Sunday, April 28, 2013

Project #15

Final Report On PLN

symbaloo webmix

What I have really enjoyed  about this class is the different resources that it has opened me up to. I LOVE Symbaloo. It has made getting to my favorite sites so much faster and has made my life so much more organized. I also like Google Drive. Since the beginning of this class, I've played with it and I now think that I can use it as an effective document sharing tool in my career. One of my absolute favorite parts of my PLN is Twitter. I have a personal one and an education based one. I love to get on the education one and read some of the articles and gain inspiration for my class.

I am by no means finished developing my PLN but I think that I'm heading in a good direction. I appreciate Dr. Strange pointing us in the right direction.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Blog Assignment #14

Teacher Knows If You Have Done The E-Reading

In this article, David Streitfield discusses a fascinating new technology known as CourseSmart, which allows instructors to track their students' progress through digital textbooks. The technology monitors everything from the notes students are taking to how many times they "open" the textbook itself and compiles the information into what's known as an engagement index. The pros to this technology are that it allows educators another way to see which students are having trouble or just not putting forth any effort at all and adjust their lessons accordingly. And since all the data goes to the publishing companies that own the software, they're able to use it to create later editions of the textbooks. Like with all technology there are some cons, however. Engagement index scores could be lowered because students took notes on paper or there were technology glitches. Regardless of one's view of the technology, it's changing the way some instructors approach educating their students.

As a teacher, I like the concept of this technology. By viewing how each student is utilizing the textbook, I can determine whether or not it's a valuable tool in my lessons. It also lets me better understand how my students learn and which ones need to focus more or need further help. In a largely technological educational world where a teacher doesn't always see their students face to face, this could be a great tool to help measure understanding and the effectiveness of a lesson.

As I student, I agree with those interviewed. There simply isn't enough information provided by this software for it to be completely effective. I'm one of those students who doesn't always like the way the textbook presents the information and if I think I can learn better from my notes or other sources, I won't bother with the book at all. Also, I don't think how often I look at the textbook and the notes I may or may not take should  possibly effect my score or, potentially, the instructor's perspective of me.

The questions I would ask the instructor that was interviewed for the article would be:
1. What do you do with the data you collect from CourseSmart?
2. Have you changed the way you approached teaching certain lessons because of this technology?
3. Do you factor in the engagement index score as part of your students' grades?

The questions I would ask the students in his class would be:
1. Do you think you benefit from the data collected? And if so, in what ways?
2. Does knowing that your being monitored make you feel like you have to use your textbook more          often than you normally would otherwise?
3. Do you actively use your textbook more in order to increase your score?

Honestly, I think this software is a way for the publishers to market and validate making new additions of their books based on this "data". There are some benefits to knowing the study habits of one's students, but I think the emphasis on using the textbook is completely ridiculous and won't be effective in helping to improve the way instructor's educate.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

C4T #4

wooden desk with open books,an apple,and a vase of flowers on top

For this month's C4T I was assigned the blog At the Teacher's Desk. This blog is manned by a collaboration of teachers with the majority of the posts being made by Mr. William Chamberlain.

Interesting Student Observation About Peter Pan

In this post, Mr. Chamberlain talks about how his class had been discussing the 2003 movie version of Peter Pan. During this discussion he asked his students while Mr. Darling and Captain Hook are always played by the same actor. One of his students came up with the observation that because Mrs. Darling had given her secret kiss to Peter Pan, that he would naturally make Mr. Darling the villain of Neverland. Mr. Chamberlain then asserts that this is why sharing long term projects is so worthwhile, because it allows students to revisit the information and come to new and exciting conclusions. 

I love the idea of this project! It combines literature and film studies. In a day and age where most students would rather watch the movie, this project is invaluable. It helps assess the details of both the novel and different versions of films and why they are important to the meaning of the individual piece and the story as a  whole. I also, like the idea of having a long term class project with large worldwide audience because it allows the students to not only make their own observations and draw their own conclusions, but to feed off the observations and conclusions of those involved. 

Mr C, What Is A Real World Scenario?

In this post, Mr. Chamberlain describes an interesting he was asked by one of his students; what is a real world scenario? In order to answer this question, he completely revamped his math lesson in a way that allowed his students to figure it out in a hands-on manner. You see, Mr. Chamberlain wanted to go to a series of baseball games. He gave his students the dates of the games and specific criteria to figure out what would be the cost for him to go on this trip. What he noticed upon giving this assignment was that his students were really engaged and seemed to enjoy the project immensely. They liked it so much that they did a subsequent project focusing on a trip to a destination of their choosing.

I really like how Mr. Chamberlain engaged his students in hands-on learning and that he did it in such a unique way. Instead of solving irrelevant problems out of a textbook, the student got to use their problem-solving skills and apply them to a real situation. Now if only I can figure out a way to do this for English.......

Side Note
At the Teacher's Desk is no longer a working blog. Mr. Chamberlain has moved all the old posts and will continue putting new ones on his blog #WmChamberlain.

C4K Summary for April

april written in purple with frogs holding umbrellas in front of it

Olivia's Post

Olivia is a 4th grader at Leopold Primary School in Victoria, Australia. Her blog post was about her Easter holiday. I have to say, she writes exceptionally well! She described her family's trip to Melbourne and the hotel they stayed at. She also talked about how she blogged during her break. To me, that was amazing! A student who enjoys a class tool so much that she does it on her own time warms the heart of my inner teacher to know end. =) My comments to her said that I enjoyed reading her blog and I asked her what the Easter Bunny brought her in her Easter eggs. I also complemented her on her writing and told her to keep up the good work. I foresee a bright future for her.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blog Assignment #13

stacked books with graduation cap on top with computer mouse connected to the stack

Back To The Future

Brian Crosby is a 4th grade teacher at Agnes Risley Elementary School and author of the blog Learning is Messy. He posted a video of his presentation at TEDx in Denver where he discussed the activities of his class. What is so interesting about that? Well, Mr. Crosby was presented with an interesting challenge in his students.....

Mr. Crosby's class the year this particular school year was made up of  over 90% of students that English was there second language. Upon giving a survey in the first week of school that asked questions such as "What is your phone number?" and "What country do you live in?", he discovered that there was a disconnect between these students and what others had been trying to teach them . So, how did he address this problem? He used technology to engage his students.

Each student had a laptop and their own blog. When the class learned about the atmosphere, they did more than just read the textbook; they did a bunch of different hands-on projects, one of which was building a hot air balloon that went up over 100,000 feet! So what did they do next? Well, they embedded videos of the activities and what they learned from them into their blogs. Then they went into the history of ballooning and after that made a Wiki webpage. Then, they wrote stories as if they were the balloons. As yet another facet of this project, the students had to write high hopes for their community, themselves, and for the world and put them on "Stratocards" which went up in the balloon and when it came back they put pictures of themselves on it and part of the balloon. These were also put on their blogs. The responses to them were amazing! Other people from around the world started posting their high hopes and the students found out about world events that weren't covered by the news.

All I can say is wow! Mr. Crosby astounds me. He took what should have been a HUGE challenge of a class and managed to not only engage his students, but to also get them a worldwide audience. One of the things I love is that he took one project and expanded it to encompass a myriad of different subjects all the while having his students cultivate a learning network for themselves. Not only did they learn though, so did he, which to me is one of the most important aspects of being an educator.

Blended Learning Cycle

Mr. Paul Anderson is an AP Biology teacher in Bozeman, Montana. In his video, Blended Learning Cycle he discusses the strategy he uses in his classroom. To start, blended learning is taking parts from online, mobile, and classroom based learning styles and blending them together. The learning cycle is made up of what is known as the five Es: Engage, Explore, Explain, Expand Evaluate. Mr. Anderson combines the two to create the Blended Learning Cycle. His Blended Learning Cycle can be described by the acronym QUIVERS.

The cycle begins with very good Question. This question can be described as the "hook"; it's something that really gets the students' interest. The next phase is Investigation/Inquiry. The students experiment and investigate the topic being taught. Then there's Video. The method Mr. Anderson uses is podcasting. This frees up the instructor to review and allows the students to learn independently instead of listening to a lecture. Next is Elaboration. This is the time when the teacher can go into further detail about the subject. Maybe they can assign some further readings etc. to help really explain and really get into the nitty-gritty parts of the topic being discussed. Then comes Review. In this step, Mr. Anderson meets with his students individually or in small groups and asks them questions to check their understanding. They can't go on to the final step of the cycle until he's certain they know what they're talking about. The last part of the Blended Learning Cycle is Summary quiz. This step simply tests them on their knowledge of all of the other steps. After several of these cycles, the students then have a unit test on all of the material covered within those cycles.

I've always been a fan of independent learning, but I've never really known how to apply it to a middle/high school setting. After watching this video, I now know how. I love how Mr. Anderson breaks independent student learning into a sort of formula. This way, he can make sure that the students get the information they need to know and can easily see what (if any) areas need to be worked on. I fully intend to use some form of this method in my classroom.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Progress Report on Final Project

So far, Aries groups has met to discuss the details of our final project. We've decided the format and what topics we would like to address. We made a detailed outline of what each member would talk about in her portion of the video and set up a meeting time for next week to actually film the video. We've had a little trouble with scheduling since we all have class, work, and other campus activities that we're involved in, and we decided to meet during our scheduled class time.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blog Assignment #12

little girl with pigtails trying to figure out what to write

Make Your Own 

For this week's assignment, Dr. Strange asked us to create our own assignment in our field of study. At first, I was super nervous. How can I figure out a project of my own? Then I got excited! This is what being a teacher is all about, creating our own assignments. I'm a Secondary Ed/Language Arts major, so naturally my assignment will reflect that. 

For my assignment, I would have my students visit a site called The Story Starter. This site randomly generates over 3 million prompts. Once they have found a prompt, I would have them write the beginning of  a short story (at least 2 paragraphs) based on that prompt. 

Here's my shot at it......

The nervous radio announcer scribbled a note in a broken elevator for the hunter. When he started his search for his long-lost family, he never would've dreamed it would come to this. As he contemplated the contents of his note, he looked back on how his journey began.

Greg was just your average guy. In his late thirties, he was a loner by nature and that was how he liked. He wasn't completely alone though. He did have a cat, Rufus, who lived with him in his one bedroom apartment above the radio studio where he worked. You see, Greg was the weather announcer for the local AM channel and he took his job very seriously; maybe a little too seriously for a local, daytime show. Like I said before, Greg was a loner. An orphan from the time he was born, he had no family to speak of and no friends either for that matter. So, it was a complete shock when a letter came from someone claiming to be his elder brother and begging for his help. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blog Assignment #11

two hands shaking from through two computer screen

Ms. Cassidy's Classroom

Ms. Cassidy is a first grade teacher in Moose Jaw, Canada. What makes her classroom somewhat unique is her implementation of technology. She has her students blogging, creating Wikis, Skyping with other classes and experts, just to name a few! One of the more innovative uses for technology she has is the use of the Ninetendo DS and the game "Nintendog". What can students learn from a video game, you may ask? Well, in Ms. Cassidy's class, a whole lot! The students are divided up into groups and must take of their virtual dog together. The purpose of this project builds strong leadership and teamwork skills.

In my own classroom I think I would use some of Ms. Cassidy's techniques. I have become a huge fan of blogging in the classroom and the networks it builds. Using the blog as an online portfolio (like we do in this class) of the students' work is also wonderful. I love that it would help not only myself and parents track progress, but also the students themselves. Giving students an audience is also a huge appeal for me with blogging. By the time a student reaches high school most of them feel like they've been writing for forever and they're sick of having to write just to gain the approval of some lady behind a desk. By having them write on a blog, they're work becomes open to literally the whole world and it's comments.

Another tool I would like to implement would be Skype. Almost everyone in this day and age knows how to use Skype (especially teenagers!). I've always enjoyed having experts come and speak on various topics that  we were learning in school but this isn't always practical and can sometimes be expensive! Having a professional present through Skype makes it easier for educators to gain access and for the speaker to be comfortable with their surroundings. Skyping with other classrooms allows students and teachers to build networks around the world. It also gives students a better idea of why it's important for them to learn what is being taught and see what others are learning as well.

I think there are a couple of obstacles that could be encountered by using these approaches. A big one would be student disinterest. If the students aren't engaged, then the tools (no matter how innovative and cool) are still ineffective. So my task would be to find topics and speakers on those topics that are interesting or to let the students explore the Internet and let them discover the things that interest them.

Another problem would be administration inflexibility. We all know that some people are opposed to change, no matter the potential benefits. If the principal opposes to this approach I would talk to him or her and hopefully be able to win them over.

C4T #3

"At the Teacher's Desk" is a collaborative blog that emphasizes professional learning and the sharing of ideas among educators.

They Had To Fail To Prepare For Success

In this post Mr. William Chamberlain discusses how he had assigned a group project to his class and had let them work on it one there own for several days. At the end of this time period, when they were supposed to present, none of them were ready to present. They had been pretending to complete the task instead of actually working on it.

Mr. Chamberlain takes the teaching approach of the students asking each other for help when they need it. That approach didn't work in this case because none of the groups really knew what they were doing. This wasn't due to lack of ability or inadequate instruction. It more so had to do with the fact that the students didn't pay attention and thought they could figure it out themselves. After this incident, Mr. Chamberlain simply redirected his students back to their work and watched as they finally worked together. His only question now was if they would remember the lesson or repeat the same mistake in the future.

When I first read the title of this post I was very intrigued. Failing to prepare for success is an interesting concept but I understand the thought behind it. The students had to realize their mistakes in their learning techniques in order to fully grasp how to succeed. I feel it's important to recognize this about students and about ourselves. Not everything is going to work perfectly all the time. We need to realize what makes it fail on occasion, be able to correct the flaw, and appreciate what it taught us.

Why Blogging Isn't Transformative To Our Students Yet

This post references a post by Dr. Christ McGee in his blog Coaching in and out of the Classroom about the importance of blogging. The gist is that blogging in the classroom isn't as effective as it could be because many educators don't grasp the concept fully. The main problem is that confuse a "large audience" with an "authentic audience". An authentic audience is one that wants to read the material being written. Most teachers don't develop this with students because that would require them to give up control of what their students read, what they comment, and if they participate at all. The connects they make could lead to a better world for future generations, but teachers must be careful not to repress these through a lack of understanding.

I completely agree with Dr. McGee! However, I know that I may have a hard time practicing this. Giving up assignment control in a classroom goes against a lot of my basic thoughts of teaching. That being said, I think that if I can implement it correctly, it will benefit my future students in ways untold and that will be worth it for me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

C4K Summary for March

march spelled in purple letters with flowers at the bottom

Riley's Post

Riley is an 8th grader in Iowa. He wrote about how he feels blogging is an important way to meet new people. I commented that I agree with him completely. You never know what kinds of cultures and different personality types you open yourself up to by blogging. I also asked him what other things he had learned from blogging. 

Cody's Post

Cody is a 6th grader in Australia. His post was a follow up to a previous post on cyber bullying. He gave the definition of cyber bullying and methods to stop it if it's happening to you or someone you know. I commented that I thought it was great that he could now recognize cyber bullying and I asked him what he would do if he were ever put in that situation.

Kayla's Post

Kayla is in Mrs. Lentine's class. Their school recently had two autistic visitors who showed a movie about their lives and then answered some questions via a translation writing tool. Her post was a thank you letter to these visitors. She wrote about how much she enjoyed their visit and complemented them on different skills that they exhibited. My comment to her was that I was really glad she enjoyed their visit so much and I asked what her favorite part of the movie was.

Kayla K's Post

Kayla is an 8th grader in Mr. Boylen's Language Arts class in Iowa. Her post was a horror story she had written. In the story, the main character gets home from school to find all sorts of strange things going on, including her grandmother in yoga gear! I commented that I really enjoyed her story and asked her where she got her inspiration.