Pick me please!!!

Motivation

I just recently found out, today actually, that I would be re-entering the education technology world full-time as an elementary “computer teacher.”  I know that’s not the most ed-tech savvy position name, but it is what it is for the time being.  I have spent this past year teaching in an elementary life skills classroom where major behaviors and curriculum development has taken up most of my time.  I feel very out of the loop with the newest technologies that are available and want to reconnect and reengage so that I can be the best “computer teacher” I can be.

I participated in the first DEN Institute held in Valley Forge and learned a lot and met a lot of great people while in attendance.  I have been looking for the opportunity to participate in another institute like this with likeminded people since finally becoming healthy enough to begin working full-time again.

Activity

I will admit that I haven’t been the most active STAR out there.  I do introduce teachers and other staff to Discovery Education when I can and I think my biggest this year was showing it to our occupational therapist who felt that the videos with exercises would be very good for many of the students she sees.  I did also introduce one of our teachers to editable clips and how to edit them in Movie Maker.  This was something she didn’t know that she could do, and she’s done it several times since, making more appropriate clips for use in her classroom.

Expertise

My expertise at this point in time lies more in the fields of assitive technology and universal design for learning than regular education activities.  I’ve had to do a lot of major adaptions for my students to use technology.  I had one student with autism who had never been able to do much more than watch videos on the Internet, and figured out a way to allow him to make choices on the computer using a mouse buddy.  It was VERY rewarding.

Tech Troubles and ARCS

As a Classrooms for the Future Coach, I often have to work with teachers who have issues with using technology in their classrooms.  I have one teacher who doesn’t see the point of integrating technology and I have others who are afraid that they will break the computer somehow.  Quite often, the biggest problems that I face are fear of trying new things, fear of breaking something, and thoughts that technology will be difficult and time consuming to use.  They will come up with reasons not to meet with me because they are too busy for technology, will not do things unless I am there to support them, or will just not be happy when I come around with ideas and suggestions.

I think that I do use the ARCS model when I try to get people to believe in using technology.  I try to catch their attention with something that is easy and appealing to them and then show them the relevance to the curriculum that they are currently using.  I work with them until they have the confidence to use the tool themselves and then sit back and watch their satisfaction when they use the tool with their students successfully.  I’ve always said that if they would give me five minutes to show them something, I could sell them on using technology in their classroom.

My PLN

I must say that I am very excited about being able to talk about my PLN.  They are amazing and a very important part of my life!  I can say without question that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.  Their support and knowledge has helped make me the educator and technology geek I am today!  Below is an image of my Personal Learning Network.

My first experience with networking was while I was working on my Master’s Degree.  We had an on-line community that allowed us to communicate with those in our classes, but also those in our program and the other programs in the School of Business and Education.  This was invaluable!!!  We were able to get questions answered that we might not have wanted to ask the professor.  We also had more resources to ask questions to other than just the professor.  But the thing that got me hooked, was the idea sharing!  We were no longer on our own little islands where we had to fend for ourselves, we had a wealth of resources from people who were in similar situations at our fingertips.

In my job as Education Technology Facilitator, I was able to join a new learning community, the Discovery Educator Network since we were a Discovery Streaming school.  This was an amazing group and still is.  We were just building back then, but being able to come together and share ideas and knowledge was amazing!  We all had something to gain from each other that we could take back to help our students.  Since then, through mainly the people in this group, my PLN has grown and so has what I have learned.  These groups that you will see on my mindmap have been an integral part of my education.

I will admit that the first source I go to when I am looking for information quickly or when I am having a bad day is Plurk.  I find this much easier than Twittering since the posts are threaded.  You can see how quickly answers come in and you don’t have to search through pages to follow conversations like you do on Twitter.  I also use my aggregator heavily to follow the conversations on several of the Nings that I am a member.  It’s much easier than trying to sort through all of the information that comes in to those groups.  I use other tools as well, but these are my primary resources and the places that I get the best information either by request or  by the sharing that happens here.

Cooperation and Collaboration

After watching Howard Rheingold’s TED Talk, especially since it was filmed in 2005, was his discussion of people coming together to “organize protests and get-out-to-vote campaigns using mobile devices and SMS.”  Here in 2009, look at how Twitter was used during the Iran election protests as well as mobile devices.  The US Government even got involved and asked Twitter to change the time of their upgrade so that those protesting would be able to communicate.  People from across the world came together using a microblog to have their feelings heard about a situation that they strongly believed in.

Do I believe that people have an instinct to collaborate?  I do.  I think immediately of students when they are given an assignment.  The first thing that they do is turn to those next to them and start discussing their assignment. They would much rather work in groups than do the assignment by themselves.  I know I often get assignments and think about discussions regarding how to handle the assignment with peers.

I think that the biggest way technology can help with collaboration and constructivism is by providing individuals from all over the world to communicate with each other.  This is the first step in collaboration. As they work together in their groups, they can then work with one another to construct new knowledge.  Working with others from different backgrounds also allows individuals to gain insights they might not have thought of otherwise which allows them to change and construct new knowledge.

Cognitivism and Behaviorism

In this assignment, we are tasked with reading two blog posts by Karl Kapp and Bill Kerr form our own response with their posts in mind.

Even before reading the post by Karl Kapp, I must quote Bill Kerr because this comment is exactly how I feel about all of these “-isms.”  He says, “It seems to me that each _ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete or stand alone in their own right.”

There are many people who claim that they believe whole heartedly in one specific theory, but it seems to me that they all build on each other, whether they were developed because someone didn’t like a certain part of one and changed it to something else in their own theory, or they keep adding and modifying existing theories.

I can see after beginning the Kapp article that he feels the same way.  He says, “What we need to is take the best from each philosophy and use it wisely to create solid educational experiences for our learners.”  How true that if we take the best from each we create the best for our students.

Through the rest of his post, he seems to describe Bloom’s Taxonomy through the three learning theories.  This is an interesting concept about possibilities of how we blend the theories in practice depending on what level we are taking our students to.  I have to agree with him that lower level thinking is more behaviorally based and creation and projects are much higher and fall under the constructivist approach where students are building their own knowledge.

I will have much more to discuss on the topic after I return from the Constructivist Consortium hosted by Gary Stager this year at NECC.  Here I will get the opportunity to work with other educational technologists from around the world as we build our knowledge of software that allows us to teach constructivly.

Metaphors of Educators

In his paper, George Siemens (2008) discusses four different metaphors of educators.  Each one is very different from the typical “sage on the stage” model that many teachers still use in most of their teaching.  These methaphors that he discusses all center on the learning of the students with the teachers being there to support the learning of the students.

In the Educator as Network Administrator metaphor, the teacher focuses on helping students create learning networks.  The students then are encouraged to evaluate their sources for reliability.  Any gaps in learning are then filled in by the teacher and the student.  This has value in today’s society because we focus so much on communication, particularly on-line.  Teachers create personal learning networks to share information with others in the field through networks like Nings, Twitter, Plurk, and others.  I see this model as doing the same with students, allowing them to communicate with other students who share the same interests and are learning the same information regardless of where they are in the world.  Project examples for this type of metaphor would be Julie Lindsay and Vickie Davis’s Flat Classroom Projects.

In the Educator as Concierge metaphor, the teacher shares information with the students that they might not have otherwise found.  Educators as Concierges may at times lecture when they are sharing information that the entire class may benefit from.  However, most of their time is spent observing what learning is going on and supporting it whenever possible with information that they might not otherwise find.

Educators as Curators perform two roles.  These two roles are experts with additional knowledge and guides that encourage exploration.  These educators create and map the students learning while giving them freedom to learn.  The teachers in this metaphor understand that given too much freedom causes students to be confused and overwhelmed, so they create activities that guide them along their way.

The last metaphor, Educator as Master Artist, allows students to branch out and learn not just what the teacher is an expert in, but are guided in their learning.  The Master Artist should be giving students information that changes the way they think about the world around them and what they are learning.

I feel that a mixture of these metaphors is what instructors should be to their students.  Although a mixture of all of them, would best benefit today’s students.  I think creating learning networks is incredibly important as well as being able to determine if the sources and people you are connecting with are reliable.  I also believe that it is important for teachers to be able to lead students to other information like the concierge does.  I also feel that the role curators play is important.  Guiding students’ learning instead of giving them total freedom over their learning provides them with some structure in their learning.  A blend of these three would be my ideal instructor, especially if they stay away from the sage on the stage model of teaching and focus on guiding their students.

Inauguration Day

As Inauguration Day approaches, I felt it would be beneficial to share some links that have been flying through the CFF ListServ with regard to this historic day.  This site discusses places to go to live stream the events as they are happening.  This site is an “online expedition” of the events with daily themes.

This site is put together by  Springfield Township, a Pennsylvania school who has students attending the inauguration.  They will be taking video and posting to their blogs.  Your students are encouraged to comment and ask questions.  Judge Rendell has posted a welcome statement and the PDE will be involved as well.

The last site is a blog with many links pertaining to the Inauguration.

As always if you need any assistance or have any questions, please let me know!

Practice What You Preach

Because I believe in practicing what you preach, I have decided to try and blog again.  I’m very good at starting them, but have issues carrying through.  Often I don’t feel I have anything interesting to say or share with people or I do it through microblogs like Twitter and Plurk.  Now that I am in the position of Classrooms for the Future Coach and will be teaching others about blogging and it’s benefits, I figure that I better start to really blog once again.

This blog will be a place to share information with my teachers about interesting ideas and tools for their use, information about upcoming trainings, and a place to share the positive things I see happening with technology at our school.  I hope that you will check it often, or better yet, start an aggregator and have it sent there so you don’t have to check it often (we’ll talk about that in a training session).

I have “great techpectations” for you all and look forward to working with you throughout the coming year.  Please be sure to check out my CFF Wiki and the Ning Community I’ve created for your use.