Monday, October 24, 2011

No Technology Until High School?

This weekend there was an article in the NYTimes that spoke about the Waldorf School located in northern California. Below is a quote from the article:

"This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans."

The school does not believe that technology is necessary or a valuable tool in education. They perceive it as a distraction. Their philosophy is to focus on the basics of reading and writing with traditional instructional methods.

This is a topic that may bring about a lot of debate. I would be interested to hear your comments? I believe that it is important to focus our curriculum. We sometimes get caught up in the fads and new gadgets. However, if used "as a tool" i believe that technology has an impact on student achievement. It is my belief that we should not be teaching technology. It is not about the technology itself. That will always be changing. The students will adapt to those changes on their own. It should be about the content. How can we use technology as a tool to suppport the essentials within our curriculum?

I support the universal design for learning framework. In order to address the various needs in our classroom we need to differentiate content, process and product. We can use technology to represent content in a multitude of ways.  When used appropriately it engages students and allows for alternative methods of evaluation and assessment. Our public schools have students with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and needs. As educators we must do our best to individualize the learning experiences for our students to be sure they are successful. Technology is a tool to aid in this process.

I also believe it is iresponsible for educators to ignore the footprint of information and breadth of knowledge available through the web. How do we not teach students to manage and vet the information that is available to them on the internet? The web and mobile technologies allows students to collaborate with others. It allows students to make connections, write for an audience and compare perspectives of others. Ignoring this opportunity and limiting a child's education to what is available within the four walls of a classroom is not an effective education in the 21st century.


What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reflecting on our own school experiences.

I recently attended a conference in which Charlotte Danielson was the afternoon keynote. Charlotte discussed the details of her framework for teaching. She also discussed her views on the overall evaluation process. While the session had a number of key points that were shared there was one topic that I believe is worth sharing. 

The Danielson framework for teaching is made up of 4 domains.

Domain 1 - Planning and Preparation
Domain 2 - The Classroom Environment
Domain 3 -  Instruction
Domain 4 - Professional Responsibilities

Charlotte presented the following question to groups of teachers during professional development sessions. " If you were to walk into a classroom, what would you see or hear from students or the teacher that would make you say, this is good stuff. I would want my child in this class? "  When presenting teachers with this question almost all of them would provide examples from Domain 3, instruction. They would site things like engaged learning, discussion, collaboration and assessment.

She would then ask a group of teachers, "Think back to when you were in school.  Remember a teacher or class that had a positive impact on your. What is it about this teacher or class that had an impact on you? Why was it so great?". When presented with this question almost all of the teachers listed attributes that would fall under domain 2, classroom environment. They would list experiences such as respect and rapport, a positive learning environment, a teacher who cared and the overall relationship of the teacher with the students.

This simple exercise in reflection reveals a lot. In our pursuit of increasing student achievement we tend to focus on instructional strategies, interventions, curriculum, formative and summative assessments, and the lesson framework. While these are all important and essential, is it possible that we are not placing enough emphasis on the classroom environment? Should we be working with teachers and supporting teachers to be more supportive and caring. Should we be working to build better rapport with students? Does the rapport we have with staff and the culture we establish in our buildings have a direct impact on the classroom environment? Can a school or district wide initiative to improve the relationship between administration and faculty and faculty and students impact student achievement and move us to the level of success we are striving for?

My thoughts in this posting are general observations related to teaching and learning. While this is an excellent topic for reflection it is not necessarily specific to my current district. I believe this is an area that all schools can benefit from exploring.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Daily News Site for Teens and Tweens

Tween Tribune and Teen Tribune are bringing the worlds news and events to the classroom.  Every day they post the most compelling, relevant and interesting news for teens and tweens.  The stories are selected by teens and tweens working closely with professional journalists. Students are provided with the opportunity to comment on these stories. They can also submit their own stories and photos.  Teachers have the ability to create a class account. Once the class account is created the students can register with the site and join the class.

Safety Concerns

The site is fully compliant with COPPA. See Below

"TweenTribune and TeenTribune are in full compliance with COPPA - the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – as outlined by the Federal Trade Commission. This means that:

  • Students may not use their last names.

  • Students may not use their email address anywhere on the site.

  • We do not gather or store student email addresses.

  • Teachers can moderate students' comments before they’re published.

  • We only uses news stories from reputable news organizations, such as the Associated Press, and local newspapers and TV stations.

  • Teachers' identities are independently verified before they are granted administrative privileges."

Teacher Pages - What does a class page provide

Teachers who create a class page that provides the teacher with the following access:

  • View the stories your class has commented on.

  • View individual comments by each student, on his or her own page

  • View all comments by your students, in one report that can be sorted by students’ names, comments, or dates

  • You can moderate, edit, or delete your students’ comments before they’re published.


Classroom Integration - Philosophy

Tween and Teen Tribune provides access to relevant and age appropriate news stories. Students are provided with the opportunity to read current news articles and comment on them. This type of activity provides  an authentic experience that can engage our students and promote the advantages of being aware of world and local news. This student-centered approach to current events and article review provides students with a forum to engage with a publication and engage in a meaningful task by reflecting or questioning through comments. The published comments are shared on each article which provides students with a global perspective and an audience for their own writing.

Classroom Integration - Ideas

Activities on Tween/Teen tribune meet class requirements for Reading, Writing and Computer Technology.

Students may be asked to pick a controversial story and post a comment that expresses their views on the topic. They may also be asked to select a comment that offers a view they disagree with. They can then be charged with writing a comment that refutes the comment with specific facts.

Assign topics based on the subject you teach. If you teach art have students read articles pertaining to art. If you teach science have them select science articles. The articles and responses can be conversation starters in the classroom. They may also be used to activate prior knowledge before a new lesson is introduced.

Students may publish their own stories, book reviews, newscasts, opinions or class news for the world to view and comment on. Remember, all comments are moderated by the teacher before going live.

Teen Tribune -

Tween Tribune -

Create your class page here -