Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Great Education Podcast Meme

Michaele, over at Tending the Kinder-Garden, tagged me for a meme some time ago. I'm embarrassed to admit how long ago, so we'll let that go for now. She's looking for links to educational podcasts that I've listened to and enjoyed.

Sadly, I've not listened to any. I don't have an iPod and never seem to find a time to listen on my computer. However, her meme inspired me and I'm hoping to get an iPod in the near future to get started with this. I know that I've been missing some great stuff and I can't wait to start listening.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Baby Steps with Technology

I just overheard two teachers discussing a lesson one of them taught today. Her students are researching endangered animals and she is having them do their research independently (they are fifth graders). Ahead of time she set up a list of bookmarks for them on the server so that they had approved websites, including search engines, to get started.

This morning she got one cart of laptops from nearby and another cart from the second floor of our other building, not an easy job, so that each student would have a computer. Then, during the lesson, she showed them how to log onto the server to access the bookmarks. Only about five of the students were able to get logged in. For some reason, the other fifteen or so were locked out. She got them started on another website, but found the experience very frustrating, especially after so carefully setting up bookmarks. (As an aside, I've shown her del.icio.us for future use.)

I know that many educators, parents, and others are frustrated by how little many teachers use technology in their classrooms. I know that I don't use nearly as much as I should. I also know that my school district has done a pretty good job of supporting teachers with this. Each elementary school has a technology specialist full time who is there to support the use of technology in the classrooms. Each school also has another tech person a couple of days a week to do the troubleshooting and to fix problems. However, our full time person often gets stuck fixing things around the building because he's here more often. He's done a ton to offer workshops before and after school to help teachers and he's willing to work with anyone who asks. But most teachers don't. They have a lot on their plates already. I'm not sure how we move forward here. I'm about as open to using technology as possible and I read plenty to keep me up to date with the options for web 2.0 tools, but I still can't pull off what I think I should be doing. How do we manage to support teachers in a way that really helps them integrate this? What's the first step?

List of Loves

There are so many reasons I love teaching. After being out of the classroom for a week and a half, being back today was wonderful. So, here are a few of my favorite things:
  • when students ask a question I don't know the answer to (happened first thing this morning, what a way to start the day!)
  • learning for the sake of learning, not for grades or approval, but simply because they are fascinated by a topic - somehow we manage to stifle that as students grow older (great teachers rekindle it, but it is less natural as students age)
  • students getting so engaged in a discussion or project that we're late for lunch (or music or PE or art or library...)
  • unexpected words, phrases, or ideas that come from students - you never know what you'll hear in an elementary school
  • family atmosphere - we spend so much time together we become a family, with all the positive and negative aspects
  • being a rock star - elementary age students get shockingly excited to see teachers, their own or ones they recognize from around the school and they greet you as if you are famous
  • the growth we get to see - students change so much, so quickly in elementary school - it is encouraging to see how much they have learned and developed over time
I'm so lucky to have a job that adds to my quality of life (as a friend said).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Teachers Have it Easy II

During our foray out to California, we had the opportunity to visit my sister's work. She is currently a project manager for Adobe. We had lunch in the cafe there (cheap because it is subsidized by Adobe and it was delicious) and checked out her work area. The building was open and inviting. She worked from home one of the days we were there and modified her hours to spend time with us on the other days. It was great.

It got me thinking, again, about life in education. This blog post considering treating students the way Google treats engineers just added fuel to the flame. I think the idea of 20% time for students is brilliant. But it also got me thinking about 20% time for teachers and a whole host of other wonderful perks.

I would love a subsidized, yummy lunch. I would love time to work on things I value as an educator. I would love more flexible hours. But, again, I'd be happy if people better understood the realities of teaching.

I took my laptop to California with me. My mother gave me a hard time about taking it, saying that she was sure I could survive a week without it and I certainly didn't need one more thing to carry (traveling with a four year old and an eight month old). She was especially shocked I was taking it when she realized that after the vacation I would be out of my classroom because a student teacher is taking over for four weeks. If I didn't have lessons to plan, what on earth would I need my laptop for? She is frequently surprised that I need to do so much planning now that I am in my tenth year. Why can't I just use what I did in previous years?

I don't want to suggest that my mother doesn't respect what I do. She does. Immensely. She does a lot to help me have enough time to do what I feel I need to do to be a good teacher. And she has listened to me for ten years talk about work. If she still doesn't really get it, I have little hope that anyone else will.

This sounds like complaining and I don't mean that to be true. I love my job. I love my school. I even love my school district. (The state I have less love for, but it's not too bad either.) But, I know how hard teachers work, how much of themselves they put into their jobs, and how important it all is. I'd like for families, politicians, and others to realize as well.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Exploring Science at the Exploratorium

I just got back from a trip to California for a family wedding and some time with my sister. We crammed a lot into a week, but one of the highlights was taking the girls to the Exploratorium. It may be the best designed museum I've ever visited (and I've visited a lot). As soon as I looked at the map of the museum I wanted desperately to take my class there. They had exhibits that address every unit we study in science. Of course, exhibits is probably not the correct term because that suggests something that you passively enjoy. Nothing at the Exploratorium is passive.

Our school district has worked hard to create science kits for each of the units we teach. As a result, lessons are very hands on and allow for a lot of constructivist learning and exploration. However, they all pale in comparison with the experiences at the Exploratorium. I kept trying to figure out how to recreate some of these items. Fortunately, the Exploratorium has done a fantastic job of creating online activities similar to what you can do at the museum. I'll be incorporating some of these activities in my classroom.

As wonderful as the online site is, I'm still wishing my students had the opportunity to visit such a museum. The Washington, D.C. area has many, many wonderful museums. But, it has no significant children's museum. The National Children's Museum, which I remember visiting as a child when it was the Capital Children's Museum, is scheduled to open in 2012. The previous museum closed in 2004. That's a long time to wait. The closest, hands-on, exploratory museum for kids is Port Discovery in Baltimore. It's a fun museum, but it pales in comparison with the Exploratorium.

I've visited the Exploratorium before, but somehow it was this visit that made me realize what museums can be. It also got me thinking about how to offer my students experiences like what they could get at the Exploratorium. I hope that one positive result of this visit will be that I stretch as a teacher of science. It's certainly an area that I can grow in!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Apology? Promise? Too Off Track to Know

I haven't posted in a while. Strangely enough I'm conflicted about that. I don't want to post simply for the sake of posting. But I also don't want to ignore this venue for too long.

It isn't that I haven't had ideas and things I've felt the urge to write about. But, the quarter ended so grades were due and I've had parent conferences. In addition, we're heading out of town tomorrow for a week. So, other things have dominated my time.

I'm hoping to get back on track in the next few weeks. I guess this post is just to make me feel better about not having posted. I'm sure this should tell me something about my relationship with blogging, but I don't want to analyze it too closely.