PS22 live at the Oscars

I feel like a proud parent and I don’t even know these kids from New York!  I first came across them a few months back and wrote about them in my post “The Importance of The Arts In Education”

Yesterday, they performed in front of a live audience of millions singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the conclusion of the Oscar Award Ceremony in Los Angeles.

This shows what can be done by a group of children who love singing, who are led by a charismatic teacher who lets them know what they can achieve… and just look what they have achieved!

As I said in my original post, at a time when music teaching and other arts subjects is under threat due to budget cuts…we neglect this aspect of our children’s education at our peril! Just ask the kids from PS22.

It’s the mobility that counts

I have just been reading a blog post about Computer Labs (or suites as we call them here in the U.K.). (“Close The Computer Lab“). It made a very good argument for abolishing them as they were no longer appropriate for the modern classroom.

The author made a plea for computers to be set in classrooms so that students could have greater access to them throughout the school week.

I would argue that it is not computers that the students need in their classroom but the use of mobile technology. As I write this post sitting to the left of me on my kitchen table is my LG gc900 “Viewty”  Mobile phone.

I often call this phone “the poorman’s iPhone” because it has a limited number of Apps. However it does have a number of useful features. It has a brilliant camera (which is what attracted me to it in the first place), it has a recording facility, a video camera facility, a calculator, a note taker as well as internet access.

Imagine if you will the ability of a digital native student to use a piece of technology like this in their classroom. Now I am aware that the LG gc900 is also a phone and therefore has a text facility that can be misused. I understand that access to the internet could mean students looking at inappropriate material…I know that they can cyberbully each other… but all of these things is dependent on one thing….IF THEY CHOOSE TO…. not all of them will do one or indeed any of these things. They can use the phone to find out information, take photographs, videos, make a calculation, make a recording of their discussion to play back later, make a note whilst investigating outside.

I agree with the writer mentioned above that we do not need any more computer labs… we probably don’t need any heavy P.C.’s. We could do with some laptops, or better still netbooks… but ideally we need little, highly mobile devices such as the LG gc900 that every student can use to make their learning possibilities expand greatly.

 

The AR.Drone

Image representing AR.Drone as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

The AR.Drone is a really exciting development. I managed to see it working at a planning session for I.T. Curriculum review that I attended a few weeks ago.

It is worked through the iPhone Touch, iPad or iPod. It flew across the room we were in and the control was fascinating in itself. The potential for education was apparent for all of us to see.

It made me wonder that this wonderful piece of technology, that can be worked from an iPhone that many of the children may possess cannot be worked in a school by so many because the mobile phones are banned!

Somewhere, sometime, we will realise the potential of this mobile technology and realise that it can expand the horizons and learning potential of our children.

This is just the start of what the technology can present us with. Every adult in the room that witnessed the “helicopter” (not a hovercraft as mentioned in the film) whirling around and taking a video from different angles could see the potential. It is important that children in schools get to use devices such as these and that they build further uses from their own ideas.

Interestingly enough the technology was developed to become a part of an extension to computer or mobile based games. This is yet another rich area for educators to investigate in terms of children’s learning, creativity and so many other skills.

Hard Rock Memorabilia

The Hard Rock Memorabilia website has been designed using the capability of “Silverlight 2 and Deep Zoom”. This impressive site, designed by  Vertigo, showcases tons of music memorabilia of historic value such as

Item 089640 which was Elvis Presley‘s stage outfit (or one of them at least) from 1972.

The Deep Zoom facility allows you to look at a mass of brilliant memorabilia donated or procured by the Hard Rock Cafe in  London which started with Eric Clapton‘s Red Fender which he gave to the Cafe in 1971  which has an  accompanying  video of the original waitress Rita Gilligan talking about how it arrived.

I think that this site would be a wonderful one for children of all ages (and adults as well) to explore. It shows just how much potential there is in exploring materials using new technological breakthroughs.  Enjoy!!

A brave step forward

Welcome to Moose Jaw

Image by jimmywayne via Flickr

I have written a few times about some significant blog posts that I have read. (see my posts on Rachel Boyd and Sarah Edson for example).

I have just read an excellent new post that I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention. It is from a blogger called Shelley Wright and to use her own description in the blog: she is “a high school educator in Moose Jaw, SK. Canada,  who  loves learning more than anything else; she sees  the  blog as  part of her learning journey.” Her blog is called “Wright’s Room” and can be found at   http://shelleywright.wordpress.com/

She has recently written a post called “The Jury Is In” in which she describes her ideas of allowing her pupils to “take control” of their learning. This happened during a two week period where her pupils taught themselves and each other about the Brain and The Human Nervous System.

At the end of the two weeks the students felt that the best way to “test” their learning was not in a specific test with closed questions about learnt knowledge but with one particular question “What have you learnt?” The results were eye-opening for Shelley, since one student who did not like or do well in fixed question test, showed a lot of knowledge and in-depth learning when she was allowed to write about what she had learnt in her own words and at her own length.

She stated in the post that she was going to extend this idea to further units of study and was also experimenting with the use of “jigsaw” grouping that would allow students to become “experts” who were able to pass on information (teach) to others and then learn new information from them.

The final question would remain… “WHAT DID YOU LEARN?”

I can only say that this is a brave attempt by a reflective and forward thinking teacher to change the outdated system that we call “education” today and start to go down the road  towards the kind of learning and assessment that will lead to greater student interest and learning and ultimately to a more effective educational  system for all our futures.

I shall certainly be looking at her posts in the future and would like to feel that this post has made some small contribution in bringing her blog to wider attention.

 

Our Green Planet

I uploaded this wonderful animation to YouTube. I found it on an excellent site from Swansea called Learn ICT . This site is a veritable treasure chest of ideas, videos, animations and links to some excellent sites and apps for schools.

I found the “Our Green Planet” animation as the first entry in their excellent gallery of school-made animations. This animation was created by  Class 3 /4 from Clydach Junior School, which is an old established school in the small town of Clydach near Swansea in Wales. It has a very green environmental theme and  shows how we should all be aware of waste and recycling.

Class 3/4 is a mixed Year 3 and 4 class and therefore this video was created by seven and eight year olds. It is powerful, effective and very much reflects the children’s concerns with what we are doing to our planet as well as their optimism that we can get it right for future generations. Notwithstanding all of that it is also a very competent animation that uses technology to communicate and try to influence.

Well done Class 3/4… you have shown just what is possible if children are given the chance to use technology. In the process of writing, editing, making the models, drawing the backdrops, adding appropriate music and  narrating the scenes, they have covered many important skills that have developed their learning in so many ways.

Where does it go?

I am working at the moment preparing some training about the use of ICT in schools. In my research I found a brilliant site “Learn ICT”

I found this site a mine of information that I could use in the preparation of my training. In amongst the gems I found some videos  in the section about Early Years and ICT. These videos were wonderful. They cover the full range of very young children experiencing and playing with ICT.

What I found interesting was to witness the joy of learning by the children. It made me think about a question that I have discussed with colleagues on a number of occasions… “where does all the joy go?” It has come up  a number of times  and usually finds me sitting with a group of primary (elementary) teachers and bemoaning the fact that these active learners that we see in the videos become the passive and bored pupils just a few years later when, in  their ten year old guise, they just sit and listen to the teacher, fear the oncoming tests and clockwatch for the next break or lunch.

Please watch these videos… they are all good in their own way….I would welcome your thoughts on them and also the question… “where does the joy go?”

The new 3 R’s

I read an excellent post this morning called “The Secret to Learning is Unlearning” by Helen Blowers. There was so much to admire in this post. My favourite quote is:

“When I was a child the three R’s stood for reading, writing, and arithmetic. But today in many educational systems, the tenets of the new 3 R’s are rigor (provide challenging learning experiences in their classrooms) relevance (how learning applies to real life), and relationships (building learning connections with and for students).”

I thought this was such a good way to describe the way we should be thinking about the basic skills that our children need in the 21st Century. I think it would be a really good checklist for any teacher to consider as they examine their practice:

(1) RIGOR: Have there been real challenging learning experiences today.. problem solving, opportunities to experiment, investigate, discuss, debate?

(2) RELEVANCE: Can my students see the point of what they have looked at today.. were the connections with everyday life made clear to them? Was the outside world brought into the classroom.. did we react to their concerns, interests, problems? Fears about the future?

(3)  RELATIONSHIPS: Were opportunities provided for students to establish, continue or strengthen relationships with each other, with others in their school, city, country… the world?

I would welcome feedback on the “New 3 R’s” maybe you have your own opinion on what they might be in 2011.



Making a positive contribution to this world

I have just been looking at the video from PBS “New Learners of the 21st Century”

http://www-tc.pbs.org/video/media/swf/PBSPlayer.swf

Watch the full episode. See more Digital Media – New Learners Of The 21st Century.

 

 

There were a number of important points made in the video and much that was to be admired in the contributions by the likes of John Seeley Brown but the thing that stuck with me was the statement by Richard Koshalek director of the Hirshhorn Museum that was about how the empowerment of digital media was enriching the experience of education for children and will allow them in the future “to make a positive contribution to this world”.

That statement, about making a positive contribution reminded me of a lesson that I was giving many moons ago. I remember talking about how destruction is really so easy to do. It was one of my teacher-type morality speeches after a child had destroyed another child’s work.

I remember standing in front of the class and saying that it might take a lot of love,time, energy, experience, passion and belief to produce a great work of art or a beautiful building… but it can be ripped apart or destroyed in what seemed like no time.

I wanted the children to think about how difficult it is to create and how easy it is to destroy. Richard Koshalek’s statement made me think about the wider implications of what we are hoping for in educating our children. At best surely it is that they can make a positive contribution to their world and hopefully to ours.

In your classes there may be architects of promise, artists of genius and filmmakers who will excite and take our ideas to a new height of experience.There may also be others whose contribution to society is one of destruction.

The big question therefore remains… how do we get our children to make a positive contribution to their world and hopefully ours and are we equipping them with the learning possibilities that will allow them to achieve rather than destroy?

The Cardboard Institute of Technology

The Cardboard Institute of Technology are working  at the Exploratorium in San Francisco during this month (February).  They are using cardboard as a means for children and adults to explore scientific, technological and artistic ideas.

They have been busy making a whole imaginary  city landscape from cardboard as can be seen from the picture below and in the video above:

Yet again this is the Exploratorium using great and simple ideas to really get children (and adults) to explore science and technology in a creative way. This is the sort of thing that can be done, maybe on a much smaller scale, in classrooms everywhere.

A few years ago I did a number of lessons in which I followed the U.K.’s QCA guidelines to get children to disassemble, observe, experiment and build using simple materials in design technology. I hope that the example of The Cardboard Institute of Technology will inspire more teachers to try this approach. I can confirm from my own experience that it really gets children talking, collaborating and learning about physical forces, materials and technology. There is also a healthy need to involve mathematics in the process.

 

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