Monday, September 27, 2010

Ning Networks...Classroom 2.0

As a former Ning user, I really like the social networking opportunity it provides, however, I was thoroughly disappointed when Ning.Com started charging to use its site.  The students that I had used the site with had also graduated in June leaving "Miss Hart's Ning" dorment all summer anyways.  Now that I have reentered the sea of Ning Networks I found an extremely relevant and useful Network called "Classroom 2.0" Later, I realized this was the first Ning Network recommended on our syllabus... Nevertheless, it stuck out to me because the site provides posts from educators and individuals from all over regarding various topics of how to implement technology within your classroom, technology/education standards, online seminars, software, etc., etc.  Classroom 2.0 was created for educators interested in Classroom 2.0 and social media within education.  I like how there is a link for "beginners" to begin digital dialog.  There is nothing more overwhelming then attempting to become more digital savvy and hitting a brick wall in your first attempt.  What a great idea to guide novices through their first attempts.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A learner is like a...

CAKE!  Quite a stretch, but a learner is exposed and compiled of several forms of knowledge (ingredients) and does not only rely on one source of knowledge, but many to create a more informed individual (better cake).  The tools and modes of technology used to obtain this knowledge (measuring cups, mixer, oven, spatulas) have become essential for 21st century learners.  Our need for Blogs, text messaging, Podcasts, etc. has allowed a learner's knowledge to be more easily obtainable and reciprocated.  It is also the 21st century learners' right and responsibility to be exposed to the most current pieces of knowledge (freshest ingredients).  By making it a point to use the best tools for knowledge and acquiring the most current elements of knowledge, the outcome will be a most informed learner (DELICIOUS CAKE).

When reading George Siemens' article, "Connectivism:  A Learning Theory for the Digital Age" I am intrigued by his theory learning theory known as connectivism.  According to Siemens, "Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity, and self-organization sets."  Furthermore, " focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more and are more important than our current state of knowing."  Continuing with my cake analogy, it is the precise "connection of information sets" (measured ingredients) to learn more or work towards a finished product (DELICIOUS CAKE).  

Although I am not able to synthesize the following quote within my delicious cake analogy, I nevertheless found it powerful  and appropriate to address regarding our 21st century learners.  In the short video, "The Conflict of Learning Theories with Human Nature," Siemens discusses connectivism and states: 
“Our challenge, then, as educators is finding a way to value and to foster that human need that we have to be expressed about our ideas and to focus less on trying to bring knowledge into the mind of a person, and more on developing skills for our learners so they’re able to go out in, fairly complex knowledge environments today, and function in a distributive manner.”

It is critical for teachers across the globe to not push mundane quantities of facts upon our students, but prepare them with the essential skills in occupations that are just emerging, yet will become the foundations to societal existence.  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Response to "...K-12 Students Today"

I started watching the video entitled, "A Vision of K-12 Students Today" and immediately was reminded of a video that I had been shown by a friend and also in a graduate class last year.  Half way through the video I stopped and was curious to read the other titles of video links we were asked to choose from.  Sure enough, the video "Did You Know?" was the one I was thinking of.  After watching both, I am truly amazed at the statistics that they include.  To know that college majors are offered that didn't even exist 10 years ago is incredible.  That 70% of four year olds have used a computer is shocking.  The fact that 67% of teachers have never used wikis, blogs, or podcasts is believable, but needs to be changed. 

It is apparent that we are utilizing the interests of our students within the classroom.  By remaining unexposed and uneducated about technology that actually opens a whole new world of learning for our students, we are doing them a disservice and only prolonging the time before we must become educated.  I believe that professional development should begin to largely focus upon ways that educators can practically incorporate technology within their classrooms and daily instruction instead of it being large chunks of time that teachers feel they are wasting.  I believe education is in the midst of a complete revolution, however, it needs a slight push in order for that revolution to be complete.  Although I consider myself a young teacher, I even need that extra push to learn what children and teenagers know today.  Last year I showed my 12th grade students the "Did You Know?" video and may show my new ninth graders as well...although I don't think they're as astonished as I am when I watch it. :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Safe Blogging

In order to ensure blogging remains safe for all students I would suggest some of the following ground rules with my students prior to allowing them access to a community blog..

1. Do not share passwords with anyone except a teacher or parents.  Do NOT give a password to a "best friend" because that friendship may change throughout the course.

2. When blogging be sure to consider your audience as many people may have access to what you have written.  Avoid racial, religious, or gender bashing.

3.  Do not include any information in your blog post that reveals where you go to school, where you live, where you or your family members work, etc.  Always keep in mind that someone harmful may be your blogs for the wrong purpose.

4. Do not discuss inappropriate material or include any pictures that are inappropriate.  Ask  yourself, in ten years would I be able to get a job if the employer had access to these blogs/pictures.

5.  Lastly, do not utilize your last name in any posts!

In my district, incoming freshman are asked to have their parents sign a release form that allows them to navigate the Internet while at school.  We also use programs, such as Moodle and Castle Learning, this release also gives permission to students to create user/ID names and use these online instructional tools on a daily basis.

In order to block any inappropriate content, there is a team of technology staff that is continuously blocking and filtering any sites or images that are not acceptable for students to access.

Last year, I created a "Ning Network" with my students and informed the technology specialist in order to avoid them blocking the site after it had been identified that it was being used by students.  I informed her it was strictly for instructional purposes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Professional Development

Already after reading the first few chapters of the text and trying out a few new Internet tools, I feel that my own teaching could be completely changed if I take advantage of all these devices have to offer.  Although I absolutely hope to utilize what I learn in this course with my ninth grade students, I am also considering the benefits that this could offer in the area of professional development

Currently, I teach on a ninth grade team including four content area teachers and myself as the special ed. teacher.  After just finishing the first week of school with a new team and implementing a new form of instruction through co-teaching, I have already stumbled upon many obstacles.  One of the major struggles that I foresee for our team this year is communication (fortunately for me I am taking this course).  Despite carefully checking schedules and attempting to find common planning time between the five of us, there will absolutely not be enough hours in a day to allow us the collaboration opportunities that we need. 

I think for a situation like mine where you are teaching on a team, or a grade level/content area of teachers it would be extremely beneficial to utilize blogs to keep in contact regarding various topics.  For instance, one of the blogs could be specifically regarding parent contact.  It was suggested in the beginning of the year that we continuously communicate in order to eliminate several phone calls home, and instead, make one phone call addressing a student's problems in more than one of his/her classes.  By communicating through a blog we would each be able to discuss a student's misbehavior or missing work and have one teacher make the call home.

Another benefit of using blogs between team members is to share feedback.  Oftentimes, reflection gets forgotten as there is not enough time to sit down and discuss what worked or what didn't work.  Having the convenience to type something up in a specialized section where team members may view it would be extremely beneficial.  Particularly in the area of special ed,  it is crucial to identify which instructional strategies were successful or what content was learned or not learned. 

Thinking on a grander scale, it would of course be great if colleagues of an entire school could share some new ideas or new discoveries that they have found.  Although one may find an endless amount of great ideas on the Internet, it has almost become exhausting to filter through the huge amount of good and bad.  I think teachers would be much more receptive to the ideas of their own colleagues, rather than a stranger on the Internet.

I hope to implement this useful communication tool amongst my ninth grade team, however, I believe it would be a huge benefit if administration got the ball rolling at the beginning of the school year with something similar.