Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mission: Communication

I have been on a mission, this past year, to improve communication with our parent community. This mission arose from my own frustration with my children's school, where the communication about my kids is sparse at best. As a parent, I struggle because I don't really have any idea what my kids' day consists of, or what they are actually doing in school.
So, this year, I have been thinking about how to improve communication to our parents and to give them a glimpse into their own children's school life.
One of the tools that we use each week to share images is It is such a visually stunning tool that is so simple and quick to use. In fact, for the first two months that I was creating videos for the school, people thought I spent hours editing. There is also an app for Animoto, and it makes creating and sharing even easier!
I shared the tool with some of the multi-age special education teachers, so that they could create videos from their field trips, or special events. The parents of those children have been so thrilled that they can see their students doing things at school that they have never seen them do at home...imagine the power in that! Amazing!
The other tool I use is kid power! I have a club afterschool where the students go out and interview teachers or students, and take pictures of the events going on at school. Then, the students meet with me and we develop a YouTube video to share with the community on our own SMSNews25 Channel.
The videos are shared on our school website and through a listserv that the parents sign up to receive.
In the coming months, I plan to get a Twitter account for our school and share and tweet some of the school projects we are doing and invite the world to comment and collaborate with our students. Our teachers are just now getting ready to have a two way conversation with the steps!
I believe that improving communication with the community can only help teachers and schools. Parents want to know what their students' days look like, to participate in their learning, and lots of packets of papers coming home misses the mark! As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Other tools to explore:
1. an online portfolio spot
2. Classroom blogs like Kidblog, Blogger, etc
3. to create beautiful newsletters so easily
4. Inviting parents into your Edmodo groups.

Communication from your classroom or school should be more like PR. Market yourself and the great things you are doing with your students...I know I would be so happy if my kids' school did it for us!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Conflicted: Amplify by Rupert Murdoch

Can change in educational practices be fuelled by Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch of News Corp? His company released the Amplify tablet a couple of days ago that might well change education in America. It might force schools to use technology as a tool for learning, rather than a fun tool or neat project. The tablet allows students and teachers to be connected minute to minute, to differentiate curriulum and to engage students all at the same time. It seems to be different from iPads because, all the machines are all connected, all the time to the teacher. The teachers can monitor, assign items and students can collaborate, create and analyze problems on their own tablet. It sounds like it might be a great way to get reluctant teachers to change their teaching style. To move away from reading textbooks, directing and choosing what the students will learn to a more student centered approach. It might help those teachers who don't like that students "can be on that Youtube" when they are supposed to be at the Library of Congress to meet students' interests and way of learning half way. Kids need to connect, collaborate, create to learn. Kids need to ask the questions not give the can create that kind of environment, if the teachers would only let go of the power.

As a teacher and woman, I find it hard to think about anything that Rupert Murdoch says as anything but greedy, self serving and a little gross frankly! But, the change agent in me feels like anyone who participates in the the ed reform (#edreform on Twitter) movement in the United States might be asking the right questions, pushing teachers to change and look at the whole system as fostering and maintaining inequality. I spend time reading on Twitter the posts from both educators (doing amazing things with kids #eduwin), and reading what the reform movement wants for our system. I believe that most teachers are changing, trying to meet the needs of our tech savvy students, growing and learning as professionals. But, some are not.
Maybe, I have to look at the tools that Rupert Murdoch's company is producing, and what it might do for education, rather than his personal failings and Fox News affiliations!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Teachers Need to be Accessible.

This week, I shared with my staff three tools or tips, plus Edmodo again. We currently use Edline as our Classroom Management System, and it is clunky, hard to post to and to personalize. It is really not a social networking tool. More of a directionally one way tool to share information. Students in our world crave and rely on a two way form of communication with each other, and with their parents. They FaceTime their friends as they do homework. They call their parents when they change locations. Parents text their kids to find out if they are staying after school.

Are you ready to be accessible to your students beyond the school day? In every other profession, companies and colleagues can be reached way beyond the work day. Why do educators think that that is an unreasonable request?
Our students are learners that want instant feedback and to be connected to each other. Why do we teachers think that is not how education works?
I think Edmodo is a tool that would allow students to have access and be connected to each other, and for teachers to maintain their home life. Teachers can post links, videos, homework and answer questions from the website or the app, for multiple students and classes all at once. Why not use it? We all are on Facebook aren't we?