Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Benefits of Technology in Education

Having recently attended ULearn08 in Christchurch, and presented at this inspiring conference, I again came home excited about the future of education. The possibilities seem to expand with every passing year and I am amazed as I reflect and realise that actually the possibilities for us as a kindergarten continue to expand. Everytime our children assess their own learning, and challenge us with questions and responses to technology, we are amazed by their own expectations and desire for learning. Here are some real life examples:

Digital Dexterity
A few years ago a young boy came to me with his completed work of digital art and my expectation had been that I would either type his name at the bottom, or print the picture and have write his name himself on the paper page. It was with renewed expectation about children's mouse skills that I appreciated how he wrote his name in green digital ink on the digital page. His very matter of fact satisfaction with his newly developed skill paved the way for himself and other children to extend their own possibilities.

Learners as Teachers
One four year old girl had just finished making her PhotoStory3 movie and she wanted to change the colour of her text on the movie. A few runs through that process with the adult teacher and soon this four year old was teaching her friends. When introduced to other programmes they recognised a difference in the programme interface and wanted to explore the slightly different method of changing the colour of the text. The pride in this young girls face as she taught her peers, and her matter of fact satisfaction when her friend also acquired this skill took us all to a higher level of expectation and possibilities.

A young blogger expects Web2.0 capabilites
A four year old leaned out the window at Kindergarten and said "Hey Beverly, I left a comment on the blog" - and she had! This same girl wanted to see on the computer, the school she was to attend when she turned five. When the website was downloaded by an adult teacher, the four year old searched the page and said "Hey, where can I leave a comment?" - unfortunately the school had not yet entered this young girls world of Web2.0. When she finally arrived at school on her 5th birthday, this new entrant handed over the kindergarten business card and said "This is my blog address, you will be needing that!"

What are the benefits?
You might read the above examples and wonder how they answer such a question. These are but small instances highlighting the impact of ICT on children as they assess their own learning, explore with fascination and expectation at what computers can do for them. This expectation goes with them to school. They have a level of expectation about their learning that is best supported through the use of ICT in education. Technology is an invaluable asset when we begin to explore what ICT can do for us and our students, and when we begin to view education as a collaborative, relevant, living opportunity.

Also Read:
What are the benefits of Technology in Education? Practical processes children use when engaging with technology including a list of links to kindergartens and schools who blog about their technology learning and their open exploration of education in all areas.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Are you - Generation C ? ...........................You could be!

"It's not that children are interested in technology. Its that they are interested in what technology can do for them"

We are talking about the new generation. This could mean YOU.
"Generation C is not age defined but means those who are CONNECTED, COLLABORATING, CONTRIBUTING, COMMUNICATING"
Matt Headland, MTV
Quote from interview on Radio New Zealand's National programme

As an educator you are sure to have Generation C students. You could join them. Get connected, take the risk and contribute, collaborate - get communicating with new technology. Its the only logical way ahead for education.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

ULearn08 - 21Century Shift - Joan Dalton

What a dynamic speaker and a presenter of challenging thoughts. We all know that education is on the brink of huge change - Joan has visualised this in a very practical way. Looking back to the beginning of the 21century in 30years time what will we think of the classroom with four walls, one teacher and a set curriculum... when technology can connect the world, the students, the experts, each of any age or position in life. Young children teaching artists, primary children teaching the young mums and dads, students learning what they want when they want it because the resources will be (and in many cases already are) at our finger tips. "The world has changed, learning is limitless!" - J.Dalton

You will need high tolerance for experimentation and trial and error - risk takers will lead the way knowing that failure is ok - through trial and error we learn.
As teachers we need to facilitate and be language masters and inquirers. Lets grab the world of possiblities and get rid of words like "but...". "I Want you to...", "I'm going to give you some information that...." These comments assume the power stays with the teacher. We need to use a language of possibilities, the language of invitation , the language of inquiry and inclusion.That way we help children to self instruct - and maybe with these tools children will not lean towards self destruction.

Give yourself license to play - encourage play with possibilities
Believe in yourself.
Be wise - wise of mind, wise of heart, wise of soul.

A Whole New Mind - Daniel Pink

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Power of Questioning in ECE

Questioning - Surfing or Scuba Diving?
A workshop by Mary-Anne Murphy - Educational Facilitator
#ULearn08 - Christchurch.



Questioning is important because it helps us understand issues more deeply. It indicates that we have a level of curiosity about an issue and also helps to stimulate curiosity in others. Questioning promotes conversation and can take conversations to a new and deeper level. Questioning helps us to find an answer or address a curiousity... The importance of questioning is instictive in 2-3yr olds who start off life after establishing the words Mum, Dad, and various other vital labels, by asking "what's that?" and then deepening their questioning to ask "Why?"

The profile of a good questioner is someone who has a good level of curiosity and above all is prepared to take risks. They need a certain level of patience and persistance so that they are able to continue to ask their questions again and again until they are heard, or to be able to modify their questions so that they are understood.

The early years is a great time to encourage children's questioning. But it can also be a time that is so easy to discourage questioning. The 2yr old who asks "WHY?" until the only answer you can find is because if you believed in a God - is because God decided it would be so - may start to be ignored when asking questions.

So how do we encourage questioning in a manageable why for such young children? DO WE have to answer their questions with correct answers to encourage their questioning style - or at this particular age could this not lead rather to parents, teachers and caregivers going insane and resulting in a discouragement of questioning? Do they need us to have an answer to every question? What if we asked the children their ideas to the questions they ask? We might see some astonishing insights into the way our children see the world. Would it be better to correct their insights and theories or would we encourage a development of their questioning techniques if we let them work on their theories over time? I don't believe that we have to find and give the answers immediately. I believe it is much more fun to involve children in seeking the answers to their questions and I believe this would show children that we take their questions seriously and respect them for asking their questions.

Children do not always ask questions at times that suit our timetables, or home schedules. Maybe it would be good to have a place in our classrooms and homes where children can 'park' their questions. These questions can then be addressed over time and given the time to address them. This way we would be saying to children that we are listening and that there a no wrong/bad questions - they are all valid and together we can look for the answers.

What makes a good question?
Open ended question - one that requires more than one word answers
Takes you to another level, another question
Acknowledging that in certain context closed questions are important.

Inspiring and developing questioning... (activity)
Give the answer - " the answer is 'tree' - what is the question?"

Questioning relationship
child <-> adult <-> child <-> child

Maybe encourage the children to create our ICT survey?

Return to NZ - Still connected to the network

What a fantastic experience I had in Italy and the Uk with my family. It was great to see we were still able to pick up where we left off - all together. Our physical network has been made stronger and we are still connected - emailing, skyping, sharing blogs. They are not that far away...

One thing I noticed while chatting late at night with my neice and interacting with my nephew, being involved in his correspondence schooling - is that technology in education is not a theory! It is real, it is happening, and the children are involved, engaged and using the technology in anyway they can.

Today I am sitting in the ULearn08 Christchurch auditorium. What I saw in my immediate family in Italy and the UK - is being talked about here in New Zealand in this keynote presentation. My nieces 14yrs and 16yrs are part of the technology network. I wander what guidance they have had to use these networks to create networks, to help them put their best foot forward in the social online globe, how are they using this technology to learn, grow, share, colaborate, prepare. I am hugely impressed by their abilities with technology - my hope is that their teachers guide them in a trustworthy way to gain the best for them. I am also incredibly proud of my 10year old nephew who is making fantastic leaps forward in his use of technology, putting his best work online, sharing his knowledge with others, networking with others in the online New Zealand correspondence community, extending his community by responding to the professionals who have been inspired by his blog, knowledge, and leadership in the online world of education... he is putting his best foot forward and creating his learning community.