Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Final Thoughts.........

As a teacher I have always viewed technology integration in the classroom as an important part of education today. With that being said I know that in my first three years of teaching I have not utilized technology as much as I could have or should have. Being an elementary school teacher has proven to be more challenging and more chaotic than I ever imagined it would be. Fitting my entire curriculum into 180 school days always seems like an impossible task especially since I am solely responsible for teaching every subject to my students. Time seems to be my arch nemesis as a teacher. Due to the constant lack of time that I consistently feel that I have, something seems to always get bumped and that tends to be technology activities. The biggest reason for this is because it takes a lot of my personal time to research online sites and activities to use with my students.
Before taking this course tech integration was always integrated into my classroom but I think that I may have viewed it as something that was in addition to my curriculum as opposed to a part of my curriculum. As this course has progressed the biggest thing that I have realized is that there is SOOOOOOOOOO much out there to do on the web that allows students to be creative, have fun, show who they are and best of all learn through application as opposed to learning just through listening. BUT I am still back to my initial difficulty which is TIME. Recently it dawned on me though. Technology use isn’t in addition to everything else it should be a part of everything else. Through taking this course I have come to realize that I need to really examine my teaching practices and figure out how I can use technology more often to teach the core concepts of my curriculum and then have the students apply their knowledge through a tech related activity. Instead of viewing technology projects as an addition in my classroom I need to view it as a part of what I already do. If I can find a way to decrease the amount of direct instruction I give then I’m sure that I can find more time for student centered exploration, analysis and application through the use of technology.
Overall this course has opened my eyes to how many fantastic kid oriented technology applications that there are available out there. Also I have realized that it’s easier to use these applications than I originally thought. All you need is a little bit of time to learn them for yourself……ohh wait, there is that TIME word again……. Nothing is ever easy!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lit Review #2- Wiki Books

For my second lit review I read an article entitled A Technological Reinvention of the Textbook: A Wikibooks Project by four authors named Patrick M. O’Shea, James C. Onderdonk, Douglas Allen and Dwight W. Allen. In this article they explored the concept of replacing traditional paper text books with interactive on-line wiki books. They posed the following hypothesis, “Textbooks as educational tools are outdated and in need of reconceptualization.” This hypothesis derived from the premise that the needs and capacity of learners in the information age have been transformed. Through historical research that these authors conducted they discussed a report that the U.S. department of Labor put out in 1991 which outlined a list of skills that citizens must process to be successful and productive members of the work force and of society. The list of skills included, “thinking creatively, making decisions, solving problems, seeing things in the mind’s eye, knowing how to learn, and reason… individual responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self management and integrity.” It was then noted that forming a basis for these skills in our students will help prepare them to be life-long learners. In order to test their hypothesis the researchers implemented a new technique in a college classroom at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Instead of giving the students a text book to learn from, the students had to create a wiki text book pertaining to the content they learned in the class. These researches follow the philosophy of Constructionism which means they believe in, “learning-by-making,” which, “focuses on the learning that occurs when students are actively involved with constructing an object, either physical or virtual.” Through the project the researchers found that the students who made the wiki books used it more often than traditional textbooks and they felt more involved and connected to the material. Some of the advantages of the wiki approach that the researchers mentioned include the fact that the students have a truly hands-on learning experience that they are at the center of. It also requires the students to find, think, analyze and create.
The concept of wiki books is something new to me; however I found this research article very interesting to read. It really made me think about my role as the teacher in the classroom and what I want that role to encompass. Education is changing drastically and if I want to help my students develop those life skills noted by the U.S. department of labor then I have to give my students rich learning opportunities that enable them to think creatively and collaboratively, problem solve, analyze and create. For these skills to be developed I have to find a way to walk the line of being a strong model and leader but also be a facilitator for the students to guide in their own learning and creating. In the article it also said, “in the modern, information-rich world it becomes less important for students to know, memorize or recall information and more important for them to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information.” Well these wiki books allow for this. The students must use all of these skills to create their books. This process requires direct application of their learning in an interactive and creative way.
This article made me think a lot not just about wiki books but about how learners and learning is changing and transforming rapidly. Students’ minds need to be challenged to think for themselves and not just regurgitate facts that have been lectured to them. If more educators would take the risk of trying something new and innovative with their students like these researchers did then we may come across from fantastic teaching practices.

Click the following link to view the article

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Literature Review #1- Technology Integration with Science

For my literature review I read a research report from a woman named Kate Propejoy. She was interested in how technology can be used in elementary classrooms to enhance science curriculums. Her project was created in the form of a qualitative case study. She spent her time in a multi-grade (4th/5th) classroom and took on the role of a participant researcher/observer. She was specifically looking at the teaching practices as well as the student practices that emerged while they learned about astronomy and space exploration by using technology to enhance their learning and teaching. The students used the computers to research, analyze data and create presentations.
As an elementary teacher who finds science perhaps the most difficult subject to teach, I found this research report interesting to read. One of the most striking things I read was that the teacher, Belinda Knudson, eventually found that as the students became more and more comfortable with the use of technology her role shifted from the leader of the classroom to the facilitator within the classroom. This is something that my administrators in my school have been talking a lot of about. We as teachers don’t want and shouldn’t want to be the dominating voice and mind in our classrooms. We need to be strong models for our students so that they can gain the confidence to become independent thinkers and learners. We want to help them grow in their own way, not tell them how and what to think and expect them to regurgitate it back to us. In one part of the article it said, “Technology fosters an active environment where students not only problem solve, but can also find their own science problems to explore.” I was very drawn to this notion because I believe one of the most important skills I can teach my students is that of problem solving and critical thinking skills. We need to teach students to think outside the box and be creative problem solvers. We teach them so much information within a given school year that we can’t expect them to remember it all, but hopefully they will remember how to analyze, problem solve and create because these are the skills that will help them be successful in life no matter what path they choose to follow.  
Another notion that the article discussed is that of the teachers’ role in being an active learner of the technology that is available. There are so many fantastic technology opportunities out there for teachers to use with their students, but so many teachers just don’t know how to access them and use them properly. Another key factor is the willingness of teachers to expand their teaching practices and try using technology. In the article it stated, “Innovative technology is more likely to be integrated into classroom instruction if the teacher is highly reflective about his/her teaching practice and is able to consciously use the technology in a way that is consistent with his/her pedagogical beliefs.” I read this line a few times in order to really think about what it meant to me. I think that teachers have to be willing to admit to themselves when and where their teaching is faulting and commit to trying something new. There are so many technology options out there that all teachers should be able to find some new things to try that they are comfortable with and that will fit with their own teaching styles and methods.
One of the last interesting points that were brought up had to do with teaching students how to shift through the mass amount of information available on the web.  It was said that, “Students need to be taught to filter and critically engage with resources they find, to develop the ability to discriminate between fiction and fact, and to determine the worth of the data.” This statement is so true. Even as a current teacher and graduate student I find myself doing research on the internet and getting frustrated and overwhelmed with all of the information that is out there. If I as an adult still have difficulty with it, you can bet that children will. When teachers introduce technology into their classroom they need to be active participants with their students and show them how to navigate through weak information and find the stronger information.
Overall I found this article to be very good because it was short and concise in its overview of technology integration in the science classroom. However it was not completely focused just on science. I found myself being able to relate that it said to all aspects of technology integration in the classroom.
Click the following the link to view the article in its entirety.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Addressing Parent Bullying Questions

It's true that bullies have always existed, but it is just so different now. As I mentioned in my previous blog, children are being bullied now at home as well because of technology. They wake up and go to school and get bullied and then they come home and go online and continue to get bullied. Some may say, well just don't go online then. Well that's way easier said then done. Our children today are Digital Natives which means that it's part of who they are. Being on line to them is the equivalent of us driving cars. Asking them to not go online is like asking us as adults to not drive our cars; it's just not realistic.

Also there is one other factor that makes bullying very different today. It's written in words on the computer. This means that children can read it over and over and over again. Being bullied in the school yard is hearing some mean things and then it's over (not that it's not hurtful). When it is sent to you on the computer or through text messages on your phone it is there to see over and over again. And trust me those children do read it over and over and OVER again. Eventually it will just beat them down until they can't take it anymore. Childrens' homes are no longer their safe haven from the difficulties of the outside world. The outside world has now entered all of our lives through the computer.

  • I don't know how to use the computer like my kids do. What can I do?
Another bit issue with cyber bullying is that many parents have no idea that it is happening. These children can be sitting on the computer 50 feet away from their parents, being tormented and degraded, and the parents may have no idea at all. I do realize that many of these Digital Natives have parents who are Digital Immigrants which can cause some problems. Many parents struggle to just email never mind using blogs, facebook, twitter etc... Whether it's fear or just ignorance many parents don't realize that their children are living completely different lives on the computer that they have no idea about. Would you let your 12 go out all day by themselves and have no idea where they are? Well when they are allowed to surf the web all day without any parent supervision that's exactly what you are letting them do. They are out in the world all by themselves being exposed to more than their parents can even imagine. Take Ryan Halligan for example. It wasn't until after he killed himself that is father discovered the world he was part of online. As a parent I can only imagine how heartbreaking it must be to see that your children was exposed to so much danger right in your own home; and you had no clue at all.

This is why parents NEED to be active online and monitor their children's online lives. Some of them may argue privacy and say that their private thoughts are theirs and that their parents shouldn't invade that. Well guess what NOTHING is private online. If you truly want privacy then write in a diary and keep it under your bed. When you're online you are open to the world and every danger that exists out there. Parents need to be active and vigilant when monitoring their childrens' activity online.

I feel as though society needs to realize that children are consumed with online lives. Due to this I think that towns should begin to offer classes to teach parents some basic online knowledge. Perhaps public school can be used at night time or on the weekends to hold classes. It's our job as a society to work together to protect our children and keep up with technology. There are many parents out there who don't know what to do online. My advice to them is to talk to their children and tell them that if they want online access then they need to teach their parents about the sites they use. Parents should be viewing their children's online activity every day. This may upset many children, but remember are their parent first not their friend. So let them be angry at you, at least you know they're safe.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bullying...OMG My Blood is Boiling and My Heart is Breaking

Alright so I just watched the bullying videos and I’m honestly so disgusted and disheartened right now that I really don’t know where to begin. After watching those videos I am feeling a slew of emotions from sadness to anger yet the one feeling I don’t have is surprise. As much as these videos horrified me they didn’t surprise me one bit and that is what I am most sad about. I feel that I have become so jaded to the hatred and meanness that exists in this world, that while it still saddens and angers me to my core, it just doesn’t surprise me anymore because I have come to realize that there are just so many cruel people in this world.
So now I have to decide where to start since I have so many thought and emotions that I want to share. I apologize for the length because I have a feeling I’m about to go on a rant.
I guess I’ll first go back to my middle school days. Now for many children middle school can be a tough time and I was no exception.  I was and always have been someone who never really fit into any “clique” per say. I could be a loner, yet I had friends, but my friends were often piece meal friends from different groups; I never really had a group of my own that I belonged to (or at least not that I felt I belonged to). Yet I always had an intense desire to fit in and belong. Now for all of you ladies out there you know how girls can be, especially adolescent girls; mean, caddy, vindictive, jealous, secretive, back stabbing and worst of all they befriended you to your face and plot against you behind your back). In 8th grade I began getting more involved in the Internet. I loved to go onto AOL and AIM and chatting with my friends. I had a profile on AOL and I loved to surf different chat rooms and talk to complete strangers. (Looking back on it I was lucky that I was always a smart girl because Internet safety was not stressed then the way it is today and I’m sure there were times when I may have been talking to child pedophiles or criminals of some sort.) During my 8th grade year I began getting horrible instant messages from screen names that I didn’t know. If was obvious they were girls and they would say mean things to me such as, “you’re ugly, everyone hates you, don’t come to school, stay away from everyone because no one likes you.” Now I being the type of person who dreads confrontation would just ignore them and sign off line. I never once responded to them. I eventually found out who they really were. They were girls who were nice to my face in school and then trashed me on line while they hid behind their computer screens. As it went on it seemed to anger the girls even more that I wouldn’t respond to them. They became angrier with me and began calling me a bitch and yelling at me for not responding back to them. I was lucky because eventually the bullying just stopped. During high school I experienced more bullying. I would receive nasty emails at times, but the worst came from my supposed “best friends.” To make a long story short my 2 best friends signed onto my AOL account (yes I was the stupid girl who shared her pass word with her friends) and changed my profile to say horrible things about themselves. Then they called me screaming at me for all the horrible things that I said about them in my profile. Having no idea what they were talking about I immediately signed on to check out my profile and found what they were talking about. I knew that I hadn’t done it and they were the only 2 people who knew my password so I knew they must have done it. What comes next is the worst part. Did I get mad and yell at them and end my friendship with them? NO. I being that lonely girl who just wanted friends and just wanted to be liked by everyone proceeded to beg them to forgive me and to please believe that I didn’t post those things about them. It makes me cringe now to think about what low-self esteem I had back then. With all this said I consider myself to be lucky. Being bullied didn’t impact me so greatly that I didn’t want to go to school or that I felt like my life was ruined or worse that I felt like I wanted to take my own life.
Unlike me the children I watched in these videos were not so lucky; in particularly Megan Meier and Ryan Halligan. Watching both of these stories brought me to tears and deeply saddened me. As a human being I have never understood how other human beings derive pleasure from tormenting and degrading others. My students know that the biggest expectation in my classroom is respect and if I find out that someone is being mean or disrespectful or intentionally hurting others I become incredibly upset and angry.
When it comes to bullying I hear many people say things such as, “oh it’s a rite of passage, it’s just kids being kids, everyone goes through it, grow a tougher skin etc…” Well there is a huge difference between the bullying of then and the bullying of now. Today’s bullying is nonstop, it’s 24/7 and that is due to technology. Children no longer view their home as a safe place where they are protected because the bullies have now entered their homes through a computer screen. And now that they can hide behind their computer screens the words they use and the lengths they go to in their bullying is much more sever then in the past. Children that are persistently bullied and teased at school are now being persistently bullied at home as well. Just ask yourself how long you could go on being bullied nonstop.
Due to this new computer world that we live in parents need to be much more rigorous about their involvement in their children’s lives. If they aren’t already tech savvy then they need to learn quick because monitoring their children online may just save their life.
My last point that I want to bring up is accountability and the law. It baffled my mind that the mother who set up Megan Meier was not held accountable for her actions. How can the law do nothing after her despicable behaviors? First off I’m so horrified that a grown woman could do this to a child. I honestly don’t even know what to say about that. Then there was poor Ally in Australia whose mother reached out to the school and was given no help in regards to her daughter being tormented on a daily basis to the point that she couldn’t manage to stay in school for even 15 minutes. When is the law going to step up and hold people accountable for their actions? Children are dying? At what point will something more be done. I guess that until the law can catch up with technology we may continue to live in a society where you can tell another person that the world would be better place without them and nothing will happen to them.
For those of you who stuck with me and read through this whole blog post I appreciate it a lot and I hope that you too share my anger and sadness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Equal Access

How can I as a teacher provide equal access to technology for all of my students? That is a great question. During my first 3 years of teaching I have found that most of my students do have computers in their homes. However, it is not appropriate for us to assume that all children will have home computers. Let’s face it we now live in a technology computer driven world and because of this everyone just assumes that everyone else owns a computer and has Internet access at home. Well, this just isn’t the case. Along with living in a world of technology we are also living in a world of hard economic times. There are people out there who either can’t afford to own a computer or they can’t afford to pay for home Internet access. I can remember being in high school and getting certain school assignments and I would often think to myself, “How would I be able to complete this assignment without having the Internet at home?” Due to the fact that there are students out there without technology access at home, we as educators need to think about how to assist those students. It is not fair of us to automatically put students at a disadvantage with an assignment just because they don’t have the means to complete that assignment at home.
So again I return to the question: How can I as a teacher provide equal access to technology for all of my students? Honestly this isn’t an easy question to answer. I teach elementary students so I don’t often assign homework that requires the use of the computer or the Internet. I do however assign several at home projects. I don’t require them to use the computer or the Internet to complete their projects, although let’s face it the students who do have these resources have a much easier time with their projects. Due to the fact that all of my students may not have Internet access at home I do always book computer lab time during the school day to allow my students to do some research for their home projects. This way all of my students are receiving equal access to technology benefits.
In thinking more about this question now I also thought that perhaps another idea would be to offer students free lab time with me before school or after school. I could book the computer lab during open lab time and let students know that if anyone needed help with their projects or if they needed access to a computer to research on, I could be available at certain times before and after school. Now this is easier said than done. This method would require students being able to get to school early or be picked up later after school. There are also many days that I have meetings or bus duty before and after school, therefore making this option a bit harder than it sounds.
Overall there is not an easy answer to this question. I guess what it comes down to is having an open mind. As a teacher you need to know all of your students at home situations and you need to be available to make accommodations for students who don’t have access to at home technology.

Friday, July 1, 2011

K12 Online Conference- So Cool

So I just spent a couple hours exploring various K12 conferences on-line. Some I found to be very boring and unrelated to me. Then I found a great video that really captured my attention. This video was from the 2008 archives and it was entitled "Web 2.0 Tools to Amplify Students Creativity and Initiative." More specifically it was geared towards students 8-12 and since I am an elementary teacher I thought that this would be perfect for me. This video was basically an overview for something called Creative Tools for Kids and By Kids. Students were able to choose a topic of interest to them and create web presentations about their topics using interactive avatars of themselves that they created. They even used microphones to talk into the computers so that there avatars had their voices. This video stressed a lot about Internet safety for students and how the use of avatars helped protect their identities. I thought that this idea was very smart, creative and just really cool. I even went on the site afterwards and played around with creating my own avatar. There are so many different choices as to what your avatar can look like. This is great because it allows students to customize an avatar to reflect themselves and their own personal style. I was then able to listen to the students talk about their opinions about this project and what they believed the purpose of it was. As I watched this video I kept thinking to myself, "wow I want to try this with my students" and isn't that what this is all about? I am in grad school to become more educated and learn new practices for teaching. I am in this technology class to help me learn how to incorporate technology more into my classroom. Well watching this video has exposed me to a new and exciting project to try with my students.

At one point during the video they displayed a saying that Confucious said:
I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand

I find this motto to be a very powerful and thought provoking statement. As a teacher it made me stop and think about how much I talk "at" my students and just expect them to understand and learn verses how much I talk "with" my students and listen to them while they explore and problem solve. I am a firm believer that as an educator it's my job to prepare my students for life by teach them how to work collaboratively, think and problem solve. I don't expect them to remember every little thing that I teach them for the rest of their lives. What I hope for is that I have motivated my students to want to learn and think. I want my students to be intrigued by learning and want to challenge themselves and their minds. I want them to be able to problem solve and know what strategies they need to use to be successful learners thus making them successful members of society one day. If I can provide that for my students then I do believe that I have done my job as an educator. Remembering Confucious's words will help me remember how to reach my goal as a teacher.

I highly recommend this video for teachers to watch. Click the link below and it will bring you to the main web page for this project and the K12 video is on there to view also.