The APPlied Club at Patapsco High School has been working very hard on finishing up their first app, and it’s almost complete! Shawn and Connor have been finishing the app’s final touches and getting it ready to be sent to Apple for approval. As a group, the club has been learning the guidelines and steps of pre-marketing. They’ve spent time brainstorming ideas of how they can market the app and get people excited and talking about it. Some of these ideas include making video trailers, posts on social networks, leaking sketches of the app, and word of mouth. They will be submitting the app to Apple for approval within the next few days and then they will begin the marketing process. We are looking forward to sharing the app with all of you! You can keep up with us at http://phs.appliedclub.org/ or here at the Campfire Apps blog.
Many parents believe that allowing technology in education won’t benefit their student and will only distract them. However, many teachers and educators disagree with that. Nowadays, you can’t even walk into a classroom without seeing some type of technology being used. The majority of teachers prefer to teach using tools such as laptops and PowerPoint programs because it mixes up the lesson and it’s something that will get students to comprehend the information better. Being a student myself, I can say that technology in the classroom is great. We all look forward to any chance we have of using the computers, and we enjoy not having to just copy down notes everyday. And different from many schools, my school even airs a daily video broadcast of our announcements every morning. I found a video on The Digital Generation Project that focuses on an elementary school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This elementary school is what they refer to as “wired.” They are very tech savvy and encourage technology use through all of their grades, kindergarten through 5th grade. This school is one of the many schools nationwide that are integrating even more technology into their education.
While surfing the web, I came across this video and I thought I would share it with all of you. It shares information about what “Global Kids, Inc.” is doing to teach students about world affairs. Global Kids is a non-profit organization for global learning and youth development. Groups of high school aged students are offered during school and after school programs to help teach them about things that are happening in the world that they don’t know much about. When asked if they wanted to learn more about global affairs, they were very excited because they never get to know about the different cultures of people that they go to school with. And they’ve never gotten the opportunity to learn this in school. They are using an online virtual world called “Second Life” to explore the world through the virtual side of things. They’re getting the chance to interact and learn more about people all over the world while sitting in their classrooms at school. To learn more about this project and what Global Kids is doing you can watch the video below.
A few weeks ago, the New York Times published the article “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” which featured the Waldorf School and their method of eliminating technology in their classrooms. The school claims that technology and the devices that accompany technology are detrimental to childrens’ creativity, attention spans, and human interaction. The article also pointed out that the school frowns upon the use of technological devices at home as well, however, this particular branch of the school happens to be located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the beating heart of technology in our country.
The article makes a persuasive case in favor of the Waldorf method of teaching and learning, but it is hard to compare this school (and others in the network) with the general public schools across the nation, and that is important to note. For starters, the Waldorf school submits no standardized test data on its students, and while I am not a huge proponent of standardized testing, it is helpful in terms of comparing one school to another. This school also serves a very small cross-section of the population. With a tuition price tag of “$17,750 for kindergarten through eighth grade and $24,400 for high school” per year, you are looking at a very select group of people who can even afford to send their children to this school. Furthermore, the founder of the Waldorf School in Los Altos, Lucy Wurtz is quoted in the NY Times article as saying: “The typical Waldorf parent, who has a range of elite private and public schools to choose from, tends to be liberal and highly educated, with strong views about education; they also have a knowledge that when they are ready to teach their children about technology they have ample access and expertise at home.” This is where we part ways, Waldorf School.
You see, reading the article through the first time, I found little to argue with. Having been a teacher, I place high value on creativity and human interaction and socialization, I taught Kindergarten, this is the basis of what I spent my day teaching and promoting in my classroom. So I can’t really argue with an approach that says that creativity and human interaction are more important that technology. I believe that. But I also believe in balance. In a world that is thriving on technology and technological advances at an increasingly rapid rate, I also believe that we need to introduce children to that part of our society.
As educators, we certainly know that what works for one, doesn’t work for all. And that is a great argument to make here. Sure, the Waldorf students may have a fantastic graduation track record and may go on to big institutions to further their education, but they were going to have that opportunity with or without technology in their classrooms. They also have parents who value education and make it a priority for themselves and their children. That’s great, but that’s not all parents. These are parents who also, according to the school’s founder, have the knowledge and background enough to teach their children how to use the technology that they have “ample access” to at home, when they are ready. Again, this is not all parents.
I taught in a school on the East Coast, far away from Silicon Valley in a section of the community that was a mix of low income and middle class families. I had a wide range of students in my classes with an even wider range of abilities and skills. But I have to say, even my most well-off students did not have “ample access” to technology and devices. Nor did their parents work in the technology industry as tech leaders with the knowledge and background to teach them the technology whenever they felt appropriate. And I think that this scenario is a much more clear picture of the majority of families in the United States.
The problem with the Waldorf School’s approach is that they are dealing with an already privileged group of young people who would grow up having a vast variety of resources and opportunities that the overwhelming majority of children in this country will never have. So while you may be able to take technology out of their classrooms, they still have a better chance of learning to use the technology than others might because they have access to it at home. My students did not all have access to technology at home, so if I wasn’t teaching them about how to use it, they may never know.
The problem is that we have a whole massive group of children who will not have the opportunities to learn about technology from their parents when “the time is right.” And if we (the teachers and schools) don’t teach them about these technologies, they will never be able to compete with those people who had “ample access” to the technologies at home when it comes time for them to enter the work force. We have to keep technology in our schools for those children who don’t have the same opportunities at home or the same encouragement and support from their families so that they have a fighting chance to compete with the highly technical jobs and careers that they will no doubt be facing 10-15 years from now. Teaching them about technology now is preparing them for their future, which will, without a doubt, be more technology focused and centered than the times we are living in right now.
What are your thoughts about tech-free classrooms? Share them here in the comments or on our Facebook page.
Last night on 60 Minutes they shared a segment called Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad that was both inspiring and compelling. This is a topic that I feel very passionate about and very encouraged by and I have been waiting for the right time to write about it on this blog. But I have been hesitant.
First, you should know that my passion for this topic comes from being an educator and a technologist. As an educator I have met quite a few children with varying forms of autism. They have been some of the most endearing people I have ever met. In the face of much diversity, even at the young age of 5, they have been role models for other students and the adults around them. These children that I had the chance to meet and work with over the years have warmed my heart over and over again by overcoming the odds that society, or their teachers, or their peers, had stacked against them. However, my passion for this topic does not end with just those few select children I have had the honor of getting to know in my few years of teaching. It extends far beyond that.
As a technology enthusiast, when teaching I always tried to find new ways to bring technology into my own classroom. Technology devices (SmartBoards, computers, iPads, etc.) present new ways of reaching students that I couldn’t reach in traditional ways. It is no secret anymore that technology is the way of the future, children are using technology every day. Whether it is good or bad for them has yet to be shown, and I am not a scientist or doctor, so I make no claims either way. What I do know, from my personal experiences with multitudes of children, technology works! Students are more interested, more engaged, more well-behaved when you use technology as a means of teaching a lesson. Particularly when they can interact with the device and when they can be in control.
That being said, though I have been thinking about this topic since I started writing for this blog, (long before, actually) I have been uncertain on how to approach this topic, even though it is one that I feel so strongly about. Maybe that is part of my hesitation. I don’t know a lot about autism, I basically know what I learned from textbooks while earning my degree and a little more while I was teaching from the teachers and educators around me who knew more or had students with autism in their classes. My biggest hesitation is the fact that I don’t want to offend anyone by commenting on something that I know little about. I don’t claim to know it all, in fact, I have admitted I know very little about the topic. But what I do know, is that there are abilities and skills and knowledge inside EVERY child, whether or not they can be communicated to or interpreted by others.
Last night’s episode of 60 Minutes was inspiring, and I knew it was the right time for me to write this post. This segment aligns perfectly with how I see technology fitting into the education realm and even more perfectly into how technology devices, like iPads, should fit into children’s lives. People worry that technology devices are going to cause long term damage to their child, but for these children, it is quite the opposite. iPads are creating opportunities for these children, their families, and their educational teams that never existed before. How incredible is that? It is truly a case where the advances in technology are actually improving the quality of people’s lives. Not just that it is making their lives easier, more convenient, more social, but that a technological device is actually giving parents and families opportunities to know their children and help their children in ways they have never been able to before.
But autism does not only affect children. I cannot imagine being a teenager or an adult who is unable to communicate even my most basic needs to the people around me. In the first five minutes of the segment, you meet Josh, a 27 year old adult with autism. He used to communicate by touching letters on a laminated piece of paper to spell out words. Since using the iPad and an app called Proloquo2go, he is able to fully communicate using pictures and speech (via the iPad). His therapist said it best: “He’s part of the community. I mean, communication is the essence of being human. And here he is, communicating fully now.” It is unbelievable.
This portion of the segment impacted me more than I expected, actually. I know first hand how hard it can be to try and communicate with someone who hast lost certain abilities to communicate. In my first husband’s last few months, he more or less lost all of his abilities to communicate as a part of his battle with brain cancer. Listening to Josh’s mother in this segment reminded me of everything we did with Sean to try and communicate with him to find out what his basic needs were. We tried spelling things but Sean was slightly dyslexic, so this would have been tough when he could communicate normally. He would spell each and every word and 20 minutes later end with “Ha Ha” and it turned out, it was a joke he was trying to tell. While that was one of the more lighthearted sides of the issue, it was not always that pleasant, it was frustrating, tiresome, and often emotionally draining. It’s very hard to care for a person when you don’t know what they are trying to say to you or show you. Toward the very end, when his speech was all but completely gone, my brother in law brought in a white board and we wrote the alphabet on it and Sean would point to the letters to spell the words he wanted to say, in brief direct phrases. It was extremely difficult, but we only had to do it for a few months.
I had not made this connection before. I wonder how much having an iPad back then would have helped us. How much easier and better would it have been for Sean, myself, and our family and friends to care for him if he could use the pictures in an app to tell us what he needed? When I heard Josh’s mom talk in this video about how much their lives have improved as a result of the iPad (and the apps they use) it just made me wonder how different that time could have been for us. Alas, the iPad was not around in 2007, but it is around now. And it is making a hugely positive impact on the lives of so many people who are unable to communicate for whatever reason.
I am constantly amazed at the community of people, particularly families of people with autism, who are in complete support of the iPad as a learning and communication tool. This segment on 60 minutes is but the latest of similar reports all with a similar message: the iPad is a remarkable device who is giving people with autism new opportunities and improving so many aspects of their lives. I cannot imagine what the future will hold for these children who are learning to communicate through this amazing device. I am excited to see the new possibilities and opportunities that will be afforded to these children as a result. I know so many people who say that the iPad has made a significant impact on their lives, but I know, it’s nowhere near the impact it has on the lives of these children, their families, and so many more in similar situations.
The whole segment can be viewed at 60 Minutes’ website or right here:
We would love to hear input from you, also. How has the iPad impacted your life in a serious way? Do you or someone you know use the iPad as a means of communication? Do you have any apps that you can recommend to readers that are related? Or, can you think of an instance where you didn’t have access to an iPad, but it may have been helpful? Don’t be shy, start a conversation!
If you want to read more about the impact that the iPad and apps are making an impact on the autistic community, here are a few links:
Proloquo2go – full-featured communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking
iPad Today: Accessibility Apps – a TWiTtv podcast, this episode features accessibility apps with a focus on apps for the autism community
This year Campfire Apps will be proudly participating in the Education Hack Day in Baltimore. The Education Hack Day is “a 2-day hack-a-thon focused on building apps to help teachers and schools.” We will be participating as developers and working on an app that will be helpful for teachers. We have some ideas of our own, but if you are an educator or a teacher and would like to submit an idea for consideration, you can share your idea on their website at their Educator’s Wish List.
The hack-a-thon will take place at Digital Harbor High School on November 12 and 13. We are thrilled to be a part of this exciting event.
You can read all about the event on the event website at www.educationhackday.org. If you are a teacher or educator with an idea for an app that could be helpful to you in the classroom, your students, or your school consider submitting your idea. You could win some great prizes if your idea is chosen to be worked on over the weekend.
Last week, I shared Part 1 of this mini-series here on the Campfire blog. You can read Part 1 here if you need to catch up before proceeding.
In Part 1 of Bringing Technology into the Classroom, I shared reasons why it is important to utilize technology in classrooms and why now is the time to integrate technology as a way to teach and prepare students for the future. Part 1 also suggested that you need to start early with children, allowing them access to the tools and techniques associated with a variety of technologies.
I realize, having been a teacher myself, that many teachers are hesitant to try new technology tools or unsure about how to use particular tools in the classroom. Sometimes, the access to the tools is an obstacle in itself. Some schools are lacking in their resources and this makes it challenging for teachers. However, that doesn’t mean that you should abandon all hope or agenda. In the elementary school where I taught Kindergarten, which was quite a large school serving about 750-800 children, we had only one computer lab. This computer lab was run on a first-come, first-served sign up schedule and housed about 30 computers, which all may or may not have been properly functioning on any given day. This was less than an ideal scenario for such a large school where technology should be a big priority.
However, I made it a point to get my class into the computer lab at least once a month to practice skills and complete learning tasks. We started in the very beginning of the year with a fun game-like introduction to the parts of the computer called “Simon Says, It’s Computer Time!” where students learned the correct terminology for the parts of the computer and their functions. Was it always easy? Heck no! Were these trips stress and frustration free? Absolutely not! Was it always worth the stress and frustration? Sometimes. Did the students love these trips to the computer lab? Every single time. Even when the technology didn’t work quite the way I had planned or set their expectations for. Most times they handled that better than I did.
The point is, I was making an effort. I am quite a computer savvy person, so it was something I felt very passionate about, sharing this with my students. It wasn’t always perfect, it wasn’t always easy, but I continued to do try because it was important. The key was that I started small. I didn’t jump right in with both feet and tackle every program and tool I had at my fingertips, each year I learned how to use one more program in a few different ways so that I could add a lesson that used it. I certainly don’t know how to use these programs in their entirety, but I didn’t need to. Because I had the youngest children in my classroom, I was able to progress as they progressed. With younger students it was all about introduction and exposure. Showing them how to use a computer, operate a mouse, type their names, these were the things that were most important for each child to know at the end of the year. Sure, it doesn’t sound like a lot, and we certainly learned more than just those simple skills, but it was a good starting point.
Today’s lesson is just that – Start, but start small. An article found on Edutopia, “Doing More with Less (and Other Practical Educational Technology Tidbits)” prompted this post. In the article, author Adam Bellow shares a list of ways to help you get started with technology in your classroom.
1. Start Small. New initiatives can be extremely overwhelming each year, especially if you haven’t exactly mastered the older initiatives your district has put into place. With technology these new initiatives can be downright hard to follow, especially if you are a “tech-challenged” individual. But you never accomplish anything unless you try. You cannot be afraid of failure. One thing that teachers are excellent at is self-evaluation, being able to look at a lesson or a piece of a lesson and evaluate how it went. If it didn’t go as planned, that’s ok, try it again.
Try one new thing a week, so you don’t become overwhelmed
Try only one new thing at a time, so that you are not cramming too much into one lesson
2. Collaboration Is the 21st Century Skill. Learning to work with others and share ideas is an imperative skill to teach our youngsters. This is one of the most valuable skills that they can learn that will help them and be useful to them throughout the remainder of their lives. talk about a real-world connection? It is also a good skill for educators to possess. Often to work around the limitations of our school’s technology, another teacher and I would pair up for a tech-based lesson. We would co-teach the content and our students would work together to complete the lesson’s activity. These lessons were some of the favorite lessons of the students and the teachers!
Use free tools, such as Google Docs or Skype
Find new ways to collaborate, both for your students and yourself and your colleagues
3. Training is Key. Schools should be making it a priority to properly train their teachers on how to use the technology tools that they provide. Training should be on-going. This is not always an option, but the internet is always an option. During my last year of teaching, I was lucky enough to have a SmartBoard installed in my classroom. My “formal” training never came through from the school, so I taught myself. I read how to use the software on the Promethean website, learned how to do some things from another teacher who had taken a class on using the SmartBoard, and when I had issues, I troubleshooted online. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but it was something that I was passionate about using with my students, so I was determined to learn it.
Look outside your school as some great PD that is free and easy to come by
Suggest that each faculty meeting include a tech-share, this is a brilliant idea
4. Go Mobile. Smartphones, iPods, iPads…all of these new technologies present wonderful opportunities to use technology in the classroom. Bellow’s makes the case that the days of the computer lab are gone, I very much agree. Why would you limit the technology to a certain space for a limited number of students? “Any investment a school makes in technology should be something that can be used in multiple settings for multiple purposes by multiple sets of students.”
Make the case for mobile technology, make a case to whoever is making the decision about how this technology would make your classroom a better place
Fundraise creatively, sometimes the money just isn’t there, be creative
5. High Tech on a Low Budget. You can do a lot with very little. There are tons of web-based tools out there that perform comparably to more expensive options, like PhotoShop.
Use Twitter, to find out about these tools
6. Rethink Who Should Be at the Table. This is a big one. When making decisions about what technologies would be best for classrooms, often classroom teachers are the ones left out of the conversations. This should no longer be the case. Classroom teachers, those who this new technology will impact on a daily basis, should be the first people invited to talks about new materials.
Invite all stakeholders to the table, to join in the conversation and discuss the various sides of the issues
Create a small representative committee of students, who can be involved at some point in the decision making process
Bellow’s article goes into much more detail than I have given here. I just came across this article and felt that it summed up how to step into using more technology in your classroom in a comprehensive way. No matter where you are in the process of integrating more technology, you are never alone. Reach out to your colleagues, as they can often times bet the best resources. Look for new ideas on the internet, through Twitter or blogs. And again, remember, just start small. Baby steps, learn to do one thing and one thing well, then move on to the next thing.
Whatever you do, don’t wait. Start now. What is one thing you have been waiting to use with your students? Or something that you would like to know more about how to use with your students? If you have something you want more information about, leave a note in the comments and I will try to point you in the direction of some resources that might be helpful.
There are many things that we feel very passionate about around here, one of those things is technology. In particular, technology in education. Unfortunately, for many (if not most) schools, there is a serious lack of technology in their classrooms. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age (suddenly I sound like my grandparents!) more technology isn’t being utilized by schools and their students. Our schools seem to be still relying heavily on methods in the past to educate and reach students, and as time passes it becomes more and more apparent that these methods are outdated and old-fashioned.
If one thing is true, it’s that our society is becoming increasingly high-tech and complex. Our schools should be preparing students for entering the future armed with skills and tools to compete for highly technical and advanced jobs and careers. This preparation should begin in the very early grades, as early as Kindergarten, so that students can learn and adapt as they grow, instead of trying to play catch up when they are a little older. Integrating technology should begin in Kindergarten, if not Pre-Kindergarten, so children can become familiar with various types of technology tools as soon as they enter school.
Integrated technology in classrooms is not just a separate computer skills or software knowledge class in a separate classroom. Integrated technology needs to be done in a way that every student has access to the tools and knowledge on how to use them. The author of the article, “Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many” states,
“Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process. In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback and connection to real-world experts.”
When I read this and saw the phrase “across the curriculum” I couldn’t help but think of the post that I wrote last week about work environments which discussed students working in interdisciplinary, project-based learning environments. Other key phrases here are: active, engaged, participating, interaction, feedback. Do you notice anything about these terms? That’s right, they are all things that your students should be experiencing on a regular basis in your classroom, all those things that teachers are evaluated on by their supervisors. So this is really nothing new, right?
Well not quite. The ideas and concepts should not be news to you, however, the methods and techniques might be new to you. If you are a teacher who has been hesitant to try a new technology in your classroom with your students, there is never a better time than now. Students are more capable of learning how to use new technology tools probably even better than you are, no matter what their age. Start out simple, sure, but whatever you do, don’t neglect these technologies out of fear or lack of understanding. There are plenty of easy to follow tutorials out there to walk you through using any technology tool you desire.
Now is the time to integrate these new tools. Now is the time to familiarize students of all ages with these tools and methods. From the same article above,
“New tech tools for visualizing and modeling, especially in the sciences, offer students ways to experiment and observe phenomenon and to view results in graphic ways that aid in understanding. And, as an added benefit, with technology tools and a project-learning approach, students are more likely to stay engaged and on task, reducing behavioral problems in the classroom.”
What teacher can argue with more engaged students with less behavior problems? Incorporating a variety of technologies in your classroom can also change the way you teach, it gives you the ability to reach all types of learners in your classroom, something all teachers struggle with ways to do. I, personally, know teacher who are hesitant about technology because they don’t feel comfortable with their skills, however, I think that’s the perfect argument for not depriving students of these tools. This was intended to be sort of a overview of why technology should be integrated into every classroom in every school. In part 2 I will write about ways to ease into bringing technology into the classroom for those who are still a little hesitant.
Today we are posting our very first “official” call for testers. I realize that may not sound all that exciting to you, but it is very exciting to us! For us that means that we are getting closer to a new product, the first product for Campfire Apps, and that, my friends, is more than just exciting, it’s exhilarating!
Our first product is going to be a fun seasonal game for preschoolers (ages ~2-5) that will be available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. So what do we need from you?
We need testers – people to help us play the game and give us feedback on any bugs or mistakes the game might have, whether or not you like the game, and suggestions on what you might change. Testers will receive an early copy of the game, before it is available in the App Store. In order to be a tester for this product, we ask that you have access to one of the devices mentioned above (iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad) and it is even better if you have a child that falls in that age range (2-5) who you can use this product with and give us feedback on how they use it and whether or not they like it. While we prefer families with children of this age, that is not a requirement. Testers can also be teachers of preschool-age children, not just parents and families.
In order to be a tester for us, we first ask that you fill out a quick survey (8-10 questions only) to help us determine who might be the best testers for this product. Here are the links to the surveys:
Parents and Families, This is YOUR survey: Family Survey
Teachers and Educators, This is YOUR survey: Teacher Survey
After completing the survey, the information is sent to us and we will contact you if you are a good fit for testing this product. If you have any questions before (or after) completing the survey, please don’t hesitate to email us and ask. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to answer any question you might have.
Thank you in advance for helping us out! If you know of anyone else who might be interested in testing for us, now or at a later time, please share this with them. Thanks again!
Imagine if every day there was a parent / teacher conference. Would you tell the parent how their child really liked the science lesson you gave today? Would you tell them how their child needs some extra help learning fractions and here are some tools to help them? Would you remind them about the upcoming field trip that you need volunteers and signed permission slips for? What if you could communicate all of this to your entire class and it was no harder than taking attendance?
It’s time that we stopped meeting once a quarter (or less) to discuss childrens’ progress when progress is moving at a much faster pace. We need to stop sending home papers that are getting misplaced or lost in the bottomless pit known as the backpack. Teachers want parents that are more involved and parents are sometimes unsure how to help or communicate effectively with their children to find out what they do each day at school. How many times have you heard a parent say, “This is beyond what we did when I went to school”? We need to utilize the speed of communication that modern technology offers us and employ it in our learning efforts.
Our goal is to build applications that enable transparent communications between Teacher/Educator, Parent, and Student. We want to provide ways for teachers to send information to parents and families in a quick and timely manner so that they can be more involved in their child’s education and daily activities at school. We wish to do this in a way that makes life a little easier for teachers and educators. As teachers, we know what precious little time you have, we hope to make apps that give you more time to teach and spend time with your students while still tending to all the tasks you have to accomplish in a given day.
Ultimately, we want to empower families, help teachers communicate, and have children enjoy learning.
You can help us with building our apps by becoming a tester for Campfire Apps, you can let us know you are interested right here.