Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: March 2008

“Teachers Walking Out? Students Got it Covered”

Awesome blog entry on one of my favorites (Weblogg-ed) about a school in NH where the teachers are potentially walking out. The actual story, however, is how students are gathering together a whole bunch of Web 2.0 tools to cover the event for their community. But where are they learning how to do this?

If we take a look at different KIPP school curriculums, I’m wondering where we find these skills being taught… I’m not too familiar with other KIPP school curriculums outside my state, but would love to know what their Tech curriculums look like, or even where these skills could be taught outside specific tech classrooms.

In my 8th grade Tech curriculum the closest we come is knowing how to search and evaluate sources online (a valuable skill, no doubt). Where does Web 2.0 fit in? I’d love to hear thoughts or comments on where it fits into your curriculum, or where it COULD fit in.

resizeresourceimageaspx.jpeg

While SmartBoards are fun to look at and touch, without Notebook Software, you’re missing a whole lot of what they have to offer. Notebook software is similar to Microsoft PowerPoint, and is a program to help you create multimedia presentations that can then be presented using the SmartBoard. So, first you want to start by downloading it. It’s totally free, and can be found on the SmartBoard website. It can be downloaded by anyone, but I believe you are supposed to have a SmartBoard in your possession to legally be using it, but I’m not sure on that one (never bothered looking into it since I have a SmartBoard, but if you’re concerned you might want to check before you download it, or start using it extensively). They have both the Windows and Mac version which is awesome 🙂

Once you’ve downloaded it you’re set to start creating lessons/presentations that perfectly complement your SmartBoard’s capabilities. I’m going to include some features that I love below, but I recommend first checking out this part of their website. Here they have a huge database of already made Notebook lessons, organized by Subject, Grade, and even state curriculum objectives. Any of these can be viewed for inspiration, used exactly as found, or opened and edited to match your class’s needs. EVERYONE should check this out even if you don’t have a SmartBoard… there are tons of lesson/presentation ideas on a lot of what we teach, so it’s a great place to find resources. So CHECK IT OUT!

smartboard-cartoon.jpgSo, I’ve recently heard through the grapevine that there are several KIPP schools out there who have been lucky enough to receive SmartBoard donations (or have even purchased them), and they’re sitting around in boxes waiting to be used! While this makes my heart cry a little bit, I can also relate to why that might be happening…

Last year my SmartBoard was basically a fancy white space to project my LCD on. That’s right, it wasn’t even plugged into my laptop for almost 3 months!!! I cringe thinking about it now, as actually mounting and plugging it in has revolutionized my life, not to mention my students’. Now that it’s on the wall, that kid at computer 10 can no longer hide behind it (only those who actually visited my closet of a classroom last year can appreciate that), and I have the privilege of getting to play around with it daily 🙂 In fact, I’m still finding fun and new ways to keep myself entertained in class.

But the bottom line is I can definitely understand how overwhelming it seems to try and attack that project, especially if you already feel pulled in too many directions. So here are a couple posts to help you get it set up (how to plug it in, how the pens and erasers work, how to align it, etc.), download the software, find the MANY resources that are available online, and most importantly how to get your kids using it!!!

Each is labeled with which one of those it focuses on, so if you already know the basics you can skip ahead to which would be most helpful for you. If yours is collecting dust somewhere, I suggest starting at the beginning…

dsc_0341.jpg
As an 8th grade technology teacher at a KIPP school, I’ve recently spent a lot of time investigating how the use of technology in our classrooms can help to engage kids, teach media literacy, and hopefully promote student achievement in individual content areas. So what better way to spread resources and ideas than creating my own blog?! ? After posting on one for my students for a couple months now, I decided it might be time to move into the ‘adult’ world of KIPP teachers, to hopefully engage some more teachers in this exciting challenge of fully utilizing the technology that a lot of us have at our schools.

For those unfamiliar with KIPP, I’m going to rely on Wikipedia to help me out, as my descriptions never seem to do it enough justice. (For those of you already familiar, feel free to skip ahead) Hopefully this’ll sum it up for you:

KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a nationwide network of free open-enrollment college-preparatory public schoolsin under-resourced communities throughout the United States. KIPP schools are usually established under state charter schoollaws.The schools operate on the principle that there are no shortcuts:outstanding educators, more time in school, a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, and a strong culture of achievement and support will help educationally underserved students develop the knowledge, skills, and character needed to succeed in top qualityhigh schools, colleges, and in the competitive world beyond. Over 95% of KIPP students are African American or Latino/Hispanic; over 75% are eligible for the federally-subsidized meal program. Students are accepted regardless of prior academic record, conduct, or socioeconomic background.”

For more check it out here: http://www.kipp.org/

So while KIPP schools are doing a ton of awesome things right now, it appears an area we are struggling in (from my somewhat limited viewpoint) is that of technology integration. While many observations have led me to this conclusion, I’d prefer to keep this blog focused on the ‘what we should be doing’ instead of the ‘what we’re not doing’. Reasons I believe we’re struggling with the implementation of technology in our schools:

1) Time. KIPP classrooms don’t often use textbooks, which means a lot of extra hours spent every week creating materials for the classroom. Combine that with extended school hours (8-5), aggressive curriculums, after school tutoring, Saturday School, sports, earned prizes/trips, and you end up with negative 14 hours a day. So how exactly are we supposed to make time to teach ourselves the 2,000 new tech creations that come out every hour? I can speak for myself as a former first-year KIPP teacher, and I was overwhelmed enough with the basics of learning to teach, that spending the extra hours struggling with technology that was completely foreign to me just didn’t seem feasible. So as a result, it was often pushed to the end of my to-do list. Yet in retrospect, I’m guessing the kids would have been more interested in classroom blogging than the impressive clip art on my classwork…

2) Urgency. We emphasize urgency all the time with our kids in our schools and classrooms, and it makes me realize where I feel the urgency in my own room. There’s urgency when it comes to creating Unit Plans, assessments, lesson plans, grading work and calling parents. However, who’s putting pressure on us to learn the newest technology and incorporate it in our rooms? Right now there simply isn’t the pressure for all teachers to keep themselves updated, and by extension their classrooms, so we see progress remaining pretty stagnant. In many other school districts around the country there is a Tech Facilitator per district, in many cases per school. Their job is to educate themselves on how technology can supplement instruction, and then to train teachers and hold them accountable for implementing these new practices in their room. (I’d love to explore this idea more later by doing more in depth research on more specifically what they’re doing and whether or not it’s working)

3) Resources. So let’s say we did have the time (or made the time). Where can we go for help? So you have a SmartBoard sitting in your school… do you know how to use it? Do you even know how to hook it up? Do you know who to turn to if the answer is no to both of these questions? How many sessions were there at KIPP Summit last year about technology? How many of US even know what Web 2.0 is, let alone what it can do for our classrooms? How many technology teachers are there in the KIPP network? Do we know who they are? Do we know who to talk to even if we HAVE thought about learning more about tech integration?

So unless I can somehow invent a time-creation device, or quickly find millions of dollars to fund Tech Facilitator positions in all our schools, there’s not much I can do about the first two. However, the third is one I know a little something about… I’ve spent the last year and a half finding as many resources as possible, trying things out in my room (failing many times, which allows me to hopefully offer some suggestions for improvement when you try it in your room 🙂 ) and asking a ton of questions of people a whole lot smarter than me.

Moral of the story= technology can’t be taught just in technology classrooms (or ignored completely). If we allow that to happen, then we’re setting 100% of our kids up to fail at the college of their choice. Whether we like it or not, tech literacy is possibly the most important skill they need to survive, and thrive in college, and in life. The good news= it’s not that hard to teach it in every room! Hopefully you can find some of these ideas helpful, and can then pass them along to the other teachers at your school.

PLEASE leave comments, suggestions, questions, etc. so this blog does not remain the voice of just one, not very experienced teacher, but instead grows into many, experienced teachers throughout the KIPP network (and even beyond), all working to use technology successfully in their classrooms.