Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Digital Natives have taken over!

Last year, in December I posted my first blog... I thought I'd reread it tonight and decided to repost it.  (Does that break some cardinal rule of blogging?) New stuff appears at the end-I promise!

From 12/16/2010---Digital natives are taking over my classroom!

My students, all 25 of them this year- active and loud, quiet and mild, boys and girls... LOVE technology. They are truly "digital natives." They do not shy away from new experiences- in fact they beg to be the first to try! When I run into a problem- and there is almost always going to be a problem with something when you have 25 bodies watching and waiting on you- they are often the ones to help ME figure out the problem.

My husband is the "computer guy" for our district. I was on the internet back when it first started up... and I am not THAT old, but it makes me feel ancient. So much is changing in our fast paced digital world that even a self-professed tech lover like me married to a techie feels lost facing new technology. Recently I was faced with using an iPad for the first time. I clearly recall the uncertainty and feeling of stupidity I felt not knowing how to work the thing. I couldn't figure out how to close the "apps." I know you might feel the same way when facing newfangled technology- so I hope this blog can be a little help to you. And I hope you'll share your experiences with me.

My reward for being the most tech-savy (or most gullible) teacher in our elementary building is that I often request and get new technology first. Our tech goals included starting to use interactive whiteboards... which of course arrived just days before school started. So I jumped in using it the first days of school and had lots of "uh- what do I do now?" moments. One day when it just WOULDN'T work and I really, really, really needed it to- my students began to threaten revolt- a 5 year old said to me- "I think it's unplugged Mrs. H."

Teaching with Technology Rule Number 1. ALWAYS check the power cords first.

Computer Tech's- even when they have to come because they are married to you- DO NOT like being rushed down to "fix" a problem that involves an unplugged cord. And, don't forget- cords usually hook up to the wall & the machine. Check both before you call for help!

Why are today's children "technology natives?" You and I (assuming you are in your 20's at least!) grew up along with the current technology. Today's kids are born into a technological world. For adults, computerese is like a second language- for the little munchkins I teach- it is natural and normal.

So, in my classroom I capture the minds of my little ones through any means possible- and increasingly, through the use of technology. Some teachers resist technology, saying "They need a break from being "entertained" and that the old instructional methods work just fine."

Consider- a few decades ago microwaves were new technology. Is there a house without one on your block? Would you not use your microwave because it doesn't cook the way people did for generations?

A hundred years ago, cars were new. Unless you have an Amish community nearby I doubt you know anyone who doesn't use a vehicle of some type to get around.

I am committed to staying current to meet the needs of my learners. Are you?

A year later... I feel like I have conquered iPads, Macs, and apps.  I have mastered the interactive whiteboard- well, at least when it's plugged in!  I haven't been posting like mad on here because I feel like everything I've been doing is old news.  It helps me to realize that while it's old to me, it's not necessarily to you, dear reader.  Since moving to my current school I've had an in-class tv/vhs/dvd, a document camera, a projector, a desktop or laptop, and access to a computer lab or a few computers for student use.  Most recently I have had a Macbook, an iPad2, 1:1 student iPad1's, the interactive whiteboard, a rolling cart of Macbooks (shared with 5 other classes) and now a new iMac lab in the library. I LOVE love love the technologies I am blessed with in my district.  I know they make my job easier in as many ways as they complicate it.  I find new ways to use those technologies frequently.  
Some of the more exciting ways to use technology MOST teachers have access to I've found in the unlikeliest of places: Twitter.  I was having a hard time remembering when I discovered the power of Twitter so I looked back on my tweets and my first one was 1/14/11- I gave a shout out to Darla Wood-Walters, a conference speaker I was enjoying that day.  At the same time I was getting involved with Mobile2011 and I think I started my tweeting because of their site... thanks Tony Vincent and Katherine Burdick!  My first posts were clunky- I had no idea what to do!  I played around (what better way to start) on Twitter from January-August and then it happened... I met #kinderchat  

For those unfamiliar with Twitter there are 3 key components: #,@,140.  You have the #hashtag... this is a way to help others find your posts regarding a certain topic or to emphasize sometimes.  For example #kinderchat is a search term you can use to find posts by other Kindergarten teachers on twitter- we even have a weekly meeting (Mon@9ET), a wiki (and THAT'S another blog for another day!), and many collaborative projects.  You can do a search for #kindergarten #teaching #edchat #spedchat #pukealert (ok, K teacher humor!) and pretty much anything you can think of.  Twitter can be entertainment, a waste of time, social networking at it's worst- or you can use it as a tool to reach out and connect with like minded individuals, professionals, around the world.  I don't follow any celebrities- although I am thrilled to follow @tonyvincent (of and @gailandjoan (The Daily 5 and CAFE authors) and @matt_gomez @bluskyz @happycampergirl @mathmurd @hecternacht (of #kinderchat fame) to name a few.  The @ sign is your way of saying "hey, Sue!" in the Twitter world if you @i_teach_k I will get a notification that you wrote to me.  Thanks, in advance by the way.  It's a way to get specific people in on your conversation.  Otherwise you only broadcast to your followers.  I only follow K teachers, some K/ECE related companies (@sesamestreet @pbsteachers @literacycounts @naeyc) and a handful of others.  I don't want a lot of junk posts in my box... it's too much to wade through.  Lastly, 140 refers to how many characters you have to use in one post.  That includes spaces and punctuation!  Which is why Twitter may be responsible for eliminating the 2 spaces after a period rule, amongst other writing/grammar rules.  [Hi, my name is Sue and I have taught kindergarten for 6 years. I have been married for 10 years and I have three children; 9, 8, and 3. See?]  [140 characters].  It's a blessing and a curse.  You have to be concise.  You only need a moment to grasp the gist of the tweet.  You HAVE to be concise.  You only have 140 characters to make your point. As the queen of run on sentences this has been a challenge for me.

If you have internet and an email address you can tweet.  More importantly, you can follow.  If you choose wisely, you can follow inspiring educators and create the best, free, and convenient Professional Development or Professional Learning Network that you can find.  Start here for a list of educational hashtags or this page which has A LOT of info about Twitter 

I promise to post soon about how Twitter has changed my classroom this year... for the students, my teaching methods, and even my attitude towards teaching K.  Through #kinderchat I have found amazing ways to connect with kindergarteners and their teachers from around the world.  I have an easy, interactive way to communicate with families.  My students have meaningful reasons to read and write DAILY and so much more.  Today I heard the voices of several teachers I've been talking with on Twitter since August for the first time.  It was amazing...  I never would have met these people in WA, or even at a K conference.  Nor would I have found so many ways to integrate technology into the classroom so easily, naturally, MEANINGFULLY and engage and excite my students at the same time.  So, I repeat, yes, for the third time...

I am committed to staying current to meet the needs of my learners. Are you?

How do you stay current?  Get new ideas?  Mentor and share your knowledge?  My answer: @i_teach_k

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