This week we had the opportunity to explore and develop a module on our own. We introduced a self-generated topic for education with technology. I choose to look at the benefits of using technology in the classroom and at home to support learning reading and writing. I presented two websites readeo.com and readinga-z.com for the purpose of this module.
Readeo.com provides a great way to have children practice reading to others and the opportunity to listen to books being read to them, all while using technology. I thought that this would be a great tool to use with families, grandparents, aunts/uncles, friends, or other support systems. Stakeholders could share via reading to and listening to books, thereby staying connected with each other; I liked this idea of inter-generational learning experience. I also thought this would be a great way for children to read and present books to their families, their classmates or just simply to have them listen to the way they read. Teachers could use it to focus on inflection and intonation. Children could also pick a book that they are interested in which may serve as a way possibly motivating a child who might otherwise have had a hard time engaging.
Secondly, I presented readinga-z.com. This website was quite comprehensive. I thought the myriad of multi-faceted curriculum offered was amazing. It offered books to print off for students to take and practice at home, tests, level appropriate lists, stories, reading comprehension, writing comprehension…etc. It also catered to state specific standards. Although, this may be an expensive initial investment readinga-z.com received good reviews and seemed more comprehensive than some other reading resources that I reviewed.
Overall I was impressed with these two tools. I think that as has been said throughout this whole course so far we have to use technology wisely. Find out what tools work best for you and the group of students that you are working with and implement those tools into your “toolbox”. Additionally, I enjoyed thinking about how I could incorporate families and support systems into the curriculum.
I have really had a great week this week. I have found a better balance of time this session. I learned about our new tools and explored these tools all while having great ongoing discussions which have been exciting. Although, there seemed to be a rather large amount to get through this week, it all seemed to be seamlessly connected. The online tools, twitter.com, diigo.com and citeUlike.org all offer another way to connect, share information and research to promote a new teaching opportunity. However, I am still unsure of the viability of some in the classroom. Our readings provided the basic knowledge of these tools, insight into research for students and teachers and an in depth retrospective of technology over the last 20 years.
In the reading, Beyond the Book, the author explains how the superintendent, James Tenbusch, is teaching students to think critically, to become researchers and to focus on the bigger picture. “Students, more than just typing keywords into Google, learn how to come to an answer independently, using their own ideas about the lesson, subject, or debate at hand. According to Tenbusch, schools teach kids how to read, write, and add, but they generally don’t teach them how to speculate, hypothesize, and free associate.” Tenbusch goes on to provided examples of how to get started and references to research sites and strategies finding multiple sources. This article coincided nicely with our exploration of diigo, a tool used for social bookmarking, annotation, archiving and organizing.
I found diigo to be extremely user friendly. diigo provides options for collecting, highlighting, storing and sharing information- all at the click of a button. I even signed up for our class group page and have shared a few items of interest with the class. I can see great value in this tool as I move forward and begin the collection process that will become part of my curriculum. To be able to share this with other teachers and to be a part of groups of like-minded and engaged individuals while keeping a personal record of sites I have found useful ,as well as any notes about these sites, is incredible. I feel like diigo offers what facebook, twitter, email, blogging, annotating and organizing site all offer separately but conveniently in one spot. I am sold on this tool!
I also explored twitter and although I have signed up and become part of this classes twitter group I am not altogether sure I am convinced of the value in an elementary age setting. I recognize that it could be a useful tool for sharing information among teachers but I have a hard time picturing the practicality in the class room itself. However, I did like the ideas throughout our discussions this week of using for daily thoughts or updates for parents so that they could know what was happening in the class. When I signed up and began the exploration of twitter I found the constant spew of trivial tweets overwhelming and ridiculous but once I set up a group to follow it narrowed the number of tweets and focused my interests. I think I have to give twitter more time, like I said in one of my tweets, the jury is still out.
I really enjoyed the video from Edutopia, Using Today’s Technology Tools to Study Yesterday’s, and valued the span of technological tools and hands on tools this school incorporated into this project. It was amazing to see the teachers work as a collaborative team to expand the students’ knowledge. Through the guidance of the teachers each group of students was able to present their own unique and working design. The students seemed empowered by this project and genuinely involved in every group doing well as they competed for the best design. I attached this additional video to show another example of project based learning from an elementary school in Waterville Washington. The teacher, Diane Peterson says, “kids use their own personal level” when addressing the abilities of students with regards to art, science, technology and math. They work together with local farmers and staff from the University of Washington to form relationships and integrate each individual’s knowledge through group work and shared technology.
Overall I found this week full of useful tools to explore more. I am sure that I will continue to use diigo and will have to wait and see what the verdict is on twitter. I think that information fluency is key, and, with diigo I found that fluency to be user friendly, easy to organize, re-visit, and annotate. I think that the more tools and techniques we have for research and sharing tools with other teachers and students the better off we will all be.
Well I have to say I feel like I am getting into the swing of things, finally, with this class. Although I have let the technology explorations take over my every free moment it has been worth it. My kids and husband would probably have to disagree though. But, I feel much more comfortable then when I first started. We explored Podcasting, Microblogging, Google Wave this week and the impact they have on distance learning, remote collaboration and social and emotional learning. Through this exploration a recurrent theme kept popping up in many discussions: Setting limits in this limitless world.
Firstly, while I have to say that the digital youth portrait of Dylan that we viewed intrigued and impressed me it also it made me question when enough is enough. Although he seemed to be a very happy, engaged and immensely talented young man, I have to wonder how socially adapt he may be in a non-virtual world. His creativity and boundary-less collaboration with world-wide projects astounded me but his social behavior with his friends all revolved around a virtual reality. This was also a main theme in many of the discussion this week. One classmate even referred to it as a “digital leash”. I think it is so important to find balance between a virtual vs. real world and the socialization in both. So I am left wondering about the social and emotional reality of learning that Dylan is able to glean from all this interactive virtual absorption.
Secondly, I explored the world of podcasting. While this is not a new thing to me, I feel that, I learned many new uses for the classroom. I especially like the Radio WillowWeb and the collaboration of the students to create exciting and engaging presentations. Not only were the kids working on reading skills group skills and social skills they had to use inflection and intonation to convey a certain emotional state for the listeners to understand the meaning of each show. I liked the idea that you could do this with younger age children and empower them to use and develop listening and constructive critiquing skills. Thus involving student’s social and emotional learning.
Lastly, I examined the trend of Microblogging by reading 7 Thing You Should Know about Microblogging and exploring through two different mediums, Google Wave and tumblr.com. I admit that I have not been a big fan in the past of the Twitter-type microblogging, I did see value in this type of communication when examined through an educational perspective. I found Google Wave to be quite exciting for both educational and personal use. I found it to be simple and fairly user friendly. It seemed like all the features of e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Google docs, You-Tube, iTunes, etc. have been assembled into one spot. The playback feature is genius for a teacher to see a development of a project or idea and could also be helpful for anyone coming in later to a conversation. I was blown away by the instant language translation feature and can’t wait to give it a try. Tumblr was not as exciting for me. Although I eventually figured out some of the features I felt either boxed into my little page or overwhelmed by the huge sea of blogs out there when I tried to explore. I did not see as much value in this tool for the classroom but as a tool for social networking, hobbies and sharing your ideas, videos, pictures, poems etc. it could be great.
All in all this Module 2 Communication and Collaboration was very interesting. I have learned about tools that I hope to use in the classroom and for personal use. I have accepted that it will take time and that not all tools are going to be necessary or developmental/age appropriate. It will be important to pick and choose what works with individual curriculum and classes. Especially since each cohort of students will have a different abilities and challenges; each year of technology in the classroom will need to be tailored for that. I think it is important to remember to be open to new things, new thoughts and new challenges and to set specific time so as to not become immersed in only work and no play. Life does continue outside this technological world and it is important to be part of that, too.
I have included this article as another opinion about setting limits for children and screen time.
Children and Emotional Intelligence: Why Limits on technology Matter
As I started looking and reading over course materials for this class I had an overwhelming sense of drowning. I know that I will study it, learn it and understand it… but the amount of information over my head on day one was enormous! But I began to see it as an opportunity, an opportunity to push myself and find new ways to succeed. If my children can get this technology stuff, I guess I better so I can use it and teach it right? Deep breath…
Many of my classmates, in this my first college class in over 16 years, have been in school for a while now. They have learned about technology as it became relevant in the classroom. They are very involved in social networking and have developed many different groups to share information both academically and socially. I have been volunteering in a classrooms: painting pictures, reading, singing, working on projects, changing diapers, doing laundry, driving from one event to another, making copious pots of coffee and traveling a bit, but not really keeping up with technology as much as I thought. I really felt that I had some grasp on the technology that is available for social networking. After all, I have email, Facebook, the internet to SKYPE friends half a world away. I created a travel Blog and can look up all sorts of information for projects, recipes and hobbies. However, this module illuminates the fact that new technology is evolving on a near daily basis. I say bring it on! I want to learn and I want to see the change in the technological world. I want to adapt and be able to use the skills we are learning; admittedly it is going to take time. I don’t want to be the “old lady student” but my age and time away from academia may dictate this to be the reality of what/who I am. However steep the learning curve may be, I can begin to see the peak. Just yesterday I described the benefits and procedures for signing up for Google reader. This from someone who before starting the course did not even know that Google reader existed
I found that while searching for information on each site, I gleaned a bit of knowledge whether, I found exactly what I was looking for or not. I loved the comment from thirteen year old Mosea in the article, Kids Create–and Critique–Social Networks, that we read. He says, “I didn’t learn from anywhere particularly, I just experimented“. I think this is great and so simply put. Without trying a student can learn as they search for support for an idea or knowledge about a subject. I think that this is where I can see a tool like Ning.com working in a classroom. This site serves as a very good tool to help connect people by setting up different groups for social networks and knowledge sharing. Although I found it a bit choppy to locate what I was really looking for, I was able to eventually get some great information. Moreover, along the way I was absorbing bits and pieces of information without even trying.
Another tool we explored was Edmodo.com. I instantly like what this had to offer. With this tool a teacher could set up a social network with students, other teachers, or parents to communicate and share information, present assignments, or just give a quick update in a safe and controlled environment. Essentially, adding a way to connect to a population of students with a tool that they can relate to and a format they are comfortable using. It might take the teacher some to get used to, but I think the students would have an easy time adapting to many of the uses.
Additionally, I was inspired by the video we watched about the teachers and the work they are doing with students on Edutopia.org . The presentation about “Engaging the Digital Generation” was enlightening to listen to. I valued how teachers and parents were working together with the students to come up with creative and innovative ways to tell stories, share ideas and knowledge through technology. The push to always improve upon something you have done was refreshing. Edutopia.org was an easy site to navigate and one I will visit often for ideas and support with curriculum.
Lastly, I am still a bit confused about RSS. I have read and re-read the article. 7 things you should know about…RSS, but I still find myself lost in all the computer jargon. I get what it does and how to connect it to the pod-catcher but it is the idea of having to explain it to someone that scares me.
I see this course as an opportunity to share knowledge. Some of these tools will be invaluable and some may not but all will help me to be successful. The idea of sitting in a lecture hall, completing assignments with paper and pen, then handing them in during a professor’s office hours is NO MORE. Learning should be dynamic! So having said that, I am headed to my computer to finish the next assignment that I will send electronically as part of a virtual classroom with colleagues I have only met on-line. Whew! This is a lot of change, but each day I am learning and getting more confident with the tools for Classroom 2.0; out with the title “old lady student” and in with the new “Techno-Savvy Grad Student”. It‘s got a nice ring to it, don‘t you think?