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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PLN Project #10

4 Faces of Personal Learning Network (w Tools)Image by catspyjamasnz via FlickrProgress Report on My Personal Learning Network:

Before EDM310, my PLN consisted of various websites about writing and books in general, with the odd dash of shopping sites and such. Oh, and you can't forget Facebook; it was my one personal connectivity site other than Young Writers Society. Most of my educational contacts were with my teachers and my advisors and we definitely never talked via Facebook. The only communication I had with them outside of class time and office visits was through email. And even those were few and far between. These days my PLN has expanded so rapidly that--as I stated in one of my earlier posts about PLNs--I have a hard time keeping track of everything.

I also had the slight problem of not knowing exactly what PLN stood for. I know, I know, I should have tried to find out, but I made the rather dumb assumption that I would learn it when I was meant to learn it. I never said I wasn't a procrastinator. However, I know now and I can say that knowing does make defining my own personal learning network a bit easier. (Save your sarcastic comments for the end, please. Thank you!)

I've started to expand my usage of Twitter to include not only education based followees, but also people (like J.K. Rowling and Taylor Swift) who interest me. Twitter is one of the first sites I check when I wake up.

My greatest addiction in my PLN is checking my Google Reader. I have all of the blogs and websites I'm following added to the aggregate, and it really helps cut down on the page-hopping I had to do earlier.

On a side-note, I'm pretty sure I have the largest list of Bookmarks ever. Before I figured out how to use the Reader, I bookmarked all of those sites and I would have to click on each one and travel to it to get updated on what was going on. It was a headache. These days it's all in one spot and I couldn't be happier.

Also, I just recently started using Symbaloo and I have to say that I adore it. Not only is it super cute with those colored squares (and acceptably orderly according to my OCD), it is a great way to separate my educational sources and network from my personal sources and network. I have separate Webmixes for each, and now I can easily navigate between my two worlds.

I am free from world collisions!

One of my favorite aspects of EDM310 are these blog posts. I love them. I love blogging so much that I started my own blog not related to this class! Maybe I just like writing about myself and my thoughts, but blogging has taken up a significant portion of my life since the beginning of the year. No complaints here. The beauty of blogs, like the one we have for EDM310, is that they allow us to expand our reach and connect with other people on a deeper level. Well, for the most part anyway. And they are constant additions to our PLNs. Cha-ching!

Anyway, I suppose one could say that my PLN is strong and growing each day. Take today for instance: I just followed two more blogs and four more teachers on Twitter. At the rate it's expanding, I don't see any slack in growth in my future. That's probably the best thing about PLNs. They never stop making you mature. Whether you like it or not. (But I like it.)
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blog Post #6

Student Using an Interactive WhiteboardImage via Wikipedia1. Dr. Drexler's video brought up the question of teachers in a networked classroom experience. I think my favorite teacher title that was listed was "Network Sherpa." Teachers won't disappear with the expansion of technology. Quite the opposite actually. Are people born with the innate ability to know everything themselves? I didn't think so. You have to be taught how to tie your shoes, so it only stands to reason that a teacher will necessary in learning how to create and navigate your own Private Learning Network (PLN).

Up until I'd watched the video (which will be provided later in this post), I didn't even know what PLN stood for, and I'm an education major! So, it's fairly a given that I needed a teacher (Dr. Drexler) to inform me of my right to a PLN. Speaking of my PLN, this blog post is just another addition to mine. Yep. I'm expanding my personal learning network simply by typing this response. If one were to look at my Google Reader, a ginormous list of blogs and feeds that I am following would threaten to overwhelm the looker's senses. Seriously. I'm obsessed with the Reader. In fact, I just added another feed about an hour ago. How's that for PLN boosting?

As for my future role in the lives of students, I hope that I will be an awesome "Network Sherpa." At least in the sense that I try to help my students create and actively enlarge their own personal learning networks. Who knows, someday they might be the ones writing blog posts about their responses to a video about PLN's? With the advancements in technology and expansion into education, anything is possible. And here's the video, as I promised.

2. As soon as I saw the next video assignment, I said, "Oh no, not another acronym I'm not acquainted with!" Thankfully, I'm a fast learner and I had PLE (Personal Learning Environment) down in a lickety-split. I love learning new things, don't you? Anyway, the video that this student created about using Symbaloo to organize her PLN into a working PLE was very well put-together. I even got the itch to organize all of my PLN "stuff" into the cubish PLE illustrated by the student.

It was just so cute. However, I ultimately learned that sometimes it isn't enough to just have a PLN; having a way to access it easily and organize the information you collect is also necessary. Using an organizer like Symbaloo allows you to arrange certain websites, articles, blogs, or other things into categories and streamline the whole process. I was impressed by the seventh grader's grasp of the technology and its applications. She sounded professional and I like to attribute some of that professionalism to her development of a PLN and a PLE to give order to it.

I can see the allure of organization. As of this moment, I have so many bookmarks that I get a little overwhelmed by my own PLN at times. I just have so much stuff that I think I will implement an organizer. I believe my scattered brain will thank me.

3. When examining the topic of Smartboards, it is apparent that there are some mixed feelings in the education field about their effectiveness and true value to teaching and student learning. The two posts I read Why I Hate Interactive Whiteboards and Why Smartboards are a Dumb Initiative argue that the boards cost more than they are worth. One point was about how they are just an obvious and tangible purchase for a school system that they can point at and say "Look, we're improving ourselves." While that may be true, and I can see the merit in such an argument, I think that if teachers actually make an effort to change their teaching pedagogy, that the boards might prove worth the costs. One blog post that I read that supported the use of interactive whiteboards was Using our Smartboard is Getting Better and Better on the Langwitches blog. Silvia Tolisano enjoys her Smartboard and says that "Introducing the SmartBoards have been a great success so far, exceeding expected teacher AND student involvement, engagement and interest."

Another, much more lengthy and research based article, I read on my own examined the use of Smartboard technology among teachers in Australia and concluded that the success of Smartboards in revolutionizing and engaging students lay with the active and enthusiastic participation of the teachers themselves. The teachers have to be willing to learn the software and to incorporate it into their pedagogy as well as lessons. Also, directly related to student interaction and growth was the fact that if the students are more involved in using the whiteboards instead of watching the teacher lecture or use a PowerPoint, they will be more likely to pay attention and learn.

My belief is that if we can find a way to balance the costs with actual use of the whiteboards, I think that we'll be on the right track towards bringing education into the 21st century. I agree that the purchase alone of something as impressive sounding as an interactive whiteboard is not enough to bring us to that point, but perhaps if we use those tools to their fullest and develop student centered teaching methods, we will usher education in the right direction.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Project #9b Timetoast: Walt Whitman Biography

Because I am an English major, I decided that  Walt Whitman ,one of the foremost influences on American poetry, would be a great choice to create a biographical time line for. Using Timetoast is fun and as I did my research using my handy-dandy American Literature book, I had fun taking snippets of Whitman's rather interesting life and applying them to the project. Since I did a biography, I had to cover the basics--name, birthdate, childhood, career, death, etc.--and I also wanted to make the time line interesting so I added the pictures of Whitman and the various newspapers and poetry books he wrote. Whitman is a fascinating guy, and his growth and life as a writer is inspiring. Despite early criticism for his poetic style, Whitman is now considered the quintessential "American poet" that he always strove to be. In particular, his expansive poem, "Song of Myself" that was added to a later version of Leaves of Grass, is a sprawling written testimony to the American spirit and consciousness. He left no rock unturned in his exploration of what it meant to be an American. His use of free verse is in a way a testament to the inherent free-spirited ideology of the common man and each citizen of the United States. I hope that you enjoy this little excerpt of literary history and possibly gain a new appreciation for poetry and the writers who suffer for their art.
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Monday, February 21, 2011

C4K # 1, 2, 3 Summaries

Auckland, New ZealandImage via WikipediaThe first comment I did was on Eli Y's blog post about iTouch apps that he liked. It was from Mrs. White's fourth grade class in Crozet, Virginia. Mrs. White is super nice and we're following each other on Twitter now so I get updates on her class and such. (She said she liked my profile picture, so she's cool.) In any case, I was impressed with her class's blog and at how advanced they are in the fourth grade. Especially with Eli's knowledge of applications for the popular Apple technology the iTouch. I hadn't heard of most of those apps he listed, Angry Birds being the exception. It's amazing. When I was in fourth grade I was worried about the kickball game at recess and if they were serving popcorn chicken at lunch. My interactions with portable media technology was limited to my Mom letting me play snake on her cellphone or my brother allowing me to play Donkey Kong on his Gameboy.

My second comment for this month was on Mr. St. Pierre's class blog and more specifically on a student named Daniel's post of a poem he wrote about sports. I thought it was cute and left a little note about sports that we both liked and gave him the link to my blog so he could leave me a comment back if he wished. This class was also fourth grade, although in New York this time, and I think I'm starting to see a common denominator. Haha!

So, taking a break from fourth graders, I was given the opportunity to comment on the blog of a fifth year student from Pt. England School in Auckland, NZ. Her name is Cheyanne. She had posted a This is Me post with a picture of herself in her classroom. I introduced myself and my reason for posting on her blog. I told her that I want to visit New Zealand at some point because I had heard it was beautiful, but that I live in Alabama and I gave a little description of Alabama weather (aka the humidity). I also expressed my belief that her use of a blog in Mr. Marks' class was great and a step toward her own technological literacy. Although I didn't use those exact words. I'm not sure fifth graders are up on the terminology we use in EDM310 and I didn't want to confuse her. Anyway, I hope that she comments back on my blog or on her blog. It would be great to establish a repertoire with students across the globe.

In total, I think the fact that there are so many teachers working with their students to acclimate them to blogging and using the tools available through technology is heartening. Personally, I was lucky in elementary through high school if my teachers took my class to the computer lab to type up a report once a year.

The only way I gained the computer and tech skills that I have today is because my parents made sure I learned how to type (Mavis Beacon, anyone?) and bought one of the first personal computers that was available to the public: Windows 98. I can still hear the faint sound of the dial-up connection to the internet and the media packets that came with the now outdated computer, where I danced to minute long clips of the Go-Go Girls and other songs. I learned how to type on that computer. I learned how to navigate the Start menu and install programs--mostly learning games--onto the then massive hard drive that now can fit inside my phone. As the technology advanced, my parents made sure I was exposed to it. We had a VCR, a video recorder, a DVD player, a stereo, another, faster computer, finally leading to laptops for my siblings and myself, cellphones, and the list goes on and on.

The thing about technology isn't that it's important. No, it goes farther than that. Technology is the embodiment of innovation. If we examine technology throughout history, the things that were so revolutionary back in our great-grandparent's time--radios, television, telephones in your homes, air conditioning--are old news and taken for granted today. We can't stop expanding, can't stop pushing the envelope. The problem that I have come to discover is that we often fail to realize that while we are advancing technologically, we are stuck in other ways.

Education being one. I know I've probably beat this topic to death in some of my other posts, but I still feel like I have a point to make. Just think about it. If we educate our students using the newest technologies and find a way to incorporate said technology into our classrooms, just imagine how much further we can go if they aren't working their adult lives away trying to catch back up. The idea isn't too crazy, is it? I don't think so.
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blog Post #5

The logo used by Apple to represent PodcastingImage via WikipediaMr. Dale who runs the blog Integrating ICT into the MFL Classroom, posted a very useful video on pod casting. He gave some great tips on how to use podcasting in the classroom to boost student interest. For example: creating podcasts of lectures and posting them on iTunes for students to use (something my high school chemistry teacher did, and I loved), and having the students create their own podcasts to facilitate more project based learning. Both of those things are very important, and according to Mr. Dale, by using the podcasts the students will also be reaching higher levels of thinking on Bloom's taxonomy. There were some links to other websites with videos of students making podcasts. In one, the students are actually teaching their teachers how to create podcasts. It was great to see the students so excited about learning something new and about teaching it too.

Another great website is the Education Podcast Network or EPN (which kind of makes me think of ESPN for educators and students.) On the site, you can find all kinds of podcasts for almost any subject, and you're pretty much guaranteed to find something that can help you. If you're a student or a teacher, the EPN site is a definite help. Being the English major that I am, I quickly found the English and bookish podcasts, and a podcast with one of my favorite authors (Meg Cabot) as the guest. So I listened to it. In the future, I probably will find my way back to listen to more of those.

Curriki has some great tips and videos for how to get started creating your own podcasts. There are also some great ideas for projects and a rubric for grading the podcasts created by your students. I'm definitely going to bookmark this website. In my future English classes, I hope to be able to create interactive podcasts with the students acting out the parts of the characters we are studying, or perhaps for me to record myself reading the works and making comments on what I've read. I think it would be a definite help to the students in the long run. Sometimes it's just hard to understand something if you just read it for yourself, but as soon as your teacher (in this case me) starts to go over it, the meaning clicks.

My group's podcast--which I have posted on my blog--was not as hard as I had originally thought it was going to be. We recorded it using Audacity and then uploaded it using some website that I already forgot the name of (sorry Stephen). But it wasn't that hard. Okay, I admit that we did have a little trouble figuring out how to convert from the Audacity .aup file to the .mp3 file, but in the end, it was done and it all worked out. I even enjoyed making it. Quite a lot actually. I'm most certainly going to use podcasts in some way when I'm teaching. I think there are a lot of benefits.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Wonderful Contest

Old booksImage via WikipediaUnfortunately, I didn't win the last contest I entered. But maybe my luck will be better this time around. And because I'm super duper nice, I'm going to give y'all the link again. Also, it gives me three more points to blog about it, so really I'm just being selfish. However you want to spin it, the fact remains that there are some awesome prizes for fellow writers such as myself at the end of this contest.

I've been following the YA Lit Six blog for about a month now, or so I think, and I initially found it through one of my writer friends whose blog I am also following. (Do you see a trend here, because I do.) Here's the link to Kelsey's blog. She's a great writer. I can't wait until she gets published and I know it's only a matter of time until that happens. Seriously, I've read her manuscript.

Anyway, I don't have much more to say about this. Mostly because I want to finish entering the contest but partly because I'm hungry. In any case, wish me luck!
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Project #8 Podcast Tech Literacy

My group debated, or rather discussed, technological literacy as it pertains to teachers in the 21st century. You will probably have to turn the volume WAY up, sorry about that, but I recommend using earphones. You can hear us better. Of course, that is assuming you want to hear us. Anyway, hope you enjoy our little conversation (okay, it's not little), look out for monkeys on computers!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Project #6 This is My Sentence

This is my wonderful video (cue laughter) that I have decided to post here for you people to view. As you can see, it is in response to Daniel Pink's belief that each person should have a sentence to guide them and define his or her life. And this is mine. Just a note: It took me forever to post the video, and not because I didn't know how. I simply couldn't remember my YouTube password. Thankfully, Stephen Akins was there to save the day and remind me that my password was the same as my gmail. Yeah, it was funnier if you were there. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blog Post #4

Back to the FutureImage via Wikipedia1. Dr. McLeod surprised me. I clicked on the link to his website, expecting to read an article or essay explaining something about learning. Instead, I got a poem in un-metered verse and written so sarcastically that it made me grin uncontrollably. I loved it. Basically, he says that other people can prevent students from using and growing technologically, but he was going to keep on doing things his way. Which is a great thing about the poem. It doesn't conform to any meter or form. It just flows. Exactly like his points and argument. He brings up the "taboo" topics of sexting and porn to show what the others fear the most about the internet and technology. But what he wants us to grasp from the message is that there are great things that can be taken from the topic too. Students can learn, grow, and become more creative as they share things over the internet. Sometimes, the results are worth the risk.

Dr. McLeod himself is a risk-taker. His blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, is one the edgiest ones I've seen so far among educators. Even the title of the blog (which he addresses in the link Why the title?), is edgy. He took the name from War: The Lethal Custom, and if that isn't enough of an explanation in itself, I don't know what is. He's the Associate Professor of the Educational Administration program at Iowa University, but I suppose that at the moment he is in New Zealand acting as the Visiting Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury. That is a very long title. In any case, he's a very interesting fellow and I plan on lurking around his blog a bunch in the near future. Oh, and he's also the co-creator the video Did You Know? (Shift Happens).

2. Oh wow. I am seriously impressed with Travis. He may be only seventeen, but his idea of forming an iSchool is completely revolutionary. I never knew that the iTouch or iPhone could do that much stuff. I mean, I already have the Classics application and I knew about the calculator, but all of that other stuff? It's mindblowing. I'm going to join the iSchool Initiative on Facebook.

His reasoning as to the savings that schools would experience seemed logical to me, and I have to agree that it certainly would make everything so much easier if the only thing you had to keep up with was the iTouch. Books, paper, assignments, etc are so difficult to carry and keep up with. The iSchool would streamline the school experience and allow students to become accustomed to a world where technology dominates. I wish my high school had been an iSchool. It would have saved me a lot of backaches.

I don't know if his idea will ever come to fruition, but I think it's worth a shot. Maybe some important names will start listening to him and help make the movement a reality.

3. Ingenious. Just purely ingenious. The video Lost Generation had me close to tears at the simple beauty of language, words, structure, and form. It's amazing how you can interpret words in one way, and then reverse them to mean the complete opposite. The entire video message was a long antigram-esque passage. I was seriously awed by the way the meaning of what she was saying was flipped so entirely once the script started to reverse. The way that was used really made an impact, and despite that being the only special effect, I thought the entire video was very hard-hitting. As I've said before, sometimes simpler is better.

4. I have chills. They're still running up and down my spine just thinking about listening to Lux Aurumque. It was haunting and beautiful, and all the more so because of how it was made. The thought and planning that must have went into creating that masterpiece of technology and music is astounding. How was that even possible? I don't know. But I'd like to ask Eric Whitacre.

Then there are the participants themselves. They were from all over the world. The sheer magnitude of such a feat astounds me. I'm astounded. Which I'm fairly certain I've already made clear. This video is just another reason why the internet is such a great tool for connecting people. We can create something like what I just listened to (multiple times, by the way) and we don't even have to be in the same room! We can be on opposite sides of the world, as I'm sure some of those vocal participants were at the time, and it wouldn't even matter. The collaboration still happened and it rocked. There are no boundaries any more. It's fantastic.

5. What does it mean to be a teacher in the 21st century? Good question, Mr. Very Long Video. I'm glad you asked. The video had some great points, and I grasped tightly to the concept of entertainment versus engagement. I strongly agree that engaging students in learning is the best way of incorporating new methods of teaching. If students don't feel personally involved in their education, guess what? They aren't going to do much learning. They'll just zone out and that will be the end of that. But, if we engage them in the activities, they'll have a stake in the results.

Also, I think it is a good idea to be active in teaching students how to navigate in this highly advanced internet based society. They need to know the basics of search engines, blogging, sourcing, posting, messaging, emailing, etc. If they don't, it could be a factor in their careers and futures later on. It's only a matter of time before we go completely digital. Already most of the major companies conduct meetings and interviews over Skype or some other form of internet based communication. The times are changing, and we as teachers need to change with them, if only for the sakes of our students.

I think that teaching in the 21st century is going to involve a lot more than the standard fare of education. We're going to have to step in up a notch in order to prepare students for the world ahead. It is our job, isn't it?
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Project #9a Timetoast

Project #5

Well, here's my presentation about myself. Hope you all enjoy!