Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Learning through play ...

I just had a group of 4th graders leave the media center, excited about how much they had learned. Yeah, I know ... 4th graders EXCITED about learning. It doesn't happen often, I have to say.

They came in last week to work on PowerPoint presentation about Cherokee Indians. They wrote their facts, typed up their slides ... no muss, no fuss, no STYLE or personality ... and then printed them out as a handouts. Looks great as an artifact of a technology lesson but what did they really learn?

Well, this morning, they went above and beyond the basics and had a meaningful learning experience. Because of a cancellation somewhere else in their schedule, one of the classes was able to come down to the media center, open their PowerPoints (they had saved them to the hard drive) and then spend 45 minutes PLAYING. It wasn't for a grade, it was just for fun and that is how we presented it to them.

They learned how to proof and correct spelling mistakes, manipulate the font size and color, apply a template, add custom animation, all sorts of fun stuff. If they went too far or really messed it up, they learned they could Undo back to their last save. A couple of kids even said "Hey, this is just like in Word when you can undo a mistake!", making the connection that there are similarities between MS products. (Authentic learning!)When someone discovered something cool, we called everyone's attention to it and let that student tell the class how they got there.

When it was time for them to go, the teacher told them to just close the program without saving the changes so that there was a clean copy, just in case someone lost their original printout. They walked out of here excited and happy, ready to do another PowerPoint for their next unit.

Some of these kids (and their teacher, I think) were just amazed at how much PowerPoint could do! No wonder! If we only let kids use the software to do a handout for a portfolio, what are they really learning? Most of them hadn't even watched their original presentations as a slide show.

I am SO glad they did this and I am going to suggest that every class tries the same thing. Learning through play. It works at any age. It was how I learned everything I know about computers. It's how I teach Kindergarten and 1st grade to word process. They first type their names for a print out at a standard size and font and then they can change the font and size and color however they want. First and second grade can also do that after they print out their poetry. It allows them the freedom to explore without worrying about having to do it the 'right' way.

Drawbacks: TIME!! Who has time in their schedule to play anymore? Also, scheduling time for everyone in the media center is impossible with my fixed classes ... and I'm not always available to facilitate the sessions. This is something I want to work on more with my teachers ... at least those that are open to the experience. Maybe after seeing their success, others will want to jump on the bandwagon.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Would this be considered ironic?

Remember that song by Alanis Morrisette? Everyone ragged on her, saying that “rain on your wedding day” and “a traffic jam when you’re already late” were not examples of irony, but of Murphy’s Law.

They were right of course. Now a traffic jam caused by the overturning of an 18-wheeler filled with jars of strawberry jam, now THAT would be ironic.

Apparently someone didn’t pay attention when irony was being taught as a literature style.

Well, back to me!!! :-)

I got into work this morning and found a pile of books in my mailbox. They were my books. My flood books. With my name on them.

The letter attached came from one of the other co-editors, asking that we please catalog them in the media center and share the books with our students and staff.

The best part about it is that I’m the one that is going to catalog them. I’ll be typing my own name into the catalog.

Ok, so maybe that’s not truly ironic but it’s pretty dang COOL, I must say!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

On integration ...

As the semester winds down, I'm noticing how mentally tired I am lately. I realize now that one of the reasons I don't have a chance to do anything that is truly innovative here at school is that, since I've started working here, I've been in school. Ok, I actually had a year off so that is not exactly true but, during that year, I was trying to turn this media center around and get things set to right.

*have I always talked like this? How did the local colloquialisms become such a part of my vocabulary? Yesterday, I actually said I had to have a 'come to Jesus' meeting with someone that was having an attitude problem. Wow ... I'm feeling the urge to go out and 'bang a U-ie' just to reassert my Bostonian roots.*

What I wonder is ... how do people do it all? How do they have time to be innovative and current and grow both personally and professionally and not have their head feel all explodey?

I'm playing Jeopardy with my 2nd graders this week. My version is low tech ... I write the terms on a rolling white board and group the students into teams of 2 or 3. They use dry erase lap boards for their written answers and have to work in teams to figure out the answer to the questions that I ask from the terms on the board. Teams get a point for each right answer and the team with the most right answers wins. The twist comes in the sportsmanship. If a team has sour grapes and is making fun of others that aren't doing well or starts fighting amongst themselves when they are losing, they lose points. It sounds complicated but, really it isn't. Everyone gets something and the winning team gets two somethings.

This 9 weeks, the terms are all literary: Title, Author, Illustrator, Title Page, Call letters, Dedication, Publisher, Copyright, Folk Tales, Fables, Genre, jacket, Inside Flap, Spine. These are terms that we have talked about for 3 years now (I have had these students since Kindergarten) so the kids usually do well, unless I happen to get a team that has a brain drain. Since the teams are picked randomly, though, you never know where the strong team will be.

This has worked well for me for 3 years now but I know there has to be a better way to do this, something that involves using technology in the presentation of the game ... I just haven't come up with it yet. I have a laptop now that I could hook up to an LCD projector but the presentation of the game would have to change dramatically and I'm not sure I want it to change too much unless there is a MUCH better way to do it that still incorporates all the important elements. Any Ideas??

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller??