Friday, May 30, 2008

My Life as a Shadow - Part II

The next day after shadowing in Long Island, I went to Queens at shadowed at P.S. 206 in Rego Park - also an elementary school but for Grades K-5. At this school, I spent a lot more time running around to different classrooms. The way technology is taught at this school is that Grades K-2 go to a Computer Lab for one period. Grades 3-5 get technology brought into the classroom or go to a different room with laptops(e.g. Social Studies).

I knew two teachers at this school. Lori is a big advocate of integrating technology in the classroom. She teaches 5th grade and she actually had an intern from Columbia University assist in the classroom all year on Wednesdays. So, naturally, I went on a Wednesday. She had lined up several different observations for me throughout the day. However, periods 0-2 were open. For period 0, I actually tried to help her setup the Mac with an InFocus projector so the students could do their presentations later in the day. The big problems here - well for one thing I am not a Mac person (though I expect I will become one soon!) but more importantly they didn't have the right adapter. So, we skipped that step for now and focused on reading. Some of the kids come in early for extra reading help which is period 0. In the 1st period, they worked as a group on math word problems and I was asked to help with this activity as well. For 2nd period, they had ballroom dancing and I found myself in a circle doing these dances (only some of which I actually knew!). There are 19 boys and 9 girls in the class so they were happy to have another female!

For 3rd period, I sat in on a 4th grade class who were working on their social studies laptops. They are so called this because that it was they are used for. The teacher, Laura, in this class uses PortaPortal to organize the lesson plans for each grade and class. This site lets you organize bookmarks, create folders, etc... So, in this class, we were talking about the American Revolution and also NYS History. You can see some of the collateral that was used. The 4th graders knew exactly how to log into the PS 206 Portal to see the materials. Laura displayed the website on the page and reviewed with them some details about the American Revolution that they were obviously supposed to already know. Then she showed a short video about the Revolution. Then the students were able to use Mac laptops to find answers to questions on a worksheet about the American Revolution. When she wants the students attention, she has her own method of getting it. She calls out "Pacman" and the students know to close the Laptop to form a Pacman shape (not all the way closed, but just enough so they can't see the screen). Laura also told me she uses Google Earth and WikiSpaces in the classroom.

Then I joined Lori again for 4th & 5th period because the intern from Columbia was there at this time. We did several activities include 2-3 student presentations of a project they had been working on. They used PowerPoint to create slides to talk about their Country reports. The presentations were supposed to include graphics that they either got from the internet or clip art and font styles. Some were better than others. The second part of the lesson was on creating newsletters. They were going to write a newsletter so the intern taught all the students (who each had a laptop) how to create columns in Word.

For 6th period, I visited the Computer Lab which had a 1st grade class. They were having a group timeout when I got there. The teacher didn't say or do anything for 10 minutes. Then she let them go to the Macs in the room and told them they could do StarFall, Millie's Math House or Clifford. I think KidPix was another option. This is what they did for the rest of the period. I was underwhelmed. I asked the teacher about this and she said that they are playing educational games and while some did have educational components I felt there was so much more they could be learning. Maybe that's what they just happened to be doing today but it seemed like this was pretty much the routine.

For the last few periods of the day, I floated around. I went to Maris's classroom because she is a friend of mine and they were doing a lesson on butterflys. I also spent some time back in the Computer Lab because I wanted to see if it was different with 2nd graders. It started out the same. They were in a timeout but eventually she let most of the kids go to the computers. Some of them still had work to finish their "All Abouts". They were supposed to pick something that they like, put a picture of it on a page and then write a few sentences about it. One girl was having a lot of trouble. She was writing about the beach but she had all sorts of spelling and grammatical errors, and her fonts were different. The teacher told her to fix the fonts but she needed hand-holding from me to do it. I told her "highlight the text, change the font size, change the font color, etc..." She couldn't process the whole thing at once but knew how to do it one at a time. The teacher didn't even care about the spelling & grammar but I walked her through it anyway. She was happy when she finished. The other students were all supposed to be working on "Interactive Skills Online" from Internet4Classrooms - aka Second Grade Skills.

I finished the day back in the Social Studies class with a group of Special Ed kids who were working on creating Presidential Baseball Cards. They were doing research on laptops about 5 presidents and they were going to have to create cards of the facts. Laura showed me a project they had just finished where they wrote about the Iroquois Indians and had to create a Word Find with various related terms. She told me they use PuzzleMaker to do this.

That's about it. Like I said, a very different experience. But both were very valuable from a learning and growing perspective.

No comments: