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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I had the chance recently to sit in on a CSE meeting.  The Assistive Technology Specialist sat in on the meeting, and one of the topics discussed was acquiring Bookshare for the student.  This particular student has difficulty with writing, which translates to his reading abilities.  He has some other technologies that he uses at home to help him, but in this meeting the committee talked about implementing them more in his school day.

I heard a little bit about what Bookshare was about, but I wanted to know what it could do for students with disabilities.  So I went to the website.

Bookshare is free to students with disabilities.  It provides students with the ability to download books so that they can read them in the ways that are suited to their needs, including choosing from voices to read it to them (similar to text-to-speech).  It helps students to create outlines, highlight important passages, make notes on their thoughts or questions they may have.  I thought this last point was especially helpful since this particular student’s class is learning about metacognition.  Writing down thoughts or questions would give the student a chance to see metacognition in action.  Various forms of Bookshare technology are available on different platforms, including laptops, desktops, mobile devices (including phones and iPads), and other assistive technology devices.

Back to the meeting.  (For simplification purposes, I have given the parent and teacher aliases.  Basically, it was just easier to type Mrs. P and Mrs. T, rather than typing “the parent” and “the teacher” every time.)  The parent (Mrs. P) asked the teacher (Mrs. T) how the technology would be used in the classroom.  Mrs. T responded that, with Mrs. P’s permission, she’d like to have a discussion with the class about how everybody has different needs.  Mrs. T thought it would be a great opportunity for the student to talk to classmates about the cool stuff he got to use, thus hopefully helping his self-esteem.  Since the school might be placing a desktop in the classroom for the student’s use, Mrs. T pointed out that it could also give him an opportunity to teach the other students something about computers, since he would be something of an expert.

I thought about what a great approach that could be for any student.  Oftentimes, having to rely on something different can ostracize a student.  If you turn that around, though, and turn it into an opportunity to talk about how everybody is different, I think it provides the students with an important lesson on diversity.  It could also give a student the chance to boost self-confidence by being an expert on something.  While this particular student is quite sociable, for a student who isn’t as good at making friends, it could be an opportunity to connect with classmates.

I hope I get the chance to see this new technology incorporated into the classroom.  I want to see what sort of form it takes for the student and for the rest of the class.


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A Lament for Lost Art Forms

In Amber Brewster’s post entitled “Communicating with Students”, she talks about handwritten notes.  I consider it to be something of a lost art form.

My friend and I have started writing letters to each other.  There’s something incredibly beautiful about putting pen to paper and seeing your words etched out in your own handwriting.  Then I think about poets and writers putting their thoughts and words on paper.  I love to see a “rough draft” of a poem or story with words and sections crossed out and marked up.  You can almost crawl inside the writer’s mind and see the process.  You can imagine him or her thinking, ‘No, this word doesn’t say it, this word is the right one!’ It’s another way to connect with the writer.

Borders announced it’s closing down.  It feels like a big loss to me.  I remember going there in high school.  Looking through the books, finding a new one to take home.  I remember hearing once that the only reason Barnes & Noble stayed open and made money was through their textbook sales.  How sad.  It makes me wonder if the majority of people really read.

Then I start to wonder if maybe technology could encourage a new generation of readers.  I think about what stops people from reading.  I grew up with a love of books because my family loved books. However, if my only experience had been having to read books I didn’t enjoy because it was required for school, I think my feelings would change.  Not only that but if I’d struggled to read because of a learning disorder.  We learned about text-to-speech in class the other week, and it seems like a great way to help students who struggle with reading.

So maybe there is hope for readers everywhere.

(I feel I should add that I do realize that I’m writing about the lost art form of putting pen to paper on an online blog.  I guess that’s just a result of this world I live in, somewhere on the cusp of the old and the new.)


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FUNdamental Education

In case you think it’s a typing error, I did capitalize FUN on purpose.  It’s been one of the ideas that I think about in relation to education.  You know those moments in any class you take where you’re just really excited about what you’re going to do?  Whether it’s a new book (I love, love, love new books) or a topic you’re interested in or passionate about or just the chance to explore something new.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about the Educational Technology class (I swear I’m not trying to suck up by saying this) is just the chance to explore new things.  It’s just cool.  I had no idea that GoogleDocs had so many features.  Getting the chance to get to know my classmates by sharing documents with them is just plain fun to me.

I want to capture that sense of excitement and just plain fun in my own teaching.  One of the things that could potentially hold that back is the notion of “teaching to the test”.  In a comment from my last post, a fellow blogger (from Australia!) named Paula Thomas mentioned instrinsic motivation, and that’s exactly what I want my students to feel.  It’s just difficult to feel that about learning when it’s not necessarily what you’re interested in but what’s required.

I’m starting to see how introducing new technology can “shake things up” in the classroom.  Having to write a paper can be a little more interesting if you get to explore GoogleDocs while writing it; if the use of that technology helps you to become a better writer by letting you get instant feedback from your teacher, that can change the way you learn and maybe the way you feel about learning.

I’m still struggling with this idea.


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“Learning Experts”

I was looking for a topic this week and decided to take a look at the articles from Professor Ransom’s comment from the previous week.  In “It Will Change Education” Will Richardson writes “we are the learning experts (or at least we should be) in our communities.”  I borrowed that phrase for my title because I think it ties in with something I’ve been ruminating about for a while now.

When Professor Ransom suggested the idea that with such information at students’ fingertips, teachers might not be the experts that they’d previously been perceived, it honestly scared me a little.  If I’m not an expert to these kids, then what’s the point?

In this existential crisis, I realized that this might actually be a great opportunity for me to think about what kind of teacher I want to be.  It means that I won’t have to be the teacher who lectures from the front of the classroom from a textbook.  Homework doesn’t have to come from said textbook, which is how I remember the majority of my schooling.

And that’s when the panic really set it.  I don’t know if I know how to be any other kind of teacher! I mean, I hear all the time how teachers just starting out often revert to the style they know best.  So how can I learn to be the kind of teacher I want to be?

That’s when the phrase “learning expert” really struck me.  What a great alternative for the word “teacher”.  I could teach my students not just content but the best methods to learn.  More importantly, helping them discover the methods that work for them individually.  Which means that I have to become an expert in the ways that people learn.  This teaching thing is a lot more complicated than I thought, but what a great challenge.  To be able to look at a student and think, ‘How can I pull the best out of this individual?’

It seems to be that technology just may be affording us with ways of accommodating, encouraging, and hopefully even inspiring learners.


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