Archive for the ‘edtech’ Category

Target Practice

October 2, 2011

“I’ve been doing lots of thinking lately, apparently storing food for thought. After reading many studies and literature reviews I wanted to explore some new perspectives and this post reflects some of my current thinking. The process of trying on new perspectives interests me. It would be helpful to me, if you have any reactions to post, respond or provide a link to related research or discussions. Enjoy!” – Kathy

For years educational institutions have been feasting on a buffet of technological innovations. Father knows best, and our national leadership and other stalwart sponsors direct the technology spending and perpetuate the feeding frenzy, all designed to improve student learning. Like a reality-show-hoarder, schools have amassed a disconnected collection of tools. A brain numbing cacophony of screeching voices from educational stakeholders hides the silent retort of teachers bristling from offense and seeking asylum inside the confines of a classroom designed to produce good citizens and workers from the last century. And where are the students in all of this? It’s time for an intervention for the dysfunctional family we regard as our broken educational system.

There have been numerous proposals purporting solutions to the problems in education. The locus of research will address the victims: teachers and students. Neither of them is responsible for purchasing or implementing technology. They simply adapt their rooms according to a plan set forth by leadership and ask the essential question: How can the use of technology improve instruction, meaningful learning and retention of knowledge? This three-pronged question reveals that something is fundamentally wrong with the current educational system’s approach to technology integration. While research supports holistic, learner-centered pedagogical approaches coupled with curriculum formulated using the understanding by design methodology, the system does not practice either of these models when adopting new technologies for school integration.

Clamoring to adopt 21st century learning standards for student achievement and driven by the need to appease the public, school systems have measured their success using student-computer ratios and standardized test results. Low ratios imply greater access to computers among students and teachers; however the quality and consistency of the available devices may be a more critical consideration.Test scores don’t seem to bear out the hallmark of success. Where can we find the truth? The tree of knowledge has become an octopus suffocating its prey with the purple haze of confusion.

In all of this, teachers must still teach and students learn. It is a wonder that despite the moon-like of technological terrain, teachers are able to navigate an obstacle course designed to entrap them. Research demonstrates that teacher beliefs about education are fundamentally tied to their pedagogy. According to Judi Harris of William and Mary (2005) there is a need to “…demonstrate pedagogically appropriate uses of technology.” Harris argues that a technocentric view of technology integration is a bias. When it is applied in the form of instruments, reporting data on the state of technology integration, the results are viewed with a lens preferring constructivist teaching methods. Harris challenges this paradigm. “As discerning educators and researchers, we should question why teacher’s roles must change to integrate technology effectively into K-12 curricula. Surely the technologies themselves do not require this shift, as current teacher-centered classroom uses demonstrate.” (pg. 119)

“I conclude with Harris’ quote because as a classroom teacher myself, it challenges me. Teachers just want to do their best for students and yet the external forces seem to prevail, creating a dysfunctional dynamic in the name of progress.” -Kathy

Advertisements

Ramblings on Shelf-life and FB in the Afterlife

October 31, 2009

I have the attention span of a gnat until a thing grabs me and pulls me along with the gravitational force of the sun. Things capture my attention and I follow them like Alice through the rabbit hole until I realize I am lost in time and must escape before I become a permanent part of the matrix. On one such excursion I was following the growth of online freely available courses. I attended a webinar on the subject, browsed and clicked my way though the MIT open courseware offerings and something struck me. No, I wasn’t hit up the backside of the head by my dear neglected husband! It occurred to me that lectures have a shelf life as do videos or moments captured in any venue. webFood for the brain may grow stale over time and we may become ill if we imbibe that rancid milk and honey. So what is the solution? I propose expiration dates for lectures. Just as with food or aspirin we all know the expiration day is vigilantly in favor of the short term usage but may still be good for a length of time thereafter. So too, information.

My other fleeting thought was just the pie-in-the-sky hope for the future when science(or religion establishes that our very existence is just like a nonlinear graphic organizer and that time is ever-present and not on a linear continuum. Non-the-less, I would like to suggest that social networking span the afterlife. It’s silly, really, to keep out our friends and family members simply because they no longer reside in physical form on the planet. Now that would truly make technology ubiquitous, although contact lists might become a bit unwieldy. Writing prompt: What are the pros and cons of expanding social networking to people in other dimensions?

What do you think about on rainy days?

This is just a portion of the twists and turns in my thought process. (Let’s not call it procrastination) It all started with a search to establish the best possible was to introduce division to 3rd graders. Still looking!

Must Read: Twitter Experiment Results

January 30, 2009

Twitter Cures Hiccups
Jenny Gilbert, thank you for making me laugh first thing in the morning! jenny posted the above link in my Diigo educators group and if you have ever wondered how many different ways there are to cure hiccups, you will be nothing short of amazed by the responses David Pogue, NYT technology Reporter received in hi Twitter experiment.

and this is how I get rid of them.

and this is how I get rid of them.

Twitter is for people who need to have their finger on the pulse of the world, at all times. It’s the crack cocaine of instant feedback. I briefly engaged in twittering but found myself overly absorbed in the online dynamics and pulled away to catch my breath. Since then I find myself reconsidering the value of Twitter and wondering, how I could join the collective consciousness of Twitter without getting sucked into the Matrix? Just this week I heard Greta Van Susteren ask viewers to Twitter! Only a few months back in September of 2008, she was steering clear of Twitter due to her already overly connected life. Much as Oprah made Skype a household word/application. It’s possible Greta and other news hounds will find Twitter invaluable in providing leads and making connections with the help of limitless numbers of voices available instantly online.

Podcamp NYC

May 2, 2008

I have a number of posts in the cue. They reside in the draft folder. This is true for my post on Podcamp NYC08. I attended and facilitated one session at Podcamp NYC last weekend. Chris Penn, the Podcamp Boston originator opened the unconference and a number of volunteer coordinators managed the event including Whitney Hoffman and John C. Havens. In sum I think I made some inspirational connections and I think a few people feel they picked up useful tips from my session. I will update this post to include a list of my new contacts, their podcast/blog URLs and some helpful tips to would be podcasters from my new friend Brad P. so don’t be too surprised when the long awaited RSS feed drops into your aggregator. I plan to make some headway this weekend.

If you are a teacher then you know how time accelerates in the last few weeks of school. You begin to wonder how you can possibly get everything done in such a short window of time. Ughh, exhausting isn’t it?

new small voices vodcast on podomatic

April 14, 2008

I just completed editing and posting episode 31 of small voices.  This is my third annual play based on a piece of childrens’ literature.  A friend and coworker of mine, Heidi Holcomb, soon to be EdS in EdTech loaned me a containing examples of literature illustrating the butterfly effect.  I wondered how readily my students would make the connection between the cats in our story and the safety of the island. They listened intently to the tale.  I told the initially to listen carefully to see if they could solve the problem on the island. They each wanted to be the one to find the answer! Stories can be excellent teachers when students assume a role/purpose within the context of the a book.

My role was to ask questions and to help the students take ownership of the play. I call it a play but in reality it would take months to be able to produce this kind of thing sequentially and before an audience. Videotaping is the answer.  It enables the teacher to reduce each the play to scenes or even parts when filming. With 18 enthusiastic kindergarteners, the rule is divide and conquer!  Parental help is key as is a mind reading assistant.  I had both!  See for yourself. The editing is so so but I think you’ll agree, the movie is a living lesson for these children.

I found this lesson plan today based on the book I used.  Some of you may find this helpful in creating your own plans.

Listening to a New Voice, Springs Alive Uganda!

March 30, 2008

It is with great pleasure I announce the new blog, Springs Alive Uganda. As many of you know I have posted several times about my friend Martin Sebuliba and his vision for peace, wellness and education for the disenfranchised children of Uganda. Martin has limited access to theSprings Alive Students internet due to the high fees charged at internet cafes and the lack of electricity and no internet signal in his rural village. I offered to set up a blogger account for him so that he and members of his community could type off-line and then simply make their posts quickly and inexpensively when convenient.

If you use the internet regularly as I do, then you will understand how time consuming it can be to try and figure out how things work, or even to do research online. By providing technical support I can be an advocate for Springs Alive and I am blessed to be able to help. Martin is working on creating a logo representative of his community and their goals which begin with the children and feed into a larger picture of a healthy, self sustaining community in the future. They will need lots of support to make this dream a reality. Track their successes and struggles by listing the Springs Alive Uganda blog on your blog roll or by subscribing to the feed. Your comments and questions will be welcomed. You will witness firsthand the hopes and dreams emanating from a small village in Africa. Tell everyone you know, you are listening a new voice!

Jen Wagner Steels (not a typo) the Show!

March 26, 2008

Today I facilitated a session introducing some faculty members to Web 2.0. This was a new PD topic for our school and the participants had no prior knowledge of Web 2.0. In fact they hadn’t a clue what it might mean. It reminded me of my own reaction a little more than a year ago when I first heard the term Web 2.0. I couldn’t pin down a definition. After much blog-reading, conference-attending and experimentation I finally have a handle on the term. So I ask, how do we typically describe something that is new and improved? I might hear, “This new generation of flat screen TV lets you view in TV in high definition.” New generation, an improvement, that’s what Web 2.0 is. It is a new generation of online internet tools. (see jeff Utecht’s video explanation) Most of these tools have two things in common that enhance internet user experience. Firstly, they are free. Secondly, they embody some collaborative features. In short, Web 2.0 is to the internet of yesterday what Vista is to Windows XP. It is new and improved. (theoretically)

The mystery of Web 2.0 quickly disappeared. It was now time to demonstrate some of the features and benefits. I opened Delicious to the CreekViewElementary page and displayed the contents on the Promethean board. I explained the benefits to using this kind of system for bookmarking over the traditional ‘favorites’ . Delicious links are available any time and anywhere you have internet access. Next I made four simple requests.

  1. Each participant had to download and install the Firefox browser.
  2. They had to sign up for a Gmail account.
  3. They had to set up a Delicious account.
  4. Next they imported the Delicious add-on to Firefox.

This took about 15 minutes and they were able to help one another in the process. Next I asked them to enter voicethread.com and then click the handy little delicious TAG button now found in their browser tool bar. I just love this feature. I explained how tags are used to file things by topic. The best part about tagging is being able to file one site under many topic headers. For instance, I put Voicethread under interactive, multimedia, projectbasedlearning, and web2tool. Now when I click on interactive, it appears as one of the options.

I pulled up an example of a 4th grade language arts project in Voicethread. The teachers could easily see how VT could be used within the classroom and even as a collaborative grade level project. Once teachers realize they has the necessary computer skills they get very excited about the prospects of using new tools. The necessary computer skills are very minimal and are virtually the same as the skills required to send an email. This is really another wonderful feature of Web 2.0. It is easy to use. Ahhh, finally and it keeps getting even easier. It really does. At this stage is you can read, type, attach pictures or documents and are willing to follow instructions, then you can enjoy all the web has to offer.

At this point, the participants felt fairly comfortable and were beginning to grasp the intrinsic collaboration component found in Web 2.0 tools. Suddenly they noticed a dialog box open on the Promethean screen from my laptop. It said, ‘ready?’ Oh, that’s my good friend Jen Wagner from California Skyping in to join our session. I will let her know we are ready. I typed back, ‘OK’.  I clicked the green call button and we connected. Jennifer Wagner is so warm and friendly she instantly gained the groups’ attention and started us on a journey exploring Google applications. She started with Google Reader and had everyone subscribing to her blog, jenuinetech.com/blog! She is one smart cookie. She spent 45 minutes with us, covering Google-Calendar and Docs. Jennifer has an amazing way of bringing concepts to life with spot on analogies and concrete examples that teachers can relate to. She was the highlight of the session. Why? Because she is an amazing teacher and because she was speaking to us from California and it felt like she was in the room. Not only did the participants learn about Google apps they also saw the wonder of Skype in action. I was able to walk around and check on progress and offer assistance. It was a wonderful experience for me and I think now, it is the only way to really get teachers interested in the power of edtech.

Jen, I owe you one! You did ‘steel’ the show by strengthening the case for integrating technology. Now if we can just get one or two of them to listen to Women of Web 2 on Tuesday nights from 9-10PM EST … If you are a teacher who thrives on new forms of communication and enjoys participating in lively chats about the latest greatest teaching tools then you really must tune in to Jen’s Show on Tuesday nights. She and 3 other stellar women host a variety of edtech gurus. You listen and chat while they have a conversation. If you do decide to test the water by joining the chat on Tuesday nights please say hello to me (sendkathy) and Jen (jenuinetech).

Podcamp NYC

March 2, 2008

I’ll be there, will you?

The Problem with Overexposure

February 28, 2008

The problem with exposure is overexposure. How can teachers create safe spaces for children? For that matter how can parents? The internet is a Pandora’s Box, alluring, mysterious and enlightening. Is the incidence of occasionally unfiltered audio of video a threat to internet use in elementary schools? angelDo the benefits of internet use outweigh the pitfalls? Several posts ago I commented on the surprising use of youtube by young students. I didn’t teach them about it nor have I even even mentioned it because I don’t feel it is a safe place for unaccompanied minors. Our county has excellent filters and they certainly seems to be 99% effective in eliminating unwanted material but the filters can fail and students can run the risk of overexposure. Take Google images, regardless of the setting an search on any term may result in image overexposure! It happened to me one time when I was searching for computers. Mixed among the computers was a random photo labeled computer but without any computer in view.

Media Specialists have grappled with questionable content since the dawn of libraries. Parents dissaporve of some books for religious, political or content about the human anatomy. Some illustrations or photographs may depict strong sequences of violence. I have been on the critical end of this debate when my own children were in elementary school. In fact a middle school teacher showed the class an R-rated movie without parent consent. It was Schindler’s List. My daughter loved her teacher. I felt the woman had exercised poor judgment. I emailed the principal and let her know that perhaps the teacher was not aware of the rules concerning movies. She thanked me and handled it discreetly. No one lost their job. In fact it was a teachable moment for me and my daughter.

I recently encountered some unanticipated pitfalls using audio on the web. Think about still images, screening them is relatively simple procedure. You can see with your own eyes in short order and assess the content. With video alone, you could fast forward and scan the scenes. A different kind of problem arises when using audio. How can you and I be sure the audio content is safe without listening to every word, every second? What kind of warning do you have before it’s too late to stop the sound? What if the unexpected happens? How do you recover? What do you tell the students? I have been asking these questions of my peers and the most frequent answer is to fudge the offending word or phrase and change thlisten and learne meaning, if possible to placate any innocent listeners, but what if that isn’t possible? How can we trust the content even when it comes from a reputable source? Is what we hear online as damaging as what we hear in person? These are the questions creating cob webs in my head. Teachers have to protect their students. I think we have to consider these questions seriously. The advent of phone comments on blogs and VoiceThreads and even audio comments on websites or podcasts raise the chances that some unfiltered audio will reach the ears of innocents. Are there any guarantees save removing internet access? Let me know if you have any answers. I’m all ears!

Geocaching is News to Me

January 31, 2008

Today I experienced an Alphasmart training session prepared and facilitated by a recent PhD in Edtech and Curriculum. Her name, Diana Freeman and she works part time for Alphasmart developing and delivering training. Her other job is sizable. She is the  Media & Instructional Technology Director for Johnston County schools in North Carolina. It sounds like they have a very unified vision for technology in their school system. I will write more about this later. In her spare time she is a philanthropist and a Geocacher. She is the quintessential teacher completely engaged in living, giving and learning.

Diana managed to introduce us to the wide ranging capabilities of Neos, let us play and practice and interspersed activities with vignettes about her passion, Geocaching. I am familiar with this hobby, activity or ‘cult’ but I had never encountered an active participant. She is so active in fact that she left our training session and headed for a Geocache in Alabama! A mother and grandmother, she has the entire family involved. She lives her discovery learning philosophy. She has peaked my interest in technology-based treasure hunting. Has anyone been using this in kindergarten? How’s it going? If like me, you are wondering how Geocaching might enhance your curriculum then read this August post by Silvia Tolisano in her Langwitches blog. Here is The Official Geocaching website. (photo from Bob and Renee on Flickr.com)