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 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.