Justin Womack

27

Mar

by jwomack

I have heard of Second Life before, but I never knew that it could be used for more than just a fantasy world.  My initial impression from the limited information I had was that it was a place for people to be what they wanted to be in a Sim City like environment.  They could then play around all day acting out things that they would never be able to do in real life.  It was very interesting to see an educational use for this environment and I believe that this sort of thing could actually be very beneficial for certain learners.  Students who are shyer and fear being called in class could be the ones to flourish in this online environment.  Students could create their own avatars and find their voice through the online environment.  I also see the benefit of using Second Life as another tool to meet with other teachers to collaborate.  If I was looking for ways to branch my class out to other areas of the world this would be an easy way to do that.  My class could connect with another class from another part of the country, or maybe even the other side of the world.  The TED presentation with the smart technology was impressive.  Hopefully there is a way to mass produce this idea because it is something that will open a lot of doors for teachers and students.  Giving the teachers this device allows them to be more mobile and interactive.  Instead of students staring at the board all day the teacher can move around the room and project the information on any surface.  This allows a creative element for the teacher and gives the students the opportunity to move around as they follow the teacher’s lesson.  If the students were able to have these even more interaction could take place.  Student groups could go out to collect data and bring it in immediately and present it to the class.  Utilizing cell phones is also great.  Students have them already so why not use them for educational purposes.  I know of programs where students can do question responses by texting in.  This would be a great tool to get everyone participating because it is anonymous.

All of these online tools give us teachers a fertile ground to stand on and engage our students in thinking and learning.  We still have to monitor this thinking through assessments.  Assessing where our students are is essential to make sure the way we are teaching them is getting through to them.  The key is making sure we incorporate assessments throughout the units we are teaching (Coffman p. 142, 2013).  As teachers I think sometimes we do not think of the smaller things we do like small group work or sharing strategies as a way of assessing our students.  We are working to get our students to think outside of the box.  It is imperative that we continuously check to make sure students our on the right track.  If we are able to see through the sharing of strategies that some students are missing the concepts being taught then we are able to adjust the teaching to better fit our students.  I believe sometimes as teachers we have created a lesson plan for a unit and we do not deviate from this plan.  You may take things slower, but we do not think creatively as in “I need to adjust the way I am presenting information”.

Students need to think to learn and we need to monitor this thinking.  If it is not happening or concepts are not being retained then we must move to adjust our teaching to accommodate our students.

Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: developing creative thinkers and information literate students. (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

23

Mar

by jwomack

Just when I think I am getting the hang of all the new tools on the internet Dr. Coffman provides us with more tools that make me feel like a novice.  Don’t get me wrong all the tools that we are learning are great and I plan to use many of them as I move forward as a teacher.  After last week and working with those tools I felt as though I was beginning to get a grasp on all this new technology.  Then came this week and again I am left trying to catch up with great tools that seem like I need a class just to use them.  This week’s projects definitely are more involved, but they are just as useful as last weeks.  As a first year teacher it has been a lot to begin teaching as well as continue finishing my education.  I have felt a lot of stress and I have dealt with many afternoons of self-doubt.  Is this right for me?  Do I REALLY want to do this?  Only after clicking on my computer and checking out my online classes and the plethora of useful information do I feel better.  I think as a first year teacher you can be overwhelmed easily.  School is not what it was when I was going through middle school.  It is an ever evolving system and if you do not understand that you will be thoroughly shocked as I was.  We have to get out of our antiquated mindsets of how things WERE and adapt to how things ARE.  Attention spans are shortened, and students need information that grabs them.  As new and reformed teachers we must work to make our lessons interesting and not just the old notes, classwork, homework that we are used to.  I guarantee if you do not have your students moving around or interacting in some creative way you are going to have long days trying to maintain your student’s attention.

With regards to the projects we looked at this week, I feel the best way to go about implementing these would be through large class workshops.  Reading through many of the projects it seemed like two key components to most of them were research and time.  With this in mind I thought the best way to introduce this would be through class workshops of relevant material.  Making the Google Trek or Fusion apart of daily routine would work perfectly for getting the information and know how to my students.  As a class we could work together on the larger scale of how to operate these new tools.  I could then assign more specific aspects of each such as researching a specific place as homework to my students.  I could also do this in the form of smaller groups.  As the year goes on the students would hopefully be more comfortable with the tools and better prepared to work with them on a larger scale on their own.  At first glance these projects can seem like a lot of work, but with great lesson planning and practice I can see these projects being great mainstays in classrooms leading the way for focused learning.

15

Mar

by jwomack

The mini projects I learned about this week are technology gold.  As I moved from one project to the next they seemed to get better and better.  These types of projects are what keep students interested in learning.  I believe that it also allows our students to take ownership of their work and be more creative.  I really enjoyed Dr. Coffman writing about Tellecollaboration.  Being able to create information using the internet in a collaborative setting and then being able to collaborate with classrooms around the world is an amazing tool.  Using this new technology to keep our students focused on “big idea” questions is essential to strengthening their minds (Coffman p. 104, 2013).  I also like that with each project they lend themselves to different types of learners.  You have those students who are visual who can work with things like Wordle to help see a bigger picture.  For those students who are more auditory a teacher could record their lessons and make it available to that student to hear the information.  The projects also allow the students to work at their own pace and leave room for them to make mistakes.  Mistakes are sometimes more important to help students build the processes to maneuver what went wrong in order to fix the problem.  With all the projects I see opportunities to keep my students focused and caring about what they are learning.  I see a future classroom where I will not have to constantly ask a student to pay attention because their focus will be on the work through the interactive technology.

In my future classrooms I will definitely try to incorporate many of these tools to keep my students interested.  I work with students who have special needs and it is especially important to keep them focused.  Most of the time my students already want to be on the computer so using these projects would be a great advantage.  I also see these projects as a way for my students to experience a world outside of just their school or town.  My eventual goal would be for my students to put together some projects using these tools and creating a website for the class.  I would then love to be able to collaborate with another class somewhere in the world.  We could trade websites and learn about each other’s cultures.  My students see things differently and being able to present information in a picture where they can see main points could help them focus on what is really important.  Having lessons recorded so students can listen or watch while at home would be a great asset.  Many times I have students who say their parents do not know how to do their homework and that unfortunately is the case in some homes.  Being able to provide a tool for my students at home so they can still practice at home would change the way my students are able to learn.

Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: developing creative thinkers and information literate students. (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

2

Mar

by jwomack

New ways to keep our kids interested in learning continue to pop up.  It amazes me at how many programs there are that help make learning interesting.  Yet, I believe most teachers do not take the time to explore these new options that could keep their students tuned in a bit longer.  Having students use fun concept maps with Inspiration, or sharing information through Wallwisher are both amazing ways of making learning and studying fun.  I like the idea of posing open ended questions to students to spark their thought as it relates to web inquiry (Coffman p. 84-85, 2013) .  Allowing the students to explore different possibilities to problems is a necessity.  In this day in age I feel that students are too limited in how they answer things.  Students are required more often than not to provide one specific answer.  There is not much focus on how students got the answer and unfortunately I believe the how is much more beneficial than the actual answer.  Students struggle with needing to find the correct answer because they are taught how to answer questions and not how to THINK and answer questions.  I cannot tell you how many times in a day a student asks me how to do something and has not even started the problem.  The focus must be moved to the thinking and not answering the question.  With inquiry comes an opening of the mind that will hopefully lead to correct answers.

I found Wallwisher to be a great tool.  I started mine on special education tips and I hope to gain a lot of useful notes from it.

http://padlet.com/wall/SpEd-ideas

This is a great tool to use to guide students in online research.  It gives them a fun way to organize the information they find and then share it with others.  It also opens up the door to make their search for information much easier with many helpful notes already posted on certain walls.  You could easily have your students each find information on specific topics and then present their information to the rest of the class.  You could also do a popcorn exercise.  If you were in civics you could have students each go through certain terms to find information on each.  It would also be a great tool to monitor students and how they are planning or organizing thoughts on a subject.  The teacher could edit or add comments and helpful links if the student is struggling.  This tool also allows for differentiation with student pace.  There are many options to explore and it makes research easy and fun.  It could also be a way for students to take notes and link to teacher’s PowerPoint’s.  Students could constantly reference this page to get a quick look at everything they have done in the class.  It would also provide the students with a great study tool.  Students are bored and it is important to utilize as many great resources as possible.

 

 

Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: developing creative thinkers and information literate students. (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

This week’s reading was very interesting.  I find myself torn between two feelings.  I am a person who looks for innovative ways to better teach students.  I am not sure though that a flipped class is the way to go about it.  During the readings I felt like I did not like the idea and it was not until I read the article on critics that I decided to keep an open mind.

As a first year teacher I have experienced many situations I did not think I would experience.  As students we go into teaching believing that we are going to make a difference.  We know that we will not be like those terrible teachers we had in school.  Actually experiencing teaching has rocked my mindset and I am in a constant battle to stay committed.  The Education system we have is troubled to say the least.  My initial thought about the flip was that students in this day do not have to responsibility to handle something like this.  After reading Ms. Kirch’s article I realized I was letting the cynical attitudes that many of my colleagues have way on my judgment.  One of the main points Ms. Kirch talks about is most who frown upon flipping a class have not yet tried to do it.  With this thought in mind I decided to open up my mind as I continued to read through this new way of teaching.  In the end I feel that this type of teaching could lend itself well to certain age groups and subjects.  I also believe that there are some obstacles that stand to make this concept difficult for some school districts.

In the article it talks about reasons critics have against flipping a classroom.  The range from creating issues with technology access to only making the teaching about the videos (Kirch, 2012).  I believe this would be a difficult concept for elementary children and some middle school.  I think this idea is better suited for high school where students are more independent and have a wide knowledge of technology.  This is not to say that flipping a third grade class could not work.  I believe one could adapt the flipping to make it simpler for the younger groups.  I just believe it would be more beneficial to those students in high school.  I also think this would be a good thing to do for most core classes.  It gets the boring part out of the way so that the teacher can work hands on with their students on projects.  This also allows for more student collaboration in school where it is ok to make mistakes when they can be corrected.

My concerns for this idea involve all the standardized testing required by most states.  With the thought that students can work at their own pace I do not know how well this would work if they are struggling with a concept, but need to be further ahead covering more advanced concepts.  As things are now I know in my school we are very concerned with our timeline in math and making sure that we cover all the concepts necessary to prepare our students for the SOL.  My other concern is students being engaged enough to complete the lectures at home.  It is hard enough to get my students to do the homework on a regular basis and it’s hard to imagine them listening to lectures when they could be at the mall with friends.  Though they may be more motivated if they know they only have a 5-10 video on a concept to watch rather than 30-60 minutes of homework.  The idea overall seems promising, but I still have find myself concerned over how effective it would be.

 

Kirch, C. (2012, April 5). Critics of the flipped classroom. Retrieved from

http://flippingwithkirch.blogspot.com/2012/04/critics-of-flipped-classroom.html

It is so important to identify why learning is meaningful.  It would be much easier if students paid attention and quietly learned what we teach them, but they do not.  We as teachers have a wide range of classrooms with different personalities, and learners.  Our students want and a lot of times NEED to know why what we are teaching them is relevant or they will not care to learn it and tune out.  I like how Dr. Coffman states that as we breakdown a lesson and identifying the meaningful parts, we as teachers are creating a structured lesson that our students will pay attention to (Coffman p. 52, 2013).  As a first year teacher it is interesting everyday to encounter new aspects of teaching as I am still learning in my masters work.  Our students want to know why they are learning something.  If the lesson is not structured and active for the students to participate, it is going to be a struggle to keep a hold of your classroom.  I agree with Dr. Coffman that it is essential for students to take the lead in their own inquiry based learning (Coffman p. 50, 2013).  It allows them freedom and gives them the opportunity to work problems on their own and with their peers.  Using technology to teach our students through real world experiences is one of the many tools we as teachers need to take advantage of.

I am excited to start creating my music video because it will give me another great incite to a learning tool that I can use in the classroom.  Though I have not started my video as of this blog, looking at the animoto examples I believe this will be a great resource.  Moving forward in my teaching career I think having students create review videos for each unit or couple of units would be a great learning experience and opportunity.  Making the video would give my students a creative and fun way to review their understanding of what we learned.  This activity also allows my students to be get accustomed with technology tools that may be easier for them to operate then just coming up with 10 example test questions.  I also found the Google Reader to be a useful resource.  This would be a great lesson on consolidating students options for researching information.  Students could create blogs and have weekly assignments or postings.  They could have a folder for world news sites and a folder for student blogs.  I could use this as a tool to get discussions going on the happenings of the world and how that effects the class and their future.  Engaging the students in critical thinking and applying those skills to issues that will matter to them as they get older.  Technology changes every day and I believe teaching has to change as fast to keep up the pace.

 

Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: developing creative thinkers and information literate students. (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Again I find myself learning that there is so much more to technology and the internet.  I like to think that I am technology savvy, but working with Scratch to create a program was quite interesting.  I felt like I was back  in middle school struggling to understand a weird math equation.  Building the program also had me thinking about thinking deeper about information.  I thought about the questions Dr. Coffman posed in Chapter 3 about students first exploring a search engine.  The questions she posed are things that I think most teachers do not think about.  What does the ranking mean in a Web search? Why should phrases be used when conducting a search?(Coffman p. 38, 2013)  As teachers I believe we sometimes assume because the students are more immersed in the technology that they understand these things.  We have to make sure that we are not shortchanging ourselves or the students.  Challenging them and guiding them to think with an inquisitive mind is crucial.  In this day and age there are a lot of sources on the internet that are false and our students need the tools to be able to search through the muck in a clear way.

As I attempted the program I felt like it was my first time with technology.  I found myself getting lost in the minute details of adjusting the pace of the drum sounds.  I had to figure out first how to download the program to my computer properly.  I then had to work through exploring just how each part of the program maker worked.  I went at the design with arrogance.  I thought it would be a simple task that would take no time.  I did watch the introductory tutorial, but then I immediately downloaded the program and started working.  I picked Checks and Balances because it seemed simple and I thought I could do something fun with it.  I used the starting out guide to assist with questions that I had as I was piecing everything together, but I did not write anything out before hand.  I definitely would have my students make a plan first and then explore and work with the program.  Because I had no real plan and only an idea I continually got off track and felt overwhelmed with understanding the program and trying to figure out my design.

In viewing the tutorial everything seemed a little elementary and that is why I thought putting things together would be cake.  While the design and animation is not the best making the data work properly is another story.  You cannot approach any tasks involving technology so lightly.  We as teachers have to think creatively and understand how our students will approach these activities.  They will most likely be more skilled, but that does not mean that they know how to think about the project or process the information.  It is our job as teachers to provide our students with that, “information literacy” that allows them to think creatively with a proper understanding.

 

Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: developing creative thinkers and information literate students. (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

3

Feb

by jwomack

Reading through all the information this week was starting to make my head hurt.  There are many rules and ways people can have license over information.  It makes you wonder how anyone could get something from the internet without violating some type of rule.  After thinking on the subject a bit I realized that this would be a great way to help our students learn to think creatively.  Dr. Coffman spoke of challenging our students to “go beyond the obvious” (Coffman p. 19, 2013).  Educating our students on thinking creatively when it comes to searching for usable content on the internet seems like a great way to impart this challenge.  We as teachers need to adhere to copyright laws because we are role models to our students.  Though at times it may not seem like our students care about anything we do, they are always watching.  If they see an example of someone who shows no respect to the laws set forth as it pertains to copyright what kind of example are we setting?  Especially with the crackdown in recent years of those who download music illegally it is important to educate the students on the correct way to go about such things.  Our goal is to create students who are going to think outside the box and be adventurous thinkers (Coffman p. 28, 2013).  This starts with our lessons and how we use technology.  Give the students a scavenger hunt to search for items on the internet that require certain licenses.  Just as we need to be able to creatively find usable videos, pictures, and text, our students will require the same skill as they grow older.  Being able to provide lessons that open up our students to creative thinking while improving their digital sense is a must.

It was interesting searching for the pictures that were posted on our blog.  I first tried using the Google advanced search but I felt as though I was still not finding images that were available for fair use.  I then attempted using Pics4Learning, and was very pleased to find an image quickly that could be used for school.  I was sure that I was finding a usable image because the description of the website speaks about all the images being donated by the photographers for use in education.  The website also does a great job of making citations for all their photos.  In today’s world it seems daunting to try to find information that can be used properly.  This week’s information provided great assets for future use in my classroom.  I look forward to combining technology and creativity to help create students with minds that are always looking to new possibilities.

 

Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: developing creative thinkers and information literate students. (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

I find myself balancing on the fence with this subject.  On one side, I feel it is absolutely essential for students to have  core knowledge to better assist them with life.  I also believe that being able to apply this knowledge to the 21st century is greatly important.  In the USA Today article the dissenters to 21st century teaching said that it takes away from class time and learning essential content (Toppo, 2009).  I am only in my first year of teaching, but I feel that I agree with those against 21 century teaching.  It seems to me that because of the increased focus on relating teaching to our times students are missing out on core concepts.

Reading through each website I believe they all represented their views very well.  I liked how the core knowledge website had the knowledge sequenced.  This made it easy to see how that knowledge grew as student’s progress through school.  This website also did well to divide the information about their beliefs for each interested group i.e. teacher, administrator, parent (“Core knowledge,” 2013).    The partnership for 21st century skills website was good about providing specific examples of how their learning looks throughout the educational spectrum.  The wiki spaces site was the most interesting to look at.  There were a lot of graphs and visual representations of information.  This was a great way to keep the reader engaged.  Looking over all the websites only confirmed my thought that core knowledge is important and that applying that knowledge to the 21st century is the best way to go about teaching.  In my school we have many 8th graders who do not know their basic times tables.  Students are allowed to use their calculators for all math work because this coincides with their math SOL.  When I asked my mentor teacher about possible working the students through drills she told me that this type of teaching was frowned upon.  It seems difficult to me for this idea of 21st century teaching to work if the students do not even have a grasp of the basics.  While the students are able to connect knowledge to things relevant to them today the depth of that knowledge may not be as deep as those learning core knowledge.

I teach special education and it is my job to make learning accessible to all my students.  My students struggle with the basics of learning and it seems counter productive to ask them to relate knowledge to things related to 21st century.  Students require a baseline of knowledge to be able to apply it to high level of learning.  While 21st century learning  helps prepare students to function better in today’s world, I do not see this being effective if they don’t have an understanding of the core of their knowledge.  With the examples presented involving the 21st century learning students are asked to collaborate with each other and problem solve on their own.  This is asking students to use prior knowledge to apply to more complex situations of today.  For my students I believe that this is giving them too much at once to think about.  Their learning needs to be explicit to make sure they fully understand things.  While the idea of students learning information to fit their 21st century needs, I believe students need to learn about core knowledge first and then apply it to their lives today.

Core knowledge. (2013). Retrieved from http://coreknowledge.org/advocates

Toppo, G. (2009, March 4). What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’?. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm

As technology continues to grow it is interesting to see how other schools are using technology in their classrooms.  I found the example of students making videos of their interpretations of Tom Sawyer very refreshing.  The plan had students use their ideas of visualization to create their own representations of the book in collaboration with the technology class.  Students were able to be actors, producers, directors, costume designers, and many more things.  The students were also able to get outside and explore their options for shooting their movie.  I thought this project did a great job of incorporating different subjects to collaborate on an assignment.  The project also gave students tools to be successful while gaining real world experience in many job areas that the students may be interested in when they become adults.  The whole project fits well with Gagne’s engaged learning.  You have all the aspects of students working with their community of students and in their community through location scouting for their video.  You also have the students collaborating during the project giving them a feeling of self or purpose.  It also gives the students a way to explore information they learned and achieve great goals like creating their own movie.

There was not one specific example that caught my eye as questionable.  I felt in general that to be able to do things with technology takes a lot of resources.  I also wondered how often these schools use the technology like this in their lessons.  From most of the videos it seemed that these schools had many computers, and other tools like video cameras, and other software needed to complete the lessons.  I know at least for my school that not every class has computers for a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.  It is actually quite a battle to get computers for ones class.  I think that being able to use technology is great but your district and school have to have the resources to make those technologies available.  I also think to what happens if things malfunction, and if the teacher is prepared to troubleshoot the problem.  I know that my school only has one technology resource person and they are only at our school once a week.  With these considerations in mind I believe at least in my school this type of lesson would be great, but not something that would be possible on a daily or even weekly basis for every class.

Unfortunately I have not seen a whole lot of technology use in my school so far.  Most of the technology I see is in the active-entry range.  Many of the teachers I work with use smart boards to conduct lessons, and provide students with other interesting videos on the subjects they are learning.  I think that implementation of more technologically advanced lessons takes planning.  I also believe that these lessons would work better in a collaborative setting so that one teacher is not overwhelmed with questions that may come up.  This could also assist in making sure all the students understand the use of technology while they are learning.

References

Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (2011). The technology integration matrix. Retrieved from http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/index.php

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