Monday, November 29, 2010

iPad Launching!

On Monday, 5H went to the Planetarium at Glenfield to enjoy Mr. Miller’s presentation. During these trips I always think the best part is that children who never or rarely have a chance to get out of the city zone get to see what a night sky without pollution or city lights looks like. They see a starry night the way it was before human beings overpopulated and obscured that view. However, as time has gone by since we began these yearly trips, our students have become less impressed by something they just view and I think they’ve come to expect more interactive technology.

What a surprise when we got back from the Planetarium and the class realized they would be playing with iPads! After a short talk from Dr. Putrino about how the iPads should be handled, we went right into a space app. I had found this application when I got the opportunity to play with the iPad over the weekend. It was more like obsession than play time, really, but when I realized I had to actually feed my son and take care of other basic human needs, I was able to have the iPad wrenched from my clenched fingers.

During my play time, I found an app that actually shows you the night sky in sections according to where you point the iPad. You wave it in a figure 8 and it coordinates itself to your hemispheric location. When you move it across a ceiling or the sky if your outside, it shows you the constellations in that particular location. It also shows you the planets if they are in that range. In addition, there are options to read about the different planets through a wiki-like window and you can turn the less brighter stars down to make it look like a city night sky - only showing the brightest stars. You can even zoom in with your fingers like an iPhone or iTouch.

I went on to show them a few more apps having to do with geography and how they can play games together. My favorite one being PenduGeo - a game of hangman with all the countries in the world that can also be played in a mode that allows you to make up your own words.

There is so much potential for the use of this new technology. I would love to use it as enrichment. They are also great for reinforcement of basic skills with flashcards that can be used for any subject. There are apps for dictation, writing, reading aloud, spelling and drawing. Research is easy with the Wiki apps and access to the internet. Another great thing about them is the incentive for good behavior. I’ve always found putting the carrot before the cart to be much more effective with classroom management or behavior issues. If any of you have any other ideas, please share!

Needless to say, the children had a wonderful time and were excited to know when we could use them again. So am I!

Alice Hermida

5th Grade

Science & Social Studies

Friday, November 19, 2010

Romp-a-"Room To Play" .... Will We Pay?

As the budget season progresses, we are hearing a lot of very different recommendations from our Board of Education appointed committees. Several have stirred up some philosophical debate. One that has started to create some controversy and conversation, is an issue very close to our school. The recommendation is to move towards a half-day Kindergarten. I ask simply, "How do you think moving to a half-day Kindergarten will effect the district?"

Dr. Joseph A. Putrino Jr.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Power of Teaching

There is a great deal of power in your hands. Educators have the ability to shape the direction of our students lives (not too shabby). However, what qualities make an effective teacher? The “Power of Teaching” is a behavior pathway analysis created by Dr. Joseph Wise and David Sundstrom. The program hopes to lead educators in becoming more aware of their teaching style, behaviors in the classroom and there impact or effectiveness with students.

At first this program seemed, to me, to be another fad approach to conducting staff evaluations, but upon a more creative twist I found it to be a great tool for coaching effective teaching strategies. Here is a great way to understand it. We all feel that we are effective in the classroom, I mean as you all know I was an AMAZING teacher! :) But sometimes we miss an ineffective thing we do that could be detrimental to a lesson or might not harm anyone but could be improved upon. Imagine you videoed a lesson you taught and had to watch it back and observe yourself (I can hear your stomach dropping. After all we are perfectionist and are own worst critics!) When we look back on ourselves and step away from what we are doing, behaviors that we would never pay attention to become more obvious. For example, how someone might pace back and forth when they lecture, or constantly move their hands while they talk (Guilty!), or as I mentioned in a faculty meeting, only give general praise like “Great Job!” instead of a specific message to a student for what they have done a great job doing.

The confusing part about observing someone or yourself is to know what your looking for. The “Power of Teaching” provides a tool designed after a meta-analysis of over 600 national educational studies based on teaching styles. This instrument outlines what would be considered effective or ineffective techniques for specific categories of behaviors. When used correctly it can gather information about things you do during a lesson and the frequency at which you do them. You can then make an assessment of which of these behaviors you would like to target based on the level of impact on you and students. If you didn't do anything with it at all its at minimum great information to have! You received a copy of this form during one of faculty meetings. I have also attached it here.

Since it might be easy to blow off certain ineffective things we do when watching our own lesson, I found the best use of the form is to have the feedback of a peer without any administrative involvement. We not only learn from the feedback, but also learn from watching other professionals.

How comfortable would you be observing a colleague or being observed yourself? I would love to hear your thoughts.