Thursday, September 30, 2010

Schools still conflicted over Web 2.0 tools

This article discusses the use of Web 2.0 tools, such as blogging, social networking, and collaborative authoring software, in classrooms. While some schools are working to adopt these technologies, many schools and many individual teachers are resisting.The principal investigator for the Consortium on School Networking (CoSN) says that one main reason for that resistance is that teachers have to cede some control and let students explore their own learning, which can be very difficult. He also points out that many Web 2.0 tools do not fit neatly into established classroom practices. Rather, teachers must start to think differently about learning and the roles of teachers and students, which is a huge challenge. While the usefulness of Web 2.0 tools in actually teaching content can be fairly debated, the point that I find unquestionable is that kids need to be taught in an environment that is "in tune with the world in which they live," which now includes vast amounts of technology. If school is completely irrelevant to students' lives, they will either lose interest in school or be unprepared for the real world.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Children like eBooks, Parents? Not so Much…

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:

Are eBooks the next new thing in education? This article poses a few new thoughts to think about as an educator. Some tend to think that these new electronic readers will make reading more “fun” for students, and that they will be prompted to read more, simply for enjoyment. Since reading “for fun” has declined in its popularity as a pastime, technology may be the way to spark more life back into this traditional hobby. If I were a younger kid, I think that reading would be much more appealing on a iPad or a Kindle, just because it’s something new.
However, parents do not really agree with this new trend. Studies show that only a small minority (6 percent) actually owns an electronic reader, and 76 percent do not plan on buying one. So what makes this such a fun and exciting thing for younger generations, but not for adults?
I personally think it is a generational thing. Older generations are not as open to the latest technologies simply because they have not been brought up with as much of it as younger generations have. So, the moral of the story is; if we can use this technology to get younger generations back into reading, we should really try to implement these eBooks into the world of education.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Video Lectures

This article discussed the increasing availability of video lectures, as opposed to live lectures, on college campuses. At first, the concept seemed useful and appealing. One of the main points was that working students could schedule themselves for longer hours and watch the lectures at a time that was convenient for them. Also, if students needed more time to take notes or missed part of an explanation, they could simply rewind the video and watch it again, rather than being left in dust. Students also reported that they got better grades when they had access to video lectures, specifically because they could use them to study for tests. However, as I kept reading, I realized that there are many negatives to video lectures as well. Students reported enjoying video lectures because they didn't have to wake up early, could wear their pajamas 'in class' and could take more naps during the day. While that may sound appealing, it does students a disservice as they will be ill-prepared for the real world and become increasingly self-indulgent. Also, students miss out on the opportunity to ask teachers questions and interact with them, as well as their classmates. Overall, this issue is still a tossup for me. I think responsible students could definitely benefit from the availability of video lectures. However, I also think that it could actually take away from the learning experience for other students.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What May Be "The Best College Class Ever"

The University of Florida has a very controversial class on its campus at the moment. The students play StarCraft, a popular computer game, for course credit. The class' instructor, Poling, says that the video game helps develop students' "on-the-go decision making skills, resource management skills, and penchant to analyze ever-changing scenarios." Students will not only have to play the game themselves, they also go through other classmates' plays anid determine which decisions were intelligent and which skills need to be developed more thoroughly. Poling's class also requires group work and written assignments.
Advocates of technology-based education are hoping that Poling's class will change the perceptions of these types of classes. If his class has the correct ratio of academic challenge to gaming, technology-based classes could become more accepted in the academic community.
While I understand that this class is more than just playing a computer game, I have a little trouble viewing it as a "real" college course. I do not see how a class where one plays a computer game and assesses others' gameplay can be on par with history classes or calculus. I think that bringing more technology into classes is almost always a good thing, but I do not think that going as far as centering a course around a computer game is where our technological advancements should be headed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gearing Up for the New School Year

I am really glad I read this article because it shows how technology can be used in a really practical and low-budget way. The teacher who wrote the article explains that this year he is adopting the mantra "Get Teched Up!" and will be integrating technology into his classroom in new ways. He plans on scanning all of his curriculum materials to create pdf files, creating a website that will be used for posting homework and other assignments, and using a ceiling-mounted projector (though not an interactive white board). The fact is that not all schools have the resources to give each teacher a Smartboard or to hand out laptops or ipads for students to use. That doesn't mean, however, that teachers won't be able to use technology to benefit the kids. This article discusses free or inexpensive ways that teachers can use technology, which may end up being as useful and practical, if not more so, than knowing how to use fancy and expensive technologies.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Story behind a Wikipedia Entry

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:

I was really interested to read this article for many reasons; first of all, Wikipedia seems to be under such a hot debate in the world of education. As a student, I find Wikipedia to be useful when researching basic information about topics that are unfamiliar to me. It’s a great place to start, in my opinion. However, throughout high school all of my teachers have strictly denied Wikipedia as a credible source, saying that anyone can add information to the pages. While this is true that anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry, there is a story behind it.

In the article the author says that the ability to continually edit Wikipedia entries is very beneficial. From a historical perspective, it is really important that we document what everyone has written about a certain topic. For example, the author writes about the Iraq War Wikipedia entry, and how all of the edits have been documented in a series of books. This means we have everything that was written about the war in a physical copy. This allows us to look back into history to get the whole picture, as opposed to history textbooks that sometimes just give one side of the story. So overall, I think Wikipedia is changing the way we document our history, and it’s for the better.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spell-check use on writing exam prompts debate

I found this article on eschoolnews, and was completely baffled by the concept. The Oregon Department of Education has made a decision that allows students to use spell-check for an online version of their standardized tests. Apparently, these tests place a heavy focus on punctuation, capitalization and other elements of writing that are easily corrected by spell-check. Also, in order to make this fair, students who are taking the taking the paper test will be allowed to use a dictionary to fix their errors.
I feel as though this is a completely ineffective decision and will prove to be more of a detriment to student progress than an aide. Though we live in an age where technology is used in everyday life, it is still necessary to understand the fundamental components of writing. Additionally, this creates an unfair discrepancy between those taking the test online and those taking the paper version. Though a dictionary can be helpful, it will not recognize errors for the students as a spell-check program would. In other words, the student would have to know that the word is spelt wrong in order to look it up. In my opinion, this will create an array of completely unreliable test scores.
Technology can be very helpful in the classroom and is now necessary for students to use. However, applying technology to standardized testing in this way will not help to demonstrate anything that the student knows. Instead using spell check on these tests will simply show that they student understands how to use the spell-check function on the computer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Twitter Article: Welcome back to school "reform"

This entire article is about what happened this summer with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Race to the Top intiative. The author blogs regularly, and this article is from one of her blogs; she took the summer off, so this post is mainly her catching up on what happened.
She makes it very clear that she disagrees with these intiatives, stating that teachers are losing the chance to teach what they find to be important and only being able to teach those areas that will help their students score satisfactorily on the state achievement tests. I completely agree with her; I find it ludicrous that teachers are being evaluated on their students' ability to be good test-takers. It is not fair that schools are having their budgets cut and teachers are being placed on probation because they are not teaching to the test. I wish there was a way to evaluate teachers in an effective manner without relying on test scores. Standardized tests can only prove so much...
The author also discusses the ways certain schools and even the government is handling the results of the standardized tests. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan rewarded the Los Angeles Times for listing in the newspaper names and pictures of teachers they deemed inadequate. Furthermore, major civil rights groups issued a statement discussing their opposition to NCLB and Race to the Top and scheduled a press briefing, but were "persuaded" by Duncan to cancel the briefing and release the statement without incident.
I completely agree with Ravitch in that NCLB and Race to the Top are hurting our schools rather than helping. One can only hope that as schools fail to meet the government's expectations, Secretary Duncan and President Obama re-think their methods of "helping."

It's Elementary - Chapter Twelve

Two of my favorite resources that recently become available to educators and students are E-mail and Blogging. In this age of technology, students are constantly using the computer in a variety of ways. Oftentimes, students are using technologies such as E-mail and blogging in their personal lives anyways. I feel as though these two can be a powerful tool in keeping students engaged in their schoolwork.
Oftentimes, in high school, I wished that we had access to an E-mail account that connected us to our teachers and fellow students. Oftentimes, there was an instance where I had a brief question about an assignment while I was working on it at home that could have been easily resolved through a quick E-mail response. I believe that using E-mail has great potential for collaborative learning. As the text mentions, E-mail can be used to discuss books or class topics. Also, the concept of using E-mail to communicate with another class is a modern take on the traditional 'pen-pal'. However, using E-mail can immensely speed up this process and allow students to get immediate response from their peers. This can build strong connections and and relationships that are invaluable to our students.
Through my college career, I have found that blogging can be extremely helpful in the sharing of information between students. Multiple courses at IWU have allowed me to practice this tool. Like E-mail, I have found that this can be a quick way to share information with my peers.
However, both of these technologies have a downside. Teachers must monitor to ensure that students are not making inappropriate comments. Especially in a time where online bullying is quite prevalent, we must protect our students from hurtful comments.
Overall, if monitored properly, I feel as though E-mail, blogging and other online resources will completely change the way that students and teachers interact and learn.

It's Elementary - Chapter Seven

This chapter brought up ideas that I had never considered in relation to word processing. Personally, I prefer writing my ideas with a pencil and paper before I type an assignment into a word document. However, Chapter 7 enforced the benefits of using word processing with students. I began to realize how poor spelling students can become overwhelmed an 'bogged down' trying to spell correctly and look for their errors that they actually accomplish very little work. Also word processing can help students to find alternatives for words that are continuously repeated throughout the assignment.
Most importantly, my attention was brought to the fact that using word processing can 'level the field' for evaluating writing. Oftentimes, we can pass judgment on a student's work based on their handwriting without even realizing we are doing so. When a student has very messy and illegible handwriting, teachers will overlook the quality of the content that they have written. On the other hand, when a student has very neat handwriting, it is easy to overlook errors and give a good grade simply because the page looks more appealing. In this respect, using word processing can be very beneficial to our students success.

Monday, September 13, 2010

CH 12 (Elem)

Liz Exo's Blog Post

This chapter really opened my eyes to the many ways that we can incorporate the internet into classroom learning, even with younger children. Since I plan to be a teacher around the first grade or kindergarten level, I would need some resources that are easy to use with younger children. I think is a great website that can engage pre-reading students and get them on the track to becoming readers. I also like that it has good viusal learning techniques where students can get immediate feedback and can learn the information by seeing it in more concrete forms, rather than hearing it.

I also thought that the email idea was great! It's like a pen pal system, but online. It sounds so much easier and efficient to use email to connect with other students from basically anywhere in the world. I think students would be interested in using this tool, and since the correspondence is a lot quicker, younger students don't have to wait weeks to get another letter back. Not to mention that you can use email correspondence to learn about different cultures from students across the globe!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

El Ed Ch 12

I found chapter 12 very interesting and informative. The websites given all seem to be great resources and it really showed me that the Internet holds perhaps even more educational potential than I realized. However, it is true that "[a]s students gain experience with the Internet... teachers need to recognize that even elementary students now need skills in efficient and effective searching, evaluating sources for bias and authority, and ethics" (Hamilton, 12). When I was in elementary school, the computer class teacher taught us everything that we needed to know about the computers, which really just included typing, and the librarian taught us about researching and finding sources. Today's elementary students need to combine those two lessons, and in many cases, it needs to be taught by their classroom teaches, as Hamilton suggests. At first, that thought was a little overwhelming for me, since I haven't been formally trained in information literacy or teaching information literacy. But I looked at the website that the book offered in that section and found it extremely useful. I loved the graphic organizer that they used to categorize the lesson plans. It would make it very easy to find a lesson that teaches the exact skill your students need. Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of lesson plans available.
The other part of chapter 12 that stood out to me was the idea of using to teach a lesson, thus making the internet more relevant to the lives of the students, making maps more accessible, and teaching the use of a website that the students will no doubt use in the future. This idea could be used for lessons in many different subjects. For math, students could calculate distances and travel time between various locations; for social studies, students could learn general map skills and geography; for language arts, students could write a story based on their maps; for art, students could draw or paint maps of their own. I think it would be really valuable to use in several different subjects in order to show students how the subjects can be connected.

(I liked the title to the information literacy lesson page because it moved a little bit from the link the book provided.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

El Ed Chapter 12

I took a look at quite a few of the websites mentioned in the reading, and I'd have to say I was pretty impressed. All of them offered different forms of learning the lessons, and all of them were very interactive and fun. This book is a little old, so some of the sites have even more to offer now then when the book was published, which is great. I really like that these can be used as extra practice at home, or an assignment to supplement coursework in school. The student gets the instant feedback they crave and they're great study tools.

As far as teaching internet safety, I much preferred the cybersmart website ( to the netsmartz workshop. I found it more resourceful and easier to navigate. It also had lesson plans with activity sheets and information on which goals and standards are being addressed based on the national standards.

I work with websites a lot for my art major and often have the problem of not being able to access my bookmarks in class etc. The websites that allow you to keep track and save them are a really great resource for teachers and students alike.

I’m also a big fan of the use of e-mailing and web chatting with other students. When I was in 7th grade, we did a whole project in which we communicated with students from Azerbaijan via e-mail in order to learn about their culture, and vice versa. It was really cool and one of the things that stuck with me the most from that class. The only real issue in this is finding a contact for this to work as you don’t want your students communicating with completely random people. I’m fully behind the utilization of these resources, but it is something that will have to be monitored very closely.

Blog Post: Ch 11 (elem)

Liz Exo's

This chapter was really informative to me, and I really liked how the chapter gave a lot of specific examples as to what to use databases and spreadsheets for. It's also really helpful and convenient that under each example they give the grade levels that could appropriately use these ideas. I especially like the idea of creating an acrostic on a spreadsheet. It may take me some time to figure it out, but I think it would be a great way to incorporate technology into the Language Arts/Writing portion on the school day.

I also really enjoyed the idea of using spreadsheets to graph weather changes for younger students to show the changes in weather. This is a pretty abstract concept for younger students, and by graphing the temperatures, students can physically see how it changes with the seasons. I just think this was a really neat example of how we, as future educators, can incorporate technology into everyday lessons.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ch. 8 - Reinforcing Effort

The reinforcing effort chapter is all about teaching students that effort is a key ingredient in success. The act of reinforcing effort helps students to comprehend that there is a relationship between the two.

There are a few easy methods to help students see this correlation. Teachers can make a rubric showing what they believe to be "good" to "unacceptable" effort in any category that they believe to be important in classroom success. They can then give the students blank spreadsheets so they can rate themselves. After they have graded themselves, the students can highlight the Total Effort and Grade cells and create a new graph in which they can see the coorelation between the effort they expel and the grades they receive. Another example the authors gave was a math teacher who used his unit on graphing to help his students see that in the relationship of effort and grades, when one works harder, his grade is generally higher than when one doesn't work as hard.

It is also imperative to show students success stories of older or past students. When students see that their peers have overcome the same problems they have now, it is easier for them to believe they can succeed, too. Rather than just telling your students of success stories, there could be a section on the school website where teachers submit stories of their students. Teachers can also send out surveys to older students asking about how they overcame difficulties by hard work; teachers can then show their younger students the results of the survey.

Until reading this chapter, I never thought about needing to teach students that effort is necessary; it was always so obvious to me. But just because something was obvious to me, that does not mean that every student grows up with parents teaching them that hard work is the only way to achievement. I was lucky in that my parents instilled a great work ethic in me; but I now see that as teachers, we may have to do the same for our students. Using other students' success can be useful; instead of students just assuming, "Well, I'm a girl so I can't be good at math" or paying attention to other stereotypes, if a younger girl hears the story of a girl going to State for math, the younger girl may begin trying a little harder in math class. I also love the idea of using graphs and charts to show students the coorelation between working hard and achieving what they are striving for. As students grow older, this will probably be the most effective method for teaching students what hard work can do. When students see their grades raising as they put in more effort, that is probably a much more profound realization that simply hearing about a success story of another student.

Using Spreadsheets- El Ed Chapter 11

When I was younger, I definitely got frustrated when trying to play with word art or the shapes on Word when trying to create some sort of web or timeline or just creative text because it was impossible to get things lined up just so. I never thought to try and do it on a spreadsheet, it makes so much sense. Everything gets perfectly aligned and there's no struggle getting everything to print from one page because it will pretty much do it for you because multiple pages are accessed at one time, which is awesome.

We definitely took advantage of using spreadsheets for math related topics like graphing and money management, but this really broadens what can be done over all the subjects.

Friday, September 3, 2010

El Ed Chapter 11

I really liked some of the ideas in this chapter. I think teachers often assume that data bases and spreadsheets are too complex for elementary school students, but this chapter offers some really great uses for them in the classroom. I think my favorite idea is the webbing and timeline. As a middle school and even high school student I struggled to create neat and professional looking timelines in Microsoft Word, which I found nearly impossible. It never even occurred to me to try using Excel or another spreadsheet program. If I had the background knowledge of those programs from elementary school, it would have been very helpful. I also loved the ideas for graphing, especially the example about graphing genres of books read. What I like about that is that it combines the technology of the spreadsheet, the mathematical concept of graphing, and reading, which is associated with language arts. I think it is really important to show students that all of those areas are connected.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

GPS keeps track of Palos Hts. School bus riders

Liz Exo’s Blog Post:

If the world of education could implement technology to do anything, the GPS tracker is the best idea ever. The article describes how certain Illinois school districts are putting tiny GPS cards on each student’s backpack, and this chip can track when and where the student gets on and off the bus each day. Coming from a family with very cautious parents, I can immediately see how much less stress parents would have to deal with in regards to letting their children take the bus to and from school. I am absolutely all for this type of technology because it gives everyone involved the peace of mind that their children/students are getting where they need to be in a very effective and safe manner. Although this technology is expensive- costing one district $16,000 for 10 buses- I think it is totally worth it. Safety should be of the utmost importance, as I am sure most people would agree.