Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life on the other side

The acquisition of knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it can also be scary. When one is totally immersed in thought-provoking ideas, you sense there is something on the other side of that wall. The initial images of a new thought is right there at the cusp of your brain, but you can't quite find the right words to communicate it, either to yourself or to someone else. I think of it as the total opposite of walking on thin ice, waiting for the crack to happen and then the opening to swallow me whole. Only this time I am the water beneath that sheet of ice and I just can't find the means to break through to the outside world.

Upon completing my first full semester as a full-time student since December 1974, I am in awe of where my life path has taken me. There is a profound amount of people, places, and ideas which I've experienced, yet nothing compares to the feeling I am experiencing here and now in December 2010. I haven't been away from the classroom for the past 36 years; rather, I've been entrenched in real living. This is not the final chapter, but the beginning of a unique climax in plot development. There are several more roads to travel: some rough and winding, some straight and narrow, some with pitfalls, others with great rewards. My backpack is firmly in place and the compass points me on my way. Let's do it........

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reading Reflection BWP Ch. 4-5

Prior to enrolling in this class, I knew little to nothing about wikis aside from being warned by other professors about their credibility and authenticity. Didn't the folks at Wiki 'control' each wiki? Why would someone put misinformation on the Internet? Why should I believe everything I read and hear? Absolutely not! That's just one reason we've got a brain to process information and make informed decisions. After taking a good look at all the examples provided in chapter 4, I am optimistic about the future of education and the distribution of information via Wiki, Google docs, and all the other read/write applications. It's not simply about my information, but all of the contributions provided by my students. This allows them to not only share, but to institute new ways of thought via a wiki.

RSS applications are also a huge time-saver. Again, I never made use of this tool before the semester began, but now I'm using them all the time. Thanks for places like Pageflakes and Symbaloo, I can crunch time and scan headlines prior to drilling deeper into each individual website. If my class is working on a specific project, I can set up a convenient source page to limit or expand their research. Sometimes I don't need to be the person who identifies the pool, for the class might want to take responsibility for identifying resources. This creates a sense of ownership, too. The wave of "killer apps" is only just beginning, and over the next few years there will be an explosion of new tools to work with. As much as I'd love to get comfortable with one or two, I know they're all going to continue to evolve in scope and design. Change is inevitable and always something to always expect.

Reading Reflection BWP Ch. 1-3

Here I am at the end of the semester and I'm reflecting on the first three chapters of a book I read back in September. Time to reflect on a reflection I thought about three months ago, and the candle is now a roaring flame...but that is not a problem.

I remember those early days of the Internet. As s-l-o-w as it was (in today's standard), it was fast as we knew it for that time. I recall demonstrating a download to my father-in-law, and his amazement in watching it appear (at least little by little). Yet today we web has progressed into a new generation of read/write capabilities. This opens the door for social learning and networking, not just between machines but amongst people and ideas. Suddenly you can "connect" with individuals with similar interests, similar lifestyles, similar cultural backgrounds.How we respond in manner and etiquette is still being debated and defined, but our world has suddenly been turned upside down....or right side up. As teachers we have a much bigger (and deeper) toolbox to draw from...as well as so much more to stay abreast of. As simple as the Internet is, it's a complex maize of things you need to not only learn but remember, too. With freedom comes responsibility, not only for yourself, but knowing where you're steering your students. Their safety should always be our concern, so it is important that my assignments be clear and concise, free of any void and confusion.

I love the idea of maintaining a classroom blog! It allows our class the opportunity to look outward, and it provides parents and community the ability to look inside. It's more than two-dimensional as it can freeze time to the present, look back on the past, and jump ahead into the future. I love it! And while school websites are nice, they don't provide an end-all solution. They often take too much time to update and everything funnels through the office of one individual. Meanwhile a blog is updated instantly...real time stuff! Looking at some of the examples in the textbook which are already in use in various classrooms, it clearly demonstrates a "best practice" which I look forward to using in years to come.

Technology Inquiry Wiki Experience

I would love nothing better than to say this was an easy assignment, but in all honesty, it may have been one of the most difficult. It's not that I don't enjoy research projects and term papers, but ending it all with a screencast tests the patience of the soul. Needless to say, it is done.  (ta-da!)

My research into WebQuests was an enjoyable experience, and it entailed searching for relevant articles over many weeks. When the project was completed I came upon the realization that many teachers are not tapping into this unique resource for one of two reasons. For those who did use WebQuests many years ago, before days of Web2.0, they will come to a realization of how much it has changed with the evolution of the interactivity of the Internet. And for those who aren't, it may be their fear or lack of knowledge for what this can do to spark life into their classroom. There is a generation of new learners waiting for their teacher to cease being a direct-instructor and begin facilitating learning (can you sense my excitement?)  I love the concept!

Was there value in this course task? Absolutely! In fact, the wiki demonstrates how the interactivity of Web2.0 can impact the 21st century classroom. Was there value in doing another screencast? I forgot what a 'pleasure' it was last month, and all those happy memories came back to me once again. But this time it went considerably smoother; and rather than three hours, it consumed only 90 minutes. But I also got better...which alludes to the point that I should not give up on making ongoing use of screencasts.

After completing this course I am struck by the tremendous impact it's had not only on myself, but to those around me. This is GREAT STUFF! Do I plan to use it in the years to come? ABSOLUTELY! (and I'm not kidding anyone here...that's THE TRUTH) Despite the work load, I always felt comfortable in the environment because I knew I will use the content throughout my teaching career. No doubt there will be more "new technology" forthcoming in the classroom, but I have no intention of running away from it.

While this may be my final blog for Education 331, it will not be the end of "Beyond the Wild Rose". I have rediscovered the fun of writing again, and I will continue to develop this media in my professional career....to share, explore, contemplate, and challenge. This is what makes teaching so special to me!
...and so from this point forward, it's full speed ahead!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

iRLO Project: SCRATCH version of "Name the State"

I remember a day in 1983 when I unpacked my first Apple computer. The commercials on TV made it sound so simple, and I could do all those neat things on it. As excited as I was to get it, once I saw all the boxes to open, plugs and cords to attach, discs to install and manuals to read, my excitement was quickly cooled. Through the years I've always embraced new technology, despite the requirement of time to find out how to use these new tools to the best of my abilities.

When the iRLO project was laid before me, I dived in head-first and began looking at all the cool stuff I could integrate into my presentation. Being a lover of history and American social studies, I devised a quiz for students requiring they identify the name of a state, provided I displayed an artifact associated with it. It seemed so simple, at least until I ran the script and discovered the timing was off for various sprites. I immediately grumbled a bit, knowing there had to be a way to sequence everything in conjunction. The second attempt resulted in some progress, but it became obvious I was in for some extra work. Argggh!
Sometimes you have to get in under-the-hood of an car to see what the engine has inside that makes it all work, and SCRATCH is  no different. I found myself looking at several other projects, not just those of some of my classmates, but in and amongst the examples provided by Dr. Boyer's many resources. "So that's how they make that happen!" ...and slowly it all came together in a nice presentation. I only wish I had more time to spend on this as I could really dress this up to total perfection, and there's only so many hours in the day to do that.

In the months and years to come, I want to learn more about SCRATCH and the unique ways to integrate this into my lesson planning...be it with ESL learners or the traditional classroom. I love the ways you can use personal objects (pictures) as sprites within the iRLO, and it creates a way to make each offering a unique experience for learning. And as frustrating as it may have been to some, it demonstrates how easy it is to throw our hands up in the air without first pausing to think "I know there's a way to do this...."   After all, isn't that the true American spirit? This is an experience I truly enjoyed!

Digital storytelling PSA

The Digital Storytelling PSA was a great collaboration with Meagan Leatherbury, another EDU 331 student. When the two of us met, we discussed various ideas for the project; and since we both had an interested in genealogy, it became a natural fit for us. Technology is the perfect fit for researching family history, but it also makes use of traditionalism associated with reading old letters and look at photos which are sometimes over 100 years old.
As is the case for so many individuals we had so much to say in so little time. Sixty seconds may seem like alot of time on paper, but once you begin reading the script the window becomes oh so small. It was not only the script, but the graphics and video we wanted to use. Meagan and I went back and forth deciding on what to cut, modify, keep, and tweak...until it all came together into a 60-second production.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4vaDQvKj4Y

As to how much effort I exerted with the PSA, I put forth a concerted amount of time and effort into the project. I felt very comfortable with Meagan's contribution, and it was never a case of 'you do this, I'll do that'. I don't believe either of us ever made a comment about having to spend too much time, and it was actually a fun experience! Overall, the digital storytelling PSA was a positive experience, and I look forward to using it in my future classroom, whether I assemble for my students' use in class or oversee their creation as a group project or individual effort. I consider it a great way to communicate!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

"How will I teach Ella with new technology?"  Using the new found skills (and recognizing these will improve in years to come), I will keep technology in the forefront of her learning. It may be by developing a new SCRATCH game to introduce with a new unit of math or science. It may be by opening a dialogue between our class with another classroom on the other side of the world via one or more of the social networking tools available. It may be daily visits to another corner of the world using one of the many virtual learning sites. It may be using podcasting to provide lessons for my students. It may be through Interactive WhiteBoard lesssons which can be tailored for one individual or a class for of learners. Perhaps it is with a blog, either one of my one or one which she establishes. And there are plenty more pieces of new tech just waiting to be discovered, too. Above all else, it is important to not get too comfortable with one way of doing things....as life is all about constant change.
While this may be the final day for both class and lab, it is NOT the final day of this blog. It will continue in the weeks, months and years to come. Yes, there will be final postings on both my Scratch and Wiki projects, but there are both personal reflections and ongoing learning to reflect upon in the ongoing future. The past four months of Education 331 has been yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of my late-learner life. While I experienced many lessons over my first 57 years, there are special things waiting to unfold before me in the next 57 (providing I live to be 114). I hope to live on!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

Discussion amongst peers can be entirely productive and extremely stimulating. Sometimes all it takes is one question or activity to open a slew of ideas; and once the dam breaks, look out below! Upon viewing a video of a classroom in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, the class embarked on a discussion of open educators, open classrooms and technology....how they were, how they are today, and how they might look tomorrow. Reflecting on my early youth in the early 1960s, technology "advancements" consisted of film strips and an accompanying 78rpm record which served as a "Weekly Reader" for current events. (don't laugh, this really WAS 5th grade at Roosevelt Grade School) Fast forward to the 1970s and my first round of college, and the newest technology was overhead projectors. A professor could place a book or newspaper between a glass plate and the projector and it would transpose on the screen. Wow! Now we have computers and whiteboards which lead to student interaction, blogging by anyone with a thought, online collaborations, and open classrooms. Incredible! After a group exercise in the 7 brilliant/stupid things teachers do with technology, we debriefed via a student jigsaw. (another first)
I appreciate the opportunity provided to me each day in the way new concepts are introduced; but after witnessing the tremendous potential of integrating technology in the classroom, why aren't schools and teachers being sufficiently challenged in its application? UW-SP is an awesome institution with so much to offer in the way of thought; however, I question whether it is truly reaching out into the surrounding communities like it could. I understand they cannot force their way of thinking onto local school districts, but they do have a sphere of influence which could be exerted in a friendly and cooperative way. In many of these schools the tools are already in place, yet they aren't being used properly. Is someone paying lip service to change? Or are they just ignorant of the opportunities in their backyard?
When I see an unfinished puzzle on the table scattered around the outside, my first instinct is to look for ways to attach the unused pieces. The same holds true for classrooms throughout Central Wisconsin. The unused pieces can be found amongst the halls of this great university, yet no one is tapping into this unique resource. As a future teacher in a classroom of unmotivated students (possibly sitting in the middle of a school of unmotivated teachers), am I about to embark on journey of ultimate frustration or one filled with special satisfaction? Stay tuned......

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

Today featured the final chapter on 'Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology', and our group was designated as official discussion leaders. When we sat down to plan the exercise, we felt obligated to pull together many of the ideas from the past 2-1/2 months into a concise lesson about where we might be headed. I was personally struck by the statement that over 50% of high school students are bored during their classes, and I felt challenged to find out what interests them. Since over 70% of American households play computer/video games, could there be a correlation of how the interactive gaming industry knows HOW to grab their attention? Last week we sent out an e-mail advising everyone to bring a set of ear phones in order to provide maximum engagement with the presentation. Our activity surrounded three of the most popular online games: Civilization, Viva Pinada, and Jamestown. After everyone signed in, we were someone shocked to know how few had ever played an online game....even if it was something as simple as Facebook's Farmville. We split the class into thirds, and let them have at it with one of the three aforementioned websites. It was interesting watching the different students engage with the games and simulations. While the group assigned to Civilization wasn't able to get play the actual game, they were able to delve into the website for video presentation on how the game was played.
As Dr. Boyer noted in his summary, as educators it is important we become better aware of the games and on-line activities which our students are involved with. If we choose to ignore this, we will only suffer the same fate as previous generations of educators. The gaming industry continues to grow with an ever-increasing variety of interactive games and activities. Some of these could be viewed as important resources for educators, and this is no time to turn our heads in disbelief. In reflection of the day, I consider this discussion to have been most worthwhile.

Rethink Ch.10 & Epilogue

With the closing of the final chapter in this book, I am left with the thought that the institutions of learning have prepared us for 'what was', rather than 'what is'. So much has been invested in the way of time and effort, yet our schools often fall short in our overall expectations. It has been rewarding to see and hear some stories of success, be it from an individuals vision of change or a concerted effort from like-minded citizens. The history of education is laced with lessons from which we can all learn from. When I read reports stating that 50% of high school students are bored every day in their classes, as a taxpayer I am outraged....as an educator I am frustrated....and as a parent I am disheartened. Education (and learning) should be not only invigorating but inspiring, not to young people but to all citizens. We are failing not only ourselves, but future generations with our current attempts at trying to educate young people. The authors made a great observation when they noted that schools "have served us very well in the past, but they are a 19th-century invention trying to cope with 21st-century society." As a rejuvenated mid-life educator, I have watched many of my friends make the decision to put their learning days behind them, much of it caused by fear of computers and new technology they consider as complicated and not applicable to their lifestyle. This is indeed fortunate as they could be a tremendous resource for schools and businesses seeking to tap into real-life experiences. When one generation ceases to be a helpful resource to another, we will have lost something I hold in high regard...the transfer of knowledge and personal experience.
Overall, this textbook was a great resource...not only for its unique historical perspective, but for the way it challenges our thoughts of what the future could hold for students of all ages!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reflections on Interactive Whiteboard Lesson

Interactive whiteboards provide access to a mix of technologies which can greatly assist any presentation in the classroom. While SMART Boards are simply a brand name associated with whiteboard technology, there are some very unique lesson plans available via the web. My specific lesson dealt with a Wisconsin Civil War Soldier and encompassed some of the images associated with our state during 1861-1865. The original lesson was designed in Word format by Michael Edmonds, a Wisconsin native and teacher of high school social studies. I found his outline compelling enough to use specific points of emphasis, and I then added pictures found within documents and other archives at the Wisconsin State Historical Society. I even located a short video which dealt with torture of slaves, further complementing the imagery.
Much of the effort for this project was done on the front end, researching material and then authenticating it with the proper sources. As I noted in the dropbox comments section, to some this presentation may appear as a glorified PowerPoint version, but there are enough of those little "extras" with whiteboard technology which can be used to "pull out" or highlight components of individual slides.
I appreciated the feedback provided by my colleagues, whether it was noting a small error in dates or telling me it was a project worth completing. I often need that input, be it good, bad or indifferent, to take take it to completion. Whiteboards will definitely be used in my classroom (should they be available). They WILL NOT serve as just a chalkboard, but rather as a tool to captivate the attention and further engage my students.

REVISION: I never assume any project is completed until it's been signed off on, and I appreciate when someone advises me that it falls short of what was expected of me. This is a sign that someone is concerned about my professional standards, and I should never feel threatened by this. This is what makes-or-breaks the best of any trade....be it doctor, lawyer, professional athlete or educator. And yes, it's a chore to go back and rectify the mistake....but if someone took the time to recognize my shortcomings, why wouldn't I want to correct it? I applaud people who take such a stand, and I strive to excel at what I do!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

Today's lab exercise was a good demonstration of the shift in perception among the class towards greater acceptance of using technology in schools in order to attain higher learning for their students. During the first week of class my fellow classmates did not understand the true impact which technology could have on the classroom, but now that they've had the opportunity to try some of these new tools, they are almost giddy from visualizing what their classrooms of the future will look and feel like once they sit in the teacher's chair. Good for every one of them! Having confidence in your abilities, and then being able to apply those talents, demonstrates a true vision of hope for the next generation of learners.
Since my age most likely skewers the median age of the class as a whole, I will focus more on the individual's desire to set themselves apart from everyone else. This class is one FANTASTIC example of what can happen when the bar of expectations is set higher than most were comfortable with back on Day #1 in early September. If you want your students to develop into their personal best, why not expect that of yourself as well? While some have chosen not to journey into the dark, murky waters, those who want to achieve are conditioning themselves for something very special in their professional career. Sometimes it's not about fearing the unknown, but being uncomfortable in stretching the muscles of the mind. Good things await those who engage their minds in higher learning.

Rethink Ch.9

This chapter asks a great question...."What does it all mean?" With all the monies and personal efforts that have poured into advancing the cause of education in technology (or is it technology in education?), there are some reasonable assumptions of forthcoming improvements in the way of test scores. After spending billions of dollars in the past decade, a society we are in need of a visible 'return on investment'. While advancements have been made in technology, I sense we're falling short in the Expectations Department. Dropout rates continue to rise and discipline in our schools remains a problem. This does not mean we haven't enjoyed some success stories; rather, there is plenty of good news to see & share. But the need for accountability from within the public sector has never been greater. Anyone associated with higher learning should never fear assessment for content and conduct. For too long we have thrown mass amounts of money into the wind, hoping some of it would land where the ground was fertile. The public is demanding accountability from educators, and they have every right to hold anyone associated with the classroom to a higher standard. Technology simply opened a Pandora's box of new ways to teach and learn...and good teachers should recognize these advancements for what they are....additional tools to use in their daily interactions with students. Some educators will "get it", other will not. The time has come to stop protecting those who are not doing their job, and provide new opportunities to those who will make use of new technologies.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reflections on Podcast: mp3 Player & Education

Another first...a PODCAST! This was not only fun to do, but provided some great insight on mp3 players in the world of education. Some schools have chosen not to fight the concept, and openly embrace them. Other educators are ignoring them...hoping they'll just go away. And then there are some who tell their students to check their technology at the door. How tragic is that!
The experience was two-fold. The first was the time spent on researching the issue, not just for what it is today, but for what podcasting could do for tomorrow's classrooms. The second part was rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty with 'garageband' from Mac. Perseverance is all seeing a project through to its completion and about staying on task. It's not an issue about talent or having time, but having determination and accepting it for what it is....a learning experience. Not having used a Mac for about 15 years put me at a slight disadvantage, and I knew just enough to make trouble for myself. But no snow bank is so deep as to stop Pete Duesterbeck....and I plowed my way through it. Cool stuff! After making my podcast, it was off to MovieMaker in order to properly convert the file and add artwork. Alas, it is done.
As Thanksgiving approaches next week, it is all the more reason for me to give thanks to the many people who encompass the learning environment of UW-Stevens Point. From my professors to fellow students (and everyone in between), I am most blessed at this time in my life. Enjoy your turkey!  :)
video

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reflections on my DropBox Screencast

I love trying out new technologies! Sometimes they appear easy to manipulate and on some days they take a little time and effort to nail down. Researching DROPBOX was enjoyable and very productive, and analyzing the tool using SWOT was very worthwhile. I could see great benefit in applying this concept to classroom learning.
The next step was crunching all my content for presentation into a 5-minute script; easier say than done. So much to say in so little time, including many edits for content which didn't fit the time limit. However, with a little practice the task was completed. After downloading JING and engaging my mouth behind the microphone, it was time to record my presentation. Easier said than done! So many times I'd begin on solid footing only to hear (and feel) it slip away from me. Do over, do over again, and again......argh! Suddenly I realized how much I hated listening to myself talk into a microphone, and at 2 AM I thought it best to take a step away from it all and sleep on it for the evening. When I awoke at 8 AM, I promptly headed for my computer and nailed it on the first try. What a great feeling of personal satisfaction that was!
The final step of using SCREENCAST to download the ShockWave Flash went fairly smooth, too. Suddenly I saw light at the end of the tunnel....and it was time to post to iTunes. And although I know I could have spent another 3-4 hours tweaking the project, I know I'll be better prepared for the second go-around in the coming weeks. Overall, I learned a good lesson about perseverance....and being patient with myself. Better yet, I was able to take advantage of some really cool technology; and I see a direct correlation with being able to use a screencast in a learning environment, be it directed to a classroom, home or any other remote setting.

http://bit.ly/97wlj4

Reading Reflection BWP Ch.10 & Epilogue

The final chapter and accompanying epilogue summed up the "big shift" with several reflections worth thinking about. In the past twenty years, the web has exploded in many directions. Rather than slowing down, it's apparent we're speeding up at greater rates. In the past month I was able to pay a virtual visit to my great-great-uncle's graveside in Fairfield, Connecticut. He was a veteran of the American Civil War, and I secured pictures of his family and an entire cast of relatives from my mother's side of the family. I viewed census reports from 1870 with information about occupation, size of the household and land of family's origin. All without leaving my desk from home! More and more of this type of historical information is being made available to our population, and I have the ability to further investigate with assorted cousins found hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.
Whether it is teaching, learning or collaboration....education is changing in so many ways. We dare not blink or miss the creation of a new concept. And should our attention span drift, someone will catch the event and bring it to our attention within a matter of minutes. Can you imagine what the Web3.0 might look like in a matter of a few years? We all have the ability to become change agents, and as long as I continue to have a pulse, I will explore and pursue this fantastic media. My eyes have truly been opened to a new horizon of personal and collective learning. Bring on the future!

Rethink Ch.8

The assigned reading offers some interesting conceptual thoughts regarding both curriculum design and performance-based assessment, and I have the perception that many of our schools do not always provide for the best content  nor learning environment for their students. This is not done on purpose, rather it is the consequence for society's need to standardize education. Again, good intentions gone bad and the end result is a bowl of blah-tasting soup. When I find soup on my stove without flavor and spunk, I find myself adding seasonings and spices in order to get the "voila!" For so many years our taste buds have been scarred from the missuse of canned soups, and over time we've forgotten how good soup is supposed to taste. Remember, no two soups taste alike....and we can use this analogy to make education and learning fun again. So let's head for the cabinet and start stirring the pot!
A good cook always wants their recipe to be original and unique. Let's allows schools wanting to make specific changes in their format do just that. Encourage them to explore new options in learning styles and subject area. Take 'em to the kitchen and say "have at it". Not all their creations will come out as prized delights, but some extraordinary things are bound to happen. As the text noted, "under 70% of the students entering high schools will graduate on time." This is an alarming statistic, and we have the capabilities to reverse a trend which will lead to a more educated society, not just in our country but throughout the world. So what are we waiting for? A new generation of creative chefs are lining up outside the kitchen. Have at it!

Monday Lab Reflections

Ah yes, the question of the day: "Were you ever allowed to focus your learning around your goals and interests in K-12?" Does this bring back memories or what? Thinking back to days at Craig High School, my focus came from a narrow list of electives, few of which would even come close to being what is offered in today's high schools. It's not that I'm directing anger at my school officials from 40 years ago; rather, I'm in awe of what is available to today's students. They have the world at their fingerprints, yet fall short in using it to its maximum potential.
Today's group leaders then provided us with an exercise of which I would describe as "open exploring of knowledge" versus "controlled learning". It was amazing how each of us reacted when provided with a simple instruction to look for information on a science topic. It was "off to the races" and our class came up with some rather cool website. And then we were directed to research "photosynthesis" (real exciting subject, eh?) Needless to say, it still highlighted the dynamic of what I refer to as "open exploration of knowledge", and it's a concept worth hanging on to for contemplation later in my studies.
My plate is heap full of projects to complete in the next few days, and my energy levels are running high. Let's learn something new!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reading Reflection BWP Ch.10

So what does it all mean? In the heads of some, an endless headache that won't go away. In the eyes of others, a blur of clouded confusion. To the minds of those who want to explore the unknown, it means THE FUTURE! For the past 35+ years I have experienced what embracing technology can provide in the way of inspiring not only myself, but all those around me. It has shifted my life in a direction to which I am sometimes unable to explain, much like a ocean wave taking a surfer on the ride of his life. Why fight the current when you can simply jump on your surfboard and enjoy the scenery? And it's not just the future which I claim new fondness for, but the opportunity to explore the past with a new bag of extraordinary tools. It affords me a new way of not just looking, but actually participating in the conversation of open dialogue between generations of lifelong learners....of leaving behind my thoughts to future classrooms and delving deep into the archives of world history. Just imagine the possibilities. I do!

Monday Lab Reflections

Another stimulating lab today, including a thoughtful discussion on the benefits and shortcomings of the web. As Dr. Boyer noted, it's not about asking questions in order to get quick answers; but all in asking the 'how' and 'why' in the statement. Too often classrooms have their students involved in a simple mindset of 'Trivia Contest', asking for a canned response when instead they could foster new ways of exploring for answers. I find it ironic how we fail to open our eyes to the enormous possibilities right before us. The Web2.0 can serve as an interactive chalkboard of sorts, and takes it into a multidimensional plane as no generation or people has ever experienced. Teachers have the ability to light the fires of learning in the minds of our students, and it's unfortunate how many in this profession fail to grasp the reigns of technology. Shame on us for not helping them maximize their full potential!
And finally, a quick word about my Delicious Library. If there is but one new tool which I've been turned on to, it has to be this! Each day it gathers a few more bookmarks and tags, all of which I am able to share with others...be it in a profession of educator or life-long learner. At the same time I have access to what others deem as perceptive bookmarks, opening new doors for future inquiry and exploration. This is no time to take my foot off the accelerator, rather let's take it the next step and beyond!

Rethink Ch.7

Upon reading this chapter, I came upon the realization that life will continue on long after technology evolves into the next phase of its ongoing transformation.Yes, as more people choose home schooling, their children will not necessarily have as broad an education as they would have received in their local school; but this will not be the end of the world. An individual always has the opportunity to expand upon their learning, be it at 10, 15, 20, 30 or 50 years of age...but this requires the individual to see the benefit and long-term advantages of their personal investment of time. All too often people (of all ages) fail to see the true benefit of advancing their education to the next level, and they miss out on something truly special.
On the plus side of what may be gained is the ability to open a large new window of knowledge to those who have never experienced daylight before. Having instant access to lifelong questions will only enhance their desire to wade deeper into the waters of education. In recent years we've seen people laid waste to abusing the web, spending countless hours in a dark wilderness of void and clammer. This will occur in schools, home and businesses all around the world, but those same individuals can change their destiny with a simple click of the mouse. As an educator, I consider it part of my job to show students the wonder of technology in order to capture their attention and spark new curiosities within an engaged society.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Reading Reflection BWP Ch.9

The concept of Social Networking is just a glimmer of one of the many directions where the web is headed with education. Unfortunately this chapter nailed it with their recognition that few schools (a/k/a educators) are teaching students how to leverage sites such as 'Facebook' for learning. Instead, they're sitting on the sidelines waiting for it to evolve on its own, and I equate this to a farmer waiting for unploughed fields to sprout with vibrant crops. It ISN'T going to happen on its own! And for the few who are exploring these new waters of technology, they are creating vibrant classrooms of learning, where students are intrigued, encouraged, and challenged to go where no person has gone before.
As I journeyed into many of the websites mentioned in Chapter 9, I was excited to see some vibrant concepts in education, but how sad it is that so many schools have signaled a thumbs-down or wait-and-see attitudes when asked to support these concepts. They have an opportunity to immediately impact the minds of both students and educators, but have chosen instead to play it safe. But safe can sometimes impede the foretelling of future success. I have yet one more tool to use in my career which can nurture and inspire others to think outside the box.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rethink Ch.6

As the concept of education has evolved over the years, the role of the teacher has changed as well. Prior to the concept of schools and classrooms, workers were provided educated with apprenticeship learning. The student was assigned a person from whom they would learn a trade or craft, and this person then assumed the role of teacher or mentor. It was a true one-to-one relationship and assured the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another. While the student gained valuable experience on a specific trade, there was not enough time nor depth of expertise to provide other insights. Today, more than ever, we understand the great benefit of teacher-student relationship, but limitations on financial resources put restraints using this to our best potential. The role of computers have dramatically impacted today's learning environment, but as the test noted, they are unable to interact in a way which provides a personal bond with the learner....at least as of yet. In the future the day will come when technology breaks through the previous barriers with articifical intelligence, and computers will then develop warm personalities mirroring those of caring teachers. In the meantime, we can all do our part to enhance the climate of real education.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

Today's group discussion was slightly out-of-the-box material, and kudos to the leaders for leading us in a different type of exercise. Every now and then we all need to get out of our comfort zone, and stepping back to create a fortune cube is a bit of a throwback in time for me. The segment on SMART Board Tips & Tricks was also beneficial and well worth the time spent. The best way for me to improve upon my abilities is to roll up my sleeves and dive in with trial and error attempts on whiteboards. Time is often a premium, but it cannot be put off much longer. Although I know "just enough" to get by, I need to allocate time and energies to mastering this unique teaching aid. I anticipate new learning with the Cool Tool Screencast project, and my chosen topic will be done on dropbox.com. Over many years of my professional life I've been involved with several SWOT analysis, so I am reconnecting with a familiar routine.
At times the workload appears to be somewhat overwhelming, but I consider it similar to a stimulating physical workout in the gym. While the 'pain' may seem a bit severe (pain is probably a bad choice of words), I am very confident this will improve my overall worth as a potential teacher. Time to head back to the chin-up bar for another 100 pull ups, then into the pool for a 5-mile swim, before getting into the sauna!  :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reading Reflection BWP Ch.8

In the past 4-5 years, I must admit to having been converted to an audio and visual learner. Prior to that I was notorious for gathering most of my information via print media...be it books, newspapers, or magazines, but times have changed in ways which few ever imagined. The weekly allotment of 500 miles driving round-trip from Wild Rose to Stevens Point are consumed in daily podcasts, and I've become hooked to this programming. After experiencing it and then delving into how educators can use this media in their classrooms, I have high expectations for myself with podcasting in the years to come. It cannot be a one-way form of communication though, and it offers tremendous possibilities for student interaction, both in and outside of the classroom environment.
And no sooner will I have mastered podcasting, then it will be time to jump headfirst into screencasting, too. Live streaming web will put students and educators smack in the middle of events, and I consider it just another way to "plug into the grid of educational intelligence". Like all technologies, there is unlimited potential for this tool, but many old-world educators will struggle with ways to incorporate lesson plans into this vehicle. Their frustration shouldn't stand in the way making it happen, and will only provide new educators with fresh opportunities to "wow" their tenured peers.

Rethink Ch.5

This specific chapter provides excellent insight and thought on a variety of topics. The so-called revolution in education is undergoing constant change, whether it be from the standpoint of home-schools, workplace and business, distance/learning education, gaming, and EVERYTHING in between. It wasn't long ago when the word 'education' referred to K-12 schools, but that is now a thing of the past. Education is now 'learning' and it encompasses everyday life in it's entirety. Learning provides knowledge and skill-sets from a baby's first-breath to a senior citizen's last day on this earth. Our brain is constantly being engaged with new material via improving and expanding media...be with audio, visual, or interactive experiences.
I was absorbed in thought when I came upon the final sentence in the chapter, the author challenging us "to think beyond schools, to consider how technology can be brought to bear to address issues of equity and the implications of these developments for education in the future." This is an matter which requires reflection on how we can fully engage our citizenry in this conversation. Technology offers many solutions, but it isn't free. Innovators expect to be rewarded for their efforts, but at whose expense? As an educator I want all the tools in my toolbox, yet I know there are limitations with regards to budgets, time, and expertise. We live in an age when possibilities are incredibility endless, yet we confine ourselves with self-inflicted borders of resourcefulness.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

Another Monday lab session has transferred new knowledge through the conduit of fellow classmates with their presentation. A new tool on the SmartBoard (random name chooser) and a spectacular website in the concept of "Virtual Education' offers spectacular 360-degree perspectives of world landmarks (in place of the ever-popular 'field trip'). Now people can experience places like the Great Wall of China and Taj Mahal almost up close and personal. Cool stuff!
We were also provided extra insight on the different tools and options associated with SCRATCH. While I experienced some success with it over the weekend, viewing this application from another perspective has answered many of my questions, and has prepared me for the next level. Regardless of the age or grade level being targeted for use by an educator, I can see where this has exciting potential both inside and outside the classroom.
I also look forward to giving and receiving input on the IWB lesson. When one is enjoying the experience of ascertaining new knowledge, the height of the workload is not to be considered as overwhelming. Rather it is all the more reason to dive in deeper with enthusiasm and vigor. This is a very special time to be alive!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

Sometimes it can be difficult in assessing the benefits of where our roots lay in regards to technology and how it's evolution has unfolded. In today's world I have the opinion that too many people are only concerned on where they are at the present without reflecting on the past nor contemplating their futures. The advancements in American education have been significant to the degree that those before us had a profound impact on the lives of people around the world. As I look around the lab and see fellow UW-SP students who are one or more generations removed from my mine, I am in awe of the opportunities which await them. At times I sense their confusion and frustration as to why they need to acquire all these skills in technology....but yet I see how much it will add to their personal strength, character and resolve in the classroom IF they embrace and acquire these proficiencies. Technology enhances the ability to communicate in more than a one-way stream of media, rather a streaming multitude of ideas and concepts in all directions of human life. My cohorts have the ability to impact the lives of young learners in ways which few generations have been able to do. There will come a time when they realize what magnificent tools they have at their disposal, but hopefully they will still pause to reflect on how we all got to this point in time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reading Reflection BWP Ch.7

Another great tech tool...Flickr! Yes, I've heard of it, but I never understood the full extent of how it could be used in the classroom. After taking a good look at all the various ways that other educators have used this tool, I can see the tremendous potential when studying history, social studies, geography, and ALL of the other sciences. As a result of this reading I've been able to add several new bookmarks to my Delicious account, and these will come in handy when I work with students in the classroom. As unique as Flickr is on it's own, the magnitude of this application isn't fully realized until educators and students build upon it with their individual applications. This is how education should work...the idea is created, shared, modified and share again, tweaked and re-introduced, evaluated and molded into another application....innovation at it's VERY BEST. You gotta love living in this age of exciting experiences!

Rethink Ch.4

While reading and then pondering this offering, I felt as if I was hovering over the earth looking down at the progression of events in the world of education which took place over the past two hundred years. Each of these events took place with the intent of improving the way we go about teaching in society. As a result of the ingenuity of humanity, education has undergone an ongoing regimentation of transformation. There have been instances when differing opinions resulted in shifts in strategy and acceptance, but we must remember that while boats are headed in the same direction, they don't always travel at the same speed. In the past two hundred years, the rowers have possessed differing values and approaches to life, embracing local control, then welcoming state-mandated directives. Each experiment influenced the discussion and then afforded a solution which was accepted as the norm for future generations. This is what makes American education all so special! Yes, new problems are placing stress on the framework of education, but our country's culture has been laden with similar challenges, each time growing stronger and more determined to be "the best". We are a country which refuses to say "no"....instead choosing to seize the opportunity to grow. This chapter was beneficial to look back and see how we have changed, knowing the next century will undergo a similar transformation of change.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reading Reflection BWP Ch.6

Most likely it's been at least 4-5 years since I "tweeted", much less considered the changes which Twitter undertook. While so much of it remains a vast wasteland of chatter, it provides another excellent resource for updates on technology and the world around me. After taking a good look at how some of the teachers and school disctricts are using Twitter to communicate with their communities, I was gassed about the possibilities which currently exist....and it will only improve for the better in years to come. Too often people associate technology with a hefty pricetag, but this is one coooool application with is very inexpensive to initiate.

Another new tool is the Diigo website, and the simplicity and practicality of saving/sharing/communicating information to others. I see great potential for these tools, not only in the classroom, but in the community around me. Two months ago I was not aware of "social bookmarking", but I am rapidly becoming a fan and proponent of this concept. All these new tech tools make me want to step down on the accelerator just a little more. This is GREAT stuff!

Retink Ch.3

Every good teacher should take a good look at all sides of an issue. This isn't about right or wrong, but rather it involves a perspective. You can't just turn your head to the left or o the right, sometimes you need to elevate yourself, even get down on the floor and look under the couch so to say. Chapter 3 is about giving consideration to that "other side" of the perspective. It's about having empathy for the failures and disappointments which technology has failed to bring to the classroom. The author notes how teaching can be a conservative practice as teachers are reluctant to change after fighting for their programs all those years. But those "fights" should be a thing of the past, and it's time to begin from a new perspective. Yes, there has been waste and failure with technology in education. Not every school district can afford to spend to spend monies on the "latest & greatest" tech tools when another academic year rolls around. Yes, there is a divide between the haves and the have-nots, and it WILL continue to be publicized. It is NOT going away in the very near future.

There will be some of us who find jobs in schools with endless financial resources to re-stock their technologies every fall. Some of my cohorts will be in schools using computers and other technologies from what seems to be long ago. And then there is everyone else....in the middle ground between gotta-have and keep-away. Regardless, we have to be aware of the arguments which question the validity and sanity of ongoing changes with technology. A good educator is always hoping for the best but prepared for the worse. Having the ability to view the problem and develop a solution from a fresh perspective will increase your value to the school district, parents, taxpayers....and most of all, to the kids in your classroom!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

Great discussion in class today with regards to the Technology Skeptics views on the use of technology in today's classroom, not to forget tomorrow's classroom as well. As educators we all want to teach in a school where the latest and greatest tech tools are in place and readily embraced. But not all schools and classrooms are created nor maintained in the same way, and there is a genuine lag in the ways which communities are rushing to (and sometimes away) from technology. Today's discussion will extend into schools in the months and years to come, and we all need to participate on both sides of the argument for the sake of enhancing our understanding of potential outcomes.
As a side note, I was always told that it was next to impossible to walk and chew gum at the same time. EDUC 331 is much the same....nearly impossible to listen ATTENTIVELY and make mental/typed notes at the same time. So much information to ponder in so little time. Never fear!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections

The atmosphere within the weekly lab is a unique experience in itself, strangely similar to a hive of bees upon discovering a new source of pollen. "Brain games" are but another means to provide intrigue to younger students in learning traditional subject material in core content areas. This are more than "plug-n-play" activities, and there are viable pros and cons to using websites such as today's sample. I consider the "FunBrain" website as beneficial to supplying supplemental activities to young minds, and it would be interesting to monitor the progress of a sampling of grade school/middle school students over a set period of time.
Group presentations such as the one we experienced today are beneficial to every teaching professional. Over my career I have witnessed many ill-advised and poorly-planned presentations on the part of salespeople. Regardless of the profession we stake claim to, it is important we reherse and secure feedback on our performance...so the next one is all the more better than the last. I anticipate more good discussions in the weeks to come, accompanied by additional opportunities for personal growth in the field of education.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Technology Enthusiasts' Argument

All the information is suddenly available to us and nothing is barred. But yet so many people choose NOT to make use of these technologies nor engage their brains to allow our learning to go to the next level. As was noted by the author, "what technology gives, it can also take away." While people interact with others on another entirely different corner of the planet, they sometimes fail to open their windows and exchange ideas with their immediate neighbors and friends.

As a teacher and agent of change, how can I both inspire and motivate young people to use every one of their senses to the maximum potential? It's more than asking young minds to open up and absord everything put in front of them. It's simply giving them a gentle nudge in the waters of knowledge so they have a better understanding of their potential. I must continually strive to be a conduit of ways to bring all sides to the table of discussion where the exchange of culture and personal values takes place in common respect for one another. Sometimes it will be uncomfortable...and on other occasions I will feel right at home. Regardless, I am intent on moving forward. Turning new corners will enhance new discoveries and encourage personal growth, not only for my students....but for myself, my community, family and associates. While there may be some well-noted hesitation, we should all have no fear of the unknown!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Lab Reflections


You’re NEVER too old to learn! Whether you’re in the classroom, working an assembly line, or somewhere in between, it’s all about how we handle the frustration that surrounds our efforts in learning something new. Based on my experience in the business world, I am often amazed at how different people handle new routines. We’re all creatures of habit, and some find it difficult to adjust…regardless of age. Learning a new technology is good exercise for the brain and forces us to push in a new direction. If my body didn’t get daily exercise, my muscles would begin to weaken. Our brains need stimulation and activity to function as well. The opportunities with technology provide that stimulation which will enhance new skills. Over the years I’ve watch people deliberately avoid technology, even when they had all kinds of support from fellow co-workers and management, and as a result they make the personal decision to become expendable. How can we expect young people to embrace new technology (as well as being receptive to positive change) when their peers choose to downplay the incredible potential use of these new technologies? Part of being a teacher is leading by example...putting forth your best effort and then some giving just a little more.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week Three Responses

As I was reading “The Technology Enthusiasts’ Argument”, I was particularly drawn to the comment that as a society we are more likely to interact more with people outside our community than our own locale. The changes in technology have opened a window to the other side of the world…one which we want to look into, but yet often are hesitant to let others see our side, something of a one-way mirror. In order to fully understand what is happening on the other side of the mirror, it’s important that we have a better understanding of other cultures. What is considered as important and valuable in our society could be seen as insignificant and useless to another people. How will we recognize these differences? Will we perceive this cultural divide with an attitude of superiority? And how can we extrapolate both the visual and obscured content without rushing to judgment? As an educator I must always be on the lookout for ways to provide avenues for other perspectives to thought and opinions. This is but one more reason as to why personal reflection should be essential in my daily routine.

Technology can engage young brains in a robust manner, allowing them to work on realistic tasks or pushing them deep into atypical worlds. One of the biggest changes in the past ten years is how we all tend to learn content by Googling and then ponder how we are going to apply this information. This approach is often a statement about how nothing is taken for granted, and everything has to be experienced first-hand. While this may seem true today, we all have to realize that there isn’t enough time in the day to “do it all”…hence setting time aside to determine what is most important to us.

The Advance Search Google exercise was a little reminder about using all the tools which are at our discretion. All too often we fumble around looking for information and the content and assignment was time well spent!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week Two Responses

In reflection of “Rethinking Education”, a long time ago I came to the conclusion that education was more than a classroom with four walls, students, desks, a teacher and a lesson. Rather it is LIFE itself and how each of us goes about this concept of “learning”. As much as we all want to be comfortable with whom we are, we can never be still. Technology does not have its sights set on schools, but the classroom has its sight on technology. If traditional schools cannot adapt to the concept of change, they have outlived their purpose and need to join dinosaurs in the world of the extinct. However, if they embrace new concepts and provoke fresh thought, they will be one their way to igniting a renewed passion for learning within all of society.

As a teacher I hold an ongoing enthusiasm to find ways to inspire those around me, not only within the confines of a classroom but throughout my community, to expand their individual and collective education by pushing our capacity to discover. Learning takes place as much, if not more, outside the classroom….we simply need to be aware of the world around us. While advancements in technology can cause some unsettledness amongst teachers, it should not be viewed as a threat. If I was asked to conduct brain surgery, I would think twice before scrubbing up. Likewise, if a student asked me for input about the latest tech tool, I may not be in a position to confidently respond. But I could (and will) encourage more interest and intrigue on the part of my student to begin searching for the answer, which would then allow them to become the teacher and I the student.

The issue of website reliability goes hand in hand with discussion about academic honesty. The practice to putting false information into circulation has been around for hundreds of years, and the internet is simply another conduit for phony information and half-truths to gain access to into credible academia. Anyone can create a website and make it appear to be authentic, and search engines are not responsible for validating information. Providing a Web Page Credibility Checklist to my students and discussing the guidelines would be a good way to promote critical thinking skills. Likewise it is important for them to be concerned about their intentional or inadvertent contributions to bogus websites.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reflection: Growing Up Online

How does this video impact my thinking about technology's role in the lives of young learners?
After watching the PBS documentary “Growing Up Online”, I recall many instances of keeping a close eye on how my son used the internet in his teens over 10 years ago. The temptations are just as immense as they were back then, but it is important to provide guidance and provide discussion on what are appropriate and acceptable behaviors. The strides in technology can extend learning and open doors beyond the classroom, providing great opportunities for social interaction and personal improvement. However, as a society we must understand the hazard of addiction. The video is a stark reminder of how the internet can be misused and abused. It truly has been, currently is, and always will be the new “Wild West”.
As a parent, educator and citizen, I have concerns about the safety and well-being of every young person. Youth have always been fascinated and intrigued by the unknown, and the current state of technology simply places our anxiety in another perspective. As was noted in the video, the internet provides young people with another way of trying on different identities. But while these private worlds are artificial and fake, they have an element of danger.


What will I do differently as a future teacher as a direct result of this new thinking?
As an educator, it is important that I encourage both awareness and discussion of the dangers in misusing these new technologies. This involves careful assessment of the current psychological state of those students I am having discussions with. Young people mature at different rates, and some will grasp the concepts while others will not fully understand what is being addressed. Think of telling a child not to touch a hot stove, only to see them attempt to do so after you turn your back. Children like to explore and find out for themselves, and the internet is no different. In my opinion it’s not a question of whether our youth can survive without it, but rather how they will flourish within the realm of it.
There is also the issue of using the internet as a shortcut to learning. Within the video there was an example of students using Sparkbooks in place of reading the assigned book, and this represents an opportunity for conversations about personal responsibility and being accountable for one’s actions both in and out of the classroom. As a teacher, I intend to set aside time to have those discussions with my students in both a group setting as well as one-to-one.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Week 2 Exit Blog

Each day provides a new opportunity, not just for learning, but for discovery as well. Learning is for content which has been identified, organized and delivered to the student. Discovery is for everyone…regardless of one’s status in education. The concept of “Discovery” is all about opening the door to finding new ways to distribute good information to others. Upon being turned on to “delicious”, I feel like a young child waiting in line to ride their first carnival ride. And after experiencing the thrill and adventure, I want to do it again….

The world of technology is full of opportunity and discovery…some of it known and some not yet known. What a great time in life to be fully engaged in education!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Defining Technology

Define technology. What does the word mean to me?
Technology is about communication, a two-way street to exploring and developing new ideas, concepts, and ways of looking at things from another perspective. It is not just a two-dimensional concept, but a multi-dimensional way of thought. Technology can be very simple or quite complex…whatever the mind can imagine!

Describe technology integration. What does it look like in a classroom?
Technology integration is looking at all the tools available to me, and using them to the full extent to which I am capable of. It is not simply being comfortable with the tools afforded to me, but being challenged to push it to the limit. It should involve using all of the senses….not just sight and sound. It’s a touchy, feely way of finding out what we are really capable of.

Friday, September 10, 2010

First week reflections

It's been quite a week...and I'm lovin' it! It has been 36 years since I was a full-time student, and times have changed considerably...especially when it comes to technology in the classroom. I remember those days at Madison with lecture halls of 250+ students and one professor standing in the front and lecturing.

Occasionally he would scribble some notes on the chalkboard and refer to a citation inside a textbook. Nowadays it's all about SMARTboards, PowerPoint, engaged dialogue and questions, E-mail, D2L, active participation, feedback and so much more.

I completed my initial Digital Autobiography using ANIMOTO. I kept the first one rather simple, and will now begin to experiment more with it in the days ahead. This is cool stuff, and I see great potential for using this concept in the classroom environment. Like all new things, there was a bit of hesitation on my part.....but this is an exciting time to live and to try new things...all the more reason to RUN into the water diving head-first rather than dangling my toes in the shallow water.

Once I completed the task I said to myself, "What a fantastic way to communicate with other people, not to mention young people in the classroom!" If I can't embrace something like this, how can I expect my students to try new things? Hmmmm........

So what's next?