Wednesday, October 27, 2010

K-12 Online: Not just for Teachers!

It's that time of year again ... K-12 Online conference is in full swing! As I've pointed out on numerous occasions -- I am not a teacher -- nor do I harbour some unfulfilled desire to be a teacher. So the obvious question would be .. Why, as a plain old parent, would I care about K-12 Online? I've only scratched the surface of this years offerings .. but already I have a few "must sees" for parents....

Lorna Constantini's presentation Digital Parent Engagement: Supporting Student Learning is an obvious place to start. There are lots of great ideas to take back to administration or your child's teacher on how to enhance communication with parents. One service, Volunteerspot, looks especially interesting. I'd highly recommend it for viewing at your next Parent Council meeting .. I'm sure it will generate lot's of discussion.

Your child comes to you wanting help downloading pictures for their Science Report. You head to a few websites but you are just not sure what is legal to download and what isn't. This wonderful presentation by Karen Blumberg is a great primer on how to find Creative Commons licensed material AND how to use it properly. The need for resources like that isn't just limited to kids Science Reports ... community posters, websites, and even Dad's work presentation may benefit from this primer.

My daughter has saved and saved and saved and finally was able to buy an iPod Touch. Tony Vincent's presentation on Learning in Hand was perfect for us! Now I have to admit that my eyes glazed over slightly on the rubric section (see I told you I wasn't a teacher) but I was captivated by what students (aka my kids) could produce with a few simple apps. In fact my 5yo and I jumped right in before the older kids even got home from school. I'm sure there was a whole lot of learning going on --- but mainly it was just fun! I can't wait to see what my older children will do with these apps on Vacations, Christmas, fieldtrips and other family events.

I'll be chatting about Dean Shareski's Keynote with my fellow parents because sharing isn't just The Moral Imperative for teachers. As parents, community service members, coaches, 4-H leaders, Den Mothers etc. we would all be better off (as would our young charges) if we shared our successes and failures, ideas and resources. One small conversation, one tiny idea, can become huge when we give it wings and release it out into the world.

I'm looking forward to exploring K-12 online even further. Looks like there is even more information on Creative Commons materials, GPS and Geocaching (great for birthday parties), Tips on Using Skype and doesn't everyone want to Plan Less and Do More? Fellow parents .. I'd encourage you to watch a few of these presentations .... maybe even invite a teacher. Teachers .. why not invite parents to your LAN viewing parties?

After all -- we both have kids (aka students) that occupy a large part of our lives.

Image: k12badge, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from dkuropatwa's photostream

Image: K12Online LAN Party in Bangkok, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from superkimbo's photostream

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We Farm--The Game I Loved to Hate

An iPad recently became a member of our electronic family. I was very excited for the educational possibilities and proceeded to load it up with all kinds of, what I thought, were great apps. However once the kids had the iPad in their hands their favourite game was We Farm. It drove me mad. What possible use could tending a "virtual farm" be? I had hoped my 10yo would practice her times tables in some of the lovely apps I had downloaded. Those addition apps were left untouched by my 7yo. All they wanted to do was waste time on We Farm. I hate to admit this now .. but I almost deleted it!

Then one day I happened to be reading on the couch while they were having their "We Farm" time. They began discussing what crops they were going to plant. The 10yo wanted to plant a crop that gave a greater return, but the 7yo wanted to plant a crop that matured faster. Then they tried to figure out if the greater return was worth the "wait" of a longer maturation time. They also considered if they would be around to harvest the crop (ie asleep or at school). This evaluation process was repeated for animal purchases as well. They finally agreed upon a plan that was going to get them closer to their desired goal (apparently a new farmhouse was in order). Now THAT is a whole lot of math!

There I sat .. proven wrong once again. Never was my bias towards "drill and grill" activities more apparent than in that moment. I had read all the articles about how gaming can provide practice for basic skills and even foster higher level thinking within those skills but the games I was choosing were thinly veiled drill and grill worksheets. I failed to recognize that all those skills could be wrapped up in a virtual farm.

I still believe that the basic facts have to be learned, and that, yes, there is a place for drill and grill activities (0ld biases die hard). However, I certainly won't be wasting anymore time downloading those type of apps to my devices. The opportunity to take those basic skills and apply them in a situational context seems far more valuable (and enjoyable). Does this have to be done with technology .. no ... but I don't think my husband is quite ready to hand over the reins of our real farm to the kids quite yet!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Back to Wired Wednesdays

With the start of the next round of Wired Wednesday's just around the corner, I thought I should come through with my promise to share what we did in the last round. I think it's important to mention that the group was not new computer users. They had Facebook, were comfortable with email, digital photos, and were starting with digital music. All in all your average parent. Everyone brought something to the table and we did a lot of learning from each other -- so much fun!

In my last post I told the story of how my childhood love of marbles served as an impetus for starting WW. I'd like for you to take a look at this marble and think about what appeals to you the most about it?

Is it the curves, the colour, the way the light moves through it? Or maybe it would be the shape, the smoothness of it in your hand? For me it's all the tiny bubbles suspended within the glass. Everyone's experience around that one marble will be slightly different. The same held true with every marble tool we explored. Everyone saw the beauty, the utility, the purpose (or lack there of) in a way that reflected their reality.

The first topic we tackled was the Google suite of products. The response to an iGoogle home page and gmail was unbelievable. Who knew that this would end up being the most spectacular marble in the bag? For some it was having their own email that the kids couldn't read or accidentally delete messages. For others it was the iGoogle home page that could be customized with information they chose. Those with older kids really liked the shared calendar. The one shared sentiment was "I can't believe how easy this is.".

This process played out with each tool we unpacked. If meaning and utility could be found, that tool went in your bag, if not it was left on the table. Wiki's to organize hockey tournaments, RSS feeds for an endless supply of recipe ideas, photo books for anniversary gifts, webpages for businesses/teams/families and the list goes on. All the while with mutterings of "I can't believe how easy this is" in the background. Then it happened ... to paraphrase Shirky:

Things got technologically boring enough to become socially interesting..

Conversations shifted away from the tools and onto the personal and social implications of employing them in our day to day lives. Questions of privacy, solitude in a hyper-connected existence, copyright, the role of general knowledge in a Google world, and how the heck to parent around this new digital reality crept into our weekly sessions. There were times when our laptops never made it open -- and that was a great thing!

Wired Wednesday's has been on hiatus over the winter but is set to go again next week. I'm looking forward to pulling out a few more marbles --- marveling at the swirls, figuring out where they fit in our collection, and exploring the flaws. I'm also interested to see what conversation this round will generate.... should be another interesting ride!

(Image: A World in a Marble?, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from seeks2dream's photostream)
(Image: Marble, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from rengel134's photostream)
(Image: Vintage Marbles, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from alexkerhead's photostream)