1. Voice Dictation
Why do they all need to "write"? It's true that speaking is different from writing, and I'm curious about how this change in "producing content" will affect people's thought process. Nevertheless, there are some incredibly valuable worktools here.
As assistive technology continues to evolve, I believe students will become more adept at "speaking their thinking", i.e. dictating, so that they can share their ideas in writing, but without the struggle of actually writing. This will be particularly helpful for students with certain kinds of learning disabilities.
I plan to try this out with Alex and Simon tomorrow, for blogging.
2. Vocabulary Lists
Students can use their personal devices to create and store vocabulary lists for personal reference when they are writing, both for topical ideas, and for spelling.
I've had subject-specific vocab lists posted in class, but there is never enough wall space, and also, different students may benefit from different words on their lists, depending on individual needs and interests.
How about getting students to harness the built-in assistive tech in their own devices?!
If your students have access to an iPhone or iPad, check this out!!!
4. Simple Wikipedia
LOVE this idea!!! I want to explore more, to see if in fact it is as great as it sounds: As my students increasingly use online resources for research, it's important to have material written in "accessible" language. Apparently, Simple Wikipedia offers just this sort of a resource.
5. Descriptive Feedback
Using Google Docs, people (peers or teacher) can give feedback immediately and simultaneously on a piece of work. As a participant added, "this tool is also great for collaborative learning groups".
I have to confess that I'm feeling a little tense about this one: The whole Google Drive and Docs thing totally overwhelms me, and I don't really understand how it all works, but this is one thing I am definitely putting on my "to do" list professionally next year: Learn more about Google Docs and Drive!! :)
This evening's OTF Connects session with Marie Swift introduced us to differentiating with technology in our classrooms.
Marie shared a several concrete ideas about how technology could be used to differentiated instruction for students, based on product, process, content. Here are five that stood out for me:
Many more ideas and software were shared, but these are a few that stood out for me as manageable, effective technology that will enhance teaching and learning in 21 C classrooms -- can't wait to put them into action in my own!!
Our piano teacher has been working with Alex on "composition". What this looks like for a 10-year-old who's only taken a handful of lessons is this: Gabriel (the teacher) encourages Alex to improvise on a predetermined set of keys for a bit while he accompanies him on the guitar, using two simple notes, back and forth (in this case, F# and B). Then, after a while, he tells Alex that they are going to write a song, a piece about a thunderstorm. It's going to have three parts.
"How could it be, the first part?" Gabriel (whose first language is Spanish) inquires, and encourages Alex to think about ideas, and play around with a few notes.
Alex moves to the lower register, and begins experimenting with different notes and rhythms.
"Find something you like?" asks Gabriel, after a few minutes.
"I think so", responds Alex, and begins playing a series of "rumbling notes", as he calls them, down near the left-hand side of the keyboard. "Thunder and Lightening", he explains.
"Good!" says Gabriel, and after they play it together (he accompanies Alex on the guitar again), he asks Alex to move the storm up an octave, "from the country to the city", which Alex cheerfully agrees to do, subsequently adding a third octave on his own accord ("a different country").
Then, it's time to compose the second part. I captured Alex's thinking and explaining in the first video, below. You have to turn up the volume to hear him talking, but he tells about how there are two friends, and they are very sad when they come out and see it is raining. The notes he chooses portray this sadness.
In the second video, Alex and Gabriel play the first and second parts of the composition together.
Afterwards, Gabriel announces "and now the sun comes out", asking Alex, "what could this sound like?"
Alex decides to experiment with some chords this time, playing several notes simultaneously, and indeed, it sounds much "happier". Alas, by now I am sitting back down again in my chair, reading a Ministry of Ed monograph about inquiry, so I do not catch that part on video.
It's quite inspiring to watch how focused Alex is when he "composes", and how uninhibited.
It's beautiful to see him discovering the joy of music!
Taxis are as ubiquitous as mate in Buenos Aires, though I'd argue in general, they constitute a less pleasant experience.
Tonight, however, we enjoyed rather an entertaining ride!
I knew as soon as we got into the car that we'd be in for a treat: The driver, a thin, elderly man, had a large, colourful, cloth serviette laid neatly across his lap, on which were folded various slips of paper... and the music emanating from the radio speakers was -- for once -- not the mindless pop/rock more common in the cars of his contemporaries.
Once seated, and after I had given him our intersection, the cabby proceeded to ask me if I knew where the street was, clarifying that he knew, but he wanted to be sure that I knew how we'd be getting there, since it appeared we were driving in the opposite direction, but in fact, he had already worked out in his mind how he was going to get across the tracks to our street (perhaps the first cab driver I've met who A-understands the train track "issues" and, B-is able to articulate a solution in advance). I was impressed.
As we sped off down Santa Fe, I tuned into the radio; an commentator was announcing the Marriage of Figaro, recorded live at the Teatro Colon. Cool. I told the boys who the composer was, explaining that he was the same guy who had written one of the pieces they are currently learning in piano lessons. ("Mom, we know who Mozart is!" retorted Alex.)
Turning carefully (that adverb being another rarity for cabbies in this city) onto a side street and coming to a stop at the next intersection's light, the cabby stuck his head out the window to converse with two dachshunds who were trotting across the street. He then proceeded to tell us a very animated story, with lots of drama and hand waving, about two dogs he had once "barked" at, and how the owner had gotten all upset and threatened to call the police!
Simon smiled at me.
The cabby leaned forward and turned up the radio -- Figaro was now done, and the radio commentator was announcing the baritone for the next piece, Rossini's Barber of Seville. Impressed that I could identify both the work and the composer, the cabbie encouraged me to listen to the station in question, noting they often played live music from the Colon's current programme.
We enjoyed the rest of the ride without commentary, as all were listening to Rossini's overture, which had not yet ended when it was -- for once too soon for me -- time to get out of the cab.
"I liked him, he wasn't your ordinary cab driver", noted Simon as we walked down the street to our apartment. Alex piped up, "Just think, Mom, if we had walked home from dinner tonight, we would have missed out on this great guy!"
After exchanging money today on Florida street, we popped in to get an ice cream from the chocolate shop at the mall. We couldn't pass up the chocolate Easter eggs on sale (post-holiday!)
Eggs regularly cost $20 ARS each. Mommy bought six. But they're on sale now, three for the price of two. So, how much did she pay?
A Little Harder
Mommy gave the lady $100 ARS, but was told she needed four more pesos. Mommy's hearing is going -- turns out the original price wasn't $20 per egg... how much was it?
If You REALLY Want a Challenge
How much does one egg cost (both regular and discounted price) in USD if the blue rate today is 10.3? 9.6? 12.2? Hehe.
Well, I finally figured out what we're doing... it's called "Hackschooling", hehe!
Inspired by a TED talk I recently watched, I threw together an impromptu math problem on the fly today while out with the boys.
We love Melona iced milk pops, available here in Barrio Chino. Today on the way home from church, we stopped to pick up three to eat on our walk between train and subway (8 blocks).
I told the boys I had gotten 50 pesos change... so how much does each popsicle cost?
"How much did you give him?" piped up Simon, indicating his understanding of needing to obtain relevant information to the problem. I responded, "$104".
From there, they were able to figure out that three pops cost $54, and so each one must be more than $15 but less than $20. Eventually, the discerned that the cost per pop was $18.
Not to negate the beauty and importance of exposing children to pure math, but if we're going to teach at least part of our math program as "authentic" problem solving, then the questions ought to be, well, authentic, rather than contrived.
Mmmmm.... Melona! Yum!
And, in celebration of its return, a few photos from that fateful day....
TOLD YA SO!!! (left) The boys aboard the Mitre train at Retiro (right)
If you ride a bike for getting places, like my girlfriend and I do, you might consider a routing app, especially when riding in a new city.
As riding and looking at a route map on one's Smartphone are not usually ideal simultaneous activities, we decided to check out Co-Rider, an app by Applied Phasor out of Copenhagen.
The basic premise is that you plug in your route, and co-rider offers voice instruction, turn by turn, via GPS. One can select a variety of visual options, as depicted by the same route show twice in the photos later in this blog post.
I asked my girlfriend -- a very picky and professional cyclist -- to try out this app while she was biking to her Spanish class here in the very busy city of Buenos Aires. Her synopsis:
Personally, I loved the fact that this app could also be used as a walking app. In January, I was staying with friends in a neighbourhood I was not familiar with, in Mississauga, Ontario. I would often prep my route before leaving, and then off I went, headphones on, and the app just told me where to go! :D
The really neat thing about this app, though, is that it can be used anywhere (we used it in both Canada and Argentina), and comes in several languages. I plan to have my children map out some bike routes when we get home to Canada, and listen to them in German!
(sorry, still no photos -- phone is resting nicely in the rice)
Is there anything better than sitting on the soft grass in the sunshine, a warm doggie snuggled in your lap, watching your children chase giant bubbles across the park? I think not!
We've been volunteering with a dog shelter located outside the city; on Saturday afternoons, one of the volunteers there loads up his van with a few strays and whatever puppies they have for adoption that week, and bring them to the corner of La Heras and Col Dias, right next to the park. A group of volunteers in the city hang out with said beasts, walking the bigger ones, minding the smaller ones, answering questions from potential adopters, and collecting donations of dog food, toys, money and newspaper.
After dropping off our contributions with the guy who drives the van, we took our first dog for a walk.
"Tatiana" was an old, fat girl who waddled her way down the street, charming even the police officers, one of whom bent down to chat her up and rub her behind her stinky ears. (Wag, wag went Tatiana's bushy tail!) The walk was slow with many stops to sniff grass, pee and other dogs. The highlight of this first walk was pausing to watch and listen to the Capoeira Group, complete with berimbau, that was practising in the park. Mommy enjoyed the music, the boys enjoyed the "fight/dance" and Tatiana, well, Tatiana seemed to just enjoy being out and about.
Next came "Tuccu-tuccu", a middle aged fellow, mostly white with a few black spots and an enormous scar where he had recently had a fairly invasive operation. His recovery had obviously been swift, and he insisted on pulling and pausing often. We had been told that he was sometimes aggressive with other dogs, but fortunately we found him to be quite amicable and sociable.
A city-sponsored fair seemed to have sprung up at the park today, and the boys wanted some guitar balloons from one of the street vendors, so Tuccu-tuccu enjoyed many new smells as we wandered amongst balloons and bouncy castle and various city displays.
Other than the pulling, he was a very well-behaved doggie.
Our final victim of the afternoon was "Mulatu", a skittish gal who had to be convinced by the shelter staff that we were not out to get her. "Vamos!", I insisted, pulling her away from the street corner where she had been hanging out with the rest of her "pack". Eventually she must have decided we were not bad guys, because she began trotting along beside us, though her tail remained tucked between her legs for some time, and she periodically looked back at the group as though to inquire, "why have you sent me off with these strange people?!"
We decided to walk the perimeter of the park, rather than haul this poor girl through the crowds, and on the other side of the park, we came to a large greenspace where people had congregated to drink mate and watch the park performers who came here to practise rope climbing, ball juggling and bubble blowing each weekend.
As the boys were fascinated with the giant bubbles, and wanted to chase and break them in the air, I decided to have a seat in the grass for a bit and watch. Mulatu plopped down beside me, and snuggled her head into my lap. I tentatively gave her ears a little scratch, and when I stopped, she nuzzled up against my hand, and in fact, climbed more fully into my lap (she was rather a bit large for a "lap dog", but that thought seemed not to have occurred to her, and the formerly skittish street dog, undeterred by her size, pushed her furry, stinky body further into my lap and demanded all manner of tummy rubs and ear scratches for the better part of the next hour!
Once the boys were ready to go, I got up and tugged at our temporary lap dog's leash. "Vamos", I offered feebly, but she resisted, and instead rolled onto her back, relishing the feel of the cool grass on this warm, sunny day, and advising us that she was in no hurry to return to the group. It took a fair bit of convincing, and no small amount of pulling, to get the beast to finally get up and follow us back across the park!
By the time we dropped Mulatu back at the corner, her tail was cautiously wagging, and she seemed to have decided that we were friends.
We promised to return to the park next Saturday, with sellable items we were not planning to take back to Canada with us, so that the boys could set up shop along the street next to the booth, and donate their proceeds to the dog shelter.