Image 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.