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Reflecting

Upon reflection regarding my recent vlog, I realized that it’s easier for me to type my thoughts than say them.  It’s easier for me to edit my work when it’s written.  Once something is said, it can’t be edited or taken back.  It is true that when one is vlogging, one can edit and rework the thoughts but the whole vlog must be edited rather than one word or thought.  Yes, I think I’ll stick to writing my thoughts.

In Response to EdTechTalk

I “attended” an EdTechTalk discussion this evening. The topic was Teachers Teaching Teachers. We got off to a late start because of regular parent/teacher-type events. I found it so amazing to hear one man say that he watched his son’s ball game in the South Bronx. Well, the first amazing fact is that we are living under a layer of ice and to think of playing ball right now is outrageous! (Who knows, maybe it was an indoor game – yes, that makes me feel much better!). The second amazing fact is that I was listening to a guy from the Bronx – in my life, I only interact with people from the Bronx in the movies. There was also someone from Sacramento, Louisiana, and Boston among other locales. The Canadians were warmly welcomed to the group as we introduced ourselves.
There was a man who led the discussion – I think his name was Paul. I’m not sure because I could only hear his voice. Susan was another leader and she wrote greetings and requested introductions from everyone who entered the room.
I noted that issues in education are not isolated to certain schools, school divisions, or even countries. There are a number of differences between the educational systems in Canada and the States, and yet the discussions revolved around getting kids engaged and how to go about this by using technology.
Paul posed an open-ended question which I misinterpreted. I typed a response and then realized I was off topic. He asked what the top five habits you would hope to instill in your students include. After I typed my response as wishing my students to be polite and show respect, I realized that he was pushing for writing habits. Oops! Susan then sent me a message that asked me to Skype. I have to admit that I became a chicken. I don’t know how to Skype and I was scared to try it out so I quickly responded that I didn’t have Skype. Which really isn’t a lie because I don’t really know if I have access or not. But to be honest, I was really hoping I didn’t have it!

I found a new term I need to investigate – Sprout.  From what I understand from the conversation, it’s a template for students (and teachers) to create websites.  It sounds like something I might like to check out.

I found the panel and the guests to be dedicated educators.  They were very welcoming and respectful to the new “lurkers”.  I can’t see myself dedicating my free time every week to attend these sessions but I might tag the calendarand join in the chat rooms which show some promise to my interests.  Most of the issues discussed this evening related more to older students and although an educational experience for me, I felt a bit out of place when people were talking about encouraging students to develop “I questions” while I hope for a sentence each day beginning with a capital and ending with some form of punctuation.  I see a topic tomorrow about 21st Century Learning but I’m not sure how I could manage this at 11am while I’m supposed to be teaching.  Maybe I need to find a tool that allows me to multi-task by cloning myself.  (another possible final project?)

In Response to March 24th Class

So, technology did not work as planned and I did not receive my weekly instructions via e-mail.  However, everything happens for a reason.  As I started connecting with people through e-mail and on Twitter, a number of students from our class created an instant learning community where we shared and asked questions.  It was a great experience and I thank those who shared the experience with me.  This also gave me some time to work on my class wiki and create a wordle for our upcoming play on Friday.  Inserting this wordle was a bit of a challenge for me to figure out but here it is:
Wordle: The Big Pancake Play

I think I might have my students create their own wordles if I can find a way to upload them on classblogmeister.com (I’m still not completely sold on this yet).  Maybe I should have created a site for class blogs as my final project.  Nothing like biting off more than I can chew!

Educational Experiments

This past Tuesday we had a guest speaker, Will Richardson, who spoke on the topic of blogging.  The conversation shifted from blogs to how to get staff members on board with using technology in schools.  I began to think of educator reactions, parent reactions and community reactions.  Much of the technology we have been using in this class has been new – I have found this to be very exciting.  And yet, is it not all one big experiment?  I won’t really know for a few years as to the effects of these “technology experiments” in my classroom.  This reason for reluctance was not addressed – I agree that teachers need more time to conduct their own experiments and play with technology but this excuse becomes just that – an excuse to me after awhile.  How do parents and society perceive these experiments with technology?  Dr. Muhammod was a speaker at a PD event recently in my school division.  He said that teachers teach the way they are taught – and I think in a way, parents and society expect this as well.  To borrow a thought from Dr. Muhammod to illustrate this point, in what other profession do children spend 5 1/2 hours per day watching a “mentor”?  Children do not watch dentists do their job for 5 1/2 hours per day, five days per week, 190 days per year.  Schools are a reflection of society;  maybe it’s not just the teachers who balk technology.

In Response to Feb. 24th Class

The guest speaker for our class on Feb. 24/09 was Stephen Downes.  I have commented on his blog in a previous entry and I was impressed with his presentation on the future of online learning.  I enjoyed listening to Stephen speak as his blog began to make more sense to me and I loved the images he used with the presentation.

Stephen spoke about ambient learning as “ending the separation of life and learning.”  This is so key in my world especially because when students can connect something we are learning about in the classroom with a previous experience, they acquire deeper meaning and understanding. I’m sure this is the case with older students as well.  I found this for myself this evening as new terms were presented.  I had to look up lolcat and RSS– as soon as I read the meanings on Wikipedia, I was able to apply my own previous knowledge and understand the meaning of these terms.

The intelligent fishing rod was an interesting metaphor which resonated with some of the students but not with all.  I liked the idea of learning without directions but learning within the process.  Stephen posed the rhetorical question “how many people actually read the directions?”  To be honest, I do skim directions but I find that I learn best by doing rather than by reading.  I once went on a school trip to France.  We were given a file to read before we got there to inform us as to what we could see, do and experience.  It meant nothing to me.  I didn’t understand or find it interesting although I was very excited about the trip.  When I returned home, I looked through the file and I was able to read it and understand it as I drew upon the experience.

Throughout this techno journey, we have discussed which skills kids really need to learn.  We have discussed the 3R’s but they’re beginning to seem passe.  Stephen posed the 3L’s – language, logic and learning.  I think I may adopt these 3L’s as the skills I need to focus on teaching.  Students need language to communicate and technology is all about communicating and making connections and networks.  How do we communicate?  – through language.  Students need to learn to read and write (good penmanship not required!).  In order to learn to read and write, students need to learn how to speak and listen.  Students need to learn how to use and apply logic to situations.  There are horror stories all over the internet about people who were not logical or critical thinkers and they were taken by scam artists.  And of course, learning.  This is all about learning.  Students learn what they find interesting and we, as educators, need to guide and open doors to show students the world so that they can discover their passions and interests.

My favorite slide in the presentation was the image of the water drops in
“Worlds Within Worlds”.  Stephen suggests modeling, demonstrating, practicing, reflecting synchronous with simulations, immersions, communities and games.  The future of online learning are the last four ideas and the first four concepts are how we now teach students.

“It’s a river, not a reservoir.”  Sometimes I feel like I am a stagnant teacher and I do the things I have done before because I think I know what works but in reality, I need to keep up with the flow and try new things to keep things from getting old and stagnant.  A few of us had a great “conversation” about the future of online learning.  I can see this happening but there is a fear of students not learning social skills as they do in traditional school settings – are they really learning social skills?  However, when students are not interacting with their peers, how can they practice social skills?  Many students have become disengaged in school and are dropping out of school at astounding rates.  Could these students become engaged in online learning?  Is online learning the answer for all students?

In Response to February 11th Class

The subject of our class on February 10, 2009 was Popular Issues in (Digital) Media Literacy.  Near the beginning of the class we started to discuss the difference between literacy and skills but I don’t think we solidified a difference between the two for students in a classroom or students in our communities for that matter.  In my mind, I see literacy as the ability to communicate through reading, writing, speaking and listening.  I see skills as the ability to apply literacy.  As the world of technology grows which in essence makes the world smaller, it is vital to prepare our students with skills in order to communicate effectively and thereby become literate citizens by applying skills effectively.

During the class we also explored viral videos.  One such video we viewed was David After the Dentist.  My first impression was to laugh, because it was funny.  But then I began to think of the ramifications of this video.  Who knows what reasons the parents decided to video tape their child after the dentist or play it on the internet.  After the class my feelings about the video have altered.  I don’t know what rights parents, teachers or adults have to place pictures or videos of children on the internet.  I am not comfortable, as I have already stated in previous entries, to place pictures or videos of my own children nor my students online.  Our school division has parent consent forms for using pictures of students but the permission forms are very difficult to read and understand all the while being quite vague.  Back to David… how many times have we as teens and adults laughed at someone in a stupor.  It can be very funny but it can also be very serious.  This poor boy was under an influence (with good reason) but is this something that the world needs to see?  Other kids may see this video, think it’s funny, and find ways to mimic the video for the entertainment of their friends while seriously damaging their brains and bodies.  Maybe this video just goes to taste and personally, I find the video in bad taste.

I don’t think the David video is necessarily offensive, but there are of course sites that are offensive to some and not others.  As a basic right, people who find things offensive can stay away from those things which may be offensive and it seems to me that staying away from offensive material on the internet is easy.  However, schools are places which contain as many opinions as there are students.  Often in an effort to hide the offensive, many sites are blocked and inaccessible to students.  Teachers are often scared into staying away from a variety of sites.  I have heard a number of times “I would never use YouTube”.  Instead of becoming educated on how to use technology and teach students to become critical thinkers, we are now banning content on the internet as many libraries ban books for content.  It is just as important to teach kids to think about what they read and assess the content for truth.  We need to teach kids to search for supporting arguments to support what they learn.  We also need to teach kids about responsibility.  Sure, it’s easy to write nasty things about another person when they aren’t there to look in the eye or defend themselves but that doesn’t mean that it’s right – this is often a difficult lesson to learn.  Kids also need to learn that words are not always read as they are said and many meanings can be derived from the same words.  We also need to teach kids that the words they write and the videos they post can be seen by anyone at anytime, even in the future.  We need to educate our students, not scare them.  And remind them that before they post a video from the latest party with them in a compromised position or under the influence, this may be the first impression a future employer may get upon looking them up on the net.

In Response to Stephen Downes

I started reading Stephen Downes’ blog a few weeks ago.  Some of it was hard to get through because he seems to know what he’s talking about; some of his concepts and references are beyond my current knowledge and understanding of technology.  I tried to read through it all until I realized through my technology journey that we are all on information overload and the trick is to sift through to find the gems.  Here is a gem I found: “To learn is not to acquire or to accumulate, but rather, to develop or to grow.”

Our society is determined to accumulate things.  The more things one has, the more successful one has become.  As a teacher, I feel like it is my duty to provide my students with skills and knowledge.  The better I prepare my students with things (skills, knowledge, etc.) the better teacher I am perceived to be.  And yet, it is more important for me as a teacher, to allow my students to learn, experience and grow from experiences rather than acquire knowledge they may never use again.  It is my duty to guide my students to discover who they are, what they feel passionate about and how to achieve their goals in life.  In some way, I think I attempt to provide these experiences but I have never thought about teaching, knowledge or learning in this way.

I completely agree with Stephen when he writes that “people want to use tools that look and feel like tools they’ve always used”.  Technology is moving so quickly that it takes time to learn new tools, then master new tools, only to realize that the new tools will be replaced with newer tools.  This can become frustrating when time is an issue.  However, it emphasises the need to teach our children to develop critical and creative thinking skills so that as they grow and learn, they are able to adapt to the changes in technology.

I think that when Stephen described the Smart Board ten years ago, it was unfathomable to some.  I still remember the first video game my sister and I played.  Now my own children play with their DS and Wii games.  I didn’t understand these games until we played them and I was amazed!  I am interested in Stephen’s ideas of classrooms of the future and the role of teachers in the future.  Many students today excel in informal learning.  Many students can walk up to a Smart Board and manipulate it quickly whereas teachers require days of training and hours of practice.  Students can text messages at incredible speed.  These examples of informal learning go unrecognized.  Stephen suggests a major paradigm shift – personal learning environments.  One such environment is the Quest Model which reminds me of earning Girl Guide badges.  The learning record appears to be a type of portfolio.  Student work would still be evaluated and recognized at the student’s pace and interest.  People would earn reputations online within social and professional communities.  People would be evaluated by their peers rather than a teacher or instructor.  I love the shift from the ‘unit of hour’ to the ‘unit of Knol’ – Knol refers to a unit of knowledge.  Another huge shift is from teachers delivering knowledge to students.  The role of the teacher will be to provide students with tools and to create an open community of communication between students, teachers and the community. 

Yes, these shifts in learning are exciting.  Yes, these shifts in learning scare me.  Will I be a teacher in ten years?  Will my services as teacher be required?  If not, why am I pursuing a Masters in Education?  I see great benefits to many of the paradigm shifts discussed and yet I still see the need for traditional schools as meeting places.  Many students come to school lacking social skills.  Social skills are not inate in all children, nor have social skills been taught or encouraged from home.  School is a place where students learn how to deal with a number of different people they may have never been exposed to.  When I envision a future of students learning in cyber space, I see some children getting lost.  I feel a tension because I have taught children who do not push themselves and yet, maybe if they were given the opportunity to pursue passions, they may excel in the world of units of ‘knol’.  However, when students follow passions, they miss opportunities to learn about other aspects of the world.  It is also my duty to provide my students with a wide array of experiences they may have not been exposed to on their own.