Storybird

I decided to go ahead with an element project using Storybird.  Everything is working out fine so far.  The one day in the computer lab was spent completing the research portion of the sheet.  The majority of students finished the research and all were supposed to log into Storybird to validate/set-up their account.  They have two weeks to finish 5 pages of their Element Baby Book.  The limiting factor to student success here is getting them to complete the rest of the work outside of class.

There is a digital divide in my classes.  I have students with computers, internet, and smartphones with data plans.  I also have students that only have access to computers at school.  Part of what I’m trying to teach is the ability to plan out computer time.  As mentioned in a previous post: not using a computer is no longer an option.  Computer use is the expectation.  Every student is capable of finding a computer with the internet for an hour in the next few weeks, especially with Thanksgiving break coming up.  There is a specific group of students that don’t do homework to begin with AND don’t have easy access to an internet ready computer.  These are the hardest to get working on this type of work.  These are the students that learning how to get to computers is the most important though.
I have realized that students do need a thorough understanding of their element to complete the baby book using Storybird.  You have to use a theme and students that didn’t pay attention to actually researching and learning about there element had trouble choosing.  For instance, one student had sulfur but didn’t know that it smelled.  That one piece of information could have steered the student in the direction of a “smelling” theme.  Another student was researching a more uncommon metal (I don’t recall which) and noted it was used in gears, crank shafts, and moving mechanical parts.  The student chose a robot theme.  That is the understanding I like to see.

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It’s Almost 2013

Starting in 7th grade (1989) I began typing the majority of my school work.  This was done in part because I dislike having to do rewrites and partly because my handwriting gave my teachers headaches.  However, I have been reluctant to require my own students to type papers.  Many of my students either lack computers or internet access at home and I never felt comfortable making it a requirement.  Last year I required students type and turn in their final papers online for the first time.  Surprisingly, there were no major hang-ups.  It was wonderfully.  The time is right.  Now is the time for teachers to raise the bar.  Others may disagree but I have several reasons to back up my decision to require many assignments to be typed and/or completed online.
Even if students don’t have the technology at home it is available at the school or public library.  Is this an ideal situation for the students?  No, but they need to learn tech coping skills.  There was a time when I had to make ample use school computer labs to get work done.  There was a time when I had to go to a library to do research and use the technology available (microfiche anyone?).  Someday they will need to apply for a job online, type a resume, or do research.  Students need to learn where they can go and the importance of having and knowing how to use technology.  We as teachers are not doing them any favors by not requiring them to use computers.
The new common core standards ask that we teach our students to use technology.  Technology use is mainly outlined in the College and Career Readiness standards.  Computer and technology use is not to be a separate class but is to be found throughout every course.  The standards have a focus on reading different media types (including digital) and publishing writing in different formats.  Typing papers is no longer a choice but a requirement.  We know that students will need to be tech savvy enough to type papers and publish for different audiences as well as navigate the web, work online collaboratively, and be good global digital citizens.  I believe this starts with the expectation that ALL students complete some assignments using a computer.  This is the only way all students will be ready for the 21st century work force.

 

Lastly, it is just time.  As I have told my students, “It’s 2013! No excuses!”  Given an appropriate amount of time any student will have ample opportunity to gain access to a computer to type a paper, post to a discussion, or visit a website.  The teacher needs to do everything they can do to help bridge that digital divide.  Talk to parents to get students on a computer.  Work your schedule to give students time on the computer.  Teach students the skills they will need to complete the assignments.  I feel teaching technology skills is similar to teaching science skills like using a metric ruler or a graduated cylinder.  Future state assessments will be computer based and students need to be comfortable using them for more than games and social media.

 

There are frequent fads in education.  Education techniques and philosophies come and go.  Computers have been around for awhile now and don’t appear to be leaving any time soon.  Certain programs may come and go, but the overall feel of the web and typing architecture will remain steady (ctrl-B will made words bold for the foreseeable future).  Not giving students these skills and making it a priority is a disservice to them and our future.