Monday, October 31, 2011

Zombies Ate My Home Row

Happy Halloween to one and all!

For those feeling ghoulish, might I recommend satisfying your appetite for zombies and all things creepy with NSTeens' Cyberbully Zombies Attack? For the rest of us, let's solve the dilemma of touch type keyboarding once and for all. Then again, maybe the zombies are sounding tempting, huh?

I thought touch-type keyboarding was like 1999 (or at least 2005 or so), but I've had other educators share their concerns about kids needing to be familiar with the keyboard and needing the practice. Point taken. A clear advantage of the good ole home row is that proficiency with it does enable one to watch the screen and not one's fingers. And it looks good, right? I am forever amazed at how quickly those fluent in touch typing can navigate a keyboard.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Critical Stance

We get too caught up in the details. At a meeting earlier this week, I was reminded of this as we discussed the best subskills to impart to struggling readers. It seems to me that we get caught up in all of the little subskills that we never get to the heart of the matter: teaching children to read for understanding.

Of course, that might have been enough 100 years ago, but the world of digital media and the ease at which any self-proclaimed expert can self-publish (even me!) makes me realize that this is simply not enough. I heard it said in one of my graduate classes recently that we have to help kids take a critical stance. Here, here! If we get caught up in all of the sub skills and think that kids are not ready to move on, then we never move them on to actually reading. I think that teaching for mastery is in part to blame for this. If a child must master all the letters, all the sounds, all of the blends and chunks and onsets and rimes, my goodness, we'll never get to reading!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scenic Overlook Ahead

In a recent post, I presented some of my favorite resources for teaching digital citizenship. Of course, I forgot a few goodies. Doesn't that figure?

And so, in no particular order, here is the rest of my list:

Phineas and Ferb's Cyberspace Rules of the Road: Who doesn't love Phineas and Ferb? OK, admittedly, I fought falling in love with them pretty hard ... but they are lovable. Yes, even for us big kids. In fact, rumor has it that the creators intended for Phineas and Ferb to be a cartoon that even kids could watch. No typo there. Congrats, you are the target audience of one of Disney's top cartoons. Anyways, I digress. Phineas and Ferb present basic internet safety guidelines in this 90 second PSA that is sure to start plenty of conversations. You'll actually have to watch it twice, because I guarantee your kiddos will quote P&F word for word the first time through!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Diigo for Education

I switched from Delicious about a year ago to use Diigo. Social bookmarking by and by is still something I am still learning how to use. However, I now have a Diigo for Education account, and so far, so good. I am piloting its use with my two fifth grade classes and they seem quite excited about it. Then again, I maintain that 5th grade students love anything social. Hook them however you can, right?

If you haven't seen Diigo in awhile, check it out. Diigo 5.0 as they call it allows you to add highlight and sticky notes to websites. A new Diigo app and Diigo Browser app bring these tools to your favorite mobile device. Even the iPad. And we always love free apps.

Underwear or iPhone?

I was struck by a realization last night. Perhaps, if one spends more time with their iPhone than they do wearing underwear in a day, then perhaps they need to unplug.

Don't get me wrong, I am a geek through and through .... and through. But I also appreciate the opportunity to unplug. It's surprisingly refreshing to leave my phone behind and be completely unavailable. Teaching elementary kids, we have conversations about unplugging all of the time. I tell the kids, "go home and go play outside." Their response: "Naw ... we're going to stay inside." 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On the Road to Digital Citizenship

It feels good to be back at it again after a little welcome-back-to-school sabbatical. For me, the school year started last year when I was chosen to teach at a newly formed science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) elementary school in my district.

I'm too excited about what we are doing in my school and in my own classroom to take a break anymore. I launched this year with some work with digital citizenship and my big question for my students has been: what does it mean to be a digital citizen? Sounds simple ... but the answer to that question has been a little bit elusive.

I have to admit that it still makes me squirm when I hear my students discuss their Facebook pages ... mind you, they're in elementary school. I've decided that I can't help them navigate the internet safely though if I plug my ears and sing at the top of my lungs every time they mention their favorite social networking destination. Instead, I've also learned that I am the worst scripted program follower ... ever. In developing my lesson plans, I tend to wander from one resource to the next, playing off of the diversity and shades of netiquette that each provides. Rather than confuse my students, I've found that the resulting conversations are more dynamic and nuanced, giving kids a better picture of the challenges that they face every day when they plug in.