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!  :)