Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week of 10/4 Response

This week's readings dealt with chapters 1 and 2 of Ashburn/Floden and Chapter 4 of Hendron. Chapter 1 was a way to pull the attributes of meaningful learning together as an overview for the reader. The six attributes of MLT are as follows:
1. Intentionality - Goals are clear with tasks and assessment is used to check progress.
2. Content Centrality - Goals should be aligned with the curriculum to get the best learning.
3. Authentic work - Using tasks that students will encounter outside the classroom is emphasized. It brings real world ideas to the classroom.
4. Active inquiry - This allows for exploration and questions from the students so they can fully understand the concept being taught.
5. Construction of mental models - This gives the students clear models so then can visualize the process.
6. Collaborative work - This allows students to work with each other to gain more information of the concept.
Learning needs to be meaning in order for students to be successful. By using the six attributes students can be engaged learners and will know how to search for answers to given tasks.
Chapter 2 focuses on what the teacher needs to do in order to be successful at implementing technology into the curriculum. One idea I found was, on page 33, 'teachers need to understand their subject matter deeply and flexibly.' Teachers should know what they are teaching, why they are teaching it, and how the information being presented is useful to the students outside of the classroom. A teacher also needs to be flexible in how lessons are presented as well as how assessment will be managed.
The underlying theme for this chapter that holds true for all teachers is that learning must be ongoing in order to be meaningful. If teachers remain stagnant in their beliefs, curriculum, or methods, the students will not get the most out of the class. Teachers need to know that they are educating the students to be successful members of a technological society, therefore teachers need to find ways to help the students achieve by helping themselves do the best at teaching the subjects.
Chapter 4 of Hendron was titled 'VolP' and at first, before I had a copy of the chapter, I really had no idea what it meant. Once I was able to read and comprehend the chapter title, it made much more sense to me.
This chapter dealt with voice over internet protocol, which is a way for students to have access to lessons or other classrooms through the use of the programs on the internet, without having to actually be in the classroom.
This chapter mainly focused on voice and video based communication, which could open up a whole new world for distance learning. The cyber schools that are in place (as far as I know, in Pennsylvania) utilize some of these programs for the students to participate in their education.
One of the programs is called the Gizmo Project. This is a neat program since the end product can be turned into a podcast for a student's future use. The gizmo project is free and allows for free voice connections and free calling between computers.
Another program is called Skype. We had to create a Skype account for this class - and it was very easy! However, I don't know of anyone else I know (other than my Clarion class members) that are a part of it, so I haven't used the Skype yet. It sounds like a great way to communicate with colleagues and even family members, but I have such a small family, we all live within 30 miles of each other, so there would be no point in communicating this particular way. Maybe I will think differently once my children are grown, move out and are away at school or have moved far away.
Another program, found on MAC's is the iChat A/V. This is similar to Gizmo and Skype but has the added feature of video and has support through American Online and the Jabber network.
This chapter continues on with ways to set up an audio and video conference. This seemed like a no-brainer to me, from a teacher standpoint. When completing any task, especially interviewing someone, the interviewer needs to be prepared before the actual interview takes place. I like the idea that the interviewee gets the questions in advance and that gives him/her the time to think of some great answers to the questions being posted.
This chapter was a real eye-opener for me, as I had never heard of any of these types of programs before, but I can honestly say that, for the district I work in, there would be no way they would ever let us use this technology and they would have a tough time selling the parents on these technology features.

Ashburn, E. & Floden, R. (Eds.) (2006). Meaningful Learning Using Technolgoy: What
Educators Need to Know and Do. Teachers College Press, New York.

Hendron, J. (2008) RSS for Educators: Blogs, newsfeeds, podcasts and wikis in the
Classroom. Eugene, OR.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Week of 9/27 Response

For this week's information we were to read about the barriers that may occur when technology implementation is in the schools and also how to evaluate that technology. Another topic was the information on podcasts.
I will first discuss the information in Johnston/Cooley of how to overcome the barriers of technology implementation. I think this really hit home for me because in my district we kind of fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to technology implementation. We are quick to get something new, get very little training and the upkeep (later found) is expensive, therefore we don't subscribe to upgrades or have a real good track record of keeping things maintained and working. We only have two people for 3 buildings that deal with the technology. Anytime there is a question or problem they are not handled quickly or efficiently and we are left to try to figure things out on our own or we are left very frustrated since we cannot complete lessons as we would have liked to do. Another thing is that the equipment isn't properly maintained and the upgrades aren't purchased therefore we are left with mediocre programs that run slow and as the teachers there is nothing we can do about it.
We are not given enough time to properly train on certain programs that are required by the district so again we are left to do it ourselves and train each other with bits and pieces of information. Just this year we got an upgrade to the way we place grades in the program, called Gradequick. We were given no advanced notice of the changes and were not given any types of 'tutorials' or cheat sheets to get us through the process. The first progress report period and first grading period were nightmares when it came to putting the grades into the computer. Again, there was no 'personal' technical help, so we again were left to play detective in order to figure out how to work the system.
Our administration is tied as far as what they can do - our principals can only do what the superintendent and school board will allow and many times the requests for technology are rejected because the funding is not there or the funding is going to some other item(s).
In order for the technology to be useful to anyone - be it administrator, teacher or student - the equipment must run properly and efficiently. If no one is taking care of the equipment eventually the equipment will begin to fail. This causes unhappiness on all levels - the parents are frustrated, the teachers are frustrated and the administration is frustrated, but it seems no one has an answer.
In order for the technology to be useful all people need to be a part of the planning and implementation of the programs that are to be used. If there is agreement and cooperation then everyone benefits with useful technology that can be used outside the classroom and also as each student progresses through the grades.
In chapter 5 of Johnston/Cooley they discuss how and why technology needs to be evaluated. As I stated above, if everyone can work together and come up with some common needs for the technology then all the students/teachers in the district benefit.
On page 93 of Johnston/Cooley there are tips for evaluating technology integration. I think this is a great way for the information to be evaluated. As a teacher I should be able to come up with clear expectations for each of the students, and they should be able to clearly complete the activities with the technology.
There should be room for feedback from all involved - parents, administration, teachers, students. No one should be left out of the process since all are ultimately affected by the decisions of the type of technology that is purchased.
There should be room for changes within the curriculum where technology is concerned. Many times sites or program simply are gone or do not run properly so there should be allowances for those problems
The future should also be considered. Each year the students we get in the classroom are more tech-savvy than the previous year and the technology that the district has should reflect that knowledge.
Changing thoughts here, chapter 3, Podcasts, from Hendron, I thought was very lengthy. It seemed to me that the information could have been presented in a better way that wasn't so drawn out. I am a subscriber to the iTunes and have found some of the podcasts on there, but I just don't use them much in my personal or professional life.
Podcasting sounds like a great way to get the information out there to the students - but I am skeptical that the students I deal with would actually listen to it. I'm sure I have the 'better than average' students that would do listen, but yet the ones that would really benefit from the podcasts, I'm sure wouldn't give it a thought. Most of my students are of the mindset that once they leave school they are finished with it until they walk in the building the next day.

Continuing on with the podcasts, the article 'Podcasting as an educational building block in academic libraries' I got some information that helped me better define and understand podcasting. I can see it more from the higher education level and the academic library level. The level of learning is different and of a much higher quality. The students that would be listening to the podcasts have vested interest in it. They are paying for the classes and if they don't follow along their grades will suffer, which will in turn affect how they will (or if they will) graduate with a degree.

All these technology advances sound so neat, but I can honestly say that I couldn't imagine me doing too many of these things in my curriculum. We teach to the test - we drive home that idea that we all need to be working towards the PSSA tests and our district lives/dies by the scores each spring and fall. In an ideal world we would be able to use the technology but I don't see the public school sector getting in line to help the students advance in that particular way.

Hendron, J. (2009). RSS for Educators: Blogs, newsfeeds podcasts and wikis in the
Classroom. Eugene, OR: ISTE.

Johnston, M., & Cooley, N. (2001). What We Know About: Supporting New Models of
Teaching and Learning Through Technology. Educational Research Service.

Ralph, J. & Olsen, S. (2007). Podcasting as an Educational Building Block in Academic Libraries.
Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 38(4), p. 270-279.

Week 9/20 Response

This week's information discussed how technology is dealt with in educational settings. The issues that were mentioned were the location computers, keyboarding, NCLB, and distance learning, to name a few. Chapter 2 of Johnston/Cooley discussed the ways in which technology can enhance the curriculum and promote learning that is more than just a teacher lecturing and students just taking notes. The chapter discusses the examples of project-based or problem-based learning, in which students were given a particular task that they had to work with their peers on and then also find ways to share their findings with their classmates, parents or others in another district. (Johnston/Cooley, pg 26)
The second example is the multidisciplinary approach, which I actually use in my classroom. This is a great way to get abstract themes and lessons across to the students. By having the students create projects in each of their subjects (English, math, science, social studies, reading) they can see that their learning is not in a vacuum but that it can affect everything they do and see in the world. (Johnston/Cooley, pg 26)
The third example is the authentic learning approach which seems to me similar to the multidisciplinary approach, but it is a way for students to be in charge of what they learn and how they report their findings. The use of technology to create their projects helps them to understand the concepts. (Johnston, Cooley, pg 27)
The fourth example is the academic service-learning approach which brought the workforce of others into the classroom to collaborate on the learnings of the students for a particular concept.
(Johnston/Cooley, pg 27)
The information from this chapter just reiterates the fact that students need to be actively engaged in the learning process in order to get the most from a particular concept/idea. Students need a 'start' from the teacher in order to get the learning going, but it should ultimately be up to the student to want to learn about something to complete a project to get the most out of that particular concept. Teachers are more than just lecturers- they are facilitators in the fact that they are available to help guide students and to show them multiple ways of learning things but students should be willing to learn and explore on their own even if they aren't successful on the first attempt. Students should be evaluated not only through the standardized tests but also through the different avenues of self-check as well as grading with rubrics (which helps with accountability). The learning environment has changed from being teacher-centered to more student-centered. Students should learn from their peers as well as their teachers and be open to new ideas that may help them achieve more success.
Chapter 3 of Johnston/Cooley discusses ways that technology plans can be successful in a school setting. The skills that are to be taught should of course be reviewed and taught to the teachers that are trying to implement the technology. The technology should work and be effective. The only way that can happen is if there is a technology person in the district that can troubleshoot any problems/issues that may arise with the technology. If everyone is on board for the positive use of a particular piece of technology, from the school board on down to the custodians (who are responsible for th daily upkeep of the hardware) then positive things can happen in the learning areas of the school.
Chapter 2 of Hendron discussed the basics of a wiki. I had to have a wiki for a previous LS class but didn't know what to do with it or why I even had it - I used it for the class, but it really didn't help me in any other way. This chapter really pulled the information together for me and I have a better understanding of it. I had actually forgotten I had a wiki already up and running, but when I went to pbworks it did tell me that I had a previous wiki, so I was able to use that. It also helped me understand the Wikipedia that is available. In my own teaching, my students many times referred to that particular site for their information. I now know that I need to alert them the information can be used, but that what they are using should be verified with another source.
I like how the chapter was broken into sections, especially the section for 'Uses for Wikis by Educators.' I think this is a great approach to take, but from my own experiences with my sixth grade students I'm not sure it would be used in the best possible way. I think it would just add one more item to my already busy plate of the things that need to be done in a school day.

I also took some information from the article 'Using Wiki technology to support student engagement: Lessons from the trenches' by Melissa Cole. This selection also stated that the Wiki had little impact on student engagement in this particular study. As I read through the article, the general consensus was that the Wiki itself was unattractive and didn't hold much interest for the students to want to post items to it - if it was more user-friendly they may have posted more information and been a more active participant.

Cole, M. (2008). Using Wiki Technology to Support Student Engagement: Lessons from the
trenches. Computers & Education, 52 (2009), p. 141-146.

Hendron, J. (2008). RSS for Educators: Blogs, newsfeeds podcasts and wikis in the
Classroom. Eugene, OR: ISTE

Johnston, M., & Cooley, N. (2001). What We Know About: Supporting New Models of
Teaching and Learning Through Technology. Educational Research Service.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week of 9/13 Response

Now that I finally have a handle on what the blog is to be for this class, I think I can start writing some information pertaining to each of the week's worth of activities/reading. For the week of 9/13, we were to read chapter 1 of Johnston/Cooley and the Intro and Chapter 1 of Hendron as well as explore the google sites that were listed. Well, I did do that and found the youtube sites to be rather simplistic - they were easy to watch/understand, but I always feel better when I actually get to complete the tasks while I'm learning them, rather than having to move between the task and the lesson being taught. I also have on my syllabus sheet (where it states to create a google page, 'do I have to?' only because this class has so much to do with the technology that at times I feel really stressed about completing all of the activities. I guess I'm just not comfortable with the technology enough to feel like anything I do is worth looking at - I look at some of the others' items that they have posted and feel so inadequate in my ability to complete this class with any stretch of dignity.
Anyway, in Chapter 1 of Johnston/Cooley they really focused on engaged learning and gave some of the skills needed for a student of the 21st century. I feel that in my particular position I do try to incorporate most of those skills - technology literacy, communication via different media, draw conclusions, make generalizations, become self-directed learners and collaborate and cooperate with their peers. This chapter seemed like a review of what I have tried to do with my classes, but the only advantage to the book is that the technology is available and up-to-date. In my own situation I don't feel that my district is willing/able to come through to provide the students the best possible education for the 21st century. These students that I have now are very technologically savvy in how comfortable they feel using the technology (not necessarily that they know how to troubleshoot problems or get a job to its completed stage) but they have 'adapted' their methods to be successful for their own purposes.
I do like the term 'engaged learning' as it puts the burden of learning on the student - so many times we get comments that we aren't teaching certain things - but it can clearly be found in lesson plans that the information/concept was taught but the students themselves were not 'engaged' in the learning process. This process also puts it on the student that they need to be sure to be in school - absences help create problems that can only escalate when the students are not actively engaged.
One of the models of engaged learning that I do many times throughout the school year is the project-based learning. I teach reading, so many times I use the elements of the story/novel that we are reading in order to create projects for the students to complete. Sometimes a test is needed but I feel that the more a student is engaged in completing a project to show their understanding of a particular concept, the longer the concept will be retained.
In reference to the Hendron introduction and Chapter 1, the information when I first read it was a bit confusing - now that we are halfway through this class as I re-read the information it is making more sense to me. The introduction was simply a way for the author to introduce us to the new concepts being used classrooms around the US. The introduction discussed RSS - really simple syndication - which is simply a method for subscribing to new content published online. It is a great way to stay current with educational concepts and also allows the teacher a different way of teaching their lessons. The introduction discussed and reviewd blogs, podcasts, and wikis. I really liked the comment on page 13 of the introduction - "Lifelong learning" is frequently in the mission statements of schools and districts the country over. That is true for my district's mission statement - the only way that can happen is if the districts are willing to go the extra mile and provide the technology to the teachers/students to ensure that positive learning concepts are being taught.
Chapter 1 of Hendron deals more specifically with blogs . Again, at the beginning of this class as I read it was more confusing, but now it seems to be making more sense. The one sentence that overwhelmed me was on page 21 - 'Over a thousand new blogs are created each day.' That is an astounding number! I like how the author used the blogs in the school and also offered the tech support so that the unsure teachers (that would be me!) had support and didn't feel like they were left stranded with technology that they really didn't know how to use.
We didn't have to read the other book, Meaningful Learning Using Technology, by Ashburn, Floden, but I wanted to include some information from the introduction as I think it pertains to the information I spoke of above. In the introduction, they discussed the two essential questions about technology.
The first question asked 'What do teachers need to know, believe, and be able to do in order to teach meaningful learning using technology?' The second question dealt with the administration side - What do district leaders need to know, believe and do to support teaching for meaningful learning using technology?'
These two questions are essentially the way to ensure that technology has a place in the curriculum, whether one is a classroom teacher, librarian, counselor, administrator. By having the avenue of technology the districts and parents in those districts can rest at ease that the students are learning as much as they can and technology is a way for them to succeed in the 21st century

Ashburn, E. & Floden, R. (Eds.) (2006). Meaningful Learning Using Technology: What
Educators Need to Know and Do. Teachers College Press, New York.

Hendron, J. (2008). RSS for Educators: Blogs, newsfeeds, podcasts and wikis in the
Classroom. Eugene, OR.

Johnston, M, & Cooley, N. (2001). What We Know About: Supporting New Models of
Teaching and Learning Through Technology. Educational Research Service.