Sunday, May 1, 2011

Project #16

For our final project my group decided to create a wiki. We wanted to create a place where teachers who wanted to incorporate tech into their classrooms could find tips on funding their goals. We worked together to start a discussion on where to find grants, how to write them, and also where you could get free technology for your classroom. I had a really great time working with my group all semester and I am glad we were able to keep our same group throughout. By the end of the term we have all learned to communicate well and work as a team to come up with ideas and follow through with them. I feel very lucky to have worked with the people in my group, I learned so much from all of them.

screenshot of our wiki page

Personal Learning Network - Final Progress Report

I love my PLN. I like building it and thinking of ways to make it stronger. I enjoy adding new tiles to my symbaloo page and finding new people to follow on twitter. I now follow 23 people on twitter. Mostly education related with a few comedians thrown in to lighten the mood in my tweetdeck. Twitter and the suggestions of who to follow have been one of the most important additions to my network that EDM has provided me. It is not only what the people I follow say but what they link to. I could spend hours following the links I find on twitter. I have also added a lot of new programs to my symbaloo PLN since my last progress report. This method of keeping track of things I've learned this semester is something I will certainly continue on with. I love following the blogs of the amazing teachers we have been introduced to this year. I'm very happy with the current state of my PLN and can't wait to watch it grow!

Comments for Teachers April

Russ Goering with his wife and son
Learning is Life. is a blog by Russ Goerend. Mr. Goerend is a 6th Grade Language Arts at Waukee Middle School in Waukee, Iowa. He also hosts a class blog for his students.
My first comment was on a post he wrote entitled Opportunity to Learn: EdCamp Omaha. In this post he describes his first unconference. I am definitely inspired to find my way to one of these conferences. The learning and networking possibilities seem endless. I love the free atmosphere that the unconference promotes. This is so much better than the traditional lecture because it encourages conversation and exploration of topics beyond the presenter's knowledge. This is what I wrote to Mr. Goerend about this post:
Hi Russ,
I am also a student in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class. I love that you and your students are using prompts to create daily poetry. It's nice to have a starting point in a project like that. I have heard a lot about these unconferences on twitter and have been wanting to learn more about them. Thanks for sharing your experience with us! This sort of collaborative learning is such a great tool for educators. It's always easier to learn new things if you can talk it through with someone. I'll be visiting your blog again next week and then posting a summary of a couple of your posts on my blog.
The second post that Mr. Goering wrote and I commented on was of a more philosophical nature. He discussed a student who didn't complete a project. His policy states that late work receives zero credit after two days. However, he is faced with a situation where he set a goal to teach through this project because the material was important for students to learn. Now, in sticking by his late policy, he feels he is giving up on teaching this student the objectives he had made for his students. Here is what I wrote to Mr. Goering:
Hi Russ,
I am visiting from Dr. Strange's EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. You brought up such an interesting point in this post. How do we motivate students to turn in projects on time without ending up in a situation where the consequences for late work undo our goals. I think this is similar to the debate that has been going on in our school system in recent months. The school system does not allow students to fail and therefore requires teachers to allow make-ups and retests. What are the lessons we are teaching by not allowing students to learn from the consequences of their actions? Are the lessons they learn from negative consequences more important than the lessons we are testing them on? Thanks for the thought provoking post!
-Megan Simmons

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blog Post 14 - Special Assignment - Metaphors

diagram of a pencil with each part representing the ways in which people react to technology in the classroom

In blog post 10 we were asked to discuss a post on John Spencer's blog entitled Don't Let Them Take The Pencils Home. For this week's post we are asked to look more closely at the use of metaphor in John Spencer's blog and the world in general. While reading Spencer's blog for the first time I think there were a few reasons I knew it was a metaphor. First, maybe I'm the only one who's noticed, but, EDM blog post assignments tend to have a common theme. Writing a blog post on integrating technology every week for ten weeks straight leads one to believe that week eleven might have something to do with integrating technology. Second, taken at face value the situation presented in the post is absurd. I refuse to believe that there is a school that discourages the use of pencils in any environment. Third, there were explanations of the metaphor on the page. Located above the body of the post was a link to a post by Larry Ferlazzo where he discusses the study "Mr. Johnson" refers to in his conversation with "Gertrude". The study claims that students with access to computers at home will have lower test scores. You will also notice that, although the blog is written from the point of view of "Tom Johnson" with accompanying old timey photograph, the author is actually named John T. Spencer and you can read his bio. So, there are my reasons for believing this post was a metaphor.
What can I learn from this? In writing this follow up post I have had to examine my own thought processes. Dr. Strange has given those who understood a little food for thought in asking how we know what we know (a little epistemology!). I was very intrigued by this idea. I started with the metaphor and came up with the ideas in the paragraph above. However, I thought I should take this further. I decided to try an experiment and for the last few weeks have been trying be conscious of my grammar. I firmly believe that, in America, speaking standard English as your first language is one of the greatest advantages one can have. I grew up hearing and speaking standard English at home and I don't have to think of specific grammar rules to know if I'm using correct verb tense or sentence structure because I know how standard English should sound. Another part of this experiment is that I am the resident grammar person where I work. At least once a day someone asks me a question about their use of language. For the past few weeks, instead of just telling them the correct word or conjugation I have been going the extra mile and explaining the rule that makes that word or conjugation or pluralization correct. I have found this to be much more challenging. It is a part of my vocabulary that hasn't had much use since eighth grade. Luckily I sit next to my darling sister-in-law and between us we can usually work things out and call them by their right names.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

C4K April

Race For The Cure
I was assigned the "Race for the Cure" section of Mr. McClung's blog to comment on.
Megan Simmons Says:
March 31st, 2011 at 11:58 AM
Hi Mr. McClung!
I am one of Dr. Strange’s EDM310 students. I love how you introduce your students to such a variety of life experiences. These are the things they will always remember! Becoming responsible and caring citizens is such an important lesson to instill in children when they are young. I imagine they will be extremely proud of their contribution and that sense of accomplishment will encourage them to give and share in the future. I’m so glad Dr. Strange has introduced us to your blog so that we can draw inspiration from your classroom.

Mrs. Yollis
Mrs. Yollis's blog is an excellent resource for both students and their parents. By posting what they are studying and how on the blog Mrs. Yollis encourages greater parent participation. This month especially increases the family's connection with the student's education. Family blogging month encouraged comments from family members by providing instructions on exactly what constituted a good comment. Mrs. Yollis and her class expect substantive 3-point comments. Mrs. Yollis's students give guidance on how to produce a quality comment with the following tips:
"#1. Make a connection with who you are writing to. That is a great way to interest the person you are writing to!

#2. Try to add some factual information. That makes the person want to add some factual information. That way you can both learn.

#3. Lastly, you should always check your spelling and grammar before you publish your comment. We have learned to go on Microsoft Word and press the grammar and spelling tab under tools.

That makes a great 3-point quality comment.

You can also write a question so your writer wants to comment back."
Mrs. Yollis's class blog also provides instruction on how to include a little HTML code in your comments to make them more interesting. This blog was a really fun read I was really impressed by how well spoken her students were in their videos. These kids really know what they're talking about when it comes to blogs. I also learned some great tips on taking photographs!


Jaden is in Mrs. Yollis's class and is an excellent writer. The post I commented on for C4K was about a Clippers game he was able to see. I really enjoyed seeing Jaden respond to the comments on his blog. It is clear that he takes his blog seriously and wants to create a genuine conversation with his posts. Here's what I wrote:
Megan Simmons said...
Hi Jaden,
I am in Dr. Strange's class and he assigned your blog for me to read this week. I am really glad he gave me your blog because you always write such great posts. I think you're a really exceptional writer. I specifically like how detailed your stories are. What is your favorite part about having a blog?

I have never been to a Clippers game or any basketball game. It sure does sound like a lot of fun! If I ever visit California I will try and make it to a game.

Thanks for letting us all read your blog and being such a good host. If you have some spare time you are welcome to visit my blog.


Blog Post #13

screen shot of the alex home page
The Alabama Learning Exchange otherwise known as ALEX is an amazing resource for educators. The first thing you notice about ALEX's home page are the eight large boxes. Each one stating a section of the website and acting as a link. The first box is Courses of Study. As the title suggests this button provides you with links to the ALCOS standards for each subject. Once you click on a particular course of study you are brought to a chart. The chart lists the standards in order of grade level and, in the left column, provides links to both related lesson plans and useful links.
The second button is for weblinks. This button brings you to a menu of link resources for teachers, students and administrators. There is also a button that allows you to suggest a link to the site. Clicking on the teacher web resources button will bring you to a new menu or assorted links organized into several categories.
The Professional Learning button provides you with a list of opportunities from grants to teacher training. One of my favorite sections of ALEX is the Podcast treasury. Podcasts are such an amazing source of information. I can't wait to really delve into what they have in this section.
I found this website to be an excellent resource for teachers. I would certainly be excited to use this to find training opportunities and grants. I think it would also be an excellent resource for students. Students would be excited to be assigned a podcast to listen to once in a while in place of reading a chapter out of their books.

access logo
The purpose of ACCESS is to provide students with a high quality education through distance learning. They achieve this goal by making high school classes available to all students in Alabama. They aim to create a more equal educational opportunity for students unable to attend traditional schools. In reading their mission statement I was impressed by the emphasis on the individual needs of students. Some students who do not succeed in the physical classroom may find that they are better able to focus in an online class. The classes offered are also more varied than those offered at many smaller schools in Alabama allowing students to better explore their talents. The classes implement video conferencing to connect students with their teachers. This is an excellent option for students who want more variety in their education or simply do not strive in the average high school environment.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Final Project Progress Report

For our final project my group is creating a wiki. The purpose of the wiki is to provide resources to educators who want to incorporate technology into their classroom but feel they don't have the funding or don't know what sort of technology would be most appropriate. Contributors will provide links to websites where you can find grants. The Wiki will also provide tips on writing a grant. We hope this wiki will grow into a community where educators can find guidance on what technology would be most appropriate for achieving their goals and find a way to get the funding necessary to bring that technology to their students.

The wiki will be located at .

Project #15: Book Trailer

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blog Post #12

Assignment: Watch the video by Katie Salen about Quest to Learn. In a blog post discuss what Quest to Learn is and whether it you feel it prepares students for the world described by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod in their video Did you know? which we watched at the beginning of the semester. How can you incorporate some of the methods used at Q2L into your classroom?
Quest to Learn with a list of offered benefits of the school.

Quest to learn is a public school in New York City. The school teaches students through the non-traditional methods of gaming and design. Students are given the opportunity to learn by creating and exploring digital worlds. They are motivated by the same system that motivates them outside of school. The increasing difficulty of tasks they want to complete encourages hard work and collaborative learning. They each develop specialty areas and become teachers as well as students as they work with their peers to create new games.
Are students being prepared for the world described in Did You Know? Yes. On their website Q2L defines the integrated learning practiced at their school by saying
"At Q2L, students learn by "taking on" the behaviors and practices of the people in real life knowledge domains. Students learn to be biologists and historians, and mathematicians instead of learning about biology, history, or math"
These are exactly the skills needed by students in the 21st century. Having facts is no longer a marketable skill. Everyone has facts. Information has been liberated. What is important is learning to gather, synthesize and interpret these facts. That is exactly what students at Q2L are learning to do.
As teachers in schools that don't have all of the amazing resources seen in this video of Q2L we are still able to incorporate the major educational philosophies. We can give our students lessons in which they gather knowledge not just for the sake of knowledge but in order to create something they see as worthwhile and interesting. They don't need to create a 3-D world of Aesop's fables to gain a greater understanding of the stories. They can create a puppet show. If we have access to computers and the internet they can blog about their thoughts on the stories and publish the puppet show they have created in order to gain a wider audience. You can skype with local professors who are experts on the ideas in the fables and give your students the opportunity to ask questions. The main idea is to teach our students how to teach themselves. Information is free for those who know how to take it. What's valuable now is knowing how to use that information and wanting to create and learn and share.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Special Assignment

Joe McClung
Mr. McClung's World is a blog by Joe McClung, a teacher of eighth grade Arkansas History and Computer Applications. His blog is full of information and has several different types of media. There are videos, songs, links, and written posts. It seems Mr. McClung incorporates this style into his teaching as well. Mr. McClung uses a variety of teaching styles to reach his students. A major component of his class is cooperative learning. I think this is an excellent way for students to reinforce and think through the material they have just learned. As they become the teachers of their peers they are able to get an alternate view of the information and put it into their own words.
I was so fascinated by Mr. McClung's rules. The main thing I noticed about the rules is that they seemed to create an atmosphere of mutual respect. He respects the students and wants to create an environment in which they are able to share their knowledge. I think someone is doing something right when their class rules make you wish you were in their class!
The syllabus listed the first requirement as a day planner. I would assume this is to teach the students time management and self-direction. He notes that homework loses a letter grade for each day that it is late. Much like the penalty for late work in this class this type of system creates motivation for students to complete work on time.
I visited two links on Mr. McClung's useful links page. The first was convince me, a page that offers students the opportunity to practice their debate skills. I am adding this to my PLN. It explains the rules of debate and allows you to watch or participate in a debate on any topic you like. You can start a debate or join a debate started by someone else. I think this is an excellent way to teach students how to argue and discuss topics without getting upset. This would be a great tool to increase cooperative learning in the classroom. I also visited PDF to Word. While not as exciting as convince me, I was just really excited that this is possible. I always thought you couldn't turn a picture into a word file, or that it was terribly complicated. I can think of a hundred times when I've needed this website for classwork or personal use. This is why I love EDM.
Mr. McClung provides a good list of rules for internet safety. I like that the list is short. Too many rules about what to click and what not to and fifty other things you can't do is discouraging and it makes students likely to forget the most important rules. Mr. McClung gives just a few rules including, don't give out your real name, location, or personal e-mail. I like that he allows the students to use the class e-mail address for communications because it solves the problem of security without denying students access to this important tool. One of the best rules I thought was "Never respond to a threatening email or message." I think it's a very hard lesson for students to learn that responding to internet bullying doesn't solve anything.
The blog is divided into several categories into which Mr. McClung posts. I commented on the section "Race For The Cure". The posts in this section details the class's adventures in building a team and raising money for cancer research.
I was very impressed by the organization of Mr. McClung's blog. I especially liked the tools on the sidebar. The Dropshots application would be a really cool addition to my blog.I also like that he has added a song of the week. The blog allows students, teachers, and parents to know what is going on in the class. I really like the idea that parents can read the lecture notes and see the powerpoint presentations. I think this will go a long way in increasing parent participation.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blog Post #11

Kathy Cassidy
Mrs. Cassidy incorporates blogs, wikis, skype, and video. I was so impressed that students as young as first grade are able to work with all of this technology. The video shows the students actively engaged in their learning. An important word that I heard repeatedly in the student video was choice. Students can choose what lessons they are going to view on the class webpage. They can choose how they are going to express themselves on their blogs. They worked together to choose how to raise their nintendogs. I would certainly use any technology in my classroom that increased the amount of choice students have in their education.
As a teacher I would absolutely want to have my students writing blogs. Mrs. Cassidy discussed the myriad of benefits to be gained from students publishing their work in a public forum. She noted that blogging gives students an audience. This is so important because it gives them a feeling of importance. I want my students to feel that the work they are doing in class is meaningful. Having people from all over the world view what you have created and give you positive feedback and support your learning lends a meaning to the work that not even an A+ and a scratch-and-sniff sticker can compete with. The students in Mrs. Cassidy's class create blogs using classblogmeister which allows them to know how many people are visiting and where they are visiting from. Knowing that someone in another country is reading their work will surely increase their curiosity about other cultures as well as improve their geography skills.
The students also use wikis. How exciting for them to be able to create and collaborate with the world. I loved that she incorporated culture by having her students ask about the traditions of their audience. Their collaboration with the 2nd grade class in Gadsden was also really exciting because they are learning from and working with students of different ages which helps with their social development.
At one point in the student video the children were asking questions of a geologist who was communicating via skype. I was so excited by this idea. There are so many opportunities to learn from others and using technology makes experts on any subject so much more accessible. Not only are they learning about the subject being taught, but they are also learning to interact with others in a productive way. They are learning to learn by asking questions!
I so hope that I can incorporate these things into my classroom. One obstacle that occurred to me as Mrs. Cassidy was discussing the permission sheet that parents sign to allow students to use the blogs was, what if they won't sign? What if you have one or two parents who are afraid of technology and don't want their kids anywhere near the internet? I would hope to be able to convince them otherwise. If they can't be persuaded do you deny access to all students? Or do you single out those children and give them alternate assignments?

Teach Someone (Project #14)

For this project I have created a tutorial on donating through Kiva. I used Screenr for the video portion but, the sound didn't work so I decided I also needed to create a pdf file with written instructions. However, I didn't know how to create a PDF file so I watched this tutorial which was great because it is based on open office which is a great word processing program that has all the functionality of Word but is completely free. It turns out PDFs are very easy to create. I then learned I did not possess the skills to upload my lovely new PDF directly to blogger. So, I learned how to use dropbox to create public links to specific, large files on my computer. Then it occurred to me that I should learn to upload pdfs directly to blogger. So, I read this blog which didn't help me much except that in the comments someone posted a link to their blog which led me to a great hosting site called scribd and now I know how to do this:How to Donate So. Much. Learning.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C4T #3 Summary Post

Quantum Progress

For this month's Comments for Teachers assignment I was given the blog of a ninth grade physics teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. The first post I commented on was entitled "Look At Graphs With Your Sixth Grade Mind To See Your Understanding Evolve." This post explained the author's method of encouraging students to self reflect to find the development of their skills. This method seems have several major benefits. First students are able to see the foundation they are meant to be building on which can help them better understand the new lesson they are faced with. Secondly, the students can self assess and get a more clear understanding of their own learning styles. Here is my comment on the post
March 27, 2011 6:23 pm
Hi, I have been assigned your blog by Dr. Strange as part of edm310 I will be posting my reflections on your posts on my blog.
This is such a creative idea. Self reflection is so important for students. This is a great way for them to look back while having a specific idea to focus on so that their growth is evident. This also might help them recall the basic principles upon which you are building in your lessons.

Alan Turing
The second post I commented on was "Alan Turing and the Day of Silence". In this post the author shares a lecture he gave on Alan Turing. His goal was to show students some of the history of science. He went a step further than just introducing Alan Turing, however and managed to create a moral lesson and a history lesson in one. He first introduced Turing and all of his amazing contributions to history and the modern world. Then he told the students that Alan Turing had been a homosexual and was silenced for admitting this. He gave the lecture on April 15 a Day of Silence when students across the country took vows of silence to take a stand against anti-gay bullying. What a powerful lecture. I was enthralled just reading about it, I can't imagine there was a student in that class who wasn't moved. Here is my comment:
Hi, I am visiting as part of an assignment for Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class and will be posting my thoughts about your posts on my blog.
I love that you are tying so many other subject areas into your lesson. Integration is such a great way to help students make connections and and see how the information they are learning relates to them personally. It is really inspiring to see a teacher taking the initiative to show students that not all great contributors to our world are old straight white men. It is important to provide role models for all of our students. I can see why you can’t get through the lecture without a lot of hand waving. I was riveted by the story of it alone!

Blog Post 10

An Open Letter To Educators.
Morgan Bayda standing on a snow covered hill
Morgan Bayda is a teacher in Saskatchewan, Canada. In this blog post she discusses her disappointment in the lack of engagement and connection found in a majority of her college classes. She says in her letter
"I too feel cheated sometimes at University, especially by the time I am finished sitting through two three hour lectures in one afternoon."
I can definitely relate to this feeling of wasted time. Taking down notes to later memorize and having no real passion for the material often makes learning seem like a chore instead of an adventure. And if we are not passionate about the subject or the work we are doing then what are we really learning? How much of this information will we carry with us and put to good use? I can definitely agree with Ms. Bayda when she points out that these lecture style classes pale in comparison to her Ed. Computers class. I think she must be taking something very similar to EDM310! When a teacher helps you create your own community and you constantly feel connected to people who share your passion you are much more likely to enjoy learning and seek out more knowledge. However, I don't think it's just EDM. In general the College of Education here seems to have embraced this theory of learning by doing and certainly the theory of connectivism. It's an exception, not a rule, in this department for me to have a class I'm not excited about. I can't remember the last time I was in class and didn't feel engaged or that the information being given wasn't relevant or useful. The idea that future teachers are being educated in this way gives me a lot of hope for the future of K-12 education. If we can remember what it was like to sit through boring lectures and how it feels to be engaged and in control of your learning I think the next generation of teachers can change the current system.
Ms. Bayda included in her post a video by Dan Brown. Dan left college because his education was interfering with his learning. I can see where Dan is coming from in this video. I always have a huge list of books on my reading list by the end of the semester. My kindle is currently gathering dust. Between classes, work, and the time I spend researching random tangents brought up by the posts we read for these blog posts and the links I get from twitter there isn't much time for reading. However, I feel that the way my classes are structured, as mostly project based with plenty of freedom, I can coordinate the things I'm interested in into the projects that require research anyway and in that way my education enhances my learning by guiding and focusing my investigation of topics.

Adventures in Pencil Integration.
John T. Spencer is a teacher in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Spencer's blog is a satirical debate over how much access and what type of access students should have to pencils. In this particular post Spencer is arguing the results of a recent study that suggests that student's from low income families show a decline in test scores when given computer and internet access at home. This is for students given access to these tools after the fifth grade. Students in low income households given access before fifth grade show an increase in test scores. As Mr. Spencer's character Tom Johnson tries to argue in the blog, there are clearly other factors involved. The study suggests that providing low income students with computers and internet access will decrease their learning as evidenced by a decrease in test scores. Why is this? What are students meant to be doing on these school provided computers when they are at home? I would assume homework. I would also assume that most students' main source of homework help is their parents. I would also assume that students from low income households are more likely than their upper income peers to have technologically illiterate parents. Therefore they are less likely to have a support system when they leave the classroom. Therefore, the real solution, as "Tom" argues in the post is not taking computers away from low income students (which may temporarily increase test scores but will certainly decrease genuine learning), but to involve parents and provide them with the training they need to provide their children with support and guidance. I really enjoyed this blog and will certainly be adding it to my PLN if for no other reason than to giggle when he talks about the "pen pal networks" and all the dangers therein.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Smart Board Project

Community Service

I recently participated in the 100-1000 project organized by Restore Coastal Alabama. The project aims to create 100 miles of oyster reef in order to create "create the conditions needed to plant, support and promote more than 1000 acres of coastal marsh and seagrass." I attended two events, one on January 22nd and another on March 19th. I worked with other volunteers to pass bags of oyster shells down a line to the project coordinators forming the actual reefs. Spending a few hours doing this was extremely rewarding. As a teacher I would love to get my students involved in community service. By giving students the opportunity to create something useful for their community or help the people of their community we can improve their self-esteem and their respect for their community. A great place to get ideas for community service projects is National Service Resources. Alternatively students could get involved in charity projects. Such as adopting a needy school and organizing donation drives for the students.
For my skype interview I chose to interview my friend Kristi about Project Esperanza.

C4K 4

For my March 6th C4K assignment I commented on Tamati's blog. Tamati attends Pt England School in Auckland, New Zealand. The post I commented on was about how excited Tamati was about her first day of class at Tamaki College where she was taking a technology course. This was a very exciting time for Tamati's class because they had just received a set of new netbooks for their classroom. Here is what I wrote to Tamati:
my comment on Tamati's blog.

My second C4K assignment was the class blog for Melville Intermediate room 8. The students were given a photography assignment to take 5 pictures for each of the four themes they were given in 15 minutes. The themes were: library, around Melville, odd and students of MIS. The students then used the photos to create a slideshow with music using a program called photopeach. Photopeach allows comments to be posted directly into the video that show up as a credit roll at the end of the video. Here is my comment:
my comment on MIS room 8 blog

Blog Post #9

What I Learned This Year.
black and white photograph of a hand with the words: relax, stay positive, have fun and be happy written on the palm.
What I learned this year by Joe McClung is a reflection on his first year of teaching. I am so glad Mr. McClung wrote this post to share his experiences and help new teachers learn from his mistakes before we start our first year of teaching. Hopefully there are some lessons here we don't have to learn through experience.
The first piece of advice Mr. McClung gives is
"In order to be effective you have to be able to let your audience drive your instruction."
This is a great thing to keep in mind. If we really get to know our students we can form our lessons around their learning styles. By allowing our students to shape our lessons we are ensuring that the focus stays on their learning and not just on our ideas about how lessons should be put together. I think this goes hand in hand with his advice to "be flexible" and "listen to your students."
Another suggestion Mr. McClung makes is to be come a good communicator.
"...communication is one of the hardest skills to develop, so practice all you can and build those strong relationships with teachers and students."
This is something I hope I can remember to work hard at. Communicating is important, not only to create a sense of community with your fellow teachers and with your students, but also to attain the goal of continuous learning. You must be a strong communicator to build and maintain a meaningful personal learning network and attain the goal Mr. McClung sets out to "never stop learning". This idea is especially important now as technology is changing so rapidly.
Mr. McClung warns us not to be afraid of technology.
"Technology is our friend and is essential to living in our microwave society of today."
Embracing technology alone can help us to achieve the other goals set out by Mr. McClung. It can aid us in learning new methods of teaching to help those students who we are not reaching with our lessons, and it can help us feel connected to our co-workers and educators all over the world.
My favorite piece of advice in Mr. McClung's post was to be flexible.
"When things go wrong, simply work with it and try to better the situation.....and make sure you do it with a smile on your face!"
Attitude is everything. Just like Randy Pausch said, we have to make the decision to be an Eeyore or a Tigger. As teachers we have to be able to bring a positive attitude to our classes every day and the only way we can do this is to accept that sometimes things don't go according to plan and sometimes that's okay.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Discussions with Sock-rates.

This is a video I produced for EDU301. I created the puppet out of a sock, used buttons for his eyes, and yarn for his beard. I think this would be a great tool for introducing students to lots of historical figures in a fun way.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blog Post 8

This Is How We Dream.
Richard E. Miller
This video lecture was created by Richard E. Miller, an English professor at Rutgers University. Dr. Miller discusses, in part one of the video, the idea that we are at a pivotal point in the history of communication. We are on the brink of a fundamental change from communicating through mediums that are written and read to ones that are watched and heard. He starts with the shift from paper publishing to electronic publishing of printed texts. The main benefits of electronic publishing being that the information is more widely available, easier to access, and often more permanent. The next step in the evolution is purely electronic composition and distribution of information including text with video, audio, and pictures. This enhances the value of the information and makes it more interesting and more fitting to the way we actually communicate. Dr. Miller states that we are at a point now where we are able to publish on youtube and in forums such as wikis so that we are collaborating with people all over the world.
Part II of the series investigates what the future of communication and publishing might look like. Dr. Miller shared the work of Jonathan Harris who is creating amazing works with the internet as his medium. Dr. Miller talks about Harris's We Feel Fine. project. I'm finding that I lack the vocabulary to describe what this is. It's an aggregator. It's an art project. It's a statistics tool. Harris says that his goal is to make the internet a more human place. To make our technological future a future that brings us together in a world in which we want to live.
I was intrigued by Dr. Miller's hope of uniting the humanities with the sciences. Much like Randy Pausch he is working towards interdisciplinary collaboration. This seems like the way to get to this future of communication. We have to teach our kids to collaborate. We have to help them find their skills and learn to share them and mix them with the skills of their peers. By providing our students with classrooms where cooperative learning is encouraged we can provide them with so many more ways to express themselves and bring their ideas to life.

The Chipper Series is about a misguided EDM310 student's experiences and discussions with Dr. Strange. Chipper feels that EDM310 is too hard and requires too much self teaching. She drops out and tries several different careers none of which work out. She finds in the end that the requirements and work required in EDM310 are required in real life. EDM310 for Dummies is a commercial for a book that will help you make an "A" in EDM310. I think the book "EDM310 for Dummies" in the video represents the instruction manual for EDM310 and the idea is to encourage careful reading of instructions when completing projects.
If I were to make a help video for EDM310 it might be on the subject of proof reading. It would explain several different methods for proof reading and also explain the importance of proof reading when writing. The video would also provide resources for improving your writing such as the writing workshops available on campus.

Changing to Learn. Learning to Change.
yellow road sign with black print reading Change Ahead
This video is a discussion about the needed change in the way we educate our students. The people in the video view our current system as a system of educating where the teachers are the owners of knowledge and it is dispensed, in standardized doses, to students who are bored and uninterested. They feel we must create a schooling environment that provides a system for learning. In this system students learn to gather resources and then collaborate with others and share what they have learned. This change in education is required because there has been a change in our culture. What is important now is not what you know but what you can find out and how well you are able to put together ideas and create something new from the information you gather. What is important now is how well you are able to express your ideas and share the information you have found.

RSA Animate - The Secret Powers of Time
I love RSA Animate videos! This video is an animation of Professor Philip Zombardo's lecture on the effects of how we perceive time. The video suggests for educators that our students live in a fast paced, interactive world which they create and control. We then ask these students to sit and watch, for seven hours a day, someone talk at them about things they can't relate to. The solution to this is finding a way to make school interesting. Make school a place where students create things and understand why they are being taught math and science. A great point made in the video is that students are often hedonistic and want to do what is fun right now without regard for the consequences. Telling them that learning this information will be useful in 5 years is not enough to motivate them. We have to make learning the most interesting thing in the room right now.
RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.
This video is an animation of a lecture by Dan Pink about what motivates people. He discusses the methods of motivation that are effective in motivating people to think and create. The first motivator is self direction. People who are able to decide what they are working on and how are going to be more innovative and produce more interesting products than those who are constantly being managed. The second method of motivation is mastery or the desire people have to perfect a skill. People gain satisfaction from accomplishing things and improving their skills. The third motivator is purpose. This is the idea that people want to work on things they care about. In order to get our students motivated we have to let them find their own way, let them work on their skills and help them to find a purpose for what they are learning so they will want to come to class each day and do their best.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

C4T 2


In his February 16 post Experience Another Way to Vote Ira wrote about teaching students about different democratic methods. He suggested following the elections of other democracies. I wrote this in reply to his post:
Megan Simmons said...
Hi Ira,
I am visiting from Dr. Strange's EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I will be posting my thoughts on a couple of your blogs on
my blog later this month.
I really enjoyed this post. I love how you incorporated different subjects. I think it is so important for our students to know about the cultures and governments in other countries and the definition of democracy especially at a time when so many governments around the world are changing so drastically.
His post Why is China Model Rather Than Finland. was an interesting discussion on how we, as a nation, choose our educational role models. I responded with this comment:
Megan Simmons said...
Hi Ira,
I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class. I will be posting my thoughts about your blog on my blog.
I so agree with your comment that we are attempting to emulate the education system of a place in which we would never choose to live. This cannot work because we are not them. It is not better or worse it's just different. Their system is based on a culture extremely different from our own. It simply will not fit.

Friday, March 4, 2011

PLN Progress Report

I have started my personal learning network! I built my network on symbaloo and have accumulated about twenty tiles. I love symbaloo. It is easy to work with, easy to learn, and very appealing to look at. However, I'm having trouble remembering to use it. I have gotten into a style of learning that is far less organized than the PLN and I tend to be all over the place. I think symbaloo is a great idea and I was so excited to have my resources all in one place. Now if I can just train myself to go there first. The biggest addition to my PLN that I have gained through this course is twitter. I have become addicted to reading tweets and then reading links that educators have posted in their tweets. I also love symbaloo for keeping track of blogs I want to keep up with. Each C4K and C4T assignment gives me a new tile in my network so I don't forget about them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blog Post 7

Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.
a word cloud in the shape of an apple formed from the words in Randy Pausch's lecture
Randy Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He created the Alice software project that allows creation of computer animations in a drag and drop form which is accessible for children. This video is a lecture about living your life in such a way that your dreams become achievable. Dr. Pausch certainly embodied this with his joyful approach to learning and his unfailing optimism.
"Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work."
— Randy Pausch
Dr. Pausch uses his experience with football to teach the importance of learning fundamentals. This can be applied to so many of the challenges we face as teachers. When we begin the school year we have to be sure that the students are performing at at least their grade level. If they start out without the skills to build upon they will struggle all year and it's very difficult to have fun when you're struggling to understand the instructions. He referred to learning about playing football as a "headfake". The headfake is one of my favorite ideas from the video. The idea is, that students learn one thing while they think they are doing another. This is a great way to inspire students to reflect and to discover on their own.
"When we're connected to others, we become better people."
— Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture)
As a professor Dr. Pausch created a course in which students were put into several groups each semester and asked to create virtual worlds. He spoke in his lecture about the importance of learning to work with others. By allowing our students to work with others not only are we teaching them to cooperate but we are giving them a chance to help and be helped by their peers. If one student has skills that another lacks they can gain confidence and increase their own understanding of the topic by explaining it to the other student. Then at another point the roles will reverse so that each students is a teacher and a pupil greatly increasing the students' opportunities to learn.
"Find the best in everybody. Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you. It might even take years, but people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting."
— Randy Pausch
I loved this quote. When we come into a classroom it is our responsibility to believe in all of our students. I think every teacher has that one student who is always acting out or shows no interest in our lessons or their work. We have to continue to work to reach these students. It is our job to figure out what motivates our students and not dismiss them simply because it is difficult to motivate them.
"Never underestimate the importance of having fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day because there’s no other way to play it." - Randy Pausch
I was so excited when Dr. Pausch talked about the Alice project. Teaching kids how to program while they are having fun creating stories is such an amazing idea. I think the number one responsibility we have as teachers is to teach our students to love learning. We have to inspire our students to seek out knowledge on their own and we have to give them to tools to find and use that knowledge.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

C4K Summary Post

Jeremy is a student in Division 17 school located in Comox Valley on Vancouver Island his blog is entitled The Gamer's Edge. I noticed, while reading the blogs of several students in this school there is lots to do on Vancouver Island. They are lucky enough to have beaches, mountains, and forests. Jeremy wrote in his first post that one of his favorite things is to go camping with his friends. These kids are also serious gamers, as you can tell from the name of his blog, Jeremy is no exception and is currently playing Black Ops. His second post, which is the one I commented on, was about the birth of his new baby brother. Jeremy is a great writer and story teller. This is what I wrote to Jeremy:
Megan said,

ON FEBRUARY 9TH, 2011 AT 7:44 PM
Hi Jeremy,
My professor Dr. Strange told me about your class and how good you guys are at writing blogs. He thinks you guys are so good at writing blogs that he made them required reading. For college students!
I really enjoyed reading your post. I think you should make sure to save a copy of it so that when you teach your baby brother how to read he will know what was happening on the day he was born. I bet he would think it was really funny that your sister body slammed your snowman. I have a little brother and an older sister. Having a younger brother is lots of fun. I bet you can’t wait to teach him how to make a snowman!
I am very jealous of your snow day. I live in Alabama, on the Gulf Coast of the United States, so we don’t get any snow. The only days we get out of school are for hurricanes!
Keep up the good work! I can’t wait to read more of your adventures.

My second C4K assignment was Shanika, a student at Pt. England school in Auckland, New Zealand. The students in this school create their own podcasts, blogs, and even a TV channel on the internet. They are committed to preparing students for the 21st century. Shortly before I commented on her post each student in Shanika's class had received their very own netbook. They posted a great video of the kids opening the boxes and turning them on for the first time on their class blog. This is what I wrote to Shanika:
Megan Simmons said...
Hi Shanika,
I'm Megan and I am taking a class called EDM310 which is taught by Dr. Strange at the University of South Alabama in the United States. That's about 7,800 miles from where you are!
You did a really great job on this post. The picture is very well done. This post makes me want to go for a swim but it's not quite warm enough for that yet. Keep up the good work. I bet you'll have even more great posts now that you've got your cool netbook!

My final C4K assignment this month was am2011 a student in Mr. Wolfe's fourth grade class in Birmingham, AL. Mr. Wolfe has his own really cool blog which is a great addition to my PLN! In the blog I commented on am2011 gave a great report on the Florida manatee. Here's what I wrote:
Megan Simmons
February 27, 2011 at 5:29 PM
What a great report! I’m a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile and I was assigned your blog to read. I’m really glad I was because I now know so much more about the manatee. I liked the picture you chose because it shows all the characteristics of a manatee that you talked about in your post. I can see his wrinkled skin, his small eyes and his paddle shaped tail! I hope to read more great posts from you in the future.

-Megan Simmons

Time Line

Blog Post 6

The Networked Student
cluster diagram of the networked student
This video seeks to explain the power of connectivism by showing us how one student created and utilized his personal learning environment. The theory of connectivism allows students to gather information from several sources and create a learning network. This method of learning developed from a change in the perceived goal of education. In the past the educational theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism dominated a world in which knowledge was stable and obtainable. In our current world where knowledge changes in a matter of months or years knowledge must be based on an understanding of a variety of important opinions and ever shifting ideas. The goal of connectivism is to teach students to find and interpret the most up to date information available. To do this they must make decisions on what is important and what is not and how those things are related. In order to do this effectively students must create and nurture a network of sources which they have determined to be reliable.

Connectivism, in addition to providing students with skills necessary in the real world, provides things you cannot get in a traditional classroom. The student of connectivism, in completing a project, will read scholarly articles, read blogs on the subject, comment on these blogs, then create their own blog post or other means of sharing what they have found. By doing this they are able to feel that they are a part of a global community of people sharing this interest. Having others comment on their own blog gives them a feeling of acceptance in this virtual world. The creation of the blog post/podcast/video that is the culmination of their efforts to be shown to a wide audience of their peers, teachers, and parents as well as the world at large gives them a sense of pride in having this knowledge to share. They also know that they have a responsibility to get it right because they have learned the importance of publishing correct information. All of these things are lacking in lessons in which students are not allowed to collaborate and connect.

So, if they're getting their information straight from the source and having it reviewed by their peers or experts on the subject via the web, why do they even need teachers? They need us to create a place where they are inspired to seek out information. We need to be the jumping off point and once they are on their way they need us as safety nets and guides. We need to be there to provide them with guidance and support when they lose their way or become frustrated. They need us there to show them how to make sure the information they are finding is valid and trustworthy. We are responsible for teaching an entire generation of people how to be responsible, polite, and respectful webizens. Plus, someone still has to correct their grammar.

Welcome to My PLE.
Screenshot of my personal learning network on symbaloo
In this video a seventh grader in Mrs. Yollis' science class explains her personal learning environment and how she uses it. The student seemed to be very proud of the network she created. You could tell from her explanation that she had put a lot of thought into this and felt that she was creating something meaningful. I know for me feeling like what I am doing is important and useful makes learning so much easier. She also mentioned some great skills she had gained by creating and using this network. She knows how to contact professionals, how to find good sources of information and how to share that information in an interesting way. I think my personal learning network serves these functions as well. I am building a resource for myself of blogs, news sources, and podcasts that will help me stay current in the ever evolving field of education. Being introduced to Symbaloo as a way to keep all of my information sources in one place has absolutely changed the way I find information. Starting the construction of my PLN is one of the most important and useful projects I have done.

In his blog post "Why Smartboards are a Dumb Initiative" Michael Stanton posits that smartboards are "the least cost-effective way to improve learning". Mr. Stanton says that anything that can be accomplished using a whiteboard can be done more cheaply through other means. He also says that whiteboards do nothing to make the current educational model more progressive. Instead, he says, whiteboards only serve to make administrators look like they have accomplished something. Bill Ferriter agrees with Mr. Stanton in his post ""Why I hate interactive smartboards". Mr. Ferriter adds that there is often no research to see what effect, if any, whiteboards are having on our schools. I think the main idea for both bloggers on the subject is that whiteboards are ineffective tools for creating a progressive school environment in which students are engaged in creating and connecting instead of listening and regurgitating information preached to them by a teacher who is the sole controller of information. Mr. Ward, the author of Ward's Wisdom, has a different view of smartboards. He writes in his post that the teacher and students can explore and learn together by using a smartboard. He also makes the point that, unlike a traditional whiteboard the smartboard reaches many different learning styles by incorporating sounds, videos, and pictures. He also provides some numbers to back up his statement that whiteboards improve learning in the classroom:
Research supports gains in student achievement and ongoing quality professional development. Robert Marzano reports that teachers that engage in 20 -30 months of quality training with a Smartboard show roughly a 20% gain in test scores of their students. Teachers that undergo a minimum of 2 years of Smartboard training and utilize the technology a minimum of 75% of the time post nearly a 29% in test scores. In another Robert Marzano study, 79 k-12 teachers in 19 states produced an average gain of 39% in subject matter content taught by teachers using Smartboard technology. Overall, using interactive Smartboards was associated with a 16 percentile gain in student achievement
One thing I think all of the bloggers agree on is that if there are to be Smartboards in the classroom there must be training and support available to teachers. I think a great point made by Mr. Ward is that Smartboards are a great jumping off point for teachers wanting to incorporate technology into their classrooms. If a teacher who, in the past, has been too intimidated to bring technology to her students is trained on proper use of the Smartboard she may find herself slowly adding additional pieces of technology into her lessons. I think the Smartboard is an easy intuitive tool for teachers who want to learn more about using technology in their lesson plans.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Blog Post 5

Eagles' Nest Radio
Class photo of students in the podcast dressed as ancient Romans
This was adorable. I'm so inspired by how this teacher mixed ancient history with modern technology. There are so many different aspects. The kids really learned about Roman culture and had to form opinions about it as well as thinking of how they would have felt being a Roman. They also learned how to put together a script and create a podcast. Finally, they had to work hard to achieve such expression in their reading. I love that in the picture they're also dressed as Romans to add another dimension to the lesson.

The Benefits of Podcasting in the Classroom.
Joe Dale wearing a headset
This video showed two great uses for podcasts. First, podcasts are a great way to reach students who miss school. Instead of becoming stressed out about what they may have missed students can simply go to their class website and listen to the lecture from their home computer. This would also be a great way to give students extra information since it is in a media that they are already using. Giving students the option to listen to a podcast rather than read a chapter in their books will increase the number of students who prepare for class. Second, podcasts are great for project based learning. Students can act, read aloud and create all of which make for a more engaging learning environment.

Judy Scharf Podcast Collection
Judy Scharf
This post had a lot of great information for creating and teaching podcasts. The entire lesson plan was laid out including how much time was needed and what information was covered. Ms. Scharf makes teaching students to create their own podcasts not only feasible but fun. I cannot wait to try this in my own classroom. Students will be so excited to do a research project if they know it will be broadcast over the internet for their family and friends to see.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Blog Post 4

Don't teach your kids this stuff. Please?
Scott McLeod

Scott McLeod is the director of UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the co-creator of the "Did you know?" video series and the author of the blog Dangerously Irrelevant. In his post "Don't teach your kids this stuff. Please?" Dr. McLeod writes a satirical letter to those who fear technology in schools. I found this particularly timely as I was having a discussion with my sister-in-law about this very topic earlier today. She told me the highschool where she teaches color guard doesn't have wifi. Why? Because, as Dr. McLeod states in his post, "we can't trust them". Them being the students. Because there is a pervasive lack of respect for our students on a very basic level. There is this belief that we have to shield these high schoolers from the outside world. We have to make sure that we control every piece of information that they encounter. Plus, if we just ignore all this technology stuff it will eventually go away right? What happens when they graduate and go to college? They know exactly how to use the internet and their cell phones to plan a party and order a video game. They know exactly nothing about using the amazing power of technology to learn and create and collaborate.

The iSchool Initiative.

In this video Travis Allen, a high school senior, presents his solution to the budget crisis in his school district. He proposes a switch from physical media to electronic. The main tool in this being the apple iTouch. All textbooks, assignments, and grades would be accessed through this tool. Mr. Allen suggests that this would decrease costs by $600 per student and make schools greener.
I think this is a very creative and well thought out idea. Going green should absolutely be a major focus for our schools. It is a great lesson for our kids and important for our environment. The apps discussed in the video are innovative and certainly could increase collaboration and make the sharing of information between teachers, students, and parents much more efficient. However, I don't know if this is the best device for achieving these goals. I would be really unhappy if I had to read my textbooks on a 3.5 inch backlit screen. Our schools do need to increase their use of technology; I understand that kids know how to use the iTouch and the interface is incredibly intuitive but, I'm not going to write my blog posts or research a paper with it. In short, I like the theory but, I don't like the method. The same thing could be accomplished with laptops or netbooks that provide a larger screen and a full physical keyboard. The apps for grades, lunch menus and assignments could easily be replaced by a well structured school website with blogs for individual teachers.

The Lost Generation.
white text on a black background
Very clever. I think this is a great video. It made me think of how powerful thoughts are. If we believe ourselves to be powerless then we will never attempt anything great. This can apply to our students as much as us. If we as teachers stand by and say that the system is broken and we are not the generation to fix it then we will never realize our own abilities. If our students view themselves as a lazy inattentive generation that is exactly how they will act. We should inspire our students to believe in themselves and their generation.

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir.
a still from the video showing the singers
Well, if I wasn't intimidated by the amount of things I don't know how to do on a computer before I certainly am now. I can't even begin to think of the complex process involved in achieving the visual component of that video. I thought I was really doing something when I made my book trailer. What a creative use of the internet. This is a perfect example of what an amazing collaborative tool the internet can be.

Teaching in the 21st Century.
Have you asked them?
I think what this video is suggesting is that we can no longer act as though we are the source of knowledge for our students. We have to embrace that our students can get information anywhere. We have to change our teaching of facts to teaching of skills. Our students need motivation and inspiration more than anything else. We are responsible for teaching them what it means to be responsible citizens of the internet. We are responsible for showing them how to use the internet in a productive way. If we continue acting as though our students need us to give them information there is no way that they will or should take us seriously. We need to acknowledge where they are going for their information and show them how to focus their skills. Being a teacher in the 21st century means teaching our students how to figure things out for themselves and how to share the information they find with others.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An Excellent Day in EDU 301!

Today, in EDU 301, we had a visit from Ibiyinka Alao. Mr. Alao is the art ambassador of Nigeria. He gave a talk about his art and described a few of his pieces. He spoke about the importance of self expression through art. He also shared with us that he has built a school in Nigeria for refugee children some of whom were once child soldiers and the effect that painting has had on their lives. Mr. Alao's paintings, which can be viewed at his website, are vibrant depictions of life in Nigeria. We learned that in Nigeria visual art is usually accompanied by music and dance. After his talk Mr. Alao taught us how to create a simple landscape with watercolors. By giving us step by step instructions as well as encouragement Mr. Alao allowed us to create and learn while having a really fun class period. I feel really lucky to have been allowed the opportunity to meet Mr. Alao.

The Painting I made in class:
a watercolor landscape I painted in class today.

Mr. Alao and I holding the print I purchased. Mr. Alao had talked about this painting in his lecture and said he had painted it when he was feeling homesick for the warmth of Nigeria on a visit to New York. I really liked this because I always feel most homesick when I am cold. Even when I'm home and it is just winter like it is now I feel homesick for summertime.
myself and Ibiyinka Alao holding a print of one of his paintings

Saturday, February 5, 2011

C4T 1

Scott Elias of Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? is described on his blog as
Scott Elias

"a MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL and PHD STUDENT in Northern Colorado. He is a BLOGGER, PODCASTER, and TWEETER who hangs out at the intersection of social media and school leadership. He enjoys sharing RANDOM tidbits that he finds online, as well as taking PICTURES and even creating some VIDEOS. On certain occasions, he has been invited to PRESENT to unsuspecting audiences."

In his January 20th post he discussed his experience creating a new online presence for Conrad Ball Middle School. Along with some technical explanations on how he created the website itself he also shared how he got his school and the community on board with the project. Scott wanted a place where parents could find all the information they needed to stay informed about their children's school. In order to achieve this he had to gain support from his staff. To better reach parents he had training available for parents. Scott writes that both his teachers and parents were quick to embrace the new site. He encouraged feedback and suggestions and by listening to the ideas presented by his audience Scott was able to create a well organized easy to use school website that meets the needs of his school. I visited the website he created and found it to be incredibly well organized and easy to use. The website provides easy access to teacher's blogs, homework calendars, classroom policies and more.
Middle school is a time when students are pushing their parents away and parental involvement decreases drastically. I think that the best way to improve parental involvement is to make it easy, and make it unintrusive. By creating a website that allows for easy communication between teachers and parents it gives parents a way to stay in the loop.

Mr. Elias's next post, published February 5th, outlined his implementation of a staff blog. He created the blog as a way to cut down on meetings and e-mails. Teachers were encouraged to read the blog daily and Scott had their browser home pages changed to the blog. He found that the blog made it easier to disseminate information to his staff and increased his ability to promptly respond to questions and make corrections. This post is a good example of something I noticed about many of Mr. Elias's posts. Whenever he wants to change the way something is done in his school he first considers the obstacles he will face. He plans for training sessions and requires all of his staff to learn the new technology. The staff blog is now the only place where information that, in the past, would have been included in a mass e-mail can be found. Teachers who did not want to check the blog daily would have to subscribe to e-mail updates to the blog in order to stay informed. I hope, as a teacher I can use some of Mr. Elias's ideas on integrating technology to improve the efficiency of my classroom and maybe even my school.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blog Post 3

Michael Wesch: A Vision of Students Today
Michael Wesch
When I graduated from USA in 2008 I had never seen or heard of a smartboard. I never had an e-companion class or turned in a single assignment online. However, my class sizes were small ranging from fifteen to twenty people and since I was a Philosophy major with an English minor, most classes centered on discussion and writing papers. Coming to the College of Education was a total change. Every room has a smartboard and every class has e-companion. Every project or paper we complete is loaded to foliotek. We are expected in most classes to have a working knowledge of technology. Almost every class I have had as an Education major has been hands-on focusing on doing and then analyzing our experiences. The papers written are few and the use of text books is mixed with, or completely replaced by, online sources. The one class where I felt I was simply a number and I wasn't really getting hands-on experience was the on-line class I had last semester. The assignment, every week, was "Read the chapter, write a paragraph, complete a ten question quiz."
If I was to add something to the video it would be that sometimes the lack of technology is not as bad as the misuse of it. I would rather have a teacher who is passionate about their subject present interesting, challenging assignments on a chalkboard than have an on-line professor who offers no feed back, no thought provoking lectures and nothing even resembling a community of learners. How can we take classes seriously when they are the antithesis of the classrooms we are being told to create?

It's Not about the Technology.
Edurati website logo: A green apple made to look like a globe
Ms. Hines first point is that teachers must be learners. There are several reasons this is important. First, we need to keep up with how our students are using technology. If we lose track of how our students are communicating with one another and getting information outside of school we will lose our ability to reach out to them in their medium. Next, we need to constantly be perfecting our craft. We need to learn better ways to teach and new programs to give our students access to more information. Finally, we need fresh ideas to keep ourselves engaged; if we constantly teach the same lesson plans in the same ways we will lose our own excitement and our classes will suffer for it.
Her next point is that learning and teaching are not the same thing. Ms. Hines says "If an object does not move, no matter how much force has been applied, no work has been done. Therefore, if a student has not learned, not matter how much effort has been exerted, no teaching has been done." This is so well stated. Even if we have the best technology, if the kids are not learning from it we are wasting our time. As teachers we should constantly be assessing our lessons to ensure that they are effective.
The third point Ms. Hines makes is that technology is useless without good teaching. A bad, boring lesson plan presented on a smartboard is still a bad, boring lesson plan. Our students might be curious about new technology the first time they see it but if the teaching is not there the kids will soon lose interest. A good lesson plan can be enhanced by technology but does not rely upon it.
The fourth and final point Ms. Hines makes is that we can be good teachers without technology. As long as we are teaching our kids how to learn they will be able to teach themselves new technology as they come across it. If we nurture their curiosity they will seek out new challenges and new information. When we build on their critical thinking skills we are giving them the tools to overcome obstacles to learn new ideas. Of course it is preferable to incorporate technology to make learning exciting and expose our students to the world of technology but it is not, in itself, enough to make a good teacher. Computers, after all, are only tools.

Is it Okay to be a Technologically Illiterate Teacher?
Karl Fisch
In his article Karl Fisch expresses his frustration with a culture of technological illiteracy in schools. He describes teachers who are unwilling to learn. We cannot let ourselves fall behind and forget to be what we are trying to make our students. It is dishonest for us to stand in front of our classes and preach lifelong learning and then come up with excuses for not staying current in what may be the most pervasive piece of our culture. It's not impossible to teach well without technology but it is impossible to teach our kids to be technologically literate if we do not continue to educate ourselves on the subject. It is so easy to say that we do not have time, or we are just not good at something. It is much harder to get up the bravery to admit we do not know something and make a real effort to learn.

Gary's Social Media Count.
This table illustrates the point that the world of knowledge is expanding. Every second people are uploading new videos, and blog posts, and tweets. We, as educators, are responsible for figuring out what in this sea of information is important for our students. We are also responsible for teaching them to navigate the internet in a productive way. The table also shows how many ways people now have to communicate. Information now is more accessible than ever before. We can instantly know of new developments being made all over the world. This counter really shows that we have to embrace the ideas of being lifelong learners because the world is changing rapidly. The ideas of today will soon be replaced and we must teach our students to function in an ever evolving world.