Sunday, April 29, 2012

Final PLN Report

As EDM310 winds down, I am gearing up. I love this project. And will be using it regularly to keep myself up to date on the latest in e-tech teaching. For those of you who are at that point and interested, I included a "Jobs for Teachers" site. I am not opposed to working outside Alabama. I have included history teacher blogs, interactive history lesson plans, and a link no history teacher would be without, The History Channel. I used up my space! I need more tiles!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

C4T 4

I was delightfully surprised to find my teacher blog was Elsanor Elementary School in Baldwin County. I have had the privilege of subbing there a few times. It is a small school off the main drag. However, do not let that fool you. This school has plenty of technology to crow about! The first video I watched was Art in Motion-Hippie Man. That was so cute, I just had to go on and watch the how-they-did-that video. The amazing thing to me was out of chaos art! Securing an ipad above a work station, the students filmed themselves creating the art project, edited it well, and threw in music. Think they will be content to sit in a class by the 9th grade for honors history and listen to yours truly drone on! No way, and thanks to EDM310, they are not going to be sitting. They are going to be creating history with history.

Earlier in the school year, Elsanor students had traveled to the Mobile Museum of Art. They studied collages, and decided to do one themselves. Again, Martha Yim broke out the ipad, and the students gathered around a table. The best part of this video is the animation they added. All I will say is a man, a horse, and a bug. Go see!

That is not all going on at Elsanor. Here's what a fifth grader did. His artwork got published in Imagining the Ocean: Art Mixes Well with Marine Science.

Bottom line: This kind of creativity at this age must never be allowed to atrophy once they get to middle/high school. We as educators at that level must be prepared to teach them in a wonderfully new way, utilizing the talents they will already have, and let them raise the bar.

Blog Post 13

Ahhhh! Electronic silence. It can be a beautiful thing. When I took my dogs for their daily walk, I listened to them, watched them, wondered why Kota insists on drinking what appears to be dirty water, or why Bo totally ignores everyone including me. Without my usual tunes to distract me, I enjoyed watching my newest edition, Daisy, romp about, hoping she is adjusting well. I walked longer with them, down to Wolf's Bay, watched the two Labradors swimming happily. I watched the shrimp boat come in, and heard sounds I have long since tuned out, like a seagull, an outboard motor, a dog shaking off the water. I think I may skip using my tunes for my walks in the future. I forgot how exhilarating the real world can be.

I found my cell phone in my hand several times. I finally tucked it away. Frankly, it was an empowering thing. I never really cared for talking on the phone, which is ironic when you learn that my first job was phone collections. No, I wasn't an evil bill collector, thank goodness; but I did have to make calls to people and ask about balances on medical bills. However, I am totally into texting. I had a couple of friends text during that time and ask if I was incapacitated. They could think of no other reason I had not texted them. I wandered onto the front porch and sat down by my dad, who simply raised his eyebrows. "Not on the computer?" He asked.

I had decided to some reason not to tell anyone what or why I was freeing up my time. It seemed to add something to the assignment. So I just sat down and said, "Thought I'd find out how things are with you." Fortunately, my family has an endless list of things to discuss so we passed time while the dogs wandered around the front yard. The sunset was incredible, been a while since I had really paid attention. It was sheer freedom just to sit on the porch and talk to my dad who shared some of his childhood stories, a few I had never heard before. Considering my father's age and health, this was a treasured moment.

However, about into eight hours, the novelty was wearing off, and I was getting antsy. I kept eying my TV remote. I dvr the shows I follow, mostly because I love to skip the commercials. Letting go of TV and its accompanying videos pleasures was rather hard. Once or twice I wondered if I would make it. At least once I thought, maybe I need e-media fasts more often. Apparently I am addicted to TV.

Again, I have to consider myself lucky. I love to read, and we have a small library in our home. So I choose a good book I had not read in a while, settled down into a loungely chair and began to read. At first, I recaptured that idyllic feeling I had walking the dogs, sitting on the porch with dad. After an hour, I was bored. I admit it. So less than 16 hours into the fast, I was tapping my feet, rolling my eyes, and counting the stupid hours up. Am I addicted to e-media? Yes!

Did I make it 24 hours? Yes, I did. But 30 seconds into the 25th hour, my cell phone was on, and my computer fired up. So what exactly did I learn? That e-media is too much a part of our lives to expect our students to just drop it the minute they enter school. They have lived and breathed e-media from day one. We cannot expect them to leave it behind for classroom instruction. We OWE it to them to incorporate it into our lessons. I can assure you they will, with or without your permission. Short of literally taking all electronic devices from students (and that is unrealistic), you will not keep them from it. An old aphorism fits here: if you can't beat them, join them. Make e-media a vital part of your classroom instruction.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Progress Report on Final Project

I am by nature a reflective and serious kind of person, until my sense of humor saves me from being too boring. After consulting with my compadres, we have decided to serve up an entree of serious with a side of fun. Hmmm, or was that fun with a side of serious. I had better go back and check out Teamview 7 chatlog. And the fast-n-furious emails I constantly send out with just another idea or suggestion. Sometimes I hit send and smile, wondering if my comprades look at the sender and think, "If I just delete it, I can pretend I never saw it. I mean, really, have you any idea of the number of emails that shoot out in cyberspace and never reach their destination." One thing I love about the Psychotic Salmon Berzerkers, they show up when they are supposed to ready and handy with the technology. How can our project go wrong?

C4K Summary for April

Taylor in Vermont was my World Blog Challenge C4K blogger. She is great, writing a new entry each week, adding photos, and links as she goes along, much like I did with EDM310. Although her entries are short, each one focused on a specific topic. The first entry I responded to was about her home state of Vermont. She talked about the cold winters, the wet springs, the hot summers, and Lake Champlain. And, oh yes, Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I told her a little about hot southern Alabama, and living near the Gulf of Mexico. My favorite Ben-n-Jerry's is Super New York Fudge Chunk. I asked her what was hers.

Next, Taylor wrote about her family. She has 10 brothers and sisters, but only one brother and one sister share her parents. I told her I have a brother and sister too from my parents, and four stepsisters with four stepbrothers! Her favorite subject is language arts. Mine is history.

Taylor expressed strong feelings about smoking. She added a photo to this entry, reciting some facts about the negative health issues. It felt great being able to share with her that I have never smoked. Interesting map on smoking populations.

My last C4K post was about Skype connection between Room 6 in New Zealand with students in the U.S. Room 6 prepared and sang a hello song for their fellow Skypers. Then they made an iMovie of the interview with the Beatles' Come Together playing in the background.

I am going to miss doing this assignment every week. Conversing with younger students has helped me to "see" how their education world is expanding exponentially, and how much they enjoy it. If we as teachers do not keep up, they will leave us in the dust!

Creativity and Curiosity: My Thoughts - Special Post #12A

Last week in another USA education class, we lightly touched on the pros of ability-grouping classes. Our professor commented, "That is too a radical idea for the current administrators of public education." That woke up my curiosity streak. What exactly is ability-grouping class, and why does it scare the system? When someone says something is too radical, that generally means that something is too scary for someone (or a bunch of someones). So I went looking. Here is what I found on ability grouping. Grouping students according to their "perceived" capability is already being administered in elementary schools, particularly in reading and math classes. Through assessment tests, a teacher can place her students into smaller groups broken down by below level, at level, and above level. Using progress-monitoring tests, the teacher can advance the students in each group until ideally all of them are above level by the end of the school year. This is known as homogeneous ability grouping.

The radical aspect is to create heterogeneous ability grouping, mixing ages, and relying only on ability to match students up with the best classes. In other words, throw out the vocation/college tracks and place students where they can get the best education. For example, if a student is above level in English, but below level in Algebra, then he/she would go to Honors English and Remedial Algebra. Carried further out, students would be taught their subjects as supports for one another instead of in isolation. Unfortunately, some big guns are against the idea like the National Education Association, The National Governor's Association, the College Board, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which peaks my interest as to why the governor's association and the ACLU would even care. Surveys indicate parental support is high, and teachers are a mixed group. Most of the objection centers on the narrow focus of assessment testing, and teacher quality for the low achievers.

Once I felt pretty confident I understood the basic concepts of ability grouping, I hunted up a few teachers discussing the advantages and disadvantages. It appears to be highly successful for increasing reading fluency and comprehension. I immediately thought of a sort of educational Prezi with the student at the center, and each line leading to a subject interacting with the other. I think it has tremendous application and would change our schools. In this atmosphere, curiosity and creativity would thrive.

This is a small demonstration of where curiosity can take you. And creativity can make it visually interesting (or at least I hope so).

Right now I think I will go try to find out what the ACLU has against heterogeneous ability group teaching!

BTW I found Elli through Google+, and left an comment about her article on the site.

I did find out why the ACLU was strongly opposed to ability grouping. I cannot say I agree, but I will say it is something that should be looked at and resolved. It is their collective opinion that low achieving students would be taught by teachers with low expectations, actually keeping the students from moving forward or even at level. It is also felt that due to the cultural bias in IQ testing, the low achievers would be disproportional African-American and/or Hispanic. I say we should address those concerns and prove them groundless.

Blog Post 12

Is there a difference between history and social studies? If so, what is it? What would be the most technically effective way to teach history? How is it being taught today? Evaluate The Center for Teaching History with Technology and Teaching History with Technology by Dr. Steven Hoffman comparing and contrasting their methods. Which is closer to your idea of teaching history?

picture of computer battle game
Dr. Hoffman teaches key critical history concepts through a World War II simulation software game. It is designed in such a way that students take on the leadership roles of the countries involved in the conflict. Some incidental learning takes place when the "leaders" learn they have to for example clothe their people, suddenly they have to trace textile imports. The game allows for changes in key decisions made in the war so a different outcome can be explored. Instead of a traditional history classroom with the odd poster, this is a computer room with a huge screen. The lights are dimmed, and the game begins.

ancient manuscript style
The website is hosted by edtechteacher, an organization with a mission to " teachers and schools leverage technology to create student-centered, inquiry learning environments." This site links to the site specially dedicated to history. The edtechteacher also has a blog I am now following, accessible from either website. The history center contains a page dedicated to why teach history with technology with the most important reason being the one I share...teaching students with the tools they are already familiar with in a way they like to learn. Few students today have the desire to slug through outdated dusty old journals to find gems of knowledge; however, they will search for hours on Google. It just makes sense to follow their lead. The site also contains multimedia presentations, lesson plans, blogs, chats, mindmapping, and word clouds. Each item is explained. You can also access teacher assessment tools to evaluate learning progress.

Dr. Hoffman's philosophy about his decision to utilize simulation software is much the same as the Center's. Both believe in tapping into the student's familiarity with the computer and using it to teach them critical thinking. To me the whole point of history is to learn what has worked and what has not. I cannot think of a more effective way to demonstrate that than experiencing it...and now we can virtually. I wholeheartedly embrace technology learning for a history class.

My beef has been and probably will continue (until and unless I can change it) that what passes for history in K-12 is actually a mixed grouping of social, economical, anthropological, and historical information, some and much of which is geared to a predetermined conclusion. For example, a historical perspective would be: did the windmill hill people actually exist? Where were they located? Critical thinking could be: could they have been the builders of Stonehenge? Today, for what passes as history, the footnote would more likely be: 4,752 years ago, a group of nomadic people settled near what today is Stonehenge. Most likely, they were hunter/gatherers who decided to stay on the grassy plain and become the farmers of the ancient world. Since such people were deeply religious, they used the stones to make a circle to determine the seasons, the time, and to serve as a place of worship. The windmill hill people were most likely the ancestors of the pagan Druids.

Am I alone here in suggesting (gasp) that we just study what we may know about the windmill hill people, and acknowledge the rest is speculation? That to me is the joy of history. Learning what is really factual and what is interesting speculation. As long as these are labeled correctly, learning from history can be fascinating.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Blog Post 11

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.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Blog Post 10

To be honest, Joshua Bloom's Do you Teach or Do you Educate? seemed a funny little word game with definitions. I teach, I educate...the words are really synonymous. What matters desperately is the method in which I teach or educate. I think that Bloom was really describing methodology. I want to be the kind of mentor that gives students the chance to figure it out. If they fail, then we together can work it out, that doing something again and again can result in success. I want them to trust that my class is a safe learning environment. By setting up learning objectives and parameters, the more advanced students will not be held back; and the less advanced students will get the scaffolding they need at first. That was not the kind of education I received. I managed to get by, but I did not flourish.

As I was kicking around my thoughts on this subject, I listened to What Makes Great Teachers. For this panel, it came down to a teacher caring, continuing to learn, and being comfortable in the classroom. The teacher/educator can poison the classroom with one brittle, thoughtless comment. And sadly may never regain ground with that particular group of students. I experienced this from a positive perspective firsthand in my student teaching semester. My first test had to be typed out, and I had consistently misspelled Karl Marx. I went home and graded the test, still not noticing the error. The next day as I was handing out the test scores, several of my students gleefully pointed this out to me. I would like to think it was my ability to laugh at myself that saved me here. I promptly said, "You are right. Everyone gets 5 extra points for me being wrong." At the end of the unit, I had a bonus question, "How do you spell...?" And they all knew what I meant. It was a powerful moment for me when I realized I do not have to perfect to be a great teacher. So to that panel discussion, I would add a well-developed sense of humor.

Pencils! Scary things. Have pointy ends. Lead poisoning? Can chewing the eraser really make you sick? Why do I have to take this home? Or you trying to fool me into thinking this is fun? I broke off my pointy end. What is a sharpener? That sounds dangerous. I like dangerous. I am going to have to let my mom decide if I should use this at all. I think it is against our religion. How can I have pen pals if I am using a pencil? Did you know the Russians use pencils in space? We are not Russians. No, I do not want a pencil, but thanks for asking. Pencils (and papers) are not green, and I believe in being green. On the test, do I need to fill in the entire circle or can I just make a dot? If this is a No. 2, where is No. 1? Hey look at this great art piece I just did.

Those are the thoughts that ran through my head when I visited Tom Johnson's witty essay about the fear of using technology in the classroom. Although Johnson makes it clear in that oh-so-sardonic way that technology should be feared no more than the pencil, I disagree. To my knowledge, pencils have not made global social networking a useful venue for roving predators. Figuring out how low-income families are going to handle technology-based homework is an issue Johnson discusses, but leaves out the practicality of it. And though I am sure this is not going to be a popular comment, we are in a test-based education system at the moment. I hate the system. It is not really doing what it was meant to do. However, it is there. And even the textbooks you will use in class are geared toward the tests. There is a rumor afoot in the schools that Washington is even considered ramping up the ante by making the tests nationally standardized. This is a colossal mistake.

All that said where I do agree with Johnson is that technology in the classroom is vital to the 21st Century student. It is their world. And as educators, our collective duty is to prepare them for that world, not run screaming out of the school chased by flying pencils. Ok, it was just another silly thought that came out of that slightly weird place I call a brain.
And you thought I made that up.

Friday, March 30, 2012

C4T 3

The cyberworld can be just as ironic as real life can be. I happily posted my first comment to my C4T at Connected Principals regarding a blog entry by Dov Emerson entitled A Twitter Visit in Real Life. When I went back to post the second comment, I discovered the site temporarily down (still is). I panicked a bit; contacted EDM310 help and got another spot to use for my second post so I could do my summary by April 1. Because I am so paranoid, I had kept his entry and my comment in a doc file. It belatedly occurred to me (sorry, Dr. Strange) that perhaps Emerson had his own blog. He does! Now, if I had just remembered to breathe, I might have figured this out without having to bother the EDM310 staff.

Emerson started twitting as have so many of us to connect with friends and family. He happened upon @NMHS_Principal, aka Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey. Emerson began to follow Sheninger and those Shenigner followed and who followed Sheninger (did you get all that?). That twitter lead to a real time visit to the New Milford High School and the opportunity to sit down with Sheninger and talk about ED Tech tools and their place in education. How much to use, and how best to utilize them. Of all the real-life applications Emerson found at the school, one really impressed me. Sheninger gives his faculty members an opportunity to pursue their own ideas about technological possibilities, and then share them with others. Now that's educating everyone involved in educating. What excited Emerson was how one twitter post lead to an amazing ED Tech adventure. As I become more comfortable with the technology itself, and connect to others in the education field, I too find a marvelous world of teaching skills I will bring to my classroom.

Since that site went down, I was redirected here. Now this was a subject I could wrap my head around. Is the lecture method effective? Should it be discredited? Has its time come and gone? Citing several sources, Dr. Strange posed some thoughtprovoking questions about the method and its place (or lack thereof) in our current educational system. I myself was mostly taught via the lecture method and experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly along the way. For me the appealing part of lecturing is controlling the class; boring them could be considered a form of self-discipline learning. However, I think it is more of acknowledging its time has come and gone. Students today enter the classroom capable of multitasking and ready to use their tech savvy tools for learning or whatever else they can find to do. Demanding the kind of control and authority respect the lecture method offered is no longer applicable. To educate today, you have to be a different kind of leader, a different kind of teacher. Is there a place for a different kind of lecture method? Absolutely. And I have a feeling we as today's educators of tomorrow's leaders will need to know how to save the baby and throw out just the bathwater.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blog Post 9

What I've Learned This Year (2008-09) posted by Joe McClung nailed what I have done right and wrong as a new teacher. Concentrating on that perfect lesson, and forgetting about the students, is an easy trap to fall into as a new teacher, seasoned teacher, or substitute. We want to "look" good for our peers, and frankly to get and keep a teaching position. When you focus in on your personal professional goals, you lose sight of the people you are there to teach. I particularly loved what he said, "Our job as teachers is to simply pick them up after they fail, dust them off, and encourage them to try again." I believe when we fail, dust ourselves off, and move on; we set an example, they will follow.

I got hooked and continued reading What I Learned This Year (2009-10). This year, McClung moved from teaching a subject he was comfortable with (science) to teaching social studies. By his own admission, he found himself just making up busy work, because he felt he lacked the knowledge and skill set to teach this subject. As time went on, he discovered he was also spending too much time on topics he liked at the expense of ones the students needed. My favorite line here, "...and I know that I cannot be satisfied with standing still and running the risk of becoming professional stagnant..." This reminds me of one of my favorite examples. Tiger Woods gained a lot of fame golfing in a certain way. Before he got too cocky (unfortunately that came later in his personal life), he changed his technique, even losing ground before leapfrogging back into first place. We have to keep moving forward. Standing still is sliding backwards.

In McClung's next post What I learned This Year (2010-11), he reiterated much of what he said before, but added this telling comment, " I feel like the teaching landscape is full of individuals that once had a fire and excitement for the profession but somewhere along the way they joined the darkside." As a sub, I can tell you, the way the students walk into the class, I know how they feel about their regular teacher. Do not expect today's students to be fooled for long, if at all. They know if you care, or you are just there to earn pay.

Continue McClung's foray into teaching by checking out his blog. This video he posted is hysterical...and true. I can attest to that!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

C4K Summary for March

Mrs. Stone posted a challenge at Will your writing be the first Miriam Lord Gem to encourage her New Zealander students to write a Miriam Lord Gem which is a 100-word blogging entry. Mrs. Skinner will be choosing the gems each week, which will then be showcased and celebrated by the entire school. Not only did the writing have to be interesting, but they had to "stretch" the "learning muscles." Since this was the clarion call, I perused some of the entries. Awaba 6DY's caught my eye probably because I am a big fan of Greek Mythology. Although the grammar and spellings are a bit off, the storyline is true, if of course you believe in the Greek gods.

The god Zues was angry with the people because Prometheus gave them the gift of fire. Zues decided to punish them,he told the gods to help him make a special women. The gods had to say yes Zues was the most powerful god ever. Finally they finished,the women was beatiful,clever although she did have a secret which Zues would never tell. Zues gave the women to Empimetheus,who was Prometheus’s brother,Empimetheus loved her so much that he forgot about his brother. Prometheus told Empimetheus never to accept gifts from gods. Zues told Empimetheus her name was Pandora. Pandora screamed the weather changed for the worst.

Smartboard Instruction Project #14

Interesting experience. I thought I was poised and ready. Obviously, I am not camera ready just yet. However, I am learning. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blog Post 8

Dr. Richard E. Miller's This is How We Dream Part 1 & 2 describes incremental and fundamental changes in tomorrow's classrooms. His examples are perfect for what I consider the best and worst of that possible future classroom. In Miller's view, using the Internet to research information and create dated versions of information to get it out there on the net is an incremental change. You just did it faster, easier, and got it out there in a more accessible form quicker. I agree. The fundamental change is when we actually use the web to design the material in a more digitally and visually appealing form. He admits we are not there yet in the "how to." He feels it is our duty to create the environment that will foster inspiring pedagogues, inspiring spaces, and inspiring teachers.

One of Miller's examples of the fundamental change is the work of artist Jonathan Harris. The specific work mentioned by Miller is The Whale Hunt. As I understand it, both men are in agreement on bringing an emotional or human touch to the Internet experience. This is commendable but frankly also fraught with serious pitfalls. This is a subjective piece of art and literature. It is designed to open your eyes, and provoke a desired response. In and of itself, this is not a "bad" thing. But I wonder what happened to objectivity? A just-the-facts-ma'am approach.

Are we in our desire to utilize all that is out there not falling into the same trap science has tumbled into so very often. There was once reason to believe the earth was flat. It looked flat which is all the information they had at hand. Take a look at the end of the horizon on Mobile's very own bayway and tell me why it is not flat. They also believed the oceans held monsters. (Hmmm, maybe they were right about that one.) For years, scientists believed gold could be made or that the sun revolved around the earth. We laugh at some of these notions now. My point is that we are in the same danger of sharing a sort of information arrogance. So for me the question becomes how as a 21st Century teacher do I guide my students through the best of the Internet without creating mind-numbed robots or cynical skeptics?

Carly Pugh's idea of Youtube playlist is priceless on many different levels. Hands down for me as a substitute teacher, An Average Day in the Classroom! nails what it feels like. Funny when I started EDM310, my biggest fear was learning the technology. Now my biggest fear is getting too caught up in the technology. By patterning her evolving teaching philosophy through her playlist, Pugh is becoming a Dr. Miller educator. Again, I find myself questioning the obvious. Am I alone in viewing Think Different and thinking, did "different" begin and end with the civil rights' movement? However, perhaps that is the point of Pugh's choices. We can allow our students to discover why are we different and where will diminishing that difference lead us.

I am still laughing over EDM310 for Dummies. Jamie Lynn Miller nailed my feelings over the class. And Poppy was hysterical as the typical spokesperson for an infomercial. Seriously, I would love to get my hands on a copy of the book. I experience the same ongoing frustration when I link to the class blog and see another change. And yet when I start to delve into the material, I like it. I want to go back and do things better. However, time catches up with me, and before I can master, say Prezi, I have to move on to the next big thing. The book might give me some shortcut tips. Anyone have a pirated copy out there they are willing to sell me under the table for cold hard cash? I watched The Chipper Series the first week of class. It resonated with me then because I think we all want to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow now only to discover it takes work and time.

I see a tremendous need for both instructional videos and a way to get them into the teachers' hands. It is my experience that too many teachers are unaware of the value of these programs or perhaps lack the general technical know how. The desire is there. The resources/materials are there. How do you connect the dots? Sending an instructional video on say Prezi and posting on Youtube will not get to the majority of teachers. Dr. Strange is dead on about this, we have got to get globally connected for educational purposes. Right now, we are only becoming socially globally connected, and sometimes that can make an education connection. It is too slow a process. Instructionally we have only made, as Dr. Miller called it, incremental changes. We can put a powerpoint presentation on Youtube with great graphics and powerful music. But we have yet to reach the stage where we are putting content in graphic design instantly available to every classroom. I am not a globally minded individual, so for me to say we have to go the next global level, is a strong statement of belief in sharing educational experiences and opening educational doors for every shall I say earthling? What will get us there is technical know how and connection. The creativity is and has always been there. That is where I would begin.

Well according to Learn to Change, Change to Learn, creating a global learning community is in the works. Odd, but when I hear people say the things I am thinking in my head, I get nervous instead of excited. Why? Because if I sat down with those same people with whom I share the same ultimate teaching goal, I know we would disagree vehemently on content validity. That is where I begin to draw back from the global educational community. The Internet and the computer only have what is put there. GIGO theory. So who is to say what is valid? Who is going to edit what we send our children out to find? Reaching across cultural lines sounds awesome until you realize some cultures think arming a young child with a mental disability and giving him the opportunity to shoot other children is acceptable and even commendable. That is admittedly a dramatic example, but there are others less dramatic and more controversial between educators themselves, i.e., intelligent design vs. evolution. Who is right? We do not actually know. If I sent a student out to research say, intelligent design, will he/she recognize it is just one theory in many? Or will that student be swayed by impassioned but perhaps incorrect information? Should we not deal with that before we go down this path?

Scavenger Hunt: The Game is Afoot!

Video Tool: Photo Peach is a free video tool to make fun and instructional video slideshows to include graphics and music. You can sign up using your Facebook account. In easy-to-understand instructions, you can create, share and embed your slideshow through most of the social networking sites. I found Project Polar Bear fun, maybe because I am a sucker for dogs and had a husky/lab mix who shared my life for a too short number of years.

Social Networking Tool: I signed up with Classroom 2.0. While free to join, there is a short vetting process. I will be gmailed when (if?) I am accepted. The site provides access to over 60,000 members in 181 countries. Some of the forum topics I scanned included: How to Keep Students Writing Out of School, Which is Better to Use in the Classroom Twitter or Facebook?, and instaGrok, a new interactive learning tool I am excited to delve into. I hope I get accepted!

Comic Tool: I choose this tool because frankly I tried the poll tool and could not embed it. So I gave up and moved on to Make Beliefs Comix! This was quite easy to do. Had canned figures and backgrounds. Not much to customize. Free! I did find that I could not easily embed. I ended up printing, scanning and uploading. Probably is an easier way, I just could not figure it out.

Friday, March 9, 2012

First PLN Progress Post

And so the student becomes the teacher. At least now I have some idea of what a PLN is. The irony is not lost on me. For months now, I have been wondering how do I organize the web to be more efficient for me. How can I follow the teaching tweets separate from the political tweets. How can I divvy up my teaching contacts from my personal friends. How can I keep up with the teacher blogs I am introduced to and want to continue checking. Thanks to EDM310, I just may be able to pull it off.

Blog Post 7

Why does a networked student need a teacher? The same reason I do! There is almost too much information on the Internet. It is extremely difficult to recognize the difference between a blog factoid and an actual fact. Relying on old school sources for the truth is just not possible anymore. Everyone seems to have an agenda. A student needs to learn how to vet the accuracy of the much as that is even possible. Navigating through those waters requires a guide. A 21st century teacher needs to point out the lurking pitfalls so the 21st century student is source savvy.

Vetting the massive amounts of information is just the first step. The obvious next step is how to render the data into useful pieces. How many diaries does a student need to peruse to get a feel for the thoughts of American soldiers in World War One? What about the German viewpoint? How can those bits of information clue a student into a soldier's anguish? Should that be the perspective? A wise teacher helps a student to funnel the information down to just what they need to successfully complete an assignment.

What tools will help a student? What social networks are safe? What programs will encourage a student's creativity? How does a student learn how to Prezi? To green screen? To iMovie? A teacher must be the trusted guide for a safe and wonderful web journey.

While a teacher's tools and information access has become global thanks to the Internet, the responsibility is still the same: point a student in the right direction and let them teach themselves while keeping them safe.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

C4T 2

Aviva Dunsiger is a Canadian grade school teacher with a creative and intuitive approach to teaching. She uses twitter and skype as well as her blog to connect with other teachers and mull over teaching methodologies. In Students CAN Decide!, Dunsiger had talked to several teachers who had experimented with a play-based methodology where the room is set up with centres (work stations) and the children can choose how to spend their time. Dunsiger normally used the typically structured class. Using the 100th day of school as a basis for math and literacy centres, she let the children decide where to work and videotaped their efforts. The amazing results are posted in this blog entry. I commented that my only concern about this teaching approach was its application to post-school situations. My managerial experiences have not convinced me this teaching method ultimately helps a student once they reach the work force.

When I went back, Dunsiger was sharing her plan to implement the centre approach on a regular basis. She had been discussing the idea of an integrated centre approach. From the comments and skype interviews she posted on this blog entry, it was obvious this is still a very controversial idea. In this approach, science, math, history, and literacy are taught as integrated subjects. I shared with Dunsiger my experiences as a history major when my first essay for a history class was graded on content, grammar, and spelling. I really do not see how you can isolate these subjects even on the grade school level when you will need them all "put together" later. Her plan for the change includes adjustments for her students with autism. Like the other commenters, I cannot wait to check back and see what her results show.

I thought this was a fun activity Dunsiger set up for her children. Bissonet Plaza Elementary School in Louisiana skyped Dunsiger's class and shared the Mardi Gras experience with their fellow students in Ontario. Well done! Interestingly, I found this at Connect All Schools, a great resource site for all of us future teachers.

C4KSummary for February 2012

Sosaia is a year 5 student at Point England School in New Zealand. Her teacher is Miss King. This particular blog posting was about her trip to Tonga to meet family. Her enthusiasm about the airplane trip and being at the beach was something we share as I love flying and the beach. I told her I would like to visit Tonga myself but it was 10,920 kilometers from where I live, and that was a nine-hour airplane ride. In describing herself, she said she loved reading. I told her that reading was my favorite too.

Allison had the unique opportunity to interview a great great nephew of Christopher Columbus. She asked some great questions about Columbus and then added some facts about Columbus and his travels to the new world. I said it would be exciting to be related to a famous person, and her questions were good ones.. Her facts about what Columbus brought to the new world (earthworms and horses) and what he brought back from the new world (potatoes and tomatoes) made me want to learn more.

Taylor was a joy to watch in a flash mob at her school's basketball game. At halftime, Taylor and her drama group treated spectators to a rendition of Do Re Mi from the Sound of Music, a play coming up on the school schedule. Taylor was adorable. She is the young girl near the right hand side of the video in double ponytails. I hope the play went well for her. And what a great way to promote a school play.

Giorgio posted an intriguing historical conundrum: one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorists. He linked to a talk given by Professor John Bolt on November 14, 2001 just after the events of 9/11. My first comment did not post correctly so I had to apologize and try again. I suggested he consider the definition of a terrorist as anyone deliberately targeting children as a guideline and quoted him then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir who said, "Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us." Giorgio is in a 10th grade history class where they start to question and consider their own concepts of historical terminology.

Blog Post 6

What is the "head fake" teaching method espoused by Randy Pausch? He explains with humorous enthusiasm in his last lecture entitled Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. His last because unfortunately Pausch died of pancreatic cancer in July of 2008 at a young 47. This "last" lecture was given September 18, 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University where he was a professor of computer science. Although he spins a wonderful tale of how-I-got-to-where-I-am, his final comments give away the head fake. And you will have to listen to find out.

I can however talk about the head fake approach. I suspect this is Dr. Strange's approach as well. The idea is to have fun while you learn. Not that simple to implement. One of the ways that Pausch did it was to create a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon composed of five projects in two years in teams creating virtual worlds. In the process, you learned computer coding. His legacy project is Alice v3.0 teaching javascript via movie scripts. Over the years at Carnegie, Pausch devised classes that demanded more out of students while giving them free reign to create. My favorite story he shared was in the first year of undergraduate work, he had his students do a two-week team project to create a virtual world. They exceeded his expectations. What could he tell them to do next? He contacted his mentor Andy Van Dam and explained his dilemma. Van Dam told him to tell them great job, now go do something better.

The one piece of advice Pausch shared that resonated with me was brick walls are there to show us our dedication to our childhood dreams. In other words, just how much do you want that dream. In each of the six childhood dreams Pausch spoke about, he described the brick walls he ran into trying to accomplish them and how he got around those brick walls. My favorite was how his dream changed from being Captain Kirk to meeting Captain Kirk. If you hang in there, it is amazing how your dreams will come true, albeit in ways you cannot first imagine.

To give students free reign to create while teaching them something worth knowing takes one very special characteristic that Pausch exemplified. You have to want to share what you know, and be open to what may happen, like the student who used a pretty cheesy stunt to "apologize" for his virtual world project crashing. Pausch's delight in relating this story touched me. Perhaps to me his best legacy. He loved being a mentor to his students. His belief that if you do good things, good things come back around to you influenced his students to bust through their brick walls.

As an educator, I want my students to want to learn. It is my deeply held belief that my job is to point them in the right direction and then stand back and see what they can accomplish. Pausch's last lecture can be a virtual mentor for me since he obviously walked that talk.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Project 9a Timetoast

Blog Post 5

Don't teach your kids this stuff please by Scott McLeod, co-author of a popular video series Did You Know? (Shift Happens), is a finely tuned piece of sardonic humor about not teaching students how to utilize the Internet so "his" kids will have a leg up in 10 years. It is clever, in that gotcha kind of way. There are dangers on the web, and I would be worried about any instructor that does not acknowledge that. Are those dangers of enough concern to dismiss any technical instruction? Absolutely not. Are the dangers real enough to consider proceeding with caution? Absolutely! A better debate among educators would be to what extent and how do we protect our children as they learn about the web. I want "my" children to be web ready and web cautious.

Travis Allen's iSchool Initative is a fun glimpse into a future that is already here as he points out. Taking EDM 310 is an exercise in that brave new world. I am impressed that Allen followed up with his original idea by forming a nonprofit organization. Being digitally connected to every aspect of your school including what's for lunch has its advantages. I like the idea that parents can be brought into the mobile connection to help a student having difficulty with a particular project. This could be especially helpful for at-risk students who can fall further behind.

While I can appreciate the cost effectiveness of trading in pen and paper for electronic devices, I keep coming back to one serious issue. What if the electronic device fails? Suppose an EMI actually happens. What then? You are going to need to know how to use that pen, make that calculation on paper, or retrieve that information from your head. Electricity does go offline in natural disasters. So if we decide as educators to embrace that brave new world for a cost savings of only about $450 per student, how do we ensure continued, uninterrupted availability? Perhaps Allen and his nonprofit organization can address this issue as well.

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir singing Lux Aurumque was an amazing blend of technology and music. I wonder what it felt like to practice without having the others around for pitch and tone. While I do not think it can compete with the experience of listening to a choir perform in real time, it shows you what can be done to unite music lovers in a way never before imagined.

Now here is a very thoughtprovoking video from Kevin Roberts, addressing the purpose of teaching in our technology drenched society. In Teaching 21st Century Students, Roberts suggests that content learning is no longer applicable; skill teaching is the new paradigm. He makes an excellent case that content is already out there; what we as educators need to concentrate on is teaching our students how to negotiate the influx of content. What is reliable? What is useful? I am going to post this on FB, and see what other teachers and friends think. Hey, is Washington listening?

I love it when my classes overlap. RED 330 is teaching instruction. I am struggling to understand phonological and phomemic awareness because, frankly, I was not taught to read that way. What a treasure trove Reading Rockets is. Thank you Anthony Capps! Topics like classroom strategies, helping struggling students, free downloads, and learning resources are only a few of the pages to discover. The Phonics & Decoding videos are going to be very handy for me. I need verbal instruction to learn about phonemes.

I found the two blogs particularly enticing. I really like seeing real life application of what our instructors teach us and how (and if) it relates to actual classroom teaching. Check out both Sound It Out and Page by Page.