Sunday, June 28, 2009

Educational Technology Brain Food

I had a request this week from a subscriber wanting some links for a parent who requested that her child not use computers at school and that she would prefer her child be given worksheets when the rest of the class where using computers. The teacher wanted some information that would convince the parent that computers are an essential part of education at school and home. The argument is moot because computers are pervading more aspects of our lives. How many handwritten letters, for example, have you received this year? Is learning handwriting more important than learning touch typing? I try to respect others when their opinions differ, and I can see some truth in the belief that we may be becoming slaves of Information Technology rather than masters. What happens for example, when the power fails and you can't use your Interactive Whiteboard? For this reason I have tried to air the views of both sides of the debate in the links I have prepared this week. My stance in terms of Educational Technology has always been that no gadget can be a panacea for poor teaching. Rather than trying to win arguments, a more productive use of time is be the best teacher you can be using ED Tech and let it be a case of the "proof in the pudding" with the achievements of students in your class. One way to improve your knowledge and skills is to engage in some professional development by subscribing to Educational Technology Blogs where other educators share their ideas and experiences. I hope the blogs I have collected will help and by all means, please send me links to ones not on the list that you think are worthwhile and I will add them.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Teaching Writing: You Be The Expert

The theme of my newsletter this week is Teaching Writing to Year 1-2 and I have to admit that the process of learning to write remains a mystery to me despite teaching for 25 years. Teaching kids is not like fixing computers. There are no zeros and ones, just a lot of shades of grey. My error rate in teaching writing would obviously be lower say, than in performing brain surgery, but there were always kids in my class that I couldn't motivate no matter what I tried. For this reason I am quite wary of Literacy experts (or any experts wearing ties for that matter for it was their sophisticated models that provided our present economic mess) telling me what works. So please take my suggestions with an equal grain of salt. There is no one solution suitable for every student. One tip is to try as much as possible to provide kids with an authentic and meaningful purpose for writing. Telling them they have to write because they will need it when they grow up just doesn't cut it any more. Plumbers earn as much as doctors in Australia and I don't know many who write poetry in their spare time. There needs to be a more immediate reward. Why not try publishing student writing in a book or on the Internet? Why not appeal to their egos? Advertisers do it to us every day. And finally, get the kids to write copious amounts every single day and don't worry if you can't correct it all. You don't have the time. Better to let them write more, than hold them back until you covered it in red ink. My writing improved significantly when I was writing essays every night. It took my a while to work out that it is like learning to surf. You have to do it every day if you want to improve. Have strict rules for editing work that is to be published and don't worry about what isn't published. Reflect also on how many hand written letters you have posted this week. The sooner the kids have computers on their desks the better. Have a look at the links I have provided for you this week and see if you can find anything that might work in your classroom. Keep an open mind and keep trying out new ideas. It is more art than science. You be the expert.