Saturday, May 3, 2008

ahhh Summer

Well its a bit chilly here in NY today, but summer will be upon us soon. For many parents our kids will be out of school soon which poses a whole host of dilemmas. Child care while you go to work, camp, vacations. My son's school releases on June 10th! Yes folks he gets almost 3 months of summer vacation. What is a parent to do!

I am a firm believer in "get outside and run and play until you collapse, then take a bath and go to sleep" and then do it all over again the next day. Since I work, camp pretty much has that covered for me-THANK GOODNESS. But the question at hand is "What do I do with my lil one when the weather is bad, or money is tight or the car is broke?" VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS. Take your kid on a virtual field trip and discover a world of endless learning and possibilities. Here are some good examples:

Visit a real farm! I like this one for the younger kids. The movies are real, the farmers are real and there is a lot to learn about farms.

Go on an adventure! These are free online expeditions that allow you to engage your children with journal entries, photographs and data.

Greatest Places Online. Online adventures around the world with real time reports. The photography here is beautiful.

Get electrical Good lessons but for an older student.

Learn about the Liberty Bell Nice photos and good content on a subject that is rarely taught in school.

I will continue to add links as I come to them, but feel free to comment and offer suggestions to other sites.

Changes in the workplace...prepare our kids

Increasing I hear more and more folks saying that their work day is structured differently. Here is a link to another blogger who talks about it They have the ability to work from home, from Starbucks, from a park as long as they have an Internet connection. I think that the typical "office" has begun to shift dramatically but by the time our school aged children reach the work force the concept of an office, with paper, paperclips, scissors, white out and a water cooler will be few and far between. Let's face it, more and more people I work with ask for things digitally and those things aren't even stored on our computers. All important documents that I need are in Google Docs. I can access my work anywhere anyplace. I am not even wedded to my computer, just a connection. The water cooler is now facebook, myspace, ning or any other social network. The boundaries of the water cooler are no longer confined to the walls of the office. People can connect, collaborate and communicate with like minded folks all over the world. The water cooler is global.

As parents/home schoolers/educators we need to teach our students/children to use these tools in a safe and responsible environment. I know I have talked about this before, but I can't drive home the point enough that our kids are going to rock this world one day and we need to teach them to use this power that is so accessible to them in a way that will make a positive change. Not having discussions about using the Internet in a safe way is doing them a disservice. If your child's school is not showing them the ways, then offer to teach an isafe course to the PTA. Get the word out there that our kids are cybercitizens who need to act in a safe and appropriate fashion.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Starting a conversation

Today I had the privilege to hear Tim Magner speak at a MOUSE conference in NYC. I thought he was very good. His PowerPoint moved at a quick pace (which held my attention), he was funny, his answers to the participants questions were thorough and his passion for Technology in schools was clearly evident. There were a few things that he spoke about that struck me as very interesting when thinking about our schools, our students/children and the 21st Century. He talked about School 2.0 and its importance in our children's lives. I liked the analogy that he gave us that talked about a doctors office years ago which had 1 nurse and a doctor who examined, diagnosed and prescribed to today's doctor's office which has a multitude of employees who have very technical jobs. It really showed how things have changed. He said the workforce used to see the majority of students head off to blue collar jobs and a small percentage went on to be doctors, lawyers and heads of companies, but today that has all changed.

I found an article in the Wall Street Journal where Tim recommends some books to read. I have a read a few of them already, but I think, perhaps the others are worth looking into. Here is the list:

  1. "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms," by Will RichardsonA public school teacher looks at how to take these Web 2.0 tools and begin to use them in the classroom. The book is more practitioner-focused but gives a nice overview of what Web 2.0 and social collaboration models are, how they facilitate types of interactions and how to use them in school.

  2. "Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative," by Ken Robinson. Robinson identifies and explains what he feels is the creation of an unnatural separation between arts and sciences, and creativity and intelligence. He believes this separation is enforced in formal education. He addresses how we need to re-engage with kids in different ways to encourage them to tap into their creativity. Robinson spends a lot of time talking about finding your medium, and we are seeing that digital tools are the medium of choice for a lot of students.

  3. "Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/School Partnerships," by Anne T. Henderson, Vivian Johnson, Karen L. Mapp and Don Davies It can be difficult to create a strong relationship between parents and the school. The authors talk about engaging with your school from a parent perspective. Part of the thesis is using technology as a platform to transform how we deliver instructions and communication. We must have a mechanism that enables parents to stay involved, and technology provides a tremendous medium to communicate.

  4. "Don't Bother Me Mom -- I'm Learning!" by Marc Prensky Prensky has coined the terms digital natives and digital immigrants. Technology comes naturally to children since they grow up with it, whereas adults speak technology with an accent. This book looks at what kids can learn from video and electronic games and tries to overcome the natural predisposition against games that parents and educators have. It demonstrates how children use games and provides examples of how teachers can incorporate games in school to take technology to the next level.

  5. "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy," by James Paul Gee Gee's point is to look at games not as a distraction, but consider what you learn from them like complex reasoning skills. He looks at games as a learning paradigm and considers the implications of that kind of a model for education at large. The book considers how to use these particular tools and models as a pedagogue as opposed to an entertainment platform.

  6. "The Flickering Mind, Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology," by Todd Oppenheimer This book presents the other end of the spectrum. Oppenheimer's critique sometimes opposes my way of thinking but is an important counterpoint to some of the overblown hype expounded by tech buffs. This book shows some of the traps you can encounter if technology is implemented poorly or there isn't a clear educational vision for what you are trying to accomplish. There could be a disconnect between technology and the curriculum or the teacher's ability to use the software. There's a difference in using technology for research and to connect rather than using it as a glorified typewriter.

  7. "Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation," by Don Tapscott Kids are interfacing with technology in different ways and as educators we need to understand where they're coming from to fully connect with students. Sometimes we need to retool what we do to connect. This book documents the trend in new media and how young people are interacting with that media. The old ways of standing in front of students and lecturing don't work. Educators need to appreciate that the expectations they had as students are different from the new generation.

  8. "Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century," by David Franklin Warlick Literacy isn't just about reading and writing anymore, it's about analysis and research. This book look at higher level skills and how technology creates an opportunity to access those levels. It takes the idea that the technology changes the way we interact with one another and manage information and says that schools have to deal with this. If technology provides more complex experiences, we have to make sure students can navigate them and be able to take advantage of the types of opportunities technology provides for different levels of engagement.

  9. Partnership for 21st Century Skills, partnership has about 25 or 30 companies and other nonprofit organizations that are developing a framework for defining a set of skills they think are important for students to possess to be successful in the 21st century. The site has case studies and examples. A large part of the focus is dedicated to information, media and technology skills.

For parents and homeschoolers I recommend that you take Tim's advice and start having a conversation about technology, its role's in your child's life and ask whether or not your child's school is a 20th Century school or a 21st Century school. If you think they are in the dark ages then begin to question and rally the community for change. I highly recommend you visit and look at the Transformation Toolkit to let the conversation begin.