Week 2 – Collaboration is Key

I would like to improve teaching and learning in my classroom by finding ways for my students to direct their own learning with technology. I have a SMARTBoard and I know that I can design lessons to teach using it, but I find that it is very time consuming because I am SMARTBoard proficient, but not savvy. My biggest concerns are that I am underestimating what my students can do with technology or that I will ask too much of them. I would like to move away from just having them work on cookie cutter learning sights and instead have them collaborate, design and create something lasting and meaningful to them.

Collaborating with others helps me come up with new and fun ideas for my class. Next week, I am having our building technology teacher come into my classroom and teach my students and me about Puppet Pals, which might be the program I will use to have my students write their books this spring. I am very excited to learn about the program. I have a mentor through the statewide mentor program. She also taught technology before retiring and has been very supportive of me. This course has been immensely helpful to me, as well. I have already made new friends and I feel very supported in my ideas. I appreciate the input that I am getting from others and it was through our discussions that I picked my research topic. I am one of five kindergarten teachers in my elementary school. My principal allowed me to use professional development days to observe a couple of the other kindergarten teachers, which was very helpful. I read an article on Edutopia that stated that new teachers should “observe as many teachers as possible, and seek out the ones that I would like to emulate, regardless of the academic discipline in which they teach” (Johnson 2011). I am very fortunate that each teacher has shared their ideas and materials with me. They are very encouraging and I know that if I need a sounding board, I can talk to any of them and get assistance.

Johnson, B. (2011, November 30). Making the Most Out of Teacher Collaboration. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-collaboration-strategies-ben-johnson


McCarthy, M. M. (1977). The How and Why of Learning Centers. The Elementary School Journal , 292-299. Retreived from Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1001090.

This article was written in the late 1970s, but still seems relevant to classrooms today. The article explains the purpose of centers and states, “the learning center tries to deal with the reality that pupils learn at different rates, have different interests and needs, and are motivated when they are permitted to make choices based on these unique needs and interests” (pg. 293). The article seems to be written for teachers who are either unfamiliar with learning centers or are struggling with implementing them successfully and gives ideas and guidelines for learning center activities.

Bittel, N. (1978). The Learning Center as a Tool in Individualized Instruction. Improving College and University Teaching, 67-68, 70. Retrieved from Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27565182

This article was written in the late 1978 and discusses the importance of allowing teachers to observe successful learning centers in action before implementing learning centers of their own. The article focuses on how centers can be used to individualize instruction for all students, objectives for students and teachers, and the goal of learning centers. The author states, “The new goal in teaching is not so much to disclose facts to students as to develop in them skills which enable them to discover for themselves as individuals. And students learn best through their own experiences, including their involvement with a variety of instructional materials” (pg. 68). The article is old, but applicable to classrooms today.

Christensen , A., & Kelly, K. (2003). No Time for Play: Throwing the Baby out with the Bath Water. The Reading Teacher , 528-530. Retreived from Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20205238.

This article discusses the importance of retaining play in kindergarten classrooms instead of giving in to pressure to increase student literacy performance through other instructional methods. The article urges teachers to implement high-level play and states, “high-level play in the classroom occurs in two major arenas, manipulative materials play and dramatic play” (pg. 529). The authors suggest that teachers incorporate manipulatives in dramatic play and allow students to act out their favorite stories to assist students in extending their literacy learning and understanding. They also discuss the importance of monitoring and adjusting dramatic play to maintain high-level play. Overall, this article is a good resource to read before beginning a dramatic play learning center.


11 thoughts on “Week 2 – Collaboration is Key

  1. I love the fact that you are focusing on technology! I am new to the SMART board this year and still am discovering all of the features. I think the biggest idea to remember when using techonolgy is that it should be used as a tool to enhance learning. All too often, many technology activities are using the very same methods that were in the classroom, just with fancy graphics. (Ex. Doing guided practice on a SMART board is essentially the same as doing guided practice on a whiteboard.) I like that you want the technology projects to be something that is meaningful to your students. Puppet pals is a great app that can allow students to create their own individual project. I am jealous that you have been able to observe so many teachers. I too agree that they are a great resource. How where you able to observe those teachers? (I find it difficult to observe teachers, as I am teaching all day and my prep time is precious.)


    1. I was able to observe teachers because my principal allowed me two professional development days to visit the classrooms of the other kindergarten teachers at my school. I tried to do a workshop day with my students and we had to shut it down because it was too chaotic. So, I went to another classroom during my prep time on one day, just to see how my colleague ran her kindergarten workshops. That was very helpful.


  2. I really enjoyed reading your post. I agree, technology is something I definitely something I need to improve on in my classroom as well. It is easy for us to use technology, but finding a way for students to make use of it is sometimes difficult to implement. I am interested in Puppet Pals, I too am having my students write a book. We are actually in the process of it right now! It is a great project-based learning tool. They are so excited! I also enjoyed reading your annotated bibliography. I am still debating on my research topic so I have yet to start mine. I do have a question though, where do you go to get to jstor?


    1. I will let you know what I think of Puppet Pals after Tuesday. From what I have heard it is a lot of fun for students to use. I got on Jstor by going to the uaf website and then into the library link there. I clicked on the Academic Search Premier link and then was able to sign into the website and access journals. It might be easier if you follow this link: http://login.proxy.library.uaf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?authtype=ip%2Cuid&profile=ehost&defaultdb=aph


  3. Incorporating technology in meaningful ways can be so challenging. I taught fourth grade for my first two years and spent an enormous amount of time creating interactive lessons and centers work on my Promethean Board. The students loved it though. Of course then I switched grade levels the next year and couldn’t use any of them again..haha! I haven’t yet found the time to do the same thing again for my 1st/2nd grade classroom. Sadly, I feel like I’m basically using it as a fancy whiteboard these days. We do have a few iPads as well, but I really struggle with using them to their fullest potential. Our district is really pushing classrooms to have iPads, but they won’t let teachers put any apps on them. So, we just get these iPads with pre-loaded apps that may or may not apply to your classroom. However, I have checked out Puppet Pals before and it seems great! I look forward to hearing how you end up using it and how it works out.

    I completely agree about going in and observing other teachers and think it’s wonderful that your principal let you take a day to go into other classrooms. All teachers need the opportunity for that experience, no matter how long they’ve been teaching. Two weeks ago, my whole school-within-a-school team (six of us) got a PD day to go observe at another highly regarded school in our district. We observed in the morning and then debriefed for the afternoon. It was so much more valuable than any PD I’ve ever had. All the teachers and the principal were so excited that we were there to observe and took time out of their planning time to meet with us and answer questions. I left feeling so inspired!


  4. I use a SmartBoard in my class and I too found it to be time consuming to make lessons. I have used this website to download many of my lessons and just changed them to fit my class. It is a great website and very easy to navigate. http://exchange.smarttech.com/ Great ideas here and fun games to teach lessons.


    1. I have used that website too and my statewide mentor also gave me a thumb drive with holiday lessons on it, which was very helpful. I wish there were more sites like the exchange site.


  5. The SMART Board can be a great asset in a classroom, but it can also be very time consuming. When I think about some of the teachers who I would consider masters at integrating interactive display technology, they have some great integration techniques. One teacher I know has her students do a math check-in problem as a part of students’ routine for returning from recess. All of the students in the class have their names on a tile on the board, and there are three problems focusing on the same concept; however, they range in difficulty: easy, medium, and hard. The students grab their name tile, and drag it to the problem they plan to solve. I think this method of differentiation is a good example of how students can direct their own learning (and how a technology tool could be used for multiple purposes such as motivation, classroom management, and differentiation). This idea also seems to lend itself as a manageable way to incorporate SMART Boards into instruction without breaking the time bank.

    Collaboration is an important facet to the teaching profession. It sounds as if you have some good opportunities for collaboration and observation in your district. This is great, as I find there are new tech skills as well as classroom management skills that can be learned by observing others teach in a tech environment.


  6. I took a SMART class a few years ago, and our instructor repeatedly emphasized that the SMARTboard become invisible. In other words, she did not want the SMARTboard to be a novelty, but an educational tool used daily. She also had us make SMART lessons that pertained specifically to our students and our lessons – it was time consuming, especially because I was just learning to use the SMART notebook. I use SMART exchange http://www.exchange.smarttech.com a lot. (I think Jen mentioned it in her comment, too)

    Puppet Pals looks like fun! I have never heard of it, Let is know what you think!


    1. I will let you know how Puppet Pals goes! I am excited to use see it in action. I have designed one thing for my SMARTBoard to help my students learn greater and less with numbers. I use my SMARTBoard every day. There are teachers that never use it and I think it is sad that they are not utilizing that resource.


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