ED620 Reflections…

So my last post for my class will be mostly of a reflective nature. Overall, I would say that participating in this class was an awesome experience. The resources I gained from our weekly “Website of the Week” posts are extremely valuable, many of which I plan on using this upcoming school year. It is great to see how each of us have our “go-to” web tools and resources that we rely on in our profession. The opportunity for each of us to increase our PLN was also benificial and appreciated. The group projects we completed solidified these new contacts and showed new ways for educators who come from different backgrounds, geographical areas, and use different teaching approaches can collaborate and produce meaningful results. Also, the modules provided a great background and information set to create a Final Project that I have already incorporated into my upcoming school year’s curriculum. This class demonstrated what I am trying to achieve in my class, that being the ability to teach real, transferable, usable techniques and results to the students.

It was also great to see that in our small group, many of us have the same concerns, frustrations, attitudes, and feelings towards technology in education and the teaching of 21st century skills. I know I felt many times relieved as I read through the blogs and discussions in our class. Sometimes innovators can be isolated and feel like we are alone on an island. It is great when we can get together and give each other confidence in that we are fighting ” a good fight”.

Finally, this class showed me the power of getting ones ideas out in a consistent way through a blog. I have blogged before, though it was about more personal or political topics, but this was inconsistent and very random. I am going to try very hard to keep this blog current and up to date, as I feel it helps focus my mind on what I believe is important in my career, as well as provide to an audience (however small) what my thoughts are concerning educational trends and the continued importance of technology in schools.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Educational Dilemma or New Horizons?

Last week I received some interesting comments on my previous blog, this coupled with the newest edition of Webblogged, really has me thinking on what my profession will look like in the next decade. It is my humble opinion that the parameters under which we define and carryout our profession will drastically change in the next ten years. As I attend seminars and inservice about 21st century learning and using technology in the classroom, a lot of my fellow teaching peers are cynical and skeptic. I have heard many of my colleagues say they believe “all this technology stuff is just another trend”. Something that will go away in time like other educational approaches and trends before. I do not believe this one bit. I know that over the past 50 years, schools have adopted educational plan after educational plan, and follow the expert advice of trendy experts, only to resort back to the model of education that has been in practice since the 18th century….I am the teacher….you are the student, write what I say and take this test.

This approach is now, for real, dying. I can honestly say with certainty that if an educator continues to use this approach in the next decade, his or her students will be at a great disadvantage. 21st century learning and technology enhanced education is a must. Why? Because technology is quickly integrating itself into the very fabric of our lives. Or rather, we are using technology more and more to complete more and more tasks. Just think about today. How many pieces of technology did you use today that wasn’t even around 10 years ago? I can count 8 for myself. Our students are growing up in this climate from day one. My 2 year old daughter knows how to play a show on our DVR, answer my cell phone, and play a few word games on our kindle. Imagine what she will be able to do in another 2 years. Students are becoming more engaged with the world around them with technology, and we as educators must teach them the ethical, responsible, and productive way to do so.

Here is another blog post that supports this line of thinking. I’m not trying to play devil’s advocate here, nor am I trying to start an educational revolution. The truth of the matter is, an educational revolution has already begun, it is our choice now whether to fight it or join it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Best Laid plans….

This week’s theme in class seems to be Digital Storytelling, so I wanted to share this anecdote with everyone. Three years ago when our school was first deemed as a “Classrooms for the Future” School, we were introduced to a lot of new technology, including classroom laptops and digital cameras. While attending a seminar of “Digital Storytelling” I was inspired to use the cameras and the program called “Photostory” to have students create a project along the lines of a Digital Story. I worked with our CFF coach to design a relevant lesson where students would find images online that match up to the theme of the project, or go out and take photos themselves. The students then had to construct a 3 minute presentation or “story” with music, narration, add-ons…ect. A rubric was provided for students, and we began the process of creation. I had a week slotted to complete this project, more than enough time I believed! As it turns out, the project took almost 3 weeks!!

From the beginning the lesson was plagued with daily malfunctions. Cameras not working, laptops freezing up, slow network connections, lost files, the program simply not working or allowing students to upload their content….for 12 straight days I got an amazing aerobic workout as I trotted from group to group troubleshooting and fixing problem after problem. In the end, the final products were amazing and the students stated they enjoyed the experience and the lesson. The problem at hand was, losing 12 days of instruction of content….was it worth it? The students were on task, creating a hands-on product and working in cooperation. These are all great attributes to a working classroom. So, in my mind, it was worth it, and after the lesson was over, I “tweeked” the lesson and made tutorial sheets for the students concerning the program. Of course, the most valuable lesson for me after this initial run was, whenever an educator is implementing new tactics and new technology into his/her classroom, patience is a must, and even the best laid plans can go down the drain.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

RSS….my Hero!

I enjoyed reading this week’s material concerning RSS feeds. Though I was unfamiliar with many of the provided RSS feed readers, I am very familiar with how life simplifying RSS can be. I have incorporated about 35 RSS feeds into my daily schedule, using my iMail to supply the feeds. I have used Google Reader, but find that just attaching the RSS feeds to my mail program on my mac makes things a lot easier. I also have my feeds going to my Blackberry, so I can update myself on the road or away from my computer. What I like best about RSS is that I can quickly browse the day’s World, National, Tech, Local, and Sports news and decide what articles I want to read the entirety of and which ones I can just brush aside. I also follow a few tech and educational blogs using my RSS feed, which is awesome because now I do not have to navigate to the actual website to see if any of the blogs are updated and if they are which ones I want to read.

If you haven’t discovered the simplicity and convenience of RSS yet, I strongly suggest you begin to use it. Most news sources have links that are easily found to subscribe. I guarantee once you start using them, you’ll be hooked like me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Lets set the mood…

I decided to continue with my environment theme that I started with my previous blog post. For this post, I wanted to stress the importance I have in adding music to my classroom environment. I am a strong believer in the power of music to strengthen the mind, focus attention, and lighten moods. All one has to do is think of any movie they love, what would that movie be like with no soundtrack? Or, how often do you listen to that favorite CD, LP, 8-track, cassette, when the day is less than par and you just need to relax for a while. The benefits of music in the classroom are well documented and a leading area of Educational Psychology these days. For more information you can read this helpful article, or this one, or this fine piece. The students really enjoy the environment it creates, and also work hard to earn the reward of listening to their own iPods or mp3 players during classwork time.

The type of music I play typically is either classical (instrumental) or jazz. These are two genres of music today’s youth do not have a lot of exposure to and definitely should! Since I mainly teach European History 1500-1900, the selections I play usually match up to the dates we are discussing in class. The other benefit of playing this music is you are free from any copyright headaches due to the age of the music. There are a lot of free websources for music that you can use. Here are some of my favorites.

Beethoven.com

Accuradio

Pandora

Do any of you use music to enhance the classroom environment? Any suggestions? Do you disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Home Away from Home

I get a lot of compliments on my classroom. It’s not the typical high school classroom, and I’ve worked hard to make it that way. When I started teaching, I tried to make my room look like a carbon copy of my mentors, I had my desks the same way, my personal desk in the same area, the books on the shelves the same..ect. As I began teaching, I soon realized, I was very uncomfortable teaching in my own room. Lets face it, we as teachers spend a lot of time in our classrooms, so why shouldn’t it feel a little more “homey”? So I brought in some new lights, moved my desks into an oval formation, bought a nice scented “plug-in” and decorated a bit with plants and such. I keep my windows uncovered, to let in natural light, and often play music when the students are working at their seats or taking exams. Now, at first I was a little worried that my principle might think I was crazy, but two evaluations later, he praised my strategy and told me he saw great work being done by my students. Even other teachers enter my room and say, it just seems so comfortable here.

My point is this, classroom environment is important. High school classrooms are usually so sterile and dull. Why does this have to be? If our students are comfortable and happy, do they don’t learn better? I think so, and I have the research to back it up. Feel free to check out these links, or just give some comments on your thought concerning environment.

The Basics

Creating a Positive Classroom Environment

Creating a Welcoming Classroom

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Resistance is Futile…

I was thinking today as I was driving to a meeting on why so many teachers I work with are so hesitant to embrace current technological trends and use technology in their classrooms in facets other than glorified chalkboards and pencils and paper. When I returned home this evening I did some web browsing and searching aka “googling”, and found some interesting articles pertaining to this topic. One is a great resource called “dangerously-irrelevant”. It contains links to blogs and rss feeds that pertain to this topic. It seems that a lot of the contributors share my concern and frustration. I think that many educators seek out reasons to not use 21st century learning tools, instead of finding reasons to use them. What I mean is this, if I discuss with my fellow teachers how I have a day set aside where students listen to podcasts and find web articles about current events and then present their findings to each other in a discussion board online, many question why I am wasting valuable time teaching core content by doing “extra” activities. Just because the mode of instruction is less “traditional” and we, as a class do not have our noses in a book, does not mean it is an irrelevant activity. My students are engaged, communicating, asking empirical questions, voicing concerns and opinions, and providing feedback to each other. Is this not a justifiable classroom activity then? Comments anyone?

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments