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Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

K to 4 Software Developments

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

This has been reproduced from my personal blog – apologies to those who have already read it! As an aside – I am happy to report that our school have gone ahead with this program in Primary – now how do I get my refund since my children can access via school for free? LOL.

I have a stack of 14 different PC Educational Games on my desk right now that we have purchased this year for Chayse and Kaiden’s ”at home” learning. We haven’t been impressed with ANY of them, including some of the expensive top name brands. The fourteen titles (not including the many in the kid’s cupboard) have simply not been anything more than a passing fancy – offering a small range of ‘literacy/numeracy games’ most of which are freely available via the internet. 

My earlier post has made reference to a subscription service that we were referred to by a family friend (Thanks G); ABC Reading Eggs. After a two-week trial run I have been impressed by the level of engagement, reporting to parents (vocabulary lists, blend lists, letter recognition results, etc) and the phonics based approach to child learning. We are still actively involved in an integrated approach with our kids, daily reading, story making, flash cards, rewards, etc… but the computer is able to deliver an independence to learning, motivation and sustained engagement that we have not been able to duplicate easily! Both kids ASK to go “on the eggs”.

Australia is clearly ‘streaks ahead’ in K-5 educational software development and my limited research has uncovered a myriad of similar literacy learning sites. Most are available for individual subscription or a bulk school order – with most in the ‘under $1,000 per year’ for the whole school to have access and access at home. In my humble opinion, numeracy is very well covered by the freely available MATHLETICS program.

I have noticed a significant change in both of my children’s reading engagement over the past 2-3 weeks. Please consider trailing one of the following services if you have young children – all offer a free trial. Perhaps you may also consider approaching your school if you feel the programs are working for you – or a letter to the owners of Hungry Jacks/KFC (if McDonalds can offer Mathletics for free perhaps….)?

I should add that I have nothing to gain from this promotion and there is no ‘kick back’ to me or my family. In addition to the subscribed services, I have listed a couple of FANTASTIC FREE resources I have found but they do not ‘save student progress’ or offer a reporting statement to parents. I will be using these sites to add some variety outside of our existing home based computer offerings. Hope there is something of use here. Also, if you have been using a site that works for you – let me know!

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Learning BUY the Book?

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

As I have already established in earlier posts, we are testing a ‘trial’ year of laptop use for one year group at our school. The parent information evening is this coming week. It has been an exciting time. One of the issues we will be working through will be related to textbook resourcing. Do we encourage outright textbook purchases, e-textbooks, subscription, book hire or etc?

I know that many colleges and schools have already gone through this minefield and I am very interested in the range of responses that are available in e-land. A few years ago we initiated a book hire program to attempt to cut down the cost of text books for parents – in some cases a single textbook choice (especially in our Upper School year groups) could be in the $120 – $150 range. For a low-fee paying school, these are exorbitant text purchases (especially if the student chose to drop the course and move to another mid year!)

If you have seen any of the IPad book applications or really interacted with an e-textbook, they are truly amazing. Double-click a word to access a dictionary/thesaurus on the spot, bookmark, highlight and add a comprehensive note in the margin (some allow colour coding and themed tabs, etc).  There is a WOW factor for the desk bound user (though IPads open a few more learning environments).

This having been said, I suspect that there is still some anxiety about any ‘e-moves’ in this arena. People may be willing to experiment with a book that is chosen for ‘interest’ but there is a sense of ‘risk’ in utilising these alternative text types if a child’s education is standing in the balance. 

Price is a factor too. In general an ‘e-textbook’ will cost about 25-50% of the original price; some are available at a cheaper rate if you agree to a subscription cost, e.g. 180 day subscription. Pearson have launched a comprehensive site at  http://www.coursesmart.com/ . It is well ‘hidden’, perhaps there is some concern about taking business from Pearson book sellers? E-text availability also has a political element with many texts not available in electronic form through the main sellers unless their printing-house has secured an agreement with the ‘reseller’.

Attitudinally, purchasers are sometimes less willing to part with good money for a ‘virtual’ commodity, I know I still struggle with wanting a tangible ‘something’ for my money – I suppose that is why software is sold in BOXES. Perhaps it is just my age but I like the ‘feel’ of a good book, it is more transportable, I can read it places where I may not take a computer, I can read it lying down, the ownership quotient is higher. I have a ‘feel’ for ‘where I read that bit’.  

I will be interested to see how this experiment unfolds at our school and how well some of these changes are received.

You can trial an E-Textbook  of your choice for FREE by visiting   http://www.coursesmart.com/ – you will need to register with a CC. I’m having fun with a free English textbook from the US.

Who IS Responsible for Student Learning?

September 5, 2010 6 comments

Of course, I laughed and thought that this video (which has now received over 1 million hits worldwide) ‘had a great message’ and that all parents should listen to it and reflect on their school communication BUT…. it is really only a half truth if considered as anything other than a clever (and funny) SATIRE. As a disclaimer to my following comments; only read on if you are able to consider these comments but STILL ENJOY THE VIDEO. This is not meant as a vigilante on humour. If you haven’t seen it, here is the video…. followed by my ramblings.

Am I being a spoil sport by writing about this in a serious way and objecting to some of its content? (Especially the final comment which shoots inclusivity as an unfriendly footnote!). Well, the fact that the video is now packaged as ‘an actual recording that is used in a Queensland school’ is both dubious and (I would suspect) an attempt to give a tongue-in-cheek, satirical look at parent/school communication a far too considered hearing. I sincerely hope that no one REALLY used this for an actual answering service (as stressed in this posted version).

I was part of a staff discussion once (no school / staff disclosed) in which we discussed the role of the teacher. I asked staff to move to different corners of the room according to their response to certain statements. The room corners to which staff moved were labelled “AGREE”, “DISAGREE” and “UNDECIDED” – we covered a lot of issues over this time but the core intent was to get to the following decision statements:

Teachers are responsible for student learning” – AGREE / DISAGREE or UNDECIDED

and

Students are responsible for their own learning.” – AGREE / DISAGREE or UNDECIDED

I admit the questions could be interpreted as divisive yet I realistically thought that there would be a 50/50 split between the AGREE and DISAGREE categories on this issue. That wasn’t the case. Only 4 of over 50 agreed with statement one and only 5 disagreed with statement two. There were a handful in UNDECIDED. Each group was asked to defend their position, ‘Why” did they believe this was the case?

The discussion was robust, challenging and decisive. Being one of the five, I reflected long and hard about the beliefs of my peers. I knew that they were committed, focused individuals who gave beyond the ‘requirement of the job’ on an ongoing basis; yet I found it difficult to understand what I perceived to be a lack of personal ownership of our responsibility in teaching.

  • Was there any incentive to ‘get better’, as a teacher, if one fundamentally believed that learning was the sole responsibility of the child?
  • Did this belief make staff more resistant to ‘changes’ that created ‘inconvenience’ on the journey to a ‘greater good’?
  • Were staff of the opinion that educators who delivered Professional Learning to THEM were more or less effective in achieving learning outcomes based on an adjustment of teaching style/energy/activity choice, etc?
  • Did this belief impact a teacher’s willingness to support ‘special needs’ in the classroom?
  • Did this belief foster an attitude of ‘giving up’ on students too early?
  • Did this attitude result in a tendency to ‘quickly flick poorly behaved students to someone else’?
  • Did this belief impact the volume of teacher/parent/student communication?
  • Was it WRONG to THINK this way?

I have a simple illustration that I use most frequently with students to help them understand effort and reward. “If I promised to give you $1,000,000 if you got a “B” in English, what would you DO to ensure it happened?” Clearly, they know I will not be delivering on this but the point is clear – behaviour WOULD change. Can’t I ask the same question of our teachers? Our parents?

The truth is, that we are responsible to partner together regardless of how right or wrong any of us are. I will try to the best of my ability to persuade staff that whilst students must contribute a willingness to be present; that we do bear a responsibility to be ‘learning bridges’, to take students as far as humanly possible.

If the point of this video is to remind parents that they can’t flick all responsibility to schools, point well made – but I just don’t want to hear others cheering TOO loudly about it.