Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Connecting the dots? It's more like connecting the students!


Wow!  That is all I have to say about this video.  If you haven't seen it then stop reading right this instant and play the video directly above.  If you are an educator watching this don't think you are being replaced.  Just think that your teacherly duties are evolving.  Everything changes at some point or another anyways.  You just have to roll with it and make the best out of a new and unfamiliar situation.  In the end you will find it rewarding to see your students taking control over their own learning.  After all, isn't that what all teachers want?  To mold our students to be the guide to their own learning while we facilitate and make sure they are on the right path.  If you are students watching this extraordinary video, and lets face it we are all students and lifelong learners at heart, didn't you just find it incredibly enlightening?  I mean who knew that as students we could control our own learning.  Even more so we are able to shape and mold it into what works best for us and how best to receive the information that intrigues us through different resources and technological mediums. 

Creating our own Personal Learning Network (PLN)...

Many of you are probably thinking this just isn't possible.  How can students be able to learn without a textbook and a teacher to direct them to the learning outcomes?  It's really quite simple.  Well, actually if you take the video into consideration it kind of looks complicated, but it really isn't.  Did you follow that?  Let me try to explain it to you.  It's really all about connecting the students to one another and to various resources.  Those resources are blogs, their own that they will be reflecting their learning on, classmate's blogs, and other professional blogs, online resources, reaching out and Skyping with leading professionals in the field they are studying or listening to podcasts/vodcasts from those professionals, etc.  With the use of the Internet there are an infinite amount of ways students can get connected and create their own Personal Learning Network to cater the way they learn best with the content they are studying. 

Getting connected...

From flickr.com by:  Marc Wathieu
So far, it seems as if students are just on their own and not really connecting with anyone in particular and they are on their own.  Well, I hate to say it but this is so not true.  PLNs are not designed to be individual.  I mean they are individualized to the student but the student is far from alone in this type of network.  PLNs are all about connecting with others through others whether they are commenting on others' blogs or Skyping with leaders in the field they are studying.  Commenting on others' blogs is what I think is the main way that the students stay connected.  Through the series of commenting on each other's blogs the students get feedback as well as being presented with new frameworks for thinking about what they have learned and even adapting their previous knowledge to reflect new constructions that they have made through their PLN experiences. 

After class is over what happens to my PLN?

Hopefully, you will continue to venture out into your PLN long after you finish the required online class or whatever inspired you to start it.  The purpose of a PLN is that you continue to develop it long after you leave school.  Like I said earlier we are all lifelong learners at heart.  We never stop learning.  Never.  Some of you may think you will never revisit you PLN, but once you get started it will be pretty hard to leave it.  After all its YOUR network.  YOU designed.  YOU found the resources that interested YOU.  YOUR PLN is catered to YOUR wants and needs.  The key word or better yet words is YOU and YOUR.  Remember, this is YOUR network.  Not anyone else's.  Before you say that it's too hard to start your own PLN think again.  Most likely you already have Facebook and Twitter and do you know what that means?  It means that you've already started your own PLN without even realizing it!  So, keep expanding it.  Use Diigo to bookmark websites, blogs, wikis, etc. that interest...your friends, your family, co-workers?  No.  That interest YOU!  Remember what Angela Maires says, "YOU MATTER!"

Monday, September 17, 2012

Living in the Past

From flickr.com by:  Don Shall
As of late, the way that society has approached the education of our nation's youth has been like we have been living in the past.  It seems as if time has suddenly stopped and we stopped progressing forward.  Over the past twenty years technology has changed so much and has given us new opportunities to explore.  Yet, it seems as if this exploration is something we either fear or are confused about. 

Everything we, as in present and future teachers, have been told is that technology should be embraced and harnessed by our students.  However, it doesn't seem as if this is being done to its fullest extent possible.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Many teachers have been doing a marvelous job trying to incorporate the technological demands that the educational system has pushed on them, but it seems like enough hasn't been done.  Granted there are probably several reasons for this occurrence.  It's not like teachers are just ignoring technology for no reason.  Its seems easy to blame the lack of technological implementation on teachers not having the time to find ways to incorporate it or them just being set in their ways of teaching and not wanting to change the way they teach.  If you think about it, there is still that mentality that says, "if it works, why change it."  But, like I said this is not the case very often.  Sometimes.  But, not often. 

From flickr.com by:  Desert Bug
Personally, lack of education is what I think is the main reason for the lack of implementation.  I feel that if teachers had had the proper teaching before they were licensed to teach then we would see a greater use of technology in the classroom.  In my undergraduate program we are required to take a course entitled Educational Technology and Design.  Was this class helpful?  The simple answer is, yes.  Did this class provide me with enough know how to implement technology in the correct manner in my future classroom?  I don't think so.  Maybe it did for some of my fellow classmates, but not for me.  Don't get me wrong.  I learned a lot.  But, I think I could have learned more if I had been given the time to really explore these technologies and programs instead of breezing through one after the other.  Because of this reason, and the fact that my technological skills before entering that class were like zilch, I proceeded with getting a minor in educational technology.  We become teachers because we care about our students and how they are educated, so why not educate yourself so that you can teach them in the way that is catered most to them and their burgeoning skills in the field of technology.  After all, their lives are kind of consumed by technology in one medium or another. 

A call for action...

Do to the fact that I don't believe that one technology class is enough to satisfy our students' thirst and appetite for technology I ask for a call for action at UNI and other colleges to add more technology class requirements.  One just isn't cutting it.  I know many future teachers won't like to hear this, but with all of the pushes towards implementing technology in the classroom when it is your time to teach you will be thankful for the extra knowledge in incorporating technology into your regular classroom activities.  After all it will cause a lot less headaches and hours of searching the IInternet for different technologies and strategies with the extra intell this extra class(es) will provide. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Podcasts: Will they replace the old-fashioned speech?


From flickr.com by:  Tim Jagenberg


In the spotlight...

Out of every possible activity that was thwarted on us in our educational endeavors what most likely stays with us the most is, or at least stays with me, is our time in the spotlight.  You know.  Those wonderful days where we got up in front of the class and was required to provide a speech to our classmates on some topic or another.  Personally, wonderful isn't exactly the word I would use to describe these moments in my life.  Honestly, mortifying, frightening, unnerving, alarming, unsettling, troubling, and disconcerting would be better words to describe the way that I felt when I knew I had to get up and do a speech.  Even just raising my hand and answering a question would get me out of my comfort zone.  This is ironic.  I know.  Me pursuing a career in teaching when the thing that I am the most afraid of is public speaking.  But hey, I don't care what anyone says.  It is much easier to speak in front of kids than to speak in front of your peers and elders.  But, like this blog that's just my opinion. 

Dawn of a new age...

Given that I am probably not the only person who feels this way when it comes to giving a speech there has to be another way for us to compile information and present it to the class.  Well, there is.  Have any of you heard of the terms podcasting or vodcasting?  Podcasting and vodcasting are ways that you can present information on a topic through an audio track or video that people either listen to or watch.  What's so great about podcasts and vodcasts are the audio and visual effects teachers and students alike can add to enhance their cast.  Earlier this year I had the chance to work with a great group of guys to generate a podcast about the benefits of co-teaching.  This was something new for me.  Normally, I don't particularly like new things but I found that I rather enjoyed making it and listening to my fellow classmates'.  I found it more enjoyable to listen to these podcasts than I have listening to someone give a speech.  Just think, if podcasts are so much more fun to present and listen to information, vodcasts would be even better. 

Perfection is key...

When giving a speech the speech giver is in the spotlight.  They don't have any aides other then their brain and maybe a slide show or note cards.  This tends to put a lot of unwanted pressure on the student.  Through presenting the material in a podcast or vodcast this pressure to find the write words is for the most part eliminated.  When students are given the time to put forth as much effort as they can into a project like this the results will blow your mind.  Why settle for a mediocre presentation that forces students into the spotlight in the wrong way when you can have your mind blown by a spectacular podcast or vodcast that gets the job done?  And, usually gets the job done in an even better way that allows the students to be creative and build their technological skills. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brain Overload: RSS try MESS


From flickr.com by:  redwinegums
 Contrary to what my title would suggest I do not have negative feelings for using RSS as a way of getting in touch with content on the Internet that appeals to you.  What I mean by how it is a mess is the way that I felt about it while first hearing of it. 

Earlier today I was doing my RWLD for class, as I am sure many of you know what I am talking about, and part of it discussed Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and how RSS relates to them.  For those of you who do not know what RSS is let me try my hand at explaining it to you.  Now, bear with me.  RSS is a way in which you receive information from places on the Internet that you follow on a regular basis.  Kind of like the following you would do on Twitter, but in this case it isn't short messages that originate on the same web source that you follow, but blogs, news sources, websites, etc.  Instead of you going out to each of these web sources and possibly finding nothing that pertains to your interests, through the use of RSS they will bring the sources to you.  This way you won't waste valuable time going to each of these web sources because they will already be in one place.  Usually, your iGoogle homepage.  After all, time is of the essence.  Were you able to follow that?  I hope so because I think that is the best that I can do.  For more information on, "What the Heck is RSS?" read this article.  This should already be familiar to all of my #eitf12 classmates. 

Now, back to the reasoning for my MESSed up title.  I find it messy because I was in the midst of hearing about all of these different computer application to make my online life easier.  Getting a crash course in all of these application like RSS really is no substitute for an indepth look into them.  Through brief interactions or crash courses you seem to be more inclined not to use them because you don't have the time to explore them and what they have to offer to fully understand them.  Take Twitter as an example.  I learned about it in one class period and never really looked back at it.  Now, after a more indepth look into it I use it a little more frequently and have a Tweet Deck to organize my tweets, who I follow, etc. 

From flickr.com by:  meli66a
Like RSS I have learned that in order to effectively use a new tool to for my own personal use or to use with my future students proper exploration and use is warranted for the proper implementation of it.  Otherwise, it will just go into the back of the closet never to be seen or heard from again until I stumble across it and dust it off.  Just think of how much time I could have had using that tool was wasted if that were to happen. 

Before I end I guess what I am trying to say is that in order not to get a MESSed up perspective of something new and unfamiliar you need to take the time to explore it.  Instead of doing what I always do and file it away because I don't understand it.  You never know if something is worth using unless you try it out and find out for yourself. 

Sometimes appearances do matter...

I know.  I know.  As we were growing up everyone who was close to us and cares about us has told us that we shouldn't care about appearances and that they don't matter.  To some degree they would be considered correct.  There are more important things in our lives to worry about than appearances.  Caring about others before ourselves, living life to its fullest, doing the right thing, yada, yada, yada.  Either way you get the picture I am trying to paint.  Despite what I have just said, what if appearance do matter regarding certain situations? 

Take this blog posting for instance.  Before anyone would read this post they have to first look at it.  So, while appearances don't always matter in reality they sometimes do.  If just depends on the context that you are examining it from.  For example.  What if you went to apply for a teaching job and you went wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants?  The principal most likely will not take you seriously and anything insightful that you might have had to say about your philosophy on teaching would not be heard.  This would be due to the fact that all they would be doing is seeing how you have portrayed yourself as a professional instead of hearing your amazing thoughts and ideas of incorporating technology into your classroom.  As I stated earlier, appearances do matter.  Sometimes. 

Let's say you went to this blog of mine and all you saw was black and white small print, no pictures, links, etc.  You wouldn't really be enticed to read the post no matter what the content may hold.  Earlier today I read Vicki Davis' blog (Cool Cat Teacher) and she really made me think about how the way you present the overall design of your post is just as important as the ideas and revelations that you will write about. 

Some quick tips include: 


From flickr.com by:  Charles Miller
1)  Spice up your post with pictures and images that enhance what you are trying to covey in your writing.  Remember to give credit to those images because lets face it more times than not those images that you use are not yours.  To find quick and easy images to cite use flickr.com and search for images under Creative Commons.  You can find images under the Creative Commons agreement when you do an advanced search.   

2)  Use bold print and italics for something important.  It will help the main ideas of your post pop out. 

3)  Give your post a sweet name.  Don't use something generic.  If it's generic then that will be the only part of your post that they will read.  A great title will really ring them in and want them to keep reading on until they reach, "until next time..." or "The End." 

4)  Get linked in.  No, not LinkedIN the social networking site.  What I mean is link what you are writing about to other resources or to the resources you mentioned in your blog.  Not only does this give credit to your sources, but it gives your readers even more bakground information on what you are discussing. 

In conclusion...

I have really learned a lot about how to make my posts enticing to not only read but to look at as well.  Blogs are an amazing resource to use.  They provide you with so many great professional resources, a community that will help you overcome obstacles you are struggling with, a great literary outlet to share your ideas on topics of interest, etc.  But, in order for this to happen you need to create a blog that will bring in this community of support.  If not, you will just end up having an online diary.  You may as well just stick with an old fashioned pen and paper. 

Looking back at my former posts I can only wonder why anyone would want to read something that looked so boring and generic.  Hopefully, moving on from this point forward I can change my behavior and entice my readers a bit  more than what I previously did.  And hey all of you readers out there, if I am not fulfilling this promise then leave me a slanderous comment and rebuke me for not going through with my word.  Just kidding.  But a helpful reminder and some constructive criticism would be nice. 

Until next time...remember appearances aren't always a bad thing.