Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Geek's Paradise

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by coschda:
The message is loud and clear. All you have to do is see how emotionally handcuffed some students beyond the age of eight are when they are asked to solve a problem, invent, explore, or create. They have become so adept at following directions and being guided they fall apart when given the opportunity to make their own decisions. And I am sure you will agree, dear reader, that this is not good for anybody.

STEM is the new buzz word. Education is crazy about acronyms and our own secret jargon. We have had our personal version of texting for ages. In order to clue in those out of the club, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. These are areas where for years Americans have been slipping in the global stats. Personally, I am more fond of STEAM which includes Arts into the mix. After all, Einstein himself said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." And I believe a dearth of time playing and creating is more to blame for the data than a lack of instruction in these areas.

Nevertheless, we certainly need to change what we are doing to develop minds in these areas. More than ever real world challenges and problem solving can be tackled and utilized as a learning opportunity at younger and younger ages. In order to facilitate this at Grosse Pointe Academy I created a Symbaloo ( a sweet, visual matrix of web links) to carefully researched sites for STEM. I called it A Geek's Paradise because this New Dork happily spent hours exploring these resources. The links toward the top are for younger students and progress in age and ability as you descend. Enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Old School Meets New School

By Megan Black
I love pens and paper. Always have. I collect journals and notebooks. Never feared, only craved the blank page. Another thing, I am a doodler. It helps me listen. This is why I was gladend to hear Sunni Brown's TED Talk stating that research shows that doodling improves our comprehension and creativity.  If you are like me, having a stylus and the Penultimate App would greatly improve your iPad experience. Penultimate used to be .99 cents but now it is free. It integrates and syncs sweetly with Evernote. You get virtual moleskin notebooks and can select grids, lines, or blank pages. You can change colors and widths of the pens you use. 

Here are screenshots of a doodle and note book pages taken in Penultimate

I want to wholeheartedly recommend Penultimate as a wonderful old school meets new school way of learning and keeping notes. It also saves trees while you get your doodle on. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What is on our Student iPads?

Below are interactive images created using ThingLink, a free web 2.0 tool. With ThingLink you can upload images or pull them from photo sharing sites or the Internet and insert tags into them. The tags can contain links and text descriptions.

These ThingLink images were created of screenshots of the iPad App pages on our student iPads that we share. Hat tip to Jeanette Stepanek for the inspiration. Jeanette was asking if there was anyway I could help her preview what apps are on the iPads so she can better plan for her upcoming lessons. While I provided lists earlier in the year, as time progressed the list evolved. Plus, it is far easier to remember images that reflect the actual device than text based lists.

On the images below, scroll over them and you can link to the app in iTunes as well as preview a brief description of what that app does. 

A word to the warning for GPA faculty; although these are the apps on all the student iPads on the carts for Grades 1-8, they may not appear in that order or on those same pages on the different iPads. You will need to teach the students to search for the app icon you want them to use.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Helpful Posters with iPads

I recently created the top two posters to address two issues we have at my school where we share iPads on Carts. Others are welcome to use or reuse as necessary. Special thanks to teachers Veronica Alatorre and Claudia Leslie for the idea. 

By Megan Black

This is how to add an email to shared iPads on a cart and more importantly how to delete the account before returning it to be used again. 
By Megan Black

I also included this iPad Tips Poster by Simon Haughton
Please visit his blog to download a copy. He generously shares it. 


Monday, February 11, 2013

Will the Real Change Agent Please Step Forward?

Photo by Megan Black
The deeper I get into this year of evolution at The Grosse Pointe Academy the more convinced I am that my real purpose has little to do with technology. Technology is simply the modus operandi. The instrument. The widener of possibilities. 

Gadgets are glitz. Gizmos are glamour. I'll admit I'm dazzled. But in order for this relationship to last there had better be meaty conversation. Shared values. Mischief and giggles. 

We should stop putting forth that the focus of 21st century education is embracing technology. We should however, consistently remind ourselves that teachers are humans who fell in love with learning. We heard its whispered promises in the dark and followed it to whatever end. Trusting ourselves as learners and lovers of language and ideas. Finding the inner courage, determination, and humility to mess up, over and over again. To seek. And wonder. And mull. 

The magic and the metal behind excellent teaching is when you take whatever is available to you and use it to craft your story.  Or share your students' stories. Or listen to the stories of other souls in foreign lands and hold them as your own. 

And so this is where the tech becomes a bonus. Because technology makes creating, communicating, and collaborating so darn accessible. 

I believe my mission lies not in breaking new ground. I am not a giant or a lion of courage and frankly, I am a bit of a klutz so don't put a machete in my hands. Nor am I a navigator. I get lost between the kitchen and the bathroom. No, I do better directing from the back of the troop. Noticing, looking, listening, and telling about it. 

Photo by Megan Black
And let me tell you just a few of the astonishing changes I have witnessed at my  tiny school. I've seen teachers get so excited about discovering new apps and interesting ways to use them that you'd think they were given the magical ability to metabolize bacon and fried chicken without the calories or cholesterol.  Impish first graders with missing teeth have schooled their veteran instructors in the hidden capabilities of programs. The lunchroom conversations have turned into best practices and collective problem solving think tanks. In short, we are becoming a community of learners and scholars. The devices are not responsible for the metamorphosis. The catalyst is the desire and persistent striving of all our tribe to grow.