Real Relationships

As many of you know, I love to tweet. I started tweeting less than two years ago thanks to @zbpipe, and since I’ve started, I’ve never stopped. Twitter can be used for many things, but for me, it’s definitely about professional connections. This week though, I learned that it’s about more than just this.

On my way to school early on Thursday morning, I heard on the radio about the devastating tornado in Alabama. My first thought was, is Amanda Dykes and her family okay? I have never met Amanda, but @amandacdykes is a very important part of my Twitter PLN, and I usually “converse” with her online at least once daily. She’s smart and funny, and she constantly inspires me with new and creative ways to teach. With almost 50,000 tweets, she’s one of the most connected people that I know, and that morning, listening to that newscast, I was scared. As soon as I got to school, I turned on my laptop and read this tweet:

I was thrilled to hear that Amanda and her family were okay, but at the same time, I was so sad to think of all those that weren’t. As I sent off a tweet to Amanda, I realized something: while making many connections with others through Twitter, real relationships have formed too. I’m sorry that it took an event like this to make me reach this conclusion.

Amanda, this blog post is dedicated to you and all of the people in Alabama that are living in the wake of this great tragedy. My thoughts are with all of you. I hope that others will share their thoughts and prayers too.


When Technology Isn’t The Best Option

Thursday afternoon was unlike many afternoons in our classroom, as the students worked from 12:00-3:00, and the SMART Board, iPads, iPod Touches, Livescribe Pens, and laptops were not used once during this time. Why? For our activities on Thursday, technology was not the best option.

In Science, my Grade 1 students are learning about structures, and my Grade 2 students are learning about simple machines. The Grade 1’s completed five different structure activities, which challenged them to build a variety of different structures and helped them learn about things to consider when creating structures. For these activities, the students really needed to work with materials. They needed to build, and they needed to change their designs based on what they learned. The Grade 2’s have researched wheels, pulleys, levers, and inclined planes, and they applied what they learned by working together on various building activities. Working with real materials gave meaning to what the students have researched, and as they built their creations, I heard them using the terminology that they learned in class.

Yes, there are online activities that teach students about structures and simple machines, but when I looked at these options, I knew that using real materials was a better option. Even though technology was not at the forefront of Thursday afternoon’s activities, I still couldn’t make it through the day without using my digital camera and my new flip cam to record the learning that was taking place.

Below is a link to an Animoto Slideshow that highlights the different activities, as well as a variety of short video clips that show students reflecting on their learning. For documenting learning, technology really was the best option.

Click On The Photograph To View The Slideshow

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Class Reflection Video

When have you chosen not to use technology in your classroom? Why did you make this choice? I would love to hear what you have to say!


It’s A Different World

This week, I have been reminded numerous times of the fact that the world in which we teach and the world in which our students have grown up is very different than the world in which we grew up.

On Wednesday, my students started to create the app advertisements for the apps that they made. The plan was to start with making newspaper advertisements for their apps. Students looked at newspaper advertisements in partners, and they discussed what they noticed about the ads in terms of pictures, colours, layout, and content. As we were discussing the findings, one of the students said to me, “Miss Dunsiger, why would we make newspaper advertisements? Most of our parents read the newspaper online, and some don’t read it at all. Aren’t we trying to sell these apps to our parents?!” Wow! I had never really thought of this before. My parents are huge newspaper readers: they get three newspapers a day and read them all. I just figured that the same was true for these parents as well. Maybe not.

I had a discussion with my step-dad about this that night, and he said to me, “Aviva, why don’t you have your students make Google ads? This might appeal to them more.” I had never really considered this before, but it sounded like a good idea. That night I did some research on Google ads, and on Friday, some of my students chose to make Google ads in addition to their newspaper advertisements. I love how the children helped direct this activity and make it even more meaningful to them!

Click On This Picture To View The Slideshow Of The App Advertisements

On the same Friday that the students were making their app advertisements, a Grade 1 and Grade 2 student came to talk to me. They wanted to show a presentation that they made together for Show and Tell. I was happy to let them do so. After presenting their Show and Tell, they told the class that they called each other, used the speaker phone, and used GoogleDocs to collaborate on this project. Wow! When I was in Grades 1 and 2, I don’t even think that I had a computer at home, and yet, here are two seven- and eight-year-olds, using the computer for a meaningful learning activity and under their own direction as well.

These two incidents alone have reminded me that the world in changing. As teachers, I think that we need to change with it. What do you think?


Sitting Back, Listening, And Watching

My teaching has changed a lot this year, and without a doubt, that’s thanks to my Twitter PLN. You really have made me a better teacher! I noticed this most of all as I watched my class yesterday.

We are working on a media literacy project where the students have designed their own apps, and they are going to advertise these apps too. Angie Harrison (@techieang) and her students inspired us to try this out when they shared about their own app making experiences. Over the past couple of weeks, my students have been hard at work creating an app for literacy or math, designing a logo, and deciding on the capabilities of this app too. Yesterday was the big day: the students got to paint their apps. They were so excited!

We Skyped with Angie’s class on Wednesday, and they offered us some words of advice:

1) A simpler design is better for painting.

2) Use a thin brush.

3) Outline the details in black paint.

4) Brighter colours work better.

5) Follow the plan. We are not painting pictures here; we are painting apps. Do not get distracted by the bright colours. Remember to paint the apps.

We reviewed these recommendations before the painting began. Thanks to a wonderful Grade 4 teacher at the school that saves all of his Coke Zero cans for me, I was able to have 56 cans of paint ready for our painting extravaganza. The only problem that I had was, what were the students going to do once they finished painting?

Paint Cans Are Ready

We are involved in this Flat Tiger Project thanks to @TeachingMcD, so I thought that the students could work in partners to complete a presentation on where they could take Flat Tiger on his visit to Ancaster. I figured that if I introduced this activity before the painting, the students could just go back to it once they were done. While I had an initial plan in mind, things started to change during my discussion with the students. Many wanted to use GoogleDocs for this presentation, but others really wanted to use paper and markers instead. A student suggested taking photographs and turning these “paper slides” into a presentation afterwards, and I thought that this was a great idea! Everyone was off working then: some in partners and some in small groups.

Working On The Flat Tiger Project

After the nutrition break, we then got started on the painting. That’s when it got interesting. Students created their own groups to paint, then they finished, and they were working everywhere: some were on the floor typing, some were in the pod on the desktop computers, some were at the tables drawing and writing, and some were huddled over in the buddy reading area creating their slides together. The room was buzzing, every student was on task, and every student was having fun too!

Painting Apps

Drawing Slides And Taking Photographs Of Them

The best part is that I could just sit back and watch the learning happen. It wasn’t about me: the students were helping each other and problem-solving together. They were really in charge of their own learning.

Helping Each Other

Last year, I would never have done this. I still needed to be in charge. I always loved having students work in groups, and I still do, but group work for me always used to be here’s the activity, here’s the tool you’re going to use, and here’s what I want the final product to look like. Now it’s here’s an activity overview, here’s a possible tool to use, be creative, show your thinking, and show me the best that you can do. I like the new “me” better, and I think that my students do too!

Thank you all for helping to create this new “me.” How has your thinking changed over the year? Where do you see yourself going from here? I would love to hear what you have to say!


Many, Many Thanks!

DSP 147: Thank You! 2007-10-11

Photograph Belongs To Vernhart

On Thursday night, I got a lovely email from a parent at my school. She wanted to thank me for the email that I sent out that day. Her email reminded me of the importance of “thanking” others. There are so many amazing parents that I correspond with both in person and online, and this blog post is for all of you:

Thank you to all of the parents in my class for always assisting your children as they continue to learn and grow. Thank you for being willing to try new things (e.g., Glogster), and letting your children teach you too. Thank you for getting just as excited about your children’s gains as they do, and as I do as well! Thank you for trusting me to do the best possible job of educating your children, and working with me to ensure that all students meet their full potential!

Thank you to all of the wonderful parents in the school for doing all you do to make our school great! Thank you for your continuous fundraising initiatives, and thank you for the hours that you put into ensuring that these events are successful. Thank you for doing all you can to help all of the teachers in the school, and even more importantly, all you can do help all of the students in the school too. You make a difference!

Thank you to all of the parents that are part of my Twitter PLN: you have shown me just what parents will do for their children! Thank you for all of the anecdotes that you share, and all of the wonderful conversations too. Thank you for helping me see things from a different perspective.

Thank you all for making me a better teacher!