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Monday, March 14, 2011

Sometimes life throws you a curve...

Just as I was starting the masters program I get distracted.  It seems I have cancer.  I now have to figure out how to fight this battle and continue my education.  Unfortunately we are still in the "in the dark" phase but will meet with my doctors tomorrow to create a treatment plan.  I am hopeful that we have caught it early enough to have a cure.  I plan to create a new blog in order to "document" my progress so that those family members and friends who are not physically near will know how I am doing.  Send prayers! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Digital Storytelling

I just finished the digital storytelling assignment.  What a fun way to get the students to share themselves with each other.  I can see this being very popular with students of all ages.  I can speak for myself and say that I enjoyed the assignment.  It was fun going through old pictures and remembering the fun we had.  I have a 16-year-old daughter who is having her birthday party this weekend.  I think setting up a story for her to play during the party might be a lot of fun for me, maybe not for her, and everyone will enjoying seeing the old pictures.  I think the one above says it all.

Lit review #2

I came across an interesting article about iPads called iPads No Longer Optional, by Bridget McCrea in Transforming Education Through Technology, T/H/E Journal (2/23/2011).  What I found particularly interesting about this article is that it demonstrated the situation that almost every school district is facing at the present time, or has recently faced -- obsolete technology.  The Webb School of Knoxville (in Tennessee) had an opportunity to assess the status of their IT department  and found the infrastructure to be severely lacking with an expected cost of $550,000.00 to bring it up to "a reasonable level".  They made the decision to embrace the most recent technology rather than updating the equipment that existed and bringing it to the point where it would be functional -- FUNCTIONAL, not appropriate.  Applause goes out to this school for looking forward and not being afraid to choose the unfamiliar.  Updates would  have had to be done eventually and choosing the best option for the students rather than focusing on budgetary limitations was a brave choice. 

That being said, however, they also discussed the largest difficulty the faced, bringing the iPad into each child's hands.  As we all know, iPads are expensive and don't normally fit into the budgets of families with young children.  The school understood this challenge and, in addition to ramping up the IT department, they worked out a plan to get an iPad for each child.  Some already had one, others would be offered the opportunity to lease one from the school on a monthly payment basis for those who needed such an option rather than increasing tuition, which would have affected every student regardless of whether they needed an iPad or not. 

This article shows that if a district is creative and willing to put the needs of the student first each of our students will be ready to face the world we are expecting them to run.  Another interesting fact brought up in the article is that the cost of bringing in the new technology was the same as revamping the old technology.  Yes the students did have to provide their own iPad or lease from the school, but the opportunities they were being offered far outweighed the initial outlay.  Time is not going to stand still because of budgetary issues and taking the opportunity to invest in the futures of our students is a far better investment than "updating" outdated and obsolete equipment.  Wise decision!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In class tonight

Tonight is about fun stuff.  We played with Scratch and the SmartBoard.  We talked about safety online for our kiddos and copyright infringement.  We are gearing up for big stuff, I can feel it.  The WebQuest project is coming up and we will be starting digital storytelling, which will be very cool.  I can't understand why more teachers are not using more of these tools.  I know...time.  If you think about it, though, the kids pick up on this stuff way faster than we do so wouldn't it make our lessons easier?  Just a thought.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Equal Access

To me equal access, as it relates to education, means that every student has the right to the same information, equipment, and resources.  Whether that access is technologically based or access to tutors or library services, every student is treated the same and has the ability to utilize the resources available in the same way as others.  A problem is presented, obviously, when financial resources enter the equation.  While we strive to make sure that every student has access and can equally achieve, it is inevitable that schools in more affluent communities will have an easier time achieving this goal than those schools that are in less affluent situations.  The challenge is to make sure that all students have the same opportunity to learn. 

Roy Johnson, MA, in his article entitled Equal Access to Quality School Facilities writes "Though few studies exist that establish a clear and direct relationship between student achievement and the quality of school facilities, common sense tells us that students in newer and better maintained school facilities are apt to have access to the necessary equipment, teaching staff and environment conducive to learning."  An environment that is conducive to learning is what we want for our students, all of our students.  Although Mr. Johnson states that few studies have been done, it seems that a study would not be as effective as a trip to Home Depot or Lowes to gather supplies and a community project that would lead to improvement in the environment allowing students a better place to learn.  This environment would allow all students, regardless of financial situation, to achieve better.  Is the answer to the challenge then more direct community involvement and ownership in the problem?  Perhaps that is one solution. 

Also, as a teacher I care about my students' success.  I want all of my students to have equal opportunity to become a contributing part of the community they will eventually serve.  This might mean adjusting how I teach and changing some assignments in my classroom to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to shine.  Part of my responsibility might include making sure that supplies are available so that everyone has access, even if this means I absorb the cost at times.  I want what is best for my students.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ed Tech Talk - 21st Century Learning

This was a very interesting conversation between Brad Overell-Carter (the head of the Think Global School), Alex Ragone, Arvind Grover, and Vinnie Vrotny.  Mr. Overell-Carter discussed his school based on an amazing concept of being mobile.  The school moves, 12 countries in 12 semester, until every student has traveled around the world four times.  They focus on utilizing technology (every student must have an IPad and IPhone) and use it in their educational experiences.  The schedule is extremely flexible so that students might have a basic class (math, literature, history, etc) in the morning but then as a group the school would attend a museum exhibit or have a guest lecturer for the next part of the day.  Scheduling is handled through Google Tracker and everyone meets for "family time" to discuss how the week had gone and what they could possibly do differently the following week to improve the experience. 

Some challenges discussed were the fact that globalization as we think of it has not realistically occurred yet.  Jurisdiction of APPs, for example, is not universal.  Purchasing and receiving equipment has been delayed at times due to customs issues.  Finally, it was expressed that the use of technology has been "distracting." not in the sense that it is being misused but rather that too much time was being spent thinking about how to use the expensive equipment purchased rather than focusing on the end result of the project underway. 

Mr. Overell-Carter broke down the curriculum into three parts.  These include baseline literacy, like "traditional" schools focus on, applications of the information obtained in lessons, and research.  The overall program appears to be very much student-based with a goal to responsibly contribute to society when need is perceived.  Two things he stated they would like to remain focused on are "staying in the question" rather than getting bogged down in finding the answers and having a goal to "be better than before". 

While I am still not a fan of this venue of teacher collaboration, I certainly see the benefit in such a venue.  I don't believe I would have heard of such an educational program had I not been exposed to this.  This particular discussion intrigued me to the point that I will be looking for the next conversation when the school has moved from Stockholm to Syndey (which actually happened in January).  I hope I will not have to wait too long!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

SuperBowl

The SuperBowl is such an important part of February.  I can't imagine not spending time with the family watching the game.  Today's is bittersweet since the Patriots are not playing.  The game has been a little slow but I did get the opportunity to get some homework done (thank God for laptops).  It is amazing to think that in today's society we do not need to be sitting in the living room in order to see the game.  We could be walking down the street watching the game on our phone or sitting in a library watching on our netbook (plugged in of course) or pretty much anywhere you can imagine.  Being a digital immigrant (more so than not) I still long for the connection with other actual human beings being in the same room and sharing the excitement rather than being connected via a technological link but I can certainly understand the freedom one might enjoy because of one. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lit Review - Social Media in the classroom

Check out http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-39-spring-2011/your-students-love-social-media-and-so-can-you.  It discusses the importance and relevance of social networking on students, and teenagers in particular.  Many of us who were not born with a computer in our hands place greater value on the face-to-face interactions we grew up with, as did our parents.  The newer generations speak little but keyboard as a major activity.  It is important to them and as teachers we will need to embrace this way of connecting and try to better understand it. 

The article discusses the common social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  It suggests that such sites can be used not only for socialization but also to address educational subjects.  Using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Docs can encourage long-distance educational experiences where students do projects with other students in different countries.  Beyond that, there's Skype, which the article does not discuss.  Skype can expand connections students have made via Facebook and Twitter so that they become face-to-face, which will make those of us raised in the face-to-face generations more comfortable with the idea. 

To quote the article, "...Either we acknowledge it exists and allow ourselves to be part of the conversation, or it's one more way school becomes irrelevant to kids."  It is terrifying to think that the current in-school and coming generations might come to consider school irrelevant.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Online Ed Tech sites

I took some time to check out online educational discussion sites this week.  I can see where they can be of great benefit to educators in that there is a variety of information that can be offered and discussed in the online forums.  I admit that sharing the opinions and experiences of others can be a great way to expand your viewpoints on handling different aspects of being a teacher.  That being said, however, I think there might be other ways to achieve that goal.  I found the sites to be chaotic.  There were so many comments and opinions being offered simultaneously that I was overwhelmed.  The conversations, while being beneficial, were often tangential and those involved assumed that everyone shared similar insights about those being mentioned.  It is necessary to be able to pick through those conversations and determine what would be useful in my own classroom.  I am not sure that this would be a venue in which I would be comfortable gathering my insights.

Specially I reviewed http://www.edtechtalk.com/node/4899, which was a conversation regarding teachable moments.  In fact that was the name of the conversation -- Conversation 89:  Teachable Moments.  This was not a live talk because I, unfortunately, could not make it at the time it was live.  I began my review by reading the transcript, which was very confusing since all comments appeared as they were entered and the conversation moved from topic to topic without clear transitions.  After completing the transcript I went back and listened to the audio.  Combing both made more sense and I garnered much more from this approach.  There were so many great insights about teachable moments and it reminded me about how often they happen and how easily they can slip by causing us to miss the opportunities to teach students about real-life issues.  I am not sure that I could have participated in this conversation and gleaned as much from it if I had done so live. 

To be sure that I was not judging such venues too quickly, I also reviewed Kicking It Up A Notch - Intersections by Darren Kuropatwa.  Much of what he discussed made a lot of sense.  The concepts I grasp and give much credance to.  There are lots of intersections in what and how we teach and being able to recognize those and utilize them to better in our instruction is a greal goal.  He gave great examples of these intersections but, again, the overall discussion seemed tangential to me.   View for yourself...here is the link. 
http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=723

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter, in general

I think snowshoeing would be fun.  I am not a fan of the cold, though.  Here in New England we need to embrace the winter months and learn to have a plan for getting through them that does not always involve sitting on the couch and hibernating.  I think snowshoeing would be fun!  Some day I will try it.  Today I am pacing from window to window admiring the different snow-covered venues.  I love it when the snow covers the branches and each window offers a picture-perfect postcard view.  Ahhh...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finally Friday

At the end of a snowy week it is great to be sitting home and enjoying a quiet evening.  I just completed school financial planning for next year and am hopeful that both me and my elder daughter will be blessed with continued support.  It would be great to see something other than loans but I suppose we must be grateful for any support. 

:)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Digital Nation

I just finished watching the Digital Nation show from Frontline.  It certainly offered a great deal of information and opinion to consider.  Most of the information is common knowledge including the need for us as teachers to embrace technology and learn new and better ways to utilize it in our classrooms.  I was surprised to see the extent that some users (the younger generation) rely on their connections technically.  I am from the Generation X and have grown up somewhat with the techology but my connections are not as involved as the younger generation.  I found the Feed Me Bubbe section refreshing and amusing.  There are some of the older generation who still need the stimulation technological connections can offer.  :) 

It is interesting the differences in perception between the students and the teachers whereas the teachers see the students as suffering from an inability to have a single thought stream and the students perceive themselves as being much more efficient than the teachers and the teachers as being out of touch, boring, and somewhat incompetent.  I was deeply troubled by the concept of drone fighter pilots actually attacking sites in the war zones.  The concept of life-like situations being so game oriented raises concerns about where we are going as a society. 

About me...

I am getting older by the minute but am not too old to realize that every minute counts.  I have a wonderful family who happily sent me back to school recently to get my Masters in Special Education.   I have a husband (22 years) and two girls, 19 and 16.  I also have a big, fluffy Collita (combination collie and akita) who is my biggest fan.  I have two cats who help me to appreciate the diversity that exists in personalities and two birds who remind me to stop and listen to the music once in a while.  Now, back to homework...

Second time...

Hey.  This blogging thing must get easier with practice.  KISS, right?!