Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lincoln Elementary School Visit

The week before Spring Break my class and I got the opportunity to visit a local elementary school to see how they infused technology into their classrooms.  This was Lincoln Elementary School in Cedar Falls. For more information about this school that I visit their school website.  Let me just tell you that it was amazing!  I mean I went into one first grade classroom and the students were working on these mini math activities that they did in place of yet another year of boring daily calendar work with an interactive white board that was projected onto a plain old dry erase board.  However, the amazing part wasn't that the teacher was using the board, but the students.  The students weren't just coming up to the board to put their two cents worth in, but they were actually running the activity.  The teacher was in the back working on other things and meeting with students while the class ran the math activities.  At first I was taken aback because they were first graders and the teacher was just letting them run the show.  I have always been taught with the teacher being front and center and delivering the lessons, but not at Lincoln.  A classmate of mine asked the teacher, "What if they get something wrong?"  She replied that the other students will speak up and fix what was done incorrectly.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing as well as what I was seeing.  The first graders can use the technology, the first graders, run the lesson, and the first graders correct any mistakes made while the teacher can work on other things.  Is this the model of the new 21st century schools or what?  I'm telling you we are at the dawn of a new age and it's time for future and present educators to jump on this band wagon before it leaves without us and we are left in the dust.  Yeah, the chalk dust.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Creating Collaborative Project

Photo from flickr.com by David Toccafondi
This past month my group and I had a chance to create a collaborative project.  In this case the correct term for this type of project is a Problem Based Learning project.  These types of projects are designed to be creative, collaborative, and almost completely dependent on the students rather than the teacher to develop the project and see that it is followed through.  Lately, school projects have been moved from being independently done to being done by a group.  Collaboration is a key component to getting this work and is not easy to implement.  I know that I have a difficult time collaborating with my group projects.  It may be easier just to have your students work independently, but in the long run group work will teach them skills they wouldn't be able to learn on their own.  To gain more insight into collaboration visit this website.  These types of projects are a huge step away from the usual teacher directed type of learning that has consumed education since basically the beginning of time.  Or at least since the institution of the educational system.  When we were first presented with this assignment to create a collaborative project my group and I struggled with the concept of creating a project that could go in many directions depending on the students' perception of the project.  The point of a PBL is for the students to come up with the direction of how they will go about solving the problem that is the basis of the project.  There are so many different directions that students can go that I think really tripped us up.  In class we have been taught to develop lessons that are planned out to a "T" that we were trying to incorporate that aspect of our education with creating this type of project.  We have been told that in order to have a great lesson you need to know how to start it, how it should develop, and how it should be closed.  But, in a PBL this is not the process.  You come up with a question or problem that is very broad and you just let the students run with it, relinquishing the control to the students.  After some discussion with our teacher we finally got the idea for how a PBL should look.  In the end I think we created a project that is not only creative and very collaborative, but a project that is based on something that is near and dear to my group's hearts.  This would be special education.  All three of us want to become special education teachers because we believe that all children can learn and that all children are able to live up to the same expectations.  In fact they can even exceed those expectations.  It's because many people don't think that special education students can live up to these so called expectations that this is why we created this project the way we did.  We wanted to show people that people with disabilities are just that people.  We wanted to get rid of the label that students with these disabilities have been put on them.  Overall, I think that through this project my group and I succeeded in doing just that and I would have loved to see this project be done in a real classroom than just speculating about it in theory.  Who knows?  Maybe one day this just might happen.