Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blog Assignment #6

The Networked Student

The only thought in my mind when I watched Wendy Drexler's video, Networked Student, was that this concept of connectivism directly related to the teaching ethic of Dr. Strange's EDM 310 course. The concept was inspired by Alec Cuoros' "The Connected Teacher". Dr. Cuoros strongly believes that "tools come and go, but the relationships endure". This is a personal mission for myself when it comes to teaching or coaching children. I feel that you have to establish this level of trust in each other in order to give a message that students can receive wholeheartedly.

The purpose of this concept is to teach our students how to sort and perceive the information that they seek through online resources. The example given discussed how to use one resource to compile various blogs by the use of RSS feeds. The student at 21st Century University, is taking a class that does not have a textbook and meets partially in class, and partially online. He uses various resources such as Google Scholar and Delicious in order to find reputable information to apply to his studies. In the video, it asks what role this student's teacher has in all of this when they do not meet in class.

The role of such teachers is to assist students in sorting and interpreting the information they find, as well as the best routes to take and how to go about certain inquiries properly and respectfully. By the end of the video, I am convinced that Dr. Strange is such a teacher as was described. He leads us to the proper information we need to know in order to carry out our assignments properly. His firm philosophy against "burp back" education further strengthens my opinion because he refuses to do the work for us, but will help us discover how to educate ourselves. This is important in the future since, hopefully, we only take this course once. After we step away from EDM 310, it is solely our responsibility to take the things we learned and expand them on our own. This will be something I would like to practice in my own classroom with the hopes to help my students become less reliant on teachers to spoon feed them information and learn to teach themselves and become more self-sufficient.

Personal Learning Network

I am eager to look further into these Personal Learning Networks after seeing the possibilities that can be found. I have heard of these resources by some previous EDM 310 students, and I personally cannot wait to begin my own. It is especially appealing that the video done by one 7th grade student was for her science class. To make it even better, her class is paperless, and I absolutely love the idea of that!

Project #10

When I was browsing the interweb for possible tools to use in my classroom, I came upon a link to 50 Really Cool Online Tools for Science Teachers that immediately snatched my attention. There were so many possible ideas for just about any science class. However, I did not find what I was looking for so I went back to the drawing board. After a little more digging, I found a similar page Technology Tools for Teaching and Learning. At the beginning of this page, there were various questions that sorted out the different resources based upon what your goals were for your students. As I began to seek out something that provided creative collaboration, I saw many other resources that could be useful as well. I came upon FlockDraw, which seemed appealing to me. In the description, it even mentioned the idea of collaborative projects, so I indulged my curiosity. FlockDraw is a website that is like a virtual whiteboard or canvas in which students, or anyone, can join a session and creative a drawing. The reason that I love this idea is because I am a visual and repetitive learner. Since students all learn differently, this provides them with the ability to make drawings of their objectives, as well as chat live with other students in their class. Often a concept can be better understood if it is approached in a different manner. I feel that this will allow them to collaborate to help each other learn in their own ways, and then everyone benefits.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Blog Assignment #5

Building Your Dream School

Krissy Venosdale uses technology to inspire her students that inspire her. In her blog, Venspired, she focuses on the tools of technology and ideas of innovation to drive her students. She allows creativity to combine with the always growing resources becoming readily available to provide her students the ability to think, wonder, and discover. In one of her posts, If I Built A School, she dreams what it would be like to create her out place of learning. The curriculum is described as a "loose road map", and the purpose is to dig deeper into the very things we find intriguing. Class rooms are comfortable, bright, and the very inspiration to keep the children wondering. At lunchtime, experts visit to offer the students many available career options that they can apply the things they learn. There is a high sense of whimsical creativity, but also brimming with professionalism. To advance through each grade, students must exhibit the readiness and maturity, and not simply their age. This school would focus on the importance of learning by finding enjoyable and purposeful methods, while creating the bond between teacher and student. This is truly a dream school, and did I mention that she put a treehouse inside the library? How cool would that be?

If I could build a dream school myself, it would vaguely resemble that of which Mrs. Venosdale described. A school that focuses on creativity, and following the mind where it may lead. To explore the growing possibilities technology has provided, while at the same time giving every student a place to find their niche. A school that identifies each student's strengths, but also finding interactive methods of improving any weaknesses. Not a place that the students feel like they are imprisoned for eight hours or so a day, five days a week. My school would have various competitions for the students to take part in amongst each other, and the teachers. A place where we all learn from each other.

Lux Arumque

When I read the title for this assignment, I was immediately overjoyed at the sight of "virtual choir". I have always enjoyed music, and choir was one of my favorite classes when I was in high school. The power of music has always mesmerized me. There is something for everyone, for any possible mood, whether you are happy, sad, angry, in love, etc.. When I watched Eric Whitacre's creation of this virtual choir, I was stunned. I could not believe that putting together many individual clips from Youtube, could make such a wonderful piece of art. To say that watching this gave me goosebumps would be a complete understatement. I have never been able to find what it is about the power of the voice, but I often find myself getting chills. I am literally typing this, and looking at the chills that are still covering my arms.

Teaching in the 21st Century

In Kevin Robert's presentation, Teaching 21st Century Students, he expresses how important it is to understand that we are literally being surrounded by new technology every day that is changing out lives. He asks what it means to teach in this century, and then continues by showing that if all teachers have to offer is concrete methods and ideals introduced by their teachers, and their teachers' teachers, then our role will be obsolete. If your car were to break down, what would you do? I can promise that most of you most likely thought something along the lines of using your cell phone or laptop to find someone to fix it, or to find out how to fix it yourself. This is the point he is trying to make. Technology is all around us, and sometimes we are so engulfed in it that we do not even realize it's enormity. As educators, we must determine the best possible routes to provide our students to navigate these resources properly. I cannot express how many times a teacher has told me not to trust websites such as Wikipedia, but there must be a way to determine the validity for some of these sources, because they cannot all be hoaxes. We are the future for our students to master the things that we are learning now. This technology age is not going to slow down any time soon, so we might as well take advantage of it now.

Flipping the Classroom

I am very interested in this concept of "Flipping the Classroom". I have always felt that I excelled faster in classes that provide information prior to class time, and even have quizzes about this material prior as well, so that when the class arrives, I know what to expect to be taught that day. In Katie Gimbar's video, Why I Flipped My Classroom, she explains the purpose of this concept, as well as how she went about flipping towards a positive result. Dr. Lodge McCammon also explains his purpose of flipping the classroom in his video for his program FIZZ. I agree with his statements that we cannot continue solely lecturing to our students and then send them off to apply the information by themselves later. From personal experience recently, it is not the most efficient teaching method, as sometimes the applications can be confusing. If the information is provided before it is officially taught, the students can come into the classroom prepared to ask for clarification on any concepts that may have been confusing to them. Ms. Mufano has explained similar ideas in her video, Flipping the Classroom - 4th Grade STEM. The only negative thought about this new method of learning is how some teachers may take this as an easy way out of teaching. This cannot be seen as an alternative to other methods, and requires the educator to be prepared to help the students with the information and assignments provided prior. If you do not enjoy teaching your students every day and this is a technique you want to apply so that your job may be easier, I highly suggest reconsidering your career choice. As a very close friend of mine, and an educator herself, once told me, "Not anyone can be a teacher, you have to be born with the ability to want to teach. It is not a career for the money, it is for the love of improving your students." These words I hold near to my heart, and will always stand firmly by the truth behind them.

Project #6

My Sentence Video

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blog Assignment #4

Langwitches is such a creative blog to explore. To hear children with such excitement in podcasts and blog posts is absolutely inspiring. The mission of Langwitches is not to focus on the technology being taught; instead, the focus remains on the skills these children gain from using the technology.

Flat Stanley

Ms. Tolisano and her first grade class read the book Flat Stanley by Jim Brown. In this children's book, Stanley is a normal boy that gets squished by a bulletin board and is flattened. Instead of feeling down about his situation, Stanley travels the world via mail. With the original storyline, Ms. Tolisano and her class put together some ideas in order to recreate their own version of this story. Each student was able to choose a location and asked to research that place either from a book out of the library or online. The goal of the podcast was to allow the students to learn about different places of interest and each have their own turn recording a part of their own unique flat adventures. The expressions in all of their voices was nothing short of adorable.

Their adventures spanned the entire globe. Some went east to Europe, some west to Asia, and others from the North Pole to Antarctica. My favorite of all the journeys was Flat Emily and her trip to Alabama. There are few sweeter sounds than someone yelling "Roll Tide", but her exclamation has to be at the top of my list. I think that the use of the podcast for such young children is useful in our technologically advancing world. They are being introduced at a young age which allows them to explore further than most at an earlier age.

The Benefits of Podcasting in the Classroom

To further indulge my interest in podcasting for education purposes, I took a look at Mr. Joe Dale's post Benefits of Podcasting in the Classroom. To aid Mr. Dale's advantages, he posted Podcasting in the Classroom by Doug Saunders. Some of the benefits he included were the ability to push the classroom boundaries further, allowing the lessons to be portable at a radio quality, and pose a possible solution to keep children from falling behind if they happen to miss a class. These are only a few examples of how podcasting in classrooms is becoming a growing interest among educators.

I love the capability to allow absent students to be able to keep up with missed work. As a firm believer in preserving the creativity of our future generations, I am very intrigued by the possibilities this innovation provides. Another aspect that appeals to me is the level of involvement this gives to parents. I feel very strongly that for children to be successful in their studies, their parents must also take part to ensure they are taking the necessary actions to help them. When I was younger I may have become frustrated with my parents for reprimanding me for not receiving proper grades if I put off studying; however, as I am getting older, I have become very grateful to them for the extra push that has prepared me for college level study requirements.

1st Graders Create Their Own Read-Along Book

Ms. Tolisano got together with her first grade students and came up with a creative idea to make a read-along for the book Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osbourne. While a separate classroom teacher read each chapter, Ms. Tolisano took out a few students at a time to record their parts in the book. In addition to recording their parts, the children also took part in creating the effects that are heard during the story. At the end of production, the audio file reached about 15 minutes in total length. When the students were able to hear their podcast for the first time, they were all very involved in their parts, what they would like to perfect, and the project success as a whole.

The idea to record the types of media that surround children of this age is fantastic. It allows them to see the stories they may read in class or at bedtime in a whole new light. I enjoy that these children are so engaged in these projects. You can tell that they truly enjoy taking part in these activities, which I feel is important in learning. If you are given something that you already enjoy, and you are asked to learn anything you can from it, you will more than likely become so deeply engaged in it that you will produce a product worth being proud of. These are the modes of teaching we need to continue to introduce to our classrooms because it allows each student to discover their creativity and express it.

C4T #1

Dare to Care: The Genius Hour-What Have I Learned?

For my first C4T assignment, I was asked to take a look into Mrs. Denise Krebs blog titled Dare to Care. Immediately, I was excited with my assignment as Mrs. Krebs' blog stood out as very interesting and thought provoking. The title in itself made me think of a mission statement for all educators. Certainly it is our job to educate these children for the future, but we must also take each class and establish relationships with them so that they understand that we do what we do for them, not just to pay our bills. They are our future just as much as we are theirs. They must learn from us in order to grow and flourish for themselves. In the first post of Mrs. Krebs' blog that I read was A Year of Genius Hour-What Have I Learned?, I could tell that she and I shared similar opinions. After watching The Puzzle of Motivation a video featuring Dan Pink, Mrs. Krebs was re-inspired after reading a few tweets commenting on the idea. Mrs. Krebs gave her students a three hour block to explore the things that each of their hearts desired in the beginning of this genius hour. Within the last 15 months, she reports that her students were eager to learn their unique trades. When questioned about the validity of this assignment, she explained that the students had no trouble remaining on task since they were following their own interests. One of the few issues Mrs. Krebs faced with the genius hour were some students who just wanted to be told what to do instead of looking inside themselves and coming up with a project on their own.

In order to alleviate their mind-blocks, Mrs. Krebs had each of these students make a list of 10 things they love to do and learn, 10 things that they are good at, and 10 things that they wonder. Mrs. Krebs explains that she is teaching her students to be creative, and in her conclusion, she shares a video from a fellow genius hour leader, Gallit Zvi, about her students opinions of The Genius Hour One statement Mrs. Krebs made, that really jumped out at me, read, "They have chosen what they want to learn; no one dictated it. They are given freedom to take as long as needed to be satisfied with their learning." If I could sum up my goal for teaching my students, this could not say it better. As one of the students of Mrs. Zvi said, "Everyone has a different passion. So, you don't wanna learn, like your teacher's passion. You want to learn your passion". I absolutely want my students to follow their passion, learn something from it so that they can take what they have learned and put it towards their future. I do not want to be the teacher on Charlie Brown. I want to be the educator that every student wants to have before they move on to higher levels of education.

In my first comment to Mrs. Krebs, I began by introducing myself, as well as informing her that I was a student at the University of South Alabama in EDM 310. I then expressed my amazement by her post, and told her that I felt there was no better way to teach students than allowing them to teach themselves. I also told her that I would love to apply her genius hour in my future classroom. I concluded by giving her a link to my blog so that she may read anything I post including my review of her posts, and thanked her for such an inspiring technique.

Dare to Care: Must the Students?

For my second C4T assignment with Mrs. Krebs, I read another post that spoke about her Genius Hour. Unlike the initial post, she asked for the opinions of her subscribers on a post from a new Genius Hour observer, in Must the Students?. The unnamed teacher stated that "the students must be able to explain WHY their project is worth learning". Perplexed whether or not she agrees with this statement, Mrs. Krebs further explains that she encourages her students to ask an "essential question", but does not pass judgement on whatever the question may be. To justify this, she states that she cannot always explain why she seeks out her projects, she just wants to learn them. She asks her students to reflect on their projects in student blogs afterwards. In conclusion of her post she asks a few questions for others to give their input:
Do students need specific learning goals during genius hour?
Must students be able to explain why their project is worth learning?

In my comment to Mrs. Krebs' post, I expressed my remaining awe of the genius hour. I explained that if we are given the chance to pursue an object, or task, of our desire, we are more likely to put more effort into its completion. She could be aiding her students in possibly making monumental discoveries by allowing them to explore their creativity. My concern is that we must not push students into the mainstream professions; instead, we must allow them to follow their interests and see what we can all learn from each other. Closing out my comment, I stated that I was eager to see what inspiration Mrs. Krebs came up with next.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Special Blog Post #1

WolframAlpha Comparison

WolframAlpha is a search engine for "computing answers and providing knowledge". After I did an initial inquiry of the comparisons of the populations in India, China, and the United States, I found that both India and China far outnumber the United States by more than the entire population itself. In both India and China the populations are 1.21 billion and 1.35 billion people, respectively. The United States has a mere 309 million people. That is a vast difference. When asked to conduct similar searches, I decided to keep inside the demographic ballpark, since this holds my interest the most on the topic.

For my first search, I chose to search for Compare population density in India, China, and the United States. The results were as staggering as the population comparison. India wins this category for having over 1,050 people per square mile. Can you imagine that? The United States has only 67 people per square mile. That is almost a 1,000 person difference. I cannot fathom adding an extra thousand people within a square mile of my home.

For my second search, I was curious to compare the average incomes in the same three countries; therefore, I searched Compare average income in China, India, and the United States I'm still not certain whether or not I am surprised by the results. In this inquiry the United States takes the gold at $46,000 per person annually, silver goes to China $3,920, and bringing up the rear is India with $1,080. I am surprised that India and China have such low averages, but I supposed if you have a higher population it may level out. However, I am still uncertain on this thought, but for WolframAlpha, I am excited to learn of this new resource.

The possible searches are endless, and can provide multiple statistics as simple as typing in the words and clicking "compute". The use of this resource in classrooms could be very helpful. Out of curiosity while I was already on the website, I decided to tinker, as I often do with new technology, and see what other things I could find. To my excited surprise, there was even a place for teachers to swap lesson plans and creative ideas. Part of the reason I chose a focus in science is because it is a field that is naturally interesting, even more so when you apply hands-on applications, and this is certainly a way to take information and present it in a more interesting and appealing fashion. I will absolutely be putting WolframAlpha to good use in the future.

Social Media Count

Based on the information provided by Gary Hayes and the Social Media Counts, it is astounding how swiftly social media interest is expanding. In the past minute, thousands of blog posts have been made, millions of text messages have been sent, and billions of e-mails have been sent worldwide. This counter only shows a fraction of the technology explosion that goes on momentarily, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. As future educators, especially, we must take notice of these rapid changes.

It is our duty to keep up with the growth in order to provide our students with up to date knowledge. Think about this: the technology that you learn in say your first year of college, will become outdated by your third year. Using WolframAlpha seemed to be perfect for this example. The average lifespan in the United States is roughly 78 years. If you take the average lifespan and divide it by 3 for the yearly timeframe that computer systems change and outdate the previous ones, it means that in an average life these things will improve and change about 26 times. That is phenomenal! Say you begin teaching at age 25 and retire at the average age of 59, you may have to retrain yourself about 12 times in order to keep up with the constantly changing technological advances. For a person like myself, who enjoys learning new things about these latest and greatest advances, it is exciting to wonder what will be released next. I am eager to see what will cause our smartphones, tablets, and gaming systems to become the dinosaur-like bag phones, original computers, and Magnavox Odyssey gaming systems like our older generations. Only time will tell, but at the current rate we may not have to wait too long.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Blog Assigment #3

Peer Editing

Peer editing can often be a difficult task to carry out properly. I have found it troubling in the past to critique a fellow peer's hard work in such a way as to not offend them. Luckily, a previous EDM 310 student gave us her thoughts on a few assignments to make this task a little simpler. Paige Ellis came up with a few resources that clarify how to make peer editing less stressful and unoffensive in her blog post Blog Assignment #12. Between three of the four sources she quoted, they seemed to agree on three basic steps for successful peer editing. The focus remained on three steps: compliments, suggestions, and corrections. The video Peer Editing gives some examples how to execute these three steps properly. Tutorial Peer Editing is another source in Paige's blog used the same information, but presented it in a different way.

There are many different approaches to being a successful peer editor. This creative video, Writing Peer Review Top 10 Mistakes, by a group of fourth and fifth graders shows the many wrong ways to go about peer reviewing. No one wants to be a Picky Patty or a Jean the Generalizer. As a personal tip, try to think of how you would want someone to critique your own work, and get an idea how far may be too far. Keep an open mind and always try to remember that peer editing is only making you a better writer.

Assistive Technology

Many people in the world, myself included, truly cannot fathom living life with any sort of disability. Unfortunately, millions of children and adults in the world are not as lucky, and they are forced to cope with obstacles daily. Today, one of my co-workers was telling me about a friend's son that was born blind in his left eye. Honestly, there is nothing in this world that breaks my heart more than seeing or hearing about a child born with some disability, especially blindness. Could you imagine not being able to see the natural beauty of the world? How about never knowing what the velvet petals of a rose look like or watching dolphins breach while the tide crashes on the shore as the sun sinks below the horizon?

In Assistive Technologies for Vision and Hearing Impaired Children, we are given an idea of how far technology is coming to provide children with some hope for their future despite the brick walls they face along their journey. Computers and devices like The Mountbatten provide blind students with the ability to type in braille while receiving audio playback that can send and receive files from a computer.

Other technology allows blind students the opportunity to carry out mathematic processes in the proper form, as seen in Teaching Math to the Blind. It is truly amazing to see such technology come to life to give children and adults with disabilities education and resources that allow them to tread a little closer to the line of "normal life", if there is such a thing. A long time ago someone asked me what the definition of "perfect" was. Perplexed, I sat there for a moment trying to think of a proper way to define such a broad adjective, but after a while I began to realize their point. Is there really a concrete definition of "perfect" or "normal", or is it really based on every individual being? What may be perfect to me could differ drastically to what you may view as perfect. This also leads me to wonder, are these people who live with disabilities actually that unfortunate? Or do they possess a view of how precious life is that some of us could never come close to understanding? These are our angels on Earth, and its heartwarming to see the world coming together to find ways for them to live every day a little happier and stronger.

Digital Generation

In a previous assignment, I found a link to a very interesting blog by Vicki Davis, a teacher with an interest in providing her students the ability to discover the new world of technology at their fingertips. In the video, Harness Your Students' Digital Smarts, Mrs. Davis explains that she wants her students to have access and knowledge to the available technology so that they can broaden their individual capabilities. She believes that, "children have trouble when you only have paper, and you only have pencil". I thoroughly enjoy how firmly she stands that there are many ways for students to learn that go beyond conventional education.

How can we expect the future generations to show their intelligence if we cannot provide them with the skills to look outside the box and search for the unknown? Every person learns differently, and as future educators, we must take a step forward and broaden education past textbooks and exams.