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.