I'm still thinking about freedom of choice and our younger students. Over the last few weeks as the students have been finding out about living and nonliving things, we have been exploring the world around us with digital microscopes and the iPads. Our microscopes are DigiBlues that we hook up to our student MacBooks. We had some very close up looks at flowers, grass, leaves, sand, our fingers, caterpillars, worms, seed pods, aphids and our fingers again.
On our iPads we used 4 apps that simulate magnifying glasses. The DigiBlues, in my opinion, are fabulous but the apps just don't measure up - they don't offer the extreme magnification that we can get on the microscopes. I don't think it is the iPads fault in any way, it relies on the camera and camera zoom function so of course it is limited. The apps we tried were Mag.Light, Magnify HD, Magnifier and Magnificent:
This is what the children had to say when they were asked which they preferred to use when wanting to look at something close up:

In favour of the Microscopes:
I can see it better, more clear and bigger
It is easier for my eye
It magnifies up to 10 million
You can turn the handle till it is really nice
- It is easier to hold and you can see if the photos are working
with microscopes we can see inside things 

In favour of the iPads:
I can look at my own things
I can hold it myself
I can go outside
The iPads are just more fun
When I am done I can play games

 
 
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Freedom of choice

Is what you got
Freedom from choice
Is what you want
Devo


I’ve been thinking about freedom and choice today. Devo may not be the best song to quote on this blog post but it was the first thing to jump into my mind. If we leave out the rest of the song about dogs and bones and other things it does give us something to think about. When working with young children how much freedom do we give them? 



I’m thinking about this because I am in the middle of planning for some digital literacy explorations with our younger learners. When working with iPads schools have different approaches. Some schools hide all the apps on the iPads except for the ones they are using. Other schools put all the apps on the iPads but limits children to which page of apps they can access. I think we fall somewhere in the middle. I work with the children in small groups and I have planned explorations using an app or two. I invite the children to explore with me and when we feel that we have accomplished something the children are invited to explore their own favourite app/apps. I feel like I am giving the children some choice but perhaps not enough. Hmmm...

 
 
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“You don't take a photograph, you make it.” 
― Ansel Adams

Young students take beautiful photos. Each time I am involved in a photography project with the children in our kindergarten I am amazed. Their perspective, the way they frame shots, the way they seek out the beauty in the everyday. They have a natural talent. 


Can we say photography, or, expressing ourselves through intentionally taken photographs, is a language? I think it is. 



How this project started...
Our K1 students started a unit of inquiry exploring living and non-living things in our environment. The very first thing the teachers did was collect students initial thoughts on what it means to be living (is our house living because we live in it?...lots to understandings to explore) and then we headed out into our school environment, outside and inside, and took photos of things that we thought were both living and nonliving.

Linking it to expectations...
From the NETs:
- Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
- Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively

From our UWC Learning Principles:
- learners collaborate
- learners feel secure and supported
- learners construct meaning by seeing patterns and making connections
- learners understand the purpose of the learning

From our UWC Profile:
Creative and Innovative: Students think creatively to produce original works

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
A hundred languages
A hundred hands
A hundred thoughts
A hundred ways of thinking
Of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred
Ways of listening 
of marveling of loving

Loris Malaguzzi

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"Closer and Closer" by a K1 student
And there are always a few self portraits and pictures of our friends thrown into the mix!
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"Shadows" by a K1 student
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"Our Slide" by a K1 student
 
 
This is a post I just wrote for our school blog Great TechXpectations.
We were fortunate to attend the Google Summit here in Singapore last week where Patrick Green (@pgreensoup) ran a workshop on using Google Maps in the classroom. We were so excited by the prospect of using this tool in our classrooms that we presented the ideas to our Grades 3 and 5 teaching teams. 

Step 1
While signed in to any of your GApps select the word 'Maps'



Step 2
This is where you can see all your maps and you can create a new map












 


Step 3
If you click on 'Create Map' you will see a dialogue box that looks like this.
Fill in the title of your map, add directions you would like to give the students, and choose if you want to make it a public or unlisted map














Step 4
If you click on the 'link' button you will get a dialogue box that looks like this:

This is where you share the information with your students. You can either send them a link by email or you can send them the URL.








When we set up our sample Google Map we decided to ask people to add in their favourite places to eat in Singapore (and we got some great suggestions!).







Have your students use the search bar just above the map to find a place they would like to mark, then when they find it if they click on the place marker they will be given the chance to add it to your shared map. It's as easy as that!





See any possibilities for the classroom?


 
 
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Digital Literacy Coach, Computer Teacher, Technology Integration Teacher, I think we have a very cool job no matter what you call it.

Here at UWCSEA East we are called Digital Literacy Coaches. But what exactly does that mean? What role do we play at school and in the classrooms?

A quick look on dictionary.com showed the following definitions for ‘Coach’:
- a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes
- a private tutor who prepares a student for an examination
- a person who instructs an actor or singer
- a playing or non-playing member of a baseball team at bat who is stationed in the box outside first or third base to signal instructions ot and advise base runners and batters

If you throw technology into the mix, what would the definition look like?

We were very fortunate to come together with a fantastic group of educators at the recent Learning 2.012 in Beijing, China. During the conference we had a morning together to explore what it means to be a coach and how we can be the most effective in our positions. We started the workshop by asking participants two questions; What does it mean to be an effective coach? and What worries you the most about your coaching role? The thoughts that were shared with the whole group were so interesting that we thought it worthwhile to share.


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What makes a coach effective?

This was our first question to the group, What makes an effective coach? The answers to this question reaffirmed our own thinking about our roles. The group put great value on being listening, empowering, building relationships and supporting curriculum. Here are some examples of what was said:


An effective coach...
- is creative
- builds trusting relationships with colleagues and let’s colleagues know they are working together
- is able to solve, or help the teacher find a way to solve, problems
- empowers students and teachers to use technology in their classrooms and beyond their classrooms

- enables and creates change that is positive
- is approachable, encouraging, and supportive
- doesn’t get frustrated very often
- actively listens
- spends quality time with teachers
- is someone who knows about the subject and wants to share what he/she knows, yet is also willing to learn
- shows practical applications rather than theoretical
- knows their own strengths and weaknesses
- focuses on leveraging student learning, not fixing teachers
- works at another’s pace
- supports and develops ideas and curriculum with the school community
- is able to lead teachers and students down roads they did not think possible
- cares first, coaches second
- anticipates problems, is not arrogant, has both broad and specific knowledge and knows the curriculum
- is a people person first and a geek second
- is able to work in a multi-disciplinary team
- values time


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What do coaches worry about?


This was the next question we posed to the group. The answers to this were just as diverse as the above but there were some common threads - how can I ensure that what I do makes a difference, am I creative enough, and how can I approach a teacher who doesn't want to be coached:


What worries me most about coaching...
- day to day maintenance / tech issues eat up time that should be used to work with students and teachers
- that I am not creative enough
- when ideas / projects ‘go bad’ and are less effective than anticipated
- not having an impact
- keeping current with the latest developments in ICT and having the best solutions to teacher’s ICT needs
- having all the answers that are needed
- it’s new
- crowd reaction
- that I become a crutch rather than a coach
- not being able to achieve change (probably because we just can’t find a way to connect with a very busy teaching staff)
- that I cannot do enough - and too many people do not get the help they need
- people will not appreciate how I can help
- disappointing people
- what to do when people do not want to be coached
- being misunderstood
- not being there when students need me
- when the tech gets in the way
- when we over geek things
- my lack of experience
- pd for me as a coach




 
 
“We are wondering if you would be available to help us out with some science investigations that we will be doing? We are going to do this in an elective type of way where children will sign up for the 2 that interest them the most. The aim of the activity is for the children to gain a better understanding of the scientific process which we will all use. If you are able to help out you would need to come up with an experiment/ activity that could use this process.”

I started to think about what I could do that would interest the children, be based in science and use a digital tool. I looked through the science apps that we currently have on our iPads.
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Not bad choices, but a little too much consuming and not enough creating for this project. So I had a look through our other apps but was not feeling very inspired. Then I remembered that Zoe Page had talked about using a microscope app with her Kindergarten class (loved spending time with Zoe at Learning 2.012 in Beijing).


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I quickly went to the app store and found 4 microscope / magnifying apps that I thought may work. We have some digital microscopes (DigiBlues) at school but I only had 6 available, not quite enough for a group of about 20 children. A microscope app could be the answer because then I could give each student their own.


I set the experiment up like this:
1. Ask a Question:
Are there microscopic living things in our playground?

2. Make a Hypothesis (What do you think will happen?)
We thought yes, there are microscopic things living in our playground

3. Do an Experiment (Test your hypothesis)
We used a microscope app on the iPads to get a better look.

4. Record the Results (What did you find out?)/ Draw a Conclusion (What did you learn?)
We found out that there are many living things in our playground

On the day of the science exploration the 15 children and I went out to the playground to test out our iPad apps. This is what we learned:

- iPads are a little tricky to see in a bright sunny playground
- the magnifying apps work very similarly to the zoom on the iPad camera
- we couldn't see in very close up detail like we could when using the Digiblues


And

- it did get the students thinking in scientific way and it helped explain the scientific process
- it was great for each student to have their own device

The next step is to go back into the classrooms and visit this again with both the Digiblues and the iPads. I might also continue my search for the perfect app for this learning experience!
 
 
Just trying out PhotoPeach with some of the pictures I have from our K1 students.
Me! on PhotoPeach
 
 
In today's lesson in grade two we had three objectives: 1) help students become familiar with their user names and passwords, 2) introduce students to the school server - what it is, why we use it and how we use it and 3) to use a digital tool to create a graph to follow up a recent graphing lesson in math. 

The first objective we finished with quickly, it is a necessary but boring task as our students move from having a generic grade level user name and password to an individual one (that also comes with it's own email address - but that is another story) 

The second objective was also quite quick and the students were amazed to find something from their classroom teachers computer in their online files (wait till we blow them away with a future introduction to airdrop!) 

For the third task we decided to use a class set of iPod touches and an online survey tool called mentimeter. Mentimeter is a new favorite of ours because it doesn't require the students to log in and it makes use of QR Code which ups the cool factor. Before asking the student to finish the sentence "I learn best when" the classroom teacher and I put a wager on what would garner the most votes. Of course, I picked 'I watch a video' which no one chose (maybe it is just people like my 18 year old son that go to youtube first when learning something new, and maybe these guys were a tad bit too young).
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And as luck would have it, just after we had the children participate in the graphing exercise, Mrs. Duffy came in with a sheep's brain for us to see. The high school students had dissected it and sent it down for us to see as the current unit of inquiry involves research into brains. We had the iPod touches out so we used them to snap pictures which we emailed to the classroom teacher (and our parents for those who were quick off the draw!) 

A very eventful double period in grade two!

 
 
Listen to some samples of our fabulous grade one Garageband music compositions. The children created these compositions to demonstrate emotions in music. 
 
 
Recently we worked together on a PD session for our Infant teachers who have classroom blogs. We talked about adding ClustrMaps, Shelfari and Google Translate (a Blogger Gadget) onto our blogs. 
You can find the full post on our UWCSEA East Digital Literacy Coach Blog.