Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Technology across the grades...Part 2

For our First Graders here are some thoughts pulled together from the standards set forth by NCREL

  1. Students know how to start up the computer; locate applications; choose icons to select, open, save, print, and close files; and shut down the computer, monitor, and printer.

  2. Students identify ways that the computer is used at home and in school.

  3. Students recognize that passwords protect the security of technology systems.

  4. Students, assisted by teachers, parents, or student partners, know how to select media formats (e.g., text, clip art, photos, video, Web pages, newsletters) to communicate and share ideas with students in other classrooms.

  5. Students know how to use developmentally appropriate software to collect classroom data, create a graph, identify the questions that could be answered by the information in the graph, and interpret the results from the graph.

Here are some lessons and suggestions for implementing technology into your first grader's education: Lessons in Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science and Art A FREE typing tutorial that identifies keys, posture and begins to allow the student an opportunity to use both hands (no more hunt and peck)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We need to loose weight….for a tree’s sake

My colleague, Lisa Michelle, spoke recently in her blog about the paperless diet. I find this blog entry to be particularly interesting because it speaks to the educator who inherently totes around pounds and pounds of paper. It challenges an educator to shed weight. Paper weight. Why is it that in education we feel the more paper we have the more prepared we are?

I have seen it time and time again. In the NYCDOE there are teams called “The Inquiry Team.” Their role is basically to import school data into a collection tool and generate a plan for students. I am sure there is much more to it, but this is the jest of it. They (NYCDOE) were smart in the planning these teams, it appears that there is one team per school consisting of 4-6 members (approximately 1500 teams through NYC.) Each member was issued a laptop device so they can work digitally. I implore the efforts of the city to begin shedding paper weight, but where this falls apart is in the translation. Just today I was speaking to two inquiry team members (separate schools, separate boroughs) and found that in their schools it was deemed NECESSARY to PRINT these documents and place in a binder for each of the team members. Why go through the hassle of creating an image for portable device if you are going to print literally hundreds of pages? It just doesn’t make sense. The very point of having a device that contains all the necessary documents is so that can be read anywhere, anytime not to print them.

It is important as parents that conserving paper use be instilled at home. Children should be schooled on recycling, reusing and not wasting this precious resource. Does your child’s school have a recycling program that is actually functioning? I have seen schools talk about their achievements, but I didn’t see the blue container in a single classroom. Does the computer teacher teach students to post work digitally, or are the children “printing just to print?” I am understand that not everything can or should be posted digitally, but it should be a concept that is taught. Using Web 2.0 tools like google doc to post work for collaboration, sharing and peer review is the way to go.

At home, do you have a recycling program? Does your sanitation department discriminate between glass, plastic and paper? It seems almost comical that in the NYC we have a very strict recycling program, my parents have been issued fines for not “sorting” properly, but if you live in a building or building development (and here is the comical part) the enforcement of these strict rules seems to go out the window. Well if you look at the demographics of the city, more people live, work and play in buildings then in single dwellings. So what’s the point? I can put plastic in with paper or glass and no one cares. It is very frustrating to see the signs throughout the city that say “NYC Cares…we recycle! But in essence they don’t. I have through the years found places where I can bring my Christmas tree, paper, batteries and other items for recycling, but these programs should be in place everywhere all the time.

Here is an interesting read about trees and paper. I think it is information that you could and should share with your kids/students:

How much paper can be made from a tree?
Although it seems simple, the answer to this question is really quite complicated. There are many factors which influence the amount of paper that can be made from one tree.
Paper manufactured in the U.S. is probably made of wood fiber. But where did the fiber come from? A whole tree? Wood chips from a saw mill? Old copy paper? Maybe a combination of all three?If the paper was made from a whole tree, how old and how big was the tree? What kind of tree was it?Finally, a lot depends on the type of paper. What is its end use? And how was it manufactured?As you can see, there are so many factors involved, it is impossible to arrive at any one figure. To help explain these variables, let's first take a look at the raw material used to make paper.

Wood fiber--where does it come from?
You may be surprised to learn that about one-third of the raw material used to make paper in the U.S. is residue - wood chips and scraps left behind from forest and sawmill operations. These "leftovers" would probably be burned or discarded if not used by the paper industry.Another third of the raw material is recovered paper. Although some papers contain 100 percent recycled fiber, papermakers often combine various amounts of recycled and new fiber to produce the desired quality and grade of paper.Only about one-third of the fiber used to make paper in the U.S. is from whole trees, which the industry calls round wood. It is not considered economical to use large logs for paper when they could instead be used for lumber. For this reason, only trees smaller than 8 inches in diameter, or larger trees not suitable for solid wood products, typically are harvested for papermaking.

Pre-consumer and post-consumer paper--what's the difference?
Pre-consumer recovered paper consists of trimmings and scraps from printing, carton manufacturing, or other converting processes which are reused to make pulp without reaching the final consumer.Post-consumer recovered paper (like old corrugated boxes, newspapers, magazines, and office paper), has been used by the ultimate consumer and is then returned to the mill for recycling.
From fiber to pulp to paper
The amount of fiber in a cubic foot of wood varies greatly from species to species. Hardwoods (broad-leafed species) tend to have greater wood densities than softwoods (conifers), meaning they have more fiber per cubic foot of wood.
When trees are harvested for papermaking, the limbs are removed and the trunk is transported to a pulp mill. At the mill, the bark is removed and burned for fuel or processed to use as garden mulch. The wood is often chipped into small pieces about the size of a quarter, and then broken down further into individual fibers in a process call pulping. The pulping method influences the amount of fiber the wood yields.

Mechanical Pulping
Sometimes pulping is done mechanically by pressing and grinding the wood to separate the fibers. This mechanical pulping process is very efficient. Up to 95% of the dry weight of the wood is converted into pulp. Most newsprint is made from mechanical pulp, recycled fiber, or a combination of the two. Paper made from mechanical pulp is opaque and has good printing properties, but it is weak and discolors easily when exposed to light due to the residual lignin in the pulp. (Lignin is a natural wood chemical that holds fibers together.)

Chemical Pulping
A second pulping method is chemical pulping, in which a chemical/water solution dissolves the lignin to help separate the fibers. The absence of lignin means that paper made from chemical pulp is stronger and less prone to discoloration. The pulp yield from chemical pulping is much lower, though, since the lignin has been removed. Chemical pulps are used to make shipping containers, paper bags, printing and writing papers, and other products requiring strength.The type of paper being produced determines what pulping method is used. Remember the paper you used when learning to write in kindergarten - the paper with the very wide rule lines? This paper was grayish in color, and you could actually see bits of wood in the paper. Kindergarten writing paper and newsprint do not require high strength, brightness or purity, so mechanical pulps are probably the best choice for making these types of papers.Papermakers combine mechanical, chemical, and recycled pulp in varying amounts to produce the highest quality paper required by the customer from the least possible amount of fiber.Some people say that it takes "17 trees to make a ton of paper." This might make you believe that if a ton less paper were used every year, then at the end of the year, 17 more trees would remain standing.This is really an oversimplified conclusion. Many of the trees used for papermaking would be harvested or die anyway, even if not one piece of paper were produced. Many are already dying, and must be removed to improve the health of the forest. It makes good sense for papermakers to use these trees for wood pulp.

But in general...
As you can see, it is impossible to know exactly how much paper can be made from one tree.
But let's assume that the following paper products have been produced using 100 percent hardwood. A cord of wood is approximately 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 4 feet high. A cord of air-dried, dense hardwood (oak, hickory, etc.) weighs roughly 2 tons, about 15-20 percent of which is water.It has been estimated that one cord of this wood will yield one of these approximate quantities of products:

· 1,000-2,000 pounds of paper (depending on the process)
· 942 100-page, hard-cover books
· 61,370 No. 10 business envelopes
· 4,384,000 commemorative-sized postage stamps
· 460,000 personal checks
· 1,200 copies of National Geographic
· 2,700 copies of an average daily newspaper

Source: A Tree for Each American, American Forest & Paper Association, Washington, DC

Here are some important forest facts:
Each year, the U.S. forest community plants some 1.5 billion seedlings. That's an average of more than 4 million new trees planted every day!
More than 5 new trees are planted each year for every man, woman, and child in America, and millions more regrow naturally from seeds and sprouts.
There are more trees in America today than there were 70 years ago.
Trees are a renewable resource that will keep growing and growing. Unlike nonrenewable resources such as minerals, forests regenerate naturally, and good forest management by companies, governments, and landowners increases their abundance.
"How are Trees Grown for Paper?" Tappi. 10 Apr. 2008 .

So where is all this going? Schools are meant to teach our students, and they do, but as parents we need to teach our child as well. Showing them ways to recycle, ways to reuse, ways to do things digitally can have a profound impact on our environment in years to come. We are turning this Earth over to them and their children and we need to teach them well. By the way April 22nd is fast approaching…Earth day and my birthday :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Have you heard of blurb?

So what is Blurb? I stumbled upon Blurb recently and was in awe of the functionality of this online bookmaking site. Unlike the traditional photo upload/book creating site this site has an added layer that takes it into another realm. Imagine creating a book rich with text, rich with photos, rich with collaboration? Yes, collaboration. Once you begin your book you can invite collaborators to view, edit and add a creative flair to your book. Experts from around the globe can help author your book…or not. It’s your choice as the author. Imagine the possibilities. A family trip with multiple family members from varying places can collaboratively work on a book, add photos, add comments, text, and dialog and ultimately order it to preserve their memories in a hard cover, bound book. A teacher can have students post poems, short stories, illustrations and generate a class book that surpasses any “notebook.” A yearbook can be created breaking the “traditional” mold of what a yearbook looks like. Blogs can seamlessly be imported from the host site and created into a book. The possibilities are endless.

Another interesting concept that blurb introduces is the option of having your book available for sale to the general public. Unlike the traditional sites, once your book is created it becomes available for sale through the site. Now I am not sure I would want to spend $50 on someone’s baby book, but the picture book of Kenya really caught my eye. The pictures were stunning.

So parents, I ask you “What are your plans this summer?” Why not break out the camera, photograph your child’s way through the summer and have them journal, write poems, add dialog. What a great learning tool for children. The fact that they will become published authors is reason enough for them to want to write. It may be easier then you think to get your kid to do some work this summer after all!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Heading out to NCTM

I am on a plane right now…heading out to NCTM, National Conference for Teachers of Mathematics. My lens is always to look at curriculum and see ways technology is being used to enhance education. I also go with the lens as a mom. What would make Math fun for Andrew. Andrew’s forte in school is Math. You can dish it to him in the simplest of ways, workbooks, and he will eat it up, or you can present it digitally, like Cyberchase and he’ll still eat it up. Here is the difference though, what does a workbook provide in giving math real world meaning? Cyberchase is a favorite site of mine for several reasons:

  1. Sponsored and created by Channel 13…enough said

  2. Provides real world scenarios for math and child work through possible solutions to find an answer that makes sense

  3. Provides the digital gaming feel which is attractive to students in the 21st century

  4. Is free

  5. Sponsored and created by Channel 13…enough said

Being able to solve math equations is important but what good is it if you can’t apply it to life. As parents it is important to demonstrate on a day to day basis where math fits into our lives and important it really is. Here a re a few ways Andrew and I have math conversations seamlessly throughout the day and believe it or not, its painless, they don’t know whats happening and they certainly don’t realize that they are computing.

Fuel…$3.50 a gallon (and rising), talk about what it was yesterday, what will it be tomorrow, in one week, in one month at the increase of 1 cent/gallon. Don’t forget to point out the fuel tank and show empty as equaling zero to half full tp ¾ full to full.
“Go weigh this for me” This is my command at the supermarket. Andrew grabs the fruit or the vegetables and runs over to the scale, drops them down and waits patiently for the needle to stop move and announces “3 pounds plus a little” That’s code for over 3 pounds but not near 4 pounds. If it was closer to 4 pounds, Andrew’s answer would be “almost 4 pounds” Sometimes he will add an extra orange or apple to make it 4 even.
“Time check!” This is my shout out in the morning. While I am rushing around the place to do my hair, make-up, last minute emails, my son acts as the time keeper. He yells back 6:53, 7 more minutes till lift off. Then a few minutes later I hear, 2 minutes till lift off, then I hear “it’s 7:00 mommy time to go.” I have come to rely on Andrew’s timekeeping skills. He helps me with my time management in morning…sad but true.
Coupons…he loves coupons, loves reading the sale circulars and informing me of all the processed foods he can get for $10. This is a highlight of the food shopping excursions. “Look mommy…10 pizzas for 10 bucks” You can get 20 for 20 bucks and on and on.

These are a few examples of ways you can work math into your life skills education you provide your children. These conversations between Andrew and I are not because I have a smart child or pay extra special attention then anyone else. I work 60-70 hours a week, 6 days a week, but I make math a priority in our conversation. We all talk to our children, so why not make the conversation meaningful. Our jobs are to teach and share, and that is what our conversations are about. I would love to hear from you to see what examples you have to share about working math into your conversation with your children.

Stay tuned till after this weekend and I will report about the new and innovative ways technology is working its way into Math.

Friday, April 4, 2008

My big plans...

I decided today that I am going to activly persue the NOAA's Teacher at Sea program. I think through my blog I can open the window to many environmental issues with our oceans we are currently facing. The application process begins in October 2008. I already put it in my calendar as a reminder. I think my son would be rather jealous if I did this, but the amount of information I could potentially learn and being able to share that information digitally to teachers, parents and students would be well worth it!

Technology across the grades....Part 1

As you may or may not know…in addition to being a mom, blogger and technologist, I am also an educator. I work for the NYCDOE in technology. I would like to draw the curtains back and take a peak into classrooms and see how technology is being used in classrooms. I will focus on one grade level a week. During the weeks ahead if you are doing something great in your classroom or at home (especially if you home school…I would love to hear from you) please email me.

For our little Kindergartners here are some thoughts pulled together from the standards set forth by NCREL

· Kindergarten children, with assistance from their teacher, or working with student partners begin to use computers, calculators, the web and other technology tools to access appropriate resources identified by their teacher.
· Teachers model for the students’ safe web usage as an introduction to cyber safety. Students begin to navigate different resources (e.g., interactive books, educational software, drawing and presentation programs) to support their classroom learning and express creativity.
· At home, parents can work with their children using software or visiting web resources that help focus on early learning problem-solving skills (e.g., matching, counting, ordering and sequencing, patterns, sorting by shape or color, classification, hidden items, measurement, directional words, critical thinking, logic and prediction, same or different).

Parents (and teachers) need to become familiar with . “i-SAFE Inc. is the worldwide leader in Internet safety education. Founded in 1998 and endorsed by the U.S. Congress, i-SAFE is a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting the online experiences of youth everywhere. i-SAFE incorporates classroom curriculum with dynamic community outreach to empower students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, and concerned adults to make the Internet a safer place.” It is important at an early age to begin discussing with our children the importance of practicing cyber safe behavior. Don’t scare the children! Be frank with them. My son is in Kindergarten and I have already solidified with him the importance of using a screen name different from his own name and one that doesn’t give away his gender. We talked about animals and his favorite animals (sharks, dinosaurs, birds) and we choose one and added a simple number strand at the end. When he logs on to webkinz world (while it is a closed environment) I know that he is putting cyber safe practices into motion. He has begun to play chess online. This is a little trickier. He goes to yahoo games which is a live chat area. We have talked about what he should say if someone asks him a question such as “Is your mom or dad home?” or “What school do you go?” I tell him to not reply but to simply get me. As questions like this arise, I will guide him with proper answers that will help keep him safe. I don’t want him to be scared, just knowledgeable and let’s face it, a five or six year old has the memory of a flea. Giving them answers now for questions that may occur months from now won’t help them. It is much better to say “And don’t remember to call me when someone asks you a question” and then teach them in the moment an appropriate answer. That will drive home the learning process. If you have any additional suggestions on this topic please share!

So remember, Kindergarteners should be on the internet and using applications. The earlier their skills are worked on the better it is for the student. Here are some additional resourses for you. If you have more, please share.

A great place to start with resources, lessons and standard. This wiki can also be edited as well.

Standards/Expectations of learning in Kindergarten from North Carolina

Publications on the using technology at young ages by the Northwest Educational Technology Consortium