“The End of the Beginning”

First of all, I’d like to thank Winston Churchill for posthumously allowing me to borrow part of his quote to use for my title.  Also, Google search for making it easy for me to search for quotes that I kinda think I might know.

It’s almost the end of the semester, and when I think about the start my main thought is, ‘It seems so long ago!’ I feel as if I’ve packed a lot into this semester.  There are so many technologies I had the opportunity to encounter, and some that I actually plan on exploring more in order to incorporate them into my lesson plans.

As I’ve stated before, I found PowerPoint to be the most startling experience thus far.  There are features I didn’t know it had, including the ability to link slides to other slides and websites to create a more interactive program for students.  I think this feature is especially useful for students who enjoy more independent learning, and it’s beneficial for teachers who still need to make sure their students are getting the information they want or need to pass on.

GoogleDocs impressed me with its ability to allow for a group to be working on the same project at the same time at different computers and even at different locations.  At the same time, as a teacher, I can be providing feedback that helps students in the process of creation, rather than at the end  Most of all, the ability to see how the work has grown is something that I think is invaluable for both the student and the teacher.

Finally, this blog has opened up a world of possibility to allow me to connect to other people, including fellow educators and students.  It’s another tool that I’d really like to find a way to incorporate into the classroom because of its self-reflection aspect.

Learning about these technologies helped put me in the place of my future students by allowing me to discover new ways of interpreting and demonstrating knowledge.

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So I Skyped for the First Time

As the title suggests, I just finished my first Skype session, and I wanted to get out some of my thoughts.  It was a totally weird but rewarding experience.  I felt like I was on a phone call, and I kept having to remind myself that the other person could see me.  It felt a little more personal than a typical phone call.

The educator whom I spoke with was from another state, which added an interesting element to our first conversation.  Did I mention that this was the first time we’d spoken face-to-face?  We’d e-mailed back and forth to set up a Skype session, and I had a couple of questions on hand.

Speaking with an educator from a different state was a bit of a new experience for me.  There’s the common lingo that we all use, but I realized that sometimes each state uses tools differently.  Since she’s a technology specialist, Ms. R (name has been changed because this is my blog, and I can do that) and I ended up talking about IEPs.  I’ve had the chance to sit in on a CSE meeting and see a “real-life” IEP (as opposed to the practice ones I’ve read and written for classes).  Hearing her perspective of how her state handles the same situations and the same paperwork gave me a bit of an outsider’s perspective on New York State and a new understanding of the educational system as a whole.  It seems to me that as educators, we’re all just trying to do the best we can for our students.

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Tech for Teachers

I have PBS/WXXI on my Facebook because, well, I think they’re awesome. The other day, what popped up but a link to a new article, “How to Get the Most Out of Tech Tools for Teaching“.  Susan Currie Sivek gives her personal account of using various technologies from the perspective of a teacher. 

The majority of technologies she used with an iPad and/or Mac (neither of which I actually own), such as the Attendance App that let her take pictures of her students.  I thought this was a great feature because it can help on a number of levels.  It makes attendance easy because you can run through the list visually see that all of your students are there, and it’s a great way to learn students names.

There were some that really struck me as a “why didn’t they think of this before”.  Caffeine, for instance, keeps screens lit during presentations and movies.

My new favorite, which is not necessarily just for teachers, is Unsubscribe.com.  You download it for your inbox, and it actually sends an unsubscribe e-mail for you to the places from which you indicate you don’t want e-mails.

These tools seem pretty simple to learn.  For me, at least.  The article is part of a series, and also links to Professor Sivek’s personal blog.

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A Truly Global Community

I’ve always thought it would be cool to have contact with a class from another country.  When I was in middle school, I had the opportunity to sign up for a Spanish-speaking pen pal.  It was part of a project to help us students practice our Spanish in an authentic manner.

That’s one of the things we strive for as educators, isn’t it? Teaching and learning in an authentic way.

Recently in class, I had the chance to look at the website ePals Global Community.  This website allows classrooms from across the globe to connect with each other.  Maybe it came as a result of going to school in a small community, but I found that oftentimes schools are a bit isolating in terms of exposing kids to diversity of thoughts and opinions.  For instance, imagine being able to consider the American Revolutionary War from the perspective of your own class, as well as a class in England.  Obviously, you’re going to perceive events differently.  While students are learning about these historical events, they also have the opportunity to learn about forming their own opinions and respectful arguments.  Students will learn about different cultures while learning the invaluable lesson that people will have different opinions, and that’s OK.  All of this can be learned from their own school.

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Learning from a Distance

I recently researched distance learning for a paper. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into the research, but I came away with some valuable insights, as well as some issues to ponder.

One of the major ideas I came across is that resistance to distance learning often comes about because teachers want to keep the traditional classroom format while integrating new technologies into the process. I think it’s a common occurrence that teachers (or anybody, really) are used to the “old” methods. So instead of looking at the new technologies as ways of changing some aspects of their classroom that aren’t successful with students who work best in alternate modalities, they try to substitute it in. Oftentimes, that means that they’re not taking full advantage of the capabilities of the educational technology. I’ve recognized the same tendencies in myself. It’s easier to work from a place of comfort. When you’re familiar with a way of doing things, it’s obviously difficult to change.

There’s also the wariness of the new technology. As I think everybody knows, it can be intimidating when you’re encountering something new. What’s more, frustration can get the best of anybody.

I think back on Dr. Ransom’s advice to try to master one new thing at a time. I think it’s important to try out one piece of educational technology, get a feel for it. If it’s not something you’re comfortable with, it’ll be difficult to use it with your students. Once you’ve mastered it (or since technology is changing all the time, once you’ve reached a good comfort level with it), try out something new.

There’s one resource that I keep forgetting about, and that’s the students. I’m becoming increasingly aware that there are certain technologies that I won’t know about, but my students will have been exposed to. I’ve often found that children like to be able to teach adults, as well. I think it’s a good lesson when kids learn that adults are educating themselves all the time, too. Learning is a lifelong process that never ends. When you share your excitement to learn, you have the ability to teach your students that learning is exciting.

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Watch “A Vision of Students Today” on YouTube

This video was mentioned in a source I read. I thought I’d look it up. It was extremely powerful to me. I don’t want to spoil the experience for anybody, so I won’t mention the content here.

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“Lives Worth Living”

There’s a documentary starting tonight on PBS about the disability rights movement. It’s called “Lives Worth Living”.

Here’s the link to the PBS website:
http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/lives-worth-living/film.html

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Cartoon

image

I keep seeing cartoons about education. I thought I’d share. I found this one kind of interesting in regards to testing.  I think it really speaks to the question of what we’re really testing, which brings up how students can appropriately demonstrate their learning.

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Advice from a Teacher

I was talking with a teacher with whom I’m observing. We got on the topic of her first year of teaching. She told me that during that time, she would stay until as late as 7 most nights and still take work home with her. She was really stressed.

Then her mentor told her that if she’s not taking time for herself, then she’s not doing what’s best for the students. They need a teacher who is taking care of herself (or himself).

Since then, she’s learned to end her days at 5:30, and she’s made an agreement with herself that she won’t take any work home unless it’s grading papers. She’s also decided that on Friday nights and Saturdays, she won’t do work.

She told me that there’s always something more you can be doing, but sometimes it’s important to take time to go see a movie.

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Blogging about Blogs

Reading all of the articles on blogs and wikis has me thinking a lot about ways to incorporate them into the classroom. I really liked the idea of creating a(much like Dr. Ransom has) for newsletters and goings-on in the classroom.

I mean, imagine having a place where the teacher can write an introduction to the classroom, maybe write about the units being studied. It would be a great way to get parents involved. In another class, a parent mentioned she’d like if the teacher sent resources for books to read with her kids that enhanced what the child was already learning. The Blog would also be a great place for parents to ask questions in an open forum where everybody could read.

I’ve been thinking, too, of different ways to get students involved. Maybe picking a student a day to write a “student experience” post to write about their impressions of what they’re learning. Other students could comment and discuss. Much like the blogs we have going on now, but it would also help the parents connect with the student experience. It would also be a great way to check in with students, their progress and impressions of the lessons.

Another great advantage seems to be the ability to connect with other teachers. One of the overwhelming parts about being a teacher, especially in a “Web 2.0″ world is that it’s a completely new experience. I can’t just rely on the old methods that I learned under. Being able to connect with other teachers, be able to say,”Hey, I tried this, it worked great!” or just to get feedback and have a great number of resources, seems to be very powerful. The idea makes me a little less apprehensive going forward.

One of the readings I had (title and author to follow, if I can find it) revolved around the idea of “authentic learning”. The author talked about the relevancy of having students write just for the teacher. It’s not realistic if they’re writing for one person all the time. Blogging could help writing skills (and reading skills) while working with an authentic audience. Not to mention that it would open up opportunities for children to form intelligent and respectful discussions, especially when they’re in disagreement.

These Web 2.0 tools seem to create an opportunity for some authentic learning experience, which is one of the goals for which I strive.

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