Reflections Upon Using the Ubuntu LTSP Lab in the Fifth Grade Classroom

The 2008-2009 school year has ended and we are now in December, two days before Christmas 2009. I have been incorporating Open Source technology into my classroom for some time now and find the results quite rewarding. If I were to categorize how I have used technology thus far I would include mainly four areas of concentration: writing, research, reference support, and enrichment. The main issue in using technology in a fifth grade classroom is finding time and utilizing time in a meaningful productive manner that will in no way take away or waste time in learning.

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Comment by Joel Garcia on December 23, 2009 at 11:56am
I have mainly used my lab to encourage writing. My students spent much of their time writing on the computer. They practice typing, word processing and work on writing tasks based on the California Curriculum Standards for Writing. Students love to write on the computer. They are engaged and tend to be more conscientious about what they are writing. I have had struggling students who hate to write begin to grow as writers. Much of their challenges include spelling, writing legibly, and being ashamed of how their writing looks. Technology has opened a door for them to express themselves making writing more enjoyable. Students in my classroom have a choice of whether to use paper and pencil or to use technology. In a way, this opportunity provides an avenue of self discovery. Many of us have a difficult time creating on a cold machine, needing to use pen and paper. Most of my students use the technology option, but some find that there is something about writing on paper. And there is something to writing on paper, specifically for me, dragging that pencil lead, physically creating and pushing your thoughts across a page, crossing out, drawing those pictures in the margin, and having at your finger tips the means to pour your heart and soul on to a page anytime, anywhere. I digress, back to the point of technology use in writing in the classroom. Spelling is definitely an improvement. I am unable to tell you how many times students in the past have asked how to spell a word. I either told them, gave a hint, had them sound it out, or directed them to a dictionary, or wrote the word for them into their personal word dictionary. How many times have we asked our students to check their spelling or had a peer check their spelling and they said that they did and their spelling was still atrocious? The sad thing is that students will continue to misspell the same words. These days all misspelled words are underlined and students have the opportunity to use spell check as a guide, a multiple choice quiz so to speak. Now spelling is no longer the issue. The issue becomes do I know which is the correct word to use. For example, "Do I use to or too?" or "Do I use their or there?" These are important word usage issues that my second language learners face each day. They become the topic of a specific mini lesson instead of a myriad of misspellings that can easily be avoided. I found that students will actually learn how to spell the words that they use most often in their writing.

They are also learning writing skills they will be using in the future in high school and college such as word processing, keyboarding, and standardized APA format.(American Psychological Association writing style format) We work on persuasive, narrative, literature analysis, and expository forms of writing. So far, technology has offered valuable resources and support in each area of writing.
Comment by Joel Garcia on December 24, 2009 at 2:00pm
Integrating technology into the classroom has changed the way we research and learn about new things. Our lab provides an up to date link to the world where we can find answers to most of our questions. We use the internet to find facts about states for our state reports. On our website, http://hawaiianfifthgrade.weebly.com/, we have links to specific sites to find this informations such as http://geology.com/state-map/, http://www.enchantedlearning.com/usa/states/, http://www.kidinfo.com/Geography/USA.html, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_U.S._states/stat.... Students record their information on a study guide for their report. Students also use information from the internet to find out facts about molecules. They are given a molecule to research. After finding facts about their molecule, they build a model based on the facts they have discovered. We use the following site as reference: http://www.chemicalelements.com/index.html. These are a couple of examples of research activities that we do in our classroom. There are times when my students ask a question and I either have a vague answer or I simply have no idea what the answer is. I have the student go online to find the answer. We have resources to find answers instantly and students can find the answers for themselves without having the teacher finding it for them. They share their answers with the class. My students are empowered to learn and have the world as a resource.

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