Sunday, June 26, 2016

Technology Resources For Early Childhood Learning

I am the father of 2 daughters. Reaghan is 7 and Chesney is almost 3. As a Dad and an educator I am constantly looking for the best resources to provide for them at home to supplement the learning they are doing in their schools.

Especially with Chesney.

Every parent wants their child to have a jump start on learning and ensure they are prepared for a world of learning, especially with technology. And I am no different. I want Chesney to love learning, be an explorer and tinker with things but also be a fluent user of technology. So in my spare time I am always on the hunt for ways to support her as a learner.

I am a big fan of Tiggly when it comes to Early Childhood and technology. Tiggly are manipulatives used in conjunction with apps for the iPad. The manipulatives teach things like shapes, colors, letter sounds and more. The apps are highly engaging and Chesney loves them. She will sit with her letters making words and then, the best part, she can create a digital story using the words she learned.


Now, my background isn’t in Early Childhood. (The closest I came was that one day I spent observing in a Kindergarten classroom during college.) So I would never claim to know all that there is to know about Early Childhood education, especially when it comes to the infusion of technology.

Lucky for me the International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE) has a lot of resources for anyone who is interested in enhancing Early Childhood with technology.

ISTE Standards-The best starting point are the ISTE Standards for Students. While not written specifically for Early Childhood education, all of them can be used in that setting. Each Standard is broken down into sub parts to help guide kids in understanding areas like creativity, information fluency, critical thinking and more. It’s never too young, for example, to work with kids on the aspects related to digital citizenship. The Standards provide a framework on what to focus on and also provides resources to help meet those goals, with a particular emphasis on Early Childhood education.

Early Learning Network-Part of my advocacy work revolves around helping educators discover the power of connected professional learning. ISTE has a whole set of Professional Learning Networks for members to do just that, connect with other educators. For Early Childhood professionals there is the Early Learning Network. With over 1000 members and over 160 discussions you are sure to connect with others to learn from and grow with.

Tech as a Tool for Going Global in Early Childhood Webinar-Another great feature that ISTE has is their webinar series. For Early Childhood Educators this webinar on the tech tools to use in the Early Childhood classroom to go global is not to miss. As with many of the things we’ve discussed here, the earlier we start with helping kids navigate the digital world, the more they will be prepared as they get older.

If you are going to be at ISTE 2016 in Denver you can also learn more about Tiggly and loads of other Early Childhood technology in the Early Childhood Playground. There will be lots of hands-on stuff to play with and experts to help talk to you about how to do more with tech with our youngest students.

In addition to these resources there are countless articles and blog posts to explore as well!

Some might think that young kids and technology don’t mix. I disagree. There are so many great and simple to use technologies that can enhance the excitement for learning that kids at that age already have. And these are the perfect years to start conversations about digital literacy and citizenship.

So check out all the great resources Tiggly and ISTE have to offer!

photo credit: Power User via photopin (license)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Changing Our Views On Social Media For Learning






What do you think about when you hear those words?

Maybe you think about social media in general and how it’s continuing to grow. Or maybe you think about how those can be used as platforms to connect with others. Or maybe you think they are all a waste of time.

What do you think kids think about when they hear the names of those apps?

When it comes to social media and the use of these tools there is still a large disconnect between the platforms kids use and what we use in the classroom. Make any mention of using Snapchat as a tool for storytelling and your audience may look at you with dismay.

For many adults, especially educators, these tools don’t have a place in the classroom. They are seen as platforms to merely be social. And kids also don’t see them as a tools to incorporate into their everyday learning. Although I would bet if we asked them, they’d want to.

So that’s what I did.

My sister is 17. She’s getting ready to be a Senior in high school. She has profiles on all these social media services and more. She posts pictures of her friends, places she goes and stuff she sees. Most of it is pretty mundane. Some it though like the images and Vines she posts about her learning Latin are pretty awesome. So I asked her. What if these tools were used in your classrooms? What if you could create Snapchat stories or use Instagram to document your learning? What would you think?

“I’d definitely be more engaged! All the kids at my school use these. Then we go into boring classrooms and feel like we are disconnected from our lives. So if we had the chance to use these I’d be excited to go to school everyday.”

Well said Celia. Well said.

Many of the tools and apps I write about are still considered non-traditional. They are that way because they’ve yet to hit the mainstream of education. Just the mentioning of the name “Snapchat” conjures up images of students trading inappropriate images and text messages. Or say the word “Twitter” and instantly some believe it’s a waste of time with people writing about which celebrity crush they have or which sporting event they are at.

It’s these adult attitudes towards emerging technologies that perpetuate the myths around them.

Are there examples of the inappropriate use of any of these technologies? Sadly they are easy to find. But stop and think for a moment. What if we as educators looked at any of these apps and found ways to incorporate them into learning. We could redefine how they were being used by kids and, at the same time, have embedded conversations about how they should be used appropriately.

How can you do that? Where would you begin to even examine how any of these tools could be used in the course of learning? Here are just a few ways each of these services could be used in the classroom.

Note-The point here isn’t that you have to use all of them or one of them. The point is to think differently about these apps and social media in general to understand the realm of possibility.

Snapchat-I recently discovered Snapchat as a great way to tell stories. What most folks don’t know is that while Snapchat is most known for images and text that disappear there is a powerful feature called My Story where the images don’t disappear and you can post video too. This could be used, just like it is called, to tell a story. I travel frequently so I use My Story to document the town or city I am in. What I see and where I go. Then anyone can follow along. (You can follow me there if you’d like. Add me by the username Web20Classroom.) There are lots of other ways to use Snapchat too. This post from Edweek highlights not only how to get started with Snapchat for learning but also how it could be used for Professional Development as well.

Facebook-Of all the apps here Facebook is probably the most “mainstream.” Many schools and districts are using Facebook to promote news items, events and to celebrate all that is good. But there is more that Facebook can offer the classroom. Groups for projects, a space for conversation and more. This guide commissioned by an educational think tank in the UK has some really great ideas for introducing Facebook to your classroom.

Instagram-By using a simple camera app a series of images can be powerful. I train school and district leaders in the use of Instagram as a means to celebrate what is great in their schools. But Instagram can be powerful for kids too. Modeled after the Humans of New York series, the Stories of Waukee is completely student run and contains some very powerful stories. This article from We are Teachers has 10 easy ways to use Instagram in your classroom.

Vine-A lot can happen in 7 seconds. And video, like images, can be a great way to capture learning, describe a particular event or more. I like Vine for the classroom because it’s so dead simple to use and videos are super short. Highlighting what kids are reading, science in 6 seconds, there are so many ideas for the use of Vine in the classroom. This article from Edutopia not only lays out why Vine (and Instagram video too) can be used for learning but shows some really awesome examples too.

Twitter-As many of you know, I’ve been advocating for the use of Twitter for professional growth and learning for many years. It is the best platform for reaching those experts where they are to learn from. However, many dismiss Twitter from the classroom as just noise or not having  a place for student learning. Quite the opposite is true. For example kids can use Twitter to connect to experts in the fields they are interested in pursuing for careers or have a chat with an author of a book they are reading. This guide from MindshiftKQED is full of ideas for getting started and how kids can use Twitter to take conversations from the classroom to beyond.

Instead of looking at these apps through a lens of inappropriate use, let’s reshape the conversation by embracing these as tools for learning while having conversations about how digital tools can and should be used in the best ways possible.

photo credit: Social Media via photopin (license)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

10 Student-Centered Ways To Use Blab In The Classroom with @shfarnsworth

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This post is the result of a collaboration between myself and my good friend Shaelynn Farnsworth

I always enjoy learning about new tools and the place they possibly could have in the classroom. When my friend Shaelynn reached out to me to record a video with her for a project on Connected Educators I jumped at the chance because she was going to introduce me to a new platform. 

Blab is a live-broadcasting app that streams video to a “Public” or “Unlisted” stream (host’s choice). With 4 “Open-Seats” available in each Blab, topic-driven conversations are shared with a live audience. Interaction also occurs via text through live audience participation. While anyone can call-in (or ask) for an “Open-Seat”,  only the host can approve who receives the spot. Moderating participants came in useful when we were Blabbing; people from Australia to Korea all wanted to join in the live conversation.

Blab also allows users to record all or a portion of their live stream. Sharing is easy; the video can be embedded, tweeted, posted on Facebook, and even shared to the user's YouTube channel. Finally, like other social media platforms, “following” and “followers”, help you be part of the conversations that matter most to you!

Shaelynn and I agreed, Blab was fun, easy to use, and versatile which makes it great for classroom use. After our Connected Educators conversation, we starting chatting about the ways this could be used in the classroom. Here are the Top 10 Ways Students could use Blab in the classroom:

10 Ways Students Can Use Blab in the Classroom - by Steven Anderson and Shaelynn Farnsworth
  • Interviewing Experts and Primary Sources - Students are no longer limited by location to the information they have access to. Technology provides opportunity and means for learning to expand beyond the walls of the classroom. Blab provides an easy way for students to connect with and interview experts, gaining new information from primary sources. 
  • Live Demonstrations of Science Experiments - In science class we certainly want students to get hands on when it comes to experimenting. But there are cases where, for safety or other reasons, keeping them at a distance is best. Through Blab the teacher can be conducting the experiment remotely and have the rest of the class join, share and comment through a Blab. The best part? Experiments no longer have to be tied to the classroom? So if there are investigations where more expertise is needed the teacher can go to that location (like a local university with more resources) while students view from afar. 
  • Student Presentations To Authentic Audiences - Many times the work students do lives between themselves and their teacher. The hours of work they spend creating and crafting is sometimes seen by their classmates but rarely anyone else. With Blab, students have a live, authentic audience to present their findings or project to. Using the chat feature they could solicit feedback or opportunities for growth. An since Blab supports up to 4 video feeds a lively discussion could also take place, face-to-face, with reviewers from across the world. 
  • School or Community News Broadcast/Journalism - Live streaming of school events, sharing of news in the district or community, all provide students the option of reading, writing, and speaking in authentic and engaging ways. Pairing Blab with student journalism provides a multimedia avenue in which students hone life skills. The ability to embed the final video or upload to YouTube give students a way to share their work long after the Blab is over.  
  • Students Practicing Reading/Literacy Skills - Students, especially younger students need opportunities to read and practice their growing literacy skills. Blabs could be set up between an Elementary classroom and a Middle School or High School class where younger students practice reading to older students. The reverse could also happen too. As students are developing those critical literacy skills they need to hear them modeled. So the older students could read to the younger students as well. All of this recorded for feedback and reflection later. 
  • One on One Conferencing/Peer Feedback - With any type of feedback, be it from reviewing a paper or project or looking at overall learning objectives and goals, having a peer review process in place in the classroom can help students think more intrinsically about their own thinking. Using Blab, students can peer review each other and record that feedback for analysis or use later. And the peer doesn’t have to be a classmate. Since Blab is global, peers can be anyone, anywhere in the world. 
  • Cross Curricular Projects/Group Work - Group work is at the heart of a collaborative classroom. However, what do students do when the bell rings for the day? They still have work to do together but are going off to their different homes. Blab can bridge the gap between group members allow them to chat, share links and talk through their work. For the teacher, sessions could be recorded to review the thinking and dynamics of the groups later. 
  • Creating a Culture of Awesome - Video provides a powerful glimpse into the lives of our students. Using Blab as a way to spotlight students, or other educators in the district shines light on all of the good happening in the school. By allowing students to create the video, ownership in message which transfers to a positive climate and culture of a school heightens student voice and models a positive way social media can be used to make a an impact.
  • Field Trip Recaps - Video reflection through Blab can help kids sort through experiences and anchor their learning. After field trips, speakers, and other academic experiences; students can follow-up with a video response. Done with a small group of peers, Blab is a perfect app in which students can share their learning. Download the Blab app onto your phone, and students are now mobile videographers, sharing their learning along the way.   
  • To Create Shared screen or tutorials - Have students create tutorials using Blab. Whether demonstrating Minecraft in the classroom, or how to write a Shakespearean Sonnet, when students are doing the teaching, students are also the ones doing the learning.  
Have an idea to help make Blab better? Share here, I Blab, the uservoice forum to share your thoughts!