I had my usual reaction in watching First Graders in Ms. Cassidy's Class: another pro-technology-in-the-classroom video. I am convinced already! My quest has changed from why is it necessary to how do I implement it carefully?
It was the skype interview with Ms. Cassidy that gave me direction in my new quest. In fact, I wish I had watched her interview earlier in EDM310. She sees protection of her students as part of her techno responsibility. Finally, a teacher addressing an issue that to me has been the main reason I have been dragging my feet on embracing technology in the classroom full force. I believed in the technology, just not how to keep it safe. Granted, her comments are only a beginning for me, especially since her students are so much more younger than mine will be. Ms. Cassidy uses a combination of common sense and instruction in protecting her students. For example, she explains to them why they should use only their first names and to never put their photo with their name. The student-created videos often have voice-overs from other (older) students. So there is enough misdirection I think to make it somewhat harder to pin down a child's name, photo, and other sensitive information. On the classroom website, there are links to educational activities and games; however, Ms. Cassidy mentioned that she checks these links herself to make sure they are indeed child friendly. She readily admits that once at the game sites, it is harder to keep the children from clicking through to other less educational games with few if any filters for younger children. So she addresses this through instruction. Since most first graders are relatively obedient, this is probably sufficient. I am now conducting my own personal search with teachers in middle to high schools on how they keep their Internet activity clean.
As to what kinds of technology Ms. Cassidy uses for her classroom, I thought her best comment was I keep looking for the next best thing. She noted that blogging was huge for a few years. Now, she has her students blog perhaps once a week. What she seems to be moving towards is more of a global outreach, like pairing up with a class from Gadsden, Alabama for a sort of skype sharing time. Immediately, I see the advantages in global collaborative projects for say social studies. What better way to really understand the Sahara than to see it through the eyes of those who live near there.
I was intrigued to learn that Ms. Cassidy started simply by wanting something more for her students. She taught herself how to use the technology and work it for her grade level. She was highly complimentary of her technology coordinator who keeps school administrators like superintendents up to date on the advantages for her students. Interestingly, she said that the various principals were either neutral or ok with it, but not necessarily enthused.
I started the Ms. Cassidy way myself. When my former company jumped onto the Facebook, Twitter, and Blog wagon, so did I. I joined a writers' group that started a blog and began (and still do) blog for them once every two weeks. However, like Ms. Cassidy emphasized, getting a PLN takes you from firecracker to rocketship. You can only be so creative by yourself (or like me have an idea without knowing how to work it); having that PLN to fall back on gives you the ability to not only find the next best thing but how to implement it and best of all personalize it.