Inspiration from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Picture a classroom filled with engaged learners really using technology to enrich their learning. Look around the room to see students creating their own blogs, finding information by posting wikis, documenting their learning with digital photos, writing scripts for video productions, engaging with SmartBoard learning but also using this tool to Skype other “keypal” classrooms to exchange and discuss project work, being able to explain how their Nintendo DS set helps them learn social skills, articulating how they sometimes write in their journals but they are more excited to post their thoughts because it makes them better writers, being able to navigate through the classroom website to educational activities and then following up on those activities at home.
Now… put all this Technology in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in the hands of a Grade One class.


Am I inspired… wow, yes!  Am I jealous… you bet!   Am I somewhat intimidated… absolutely!

But let’s be positive and go with the first one… Let’s see what I could actually do in my own classroom right now.

* Let’s take my classroom website and bump it up a notch.   I  already post educational links, homework activities, photos of activities and so on.  That’s all MY work and MY input… it’s time to think about more “student input”.  Not just photos and scans of their work, but students working ON the website.  Our district has created a Sharepoint website that has both a “Public” and an “Intranet” location.  Our district is (overly?) concerned with keeping student work enclosed in a protected environment, to the point of questioning whether a student/parent should be allowed to view another student’s work.  I will have to reflect on this viewpoint and consider its ramifications.  How would I ever have become inspired and motivated by the Grade 1s in Moose Jaw, if I hadn’t been able to actually view their work?  How could those students invite “the world” to share and make comments in their wikis and blogs, if each student’s work or even the classwork as a whole, was invisible to anyone but themselves.  This will require much consideration on my part… before I can post any student work at all.    This is an “academic” consideration, in that every year I obtain written permission from each one of my parents to post photos and schoolwork.  So… I have the permission of my parents… but… not the “good graces” of my school district. The underlying educational goals will have to guide me.

That aside… what can I do with what I already have?

1. Computer lab time:  Can we use some of this time to have the students write wikis?  The district has created a simple way to do this, or I could use WikiSpaces (a favourite wiki of mine, that I’ve used with my Gr. 5 Computer Club).  I stopped using computers to write “weekly journals” because Gr 2s don’t have the typing skills, but let’s scale down the expectations and go from “journal” to “comment” instead.  They need simple “practice” to start… so why not have the first 10 minutes of lab time go to “wiki writing”… it would be just like an “entry activity” at the start of the school day.

2. Classroom computer: I have purchased several educational games, but have not used them at all.  Time constraints with the “real curriculum”, worries about high distraction for those “not” on the computer, concerns about arguing over turns and the maintaining of records for who had a turn, and so on.   “Super Phonics” seems to be the only regular classroom computer time I have “sort of” maintained.  It’s way past time that I got something better going here!

3. Classroom camera:  I have used this for several years up to now.  (I’ve had other concerns to deal with this year!)  Once a week the “News Reporter of the week” got to use the camera around the room.  Last year I set up a Publisher template where the Reporter chose 3 photos out of the 30 taken, and we printed them out.  The Reporter then wrote a comment/ mini story for each one, and read it to the class as part of author sharing.  First of all, I need to get that camera out again!  Next,  I should consider whether “once a week” really makes good use of it.  Also, can I find a simple way to share those photos without too much work on my part.   I don’t have a simple uploader, because the camera was an economical one (no memory card) but maybe I am underestimating the tech ability of the “modern Gr. 2”!

3. Audio recordings:  I have an old, but good, microphone from home and the Audacity program is free and already one of our school programs.  Why don’t I have students recording?  Why don’t I have one student recording during “silent reading”?  Gosh…. WHY don’t I?   I know… it’s simply because I need the time to “set up” the routine/equipment/expectations etc.  But if I ever get that going… wow!  Good inspiration for students to read better and a good assessment record for me!

4. Video:  All my digital cameras have video capabilities and I sometimes take little videos at special events.  Sometimes I don’t even seem to have the TIME to show the students!  I need to do some more investigation on how to upload the videos to the classroom website.  I’ve done it before, but now I forget how!  Again I need TIME… and I need to write simple directions to myself.   Hey… didn’t I write about that in a previous blog… “take NOTES” for YOURSELF!

5. Keypal connections:  I have started a new “stuffie exchange” with a teacher in Michigan.  We plan to send a class letter back and forth… but haven’t started because I haven’t sent my “Woody Beaver” stuffie to her yet… Yipes!   Perhaps we could investigate using Skype to connect the two classes???

6. My personal Classroom Computer:  I already have this set up to be a “demo computer” (ie. it is not on my desk, it is at the “group carpet area”.   We have used it a fair bit this year.  I’m pretty satisfied with it.

7. One school “document reader” (Elmo???)  is housed in a room elsewhere in the school but the other one is mobile.  I simply have to make the EFFORT to get it down to my room ( or take the class to the other room)  and make more use of it!

That’s enough thinking for one Sunday morning!  It’s about to turn into “afternoon” and I still have to get “Woody Beaver” packed and sent off.  Thank you, Kathy Cassidy, for inspiring me!