Thursday, August 30, 2007

Building Relationships with Technology

Earlier this week, our district brought in Pat Quinn, author of Changing Lives, to speak about the importance of building relationships. He was very well received and inspired our staff to think about how our actions impact our students. It got me thinking about how technology impacts relationships. I often hear from concerned teachers that technology is isolating and is counter to building relationships.



I understand this concern. I have seen computer labs filled with students who are absorbed by their screens and disconnected by those around them. They use headphones to keep the lab quiet at the expense of interacting with their neighbors. They are not required to discuss, relate, or share in any way. But is this what technology is really all about?

I say no. I say technology is about connecting people across time and space. In my classroom, students are using the technology as a tool to analyze, create, collaborate, and communicate. Technology means communicating with the world through email, blogs, chatrooms, social networks, wikis, discussion threads, multi player games, text messaging and video conferencing. These are tools that we need to use with our students to teach them how to be good communicators. They will use these tools if they are not already. But will they be effective, responsible, empathetic communicators without our guidance?

We want our students to be readers and writers. Here is a great opportunity to teach them these skills. These tools give them an instant audience. Writing a blog means a global audience. Imagine the care and thought your students would put into their writing if they knew people around the world would be reading it. Imagine the power of peer editing when students can read and respond online to each others’ work. Imagine the collaboration of students sharing research on a wiki. Does this sound like isolation? Or are we teaching students to build relationships in new ways? What are some other ways that technology can be used to help our students build relationships?

Friday, August 24, 2007

On the Cusp of Something Big!

I can feel it. There's a change. The conversations are different. People are excited. Rooms are transforming.

On a Friday before school starts, I have now spent two weeks talking to teachers, teaching classes, visiting classrooms. This year feels different. Of course, the new hardware helps. Projectors, SmartBoards, soundfields mean that the technology is in the classrooms now. Teachers sound excited. I have been so impressed by the turn out at the summer trainings. In my conversations, I hear teachers asking great questions and wanting to try new things. The stereotype of teachers who won't change, who are stuck in the dark ages. That isn't true here. These teachers are doing great things already.

I can't wait for the kids to arrive. This will be a whole new world for them. All day, everyday, connected to the world, interactive classrooms, multisensory lessons. This is going to be great!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Smart Institute 2007

Last week, Wayzata Public Schools hosted the Smart Institute from Smart Technologies. It was a great conference with presenters from around the U.S. and Canada. The keynote speakers were Ben Hazzard and Joan Badger from Canada. They are the hosts of a great podcast called pdtogo.com. I highly recommend listening to it for great Smartboard ideas. They spoke about the stages of implementation. I liked the development from starting with what you know, playing with premade lessons, then creating your own lessons with websites and gallery objects. Next, comes student involvement in activities and finally is collaboration. This is helpful to me to know that teachers need time to move through these stages. While I want to see rapid development, I need to make sure that teachers have time to play around with premade lessons and get used to the tools before the jump into the later stages. They also shared a lot of great resources including voicethread, gapminder, swivel, and keepvid. I'll be adding these sites to my linkagogo site so others can find them easily.

I also got to see some great presentations! Chris Klein from Smart did a great job showing how to use iLife with Smart to create some great activities. Matt Oswald from Stillwater presented on using the Smartboard in math. I loved how he used the TI Smart View Calculator and used the Smart Recorder to record examples of how to solve some complex equations for students. Kim Hoehne and Lisa Carlson from Minnetonka presented on Smart Science. I was impressed with how they are using video to bring real world examples of science into their classroom. I hope to do more of this.

There was so much to see and learn. I enjoyed talking to so many people about their ideas and concerns as we move forward with implementing Smartboards throughout our district. I look forward to working with all of you this year as we learn about how these tools can transform our classrooms!

Ben and Joan's Keynote Chris Klein

Monday, August 13, 2007

Paper Clips

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I watched a movie entitled "Paper Clips" To me, this movie embodies what technology integration is all about. The movie is a documentary about a rural Tennessee school that starts to collect paper clips to represent the 6,000,000 Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Now the premise of the project has nothing to do with technology. However, it is technology that connects this community with the world and creates a learning experience that will affect these students forever. By posting information about the project to the web, they attract the attention of some people around the world. Many famous people began donating paper clips. Holocaust survivors from New York came to visit them and share their experiences. German journalists get involved and help ship an authentic World War II German rail car used for shipping people to concentration camps. The rail car now houses a museum at the school that documents the project.

Now this would have been a powerful learning experience without the use of technology. The visual of 6,000,000 paper clips would certainly demonstrate the huge impact of the Holocaust. However, through the power of technology, this lesson transcended the walls of the school to include many people around the world. Some shared their experiences, others listened.

Can you imagine how your lessons could be transformed simply by inviting the public into them?

About

My name is Dave Zukor. I am the elementary technology integration specialist for Wayzata Public Schools in Minnesota. Before my current role, I was a technology teacher in a computer lab for grades 1-5. I also spent 10 years in a classroom teaching grades 3, 4, and 5.

Hello World!

"Technology does not drive change- it enables change."

-unknown source 

I am starting this blog as a resource for the staff here at Wayzata Public Schools, as well as anyone else out there who may find it useful. I hope to provide ideas on how to build classrooms in which our students are connected to the world. I don't just mean that they have Internet access, but that they are global citizens who interact with the world. They author to a global audience, they have conversations with people around the world, understand the different perspectives that people around the world bring to the discussion, and effectively and responsibly use tools that allow for these kinds of connections.

I hope you will take part in this discussion by reading and commenting on this and future posts. I look forward to hearing from you.