Posted in 21st Century Learning, 21st Century teaching, connected learning, digital kids, digital learning, digital literacy, digital world conversations

Innovative Teaching: How on Earth Do We Get Started?

innovative teachersYears ago as a beginning teacher, I asked one of my University of Chicago professors how it was that my mentoring teacher seemed to do everything at once — teaching one group, keeping an eye on other parts of the classroom, and continuously but quietly communicating with everyone in the room — all at the same time. She even knew when a student some distance behind her was not completing the assigned task.

“She acquired those skills step-by-step,” my professor replied.

Today as we cope with the challenge of transforming our teaching skills to make what goes on in our classrooms applicable to the ever-changing world of digital information (a.k.a. innovation or 21st Century learning), many of us are renewing our commitment to lifelong learning as we explore and acquire a range of new skills and behaviors. We are learning, step-by-step, how to teach differently and stretch ourselves in ways that help students access, process, and use information in innovative but sensible ways.          Continue reading “Innovative Teaching: How on Earth Do We Get Started?”

Posted in 21st Century Learning, collaboration, digital learning, online research, parents and technology

Now This Is What You Want Connected Kids to Do!

geography-44729_640
Pixabay Public Domain Images

Sometimes when I sit quietly in a computer lab at school and observe my students, I overhear the most wonderful conversations about learning. Today, as I sat in a corner working quietly, several fifth-grade students came in and sat down to work on essays. Focused on work, they took little note of me.

A delightful conversation ensued when one student asked the other student for help with the name of a country. As soon as I realized that an interesting 21st Century learning conversation was happening, I started typing their dialogue rather than my parent letter.

The two children went online together, searched, made all sorts of comments and decisions about what they saw, discovered a few things that they were not looking for, and finally located the information that they needed. But their searching led to additional questions.

The entire conversation lasted less than two minutes, but they learned a great deal.

Student #1: I am trying to write about the country that broke off from India when India became independent. Do you know its name?

Student #2: I’m not sure. I know it’s right next door.

Student #1: Hummm. Maybe it’s Pakistan?  But I’m not sure.

Student #2: Maybe. Let’s go online and find a world map.

Student #1: OK. Are you going to Google it?

Student #2: Yes and look. If we go into Images there are lots of maps.

At this point the two students are both looking at dozens of world maps on Google Images and pointing at some of them. They talk about which map to look at. They choose one, but when the enlarge it, it doesn’t work.                  Continue reading “Now This Is What You Want Connected Kids to Do!”

Posted in 21st Century Learning, blogging, digital learning, educating digital natives, parents and technology, web 2.0, writing

If You Really Want Your Digital Kid to Write Well – Start a Family Blog

After reading a January 5, 2013 post on Edudemic, How and Why Teachers Should Blog, I want to share a blogging experience at my school.

I have the honor of working with a small group of amazing third-grade teachers — my colleagues — and last summer they decided to begin blogging with their students. This past fall each of the teachers set up a classroom blog at KidBlog. This student-oriented blogging site is designed to offer maximum privacy to young writers, but it also offers the opportunity for more access — and more readers — if desired. Interestingly, while the three classroom blogs are all similar, each has slight variations that reflect the personalities of the kids and the ideas of the teacher.

Visit KidBlog!
Visit KidBlog!

After orienting their students to the idea of blogging — discussing appropriate tone, privacy, and respect — the teachers let the children write. Third graders have learned to read one another’s work and make comments and suggestions. Sometimes they share complete stories, and at other times they write more spontaneously.

Continue reading “If You Really Want Your Digital Kid to Write Well – Start a Family Blog”

Posted in 21st Century Learning, choosing reliable resources, digital learning, evaluating web site resources, parents and technology, research on the web, Wikipedia

A Book About Wikipedia to Read With Children

Image from the Barnes and Noble website.
Image from the Barnes and Noble website.

Wikipedia is cool, Wikipedia is filled with information, and Wikipedia is great fun to visit.

That said, reminding children about the authority of references and the expertise of authors — whenever children begin research — is an important part of teaching and parenting. A critical 21st Century and life skill is understanding how to go about judging the quality of references and especially learning how to figure out when information is not up to snuff.

If students start out a project by looking up a topic on Wikipedia, and many of them do, they should hear — over and over at every age — about the importance of seeking out and reading other resources to confirm the facts. Adults, too, need to make this a habit.

truth in numbers
Image from Amazon site.

A new book, Wikipedia: 3.5 Million Articles and Counting, offers parents and educators a great opportunity to read together and learn more — lots more — about Wikipedia. Author Heather Hasan writes in detail about the history and philosophy of this mammoth open-source encyclopedia, explaining how Wikipedia works and describing how the editors keep track of new entries, edits, and re-edits.

Hasan points out the ways that Wikipedia writers occasionally argue over topics, and she notes that editors often decide to lock down a subject or entry. Other short sections of the book share Wikipedia facts and myths, a glossary, and several pages of bibliographic references.

If you read this book with children in your family or students in your class, be sure to have continuing conversations, both while reading the book and afterwards, about the importance of expertise and authority, pointing out that another reason to confirm the facts — aside from worrying about misinformation — is to learn whether even the experts disagree.

An excellent Wikipedia documentary, Truth in Numbers, is available at Amazon and includes interviews with many of the people who have helped the Internet to develop and grow — the movers and shakers of the World Wide Web.

Posted in 21st Century Learning, blogging, generating content, online communication, parents and technology, teaching digital kids

British Girl’s Blog: Why Make Such a Big Deal About It?

Visit the Never Seconds blog.

You might enjoy reading British Girl’s Blog on School Lunch Stirs it Up in the Sunday, June 17, 2012 Washington Post about a nine-year-old girl who is blogging to change the quality of food in her school lunches and to raise money for a local charity, Mary’s Meals, that feeds the hungry. The blog, Never Seconds, has become a sensation…

… because some officials decided to make an impromptu rule — the young blogger cannot take any more pictures of her school lunches.

So let me get this straight. A child or adolescent starts writing about an issue or a topic and doing it well. She offends no one as she points out that change is necessary — in fact, she writes rather respectfully while taking a stand on making the meals better. People are short-sighted enough to try to stop her?

How long will it take adults in today’s world to understand that life, 21 Century skills, and communication have fundamentally changed — people can create good-quality digital content just about anywhere. They can share it and other people can also share. Reminder to Adults: Stopping this type of creating on a mere whim doesn’t work. Continue reading “British Girl’s Blog: Why Make Such a Big Deal About It?”

Posted in 21st Century Learning, collaboration, digital learning, parents and technology

What in the World is a Wiki?

A wiki is an online document, viewed in a web browser, that allows a user or users to add and accumulate information on a topic. Usually, but not always, people work collaboratively on a wiki, so it’s a terrific learning tool.

The word wiki comes from a Hawaiian word that means fast.

Anyone can set up a wiki and invite others to contribute. All of the pages are visible and can be edited in the browser. What is unusual about a wiki, compared to many other forms of writing, is the ability of all users to edit and change the work of fellow collaborators, definitely a “we’re all working together project” that teaches group members to cooperate with one another and respect their work. A wiki document can include text, links, pictures, and video.

The In Plain English Wiki tutorial provides a good introduction filled with useful information. Also, check out the comprehensive wiki explanation with an emphasis on wikis in the workplace at OreillyNet. A wiki tutorial at TeachersFirst walks people through the basics of starting a wiki and includes a page with wiki ideas for the classroom. Wikipedia, as its name implies, is a wiki.

A Few Suggestions for Wikis at Home Continue reading “What in the World is a Wiki?”

Posted in 21st Century Learning, blogging, digital learning, digital parenting, parent education, parents and technology

You Can Start a Family Blog – Summer 2012

Visit Start a Family Blog and Get Started!

This summer think about starting a family blog. It’s a terrific communication project as well as a collaborative learning opportunity for everyone — kids, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.

Last year I taught a short online blogging course to parents at my school. My Start a Family Blog classhosted on a WordPress blog, is still available. The posts will guide interested families through the basics of starting a blog for relatives and friends.

Over at some novel ideas, a blog authored by librarian Stacy Nockowitz would be bloggers will find a comprehensive and rich list of resource links to help get started. She organizes her links into categories:

    • Blogging Basics
    • Blogging Resources
    • Blogs About Blogging
    • Blogging Platforms
    • Images

Also included at the bottom of the resource page is a cool glossary of blogging terms.