Sunday, April 04, 2010

No Teacher Left Behind? - A Guest Post

A member of my PLN requested an opportunity to do an anonymous guest post. I am more than happy to provide this space to help, especially as I feel very strongly about the topic. My response, if there is no one to blaze trails, then no ever finds a better path.

Last week I was having a conversation with my administrator about how to personalize professional development for the teachers in my building. My school is very small so providing personalized learning opportunities for each staff member is reasonable. I asked how we make sure each teacher receives the kind of training they need in order to continue growing. I remarked that most of my learning takes place on my own time through my personal learning network. His response was that he does not want one teacher to be way out front while the rest are way behind. It isn't fair to the students that some of them get to do things in your class that they cannot do in their other classes."

Really? What does that even mean? I interpreted to mean that I need to apply the brakes and put my brain on ice until the other teachers catch up and that isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Why? Because I spend hours of my own time learning and growing. It is how I choose to invest a great deal of my free time. The other teachers, while not opposed to learning new things, are not passionate about it. For the most part their day begins at 7:30 and ends when they walk out the door. With the limited opportunities provided during the school year there is no way the others can catch up unless they decide to invest their own time. While they are experts in their subject matter their understanding of how to integrate technology into their classrooms is very limited. This happens to be my greatest strength.

I am left wondering what I am supposed to do. Am I supposed to not utilize my skills because my coworkers don't know how to do the same things I do? Am I expected to stagnate while I wait for them to catch up? I have offered to teach them, but there is never enough time. (This year has been crazy at my school and there really hasn't been time.)

How can a district claim to be progressive when they are asking those at the forefront to stop blazing trails? What kind of administrator tries to stand in the way of a passionate teacher who is committed to being a life-long learner? What message are we sending to both students and teachers when we basically tell people to stop learning?

Who else has experienced something similar to this? I am anxious to hear how you handle being asked to stop growing.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Depict - A Game That Will Draw You In!

App Title: Depict

Grade Level: 4-12

Purpose: B Program Functionality: A Overall Educational Value: B+ Cost: $-Free

Recommendation: I swore my first review for IEAR would not be a game. However as I looked at apps for potential review this month, I kept coming back to Depict. If you are familiar with Pictionary, then you will understand Depict. When you launch Depict you can choose to play a Quick Match or with Play with Friends (which I will get back to in a minute). In an education setting, I would avoid the Quick Match as that throws you into a game with a variety of people that you have no control over.

In Play with Friends mode, if you have no friends available the game with throw you into Solo mode. In this mode, a drawing begins to be displayed on the screen. Along with the drawing, 4 to 6 buttons with the names of what the drawing could be appear. As the drawing progresses the player selects what they think the drawing is. If they are correct they get a point. Then they are presented with another drawing and so forth. The drawings are simple and most look pretty much like what I would draw. A potential pitfall is that people can draw what they want and something inappropriate could pop up. There is a whistle icon on the screen so that if it happens you can "blow the whistle" on that drawing. If it gets flagged twice it is pulled from the server.

When you choose to play with friends, you can set up a friends list and choose from those friends. Depict uses the Open Feint system, so I would recommend that teachers set up the names and accounts for the iPods in a generic fashion. The students then can select to play just with each other and not with just anybody out there. In this mode, the person whose turn it is to draw is given the word and begins drawing. Then the others are shown the list of word choices and make their guesses. When drawing you have access to a pencil tool, an eraser, and a color pallet of about 40 colors. Points are awarded to those who guess correctly and the artist if there are correct guesses. The first correct guess receives more points than the second and so on. The artist also gets the total number of points that the guessers receive. If no one guesses correctly, then no points are awarded. There is a time limit of 30 seconds per round. A game consists of 5 rounds and you can have up to 5 players, so all 5 would get a turn to be the artist. The artist with the most points at the end wins the game.

One other thing, the puzzles use words that, when drawn would look similar. Some of them can be a little difficult. For example one time I was supposed to draw wheat. The other choices were barley, grain and grass. I couldn't decide how to draw wheat different than barley or grass. Also I think students would need to read fairly well to know the words so I would probably recommend this game for about 4th grade on up.

Classroom Use Examples / Ideas: I think this could be a great tool for teaching spatial recognition and detail in the classroom. Students would learn to use space wisely for drawing. They would also develop skill in providing detail visually. I don't know that it would improve art skills but one thing I like about it is that all of the artwork looks pretty similar, so my terrible art skills aren't on display. I also like that this game rewards every one who makes a correct answer and not just the first, although being first does get you more of a reward.

Developer Website:

ITunes Link:Depict

Reviewer Name: Kelly Dumont Reviewer Blog:

Other: I can't wait to play this on an iPad with that larger screen. I bet the developers can't wait either.

Hey, check out our Ning (Online Community) devoted to helping teachers utilize these devices to the their fullest. Please leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or have other creative uses for this app in the classroom, etc.