What specific policies will help your district prepare students for current and emerging technology use? How can you help lead your district in creating these policies?

The specific policy that helps my district prepare students for current and emerging technology is that all schools in the district have technology available for students to use. However, the main issue with the technology is that it is not evenly distributed among the schools. Title I schools have more technology than most schools that are not designated as Title I. The school where I teach is designated as a Title I school and we have a computer room, two laptop carts, two iPad carts and ipod Touches in the classrooms. Every classroom also has a SmartBoard. I have been to other schools in the district that only have two laptop carts and one iPad cart.

The best thing that our district has going for it is its technology standards curriculum that outlines what should be taught in each grade level starting in kindergarten (Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, 2011). The district designed the curriculum when they wrote their first technology plan in 2011. They chose to base the curriculum off the National Educational Technology Standards (Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, 2011). The six strands of standards include creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making, digital citizenship, and technology operations & concepts. By aligning their standards directly to the NETS, it helped the school district obtain a strong starting point to introduce emerging technology to students.

The 2011 plan was a good start and I was hoping that the district’s 2014-2017 plan would expand on introducing emerging technology. However, there is little, if any, real focus on introducing emerging technology to students or teachers. In the plan, the district states that they will “Continue to provide workshops and credit courses for staff that integrate the Alaska standards, technology, and best practices” (Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, 2014). My concern here is, what about the staff that is not integrating technology? Our district requires all teachers to take a technology test each year. If teachers do not pass the test, then they have to retake the test the next year. I know that there are teachers in my school that have not passed the test for over five years. Our school district offers classes to the teachers that do not pass, but they are not required. I could talk to my principal about letting me showcase the projects during staff meetings and open houses. We could have a staff makerspace in one of the spare classrooms. I could share my lesson plans. I would like to see more teachers want to teach technology, but first I think they need to get excited about it.

References

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. (2011). Educational Technology Plan. Retrieved July 27, 2015, from Fairbanks North Star Borough School District: http://www.k12northstar.org/sites/default/files/fnsbsd-combined_w_appendices_educational_technology_plan_2011-2014-4apr11.pdf

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. (2011, October). Technology Curriculum Grades K-12. Retrieved July 27, 2015, from Fairbanks North Star Borough School District: http://www.k12northstar.org/departments/curriculum/instructional-technology/k-12-technology-curriculum

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. (2014). Technology Plan 2014-2017. Retrieved July 27, 2015, from Fairbanks North Star Borough School District: http://www.k12northstar.org/sites/default/files/fnsbsdedtechplan2014-2017_0.pdf

Week Ten Reflection (EmergTech)

This has been another challenging week for me. I just keep wondering when it is going to end. However, I am excited that my new computer should be here tomorrow. I need to catch a break and get things turned around. Lately, my mantra has been “Don’t cry, this too shall pass”. I do not know of a time that I have been so frustrated and challenged. I just keep pushing on, hoping tomorrow will be better. The highlight of my week was ordering the classroom Chibitronics kit. I cannot wait for it to arrive so I can check it out and see how it works. I appreciated the support I received from my classmates when they learned that I ordered it. It does make me sad that some of my classmates do not have the funds available from their district to try it out in their classrooms. I know that budgets are tight. My plan is to try it on my own and then pitch it to my principal to purchase by the school next year. I think that adds a little more pressure on me to make it successful, but if I’ve learned anything this summer, it’s that I will succeed under pressure. I am planning on adding pictures to my blog here this year so if anyone does check back, they will be able to see what my class of first graders made. I made it to the twitter chat this week (my computer crashed and burned five minutes after it ended) and I really like how we exchange our ideas and encourage each other. I look forward to the chat each week and will be sad when our class is over.

How are electronics viable additions to “crafting” for today’s young person?

Electronics bring an extra “wow” to crafts. It makes it not only a viable addition, but also a fun addition! Personally, I am very interested in Chibitronics electronics and purchased the Circuit Stickers Classroom Pack for my classroom (Chibitronics, n.d.). The kit costs $110.00, which I believe to be very reasonable, since it comes enough supplies for thirty students. The one thing I noticed was that batteries are not included, but I will find a way to fund them either through my administrator or from parents.

So, why isn’t everyone making crafts with electronics? I think the main thing that has held me back was that I don’t know how to do it myself and that makes it difficult for me to teach it to my students. However, there is no reason that my students and I couldn’t learn together. I know that it may take extra time in my already packed teaching schedule, but I could make the time. I believe it would be especially fun for days that my students have to stay indoors because it is too cold outside. I could also teach myself first and then help my students complete a project. Honestly, I think this may better the best way for me, personally. I will learn how to make one project and then teach it to my students. From there, they can choose the projects they want to do and create with each other or by themselves. I love that Chibitronics has a learn section of their website with videos. It is easy enough that I could have my students find and watch videos on their own (Chibitronics, n.d.).

I also found purchased a circuit scribe pen to try out with my classroom. I was a little concerned about the feedback people left about the pen, but I’m willing to give it a try and see if it works for simple circuits, like the ones we are using in our classroom (Amazon.com, n.d.). I watched the TedYouth Talks video (2011) and I was amazed at what could be done with a conductive ink pen. I loved the projects that they were able to build and I couldn’t help thinking about how creative my students are and wondering what they would come with themselves if given the opportunity. I would like my students to use their kits to enhance their artwork, make cards for parents, and possibly enter something that they create into our schools Science Fair. From there, I think I might look into other kits and ideas for my students, like the Snap Circuits, Jr. Kit.

References

Amazon.com. (n.d.). Circuit Scribe Conductive Ink Pen: Draw Circuits Instantly, Silver. Retrieved July 21, 2015, from Amazon.com: http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OZATJ3A/ref=ox_sc_act_title_4?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Chibitronics. (n.d.). Circuit Stickers Classroom Pack. Retrieved July 21, 2015, from Chibitronics: http://store.chibitronics.com/products/circuit-stickers-classroom-pack

Chibitronics. (n.d.). Learn. Retrieved July 21, 2015, from Chibitronics: http://chibitronics.com/education/

Ted Talks. (2011, November). Leah Buechley: How to “sketch” with electronics. Retrieved July 23, 2015, from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTBp0Z5GPeI

Week Nine Reflection (EmergTech)

I enjoyed the BYOD topic this week because I believe that it would be useful to have in schools overall. However, there are concerns that I (and my classmates) have about students bringing their own devices to class. I enjoyed co-hosting the Twitter chat on Thursday. The hour went by very quickly and the discussion was well rounded. I found it interesting that many people had bandwidth issues. It seems to be a problem throughout Alaska. I know that in my school district it is part of their tech plan to address and expand bandwidth, but there is not a date set for completion. Another issue that everyone was worried about was theft, loss, and damage. Many of my classmates said that they would require a waiver to be signed, which I think is a great idea as long as it is legally binding. Some people suggested that parents and student attend a meeting about expectations and rules. One of the things I really liked was the suggestion to have a basket by my desk for students to put their devices in, so they aren’t tempted to use them except during specific times. I commented on posts this week on my iPad, but when I went back through, none of them were there. I don’t know what is happening with my own devices, but I guess I will only comment using my computer from now on, but I’m thinking that I should go back through comment again. I really believe that technology is a great thing, as long as it works. This summer has really been a challenge for me when it comes to technology.

Does every school need a “BYOD” policy?

I do think that schools should have a BYOD policy, as long as it is feasible and they have the bandwidth available to accommodate it. I was a student teacher in a sixth grade classroom where the students were allowed to bring their own device on special days. However, it was often frustrating for the students because their programs and apps would not load. It was a reoccurring problem at our school, even on days when we didn’t have BYOD. According to Martini (2013), “Given most users carry more than one Internet connected device (i.e. smart phone and tablet), bandwidth consumption can easily quadruple overnight with a BYOD rollout. Combine this with the fact that more critical services are moving to the cloud such as online testing, attendance and payroll, managing bandwidth is a real concern.” However, I feel that if a school or a district were to officially roll out a BYOD program, they would have to address the need for additional bandwidth.

With the present budget shortfalls, there is a greater need for schools to implement a BYOD policy. In fact, “it seems like a lucrative idea, especially for schools that can’t afford to supply each student with a shiny new tablet or e-reader, but that doesn’t mean the concept hasn’t met its fair share of criticism. Some experts have been quick to call out BYOD flaws and even speculate that BYOD programs aren’t a long-term solution.  Whether that’s the case is yet to be determined, but there have been some successful BYOD implementations” (Walsh, 2012). Personally, I am also concerned about implementing a BYOD program in schools. I worry about cyber bullying, games distracting from learning, theft, and the general safety of students because I will not be able to monitor all of the students all of the time. Even if I could monitor them all constantly, that does not teach students to be responsible with their devices.

I think planning is the most important part of the process, but it can be daunting when you are not sure where to start. K-12 Blueprint (2014) states, “The first step to planning a BYOD program is to engage the community in order to learn from their vision and achieve consensus. A BYOD program needs the support and buy-in of all parties involved, including parents, students, staff, and administrators. Before implementing BYOD, it is important to consider the school demographics to determine if it is a viable technology financing option. Parental support, average household income, and the percentage of students who already own a device all play a large role in the success of a BYOD program.” As with any new program or curriculum, there is a period of learning for teachers and students. The good news is that there are many resources to help schools and districts plan and implement a BYOD program.

References

K-12 Blueprint. (2014). BYOD Planning and Implementation Framework. Retrieved July 14, 2015, from K-12 Blueprint: http://www.k12blueprint.com/sites/default/files/BYOD-Planning-Implementation.pdf

Martini, P. (2013, December 22). 4 Challenges That Can Cripple Your School’s BYOD Program. Retrieved July 14, 2015, from Teachthought: http://www.teachthought.com/technology/4-challenges-can-cripple-schools-byod-program/

Walsh, K. (2012, December 16). Making BYOD Work in Schools – Three School Districts That Have Figured it Out. Retrieved July 14, 2015, from Emerging Ed Tech: http://www.emergingedtech.com/2012/12/making-byod-work-in-schools/

Week Eight Reflection (EmergTech)

Wow, I learned a lot about Minecraft this week and now I am excited to design a unit for my first graders! I also have an idea that I got from Jessica on Marie’s blog about using it in my Makerspace to allow students to design and build the buildings they constructed in the game. I am sure I can get parents to donate legos. I also learned about MinecraftEdu from Becca and I’m really excited to use it when I develop my unit. I am starting my overall plan for the year, so this was a perfect time for me to be introduced to Minecraft and MinecraftEdu. I love that I am learning from my classmates and finding useful information that I can apply in my teaching practices! I also was reminded to buy some Minecraft books for my classroom. I am considering buying a chapter book to read to my class during lunch. They love when I read them chapter books! I feel that I could at least give it a try and see how it goes because there are so many educational components to the game. I missed the Twitter chat this week, because the ospreys shorted the power again, but I did read back through it. I love that my TweetDeck keeps all the conversations. That is one of the most helpful things I have found! I have decided that I am going to develop a poll for my class to find out what technology they use at home and which games they enjoy and know how to play. I believe it will be a good way of finding out if there are other apps or games that I can incorporate into my teaching next spring. I think it would be great to have a fall Minecraft unit and a spring unit for a different game.

How Minecraft Can Help Students Learn

Let me start out by stating that my nephew tried to teach me Minecraft and I got really frustrated and had to quit and walk away. Am I done playing Minecraft? No. Was I really mad and confused? Yes. Do I understand the draw to this game? Not yet. Will I become addicted to it before the summer is over? Probably. Am I going to play again tonight? I don’t know, maybe. Do I want to use it in my first grade classroom this fall? Definitely.

While taking a break, I started thinking about how the game works and it’s educational benefits. I thought about how my students will love that it is virtual Legos because my students LOVE Legos. Before I began, I read the How To Play Minecraft page and paid close attention when I was instructed thatupon entering a new world, the two most important things to do are crafting tools and building a shelter, all before the first night-cycle hits. Finding trees and harvesting wood are the first steps towards making tools” (Minecraftopia, n.d.). I learned just how important that was when I found exactly zero trees and was repeatedly attacked when night fell. My nephew tried to help me at this point and taught me how to fight the monsters, but there were too many of them, which caused me to die over and over. That’s when I walked away.

I think my first grade students would love to journal and draw about what they build and learn each day. I can see them naming their character and writing stories about their adventures in the game. I could also teach about shapes, seasons, addition and subtraction. I agree that “Minecraft can have huge educational benefits for children; it can help teach numerous subjects both with and without adult involvement. Learning in Minecraft can be faster than traditional methods of education, as children are often far more motivated, get more practice, and feel that what they are learning is useful” (Gamepedia, n.d.). However, I was still concerned that it would be too difficult for first grade students to learn how to use. I searched online to see if anyone had used Minecraft in a first grade classroom. I found a blog by a first and second grade teacher, Joel Levin, who was inspired to teach Minecraft to his students after watching his five-year play the game. Levin wrote, “Not only did we have a productive and fun unit, but I would say that this was the best project I have ever done in the classroom.  In my 8 years of teaching I have never seen students so excited and engaged.  They run up to me in the halls to tell me what they plan to do next class.  They draw pictures about the game in art.  They sit at the lunch tables and strategize their next building projects.  And not only the boys, but girls too” (Levin, 2011). I found his words to be very encouraging and I am going to follow his blog this year and learn from him so I can create a Minecraft unit for my first grade students.

References

Gamepedia. (n.d.). Minecraft in education. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from Minecraft Wiki: http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Minecraft_in_education

Levin, J. (2011, January). A Classroom Experiment with Minecraft. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from The Minecraft Teacher: http://minecraftteacher.tumblr.com/post/3922255282/a-classroom-experiment-with-minecraft

Minecraftopia. (n.d.). How To Play Minecraft. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from Minecraftopia Beta: http://www.minecraftopia.com/how_to_play_minecraft