Posts filed under 'Technology'

Blogstitute: Digital Distraction or Engagement?

Welcome back to Week 3 of our Summer Blogstitute! We are starting out the week with this very practical post from Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts, authors of the new book Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning. Diana and Jen address an issue that many teachers who use technology in their classrooms on a regular basis face: what to do with distractions — online or otherwise? Please share some of your strategies in the comments or on Twitter using #blogstitute15. Diana and Jen are at #ISTE15 today and we’ll be live-Tweeting their presentations and their mini-sessions at our booth. If you happen to be there, stop by and see them at booth #134, or follow the sessions on Twitter.

power-upDigital Distraction or Engagement in Action By Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts

We recently received a question from a middle school teacher asking about digital citizenship and digital distraction. Specifically what to do about students who are off task or using their device for something other than school work. She wrote:

“In the past I have removed computer privileges from students who were either playing games or using Gmail accounts to chat (not about the content)…What do other teachers/schools do to implement responsible use of computers/devices while in the classroom? What do you recommend…?

Before we jump into what we think is the heart of the matter, let’s make a quick digression. Many teachers who are new to 1:1 often feel that, since their school or district shelled out the money to provide the devices, teachers are supposed to use them every minute of every class period of every day. We have yet to meet an administrator who pushes this policy. Many of the challenges teachers face with distracted students come at moments in class when students aren’t really actively doing anything. We may be giving instructions, or reviewing a sample of an assignment, or setting up an activity. This is prime distraction time. (Just look around at the next faculty meeting during general announcements for teachers checking email or sending off a quick text; digital distraction is pretty common.) It is for this reason that we encourage teachers to build norms into their class routines, and verbal cues into their lesson transitions. Jen’s students know that during silent reading time, their laptops need to be closed. Diana’s students have gotten comfortable with her cue to “chill out and listen” while she gives directions — hands clasped behind their heads (where they can’t type), reclined in their chairs, eyes off their screens. If distraction during these brief windows of time is an issue, it’s completely reasonable to have students power down.

But our hunch is that’s not the entirety of the question. What do we do when it’s time to power up for learning and our students veer off topic? When our classrooms are 1:1, and our students truly need their computer or tablet to do their classwork, then we have moved past a time when technology is a privilege and into an age when it is a necessary learning tool. Very rapidly, computers and tablets in our classrooms are becoming as critical as textbooks were several decades ago. When our students need technology to be productive, removing it also removes any chance they have for doing their work. The issue, then, is not about the technology; it is about disengagement from the learning task. The challenge is that with a screen in front of our students, a whole host of more engaging activities are close at hand.

In some cases, taking away the computer may be exactly what a student wants us to do. Consider this story from a few weeks ago in Jen’s classroom.  A student, who should have been collaborating with his partner on an activity, was reading his book instead. Jen asked him to please put the book away, open up his laptop, and help with the task. He did, but a few minutes later Jen’s colleague, a co-teacher who is new to 1:1 teaching, brought her the student’s computer. “He was playing a game, so I took it away.” she said.  When Jen looked over, the student had his nose back in his book, an activity now seemingly sanctioned by the removal of his laptop. Jen told her colleague she should return the computer; she protested that the student had been off-task. “Yes,” Jen explained, “and now he is still off task because without the computer he can’t do the work today.” Taking his laptop was more of a reward than a punishment. Without the computer the student was free to read his book without having to collaborate with his peers. With his computer back, and a bit of closer supervision from his teachers, he spent the rest of the period working with his partner.

Taking a computer or tablet away from a student should be our last resort, and only if we are ready with some other equally rigorous task. Consequences for off-task behavior should be the same whether the work is analog or digital. We wouldn’t take away a student’s pencil because the child was doodling or writing notes to friends. We think part of the solution for off-task students is to reframe the problem. Students who are doing other things are not being willfully defiant; they are looking for something more engaging to do. Let’s admit that many of the things we expect students to do in school are not always going to be interesting to them. Making sure we have taken steps to create a student-centered curriculum is the crucial first step for increasing engagement, and thus, limiting digital distraction.

Beyond curricular changes, students need to know that the work they are doing matters, and that we will hold them accountable for completing it. Having clear consequences for completing work is a useful way to motivate students to stay on task. Additionally, we suggest partner work activities that rely on the contributions of both students.  Moving around the room, and having direct conversations with off-task students about why they are choosing not to do their work are other ways to show students we care about their success. We suspect  many of these strategies sound familiar from the pre-1:1 days. In short, our recommendation for encouraging responsible use of technology is to be sure that our learning tasks are engaging, the consequences of not finishing work are clear, and the spirit of  productivity guides our lesson planning. There is work to be done.

Making our 1:1 classrooms an engaging place for learning is the subject of all of Chapter 3 in Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning (which we highly recommend, of course.) Chapter 3 explores three core conditions for student engagement—connection, perplexity, and curiosity—and uses a series of classroom vignettes to illustrate these conditions. The second half of the chapter details five strategies for increasing engagement in your 1:1 classroom. We share reasons why each of these strategies works to encourage and integrate all student voices, put students in conversation with one another, and transform teacher-centered instruction to personalized learning. Using back-channeling, online discussion boards, polling and data collection, interactive feedback systems, and educational games, you can easily enrich the great teaching you are already doing. The chapter closes with a brief discussion of disengagement and offers suggestions for ways to detect and reduce distractions in the 1:1 classroom.

10 comments June 29th, 2015

See you at #ISTE15!

isteWe are excited to be a part of this year’s ISTE Conference June 28-July 1. You can find us at booth #134, where we will be displaying our books that help you integrate technology into your classrooms. You can also hear mini-sessions from authors, teachers, and digital mavens Diana Neebe, Jen Roberts, and Julie Ramsay, as well as presentations from our video streaming partner Kanopy.

Stop by and enter to win an iPad Mini and pick up your free copy of “Technology in the Classroom,” a collection of practical teaching ideas from five Stenhouse books.

Author Mini-Sessions

From Alabama to Nigeria: Building Stronger Learners One Brick at a Time
Student-led session, with Julie D. Ramsay
Monday at 10:15

Twitter-a-ture: Student Learning and Publishing in 140 Characters or Less
With Julie D. Ramsay
Monday at 10:45

Insta-success with Instagram: Strategies for Empowering Learning for Our Selfie-Loving Students
With Julie D. Ramsay
Tuesday at 1:30

Curation Station: Tools that Equip Learners to Manage the Information Inundation
With Julie D. Ramsay
Tuesday at 2:00

Amplifying Student Voice with Choice throughout the Learning Process
With Julie D. Ramsay
Wednesday at 10:00

Power Up: A Crash Course in Going 1:1
With Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts
Monday at 1:00
Tuesday at 10:00
Wednesday at 12:00

Power Up Collaboration: Norms, Tools, and Tips for Collaborating with Your Colleagues
With Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts
Monday at 1:40
Wednesday at 12:40

Power Up Solutions for Frequent Freak-Outs: Coping with the Uncertainty of Changing Digital Expectations
With Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts
Monday at 2:20
Tuesday at 10:40

Power Up Your Feedback: Responding to Student Work in a Radical Way!
With Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts
Tuesday at 11:20

Sessions with our Streaming Video Partner Kanopy

Attend one of the below mini-sessions by Kanopy and receive a free streaming trial!

Monday: 9:45 a.m., Noon, 4 p.m.
Tuesday: 9:45 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
Wednesday: 9:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m.

Add comment June 26th, 2015

Now Online: Power Up

This accessible, hands-on book shares a wealth of creative lesson ideas, how-to examples, useful tools, and collaboration tips for educators ramping up their technology skills to improve teaching and enrich learning for all students.
—Brian Lewis, CEO, ISTE

A must-read book for those who are already in 1:1 mobile device situations and are looking for good ideas, for those who are planning a 1:1 initiative, and for any educator who wants to learn pedagogically sound ways to embed technology into teaching and learning and the practical methods to do so!
—Kathy Schrock, Educational Technologist and Speaker

power-upIn Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning, Google Certified Teachers Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts draw on research and their extensive experience working with teachers to share the keys to success when teaching with a computer or tablet for every student.

This is the book your teachers need to understand the changes in pedagogy, planning, classroom organization, time management, and collaboration that will help them be successful in a 1:1 environment. With detailed classroom examples, questions, and suggestions, readers will come away with a clear sense of how a fully implemented 1:1 classroom operates. The companion study guide and website provide rich resources for PD leaders.

The full-text preview and the e-book version are available now, and you can also preorder the print version which ships later this month.

Add comment June 8th, 2015

Blogstitute Week 4: Lee Ann Spillane on getting fearless with technology

Welcome back to another great post in our 2013 Summer Blogstitute series, this time from Lee Ann Spillane who admits that at one time she was afraid of “breaking the computer” while playing around with technology. The good new is, you can’t really break the computer. In this post Lee Ann shares some ideas for using the summer as your time to explore technology and how you can use it in your classroom.

Summer’s golden hours are here. I am going to spend my diamond minutes lavishly learning what I want to learn. To prepare for summer and the extravagance of time, I stockpile books to read, bookmark tutorials, browse Pinterest, and gather supplies. This summer I’m considering moving my classroom web page. The software I’ve been using to create it keeps crashing, and I want to shift from a static page to a page students can create with me. My students and I have been able to collaborate in our Bear English Ning space, but it’s getting expensive. I know a wiki would allow me to cocreate resources with students, but I’m not sure it will satisfy my design desires. I have a lot to learn, and I’m excited about the adventure ahead.

There was a time, though, when I hesitated. I was afraid I’d mess up the computer. I didn’t want to break it, so I didn’t play around too much.

Making It Work: Getting Beyond “I’m Afraid I’ll Break It”

11-diamond_minutesCleaning up my computer’s desktop one day, I right-clicked on the recycle bin. Right-click. Delete. I did it without thinking. I wanted to empty the recycle bin and free up some memory. Instead I deleted the entire recycle bin. It disappeared from my desktop. Once I realized what I had done, I was frustrated. How do you resurrect a recycle bin? I couldn’t just do without one, so I Googled a solution and found an answer on a discussion board. I followed the steps and replaced my recycle bin on my desktop, no harm done. Mistakes happen.

When I first started learning how to use the computer, I was nervous. Scared to break an expensive machine, I would freeze or sometimes avoid a task if I wasn’t sure which programs to use or how to use them. I was so afraid of breaking the computer that I couldn’t learn. Eventually, I realized that unless I threw the computer out the window or on the floor, my fumbling around in programs wasn’t going to break the machine. That freed me. To learn new technologies or tools, we have to set aside our fears—we have to be willing to try things, seek solutions, test, and ask for help. We have to play. We will make mistakes. We will probably delete things we shouldn’t. Failure is part of learning. Getting lost in the new landscape will happen. Reframe your thinking and let yourself explore.

It’s About the Teaching, Not the Tool

Integrating technology into your instructional routines changes teaching and learning. Technology fundamentally changes what we can do in the classroom. Innovating technology changes how you teach. Using a document camera and a laptop makes sharing or publishing student work immediate and accessible. Imagine crafting a mini-lesson on effective transitions between ideas in a personal essay using a draft a student has written just moments before. Or creating and publishing a short video to review a skill or concept students need, in under five minutes in the middle of class. That kind of teaching—the kind of teaching that assesses and adjusts to students’ needs in the midst of learning—becomes much easier through the use of technology. Be innovative. Figure out ways to empower yourself and your students.

Try One Thing

Set a goal and mark a course to a new place. My family is about to head out on a long road trip. We’ve updated the GPS. We have smartphone backup and maps packed. We want to learn how to geocache. My twelve-year-old is bringing a handheld GPS to use on the trip. Inspired by Hank Green, my son is looking forward to some fun. Learning is part of that fun. He could use a geocaching app on his iTouch or on a retired iPhone we inherited, but he wants to use the handheld. He and my husband are planning to learn how to use it while we drive north. They’re not afraid to break the tool; they’re excited to find the treasure—a hidden cache they can add to and log.

When my students reflected on our year together, they wrote about lessons learned. I wrote about their reflections here. On the exam, I asked students to write about one lesson they learned when using technology this year. Some wrote about royalty-free images, some about help videos I posted online, some about writing publicly on their blogs. Many wrote about the difference Google Drive made in their academic lives. My school is on the cusp of Title I classification. More than seventy percent of our students receive free and or reduced lunch benefits. Not one of my students came to my class knowing how to create, edit, save, or print documents (or presentations or spreadsheets or . . .) using Google Drive. Many did not have printers at home, and flash drives were often shared among friends. I am continually amazed at what students do not know, but my students don’t need amazement or complaint. Students need us to act, to teach. We all need different lessons. Using Google Drive—formerly Google documents—seemed so yesterday. Not to my students. Maybe not to you either.

Learning new tools or technologies is a road trip—some are planned, some spontaneous. When I want to learn, I set a goal, a destination. To get there, I explore and follow the road signs—bookmarking tutorials, attending trainings, or downloading podcasts that explain processes I want to learn. I learn the landscape and take note of the landmarks.

As you learn this summer, don’t worry about getting lost. Enjoy the learning along the way.

Lee Ann Spillane is the author of the Read & Watch book Reading Amplified.
Last week’s winner of a free book is Jenny. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free Stenhouse book! Also, you can use code BLOG on the Stenhouse website to receive 20% off and free shipping on your order.

12 comments July 10th, 2013

Digital Learning Day 2013: A digital toolbox for teachers

This is the first year that we join Digital Learning Day and we are excited to bring you a collection of free video tutorials and chapters to add to your digital toolbox. Enjoy and share with your colleagues!

Storytelling for This Generation

In her book “Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing” teacher and author Julie D. Ramsay shows teachers how to weave technology throughout the curriculum and get students so fired up about writing that they don’t want to stop when the class period ends. Teachers can learn how to select appropriate digital tools, guide and involve students in the learning process, and differentiate instruction to meet individual needs.

In this free chapter, Julie walks us through how her students created digital stories — from brainstorming ideas, to writing the first draft, to publishing the final video file. Read the chapter and then watch two of the results below.

Research: The Fourth R

In Engaging the Eye Generation, library media specialist and National Board Certified Teacher Johanna Riddle shows that literacy in the 21st Century means more than just reading and writing. Today’s students must learn how to interpret and communicate information through a variety of digital and print-based media formats, using imagery, online applications, audio, video, and traditional texts.

In Chapter 4 of her book she introduces us to a group of fifth graders whose research on of Johannes Vermeer’s paintings takes them to 17th-Century Holland and to creating historical characters in images and text.

Read the free chapter here.

How Do Writers Tell (Digital) Stories?

In this free chapter, author Lisa Miller gives you the basics of digital storytelling: its elements, how to find digital images, and questions of about copyright issues. Lisa’s book Make Me a Story, discusses different types of digital stories and shows how to assess digital assignments and motivate reluctant writers.

Do you want to Tweet?

Have you been thinking about joining Twitter and seeing what the fuss is about? In this helpful podcast authors Katie Keier and Kassia Omohundro Wedekind take the mystery out of Tweeting and share how Twitter helped them build their professional learning community.

Using Diigo
Here is one tool that you will find useful no matter what you browse for on the Web. Diigo lets you take notes and highlight on any website. Here is a quick tutorial by Lee Ann Spillane, author of the new Read & Watch Book Reading Amplified.

Using the sound recorder on your computer
In his new Read & Watch book Digitially Speaking, Erik Palmer shows teachers how to turn almost any lesson in any classroom into an opportunity for students to practice creating and performing speech with the assistance of technology. And sometimes that technology is very simple — like turning on the sound recorder on your computer. In this tutorial taken from Digitally Speaking, Erik gives some quick advice on using this simple tool.

How to select an online dictionary

There are a lot of online tools for teaching vocabulary, especially when it comes to online dictionaries. This tutorial from Word Travelers by Lee Ann Tysseling shows you how to pick which dictionary is the best for your students.

Using VoiceThread

Lee Ann Spillane’s new Read & Watch book Reading Amplified is chock full of ideas for digital tools that will help students become more engaged readers. One of the tools Lee Ann uses to amp up shared reading in her classroom is VoiceThread. Here she gives an easy-to-follow tutorial of this popular online tool.

2 comments February 6th, 2013

Read & Watch Books are here!

Imagine reading a description of a teaching technique in a book and then watching a video demonstration—without having to turn the page. Or reading about an effective digital tool and then watching a tutorial where the author shows you how to use it. Or reading how an author used technology to enhance students’ speaking skills and then listening to the students’ presentations. That’s the concept behind the Read & Watch books: to bring together text, graphics, audio and video materials on a single page.

We are excited to launch this new line of books with three titles — all available now for a special introductory price of $18! Click on the links below to check out the books and view a sample chapter from each title.

In Reading Amplified: Digital Tools That Engage Students in Words, Books, and Ideas, you can look over author Lee Ann Spillane’s shoulder at her computer screen or into her classroom as she guides students to deeper reading and engagement with digital tools, ranging from the Google Book search concordance feature to comic strip software. Lee Ann seeks to take the “tedium out of routine tasks we need to teach.” Her instruction is infused with technology that energizes students, but her focus is always on deep learning that motivates them to become passionate and independent readers. “It’s about the teaching, not the tool,” she reminds us. “I do a lot of learning right beside my students.”

With a traditionalist’s respect for word knowledge and an adventurer’s spirit for discovering new routes to learning, Lee Ann Tysseling shares an exciting array of technology-assisted resources that can boost students’ literacy skills and encourage wide reading. In Word Travelers: Using Digital Tools to Explore Vocabulary and Develop Independent Learners, Lee Ann explores engaging resources such as animated semantic networks, instant etymologies, audio pronunciation guides, and word games that battle world hunger. Beyond vetting the best digital resources for vocabulary instruction and assessment, she provides embedded video tutorials and classroom interviews to help you and your students use the same tools tomorrow.

In Digitally Speaking: How to Improve Student Presentations, author Erik Palmer shows teachers how to turn almost any lesson into an opportunity for students to practice creating and performing a speech with the assistance of technology. All teachers at all grade levels and in all subject areas assign speaking activities — for example, read-alouds, book reports, class discussions, lab results, research presentations, and dialogues in a foreign language. Effective communication is an essential skill in modern society, and the Common Core State Standards place particular emphasis on teaching students to deliver messages well orally and through a range of media. Building on his previous book, Well Spoken, Palmer previews websites and Internet tools that are easy for students and teachers to use and offer a variety of possible classroom applications.

More questions about Read & Watch books? Watch this brief video that shows you their main features:

Add comment November 5th, 2012

“Old” skills for a new century

Visual literacy, technology savvy, and keeping up with new technologies are all necessary skills for students. But Erik Palmer, author of Well Spoken argues that in the meantime we should not forget the traditional skills of reading, writing, and speaking, as skills that are vital to success in and out of the classroom.

He just published an article in the Colorado Reading Council Journal, where he writes that “new skills are needed in the 21st century, but few students will succeed if they don’t master letters—reading, writing, and speaking them. Of those three, speaking has become far more important as technology has advanced. If you ask people what skills they consider to be “cutting edge,” it is unlikely anyone would mention speaking skills. Yet in the new decade and beyond, a seemingly retro skill like verbal communication actually is cutting edge and is becoming more crucial to success.”

Read the full article here, and then check out two other pieces by Erik in AMLE’s e-newsletter and in the CATE journal.

3 comments January 31st, 2012

Radio interview with Julie Ramsay

Teacher and author Julie D. Ramsay was recently interviewed by her local radio station in Alabama. During the interview Julie talks about her new book, “Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing” and shares her strategies for getting students excited about writing.

Listening to the interview you will get a really nice picture of Julie’s classroom and the motivation behind writing her book. Julie says that the interview was a fun experience for her as well, and she got some great sound editing tips from radio experts.

Listen to the full interview and then check out her book online.

Julie talking to the show's host during her radio interview

Add comment October 25th, 2011

Blogstitute Week 4: Get Real!

In this week’s Blogstitute entry, teacher and author Julie D. Ramsay (“Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?) discusses why it’s important for students to have real reasons for writing and to connect with other student writers. “…providing my students with a real reason to write — and a real audience (besides me) to read that writing — completely changed my students’ perspective of writing,” Julie says.

Weigh in with your own experiences and questions and you will be entered to win a package of five writing books. Next week (August 8) you will hear from Carolyn Coman, author of Writing Stories, on how to make time for your own writing.

Get Real!

Now that another school year has ended, most of us are already contemplating the changes that we want to make for our upcoming students. Quite often I hear from teachers, “I don’t know how to teach writing” or “I feel my writing instruction is nonexistent.” In the school system where I’m currently teaching, we have such a rigid schedule that writing is often left for the last few minutes of the day—which means we have no time for writing workshop and very little time for structured writing lessons.

In spite of that, when I reflect on what has made the biggest difference in my students’ enthusiasm and drive to become expert writers, I have to say that providing my students with a real reason to write—and a real audience (besides me) to read that writing—completely changed my students’ perspective of writing.

The evolution of new technology tools has given us access to the world at our fingertips. Although providing an authentic audience for our students may take a bit of time to set up, if you know where to look this summer, you can make the connections necessary to provide your students with a plethora of real writing opportunities for the upcoming school year. These connections will prove invaluable to our students, regardless of grade level, ability level, or content area. They will become so excited about writing that they will beg to have more time during the day to write. Following are some ways to help make this happen.

1.    Find teachers with similar writing goals. “How do I do this?” is often the first question people ask. Many of us will spend at least some of our summer pursuing professional development opportunities, whether these are in our own districts, at national conferences, or via webinars attended at home. While you are there and chatting with other educators (whether face-to-face or online, keep in mind that all of these people can provide potential writing partners for your classroom. If you feel that certain people might be a good match for you and your students, ask them if they are interested in having their students connect with your students through their writing. Be sure to get a feel for their expectations up front so that your students won’t lose their writing partners halfway through a project.

Another great way to connect with other educators is through Twitter, where you can find a large contingent of educators learning from one another and participating in a constant flow of conversation, sharing, and connecting. If you are unfamiliar with how to use Twitter, here is a blog post that I wrote for the Alabama NBCT Network about how to get started. Through Twitter, I have discovered many like-minded educators who feel passionate about giving our students the kinds of opportunities they crave in the classroom today. I have connected with other teachers and formed yearlong connections between our students, providing both sets of students the opportunity to write and teach one another through an ongoing project.

When your students know that other students are the ones who will be reading what they’ve written, they take what they write much more seriously. They realize that their audience is depending on them to communicate clearly through their writing.

2.    Collaboratively publish. Now that you’ve made some connections, your students need to publish their writing for and with their new writing partners. My students are currently engaged in a yearlong collaborative project with students from across the United States. All 300 of these students create and publish an online digital journal that the students named The Coast to Coast Chronicles. They collaboratively publish four editions; each edition has a theme that the students collectively choose. They publish and house all of their work on Wikispaces, a free tool that is fairly intuitive to use. If you’ve ever used word processing software or written any e-mails, Wikispaces will be right up your alley. You can set the security parameters to meet the needs of your projects, and it’s easy to add URL links, photos, and files (including audio files, PowerPoint presentations, and Word documents) and to embed actual projects into a page.

Another tool that is very useful when students want to collaboratively publish their work is Voice Thread. Voice Thread not only allows users to set up viewing and editing parameters, but collaborators can work on it from anywhere. With Voice Thread, you can upload files and record comments via voice, text, doodle, or video. Then the friends you’ve invited to edit can go in and make comments of their own. As one of my students commented, “The more you add to it, the better it gets.” When students know that a much wider audience is going to not only see and hear their writing, but also learn from and comment on it, it changes the assignment from something that is static to something that is alive and growing. There is a real purpose to what they are collaboratively publishing, and their partners are depending on them to create quality writing for the final project. You can see an example of a project that my students published with their collaborative partners here.

3.    Bring experts into the classroom. How many of us want our students to really connect with the importance of writing? What better way than to actually get to talk to experts and then spend time sharpening their own craft? Today, our students can easily do this with professionals from around the world by using Skype. There are many authors and writers out there who are more than happy to speak to your students. If you let your guests know what your students are practicing, they can weave it into their lesson and make it interactive for your students.

These experts don’t necessarily have to be writers for your students to gain a perspective of how important communicating with others can be to them, both inside and outside of the classroom. Although my students enjoy their conversations with the professional experts, their favorite experts were a group of older students. We had the opportunity this year to Skype with astronomy and anatomy students. My students were learning real things from real students and applying them to their lives. Then they were using their newfound knowledge to write and create new projects for their real audience. Their enthusiasm was infectious. You know you’ve hit on something remarkable when students are diligently writing late on a Friday afternoon and complain when it’s time to go home.

4.    Encourage self-reflection.  What better way for students to really connect with their learning than by reflecting through their writing on what they’ve learned? I begin this practice the first day of school. My students understand that it is their responsibility to share what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown, and to set goals for the future. Although they are writing for themselves, they know that their learning can impact others.

An excellent way for students to reflect is through blogging. After some extensive modeling and exploring of blogs (good, bad, and ugly), my students set up the basic criteria for blogging. A tool like Kidblog allows teachers control over what is published and what is not. This is also an excellent venue to connect with another class; students from each class can comment on one another’s posts. This gives the students a real audience and a real reason to share their learning through their writing.

So this summer, while you’re discovering new professional practices, keep in mind the idea of connecting your students with others, which will provide them with a real reason to write and create. You’ll be amazed at how much your students will crave writing when they know they have a real audience to read what they’ve written. Before you know it, you’ll have your students begging to skip lunch so that they can keep writing.

8 comments August 1st, 2011

Technology tools that supports classroom learning

“What I recommend to teachers is to find one technology tool that will support learning in the classroom…and let your kids guide the way.”

Julie D. Ramsay, fifth-grade teacher and author of the new book “Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?”, encourages teachers to take it one step at a time and network with colleagues as they begin to use technology to enhance instruction in the latest episode of our Author Conversations series:

Add comment June 28th, 2011

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