It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

SMARTBoard Grant Update January 9, 2011

Filed under: SMARTBoard Grant — Jamie @ 5:20 pm

Two years ago, an opportunity to apply for a technology grant through our school board presented itself to me.  If successful, I would receive for my classroom a SMARTBoard, a data projector, a laptop, other bits as they came up (like speakers, a headset, etc) and PD throughout a three year project.  The requirements were that I attend the PD, provide feedback on my development through keeping a blog, and by creating lessons to share with others.  I was successful in my grant application.


Through the first year of this project (the 2009-2010 school year) I faithfully did all three of these.  I was creating simple notebook activities, I participated in all the PD provided as well as did some technology PD on my own and set up my first blog: Learning to be SMART.


This year, however, I find myself halfway through the year not really having accomplished any of these three.  First, I missed my first PD session while I was off on extended sick leave.  I read the notes and logged into the closed blog where my colleagues were giving feedback to the tools they were learning about.  I did not add my own feedback.  I looked at the tools, but without someone to show me how they worked, I didn’t feel like I could contribute anything constructive.  Before I log my reaction to things, be it books, programs, tools, speeches, anything really, I like to really understand what it is that I am commenting on.  Earlier this year, my staff participated in a staff retreat which was focused on the book Strengths Finder 2.0.  When I found my strengths, the following was said about me:


“Because of your strengths, you regularly find a quiet place to be alone so you can clarify your plans, theories, questions, or solutions. Once you know what you think, you can launch discussions. In addition, you can elaborate on your ideas when it is necessary to do so. Being deprived of preparation time puts you at a disadvantage. On these occasions, you say as little as possible and hope someone else gets people talking.”

 

Therefore, not being able to participate in the PD, I’ve found it VERY difficult to contribute anything this year.  I’m looking forward to our next PD session in February.  I’m hoping that I can get back into it then.

 

The second requirement is blogging about my progress toward a techy teacher.  Well, I honestly haven’t done much progressing this year.  I use my SMARTBoard daily.  We use it for many different activities.  I use it for morning task, I use it as one stop in my reading centers, I use it to teach writing, to pull up pictures or maps or information my students are curious about.  I use it to do demonstrations of things I want my students to later try on their own.

 

My students themselves haven’t done much on computers this year.  They have their own blog which you can see here.  So far, there hasn’t been much guidance as to the CONTENT of their blogs.  We have just been learning the basic of the technical side of blogging.  We have learned how to log in, how to type a title, how to type the body of the blog, how to change the size and colour of the font, how to save drafts, how to publish posts and how to post comments.  Just this week, we started learning how to add pictures to our blog posts.  I truly hope to get into some better content on the blog later this year, but I find that my students this year have lots of academic challenges.  If I can get some of them writing a well-crafted sentence, I’ll be happy!

 

Which leads me to the third part of the grant bargain: creating Notebook lessons and posting them to our system wiki.  Because I base so much of what I teach on where my students are at academically and socially, I don’t really create a lot that can stand on its own for others to use.  So much of what I do on my SMARTBoard with my students is created with them.  I have lots of templates, but the teaching and the lessons really happen through the interaction with the students.  I have taught high school, middle years and now find myself teaching primary.  While middle years and high school are more heavily content-based curricula, primary curriculum is less content and more basic skills.  We definitely have content we need to teach, it is just that the WAY that we teach our content is very different from what I remember in the older grades.  (And before anyone jumps on my for this comment because I know that teaching is changing, it HAS been almost 10 years that I have been teaching primary now!)  I look at the lessons that my colleagues post on the wiki, all of whom are grades 6-12 and I can’t really picture using these types of lessons with my students.  My dayplans reflect this as well.  If you were to look at my daybook, you would see the general “title” of a lesson with several possible paths to get there.  I start with one, if it works, great!  If not, I try the next.  I keep going until the kids get it.  From day to day, year to year, my lessons always look different depending on what the kids know and what works with each unique group.

 

So, since blogging is all about reflection, what can I do to contribute to my colleagues?  Last year I started my own wiki with a collection of links that I have found useful for my students and their parents.  I haven’t visited since last year.  I think that it is time to update it and get back at it again.  What do you think?

 

Well, thanks for reading.  I’m hoping that this blog post will at least answer a few of my requirements.  Any suggestions you have would be much appreciated.

 

5 Responses to “SMARTBoard Grant Update”

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  2. Al Smith Says:

    I guess my first reaction was how/who came up with 3 criteria for reporting your Grant ‘bargain’ as you say? Then i thought it kind of sad that a teacher or your experience and obviuos dedication has to apply for anything. It is a bit sad that we have to prove our professionalism but also our validity for having resources.( $pricey resources ) Your post goes on to explain rather nicely how your classroom activities vary and why and which technologies fit and change. Your narrative is so typical in a way for many passionate teachers who hold some anguish about what they ever achieve. I suspect your kids are lucky to be learning with you.
    My last point is that you also prove that good teaching can occur without Smartboards and other devices. In fact, they can sometimes hinder us by intersecting our pursuit of good pedagogy if the tech is not learned and implemented in a process. Using these cool devices in themselves is no guarantee of appropriate learning for students or teacher. But damn they are nice when they get used right.
    Enjoy your 2011 my hardworking Twitter friend. Take care of you too.

    • Jamie Says:

      Thank you very much for your response. I feel like I should defend my board a little. These requirements were put into place to try and gather data about the effectiveness of various forms of technology. I do not harbour any ill feelings towards those who are doing what they can to try and show those in decision make positions that if we want to keep up with a changing world, we need to provide our students access to tech, whatever form it takes. When I applied to be part of this program, I knew that I was becoming part of this small group pushing to provide access to our students. There has also been absolutely NO pressure to do these things this year… Not even a request. I just personally feel like I should be doing more. Does that make sense?

      Once again, thanks Al.

  3. Al Smith Says:

    Sure does! I’m glad your don’t get heat. Sounds like a strong supportive district. Cheers!

    • S. Lowes Says:

      This is a great reflection….leaving me to think of others ways to support the classroom teacher interested in advancing technology in professional and personal life.

      Questions I have are:
      • how do we create 21st century learning experiences for our students?
      • What tools are deemed essential in the classroom today? It is clear from this project that we can support teachers who reflect/challenge their own goals with technology but how do we create capacity and sustainability in the schools?
      • What have we learned from this project? Do we expand it?
      • How can we improve the experience?
      • How can we maximize the tools we currently have instead of chasing what we don’t have?

      We will discuss this in more detail at the next meeting. You are doing a great job! There is so much change in the curriculum and assessment areas of our jobs….we need to take a moment to reflect on how these changes can help us not overwhelm us….this includes technology! Take care!


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