Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thing 11

When I think about all that I’ve read and learned about in this course, I too feel like, “Where do I start?” I’ve been teaching for several years now and have even taken Ed Tech courses in the past and I know the importance of integrating technology and all the Web 2.0 applications into my curriculum. I sometimes feel like I need to “wipe the slate clean” and just start over when it comes to how I prepare lessons and set up projects for my students. Don’t get me wrong, I use technology on a daily basis with my students, but I still feel like there is so much more for me to be doing to prepare our youth for what awaits them down the line. It seems like such a daunting task especially when I’m already struggling to fit in the curriculum I am already accountable for my students to know. However, preparing our students for the 21st Century is an important task that I must as an educator take on as a responsibility.

The first thing I think about when asked, “What is my plan of attack?” I think of one of the earlier blogs from “Cool Cat Teacher” about our students being safe online and getting the support of parents and administration to move forward. Other blogs like Blog Rules for teachers and Bud the teacher's blogging rules make me realize the importance of one of the first steps I need to take…setting up guidelines and rules for my students to follow before blogging or holding discussions (via my classroom wiki). Setting up these rules/guidelines may be something I can even have my students help me to create. I feel before I can begin any type of collaborative learning online, I need to be sure my students are ready for taking on that responsibility themselves.

Pedagogically, the biggest thing I want to take from this course is the whole idea of collaborative learning using technology. All of the tools we have been introduced to give us the means to get our students out there working together, sharing and analyzing information, thinking critically, and creating for an authentic audience. Having students blogging with each other about books they have read, writing papers and sharing them on a wiki to be edited by peers, presenting information that has been researched via SlideShare all allow for the collaboration we are seeking.

Personally and professionally there are applications that I already use, such as email, Facebook, delicious, and Google docs. All of these apps allow me to stay in touch with others of similar interests and to share research and findings with each other. Some of the teachers at my school already have delicious accounts, and getting the others on board with delicious will be advantageous for us all. Our principal has already sent out documents using Google docs and has even suggested eventually having teachers and students use Google docs in place of Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. It just may be the way to go?

I am very interested in keeping my blog going and hope that others also want to keep theirs going as well. Staying connected as a “PLN” will allow us to bounce ideas off each other and share what has worked and even what has not worked in our classrooms. I can definitely see the benefit of blogging with the teachers at my school. I believe because we are a small group, it would not be difficult to get the others who have not taken this class to blog with us.

This is all very exciting to me! I hope that I can take what I know and apply it to my teaching affectively, and as a life-long learner, I look forward to what may be ahead and is yet to come!

Thanks, Jim, for a great class, and thanks too to everyone who has participated with their thoughts, ideas, and comments. It’s been a great experience!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thing 10

A survey for students:

A survey for teachers:

Thing 9

I can see myself using SlideShare often in my classroom. I am always looking for presentations or videos to use when teaching. It is one of the easiest ways to integrate technology into my curriculum. SlideShare offers educational presentations or slidecasts created by other teachers. I agree with the whole notion of not “reinventing the wheel.” If someone else has already created the material, why not use it? One of the presentations I have found on SlideShare is a project on the Core Democratic Values. I plan on using it with my class this year! I also uploaded a presentation that I created on the 13 Colonies. That presentation will also be used this year. This is very exciting to me!

I can also see this as being a great way to have my students share PowerPoint presentations. Nothing makes a project done in school more authentic than giving students a real audience for the work they have done. I also like how after a PowerPoint is converted to a SlideShare presentation, I can easily embed it into a classroom wiki or blog, making the project accessible to everyone.

SlideShare also offers networking and working together with other people with the same interests. Comments can be made about presentations uploaded or viewed…another great way to collaborate!

Problems that could arise might be issues with copyrighted material. Students need to know how to cite their sources as well as be aware of not uploading material that is not theirs. Teachers might have to Research websites where royalty free images and audio can be used by students. Instruction needs to be given on choosing appropriate materials and giving credit to those materials.

I did not know about SlideShare before this course. It is definitely an application that will enhance my curriculum!

A SlideShare presentation I found that I will probably use with my class this year:

A presentation I created in PowerPoint and uploaded to SlideShare:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thing 8

After checking out some the links about Google Docs, I can see how beneficial this application can be.

Creating and then collaborating on presentations, documents, or spreadsheets allows for many ideas to come together and to be shared with colleagues of common interests. I can see how valuable Google Docs might be when working with teachers from other schools or even within the same school but from a different classroom or building. The idea that we can edit material without being connected to the same local server or having to send documents back and forth to each other through email seems as if it might be the “no-brain” way to go!

I can work on presentations or documents from either home or school without the worry of saving to a flashdrive or server. I do my lesson plans using Excel and saving to Google Docs makes it easier for me to access my plans from wherever I may be.

Classroom use?
This is a little more difficult for me to justify. From what I understand, students would have to have email accounts to set up a Google account. Not all students have emails. I also read that Google Account users must be 13 years or older? This poses a problem for use with my 5th grade classroom. High school students may get a lot more use from this application. I like the idea of working through the writing process on a document that can be shared and then edited by classmates. I use peer editing often in my classroom, and could see how this tool could be advantageous. Again, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a classroom wiki that I believe is also a great way to allow students to collaborate and even edit projects or papers created and written by each other. Wikispaces allows teachers to set up usernames and passwords for students without an email account. Check out my classroom wiki (I’m still working on it!) If anyone has any ideas, just let me know!

Yes, there are many advantages to using Google Docs, but there are also disadvantages. Besides younger students not having access due to age or lack of an email address, important documents are being saved to a public server that could be lost or eventually become unavailable. I have also noticed that some of my Excel spreadsheets, when uploaded to Google Docs, lose some of its formatting. This leads me to believe there may be some compatibility issues.

Overall though, I like Google Docs and have used it in the past. It is still yet another great Web 2.0 tool that can be used to move our educational institutions into that collaborative global community we are seeking.

Thing 7

Social bookmarking is awesome! I just recently, over the summer, discovered during a training though MI Champions sponsored by MACUL. I have found it to be a great way to share websites with colleagues. It also is quite convenient. In the past when researching websites for lessons or projects for my classroom from my computer at home, I would either have to save to my flashdrive or send to myself via email. Sometimes I'd be at home and want to look at a site that I found at school and had saved to "my favorites" on the school's computer. Now I can save to my "delicious" account and retrieve from any computer. It is wonderful! This is a tool that any teacher can and should get excited about. Keeping all of your favorites in one place is ideal!

I can also see the value in using social bookmarking with my students. If a group project is assigned, and students are researching websites, they have a common place to save their research and share with everyone in the group. I have not used a social bookmarking tool like with my students, but wonder how that would actually work. Maybe it would be a tool more suitable for professional use? Could a wikispace set up for class/group collaboration take the place of a social bookmarking site for my students? Maybe so...just something to think about.

You are invited to check out my bookmarks at:

Thing 5

If anyone is interested here is the link to my bloglines feeds:

One of my favorite blogs is Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thing 4

Web 2.0 and classrooms of today go hand in hand. If our students are using these technology tools, we should be using them in our classrooms. Something that struck me was what Steve Hargadon said in his presentation, “We will not feel good if students are turning off their best learning when they go to school.” Sharing, socializing, collaborating are how our youth learn today. I remember a couple of years ago, I had some students who were into sharing movies/videos that they had created and posted on YouTube in their free time. I was amazed at not just how well they knew the technology to create the videos, but that some of the content of the videos actually had educational qualities to them. I remember thinking, I need to have this class create projects and let them choose to create videos as an option for an assessment. After studying about the renaissance, I gave students a list of project options, and sure enough the three young 7th graders collaborated and created a “commercial” promoting “products” or inventions of that time. With little to no guidance, they hit the mark spot on. When sharing their project, I remember the excitement from them and their peers. If I had only allowed them to write a report or just take a test, would they have “turned off their best learning?”

This year, all of the teachers in our school are using wiki spaces to create classroom websites. We are all just learning, and I don’t believe any of us have started using our classroom wikis for student collaboration on projects or assignments, but we will get there. Just getting the hang of how the wiki works, setting up student usernames and passwords, encouraging students and parents to visit the classroom wikis for information and classroom assignments has been a little challenging. I am hopeful though. With ideas that some of my colleagues and I will come away from this class with, we hope to share with the others from our school. The ideas are certainly flowing; we now need to set them into action. With all of the “free” tools of Web 2.0, the possibilities are endless!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thing 3

When I think about how the classrooms from the past compare to the classrooms of the 21st century, some things have remained the same. Our students still need to know the basics… math, reading, writing, science, social studies. But, I also see major differences.

Classrooms of the 20th century have students sitting in straight rows with a teacher in front “teaching” to the students. The teacher develops a lesson based on a fragmented curriculum. The student works on lessons that are textbook driven, independently and in isolation from their peers as they memorize facts and then regurgitate information back on tests. The teacher corrects the test and gives the student a “grade” and then move on to the next set of facts and information to be “taught” to the student. So the cycle goes…

Classrooms of the 21st century should paint a different picture. I see educators as facilitators rather than just teachers. The move in education is to guide students in their learning…taking what the student already knows and coaching them through project/research based lessons that are developed based on integrated curriculum. Rather than the student retelling information given to them, they should be discovering the information through research based projects done in collaboration with their classmates that allow for authentic learning…learning that can be taken into the real-world…learning that is assessed by their peers or a more world-wide audience.

Students should be “learning to learn.” The focus should be on the learning, not the teaching. Students need to be active learners and not like the passive learners from the past. Making school and what is learned relevant to students and connected to their interests, gives them motivation and satisfaction in doing a job that is well done. Teaching students how to work in groups collaboratively allows for our future “workers” to be able to participate in the global community that is already being established in other countries. These higher expectations give our students the tools and skills needed to compete in the workforce of the future.

How exciting to be an educator of today!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thing 2

I have had a blog since 2006. Have I blogged on it? The answer to that, sadly, is no. I set up the account on blogger for a class I was taking, and since then haven’t done anything with it. I know…kind of embarrassing since that is where technology has headed…with Web 2.0 applications, facebook, twitter, blogs…I feel like I should have already been there. I guess I better get on board!

I have read many blogs though. Doing simple searches while looking for online resources to use in my classroom, I’ve stumbled across blogs and read them. Some have been helpful with information on whatever I may have been searching for, others have been blogs of a personal nature, and still others have been classroom blogs used by students, but set up by teachers. The latter always intrigued me, but I’ve always been hesitant on setting up a tool for my students to use that seemed so public. Sharing one’s thoughts publicly can be a little scary…What will people who read my thoughts think about what I’ve said? Will I sound foolish or as if I don’t know what I’m talking about? Will anyone even care about what I have to say? But, this sharing of ideas and thoughts is exactly where our students are already at. Many of my students text message and even have Facebook accounts where feelings, social happenings, and thoughts are discussed for everyone to see. With our young people, already comfortable with this interactive social media, I feel I should be utilizing this Web 2.0 tool as a learning medium.

Having said that, I do have concerns. Will blogging be safe for my students to use? Will parents and administration be supportive? The article by Larry Magid, listed in the “Cool Cat Teacher” blog, brings up many good points about kids participating in a global community and online safety. It seems according to him and the experts, our youth are safer than ever communicating and collaborating online. Still, it seems a little scary. We definitely as educators using blogs and other online social media, must lay out the ground rules for cyber-safety and be sure that our students have safety guidelines to follow. Blog Rules for teachers and Bud the teacher's blogging rules both look like great resources to get me started!