Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New adventures in technology...

Another semester is fast approaching and I am reflecting on the past year and the world of technology that was opened to me...by the wonderful class I took with Dr. Burgos...The class really opened my eyes to a world of new applications and learning environments..I have spent considerable time pondering how I will be incorporating this type of learning in the courses I will be teaching in the fall. I taught a hybrid course this past semester as an experiment in the use of technology in higher education learning. There were several revelations I made over the course of the class.

First, throughout the class I felt like I did not have enough knowledge of the amount of content each student was getting for the on-line modules. When students are not required to come to class and directly gain content from my lecture, prepared activities or student to student collaborations are they really getting the content. Each on-line module involved some sort of assignment but my assignments tend to be more practical in nature. These assignments are based on the philosophy that activities should help aspiring teachers to apply their learning in a way that is relevant. The obvious solution to my problem would be to quiz or test student knowledge, but I am sure that memorization of education theory does not help teachers better teachers.

Another realization I made is that technology is unpredictable at times. It is critical that technology applications are tested before the class meeting, and if this is not possible always have a back up plan. This is also true for assignments given for students to complete using their own technology. Students come in all different ability levels and have many different types of equipment. It is important to provide students with opportunities for tech support and possibly with access to technology. Several times during the course I came in on non-scheduled class days to support students. Technology is constantly improving and evolving so perhaps this will be less of a concern in the future..but for now it is a must.

As for the future this semester I will be experimenting with a "video confessional" idea that a friend of mine Shelley did in a course she taught. I bought a flip camera as the DV camera...was NOT user friendly. I am hoping to again have students create blogs and work with digital storytelling. I also have made a goal for myself to figure out how to broadcast and archive class meetings so no student ever misses a course. I am hoping the flip cam helps with this goal.

Technology is sooo amazing. I went to a lunch party today and we were able to Skype in our friend Anu from India. She got to see the babies and eat lunch with us...it is so "Jetsons"...amazing...and what is even more amazing is that the possibilities to use this technology in education are infinite...It makes me love what I do...ever evolving...never the same...wow!! Check back as I document my journey...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Podcasting…and other revelations!

Podcasting…I am surprised to learn that I had the completely wrong definition and understanding of what a podcast was. Similar to many things in this new age, you hear a name of an application so much that you think you know what it is. What I have learned is that you really have to experiment with any application to truly understand what it is and what it does. I learned that podcasts can be audi or digital in form and are a type of internet broadcast. I had no idea that they were serial shows or recurring in nature. The podcast I chose among the many I examined, to use in my classroom is the “Just Vocabulary” Podcast that can be found in the ITunes store under the Education link. This podcast brings you two new vocabulary words per day. I can see this being used in both a high school or college course. In the high school students are preparing for their SAT and Regents exam. Vocabulary is one of the areas many students struggle with especially the non-readers. Students that read are more frequents exposed to vocabulary. This podcast is approximately 2 minutes in length and gives students exposure every day. In the same way this could be used in an undergraduate class to prepare students for their teaching exams. Although college students read very often, much of the assigned reading may not include advanced vocabulary. This preliminary exploration has opened my eyes to a whole new world of learning. These podcasts can even be downloaded and synched to your ipod daily. This would be a great bell-ringer exercise for any classroom any age.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sure...why not?

Here we go! A demo. I will be teaching a course on WizIQ tomorrow April 22 at 4:45...not sure how this works but I am teaching a social skills class at Buffalo State and I would like to try out this application as I will be asking students to use this application to create a parent tutorial. I will require them to post the links to their parent education classes on their blogs which can be found on my second blogroll on the left...I will let you know how it goes. But if you are interested, I think you can watch...here is the link Parental Involvement and Social Skills Come and check it out!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Internet for Your Classroom

I just got a great e-mail that has a link to a cool site that was created to help teachers discover new ways to use the internet in the classroom and thought I would share it. It is called Internet 4 Classrooms. They have a link to follow them on Twitter and when I followed the link it led me to their post for the day which was 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Education. I wanted to share this also as I found it very interesting. Check it out!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Global Cooperation
The emphasis we are seeing developing our curriculum to incorporate technology is ringing in the ears of all educators. Although what we feel when “in the trenches” is that are technology offered by our schools is not adequate. I am beginning to think we are just unfamiliar with the explosion of tools that is available with the simple availability of the Internet. Global cooperation sites are fascinating tools that teachers of all disciplines can use to create memorable experiences for their students. The days of bringing your students next store to work with another grade or teacher is over as the availability of global cooperation is just a click away.
The two tools I explored are The Global Schoolhouse and Epals. These two sites have many similarities but they both offer distinct opportunities as well. The Global schoolhouse is a very innovative site which offers the user a platform to collaborate with teachers the world over on educational projects in a myriad of different topics. These projects are teacher created and led, and they can dictate participants’ criteria topic areas and curriculum. The site also offers many useful applications in a number of curriculum areas. For example there are travel wequests, “Letters to Santa” a writing application and even educational competitions. One of the most reknown competitions is called the “CyberFair”. The web site explains that CyberFair, “is an award-winning authentic learning program used by schools and youth organizations around the world. Youth conduct research and publish their findings on the Web. Recognition is given to the best projects in each of eight categories.” What an amazing opportunity specifically for schools with a small population in which competition is non-existent.
The second tool Epals is a site where students can share their learning with other children across the coutry. Students can ask homework questions specific to a culture or regio, or simply get an opinion from another student. The site offers safe and secure tools such as e-mail and blogging. Teachers can also collaborate on a number of pre-determined topics. Lessons and projects are posted to the site and teachers can create a collaborative group and seek out a teacher to work on the projects. These two sites are similar in that they promote collaboration and provide teachers with a platform to do so. They are different in the structure and content. While Global Schoolhouse seems to provide many more resources such as games and competitions, Epals provides the user with the ability to have students make personal connections through e-mail and blogging.
If I were to develop a project I think it would be interesting to create a classroom bookshelf with another classroom on Shelfari. Students from both classrooms could add books to the shelf, write reviews and join discussion boards talking about the books. As a child I loved to read and would have loved to have the opportunity to share in an online book discussion with children in another country.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Web 2.0 or BUST!

My exploration into the world of Web 2.0 has been so much fun.  With each new tool I find I have at least a hundred new ideas, for both my high school classroom and my college pre-service teachers.  The videos I selected represent information I would (and for one of the videos, have) use in my college courses.  The first video is a tutorial for a free program offered by Microsoft called PhotoStory.  It is a program that helps you to create digital stories for any area of your life.  I shared this program with my grad class and required them to create social stories for their classroom to help their students learn a social skill.  (check one of them out here).  The tutorial showed the students step-by step directions to create their own social story.
The second video I chose was a video entitled "Why should we let our children blog?".  The internet is in the midst of a revolution of collaboration and information sharing.  One of my goals with my grad students is to help them to see not only the value of the web in their teaching and student learning, but the effectiveness and practicality of its use. I plan to share this with my students to stress these facts with them.  It does a really nice job of showing them why blogging is so effective and necessary.  
I am sure I will continue to post videos as I found the teachertube.com website to be a very cool site with a tone of resources.  What impresses me most is the ability of teachers to have an open forum to share, collaborate and reflect and grow together.  Web 2.0 or BUST!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Well That Settles That...

I left to quickly check out my twitter and see if it had all of the interesting elements that all of the blog posts talked about and an hour later I had to remind myself that I sill had a ton of work to do and that it is 1:45 in the am…so what I found first was a posted url to: Evan Williams: How Twitter's spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses.  In this video Evan Williams talks about all of the interesting ways Twitter users have expanded the value and usefulness of an originally social idea.  Check it out….very cool, and quick to watch.  I also followed multiple links to different web sites and answered two polls.  So I confirm that twitter is much more than “what am I doing right now…”  As a matter of fact, knowing that my followees could choose to not follow me, and wanting to be accepted in the group (ha ha) I decided to post an interesting url myself…OH no…another addicting web application…J

Getting to the Bottom

Twitter…What is it? How is it used?  How is it useful?  Over the course of my investigation into the answers to these questions I learned so much more.  In this blog post I am going to take you along on my journey, my adventure through blog posts, web articles and comments on Twitter.  The good, the bad…and the u…well I guess there were only a few ugly I saw, but I won’t share those with you…nobody likes ugly.

            The first post I read was an article entitled, More on Academic Twittering: Breaking Down the Classroom WallsThis article commented on the change in the social culture of schools and how some people believe that social communities on the web overlap with learning communities.  They mention that it is only natural to incorporate these into the learning of college students.  Although the article did not comment on how exactly Twitter could be used, it focused on why it should be incorporated.  The author cited some opposition to this idea by explaining that many college students find this an invasion of their personal space.  This brings up a very important point.  How can we incorporate these into schools and institutes of higher education in ways in which privacy is preserved? 

            From this article I moved on to a blog post, Been There, Tweeted That.  In this post the author expressed their frustration with Twitter stating that they, “gave it a try” but just couldn’t justify the benefit when compared to the time.  Although this post did not further my understanding of how to use Twitter in the classroom a comment posted by a fellow reader and Twitter user really helped when she wrote that, “ twitter is an awesome tool to ask for help, get others attention to student Web 2.0 creations, share great URL's, blog posts, and more. I think you missed the concept of following LOTS - build your network, build your profile, share and post frequently, but also to update who you are following and remove those you don't like."  AH HA!  Asking for help, sharing urls…okay now I am getting the picture now…I was seriously concerned as I was doubtful of the usefulness of Twitter in the classroom.  From my understanding people were simply stating what they were doing.  But my new understanding was that they actually had information to share and were doing so….but how do you weed out all of the, “I am going to bed right now” tweets.

            My understanding was further aided by the next blog post, #Gr8t Tweets .  In this article the author tells us of a new wiki page where Twitterbugs can go and post their favorite Tweets.  He calls it , “deli.ci.ous for Twitter”.  Using this wiki you can streamline who you follow to discard irrelevant or too frequent tweets.

            Okay…useful posts, streamlined follower list…and now to bring it all together is the last post I read, which I found the most informative. Twitter? It’s What You Make It, the name says it all.  This article explained not only all of the lingo that is associated with Twitter, ie. Tweet, @username etc., but he explains how it can be used to research, share information, ask questions, or simply poll.

            Keeping all of this information in mind,  I need to ask myself how I can see it used in education?  In my role as a high school teacher I would have to say that it would be most useful as a collaboration tool between teachers.  Teachers often comment that they feel so isolated in their classroom and there is just not enough time to collaborate.  If each teacher shared one comment every day, think of how much information sharing is possible. Many teachers attend interesting conferences and take courses independently and the information is limited to that one person.

It terms of the use of Twitter in higher education professors could have students follow them and they could share references and materials through tweets throughout the semester.  It would be so much faster than the typical “forwarded” messages that clog up e-mail accounts.

So what is next…I am off to my twitter to see who is tweeting today…and what they are tweeting about….it may be time for some judicious decisions…who to follow and who can tell someone else about their bagel…with cream cheese…

Monday, February 9, 2009

Classroom 2020

I am just amazed by the world of technology available to us and how far we have come is such a short time. Recently I read an article entitled, Better Learning With Sites and Sound, that explained a recent study that found that the use of web based tools in the classroom could improve academic performance. They mentioned a new trend in grading which involves the teacher actually having the ability to comment on a student work using an audio file. I am currently taking an online course and the first day of the class we received a message from our teacher and when we opened it, there she was speaking to us in a video. I thought it was so personal and added a individualization to a course that could be so anonymous. I loved the idea and as I began teaching a course last week at Buffalo State and I sent a message to my students beforehand welcoming them to the course.

Although article was referencing academic improvement in higher education, which is where I would implement it, I imagine that these tools would also be valuable in the primary and secondary school setting. Using webtools, such as GoogleDocs, could be valuable for any collaboration project, at any level. After experimenting with some of these tools over the past few weeks I wonder….What did we do without them?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Social Networking with Ning

The social network I am a member of is the Chautauqua County Teachers Center National Board Certification group (http://cctcnbc.ning.com/). This is a group of women working toward their National Board Certification. I received my National Board Certification in November 2005. It was a very rewarding process, but very rigorous and stressful. I am currently a National Board Candidate Support Provider and these women are my candidates. I think as a member of this group I can help to support the women and provide much needed support and encouragement throughout the process. On the other side it will be a useful tool for me to monitor the progress of the process and will make the collaboration and support easier. It is very important that they use each other also as collaborators. I can encourage this collaboration through the use of this social network. They can see each others questions and support each other.

A Learner is like a Garden

When making an analogy that compares today's learner, one has to take into consideration the extensive platform that confronts this generation of learners. Society today is an amazing information infrastructure and children obtain knowledge in many different facets throughout their lives. George Siemens has compiled his knowledge and beliefs on this topic into the theory of Connectivism. The basis of this theory is that, "Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual." (Siemens, 2005) .

Taking all of these ideas into consideration, I believe the learner of today is like a garden.

Each spring my garden is a place of infinite possibilities. It can be anything I want it to be; vegetable garden, flower garden, herbs. It is only limited by the care and attention it receives and how it uses the resources available to it. After planting the garden it is gains its independence and flourishes or fails depending on the resources it has and how it uses them. The garden is diverse, and each plant will seek out or reject different environmental and physical attributes. For example, tomatoes when planted next to Thyme are protected from pests. Green peppers and watermelons are a water saturated vegetable and leech water from the ground and green beans prefer a vine to grow toward the sun. Each of these plants seeks to quench their own needs. As we know the garden is not a perfect haven. Weeds loom and threaten to suffocate and stifle growth. Pests also threaten the progress of the plant.

Careful gardeners do many things to make their gardens grow. They plan their gardens very carefully pairing vegetables in complimentary groupings. They painstakingly care for their garden not just by removing weeds that may prohibit growth, but by spreading manure to fertilize and encourage growth. They are careful to protect their garden from pests, especially when plants are young so plants can mature and be strong enough to ward off invaders on their own.

Now let's look at the garden in terms of a learner. Like the garden the learner is a thing of infinite possibilities. It can be anything it wants to be. Although we have some progress still to be made, our children have more opportunities and less limitations they had even ten years ago. Similar to the garden the learner is limited by the care, attention and resources it has available. The resource available to a learner today gives them the ability to find the information they need to succeed and learn from one another. As Siemens (2005) holds, "Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. This can be said for the garden and the learner. Learners and gardens must adapt to the environment and make decisions based on what information they receive.

The diversity of the garden relates to the diverse cultural, socioeconomic and academic ability levels of the learners we have in our classrooms today. With the vastness of knowledge we have the ability to learn from each other in a consistent way. We are in affect within the garden wall in our classroom. The tomato and thyme, the watermelon and green beans. Diverse needs, diverse interests, diverse levels of success.

It would be neglect to not discuss the inherent risks of a world that is so accessible. We live in a society where our children have access to everything they could imagine…but unfortunately some they could not. These would be the weeds and pests of the garden. They do, however, differ slightly in their intentions. Weeds would be those influences both animate and inanimate that threaten to stifle and smother the learners. This may be unintentional such as the restrictions from technology we instill in our classrooms. Siemens articulates in the video, "The Conflict of Learning Theories with Human Nature" that "We crave the ability to externalize." Can we honestly say that we give our children and students the opportunity to do this?

This hindrance can also be intentional as we see in the garden with the pests. Learners today are challenges each day with becoming more and more discriminating. "The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital" (Siemens, 2005). There is so much information out their that is predatory, and not just in the literal sense. We have an important responsibility not just to teach children how to access information but how to shelter themselves from fraud and deceit, an inherent "pest" of increased availability of information. Analogous to the garden…if we spend the time protecting our garden (learners) and teaching them in youth, they will grow, mature and have the strength and knowledge to blossom and succeed.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


My grandmother recently passed away...It is always interesting how memorable funeral "after parties" can be. I have to be honest some of the people I see I haven't spoken to since the previous after party. My grandfather has never been a particularly extroverted person. He keeps to himself and conversations are short. He is now in his eighties and I was able to spend a few minutes with him recently after the funeral. He gave me his e-mail address and I smiled and said I would e-mail him and tucked it in my purse. When I called him on Christmas...he reminded me that I still had not e-mailed him. I was surprised...he really wanted me to e-mail him...

The idea of being able to reestablish a relationship with my grandfather was very exciting to me as we have spoken infrequently my whole life and I always wondered why...I was told he was shy...and accepted that. I guess my point is that technology is exciting for many more reasons than the ones that are right in front of us...they give us away to maintain necessary connections in an unobtrusive fast way...in a way that fits into the world that technology is making so fast.

Another thought was very interesting to me...my grandfather was born in the 1920's and he has a cell phone, emails and when he called me tonight to ask me which address to use because he was scanning some photos for me I almost dropped to the floor...Tonight I learned something about a man that has played a quiet roll in my life...not only is he extremely intelligent and progressive...but he was handsome too...

And so technology has gained another meaning in my life...

Friday, January 23, 2009

What I'm Knitting...

Thanks to an online class I have to watch twice a week...I have been knitting like crazy...One class=one hat...doesn't get any better than that! Three down...three to go...

Thanks Dad!

When I was a child, my father was a light bulb salesman. He sold the type of lightbulbs that went in car interior and exterior lights. He was a traveling salesman and he went to different car manufacturers and sold the bulbs...One day his boss came in with a semi-conductor...one of those silly looking things that looks like a rectangle spider...and told my father the company was expanding...

Within a year we had one of the first home computers in our home (I was definitely one of the only kids in my neighborhood to have a brand new home computer the Commodore 64) . I would spend hours on the weekend entering lines of code to make a hot airballoon (in green) fly across the screen.

My father would build computers in our basement as a hobby...he always valued technology and encouraged us to use it...My passion for technology began at a young age...

In my classroom, I have used technology at every opportunity. My students have had a distance learning experience with Holocaust Survivors, created several yearbooks using Photoshop and InDesign, created web sites and utilized computers and the internet in many different ways...

The new technology on the internet opens the door for such amazing collaboration and opportunity for both teachers and students. I have always felt that knowledge of technology was a strength and it is one of my primary goals that I stay current...

I am currently developing a hybrid course for Buffalo State. the course will be taught 50% face to face and 50% on line..When exploring the function of a blog I have many exciting ideas and uses for blogs in my Graduate class...My goal for this course (and every course I teach) is that new teachers leave my class with practical applications of information...

Blogs will be used in the follwing fashion in my course...
1- One of the requirements of the course is to read numerous articles on specified topics each week. Rather than having them post to a discussion board I am going to have the students post reflections to their articles in their blogs. Create groups and comment on each group members reflections.

2-I also see the students blogs as a useful tool to develop lasting connections with other teachers in the same discipline. What has always bothered me about the discussion board (as Dr. Burgos stated) is that it goes away...and so does the connection with your colleagues. This is a permanent and on-going connection to your colleagues.

3-One of the major requirements of the course is that the students create a parent resource. They have an option of how to convey and distribute the information to the parents. The blog would be a very unobtrusive resource in paret communication. Obviously you wouldn't discuss personal information, but it could be a place where teachers post helpful resources, services, articles, etc.

I am so excited to further integrate technology into my future courses. I believe it is imperative that teachers are familiar with technology as it is absolutely impreative that students have these advanced skills in order to participate and compete in the 21st century. Plus how else can we spy on our kids??? I have to admit...my mother and I joined MySpace last year...her to spy on my brothers...and myself to spy on my students...guilty as charged.

My Three Sons!

So I just have to laugh...the concept of a place where I can tell everyone and no one all of my daily musings...is brilliant. I as some of you know have three children. Luke who is 6, Lawson who is 3, and Layton who is about 1 1/2. For any of you who don't know me my life can be split into two spheres. Part mother, traditionalist...part feminist and career woman...a funny combination. I long to cuddle, cook and play with my children...but when I put them to bed I run (literally) to my desk to work.

I love both parts of life...oh but what a balancing act...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


How exciting my first blog...and post...My life is like my desk...a chaotic mess...but I know where everything is! I wouldn't have it any other way.
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