the type of teacher that stands up front and talks to the students. In the end you will find it rewarding and the students will learn and retain far more when provided the tools (handhelds) and teaching style (self directed learning) that makes learning exciting and rewarding to them. We may have learned the other way, but todays students aren’t us. The world is changing and we have a chance to be a part of the change.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

More complete talk about group work

The business world tells us that they want people that are good at collaboration. Being that our job is to prepare the students for the future, this skill should become part of what we teach in the classroom.

The first thing to do as you prepare to use group work as part of the learning process is to setup your groups. Never allow the students to set up the groups, you are only inviting disaster. There are many ways to set up groups. I like to spread the abilities out between the groups. The smartest student isn’t always the one who can lead the group through to a conclusion. I also like to mix boys and girls up in the groups. They tackle problems from different ways, so it enhances the learning taking place. Also, change the groups after every section, so they learn to work with different people. This makes it a more real world experience.

Size of the group is another part of the equation. A lot depends on the lesson being used. Two person groups are fine for a short term group that lasts one day. If you are going to have it go longer, the group should be at least three to four students. The reason for this is the fact that what is the group going to do if the next day one of the students isn’t there. With three or four students you will at least have a group of two or three to continue on if someone is missing.

Focus is the most important part of using groups as a tool for learning. If you as a teacher don’t provide a structure within the lesson, you will lose the students. I like to call this the “Driving Question”. This is what they are to be focusing on as they work together. Decide what you want them to learn, set the goals, and then communicate to the students your expectations.

Another important thing to do is to set time limits. If you leave it wide open as to when they need to complete the assignment you will find they take much longer to accomplish the goals. This leads to your frustration which leads to not wanting to use grouping. Set time limits for each part, and then check with the groups to see how they are doing. If you need to make adjustments feel free to, unless you find they are taking advantage of it.

As you begin the groups, realize the students may not know how to work in a group. This is something that we as teachers shouldn’t take for granted. Talk about using listening skills, the fact that only one person is speaking at a time. Explain that arguing doesn’t solve anything. They must learn, when there are differences of opinion, to share why they feel the way they do and support it with reasons. We also talk about the importance that everyone be a participant in the group process. Another thing I tell the groups is that they are not to ask me, the teacher, a question till they’ve talked about it in the group. If the group can’t answer the question, then I will gladly help them out as a group. This fosters dependence on their group.

Make sure that while the groups are working that you are filtering around the room listening in to what they are doing. This allows you to quickly help a group refocus back on the task at hand if they go astray.

One of the ways I assess how their group functioned is to grade each student on how they worked in the group. At the end of the project, I sit down with each group and have the students grade on a scale of 1-10 how each person participated. Then I average all the input by the students. I found that the students are very fair. Because I filtered through the groups, I already have a good idea how hard each person had worked.

You will find that students will enjoy doing collaboration far better then doing it individually and my observation has been that they learn more. I did some research with my classes on how it affected their learning. I provided questions dealing with a specific chapter and they had to find the answers all on their own with no help. The room was totally quiet. The next day I quizzed them from the paper and established a base point. I then had them meet in groups and answer a set of questions dealing with the next chapter. Both chapters were similar and had similar questions. The next day I quizzed them again and found a marked improvement, by a whole grade, in their learning.

In conclusion, from observation and research that collaboration (group work) when used properly can be an excellent learning tool. I hope you will find using this learning tool as stimulating and rewarding as I have both for the students and yourself.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Active Learning

Active learning involves having students become a part of the learning process. No longer is the teacher always the center of the learning process. It is a multi-directional learning experience where learning takes place through teacher to student, student to teacher, and student to student.

There is nothing more enjoyable within the classroom then listening to students in groups or pairs when they get involved in their own learning. To often we as teachers think that we are the knowledgeable ones and must know all the material before we present it. At the rate that knowledge is advancing in today's world that is very hard to do. In the same way if we want to use any technology within our curriculum we think we have to know how to use it first.

It's time that we give students some credit and empower them to become self-directed learners. Our job is to set the overall goals and then become the coach on the sidelines stepping in when needed. A coach provides the direction and vision, but lets the students move forward with that vision. It's time to allow the student to take ownership of their own learning.

The following website shows how much better a learner retains what they have learned when they become active in their own learning compared to having things told to them. Check out the learning pyramid located at this web site:

I think you will find after looking at this pyramid and comparing it to what you have seen in the classroom, though the percentages may differ the order of retention is correct.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Group Work

Student's love to talk, so provide them the opportunity by channeling it into group work.

Families are so busy today that research shows children aren't getting in their talk time at home, so they try to fill their quota by talking in school all the time. Anyone that works in the school setting will tell you that, so how can we turn this into a learning experience.

Set up groups with a driving question and allow them to work through it till they've found the answer together. As long as they stay on task it's a great way to fulfill their needs and get learning accomplished at the same time.

Before you start, set up the groups yourself. Find the leaders and divide them between the groups. Also, give them a support person that may not be a leader, but is a good support for leaders. Then divide your problem students between the groups. After that, fill in with everyone else. Group size shoud be around four or five students when possible.

Teach everyone how to become a part of a group. Help them to see when and how to listen in a group, when to talk, and how to be empathetic with others.

Give the groups clear directions and then filter around the room listening in on how they are doing. When every group is finished have someone share what they accomplished.

Afterwards, sit down with each group and discuss with them how each member participated.
You will find that the students learned more because they directed their own learning.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Technology vs. Curriculum in education

With technology all around us how should you incorporate it into the curriculum. Many of us make technology a curriculum in itself. This is a wrong route to take. Read this recent quote from Ian Jukes and ponder your answer:

"When it comes right down to it, if technology is the answer, it's unclear what the question is. Technology is not the central issue - in the age of No Child Left Untested, learning is the issue - learning how to use technology is just an incidental but essential part of that process - the emphasis must be on critical thinking, problem solving, and independent thought - learning technology skills is just a useful by-product. But in order to make learning opportunities as positive and effective as possible we must align our technology intentions with our learning intentions."

For more check out his website at: