Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Final Blog Post #15: Video Reflection

Here is my final reflection on EDM310. It's less than ten minutes. I know that for a fact. I'm a bit of a rambler, but I hope I managed to make some sense. I also had a little bit of fun playing with the captions and whatnot. Haha! Enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Final Report on My PLN

PLN Education

About halfway through the semester I wrote a very long post about my current PLN and how I was going to use Symbaloo (or was just starting to use Symbaloo) to make my PLN more manageable. As you can see from the picture above, I am currently using Symbaloo as my aggregator and it's helped tremendously cut down on the time I spend searching my bookmarks for my different email accounts and such. Now I have order where once there was chaos. My PLN is at peace.

It's still constantly growing though. I have my basics like the EDM class blog, Blogger dashboard for my blogs, my emails, Google Docs, Google Reader, Facebook, YouTube, news, Twitter, and miscellaneous others on my Main page that I like to call my Education Page. Those are the links that I check constantly throughout the day so I can stay informed, and they're the links that I look at first thing in the morning when I wake up and the last things I check before I go to bed at night.

PLN Personal Sites

My next page for my PLN is titled My Sites, and it's links that are more for entertainment purposes or outside of the education field. I have a link to the USA website, PAWS, The Vanguard, YWS, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Hulu, IMDb, movie theaters, my bank, and other random stuff. This page is secondary to my Main page.

The links that I have tied to buttons on Symbaloo are the ones that I use daily. It saves me time to have them within easy clicking distance. Now, whenever I find an interesting site that I may enjoy but might not use everyday, I add it to my bookmarks and if I ever need to look at it again, I have it there, but it isn't cluttering up my Symbaloo pages.

PLN Bookmarks

Having an aggregator like Symbaloo really helps in the long run. With all of the blogs and sites that I've had to keep up with over the semester, I've learned that staying organized and having my PLN in order will save my butt in the end. Not only that, but it's way more efficient. And I love efficiency.

Final Project

Screenshot of EDM310: Student Aggregator
For my group's final project, Kashondra Rudolph, Heather Beverly, and I decided on creating a Facebook group that all EDM310 students can use to connect with each other and to stay on top of the classwork. It's called EDM310: Student Aggregator. So far, it's been a huge success and I'm so happy to see that my fellow EDM peeps are so enthusiastic about the group and are using it. It's especially awesome to see our project used to showcase their projects. The group will be available for the upcoming EDM310 students in years to come, and we'll all be able to stay connected and help each other on our technological journeys. This class has been so much fun and I hope to continue the fun times and use what I've learned in my future career as a teacher.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

C4T #4 Summary


Website Wednesdays sound like fun right? It sounds like a party on the web, and if you're a teacher following Ann Carnevale's blog, it might just be something of an event for you. This time around the Comment for Teacher's block, I was assigned her blog, Bits 'n Bytes, and chose her most recent post of Website Wednesday to comment on. In those posts, Ms. Carnevale shares links to websites she believes will be useful to teachers. This post had links to Mathwire Blog, Mathwire, a storytelling website, and a few links to help teachers explain what happened as a result of the earthquakes in Japan. I was happy she gave the links about Japan, because I think it is essential to keep students in the know about what is going on. It's cruel to leave them in the dark, but if we can help them understand, they will feel a sense of obligation to act properly about the problem.

Unfortunately, Ann hasn't posted anything new on her blog since her last Website Wednesday. So, I had to go back in her archives and find the next most recent post to comment on and I chose YouTube in the Primary Classroom. Other students from EDM310 have already posted comments on the post, but I wasn't deterred. I was sure I could say something positive that would be completely distinguishable from theirs. In her post, Ann provides elementary teachers with some great links to YouTube videos and channels that would be usable additions to their curricula or lesson plans. One link is about learning vowels and another is the Between the Lions channel (which I love. Who doesn't like talking lions that live in a library?) There were a few more links that she listed and I was happy to note that all of the comments she received were positive and thanked her for the links, even though the majority were fellows of mine. Haha!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blog Post #13

Blue Spider Web

It lists the standards that need to be met by students and gives lesson plans for each standard. The standards are for each grade level and are marked with indicators to tell teachers which standards are often tested by AHSGE and other tests. It's a great addition to a PLN for any teacher and it's available for each subject area, not just English and Literature Arts.

In addition to lesson plans, there are web links that take teachers to outside sources of information about the standards. If a teacher has a class blog and posts the assignments on it, then the links would provide another boost to the lesson plan by giving the students more information about the subject and objectives. This is a great tool and shows how much is out there in regards to material, media, and the like for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Accessing the information is as simple as going to the ALEX website, which I linked at the top of this post, and then selecting the area you wish to explore. Not only are there lesson plans, but there are podcasts, a personal workspace, professional learning area that has all sorts of links to grants and other special opportunities for educators, and Alexville which is community of ALEX educators and professionals. It's pretty much the bomb.

One of my personal new favorite links is the site http://www.readwritethink.org and I know for a fact it's going to be a place worth my time in the future. The entire website ALEX is a great resource, and I am super glad that I know about it now. I'm for sure going to use it when I have to write my thesis and do some other lesson plans for another class. Now I can't wait to get started on those. That isn't sad at all. Many of the objectives that are covered by ALEX and for which lesson plans and media is available, I know I will have to cover in my future classrooms. It's great to know that there is already literature available that has been proven to be effective and that I know will be a great addition to my curriculum.

This website is run by the Alabama State Department of Education. As quoted from the document describing the ACCESS plan in detail, the vision, mission, and goals of ACCESS are to implement the long-distance learning across Alabama and usher us into the 21st Century classroom.
The State of Alabama will provide through ACCESS Distance Learning equal access to high quality instruction to improve student achievement through distance learning opportunities.

The mission of Alabama ACCESS Distance Learning is to provide an infrastructure that delivers equitable, quality learning opportunities for all high school students.

The goal of Alabama ACCESS Distance Learning is to provide equity through additional educational offerings for all Alabama public high school students.

On the site, there is a wide list of resources under the Resource tab that are specifically geared toward helping teachers find usable material for the public school classrooms. There are links to ALEX, and a myriad of other sites that will prove to be invaluable resources for teachers of all subjects. There is also information for students about using the ACCESS program to take classes they might not otherwise be able to take. There are test-preps for the AP exams. On the whole, the ACCESS site seems to be a well-thought out attempt on the part of our state government to boost the public school system technologically and to jump-start learning.

As for me, that fact that I haven't heard anything about the ACCESS program since it was introduced in 2004 tells me that it might not have been such a great success as it was hoped. I don't know. That's just my opinion. When I was in high school (I graduated in '09) I didn't have the choice to take online classes or video classes. Maybe it was because I wasn't in one of those "hard to reach" areas. In any case, I hope this program does work out. On the surface it seems beneficial, if a bit confusing.

Summaries C4K #7, #8, #9, #10

For my Comments for Kids number seven, I was assigned to Mr. Clung's post about Skyping in his classroom, Skyping w/ Mr Webb, despite him not being an actual 'kid.' Which is fine. His blog is cool, and his posts are too. In the post, Mr. McClung, who I have already "met" by way of blog post #9, details the experience his class got by Skyping with Mr. Webb's class located in New Zealand. He described the excitement the kids on both ends felt from the experience, and I can't blame them. There is just something so futuristic and thrilling about making a Skype video call. It must be the Star Wars nerd in me, but I can't help but feel like a Jedi sending holographic messages, or like Princess Leia calling Obi Wan for help via hologram inside R2D2. It's just neat. Skype is a great way to connect with people across the globe, and best part--it's free! I hope that Mr. McClung's students get to Skype again with other classes. The experience will definitely be worth it.

For my eighth such post on the blog of a student, I was assigned to the blog of Chelsea and luckily she had a rather great post for me to comment on! Chelsea is a student at an International Baccalaureate school in Adelaide Hills, South Australia, and her teacher is Pam Thompson, Learning Technologies Coordinator. Chels's post on lacrosse caught my eye and I was impressed by her sports savvy. She asked her readers what their favorite sports were, and of course, mine is football. I liked soccer well enough when I played it, but I don't think it can count as my favorite sport.

For my ninth comments for kids, I took a look around Mrs. Yollis' third grade classroom blog. The videos that Mrs. Yollis has on the blog are very useful and I appreciated the one about commenting since I had just made one last week for my project #14 video. I love to see that other people, and not just myself, are so interested in maintaining a grammatically correct and positive atmosphere comment-wise. It really makes me see red when I see a sloppily written comment, especially if it's in response to another student's post. It just seems to defeat the purpose of actually commenting in the first place.

Mrs. Yollis' class blog is not as "difficult" to maneuver as Mr. McClungs, but I understand why it needs to be simpler. She is dealing with third graders. I don't blame her. She's very professional about the blog and monitors the comments which is a great idea. It never hurts to be safe. Because our class has been commenting on her blog and her student's posts, she's even featured us in a shout out on her homepage! She's also started commenting back. Isn't it great how blogging can connect people from opposite parts of the world?

WWF Build-a-Bear Wolf

A student in Mrs. Yollis' class was my tenth Comments for Kids post, and her name is Adia. She's one of the students who wrote us a letter that Dr. Strange posted on our class blog. The post that I commented on was about Adia's new blog mascot. Her mascot is a monkey named Angel Face, and Adia created Angel Face at a party at Build-a-Bear. Angel Face loves karate and a bunch of other stuff, so Adia created a slideshow of pictures featuring Angel Faces doing all of those things. It was adorable. She inspired me to find a mascot for my blog (my personal one) and make a slideshow too! One of the reasons Adia has her own blog, Adia's Babble Blog, is because she follows Mrs. Yollis' rules and is a consistently great blogger. I can see great things in this third grader's future. Her grammar and syntax is spectacular. That is something that I respect most highly.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Final Project Progress Report

Some of Facebook's gifts, as displayed in the ...Image via WikipediaThis is the project we've been working towards all semester, and surprisingly enough, it's finally almost here. It feels like just yesterday (to use a cliche) that I was timidly and excitedly embarking on my journey into classroom technology. Amazing how the time flies, isn't it? Anyway, as to the status of my final project, I have to admit that it isn't quite formulated yet. It's hard to decide what to do. It's even harder to find something that will encompass all of what we've learned and put it into a form that will hopefully be used to further the educational journeys of other would-be teachers like us.

I've toyed with the idea for a while of making a video with the lab techs making cameos (cue Jamie Lynn's dancing) and showing incoming EDM310 students that the lab isn't a scary place. No matter what Dr. Strange may think, he isn't that scary. And I wanted to make a video with me and my group mates breaking down the initial barriers of hesitant students. It would be cool. But I was talking to another group and they had already started planning something like that, so I tossed it out since they seemed to have a better "handle" on the situation than I did. I didn't have anything set in stone.

Then I got the wild idea to create a Facebook page for EDM310. There are already a few, but this one is going to be for ALL of EDM310 not just a single class or year. I want to make Dr. Strange a moderator and have some admins that of course will change according to who the lab techs are. That way, students can keep up with what's going on in the class on the their phones (admit it, you have the Facebook app and you check it every hour. We all do.) Especially if we can somehow connect the class blog RSS feed to the page. That way when Dr. Strange posts one of his random blog posts about our lack of metaphorical grasp or a special assignment and we aren't near our computers, we will get the update when we check the statuses of our friends. Easy peasy.

Now, I know the idea isn't too revolutionary, and it's bound to be tweaked and maybe even changed between now and the due date, but I like it. I think it will have some place in the future of this class. It's just another addition to our PLNs. And isn't that the entire point?

So there you have it. My progress report on my final project. It's not pretty and neat yet, but it's a start. And we all have to start somewhere.

Another idea that just randomly popped into my head was to sing a song (like that rap Dr. Strange played for us the first day. Or was it the second day?) I have some talent writing things and I like to think that I'm a good singer, but odds are I'm not. That's your cue to say I sing like an angel even though you've never heard me before. Now, I only mention this idea because I like to keep an open mind and lay everything on the table from the start. It's most likely going to be scrapped in favor of the Facebook page idea. I like that one better since it doesn't involve me singing in front of other people. And then recording it. And having it played over and over and over again. Forever.

Let's forget I even mentioned that idea. Now I'm going to do some research and see if Facebook is the right kind of media connectivity thingy that I want to use. We're already required to use Twitter, but often it's easy to forget to check that since it's new. Facebook is fairly well-ingrained in us by now. But I foresee Twitter booming in the next few years. It's only a matter of time. And then it will get it's own movie. Haha.

To sum it up:
Idea: Facebook Page
Purpose: To provide a unified method of checking on the class blog, to provide a forum for students to ask questions, to provide a thread for students to connect outside of class and collaborate.
Implementation: Will be created within the week. Will have lab assistants as admins. Dr. Strange will have admin power also. The group will be open or set to semi-private so that members must be invited. This could be included as a requirement at the beginning of class, or either a massive invite could be sent out via class gmails so that those with Facebook accounts can join the page.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Project #15

I chose to make a book trailer for this project, and by now, my choices in books should be easily the most obvious things ever. Anyway, here's my book trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blog Post #12

Stanford UniversityImage via WikipediaPrompt:
What inspires you?
Is it something tangible?
Watch this video of Steve Jobs as he addresses a graduating class at Stanford and tells them three stories about his life to inspire them. He talks of love, joy, and life and doing what you love. Your time is limited, so don't get stuck following someone else's life. The video is inspirational and addressed to college graduates so it should be easily applied.

Steve Jobs ends the speech with the admonition, "Stay hungry. Stay foolish."
What does that mean to you and how can you apply that to your future as an educator?

My Response:

Finding inspiration is like a journey down a twisting trail in the mountains. You never know what will be around the bend, be it a deer or a rock. It's hard to say exactly what inspires me, but I know that some of my inspirations are as tangible as the keyboard beneath my fingers. My family, my friends, even my pets are all what drive me to succeed and keep going when I'm sick of it. I can just imagine how disappointed they would be if I failed, or at least, I believe that would be disappointed. In reality, they may not be. It's hard to know those things for sure. But that doesn't mean I don't still want to do my best for them.

Other inspirations are less easily defined. They may be a sunset or a chilly day. A slowly falling leaf or a drop of rain. Such things are acts of nature, and I find that I'm especially susceptible to those acts. It may be the artist in me, but some days I have this overwhelming inclination to sing or paint. Other days I'm morose or sad, but drawn to writing in a fury of ideas. It's amazing how something seemingly mundane can flick the switch of inspiration in my soul.

Steve Jobs illustrated some wonderful points about life. It's hard to let someone down, as I've already said, but hardest of all when it's your family. The idea failure is difficult to stomach. But if you aren't happy, it is your obligation to find your happiness and follow where it might lead. For Steve Jobs, his joy led him to a successful career at Apple and gave the world the personal computer! I'd say following his happiness led to a whole bunch of us being happy.

"Stay hungry. Stay foolish." The words made me thoughtful as he said them and I almost didn't notice the video had ended. I started to think about staying hungry, and how it could apply to life. Jobs means for us to keep our desire to learn more, to want more, to fight for more. If we become satisfied with our stagnant lives, we'll become lazy and laziness doesn't lead to great discoveries, or in our cases, excellent teachers. We have to continue to push the envelope and expand our own horizons in order to make progress in education. It isn't enough to say, "I've become a teacher, and now I shall teach them what I know. No more, no less." No. Being an educator of young minds means having the ability to realize that what you know is not enough because knowledge keeps shifting and expanding.

I didn't quite understand Jobs' telling us to be foolish, but after giving it some thought, I came to a rough conclusion. In order to "stay hungry" you must be willing to make some mistakes. In our society, mistakes are the fool's to make. But if we are too careful of staying within the lines, we'll never do anything new or exciting and our hunger will fade. We must remain at least a little foolish. It is the foolish man who fears not the ridicule of another. To teach, you have to be open to skeptics but remain unaffected by them or else they'll dissuade you from your own dreams.

Fear keeps us firmly in the past. It mocks us at it ties us to what we know and expect. You have to be open to inspiration coming from the oddest of places or else you might miss your chance at success. Don't miss out. Keep your hunger and leave your inhibitions in the dust. Don't let your fears keep you from living the life you want to live. Don't take any day for granted, because it may be your last.

Like the lines from the song "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack,
"I hope you never lose your sense of wonder./
You get your fill to eat/
but always keep that hunger."

I hope you dance.
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blog Post #11

Spiderman vs Mavis BeaconImage by jimray via FlickrMrs. Cassidy's first grade class has a lot going on. They know how to blog, make videos, use the internet and class webpage, make Wikis, Skype, and comment on blogs. They know how to stay safe on the internet and maintain a "nice" atmosphere through use of positive comments. They even worked together with Mrs. Cassidy to create a YouTube video showcasing all that they have learned in her classroom about technology.

Those kids are professionals at the age of six. Looking back on my own experiences with technology at that age, I can say that I'm fairly certain I didn't even know what the internet was. My family had a Gateway computer, but the most I knew how to do with it was to put CDs in and play Mavis Beacon to learn how to type. And I knew how to play Minesweeper and Solitaire. That's about it.

These days, as Mrs. Cassidy pointed out, technology is so rampant among our youth that trying to teach them without the use of computers and the like is like cutting off one of their limbs. They feel lost. Quite frankly, I can't blame them. You can't turn on the TV without seeing a commercial for some new touchscreen phone or another that does some new awesome thing like facetalk or high speed internet music downloads. It's insane.

I'm glad Mrs. Cassidy is aware of the need for technology in the classroom. She may only teach six-year-olds, but those kids are already on their ways toward being technologically literate, and in some cases, have far exceeded adults in that capacity and journey.

As I don't plan on teaching elementary school, I had to think for a minute about how I would implement some of Mrs. Cassidy's methods in my future classroom. I've been thinking extensively about blogging for a while now, especially after doing the post on Mr. McClung's blog, and I think it would be a worthwhile endeavor to have a class blog that acts as a portfolio for my students. I'm going to teach English, so there will be no shortage of material to post. It would also be a great way to get them involved with dealing with outside criticism and also would allow them to branch out and explore writing media.

I don't have the details planned out yet, since I'm still a few years away from actually implementing this blog idea, but I'm definitely going to keep it in my thoughts. It would be a good experience for the students, which is what learning is all about, I think. I don't want to remain firmly in the old style of teaching. I want to push the envelope a little, maybe a lot, and contribute to the teaching revolution. If I can emulate Mrs. Cassidy in this respect, I would be very happy. She seems to have found a niche and has learned how to maneuver the technological boundaries quite well.

The fact that Mrs. Cassidy has the support of her district technology man is awesome. It's always nice to have someone in your corner that can help negotiate around the speed bumps. And let's face it: there are some horrible speed bumps where technology and the classroom are concerned. Budget, time, old attitudes, and red tape litter the road and often that's enough to stymy anyone.

However, if we continue to work together through our teaching networks, I hope that we will be able to enact change from the inside that will lead to a less hassling journey. Realistically, I think it can happen. Just look at how far Twitter has come in a few years. Look at Facebook. Look at Blogger. Look at any social networking site, and you'll see that people are joining together for all sorts of things, education included. And when enough people start raising a fuss, the big dogs are going to have to listen. It's only a matter of time.
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Special Metaphor Assignment (Blog Post #14)

Charcoal PencilsImage via WikipediaDue to the tricky nature of metaphors (sometimes), Dr. Strange has assigned this post as a response to his response to our responses to John Spencer's post that uses the metaphor of pencils in place of computers/technology to respond to the existence of resistance to said computers/technology by some education professionals. Wow, that was a mouthful. Glad I only had to type it, not say it. Otherwise, I'd be here all night. Here are the questions Dr. Strange asked us to answer:

Why did you miss the metaphor in Tom Johnson's post, or, if you "hit the nail on the head, " why do you think you understood the metaphor?
What metaphors have you encountered since I asked you to create a log of them? (Include in your list of metaphors all those that you encounter whether the source be oral, audio, video, print, or your own thoughts)
What other things can we do as educators to help our students to understand and to use metaphors?
Why do we use metaphors?

Of the questions, the last is the easiest for me to answer. Metaphors are used to put a concept into terms that someone can understand. Problems arise however, like they did with the pencil post, because the metaphor is not one that is commonly used. Often people used metaphors without even realizing they are in fact speaking metaphorically. Human communication is rife with metaphors. When someone says, "It's as cold as ice in here," they don't mean it is actually 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below. They are simply using the phrase "cold as ice" to add emphasis and explain how cold it is. We understand the metaphor because it makes sense, and we know ice is cold, and if someone says that, they must mean it's not a normal temperature.

But why do we use metaphors? I like to think that it's because people are natural story-tellers. Why say exactly what we mean, when it's so much more interesting to spice things up with a metaphor or ten? See what I just did? Yeah. I used a metaphor. We can't help it. Metaphors, as a writing device, are exceptionally useful to reach wider audiences. If you are writing a book about...screwdrivers--go with me here--you want people to read the book, but also understand what you mean while you're telling them all about the history of the screwdriver. If, for instance, the screwdriver was invented, not as a tool, but as a weapon, you might want to use the metaphor "it cut through the muscle like a hot knife through butter." We all know butter is easily melted, so it stands to reason that a hot knife would slice butter very well, and anything that was said to do that to muscle must be very good as a weapon. (I know that was a weird use of metaphors. Forgive me.)

Since I started at the bottom, I am going to continue going up the list of questions. SO, question three: how can we teach metaphors? What a question. I say use metaphors to teach metaphors. What better way to learn what a metaphor is than by example? As a future English teacher, I'm going to have to teach metaphors, or how to spot them, in my classes, so I like to think I have a pretty good handle on the topic. But then I thought about it some more, and I realized that teaching metaphors is like trying to teach a dog when to bark. They already know How, they just need to know the When and the Why. That all comes down to a person's mental capability. They have to have the ability to stop, look at something, and peel away the layers until the metaphor becomes clear. Dogs know how to bark. It's natural. Just like everyone knows how to use metaphors. Often, we take that knowledge for granted and miss the obvious clues in front of us. Maybe those people don't have a sense of humor like Dr. Strange proposed, or maybe they're thinking too hard, or not thinking enough. But the cues are there. We just have to learn when to bark so we don't annoy the neighbors or let a burglar steal all our stuff.

As to whether or not I understood the metaphor about pencils, I can't really remember. I think I got that it was a metaphor, but I might not have taken the step towards computers/technology like Dr. Strange wanted us to make. In fact, now that I think about it more, I know I didn't get the metaphor. I interpreted it a bit differently, and more along the lines of "teachers who are stuck on the grades and test scores" way of teaching students. To tell the truth, I'm not really surprised that's what I read and understood. It's a topic that isn't far from my mind at any given time. High stakes testing is a sore topic with me, and I can argue for days about the so-called benefits of standardized testing to students. (I don't believe there are any.) And if you head on over to my response to that post right here, you'll see my opinions in full.

Now to summarize. Metaphors are everywhere. They happen without us trying to use them, and sometimes when we do want to use them. Metaphors are useful for making a topic that is hard to understand, easier for someone to grasp in terms they can relate to. When a metaphor is used properly, it can enlighten readers. When it isn't, it can lead to further confusion. Often the misunderstanding of a metaphor is not due in any part to the misuse of the metaphor itself, but merely to the expectations of the audience. Prior knowledge and information about the subject being described metaphorically is needed in order to fully grasp the concept.

As to why I and a majority of the class misinterpreted the metaphor about pencils and computers, well...I don't know. It is a conundrum to be sure.
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Project #14 Teach Someone Something

For this project, I created a video using Powerpoint and AVS screen capture. The video is teaching someone how to write a good comment on a blog post by using what I call the Comment Sandwich. In the credits, I know it says I used a song from The Return of the King soundtrack, but after I uploaded the video I had to change it due to copyright, so the actual song used is My Immortal by Evanescence.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blog Post #10

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...Image via Wikipedia1. Morgan Bayda's link to Dan Brown's video about the eventual death of the educational institution got me to thinking (and laughing.) What if he's right? What if the institution is on a death spiral and it will eventually cease to be relevant to today's society? He made some good points, and I could see where he had given this a lot of thought. Information--facts--are free, and more than just without a price, information is "liberated."

If you want to know something, you don't have to ask someone to teach you. You can find out for yourself with Google. It's easy. The internet has opened the door and in a way, is waiting for us to catch up. While I, like Ms. Bayda, won't go so far as Dan Brown did and quit school (I quite like learning from others), I have to admire his initiative. He took his education into his own hands when he wasn't satisfied with what he was learning in the traditional way.

However, I think that if we can combine the two--self-motivation and the classroom--the problems Dan outlined would cease to be of issue. The good thing about Dan is his desire to actually learn. Unfortunately, while we as teachers may hope our students share his interest, the hard truth is something much less attractive. Students often don't care about learning, and it's hard to get through to someone who refuses to have an open mind about their own education. They just want to get in and get out with the minimal amount of effort or interruption.

The truth is sad, it's true, but watching Dan's video oddly enough gave me hope. Instead of watching education slip into the void, perhaps we can thrust it back into being a worthwhile endeavor. Maybe by using some of Dan's ideas and by encouraging students to explore and find topics they are interested in learning about, we can stop the education slippage and reverse any damage that the frozen-in-time system has done to the image of the educational community. It's worth a try, at least. What harm can come of it?

It is because of my reaction to this video that I feel a strong connection to Ms. Bayda's response. We both came to some of the same conclusions and I realized that while I may "enjoy" some of my traditional lecture classes, I much prefer my online PLN to learn and grow. I can not only talk to people with the same ideas as myself or read about what's going on in the educational community (like I'm doing right now on Morgan Bayda's blog), but I can take the reins on my own education. I'm not hindered by those expensive text books that, like Dan Brown, I find that I never open. I'm free to explore and make my own decisions about what is important for me to learn. Is it so crazy to think that's a good thing? I think it's only natural considering the vast amount of information and knowledge available to us today via the internet. It'd be crazy not to use it, quite frankly.

2. Don't Let Them Take Pencils Home made me laugh, and despite how easy it is to make me laugh, I wasn't laughing because I was amused in a "happy" way. It was more of a "wow, it's hard to believe (but I can't help but believe) that some people are more worried about test scores than learning" sort of amusement. If that makes any sense. I think what I mean to say is this: there are the image type of teachers and then there are the student type of teachers.

Mr. Johnson clearly illustrated the two types, both polar opposite of the other, in his narrative about something as simple as letting students take their pencils home. His description of the long-titled Gertrude being upset about the "wasted" pencils calls to mind the image of Dorothy's stingy neighbor, Miss Gulch aka The Wicked Witch of the West, who begrudges anyone anything and hates all things cute and irregular. Mr. Johnson portrays (hope he'll forgive the allusion) Glinda the Good Witch, who is always willing to work with others and try to make the world a better place, in this story, one pencil at a time.

The simple idea that pencils at home are the gateways to lower test scores and silly behavior (The Wizard forbid they play Hangman!) is just plain ludicrous to right minded individuals, or so you would think and maybe hope. The raw fact remains though that there are a frighteningly real number of people in the educational community who think like Gertrude. They see only the numbers, the raw facts and tangible proof of student successes, like test scores, and the mere mention of anything that might affect those scores--no matter how trivial--will throw them into a fit of outrage.

As a future educator, I know that in all likelihood I will have to deal with someone like that in my career, and since most of those types are often in positions of power I will more than likely have to bow my head in some sort of submission in some way or other in the future. I know that while test scores are still held up on a pedestal, they will still be viewed as the right path. It's undeniable, try though I might to dissuade the believers in high stakes testing from their set ways. I'm going to have to make compromises, though I doubt they'll be for something as simple as a pencil.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

C4T #3 Summaries

Thomas Edison's Patent Application For an inca...Image via WikipediaMy first C4T#2 comment post on whatedsaid's blog (appropriately called whatedsaid), was on her (one other commenter said "Edna" so I'm assuming "ed" is a female. Pardon me if I'm wrong to assume) post about Has your educational philosophy changed? [She]/Edna/whatedsaid commented on the overall change teachers undergo after years of experience. She went further to include the responses of one of her friends Mr. Barry, a teacher in Nunavut, Canada, to questions about his growth and experience as a teacher.

His responses reassured me (because I've already established I'm somewhat of a worrier), and made me use my imagination to envision myself after 10 years in the teaching battlefield. What will I have discovered about myself? What will I being doing differently or not at all? Will my PLN be so HUGE that I'll need more than just Symbaloo as my aggregator?

All of those questions are thought-provoking and something that perhaps I will have to think about more fully in either the near future or sometime after that. Right now, I'm just glad that there are experienced educators out there like whatedsaid and [her] friend Mr. Barry that are still encouraged to broaden their own horizons.

The second comment I left on Ed's blog was on her post about concept driven lessons. Today we will be learning about... illustrated the use of something Ed called "provocations". Provocations are lessons that take the student out of the traditional role of listener and note-taker and into the role of fact and idea finders. They comb through artifacts, articles, the internet, and listen to accounts of stories told by other teachers about their ancestors or something, and then they are asked the following questions about what they found.

What do you notice?
What do you wonder?

The student responses are actually quite in depth and thought provoking of themselves, and it sounds like the provocations led to some good discussions in class. I was really happy to read this post and I thanked Ed for the idea. I might just want to do this in my future classroom. It sounds fun and nifty. And I might get to tell that story about my six-times great grandfather who invented the first incandescent light bulb before Thomas Edison but didn't get the credit because of the Civil War. Yep. That would be fun.
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Special Assignment: Mr. McClung's World

Doctor Strange (photography)Image by ZHEPER Studios | TJ Czeizinger Jr. via Flickr1. In the construction of his blog, Mr. McClung has been very thorough in providing cool details, and yet also necessary components for visitors. His running tally of blog visitors and their locations is neat and I like it. The entire appearance of the blog is neat and orderly, which makes for a pleasant visit and aides in people of all ages being able to navigate the blog. He welcomes visitors and comments (on his Welcome page) and that is a very nice touch of warmth to the often cold world of the internet.

Everyday I try my best to bring high energy to my classes. I keep students engaged through a variety of teaching strategies that focus centrally about team/partner work. I believe that it is hard for every student to learn from traditional teaching methods (eg. notes, lecture, and homework nightly). I try my best to keep things as fresh as possible and FUN for my students.
I encourage all visitor to browse around our class blog and check out the variety of media that we have available, and as always, please feel free to leave us a comment….we ALWAYS enjoy hearing from our audience.
That is a quote from the page titled Mr. Clung. It's obvious he cares deeply about making learning fun and open for everyone to experience. Which is awesome and highly commendable as qualities that a teacher should have. He encourages visitor participation, which should in turn encourage student participation. It's a fairly well-known fact that giving attention to someone is a great way to ensure that they will try to improve or to further impress you. By putting his students on a larger stage and showcasing their work, Mr. McClung is actually encouraging them to do their best and be enthusiastic about learning.

3. Mr. McClung's first rules came as I expected them to be. They're very general rules for a classroom. 1) Be enthusiastic in class. 2) Don't just sit there, communicate. 3) Listen actively. Those rules are pretty standard and I know they'll be the first things on my syllabus when I'm teaching. But in addition to the basic rules Mr. McClung has additional rules, or rather, behavior modifiers. He requires his students to follows directions quickly, raise hand to speak, raise hand to leave seat, make smart choices, and to keep him happy. Those five are also rather simple and necessary in the long run for a successful classroom.

However, it is Mr. McClung's other classroom quirks in the form of procedures that gave me pause at first glance. Gestures? Class-Yes? Teach-OK? Hands and Eyes? Scoreboard? They seemed like silly additions compared to the first rules he laid out, but after I digested them for a moment and my brain recovered from the stun, I realized that the things he proposed to institute in his classroom were perfect for a middle-school classroom. They give order to a crazy existence, while still making it fun. Kids secretly want rules. I was once a kid, and I was relieved to have the rules as a script for how to act in certain situations. Upon second look, Mr. McClung's rules about using gestures to talk and to "teach" other classmates about what they've just learned is a great way to keep the kids active and engaged. It's so easy just to write something on the board and make them write in their spiral bounds notebooks, but as Mr. McClung has already made clear, he doesn't want to stick to the boring same-old same-old. He want to actively engage students and make learning fun. His Class-Yes and Hands and Eyes procedures require students to pay attention so that they are never left behind in his high-energy classroom. Plus, the Scoreboard part allows kids to participate and work for rewards. It's like a game. A learning game. That's wonderful.

4. Everyone needs a planner. I'd be lost without mine. I've been using a planner since I was in high school, and back then it was the center of my life. I once thought that I had lost it, and I freaked out because I knew it held my entire life between it's plastic covers. I think that the planner should be the first thing on any student's list. It should actually be their first purchase when preparing for the school year. It's best to start each school year with a new, fresh planner so you can begin with a seemingly clean plate. It's like a new page in your life. Using planners takes practice, but once you get used to it, you will make life so much easier on yourself. It's easy to forget about things when we have full schedules with school, practices, church, home, etc to worry about. We don't really know how busy we can get until we forget something because we didn't write it down. It's very smart of Mr. McClung to require his students to keep a planner. These days I use the planner on my iPhone, but sometimes I find that it just helps to actually write my appointments, classes, meetings, etc down in a traditional paper planner just to get them out of my head and somewhere that I can see them and not worry about forgetting any of them.

5. Mr. McCLung's policy on late-work seems fair. It's pretty standard for what is expected from most of my college classes. Homework assignments should be turned in on time, since you have so much time out of class to do them. Getting them done shouldn't be a difficult task. However, forgetting the assignment despite having been reminded about it and being told to "write it in your planner that I require you to keep" seems a little irresponsible and the consequences that Mr. McClung lays out are what I consider to be fair. Especially since he tries not to give homework in the first place.

Compared to Dr. Strange's late-work policy, I'd say they're about even (except Dr. Strange like using bold and italicized exclamations of "You will get a D or an F if you fail to turn in one assignment on time.") We're required to honestly record when we turn in our assignments and we are given an entire week to do them. We have the entire resources of the lab and lab assistants as well as Dr. Strange for help and guidance, so turning in assignments late is more of a personal issue I think. Our class is mainly web-based, so we need to have a certain amount of self-motivation and consequences to propel us to do the work on time. I have no problem with the policy, to be honest. I like it. But then again, I also like following set rules. Maybe that's just me. I also like the thrill of danger I get when it gets close to the deadline of midnight Sunday and I just posted my last blog post Saturday night. A whole day ahead. Yes.

6. Mr. McClung's World is his method of "driving" education and providing a visible link between students, parents, and other teachers on his journey through education. It's part forum, part exhibition, part outreach, part news, part update, part resource, and a bunch of other things, but mostly it's a way to connect all of these different things into one whole that can be enjoyed and used by a large number of people.

In my future teaching position, I hope to employ some sort of technology (most likely a blog) to make the learning experience more enjoyable for not only myself and my students, but also for the parents. Many parents feel out of the loop when it comes to how their children are doing in school and the only connections they have are newsletters, report cards, progress reports, and sporadic PTA meetings. A blog like Mr. McClung's provides a channel for parents to participate and not feel so alienated from their children's education. If I was a parent of one of his students, I'd feel appreciative of him for access to the blog. That way I wouldn't have to stalk my child on Facebook. (Yes. I'm talking to you, Mother. Love you.)

7. For the Useful Links page, I was naturally drawn to the more English teachery links like Plagiarism Checker (love that link!) and OWL: APA Formatting website. Both of those are something that I feel very strongly about and I applaud Mr. McClung for including them in his Useful Links. Everyone should have these bookmarked. I do! Basically, with the Plagiarism checker, students or teachers can copy and paste the selection of text or an entire essay they wrote, and find out if anything is directly copied, aka plagiarized. Of course, there are going to be exceptions like for quoted text, but if those are attributed correctly using AP Style like shown on OWL, there shouldn't be any problem despite the checker saying so. The OWL website is handy dandy for the essay and research paper besieged student. High school English teachers require that students learn or at least know how to use AP Style guidelines when writing research papers, and since it's a little tricky to remember everything, this website is perfect for quick references. The fact that these two are included in the list if further testament to Mr. McClung's desire to make his blog a place where learning is top priority.

8. Internet Safety is of top priority when dealing with children and students in particular. If you are going to be using the internet for classes, you have to protect the students because you are liable for any danger they are put in because of it. Mr. McClung's rules are very thorough and I think they cover the variety of issues that can come up with great aplomb. I can't really think of anything else to add to his rules, but I do think that he was right in laying down rules in the first place. We all know that just like the world, the internet is a dangerous confusing place, even more so for naive teenagers or preteens. Not giving personal information is a great preventative for identity theft and for stopping "bad guys" from being "creepy." It's best to err on the side of caution when mixing young people with the internet in a classroom setting.

9. The post I was assigned for C4K was filed under the Main Page, and the other posts included the videos for the talent show and Mr. McClung's return to full-time teaching after his student intern left. Returning to something after a hiatus is always the worst, but I'm sure he'll get going soon enough like he said. He described it as getting back on a bike. And you know the old saying: It's like riding a bike. You never forget how. Anyway, I thought it was nice how he was looking forward to getting back in front of the classroom with his students.

10. Humm. Edublog does seem pretty nice. Mr. McClung's World is a great blog and I like the way it is set up. Everything is easily found and I especially like the search feature. I think I'd like to have that on my blog as well, since lately it seems like I've been posting tons of stuff. It'd be nice for visitors to be able to find certain posts without looking at the entire selection if they don't have the direct link to the post they are looking for. Although, on Blogger, the archive gadget that we have is pretty good at navigating through the posts by title and month. If I ever have a blog as massive as Mr. McClung's though, I would definitely want the search gadget.

11. I think I may have already answered this question in a few of my other answers, but I guess I can just recap and reiterate what I've already said. The blog I've been describing in a fair amount of depth is contrived to be a tool for not only students, but also parents, other teachers, administrators, and visitors to enjoy and experience easily. It hosts a list of links, and acts as a sort of exhibition of the works of students and Mr. McClung in the field of education. It's a one stop shop for all of the above and more. It's entertaining, helpful, and informative. All three of those things together makes one heck of a blog. The best my blog can claim is possibly entertaining and maybe informative. I don't know about helpful. (Cue laughter.)

12. Some of the other blogs I've visited seemed to be more student centric, if that makes any sense. It was more of an outlet for students to post weekly responses to prompts or the like. There was some information about the teachers and the schools and each student, but unlike Mr. McClung's, they didn't have much more than that. Mr. McClung's blog is more of a website plus the journal aspect and the posts are mostly done by himself. There is the section of Student Work, but it is only one aspect of the blog site. There is so much more to it than that, and that is what makes the blog so interesting: the diversity. It encompasses a great deal which is why it's a good resource for students, teacher, and parents.

13. I took into consideration the fact that Mr. McClung has only been teaching three years, and I find that I'm seriously impressed with what he's been able to accomplish with his classes and his blog. However, while exploring his blog I did manage to find a disconcerting amount of grammatical errors. If he would like me to detail them for him, I will, but otherwise, since he's a history teacher, I'm sure his audience will forgive him. I did. It would be different if he were an English teacher. Then I would question things. As it is, the offer still stands for the grammatical read-thru.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Project #12 (Interview over Skype with my sister)

This is the interview I did with my sister about homeschooling versus public school education. I thought it would make a nice discussion, but I hope to have another interview with Mrs. Paula White up in about a week. She was my original interview target, but due to time and scheduling, we couldn't do it this week. But keep a lookout for it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Summary for C4K #4, #5, and #6

Memorial "Bridge of Rememberence", C...Image via WikipediaFor my fourth Comments for Kids post, I commented on another blog from a child in New Zealand. Recently in the news I've been seeing a lot about the earthquake that hit the city of Christchurch, and Makalita's most recent blog post was about the earthquake. She wrote about how the suffering in Christchurch made her sad and that she wanted to help the people who lost their homes. She wants to make the people happy again. I was touched by her post and thanked her for being so caring. It's always a pleasure to read about the world through the eyes of a child. They have a way of reminding us that life isn't always about the numbers or the physical representations, but also about the invisible fabric that knits us all together as humans--empathy.

My fifth Comment for Kids post was on a seventh year student named Athena's blog. Athena is a student at Pt. England school in Room 21, and is taught by Mrs. Lagitupu. Athena wrote in her latest post that she wished to improve her writing and reading abilities. I told her that was a wonderful goal and commended her on her objective. I also introduced myself and gave her a little background on me, like my major and why I was so proud of her for wanting to get better. As a future English teacher, I find it rewarding to hear about students who care enough to vocalize--or in this case, write--about their want to learn how to improve themselves in school related activities. When some kids are behind in certain areas, they often give up, but Athena voiced her desire to read and write better than she does now. She really impressed me. Plus, her name is super cool.

My first comment on Mrs. Phares' 4th grade blog was on Gordon T.'s post about bullying in schools. He offered some great ways to combat bullying and try to stop them from being bullies, and I was impressed with his reasoning behind his alternatives and suggestions. Bullying has taken a sharp turn up in recent years with the advent of cyberbullying, and with all of the news lately about cases of bullying gone wrong, I'm not surprised Mrs. Phares prompted them to write about bullying and how to stop it. It's a great idea to get kids thinking early about the effects of something as serious and potentially harmful as bullying. I told Gordon that I thought his post was great and commented on how to handle being bullied. Either way, the issue isn't going away, but at least it's being discussed and considered. That's a start in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blog Post #9

1959 Series LogoImage via WikipediaI once had a nightmare where I was one of Jaw's victims and the camera was angled under the water from the point of view of the shark. I heard the chilling dum-dum, dum-dum, dumdumdumdum, duuuuuuum as the shark edged closer and closer to my kicking legs and then suddenly...I wasn't in the water anymore and instead of a shark...there were high schoolers.

And I was the teacher about to be bitten in half. Shrieeeeeeeek!

Needless to say, that dream terrified me for a day or two, and I thought about changing my major until I realized those kids couldn't possibly catch me on land. I'm a pretty fast runner when confronted with shark-people.

Anyway, when I read Mr. McClung's blog post about his first year teaching, I had another flashback to that nightmare, only it wasn't as terrifying as I had remembered. Since that awful night and two days following it, I've come to the realization that often my fears are unfounded.

All the silly fears that plague me are often just that--silly. I'm not going to say that I'm not a little worried about if I will do a good job of teaching those future students what they need to succeed and move on in their lives, but I can agree that Mr. McClung's discoveries are some that all teachers have to make at some point or another.

Control is just an illusion.

As someone with plenty of experience trying to control everything in her own life, I can tell you that being in control does not mean you're being productive or making yourself or anyone else happy. In fact, you might just be doing more harm than good.

If you expect too much out of someone--least of all yourself--you will always end up disappointed with the outcome. That's no way to live life, much less teach. Mr. McClung is right; no one is perfect, not even ourselves. So how can we expect our students to get everything right if we don't adjust our expectations for their successes to reasonable goals?

Truth? We can't. Sometimes if expectations are set too high, people don't even bother trying. It's a fact.

One of my biggest fears deals with my students not listening to me. I fret that I won't be heard or that somehow I'll start speaking in tongues in the middle of a lesson and never know it. (Fortunately, I think that last one might have also been in a dream, so it's possible it might never happen. Right?)

Yet, even as I worry about not being heard, I remember what it was like being a student--it wasn't that long ago, although it feels like forever--and that same fear pervaded my thoughts back then. Will my teacher hear me? Will what I have to say be heard?

Mr. McClung stresses communication and listening, as do I, because those things are vital in the two-way street that is education. Sure, it would be cool if students were capable of hearing something once and able to regurgitate it back whenever they needed to. Realistically however, we know that never happens, and if it did, it would be like an episode from The Twilight Zone and that poor kid might end up in a laboratory somewhere in Area 51. (Geez, I'm dramatic today.)

As teachers, we have to be willing to listen to our students and to adapt our teaching practices to better suit their needs. I think that of all the professions in the world, teachers should be foremost in adaptability and innovation. Apple should be coming to us for cool ideas for projects. We should be the ones making executive decisions on committees or lounging in the Oval Office. (Yes, I am saying that an educator should run for president. Who else thinks this is a good idea?)

Education is a field that is steeped in learning, at least last I checked, and as such, it means educators have an obligation to stay at the forefront of not only subject matter relevant to students, but also technology that is currently in use. It's not only beneficial in keeping the teachers up to date on trends and student concerns, but also keeps education from being dated. This goes back to Mr. McClung's first point about reading the crowd. You have to know what is effective and what isn't in order to get through to people, and to make the lessons "student centered."

It's the 21st century people. Time to up the ante. We don't have all century to be where we should be already. Just saying.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blog Post #8

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase1. Dr. Miller has a point. The limits and restrictions are largely ones that we put on ourselves. This applies not only to writing and teaching, but also to life as a whole. In his videos, Dr. Miller addresses the changes in writing and how printed text has slipped to the wayside. I've noticed this with my own alarm since, like Dr. Miller, I grew up around books and I loved to read the printed word, but also like Dr. Miller, I recognize that in order to make what we write applicable and visible to the world, we need to change our writing pedagogy.

He goes further to state that writing needs to be "fundamentally different" in the way it is presented to society. It needs to be beautiful, compelling, have auditory detail, and value in a world where things are always changing and nothing remains constant any longer. We already know that information is constantly updating. It's hard to ignore.

In order to use Dr. Miller's ideas of writing in the classroom, we have to be able to understand what we are teaching. Composing works using the web is slightly intimidating, in part because it isn't what we know. However, the novelty is appealing to me. I want to be one of those inspiring teachers that Dr. Miller calls upon. I desire to create a pedagogy for the new kind of writing. I just don't know how. I don't think that will stop me though. As long as people like Dr. Miller are talking about it and searching for ways to improve upon the old methods, I feel like there is hope for a writing revolution. Don't you?

2. After watching those two student produced videos (both starring Jamie Lynn), I gained a new appreciation for what can be done in this class. How? Well, I've become used to making "videos" of myself--my sentence, project 11, and the group presentation--but those were all videos that had prompts and I knew what needed to be done. It's easy to do something when the knowledge of what you should do is already given to you. It's something else entirely to use your creativity to create a video out of thin air or your own ideas.

This post kind of forced me to step out of the comfort zone of knowing and into my head for a while. I had to sit and think about what I would make a video about and who that video would be geared to benefit. What would I want someone else to make a video about that would help me? That question motivated me to come up with the idea of making a video that welcomed students to EDM310. It's not quite the same as the EDM310 for Dummies video. Instead, it is about the lab and showing new students that coming to lab and asking questions isn't scary. Initially, the lab was a scary place for me. I know. Jamie Lynn, Allie, Anthony, and Stephen aren't that intimidating, but the very idea of doing all of these new things with technology is enough to frighten the staunchest of students.

I'm not afraid to admit that I used to be one of those students who would rather suffer not knowing how to do something in silence rather than ask someone for help. I wasn't proud. I was just afraid of being judged for not knowing. Of course, now as any of the lab assistants will tell you, I'm not shy about asking questions anymore(Stephen Akins in particular since I bug him to death when I'm in the lab).

I want to be able to reassure those other students who may feel the same way I did at the beginning. My video will show them that they aren't alone and shouldn't be afraid. Plus, I want to enlist the aid of the lab assistants since they're all pretty funny. I like funny. And if I can get Jamie Lynn to do her Napoleon dance in the background, I think it would be a great way to break those students out of their shells.

Like the videos for Chipper and EDM310 for Dummies illustrated, you just have to get out there and start working towards your technological goal. It's easier when you have help and ask questions, but you won't get very far if you don't try and want to succeed.

3. Learn to Change, Change to Learn. The title of the video pretty much says it all. Students today are interacting on a global scale. In my own PLN, I talk to people from all across the globe. One of my best friends lives in Canada. We talk almost everyday. This wouldn't be possible without the use of Skype or Facebook or in a larger sense, the internet. The connections I've made help me to grow not only as an individual but as a learner.

That's what this video is all about. One of the educators made the point of classroom versus community. If we can somehow incorporate the developments in technology into the classrooms, the classrooms themselves will only become a physical receptacle of a community, and possibly a global one. If we allow students to use the technologies to expand their learning environments and reach, we will be allowing them to exercise their abilities. They will be synthesizing what they know and sharing it with others enabling their own growth and in turn learning from each other.

A classroom that acts more like a community sounds like exactly what we need. Doesn't it?

4.When time and money are concerned, I think anyone with half a mind would perk up and pay attention. I sure did, so you can all assume I have at least part of my faculties. Before I begin my assessment of the videos and my reactions accordingly, I would like to say this: I love the RSA Animation hand. Okay, I've said it. Time to move on.

The first video by Professor Zimbardo called The Secret Powers of Time hit pretty close to home with me. I'm the friend that people have and point to when I walk by them on my way to class--I'm a good friend, don't get me wrong--but I'm the friend who is always "too busy" to hang out or do anything fun. I'm constantly scurrying from task to task with a cup of coffee in my hand as I try to finish everything before it's due or exactly on time. Sometimes I wish there could be either more of me or more hours in a day so I can get everything done to my standards. Of course, my standards are an entirely different topic altogether. Often I'm so tired by the end of a day that I fall into bed only to realize that I didn't do anything but work all day long. What kind of life is that? I suppose Professor Zimbardo would describe me as one of those Future Planning types. I'm always thinking about what would happen and what I have to do to get to a certain point that I often miss out on the present.

I'm not the only one though, as I've noticed. As a society, we as Americans tend to work more than we relax. We have to, or at least believe we have to, in order to pay for our extravagant lifestyles or pay tuition for our three kids. Everything is expensive these days, and that ties in to the second video by David Pink, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, where Pink discusses the trend of motivation in the workplace. Money is stressful, and making money more so. We have to have enough of it to provide the basics, but we want more so we can afford the extras life has to offer. But in work, we all reach a certain point where the reward just isn't worth the effort. We hit the wall and fail to reach that higher pay grade.

Pink does a good job of explaining the facts using studies done in America at MIT and across the world in India. The results were the same. Higher reward does not mean better performance. If anything, I would think that higher rewards would place added pressure on people to do well and pressured people often do not perform at their best. Stress makes them less likely to succeed. Know what does work though? Fun. That's right, just like Dr. Pausch said. Having fun leads to great things. Sometimes all it takes to come up with a creative solution to something is to take a step to the side and relax. Without the added pressure of "I have to succeed!" people let their minds and inner creative children play without fear of failure. It is when that happens that revolutions take place that end up leading to success.

Taking both videos into consideration, I have come to the conclusion that classrooms need to learn to incorporate these two discoveries. I've already said before that I think we need to spice up learning with a little fun here and there, but how can we apply the monetary aspect? We can't pay kids to go to school (although it might work in some instances), because just paying them won't make them want to learn. They'll sit there and count down in their heads the hours, minutes, and seconds until pay day and all thoughts of learning will remain firmly in the teacher's head.

So what can we do? Well, I've never been a big fan of grades. "WHAT?!" I hear the great teachers in the sky yell as they turn over in their graves. "She can't be SERIOUS!" Oh but I am. Grades are so old-fashioned. Like Professor Zimbardo mentioned, kids these days are living digital lives and can't think on an analog, 2-D level anymore. Some try, but as soon as they're out of the classroom they're back on their phones or ticking away at a keyboard like I am right now. It's a fact. The world is changing. Grading needs to change as well. I think that a newly updated type of assessment is needed to motivate students to try to learn. It's not like we can just open their heads and dump the information in like Freire's banking method of education. And technology hasn't advanced quite far enough that we just plug ourselves into the network and download what we need and want. Although that would simplify things some and effectively get rid of teachers forever. Hopefully we won't go the route of The Matrix until after I've retired and lived a long and happy life as a teacher of young minds ripe for English knowledge.

Well, now that I've considerably startled you all, I will end this post/rant. And just realize that by no means are grades the ONLY way we can adjust the education system to fit the needs of this new breed of students. That was just the example that fell out of the sky into my open head.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Project #13

For our group's Smartboard project, we decided to do our presentation on dinosaurs because they're super duper cool. I think that was our exact logic. Anyway, due to some confusion in the actual presentation time slots (our group was totally signed up first, by the way), we had to perform our teacherly duties solo and without the acute presence of another presenting group. Personally, I was a little sad. Regardless, I think we did pretty well despite no audience other than you delightful web viewers and the fact that one of our group members was MIA. (She had a good reason, but we still missed her when it actually came down to presenting the project.)

So, I'm not in education to be an elementary school teacher. I want to teach in high school. Preferably kids that know what I'm saying when I'm using certain largish words. It was hard for me to bring my vocabulary back down to a 2nd grade level. Also, I am not a science major. I'm an English and literature major. So...another strike against the topic. However, the majority of my group--three out of four--is in elementary education, so I felt like it wouldn't be fair to make them do a presentation about grammar and how to write the five paragraph essay properly when you only have 45 minutes. Besides, everyone likes dinosaurs. The Land Before Time was one of my favorite movies as a kid! I loved Littlefoot.

I had fun though. Using the Smartboard was so cool. It was like a big giant touchscreen. Kind of like my iPhone, but way bigger. I liked it. I would have played with it more than just during our presentation, but we had to vacate the room we used before a class later that evening. Also, my Mom was making spaghetti and I was hungry. The stomach wins over playtime every time.

Without further ado, I give you our very long lesson (17:30) about extinction and dinosaurs. I had to split in half because of YouTube video length policy, but it's okay.

Part 1:

Now proceed to part two to see the finale!
Part 2:

For a short time only, here is a quick survey to rate our efficacy at using the Smartboard to teach a lesson. I would appreciate any responses. Thanks!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Project #11 Movie

Here is my movie featuring myself reading "The Tale of the Three Brothers" from J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard! Enjoy! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blog Post #7 The Last Lecture

The poster for Pausch's "The Last Lecture...Image via WikipediaWhile I watched this video (Yay! I watched it in one sitting! Are you proud of me Dr. Strange?), I was taking notes and laughing. Dr. Randy Pausch epically encompassed how I want to live my life. He achieved his dreams and made lasting memories. His legacy is one of fun and excitement for learning. It is one of my dreams to leave a legacy at least half as fulfilling.

Not only did he accomplish his own dreams, but he worked hard to help other people achieve their own dreams. He gave his students support, believed that people can surprise you, wanted to give others a chance to make other people excited and happy about something. He never set a bar of achievement in his classes, instead he left the goal open to expansion. That is a fundamental difference between adequate teachers and extraordinary teachers. Adequate teachers are satisfied by a certain result and don't push for anything more. Extraordinary teachers--like Dr. Pausch--are always asking the students to go beyond their expectations and to surprise them with the results. Sometimes you get something that you never dreamed was possible.

Pausch made the point that the main goal of teachers should be to make students self-reflective. I couldn't agree more or I'd be him. One of the most critical jobs of an English teacher--any teacher really--is to create within each student the desire and ability to look at their own work and see what is good about it and what needs to be improved. Once they figure that out and have a handle on it, your job as a teacher is so much easier. The self-reflective student is capable of not only taking your criticism and guidance and putting it to good use, but is also able to evaluate their own progress and take themselves to the next level. When that happens, you know that you've accomplished something of some worth. You've helped them to value their own input in life.

When you're screwing up and no one is bothering to tell you, it means they've given up.

That pretty much sums up the learning process. How can anyone expect to learn anything new if they are stuck in the old patterns and no one will tell them? They can't. It's as simple as that. You have to be willing to take the criticism and guidance before you can actually excel, but most importantly, someone has to also be willing to criticize you and give you that nudge in the right direction. Dr. Pausch delivered that point through lens of football, but since I'm more of a literary thinker, I related the principle to writing. When I was in high school I wasn't what one might call a "great" writer. I could write well enough, but what I produced was middle-grade material that I could count on to earn me a B or sometimes an A. Suddenly, I was in college and my Honors Composition 105 teacher challenged me to write in ways I had never considered before. I had to change my way of writing to do well, and what resulted was my rebirth as a writer. Dr. Becky McLaughlin was my nudge and she called me out on my limitations.

These days I can't get enough of writing. I write for The Vanguard, I write for class (most of my classes are writing intensive), and I write on my own for fun. Yes, for fun.

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

We're all going to have days where we feel like we've hit rock bottom and we couldn't get any lower, and then the next day comes and things get worse. We get humbled by these days because they remind us that we're not infallible. It is those times of defeat that we gain the experience we need to keep rising to the challenges we may face. Dr. Pausch lists a few ways to get people to help you. Word hard. Never complain. Apologize. Show gratitude. Look for the best in everyone. Be prepared. Be earnest. Tell the truth.

All of those things he listed are the traits of a great teacher. We can't afford to be stingy, lazy, whiny, proud, withdrawn, blind, liars. Those attributes don't make good teachers, and they certainly don't make a nice person.

But perhaps most importantly, we need to remember Dr. Pausch's overall message: Have fun!
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Monday, February 28, 2011

C4T #2

IMovieImage via WikipediaSee Mary Teach

My first post on the blog of Mary Worrell was on her post called Does the suite make the teacher? Basically, the post delves into the topics of teacher attire (aye-yaye-yaye! Not the business suits!) and the safe use of the internet in classrooms, especially in regards to teacher and student communication outside of the classroom. The topics were very interesting to me personally since I've been wondering lately if I'd have to revamp my entire wardrobe in the next two years (arguably something that could be either fun or horrible) and my current interest in the use of technology in the classrooms. Miss Worrell is currently in The Netherlands and she discussed the attire of teachers there versus teachers here. First: teachers there can wear whatever they want. Second: They're accepted as professionals based on their abilities not clothing. I told Miss Worrell that I thought her points were very insightful (maybe not with those exact words) and thanked her for her thoughts. It's always nice to hear about how things work in other countries, no? I think so. Her other discussion about the "appropriateness" of internet use in class and communication between teachers and students grabbed my attention as well. It is a very hot issue. With careful use of filters and some ground rules for communication, I'm sure that those sort of things can be prevented.

For my second comment on Ms. Worrell's blog, I chose the post called Giving myself room to learn...and my film-making debut. In this blog post, Ms. Worrell describes the process she went through in order to create her first movie using iMovie. Since I also had to do the same thing only a few weeks ago, I felt a connection to her post and realized as I read that she had some of the same apprehensions and realizations about iMovie that I did. Initially we were both hesitant and unsure about the creation of a movie. Just the idea of making a movie sounds hard, but we both soon came to the discovery that iMovie takes all of the hassle and difficulty out of the equation. I ended up having fun making my sentence movie. In my comment on the post, I shared my experience and thanked her for the affirmation of my fears and also for the shared relief. It's amazing how something like the discovery of such a connection can make me feel better about my own insecurities when it comes to new technology.
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