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 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 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 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.

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 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 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......