Day 10 – June 29, 2007

We had the opportunity to present our group curriculum projects to the rest of the class today.  My thanks to Natalie, Stefanie, and Sarah for being such great group members!  I think we did a great job of working together.  All of the information seen and the ways in which each group took different avenues to construct their lessons were widespread, and most, if not all of them, I feel would be effective in the classroom.  All of the techniques we learned in this class have been new to me, but definitely ones I feel I will at least try out with some of my classes. 

 This course was nothing what I expected before entering on the first day.  At it’s end, I feel as though I have gained a lot of knowledge in such a short time (or long, depending on how you look at it.)  🙂  This course has made me think differently about technology and the ways in which we, and our students, can use it.  There are so many advantages to and opportunities with technology that I would have never thought about if it weren’t for this course.  My classmates and Prof. Sine opened my eyes to many ways I can use technology with my students that I think will not only make them excited to learn, but will allow me to present it in a very modern and interesting fashion.  Cell phones and iPods, to me, were NEVER thought to be useful tools in the classroom, however, now I know ways in which students could benefit from their use.  The use of the Internet, wikis, and blogs, for example, are excellent ways that our students can communicate and collaborate, even when they are outside of the classroom.  The Internet will hopefully not be seen as a means of playing games and making social connections, rather, it should be seen as a useful tool for students to use, with essentially all of the information they need right at their fingertips.  As we discussed in class, technology is changing all the time and is becoming updated at a rapid pace.  Because of this, we as educators need to be sure to be up-to-date, so that our students don’t surpass our knowledge base (too much) or at least as little as possible.  Overall, while I was extremely overwhelmed at this beginning of this course because of uncertainties and unfamiliarities about technology, in the end I feel as though I have learned a lot and can utilize some of this knowledge to benefit my students in the future.

Day 9 – June 28, 2007

Today was a very useful and productive day in class. We were finally able to meet with our project teams to work on our plans for our curriculum project. My team, consisting of Natalie, Stefanie, Sarah, and myself organized an idea that not only touches on several disciplines across the curriculum, but also across grade levels, including grade 2, grade 4, middle school, and high school. Our project plan is for the integration of technology into an advertising and nutrition assignment where students will analyze advertisements and what makes them “stick,” doing calculations of nutritional facts, collaborating through blogs and wikis, and relating the findings to current events of today. All grade levels will not only provide individually to the whole group, but also work together in learning and understanding how all parts come together.

I am extremely interested in and excited about trying some of these techniques in the future with my students.  I feel they will definitely benefit and/or gain from the collaboration part, as well as the individual pieces of the project.  Working across curriculum as well as the drastic difference of grade level with all of our classes is something I think would be very unique from what I currently do with my students, but also one that they would benefit from.  I find that even when we speak of younger “kids” in my classes, my students get excited because they have been there and they feel they can have some sort of impact on the younger students.  This would be a great opportunity for them, as well as the younger students to communicate to the older ones.

Day 8, June 27, 2007

What is the point of using technology?  Why do we find it necessary to move past “the norm” and adapt to the “new ways of the world?”  We all know people, and specifically teachers for that matter, who are set in their ways of accomplishing tasks and they don’t want to deviate from what makes them comfortable.  Why then, would we be expected to integrate technology into our classrooms and our everday lives?  Technology is available to us, with the idea that it will help us.  We can look at technology as a thinking tool, one that will provide information to us in an organized way, and if used correctly, it is essentially always at our fingertips.  We use technology for scheduling, planning, and organizing, as well as communicating.  Who would have thought?  Often times we hear negative ideas and concepts involving technology that may scare ‘us’ from using it.  On the other hand, however, if we think of technology in more positive terms, it is by far a valuable tool that we can use to our advantage, not one we should shy away from.  Still further, the more we become familiar with technology and how we (and our students) can benefit from it, the better off we will all be, because we all know (and this has been reiterated throughout this course,) our students know far more then we ever will.  We might as well give them a run for their money. 

Special thanks to our guests in class today, Tony and Scott.  See you guys again on Friday.

Day 7 – June 26, 2007

Today was the completion of presentations of book reviews. Lorajean and Sarah finished A Whole New Mind, and I found the left-brain and right-brain information to be extremely interesting. Greg did a great job presenting The Search, and our group presented The Tipping Point. Our book’s focus was on the concept of different types of people and how information can get transferred through others. Using the fishbowl strategy, as we did during all presentations, the class was able to listen to the presentation, watch any videos and see pictures the groups presented, wrote comments and responded to comments of others in the class. The spread of epidemics, even with trivial concepts, ideas, or fashions, and small things having an effect or being as important as big ideas are essential when looking at trends that take place in the United States, and for that matter, throughout the world.

This fishbowl concept is something I think I will definitely try in my class. It may be difficult with little Internet/computer access, but if I make it a priority to sign out the school’s laptops for a few days, at least, my students could benefit from another kind of learning and collaborating with their peers, rather then the typical “group work” notion.

Day 6 – June 25, 2007

Are filters realistic to have on computers in our high schools? Many students know far too much about technology and getting around the proxy so they can gain access to blocked sites they are interested in. An example is myspace, which many students are registered with and use on a regular basis. I learned very quickly with my own students that when they want to get onto a blocked site when they are at school, they will find a way to get to it and in fact keep it a secret from staff who they feel will report the site and have the district block it from them. When this happens, they tend to just create a new one. So, the question again, are these filters realistic when students have the access and the knowledge to get around the existing filters?

Today starts the book review presentations. Rainbows End was discussed first, then The World Is Flat, and the group that discussed A Whole New Mind began their presentation (and will finish it tomorrow.) Leaving comments in the blog, listening to the presentation, trying to read other class members comments, etc. seemed to take a while to get used to for a lot of the class. Many of us agreed. The idea, however, of being able to leave comments as the presentation is going on lends itself to getting your thoughts out without interrupting, and being able to come back for the discussions later, if necessary.

Day 5 – June 22, 2007

In the final day of our first week of the course, we started the course with a discussion about the usefulness of the google jockey and if it would be beneficial in our classrooms. Pat explained google zietgeist to us and explained that it tracks the most frequent trends for any given day. It knows what people are searching for by country each month, for instance. She told us that there are more blogs in Japanese these days, with English blogs coming in second.

Kim brought up the point about Flexispy, something she heard about on the Today Show. Flexispy is an opportunity for people to track someone else’s every move, record conversations, and play them back. We have to ask, is this too much of an invasion of privacy?

The notions of cognitive dissonance and ZPT (zone of proximal development) were discussed. Zone of proximal development is the comfortable area, if you will, for students to accomplish a particular task (such as reading, math, etc.) It allows teachers to think just outside this proximity to stretch their learning. It is also a way to ensure that students are learning in in a manner that is not too difficult but also not too easy for them individually. We spent some time looking at google earth as a class and learning that you can see the earth from satellite in a 3D form.

For a large portion of the class period, we got into groups by grade level (elementary, middle, and high school) and formulated a policy for using Wikipedia in schools and classrooms. We basically decided that teachers and students alike should review the Wikipedia policy and when it is used, students should support any of this information with other reliable sources. Wikipedia should be used as a resource, not a reference. The links found on Wikipedia that relate to the topic at hand can be used as references, but not Wikipedia itself.

Day 4 – June 21, 2007

I was the google jockey today!  At the beginning of class today we continued the discussion of the rubric for the final class project.  One of the last groups reviewed an assignment on spiders, and, as the google jockey I quickly found a picture of a spider on a man’s face, which brought laughter to the entire group.  Pat introduced Web 2.0 to us and explained that the three main uses for it are programming, user generated content, and collborative decision making (where users vote on what’s important.)  Pat also showed us Digg, Second Life, eyespot, wikimapia, and bubbl.us.  I found Second Life to be extremely interesting.  It’s a site that users create their own virtual identity and live and visit virtual environments and can basically function as real human beings.  I had no idea there was anything like this out there…but I’m sure my students do! 

 Later, we got into groups with others who are reading the same selection and had a discussion on how we will present our book to the rest of the class starting on Monday and finishing on Tuesday.  We also got into our final project groups and began working on our ideas for that assignment.  Our group seems to have a good handle on what we want to accomplish for this project.  Overall, class today was definitely interesting, especially as the google jockey.  I found that task to be more entertaining and interesting then I thought it would have been prior to class. 

Podcast Madness

After much searching through iTunes for podcasts, I decided to do a search online to see what I could find.  I randomly searched for a podcast on traveling Italy and came across a very interesting podcast where much information was given about the topic.  The best times of year to travel to Italy were discussed, as well as places to travel, sites to see, etc.  The podcast commentator, if you will, was very informative in explaining about different festivals that take place in different areas of the country and discussed (and gave his personal opinion on) the option of taking a tour of the country.  Although he was not a fan of tours per se, he believes they are beneficial and an easier means to travel for some people.  He believes that while they are helpful for the itinerary of the trip and language, they can also be restricting in the activities that are planned versus what may be on the travelers personal agenda.  Another big focus he explained as he gave his opinion on traveling to Italy was to plan a trip that isn’t too overwhelming.  Rather, he suggested planning a trip to visit possibly only the north, visiting Venice, Milan, and Verona, or southern areas such as Rome, Naples, and Florence.  That way the traveler(s) wouldn’t be cramming too much into a relatively short trip.

Day 3 – June 20, 2007

During today’s class, we discussed even more topics then we have in the last few days of class.  Our topics included google email features and how you can edit documents online and download them to your computer.  We also discussed more about wikis and reemphasized that they are a better place to build common knowledge in comparison to word documents because wikis allow features that word documents do not, and you can see changes that have been made and add links to them.  It was stated that wikis are word based concept maps when they are used well…I’m still trying to figure all of this out…  There was a video showing how a wiki evolves when there’s a common goal for the information.

 We also investigated how to find a podcast, which is yet another new idea to me.  Also, Stefanie demonstrated for the class how to record one on your own using a cell phone and being able to play it back through an aggregator, in this case, iTunes.  We were briefly shown about Protopage, which is a free webpage including podcasts, and navigated through GCast (with use of the cell phone for a podcast.) 

During the latter part of the class, we finished creating the rubric that will be used for the final project in the course by putting the categories in the appropriate order and adding more specific information to parts.  We looked a previous projects as well.  Finally, we got into small groups and were able to actually use the newly created rubric to critique a project of our choice that we found through a link given to use by Pat.  Luckily, my group and I were able to find a really good project fairly easily and scored it very well using our class rubric.

The skills I learned today in class are still just additional skills I wouldn’t have otherwise had if I weren’t in this course.  With tomorrow being the fourth day, I’m hoping “the dust will settle” a bit so I become less overwhelmed and things start making a little bit more sense to me.  I also anticipate being the google jockey…we’ll see how well I do…

Day 2 – June 19, 2007

I definitely got some questions answered at the beginning of class today by some of my peers. A discussion on the use of iPods and cell phones in the classroom took place.  We looked at a short video that discussed “what teachers make” that was entertaining.  My overwhelmed feeling has remained with me because of the wealth of knowledge I feel is at our fingertips.  RSS, Pageflakes, aggregator, XML files, blogs, wikis… it seems like a whole new language. 

 The second half of our class today was spent in small groups working on creating different parts to the rubric that will be used for our collaborative project.  This is always a time consuming task, with the hopes of building the most appropriate rubric for the task at hand.  This discussion will continue at the beginning of class tomorrow…