Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Ed Tech Axis

Hello readers. As of today, I'm not going to be updating this blog any longer. As times have changed, I have shifted my own way of gaining and sharing information. Just as I have discontinued use of Facebook, I find that I'm just not blogging. If I find a site I find worthwhile, I'll share it on Twitter. Although there is great value in reflecting, in discourse of more than 140 characters, I don't take the time any longer. Note that I didn't say I don't have the time. I just spend it differently. And that, my friends, is called moving on. So, I'm moving on, but I'm going to leave the site active because I did a lot of work on it, and the posts are still, even as stale as they are, getting hits. So,  goodbye. Check me out on Twitter @BermanDry.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Touchscreen or Not? Chromebooks

My school is on the brink of offering computers to every child for the first time, ever. I know we're behind the curve on this. Lots of schools have been doing this for a long time. However, my school is on the conservative side, the traditional side and the budget-conscious side. We began with Chromebooks this Fall, and a set of iPads for the littlest nuggets. The Chromebooks were a wild success, I'm happy to say. The iPads....meh. The first graders used them in ways that I'm proud to talk about. The Kindergarteners and Preschoolers...it's just reinforcement of key skills. I know that has its place but I want more. I don't really see that iPads are a better way than simple flashcards for reinforcement. Just more expensive, engaging and entertaining, which reinforces that education should be entertaining. Let me just do a little dance for you while I make you learn your ABCs, too early for you to actually learn them, I might add. But, I digress.

The reason for this post is to ruminate on the decision before us for next year: Touchscreen Chromebooks or Not? We had Samsung Chromebooks this year and they've been fine. Not great, about 40% breakage of screens and such, but they did the job okay. Next year, we want more for our money. We're looking at HP 11s and 14s, as well as the new Lenovo Touchscreen Chromebook, the N20P. The Lenovo is about $150 more than the basic HP and that's a tough sell for our school, for our parents. However, our kids are going to have these devices for at least three years. My argument is that we should buy as much technology as we can because we can't ask them to go buy something newer in two years, when touch will inevitably be the standard. That begs the question: Is touchscreen really going to be the standard for Chromebooks? Obviously phones have gone that way and tablets were made that way. Are laptops really going that way. There's no way to predict the future, but if you're a "betting man" then you have to assume that water flows downhill. So, I guess as I write this, it's apparent that I really
want to get the Chromebooks with the touch feature. Now, I just have to figure out if I want the touch feature because the market wants me to want something we don't REALLY need? That's one of the most frustrating, yet exciting parts of my job: Guessing which way the wind is going to blow. Just call me the Weather Woman. I'm predicting Touchscreen.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reactionary or Visionary or Just Plain Scared Cyber Parenting?

I recently spoke to a small group of parents at a DC middle school and present in the room was some righteous indignation. It's an enjoyable experience for me to hear a concerned parent share his or her views about cyberparenting from a radical perspective. Lots of parents are happy to be in the middle, going along with the crowd. As I learned from this fascinating article by Dr. Agarwal "Why Some Human Brains Become Leaders While Others Followers" on BrainBlogger, constructive and reflective intelligence are not easily found in people. At most of my talks about parenting in the age of social media, there is usually one, or maybe two, who espouse the notion that it's okay to ban social media altogether. The jaded, edtech professional in me often nods my head agreeably when they talk, all the while thinking "your kid is using it outside the home whether you know it or not." This is mostly because I read articles like "Web the Web Kids" and it seems like it is just so much a part of the fabric of our children's lives that there is no way they are not speaking in their native tongue at some time or another, despite being told, like Native Americans were told by white settlers, that they could not do so.

However, upon reflection, I think that maybe there is another space, another way. Last night, I had a parent who felt it would be a good idea to just jump in the pool with the kids and have some fun. Yes, do that. The other parent asked every other parent in the room, can't we just let them have regular phones without the smart features? I'll say, all they need is an iPod Touch and they pretty much have the same thing; it's not really about the phone, but she kind of piqued my interest. Is there a space in between elementary school and high school where we can and should limit their exposure to these tools or ban them altogether because they are such an emotionally vulnerable group at this age? There's no doubt that the technology tools make it easier to be mean to each other--what they're doing online is just a mimic of their real lives and it's normal to be mean to one another at this age. However, maybe it's important to have a "time-out" where they become literate in face-to-face social conflict before we allow them to immerse themselves fully in online social life. It won't necessarily translate to better online behavior (look at adult behavior online!) but maybe it will allow us adults to get a word in edgewise between the spaces. Just a thought.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wikipedia Lesson for Research 6th Grade

Our school has a trimester-long class on Research for our sixth graders. It is team-taught by myself and the librarian with an eye towards helping students to understand the wide variety of research tools available to them, and which to use for what. It's fairly heavy on the tech side because, well, that's what our kids seek to use first, but we try hard to show why books are just as important to use. One of the lessons is based entirely on Wikipedia because of its widespread use. I retooled the lesson this year and thought I'd share:

1.Quick mind-map/brainstorm of what they know about wikipedia using Coggle online tool: https://coggle.it/

2.  Compare what we know to short Discovery intro video:

3. Read New York Times Article about senator with false accusations made about him: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20051205monday.html

4. Fill out worksheet to go along with the article to focus students:

There's more I want to do, especially after finding this fascinating article about gender and Wikipedia entries, as well as this short CBS wikipedia video that introduces the founder of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Copyright Unit: Lesson Two (Movies) Update

This year, I have a particularly loquacious fourth grade class and I knew that a "reader's theatre" approach to teaching movie copyright would be an epic fail. Thus, I rewrote the lesson to be less "whole-class." Instead, I used the cases on the Copyright web site as a basis for a new lesson. For this lesson, the students are placed in the role as JUDGE. Each of them has this handout. They are given four different scenarios and must then judge whether copyright was infringed upon. We view "evidence" (clips) from the movies, then students answer questions. Some of these are admittedly not open-ended enough, but did inspire a rich, spirited discussion. Feel free to adapt this lesson for your purposes. The other lessons in this unit are documented in this blog post.

I created a youtube channel with links to the movies and scenes in question. The playlist is embedded below:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

iPads and Preschool: Tired of the Rote

This fall, we implemented a single class set of iPads that are shared between our Preschools, Kindergarten and our First Grade. I'm thrilled to say that our first graders are really working those machines. They use apps to create books and slideshows and multimedia artwork. The Kindergarteners are working on it, sometimes approaching some creative tasks but I'll admit they do a lot more of what we're calling "reinforcement." The preschoolers, I'm sad to say, are strictly playing apps that reinforce skills like letter recognition, number recognition, size and shapes, and so on. That is valuable in many ways, of course, because we need practical applications for those skills. The iPad is a high-interest tool that itself generates enough focus to practice those skills that preschoolers might not otherwise want to practice.

However, I have not yet figured out a way to get to the next step. We're stuck on the very bottom of Bloom's and the substitution or augmentation level of the SAMR model. I follow a host of Pinterest boards for preschool technology and have a whole column on the TweetDeck set aside for #preschoolapps. However, I  have yet to see a creative, innovative use for iPads in Preschool. Maybe the problem is that I want them to be doing something that they are not yet ready to do, developmentally. Maybe the way preschoolers innovate is through Pretend Play--not on the iPad.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Brave New World: Managing the Internet in the Age of Handheld Devices

This evening, I am giving a presentation at PEP Kensington to a packed house on managing mobile devices for parents. Here is the presentation, complete with links: