Mr. Flick's Tech Badges: Take 2

#edtech #edchat As many of you know, last year I tried to flip my tech classroom for 4th and 5th graders and have them earn badges for the tech skills they needed to acquire while still in elementary school. I am pleased to report that it was a screaming success. With that said, there are still a number of things that need to be improved, and that is what I am now trying to do.

Student will use technology to help to improve literacy in Nicaragua.

My tech badge program is a mixture of the flipping model, PBL model, and Challenge Based Learning.

This summer I have been watching a lot of TED videos and they have really got me thinking. Thinking about how I can turn my students into little social innovators, students that care about the world around them and then try to do something about it.

So here is some of the info from the PBL planner that I am using to give you an idea...

Name of Project: Bethke Kids Helping Kids Program

Duration: all year long
Subject: Technology
Teacher: Mr. Flickinger
Grade Levels: 3rd, 4th, and 5th
Project Idea:  Students learn how to leverage technology to help change their world following the theme: "Using technology to make our world better."  In order to do this they have to gain certain tech skills (which will be tracked by earning badges) that will allow them to progress to different levels as they create projects that will be part of the Kids Helping Kids Technology Showcase and Dinner with the proceeds going to help a library program in Nicaragua. This will be a red-carpet event with awards to the top projects.
Driving Question: How can I use technology to make the world a better place, starting with me?
Stay tuned for more updates...

 

Edtech Badges - A dream come true.

#edtech #edchat

With my edtech badges program passing the six month mark, I am amazed at how successful it is.

"Mr. Flick, is it okay if I come in a recess today to finish my Online Research Badge?" I am pestered by badge questions like this all the time, my students are hooked on earning badge for tech skills. Crud! I wish I would have thought of this years ago. Each week I write in my teaching journal on how things are going with this program, here are a few entries from the past six months...

September 12, 2012
"I need to make sure that the recognition for earning badges is based on the badges and not the individual. For example the public badge chart should show all the students that have earned the podcasting badge, and not a chart of students with stars for each badge they have earned. The later could publicly show a student as lacking skills, however with the former, it would be impossible to find the student that is lacking skills (this type of tracking will be in my grade book)."

September 22, 2012
"Badges are great, the students are finally getting used to them and some have started to earn them. I told fourth grade that they cannot have the Email Skills badge until the Word Processing badge is done. That was the kick in the pants they needed. Making the badges is a pain, I need to get kids to make them. Now I have time to just work the room. They still are reluctant to use the videos. They seem to still be addicted to being hand-fed education. Breaking old habits seems to be harder than I first thought."

October 5, 2012
"Badges are working! Kids are finally figuring them out. I have begun to make and hand out badges. I think this might work. I have a list on the website of the kids that have earned badges (grouped by badges)."

October 13, 2012
"Making badges and checking kids work has been taking a lot of time, plus I am having kids turn in crap work, and want me to help them make one change at a time - the pain of gamification. I need to figure out a better way. Plus, what do I do about special needs kids like XXXX, how do they "earn" badges. I think I need to start each class with 15 minutes of keyboarding for those who have not earned their keyboarding badge. Get kids that are ahead in badges to make more badges."

October 22, 2012
"I modified each badge for special needs children, it turns out I have more time now to work with these students more one-on-one now that the other students are busy on their own pacing. Students have now been taught that they can only turn in work when it is down, no more bit-by-bit help. I tell then to go back and watch video such and such. Students are finally figuring it out, the independent learner thing. I now have kids make badges, they love to do it. Things were much better this week."

November 3, 2012
"What to do about kids that are waiting for feedback from teacher - grading, email, etc? They need to be able to work on other badges and not in order or you get "bottle-neckers" and "waiters." I've got to figure this out."

November 10, 2012
This past week I broke the badges into levels, now they can work on any badge they want from the same level, no more waiting on me. If they are waiting for me to grade something, they simply move on to a different badge for that level."

January 9, 2013
"The badges are working great! I had a sub this past week and she did great. She said she had never seen kids so busy. All she had to do was work the room and answer a few questions. Should I be worried that the badge might replace me???"

January 30, 2013
"The badge program is cruising on auto pilot. I love being able to have time to truly help students that need it. My "high-flyers" are cruising through the badges and are happy (non-disruptive) because they don't have wait for anyone. A few students have finished all of the beginner level badges and are now working on their advanced badges like photography and video game design."

Tech Teacher = Dragon Slayer

#edtech #edchat

My life as an elementary tech teacher changes from year to year. This make my career a bit of a double-edged sword, it is great to discover and learn new things, but one of the powerful ways to improve your instruction is to teach the same lesson year after year and make improvements to it. For most other teachers, their job remains the same year to year. Sure, a new reading or math program might change things a bit, but it is still reading and math. My subject is like a dragon that I must find and slay -- a moving target that is large and unpredictable. And if you get it wrong, you're toast!

But before I start to sing you my sad song, let's take a look at the life-long career as a teacher. For the general subjects like math, writing, reading, history and science -- things are pretty much the same as they were when they got their teaching degree. Sure, Pluto got dropped as a planet, but the Civil War is still the Civil War -- long division still works -- a pronoun is still a pronoun. But this is not how the dragon called technology is.

As you know every summer I review my lessons with my principal to make sure that our students are getting the best in technology instruction. Some projects get dropped while others get tweaked, but about 20% of my lessons get dropped every year. The dragon keeps moving.

Years ago, when I was teaching technology at middle school, I taught students how to make their own MySpace page. Can you imagine what would happen if I tried that today? What's MySpace Mr. Flick? MySpace is for losers!

I don't care if you are a dedicated full-time tech teacher like me or a regular classroom teacher who has technology mixed into your lessons (which you should), change is the nature of the beast called edtech. We must continue to review the latest trends and concepts to make sure that our students get the best tech skills we can give them, before we send them out into this ever-changing world.

Yesterday, I met with my principal to discuss the growth our our student body. We are in a new sub-division of our city and houses are going up all around us and our school is growing by leaps and bounds. We discussed what technology instruction should look like in a school of 500 students. What should I be teaching when every one of our fourth and fifth grade students have their own netbooks (which happens next year)? We agreed that there is no reason for these netbook-toting students to come to my computer lab, but where do I teach them? In their classroom? In the media center?

If I move some of my instruction to the media center, then I will need an interactive whiteboard installed and what about furniture? Tables? Desks? Sofas and chairs? Besides, I just got my interactive whiteboard two months ago.

I realize that some teachers that are reading this are saying, "These aren't problems. I have declining enrollment and a roof that needs to be replaced, and you're whining about whether to buy tables or sofas. Get a clue Mr. Flick!" I can appreciate how great I have it to be in a new school with a steady growth, but the point of this article is change.

My school is only four years old and we are already having to change rooms. I think we need to change our second computer lab to a classroom. When the school was built, they never considered the new 1:1 program that our district has adopted. Change is the nature of the beast called edtech.

As 21st century teachers we need to be flexible, more fluid, able to change direction quickly. The classroom of tomorrow looks nothing like the classroom of yesterday. The job I was hired to do a few years ago, might be nothing like the job my principal might ask me to do next year.

I recognize and accept the doubled-edged sword of my profession. I know that if it is not sharpened and used it will just rust and eventually break. So I raise it high and yell "Charge!" as I head forward into the future of giving our students the skills they need to be successful in a world I can't even imagine.

Now where's that dragon hiding?

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary School

Canada Photo Essay - 3rd Grade Project

#edtech #edchat #elearning My 3rd grade students have just finished their project on Canada. The students have been collecting photos from different approved websites to represent different aspects about the country of Canada. The photos were then to be presented in a slide show with narration that each student wrote and recorded themselves. Here is a sample from one of my students...

As you can see from this example, students chose beautiful images to tell their story about what they have learned about Canada -- digital storytelling at its best! The students used MS Photo Story 3 after learning how to use it by following the video tutorials on our school's Atomic Learning account. The fun part was seeing how shocked the students were when they saw how professional their photo essay looked. One student even commented, "This could be on the Discovery Channel Mr. Flick!"

Creating a Facebook page for your School - #edtech #elearning

Our rationale for creating a Facebook page for our school is to "Go where our parents are."

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Since the majority of the parents of our students check their Facebook account daily, but only check our school webpage a few times a year, doesn't it make sense for our school to have a Facebook page? For example, if we were about to have an Ice Cream Social and we put a notice on our webpage, very few parents would see it. But if we put the same notice on our Facebook page, most of our parents would now know about it.

Mr. Flick's Guide for Creating a School Facebook Page:

  1. Go to www.facebook.com (if you are automatically logged in, you will need to log out so you go to the actual front page of Facebook.)
  2. Click on the link "Create a page."
  3. Click "Local Business" and then select "Education" from the pull-down menu.
  4. Type in the name of your page, for example: Bethke Elementary School.
  5. Click the checkbox that says you're the official representative for your school and you can do this.
  6. Click the "Create Official Page."
  7. The next screen will ask you to log into your Facebook account.
  8. Fill out the appropriate information and upload some school photos (I wouldn't upload any photos of students, just shots of the school and teachers)
  9. You now have a Facebook Page for you school.

Now make a link on your school website for people to go to your school's Facebook page and ask your parents to "like" your school on Facebook.

Later, when you want to edit your school's Facebook page just log into your Facebook account click on Accounts in the top right of the webpage and click "Manage Pages"

Check out our school's website: www.BethkeElementary.com and click on our Facebook link to see what ours looks like.

Related Articles:

Facebook for Educators - Atomic Learning

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Teaching Muscle Memory in Tech Class - #edtech

Today was the first day back to school for my students here at Bethke Elementary here in Timnath, Colorado. Parents dropped off their students this morning and grinned as they drove off, knowing that they had just tagged us -- we were now "it."

QWERTY keyboard layout - homes keys - Start po...
Image via Wikipedia

Early this afternoon I got a class of second graders who were ready to "play" in my computer lab. What a shock when they found out that this was the year they learned to touch type. "Touch typing," I explained. "Is when you can type on your computer keyboard without looking at the keys."

They weren't impressed, they wanted their computer games back.

I then demonstrated on my computer by typing a sentence that a student had made up...

Mr. Flick loves to eat pickles.

As I typed I asked the students to keep an eye on me and make sure that I didn't sneak a peak at my keyboard. After I finished typing in the sentence without looking, you could have heard a pin drop. It was like they had just seen a magic trick. They were amazed at the art of touch typing.

"Do you want to learn how to do this?" I asked.

They all answered in unison "Yes!" so I knew I had them hooked.

I then explained to them about muscle memory and that my brain doesn't really have to think about typing -- my fingers just know where the keys are because my little finger muscles have a memory of where the key is. To my student who were used to one finger "hunt and peck" typing, the art of using all 10 fingers to type was starting to really intrigue them.

Our next stop was Dance Mat Typing, an online set of typing lessons that are great for my second graders to cut their teeth on touch typing. They loved it.

At the end, when they were starting to leave the class, one student asked, "Do you think my pinky will remember that it can type an A next week?"

"You bet!" I replied as we shook pinkies.

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