Too much technology?

As educators we are always striving to help students be a well rounded participants in society.  We have to look at balancing many different concerns in education, including the global society we live in and educating the entire child.  I have found in my experience that it is very easy to get wrapped up in using technology in all disciplines and neglecting other crucial aspects to a child’s development.  I LOVE web 2.0 tools and teaching my students to blog and be useful members of a global society, but it is also important that we teach children basic skills such as writing and cutting on a line!

I know it sounds intuitive but I think as technology driven educators we must balance where we use technology and where we decide pencil, paper and scissors are also a good choice.  This week in class I gave my students the option of using mind-mapping technology or using paper and colored pencils to create a mind map about nouns.  I was surprised when about 7 of my students chose to use paper and pencils.  We are also working on a writing assignment right now, journaling as a slave on the underground railroad.  My students asked if I was going to allow them to use computers and I explained that computers didn’t exist in the 1800’s and they were all disappointed!  However, as an educator I know the important of students being able to write in pencil on paper and cut out an object on the lines!

I wonder if research will come and prove that maybe too much technology too early is developmentally inappropriate for younger students.  I know my fifth-graders do not have very good scissor skills and the ability to color inside the lines.  I haven’t just seen that pattern in one class, it has been multiple classes over multiple years.  I think in our curriculum driven society we lose fact that these students still need help in basic fine motor skills.  I think as educators we need to plan our technology use and the lack of technology use, intentionally as we look at educating the entire child.  As much as it pains me to say we should be unplugged from technology for a bit each day, I think we need to offer our students a balance of technology with the basic cutting and pasting – with glue and paper – not ctrl X and ctrl V.


Students using technology

My fifth-grade students run our school newscast.  Everyday out fifth-graders lead the school in announcements, the pledge, and general information.  I am blown away by how well the students can take the technology they are learning and put it to use immediately!  One of the teachers on the fifth-grade team helps coordinate our students on a daily basis for our TV programs which we call “Tiger TV”.  We have two green screens, a mini-mac, two camera’s lights, a teleprompter, and a board which controls all of the broadcast.  We have students which run all of the equipment on their own.  We have developing our TV program over the past three years and each year we add in a new feature.  Just last week we added the teleprompter.  Well, today it turns out that the two teachers that are always in the broadcast room with the students were both out sick!  YIKES!!!  Our students rose the occasion and ran all of the equipment on their own!  It was an amazing broadcast!  We have several students that are our students directors and then all of the other students rotate on and off of Tiger on a three week basis.  The students that are rotating off of the broadcast train the new students on the equipment.  This year we have even starting allowing our fifth-graders to write our scripts.  I am amazed every day at how well the students acclimate to technology!

I was thinking about this because of another blog post I was reading earlier about letting students play in the sandbox.  This is a concept that was developed by Vicki Davis and the author of the blog was discussing why it is important to allow students to play on technology that we are introducing them to so they feel comfortable.  I think that concept is extremely important and I believe that is why our students have taken ownership of our news broadcast; because they have been able to play, with guidance, and then today when they had to take control and use the technology they had no issue!  The students are using so many different software programs to run the equipment, even from a PC and a Mac, and they have no difficulty.  Allowing students to play in the sandbox and develop a level of comfort with the software will insure success in using software when they are required to apply the skills in class.

I can see in my own classroom where I haven’t let the students play in the sandbox and then I spent a LOT of time troubleshooting with the students.  If we give sandbox time on the front end, time will be saved throughout the lesson.

Time and Technology


I remember when I thought using technology meant I was teaching with a powerpoint.  Sometimes, just briefly, I long for those days when using technology just meant preparation on my part and the time spent in class was only used for actually using Powerpoint to teach the lesson.  Now, when I think about using technology in the classroom Powerpoint is the last thing that comes to mind!  Technology is time consuming!!!!

Last week I had my students work on a mind map of nouns and now that project which I thought would take a day and a half is stretching to three days.  I have my students working on a Civil War webquest and I thought that assignment would take 2 weeks and now it is easily stretching into 3 weeks and may continue on to 4!  My students are proficient with technology it is just using the tools that is taking so long for the students to use.

I am still trying to figure out what is so time consuming and I am coming to the conclusion that it is because the students are actually learning the material and not just memorizing the material.  The students are interacting with the material on a real basis and not just memorizing what they think will be on a test!  The only issue with that is then I get behind in what I am expected to cover.  In the world of standardized testing and cramming as much as possible in a school year, using technology seriously gets me behind!  I think the trick to overcoming that problem will be to combine standards and lessons to cover more information in one project – really embracing the project based learning and integration across subjects of curriculum.  The one bright side of the conundrum is that the students are learning the material and therefore, will score higher on the standardized tests than if they were just memorizing the information.

All of that said, it is not enough to convince me not to use technology in the classroom and maybe eventually I will get to the point where I can properly determine the amount of time one project will take!

Blogging mistakes


This blog is my first attempt at a blog and I am still working on figuring out all that goes into a blog and exactly how to use a blog.  Early this year, I entered my class in a blogging challenge.  I forgot that I had entered us into the challenge until we started getting hits to our blog from the challenge website.  The challenge is all about teaching our students to be better bloggers!  What a great concept because the reason we use blogs in the classroom is the help students understand that we are part of a global community and to really harness the power of Web 2.0 – the collaboration web.  I want my students to understand how to blog and why blogging is important.  Blogging isn’t important just to say that we have technology in our classroom, it is a discussion starter!  So the blog challenge is teaching students how to make their blogging a discussion and how to harness all the power we have in the internet into our posts and make them more interesting and promote discussion.

The challenge for week 5 was to have students insert links and pictures into their comments.  I must confess, I am still a little confused on this part.  It took me a bit to understand that when commenting on a blog post the students couldn’t just hyperlink, they actually had to write html code to insert the link!  I love the idea of the students learning html in fifth-grade, but I must admit my fifth-graders are having a difficult time figuring it all out.

I also told they students in my original post that they had to insert a picture into their comment.  I am still working on this issue but now I am learning that inserting pictures into a comment may not be possible.  In the original post students may put pictures but I am still researching if students can put pictures in a comment.  If you know the answer would you please pass it along?  I had to go in and edit my post to my students and remove the picture portion of their blog requirement this week because I am still trying to figure pictures out!

I am sure that I will make many more mistakes with regards to our class blog, but I am having so much fun learning about how to have my students effectively blog!  My students love being part of the web and web based discussions.  Their writing skills are improving, the only thing missing is a true debate or discussion.  Maybe that will be my focus next!

Using Wordle

One of my new favorite technologies to use in the classroom is wordle!  I struggled for awhile to come up with a good idea for how to use wordle in the classroom and then I came up with a really good way to teach Green and Latin roots using wordle.  I didn’t want to just tell the students what the roots mean so I broke my lesson plan down into 4 days of instruction/exploration of each root.  I don’t have much time each day to teach roots so I try to fit it in about 10 to 15 minutes each day.  The first day I teach the lesson I have tell the students the root and have them come up with a list with as many words in it containing that root.  The next day we discuss the words the students find and I have them look up the definitions to the word.  The third day I have the students put the root, the word that contains the root, and the definition into wordle.  Then using wordle, the meaning of the root usually comes up as the biggest or the second biggest word on the page.  I have put an example wordle below using this method.  For the root “tract” the students would brainstorm words using “tract”.  Some examples might be: digestive tract, traction, tractor, extract, contract, retract, and attract.  The students would then look up the words and find the definition.  Then they would put all of that in Wordle.  It is important that the root be put in each time a word and a definition is put into the wordle.  I learned through experimentation that the most repeated words are the largest words in a wordle.  So, it makes sense that the word repeated in each definition will be the meaning of the Greek or Latin root.  The students love finding the meaning of the roots this way and it is so much more engaging than me standing up in front of the class and telling them!


A new technology innovation for me….

This is my first attempt at blogging and it will be interesting to see how blogging works for me.  I have been requiring my students to blog for two years but, I have never actually blogged myself.  I am finding myself doing things now that I have previously only required my students to do.  For example, I participate in their mad minutes in math with them, I participate in their webquests, their recess games (5th graders only really play dodgeball), etc.  So, now I have taken on the task of learning to blog and seeing if it is something that I can really do effectively and maybe figure out a way to connect with other obsessive teachers.

The goal of this blog for me will be to detail my life as a teacher.  What I learn from others and what I have created for my classroom.  I love using technology so I will focus my blogs on my trial and errors in the classroom pertaining to technology and other things….

I signed up for a google docs account this week and created my very first webquest.  I then decided that my students MUST also sign up so that they may post their learned information to the webquest as well.  I am still trying to figure out how 5th grade parents feel about their students using email to sign up for so many different websites.  So far this year I have had my students sign up for google docs, mywebspiration and my class blog.  I am wondering if and when they will be weary from email sign-ups.   Does this mean that 5th graders should have their own email?  My school provides email accounts for the students but we keep the email accounts from the students because we worry about 10 and 11 year olds having access to email.  I am still on the fence on this issue and I would love to know what other teachers do in their classrooms and their schools.  While on this topic I would love to know if other schools allow students to search the internet for content or do you limit access to content.  How should schools effectively manage all the good and bad that is on the internet and that comes with using technology in the classroom.