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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Last semester, I was observing in a first grade classroom. Now, I should mention that it was my first semester of grad school, and I’d just been introduced to the SmartBoard during my first grad class. (I’m from the age when being able to use powerpoint was impressive. ) The SmartBoard was well-utilized in the observation classroom. The students used it to make their lunch choices and to play educational games. The teacher used it for attendance and to teach lessons. Well, one day I was trying to help a student find a webpage so he could do some activities. After a few minutes of watching me struggle, the student looked to me and said, “You could just use the computer to do that.” It’s a scary moment when a first grader is more knowledgeable about technology than you are. I started to feel a bit like my grandma when she first learned to open attachments on e-mails. Now my grandma’s on facebook, so I guess there’s hope for me, too!
It’s not really that I have a great deal of difficulty understanding technology. I am the one my family usually goes to for questions about anything related to it. I’m pretty sure my sister has no idea how to use iTunes because I’ve loaded every iPod she’s ever had. That being said, I really only upgrade when absolutely necessary. I’d still have my old flip phone if I had the choice. I’ve discovered, though, that technology is convenient. Now that I have a smart phone, I accomplish some things a lot faster. If I decide I want to see a movie, I can go to movies.com and look up movies playing near me at a specific theater, or I can look up a movie and find the nearest theater. No need to go to call the individual theaters or go to the store and buy a newspaper. I’ve also discovered a new addiction: when I hear pop culture references I don’t understand, I can look them up right away. It’s cool to be able to have information at your fingertips.
One of the things I’ve realized from looking back at my own education is that things are often most fascinating when they’re new and exciting. The idea of being able to use technology to reach students is kind of intriguing. When we were looking at the digital post-it slideshow in class, I thought it would be great to incorporate it on a number of levels. The one that struck me was the review of what students had learned or still needed to learn. I thought it was a great way for individuals to show what they had learned, and it served as a review for classmates. I thought back, too, on those awkward moments in class when you were too afraid to share your thoughts or questions. Technology provides a certain kind of anonymity that I think could be useful in these situations.
Overall, I think I’m excited to learn about ways to bring technology into the classroom that will help students to become excited about learning and maybe find ways around some of their fears.