As I have stated previously, I can never believe how much one is capable of learning in one week in a technology class. I consider myself to be somewhat knowledgeable about the internet, but I have been humbled this week. I was reminded that when you don’t practice using these tools, you quickly forget and have to relearn. I was also impressed by advances that were made and new offerings that have come out in just the last year! Technology is moving at the speed of light and I feel as educators, it is our obligation to keep up with new trends. If not for our own enjoyment, then to help our students become technology literate so they can someday have skills that will help them live successfully in a modern world. I think we are so fortunate in Maine to have laptops for students at the middle level. I will continue to explore some of the tools I didn’t quite have an opportunity to use to their full potential. I will also continue to make integrating technology into the classroom a priority in the schools in which I work.

Final Project – Progressing Slowly

My final project took a complete 180 this morning after viewing some of the additional features available through Google presented by a classmate. I was trying to develop a tool to share information and collaborate with colleagues on the web. I am developing a Google site that will be viewed by invitation only. The amount of learning and information I get out of taking a tech class never ceases to amaze me. I definitely hit a wall today at about 3pm. I think I will be able to put the final touches on the site tomorrow and obviously continue to work on it throughout the summer. My brain has grown to two times it’s previous size since the beginning of this class, I’m sure:)

Resources 101

I was very impressed with the list of available 2.0 tools on 101 Resources. I explored Flickr and found it extremely easy to upload photos. This is a great tool for sharing photos with your friends, although you have to invite friends to join the site in order to view your photos. I remember being a bit put off when a friend asked me to join because I had to sign up for my own account. This is pretty standard, though, in the world of internet photo sharing.

The other tool I investigated was Twitter. I find that site a little confounding. I am just a follower at the moment, so I can read what others have written, but I can’t comment on their accounts unless the invite me to join. I am having more difficulty seeing the value in this tool. It seems a little like a popularity club and I’m having flashbacks to middle school! I will continue to investigate it’s uses.

There were about a dozen other tools that I plan on exploring. I have been wanting to understand voicethread, so that is probably my next stop. I really appreciate how well organized this site was – very descriptive and easy to use. Two thumbs up!

4 Weeks to a Flatter Us

Bob Sprankle writes about how new technology and internet collaboration can create a more democratic learning environment in schools in his article “4 Weeks to Flatter Us”. He references “crowdsourcing” which is defined by Wikipedia as the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee (or in Bob’s example, students) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call. He describes how “Smart” companies are taking advantage of crowdsourcing to create new, innovative products and further argues that we should adopt these business practices in our schools to help prepare students to work in an economy that embraces this type of innovation.

I appreciate Bob’s comparisons of businesses with schools. I have often made this comparison myself when discussing the issue with my colleagues. The articles we have been reviewing in class seem to carry the common thread of engaging student innovation with creative use of technology. Implicit in this is abandoning the old model of teacher knows best. I also appreciate the resources that Bob contributes in his post. I completely concur with his argument that by engaging students in their learning, we can more provide a democratized classroom where students can co-create their learning environment. I don’t have a classroom, but I will continue to work with teachers in creating classrooms where students are engaged.

Final Project

I have a couple of ideas for my final project for this class and will need your feedback. I would like to experiment with Voicethread and create a presentation that I can bring to my colleagues in the fall. I would also like to develop a teaching tool that will help them use a resource such as Google documents. Do you think it’s possible to combine the two? I will look for input from you in class tomorrow.

Blogs are our Friends!

I think anyone who continues to doubt the power of using blogs in the classroom would be wise to read Jeff Utecht’s article “Blogs Are Not the Enemy”. The highlights are as follows: blogs are not just a method for students to write about what they know; they are a way of engaging students in a conversation with the world. Good teachers understand the importance of conversation in expanding comprehension and creating further opportunities for growth. I also greatly appreciated Vicki Davis’ contribution on teaching effective commenting strategies. I was sold before, but now I feel like I have a great article to share with anyone who might still be on the fence.

A Review of Prensky’s Article

Mark Prensky’s article, “Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom” describes how despite the fact that teachers have access to amazing technology, they are still slow to integrate technology into classroom instruction. He points out that many teachers still don’t understand or embrace these new resources. Prensky adds that only when educators commit to technology by learning, listening, asking, and experimenting with new methods, will they be able to begin using it effectively.

I agree with Prensky’s viewpoints on why this is true. Mainly, that teachers/school districts have difficulty with change and are in general, not integrating student ideas/interests in their teaching practices. I think technology can be overwhelming, and the already overwhelming demands on teachers leave little time to explore use of technology (and we all know it takes a lot of time and experimentation to use effectively). Responses to Prensky’s article were thought provoking. I was especially struck by the educator who pointed out that in order to begin using and integrating technology in the classroom, the teacher has to give up some control as the one who is in charge of the learning process. I whole heartedly agree that this is difficult for many teachers. In terms of my own school’s use of technology, I think it varies depending on the willingness of the teacher to learn and explore new ideas, as well as their comfort level with technology.  Some teachers simply use the laptops for word processing, while others have a more expansive use of the internet as a tool for student learning. At this point my administration supports the use of technology, but is focused more in the areas of literacy and math, excluding technology as a part of these processes.

Four Important Practices

Prensky’s article speaks to a fact most in education already know; kids are bored in school and often learning is irrelevant to their interests. In his four important practices, he delineates how schools can be more effective in reaching students and providing a more authentic learning experiences. His practices are really common sense; including incorporating technology into classrooms, engaging students based on their interests, providing children with meaningful learning opportunities, and engaging them in experiences that are future oriented. These tenants are really not new information or ground breaking ideas. I think they are what good educators know to be true. Unfortunately, there are many teachers that cleave to their traditional teaching styles and then wonder why they feel ineffective. I have observed many classrooms where students are engaged in their learning, and many where students are not. My school has a healthy combination of both experiences. I feel fortunate to work in a middle school where laptops are provided to students and teachers can and do provide instruction incorporating technology. I think this article would be a good one to share with my colleagues and administration.

Two Blogs Reviewed

I reviewed “The Thinking Stick” which posted a rather scathing review of the recent NECC conference. “Scathing” might be a bit harsh, but Jeff Utech describes overcrowding and a lack of planning for making an uncomfortable experience (participants literally dashing to the next gig to make sure they could get in). I really liked the button features on the upper right hand side of the blog. The buttons provide links to other sites. I must learn how to do that to enhance my own blog site. It makes mine veritably boring in comparison.

Also reviewed was “The Fischbowl”. The most recent blog entry also mentions the recent NECC conference and it’s lack of ability to impress. The post sounds a little disheartened, but I can relate to the powerlessness I feel in being able to make real change working in part of a larger and seemingly ineffective system. Especially when it comes to adopting some of these highly effective technology strategies in the classroom. I thought both of the blogs were interesting, but the Thinking Stick was more appealing. I would consider reviewing it again.