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No More Math Books, Please

Several weeks ago, I approached my principal on behalf of my team (because I’m the outspoken one – go figure) with the idea that we use this year’s math textbook adoption money to buy netbooks for our 4th grade students. Today, she approached me and said that our central services was considering the idea, but they needed a written justification/proposal. Well, she turned to me. So, I turned to my Twitter PLN (hello… have you gotten the idea from me that you should be on Twitter?). Within minutes, I had a list of resources via tweets, several direct messages and emails with links to research to support this idea. Then, I had requests for the research. Of course, I shared. If you are interested, you can find all the links I compiled at my del.icio.us bookmarks. Finally, I had a request or two for the proposal itself. So, here goes. Admitedly, this proposal is more about passion and potential than about research and funding, I believe that it is the root of commitment that my central services is seeking.

If you get a chance, I would LOVE some feedback (especially suggestions for improvement or other points to add). I kept my focus on math because that would be the funding that we’re asking to re-allocate this year. I know the uses are endless and applicable across the board! I am excited that my principal is so on board and I feel like she will fight for us. Let’s hope!

The fourth grade teachers at CPS are requesting to use the funds allocated for math textbook adoption in the 2009-2010 school year to help begin a one to one (1:1) student laptop initiative. As we considered the various textbook options that were arriving at our schools, we looked over each of them carefully. We studied, we compared and we criticized. We also looked at them next to our current adoption. As we discussed, we realized that we use our math books as a supplement, rather than a primary resource. Frankly, none of us have used our math books more than twice this year. They sit in our classroom cubbies and have been replaced with activities that we have created, researched and shared that are designed based on the assessment data we collect from our students on a daily basis. In our weekly team planning we look at hands-on and interactive lessons that can be used to tap into what we know are “best practices” when teaching math. These are not the types of lessons that we find buried in a math book. When given the opportunity to reflect on our practices and collective expertise, we decided that a more influential use of this money would be to fund a class set of wireless ready netbooks that could be used as a set or in smaller groups to facilitate differentiated learning with 21st century tools. We have a variety of reasons why we feel that this is most effective for our students. Although a set of thirty netbooks would not immediately achieve the desired 1:1 computing initiative, it would allow us to share the set among the grade level, creating a 2:1 student:computer ratio.

First, we can efficiently deliver differentiated learning experiences for our students to meet their individual needs. Online programs like Edmodo, which works similarly to Blackboard or Moodle, can be used to send students individual and group assignments which can be reviewed and assessed using immediate and comprehensive feedback. With the newest forms of SMART Notebook software for each of these computers, students will be even more active engaged in the use of SMART Technologies in our classrooms. These computers and the SMART Notebook software for students, they will be creating their own understanding through interaction. We can use the online access to bring in experts through communication programs like Skype. We will be able to reflect using wikis and blogs to capture our learning and share with others. As a team, we are currently creating a wiki to be an accessible and BCS Pacing Guides. This wiki will be a “living document” that be accessed by teachers, students and parents as a means to introduce, enhance and reinforce the concepts that we studying. Even with the 2:1 ratio, students would have active and hands-on access to these guided programs on a daily basis. While we understand the need for balance between more traditional methods of instruction and the integration of these technological skills, we feel that we can effectively create a system of learning that will meet the needs our students using the combined resources of Accelerated Math, our current textbook, Study Island and similar programs, with hands-on and virtual manipulatives. Using these materials and the collective experience of our team, we feel that we can create the most impact on the lives and learning of our students.

In addition to the wealth of mathematical resources that will be available to our students, we will be facilitating the development of the skills needed to be successful as students and citizens in the 21st century. These skills will focus on collaboration, critical thinking, discretionary research and problem solving with a global focus. We will also be able to use these netbooks to enhance instruction in all areas of our students’ days and as a way to provide essential community outreach through technology. We are excited about the possibilities that a 1:1 or 2:1 computer initiative offers the students of Chocowinity Primary School and beyond.

References:

“Ten Lessons Learned: Considerations for School Leaders When Implementing One-to-One Learning.” Toy, Chris. Meridian: A Middle School Technologies Journal. http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/win2008/tenlessons/03.htm

“The North Carolina 1:1 Learning Collaborative” The William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. http://www.fi.ncsu.edu/1to1/

CoSN Case Studies on 1:1 Initiative. http://www.classroomtco.org/gartner_intro.html#case

“The Case Against Textbooks” Richardson, Will. Author, Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts. http://weblogg-ed.com/2005/04/16/

“Textbook Research.” Edutech Wiki. http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Textbook_research

Cromwell, S. (1999). Laptops change curriculum — and students. Education World. Retrieved November 6, 2003, from
http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr178.shtml

Collective research of Bethany V. Smith, Instructional Technologist and Graduate Student, NC State University

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8 Responses

  1. Kelly, you’re doing great things for your students. Keep it up. I will probably refer back to this post often over the next several weeks as I work to begin a similar case in my school. Have you considered what brand of netbook to seek out for your students? There are some major decisions to be made along that front as well. I was very intrigued by the Classmate PC (www.classmatepc.com) when I first saw information about them. They are designed to be in classrooms/take a beating and include software to allow you to tap into any students computer for text or audio chat, screen sharing, etc. They seem ideal for upper elementary, not sure my 7th graders would take to them as well, but maybe. Keep us updated on this process!

  2. Kelly, like you I appreciate twitter more today than ever before. I get to learn from my PLN and great teachers like yourself. It is great to see a classroom teacher take the initiative to put together a proposal for 1:1 computing. I dream of the day where we aren’t putting together proposals for 1:1, but we are collaborating on how to be better teachers in a 1:1 environment. Kudos to your principal. On my blog I have stressed, the key to change is administrators having an understanding of the change that needs to occur. One other resource I will share with you is a diigo group dedicated to 1:1 computing. http://groups.diigo.com/groups/KIS1to1

    Good luck, the more districts that become 1:1, the more pressure there will be on those of us who aren’t to get there.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement Toby. My hope at this point is that just a 1:1 push by our grade level will start to spill to others in our building and district. Admittedly, we are a relatively progressive school with technology, but we are focused on the technology that the teachers use, and not what the students are doing. While I think this is a natural first step, my passion about what could be is hopefully somewhat contagious. I will definitely check out the diigo group. I’ll keep everyone posted.

  4. I’m glad the references helped you out. It’s always nice to see that the work you did in grad school is relevant 🙂

  5. Thanks so much. You were a tremendous help. My principal was very impressed. I’m very excited about outcomes.

  6. As another suggestion why not give abacuses to all of the kids starting in kindergarten?

    That may sound somewhat contradictory an abacus and a computer, but the objective is to get kids to UNDERSTAND NUMBERS. With an abacus the kids can see, touch, FEEL and MOVE the numbers. Computers are too advanced to start math with. They operate on too high and abstract a level. They manipulate SYMBOLS and the kids haven’t learned to understand what the symbols really mean in kindergarten.

    The computers are for maybe 3rd grade and beyond.

    A 500 page book is about a megabyte. So even if a kid read one of those every week from 1st through 8th grade that is only 400 megabytes. These netbooks come with at least 8 gigabytes and that will be obsolete soon.

    psik

  7. Why in the world would I try to learn this the hard way? I have a tons of CD tutorials I got for free lol…. —–> check it: http://bit.ly/learning-software

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