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.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blog Post 4

1st Graders Create Their Own Read-Along Audiobook
Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano is one tech savvy educator. I could hear the pride and joy in the voices of those first graders. Tolisano taught them without their even realizing it how to read out loud, using tone and inflection to create the audio version of a play. Breaking them into groups and pulling them out of the reading session to record probably kept distractions to a minimum, but also gave the students a sense of the seriousness of the project. Creating a read-along booklet was brilliant. Reading instruction is spotty at best in large classes. This is a great way to refocus attention from following along with a group of unrelated students to reading along with a group of students you are connected to by way of the experience. In her reflection, she noted she would like to have the children edit their own voices. It is my opinion that the best way to get students to desire to read correctly is to let them hear their own voice. This goes one step further, now they could learn to edit their voices, teaching them how to speak in public, speak with authority, and in a joking manner...all in the first grade. Imagine how far these children will go.

The Benefits of Podcasting in the Classroom
Joe Dale's use of the quintessential radio headgear caught my attention right away. I had something to focus in on as he explained what this podcast (or was this more of a vodcast) was about. The use of video sequencing kept my attention. I did find myself wanting to get to the meat of podcasting which may have been one of the primary benefits of his podcast. I'm sold, now what do I do. What stood out the most was the use of podcasting for children out sick. While I never minded being out for a test, I did mind being out the day before the test.

Podcast Collection
Now this was what I needed. The first two links I went to merely whetted my appetite to learn podcasting. Judy Scharf contributed practical information and links to instructional youtube videos about podcasting. For example, she recommended How to Create a Podcast using Audacity, a free downloadable podcasting program. I went ahead and joined the website Curriki. It is free, although they do ask for donations, they do provide a "maybe later" button. By joining, I was able to access "Creating a Podcast" in a word file that was easier to follow than a youtube video. I will keep searching the site and let you know what else they have to offer.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

C4T 1

I found Annie Palmer's Breaking Educational Barriers Blog very refreshing. She questions the status quo on teaching and is willing to try different ideas. The first post I read on Recognizing Effort Not Just Outcome spoke to me as a student who struggled to get high grades. I would find myself in the C or D range when I had put just as much effort into studying when I got A or B. Palmer suggests that we should reward students at least as much for effort as accomplishment. As an educator, she feels if the student does not understand a subject or assignment and is plainly trying, then the approach was wrong. That is a terrific way of diverting attention from blame (student or teacher) to change. She got a lot of her ideas on this subject from reading books about leadership skills, specifically naming a podcast by famed financial guru Dave Ramsey. She wonders if "celebrating" effort would encourage her third graders to try harder. And what about applying this recognition to administrator-to-teacher and teacher-to-teacher relationships. Encouragement can be a powerful motivator.

I responded that I too was surprised at how much readily available information there is on leadership that can apply to teaching or coaching. Celebrating effort is important. Far too many people, especially highly successful people, never stop to acknowledge an accomplishment nor the effort it took to meet that goal. They just seem to cross it off a bucket list, and move on to the next thing. We should keep that childlike sense of wonder about what we did and how much it took to do it, perhaps most especially when we try our very hardest and fail.

My second comment was on Palmer's post Addressing the Needs of Introverts in Our Classrooms. Reading a book entitled Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe, PhD. set her to thinking of her own educational experiences. She clearly identified herself as an introvert, with the caveat that an introvert is not shy. Collaborative learning was a hurdle for her because she needed time to assess the task and come up with a plan of action. She wonders if educators are leaving some students behind by having too many cooperative activities in the classroom. Another difference between an extrovert and an introvert particularly caught her attention. Extroverts want to know about a variety of topics while introverts like to focus on a few in depth. She hates having to tell an interested student, "I'm sorry; we have to move on."

I commented that I am one of those who is neither a complete extrovert or introvert. I am perfectly happy when someone assertive takes charge, but if no one does, then I will. However, I wonder how many times we fail to teach to the introvert.

Annie Palmer impressed me with her probing questions about the way we teach. I like the way she gave insight to her own experiences both as a teacher and as a student. She seems to understand the philosophy of No Child Left Behind. I will be following her blog.

Blog Post 3

Writing Peer Review Top 10 Mistakes
I needed this video about three years ago, well maybe longer than that. For the past 16 years, I wrote for an international trade publication located right here in Mobile. Peer editing was an important part of the job. I have met Picky Patty, Jean the Generalizer, Off-Task Oliver, pretty much everyone mentioned in this video. As colleagues, we often skipped the compliment stage and dived right into the critique. Big mistake. Too often we became Defensive Daves and little got accomplished after that. My boss often had to play referee, a very thankless job, as I learned later when I took over that position.

Perhaps because of the nature of our business, private critiquing was rare and used only for the more serious mistakes, like putting Luxembourg, Germany on an award plaque. Yes, that really happened. And, no, that person (not me) did not lose their job. However, years later, everyone still remembered the mistake, especially the award winner who thought it hysterical that Americans thought Luxembourg was in Germany.

Bottom line: I would use public critiquing, because trust me in the real world, they will, and they will be brutal. However, I would definitely add the positive aspect first. I doubt there would have been as much Defensive Dave moments if we only had.

Technology in Special Education
As a special educator in a vocational environment, Lace Cook illustrates well how technology assists her and her students. Who knows how many brilliant artists, chemists or researchers we lost through the years because we could not communicate with them. For Corbin, it opened up the world reading, maybe he will write a bestselling novel one day; for Kris, it opened up the world of communication, maybe he will be an educator one day; and for Sharea, assignments were "kinda" easier, maybe she will figure out a way to make the technology even more task friendly.

Cook takes the available technology further by emailing assignments and creating a website for her students. Perhaps best of all, these students have a way to function in the post-academic world. And who knows what they may achieve.

How the iPad Works with Academics for Autism
After watching Braden, I hunted around at Apple Special Education Apps and found several apps that will assist special education students and teachers in the classroom. One in particular caught my eye called slow keys, creating a time delay between the pressing of a key and the result on the screen. For students with fine motor disability, this app would help them avoid multiple keystrokes, reducing their frustration level in the classroom which often leads to behavioral problems. I mean who has not been tempted to toss the computer out the window at times.

Gary's Social Media Count
While I find statistical information like Gary P. Hayes' page fascinating, I wonder if educators really understand the impact technology has on the students they teach. I suspect that educators fail to keep up with technology. That can be counteracted by creating an atmosphere where upstaging the teacher is acceptable. Nothing pleases a student more or encourages them more than when they outsmart the teacher. It removes the teacher/authority student/burb-back theory of education into a we-are-a-team environment.

However, I do have a concern about putting students out there on the web at certain maturity levels. We have to be realistic about evil lurkers who will take advantage of social networking. It happened to me, but I was old enough not to be taken in at what sounded all so innocent. There is a dark side to everything.

A Vision of Students Today
The first thing that caught my eye was the sidebar video The Visions of Students Today 2011 Remix One, which I watched as well. Both videos promoted me to ask myself a question. Are we trying too hard as educators to supply our students with too much technology. It my personal philosophy that my "job" as a teacher is simply to teach someone how to learn, then get out of their way and let them decide how to use that knowledge. How is Facebook, Twitter, Google and Youtube going to help my students apply what they have learned to real life situations like worldwide poverty. Does technology enthusiasm have a practical side?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Blog Post 2

Did You Know? 3.0

by John Strange

The mind-boggling information in this video made me want to time travel to the future just to see how all this shakes out. Lines of statistical data like 1,393,519 Google searches a minutes; 1,097,220 Youtube videos watched in one minute; and 11,453,577 SMS messages sent worldwide in that same minute, race across the screen with Sabate's Confusion playing in the background. It kinda made me feel like I was already there in the future. The population data regarding India and China was a bit skewed in my opinion. No one can argue with the fact that India and China have more people than the US or that that fact will continue to be true. I do question the stats comparing the IQ of US students to Indian students only for this reason: India's data is not inclusive. Many children in India never learn to read or go to school which means they are not tested. Meanwhile, US testing data would include most all students, and, yes, that means our special education students as well.

However, the Internet-based communication device usage data was phenomenal, especially considering some of it is already "old" information. A generation ago (about 20 years) words like Google searching, text messaging, emailing, and social cyber networking would have been found only in sci-fi movies. Now it is part of our social lexicon. The idea that technical students in their third year of instruction will already have to dismiss their first year of instruction gives us an idea of how fast this technology is growing. And it is not surprising to learn the Japanese are leading the way in providing these technologies faster. As educators, we have an awesome and exciting responsibility to prepare our students for jobs that do not exist yet and working with technology that has not been invented yet. I hope I am up to the challenge.

Mr. Winkle Wakes

by Mathew Needleman

The whole I-woke-up-100-years-later theme has always intrigued me. I read about people who live into their 90s or 100s and think how much the world has changed since they were born. Watching Mr. Wakes scratch his proverbial head at the workplace and hospital's advanced technical equipment made me laugh. I feel like I have fallen into a rabbit hole myself by taking Mr. Strange's EDM 310 class. I almost dropped the course but was encouraged by a former student "to hang in there." I will check back in with my "final reflections" on that subject at a later date.

Oddly, I had a much different experience than Mr. Wakes when I returned to the classroom after only a 20-year absence. Desks are not in rigid straight lines, teachers rarely lecture, computers are an integral part of the learning process, and even Kindergartners know more than I do about posting a Youtube video. Technology is in the 21st classroom, but how effective is it? Will it take another 100 years to find out?

Sir Ken Robinson: The Importance of Creativity

by Ted Robinson

I have fallen victim to the "old fogey's" disease, the one where you lecture young people about getting math and science degrees and pursue art and dancing as a hobby. I did not start out that way. In college, I bought into the idea that if I learned what I loved, the magic would happen. My innocent belief hit hard cold reality in the 1970s economic turndown. Sometimes I thought my education was a hindrance more than a help in any job market, even and maybe especially, this one. So when Ted Robinson began his humorous and thoughtprovoking talk, I tried to dampen those old feelings of wanting to stand up, pump my fist in the air and say yes, yes, yes. Power to the people and all that!

I nodded when he told Gillian Lynne's story. An eight year old out of sync in an academic oriented classroom in the 1930s whose mother and doctor discovered that the real source of her "problem" in school was she did not fit in, she was a dancer. She needed to be in dancing school. For her, the fairy tale came true. She was the choreographer for the Broadway play Cats, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.

But I just keep thinking is she the exception rather than the rule?

A Vision for 21st Century Learning

Suggested by Kenesha Brown Fall 2011

Harnessing available technology to give students room to grow and stretch their imagination with the teacher as a guiding mentor is not really a new concept. It just was never available on as massive a scale as it is now. It was once only for the privileged few like Leonardo de Vinci, Sir Issac Newton, Socrates or the Biblical Abraham. For centuries, the tutoring model was the favored form of education with its caveat being the best money can buy. While the "mass standardized response to the industrial revolution" of today's classroom may now in the 21st century seem woefully inadequate, it has educated generations that would never have had the opportunity like a Booker T. Washington, a Thomas Edison or a Maya Angelou.

That said, as the video points out, we have a rare opportunity to meld the best of the past with the technology of the present to create a future once only dreamed up in a science fiction novel. I say let's go for it. Who would not want to walk the streets of Rome in 3D?

Harness Your Students' Digital Smarts
by Vicki Davis

A rural Georgia class takes a trip to the Middle East to participate in a flat-world conference? Thanks to teacher Vicki Davis and a very supportive school administrator, a "real" world order is quietly taking shape in her classroom. She has created an environment where children are sometimes her tutor, like learning the concept of terraforming, a true high for any educator. We all long for that opportunity to teach someone smarter than we are. Keeps us on our toes.

I see technology in the classroom as just another step in the educational evolution. We are teaching reading, writing and arithmetic in useful, real world application. A child in Bangladesh can reach out to a child in Mexico via technology provided by the United States, now that's a "real" world order.