Friday, June 11, 2010

It's Summertime and the living is easy...

Many schools are out for the summer.  Because of limited financial resources many school districts have cut back or eliminated summer school much to the delight of students and to the dismay of many parents.  Young teachers are probably going back to colleges and universities to gain some more credits so as to get a bit higher on the salary schedule.  Older teachers with masters degrees are probably sleeping in--what a luxury.  No papers to grade. 


So, lets have a little fun with an assignment for you all called "what if..."  What if you were going to teach a class, what electronics, technology, new stuff would you want to help you teach.  Forget about a new classroom, small class size, and three assistants--what would make your teaching hopefully easier and more efficient using the "latest."


Some years ago I did this same assignment with one of my university summer school classes comprised of mostly experienced teachers of all grades.  At that time over ninety percent of them wanted a phone in the classroom to be able to call parents or the school office.  They were tired of having to go to the office and wait in line to use a phone.  I surveyed a few teachers the other day and all have cell phones that they would use.  


However, today's teachers seem to want a copier.  A few of the high school teachers wanted a colored copier so they could do maps and diagrams but most just wanted a good copier.  I know that the high school music teachers want a copier but then feel guilty about making copies since at least some music publishers provide for so many copies per instrument.  But you always one or two kids more playing in a section then you have music for--hence a need to make copies. EXCEPT it is against the copyright law to do so.  Some publishers are now sending out just MASTERS with the agreement that you can make copies enough for your school, no more.  Some music teachers like this type of an agreement and so they would like a "dry photo copier" in their classroom--not down in the teachers lounge.


Back when the "TRS-80 computers" from Radio Shack were first coming on the educational scene, most teachers want the new computers in the library--not in their classroom.  They use to tell me that they would prefer to take the class to a computer lab then have a few in the classroom.  My limited research showed that they didn't use the labs very often.  Out of sight, out of mind.  But today's teachers seem to want some if not all computers in the classroom.  At least ten computers with at least two printers.  But several teachers wanted a full complement of computers for all of their students.  That might be possible in a few school districts but most could not achieve that level.  


Some of my limited research in intermediate grades seem to show that having two or three kids per computer was optimum for teaching.  But I could be biased as I had already follow some of the small group research findings in some sociology classes that showed students (college level) learned more and faster in groups of two or three.  But if I were teaching in todays world at the intermediate level, I'd like ten computers for thirty kids.  If i were a high school music teacher I think I'd like the same amount even though my choirs and bands would be larger.  BUT I would also like some specialized music computers with keyboards for composing, rearranging and mixing as well as a sound studio for recording.  The old tape recorder just won't cut it (pun intended). 


For the primary levels I would need enough computers in class to teach keyboarding.  There are good software programs already available so that all I would have to do is instruct the class on how to get started and I would have the kids record their own scores.  But I am still fascinated in how primary teachers are going about teaching reading and spelling and writing.  If any of you want to bring me up to date I would appreciate it.  Greatly!


So a copier, cell phone, some computers...what else would a classroom teacher like to be able to teach more effectively.  I was surprised in asking some active teachers about the Smart Board (http://smarttech.com/SmartBoard) and found a number of them were not familiar with the technology.  I hope my school of education is using them so that new teachers will be aware of the possibilities.  In summary I would WANT a Smartboard in my classroom--no matter what grade level.  


Another technological device that was not mentioned by experienced teachers was the camcorder.  I'd take about a dozen, thank you.  Okay at least four for a grade school classroom.  But it has to come with a projector or let me plug it into the SmartBoard.  I can see many uses of a camcorder in classroom.  High school Civics class--"show me a potential problem in our community".  Any level music, no brainer.  The kids making music or dancing.  Sports--heavens, coaches have been using television camera for ages--not a new idea here.  Second grade, have a child record themselves reading out loud.  Here is an idea, after the student gets a video of themselves reading well that the student is happy with, copy it onto a flash card (small memory device) and send it home to be played by the parents.  Proud parents make a better learner, trust me.


As a teacher I would have some of the students video me as I taught.  What a way to improve.  Believe it or not, in 1967 I taught at another university where at that time we could smoke in the classrooms.  I smoked a pipe.  In one class I videotaped myself teaching, then watched it afterwards to see how I was doing. I looked like a damn fool lighting and relighting my pipe.  In my mind I thought I looked distinguished but on tape it was terrible.  I quite smoking a pipe that day.  Really!  The power of video.


Another question about technology that comes up is should students have cell phones.  Heavens, yes!  What a safety device.  But I would have rules for use in the classroom--when the bell rings put them in your backpacks until you get ready to go home in the afternoon.  But, if on your way home you see a strange bug, take a picture of it and bring it to class.  We'll identify it.


So that is your assignment--what technology would you want in your classroom. Identify your classroom and tell me which technology and how you would use it. DO NOT PRINT IT  but send it by e-mail to leslieblackwell@comcast.net with the subject:  Assignment !.  


One more idea.  Let's say I have a fifth grade class, thirty kids with at least four or five Hispanic children in the group.  Why not use some software on the computers to teach all the kids how to speak and read Spanish with the Hispanic kids being able to help the rest of the class learn their language.  That would be so cool.


Don't forget your assignment.  Assignment number 2 is to go thank a teacher today for the past year's work.  Tell them you appreciate what they did for the kids.  Thanks, teachers.

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