Friday, June 11, 2010

Another Term Begins….

After a much needed hiatus, I started two new classes; Teacher Leadership & School Change and Designing Integrated Media Environments. For the leadership class I had to come up with a metaphor that describes my role as an educator. After much thought this is what I came up with…

The metaphor that I think best suits me is a woman who wears many hats. My main purpose is to be a teacher, and I wear that hat most of the time, but some days it is not the first, nor the most important hat I put on during the day. There are days when I start out with my Mother Hat because several of my students need a hug or a word of encouragement just to get the day started off right. Then I must quickly locate and put on my Chef Hat because three of my students didn't have breakfast before they left the house and their parents couldn't get them to school in time to get something to eat from the cafeteria, so I scramble to find something for them to eat. Many times throughout the course of any given day I put on my Nurse Hat because someone lost a tooth, got sick after lunch, or has a headache. I also have a Counselor Hat to wear when two best friends end up in a fight because one thought the other was talking about her behind her back. Occasionally I put on my Sports Cap during recess so I can shoot hoops and race against the boys or jump rope and play tag with the girls. There are many others that will go unmentioned here, but none more important than the others. Oftentimes the changing of the hats gets tiresome, but with being a teacher comes great responsibility and I will change my hats as many times as needed throughout the day to meet the many needs, academic or not, of my students.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Internet and Information Access

Since the introduction of the Internet, information access has certainly become quicker and more convenient. I can remember when my dad first signed up for American Online (AOL). It was so exciting to listen to the phone modem dialing and then hear the static noise of the PC connecting to the server. This process, which now would seem like an eternity, could last several seconds up to several minutes, especially when you received a busy signal and had to try again. How frustrating! The Internet was, at that time, what we refer to now as the Read Web. Websites and their content were published by only a select few yet consumed by many. Over the last several years, we've witnessed a transformation. The Read Web has now become the Read/Write Web. Individuals can now become producers, as well as consumers, and those noisy, dial-up modems have pretty much disappeared. We now use cable networks, satellite dishes, wireless networks, and even our phones. Our frustration point now comes when the web browser doesn't load instantly.

So, going back to the Read/Write Web, now that individuals can be consumers and producers, more information is available for use by the masses. This can be extremely valuable to educators and students alike, especially when the information is available for free. Many websites and online programs/applications are now offering free, educational resources that consist of high-quality content. OpenCulture, MIT, YouTube (for educators), and iTunes U are just a few examples. I have to admit that iTunes U is my favorite. The materials available consist of open courses, lectures, audiobooks, videos, language lessons, etc. and are created and posted by universities, colleges, and other renowned institutions such as Yale, UC Berkeley, Edutopia, and the Library of Congress.

As a teacher, I am expected to be a life-long learner. I gladly live up to this expectation because furthering my knowledge for personal and professional purposes is important to me not only as an educator, but as an individual as well. The Read/Write Web can immediately connect me with the resources that I need to fulfill my love for learning and has given me a way to reduce the amount of time, money, and effort invested in my life-long learning endeavors.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Once again I have found a really interesting tool that doesn't have much to do with anything topic from my current course, but I thought I would share just the same. Dropbox is an application that I was introduced to by one of my Twitter friends. It allows you to easily sync your files across different computers, online, and even on your phone. Having your files online allows you to access your files from any computer that is connected to the Internet. There is a great video on their home page that explains it in more detail. Their basic account is free and allows up to 2 GB. They also have a 50 GB account for $9.99 a month and a 100 GB account for $19.99 a month. This application could also serve as a backup for all of your important files.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mobile Computing Devices

The prevalence of mobile devices, along with the quick access to the Internet and its plethora of information that they provide, will demand change to the curriculum being taught and the assignments being designed. For curriculum it means a restructuring of standards, not only in the way those standards are delivered but also how mastery of those standards is measured. For teachers it means becoming familiar with the “new version” of Bloom’s Taxonomy and designing activities that incorporate higher order thinking skills which require students to evaluate and create. Teachers need to focus on developing lessons that are project-based and necessitate the need for students to communicate and collaborate with one another. Many teachers struggle to find the time needed in order to teach all of their required benchmarks and standards. Utilizing mobile computing devices for project-based learning could be one solution to the problem because the process would allow for the integration of curriculums.

Teachers must also realize that mobile devices present more opportunity for, and that students mainly use them for informal learning. These informal learning experiences allow students to personalize their learning to their own liking. It will become essential for teachers to discover how to take successful informal learning experiences and build from them engaging formal learning experiences that still promote personalized learning. It would also be helpful to create lessons that teach students the basic skills of how to use these tools safe and effectively.

On a personal note, someone asked me the other day if I could ever live without my cell phone. After several minutes of pondering, my response was, “Of course I could, but I certainly wouldn’t want to…I think I would be lost without it”. In the busiest of times, it keeps me connected to family, friends, school, and yes, even work. I use it for making phone calls, text messaging, obtaining information from the Internet, organizing contact information, storing events on the calendar (which also syncs with my Google Calendar account), mapping out directions to my next destination, and the list could continue if we all had time. Obviously, my cell phone, and other mobile computing devices such as my laptop, has become an extension of who I am. These devices assist me in my venture to become a better educator by helping me stay connected to my Personal Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter, Facebook, and several Google Tools. They have also allowed me to become a successful e-learner by giving me access to my course work and any necessary information virtually anytime, anywhere. So, although I could survive without my mobile computing devices, evidence shows that they have become indispensable to my very being, and the removal of those devices would not only redefine who I am currently but who I will become in the future.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gaming and Virtual Environments

Certain games and virtual environments can contribute to the learning experience, but each has its own separate advantages. Games can enable teachers to better serve each student individually. I utilize programs such as Fast ForWord and Odyssey, in my classroom on a daily basis. These games reach each student at their own skill and ability level. They make differentiated instruction much easier on the teacher and more enjoyable for the student. The learning experience can also benefit from the use of virtual environments, however, I do not incorporate anything of this nature in my classroom at this time. I would like to find a free service that would allow me to design a virtual world just for my students (parents and administrators are still slightly afraid of allowing their students' online experiences to be open to the public). I believe virtual environments would be useful to use with students to begin developing the skills and attitudes they need to become good citizens. I also think my ESOL students would benefit from interacting with others in a virtual environment setting. It would help them build vocabulary and increase their confidence in using the English language. Unfortunately, I face the objections of parents and administrators who are concerned with student privacy. My hope is that parents and administrators will become more familiar with these new technologies and the benefits that they offer the students and be less likely to object to their implementation within the classroom. Maybe I need to put together an information and training session for those with fears and doubt.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Online Presentations

This really doesn't have much to do with any of our current class topics, but I thought I would share. One of the ladies I'm working with in my class found this presentation about avoiding the use of bullet points when creating a presentation. If all presenters would take this one simple point into consideration, maybe there wouldn't be so many boring presentations!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Credibility of Online Information

Recent technological advances have enhanced our ability to retrieve information online at an incredible rate. Wireless network cards and smart phones, just to name a couple, allow open access to information on the web virtually anytime, anywhere. No longer must we rely on a computer that is wired to the Internet for information retrieval. With such a surplus of information within easy reach, it becomes a necessity to effectively evaluate the credibility of it all. At first it may seem overwhelming, but there are some steps to take in order to shape-up one's evaluation process. One thing that must be kept in mind is that most traditional forms of judgment can still be utilized in an online environment and that there are many online tools available to assist in the efforts of judging credibility. In my opinion, an ongoing series of trial-and-error solutions may be the best practice. Over time, a person can learn to rely on certain judging criteria and online tools that work best for them to evaluate information found online. My experience with judging online information, especially web sites that may not be affiliated with an institution, association, or reputable company, has lead me to using validity tools such as Wayback Machine to see the history of a Web site, easyWhois to find out who owns a particular Web site, and AltaVista to find the back links (external links) from any Web site. Another good way to improve one's ability of evaluating credibility is to make connections that are both relevant and reliable. Twitter and delicious are two good places to start. Following these few easy suggestions will not make you an expert at judging credibility of online information, but you will certainly be headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shaping My Identity Through Social Networking

Since starting my master’s degree program in 2008, I have been utilizing social networking tools to define and shape my identity as a professional educator. New digital media allows me to be defined as an e-learner. I consistently use social networking tools, such as Moodle, an online learning environment, and Elluminate, software that allows synchronous communication, for my online course work. Social networking tools can also permit me to define myself as a “life-long learner”. In an effort to connect with other professionals and manage resources for my master’s program as well as my daytime job (2nd grade teacher), I began a Personal Learning Network (PLN) also known as a Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Right now my PLN is in a primitive stage. I am currently using iGoogle as a place to access all of the pieces that make up my PLN. I have gadgets through iGoogle for Google Reader, delicious, Twitter, Facebook, Google Docs, etc. It’s a great way to keep up with all of my important information, resources, and professional connections when time is limited. By maintaining my PLN I am constantly surrounded by an abundance of information useful for my job and graduate school. This flow of information, at times, challenges my thinking about certain topics which usually leads to a reshaping of my identity as a professional educator.

Social Networking in K-12 Education

While students in K-12 education are diving head first into the new Web 2.0, the schools in which they attend are dragging their feet in an attempt to steer clear of the countless privacy issues that seem to be coupled with the new World Wide Web. The students are going to use social networking tools whether we as educators encourage their use or not, even for things such as school assignments, homework, etc. K-12 educators need to seize this golden opportunity to reach and better teach students in their own digital environment using the tools of which they are already familiar including social networking sites, Web logs (blogs), and wikis.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, can be one of the most effective Web tools used to connect administrators, teachers, parents, and students that open many different lines of communication simultaneously, yet can be utilized for asynchronous communication and/or collaboration among participants. Blogs are one of the most utilized tools in K-12 education, and since the development of web log software, creating and updating a blog is now easier than ever. Educators have been using them for years for activities such as book discussions and dialogic homework. Others have simply used web log sites such as Blogger or Edublogs (both are free and extremely user friendly) to create classroom websites. Wikis have also become a familiar tool in the classrooms of tech-savvy teachers. They are easily edited so that students can update the information on their wiki pages to reflect the refinement of their knowledge and understanding. PBWiki, WetPaint, or Wikispaces are excellent websites for getting started.

With this new Read/Write Web comes many new literacies that the students of today will need to be fluent in to compete in the job market of tomorrow. If we, as educators, do not teach our students about these new literacies and how to effectively utilize them, we have done them a huge disservice. However, so many teachers are lacking in their own knowledge of the new literacies of the Read/Write Web that they are unable to pass the information along to their students. Teachers need to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge so that they can then share it with their students in order to prepare them for the future.



Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Media Ecologies

We live in a world where digital media and technology play an integral part in every facet of daily life. People have found a plethora of uses for the Internet such as purchasing airline tickets, searching and applying for jobs, paying bills, researching topics of interests, continuing their education, keeping in contact with family and friends, etc. Digital media is, in essence, revolutionizing our culture, especially for the digital natives of the younger generation who typically use digital media for informal learning, play, and social communication. It makes perfect sense that young people, as well as adults, have utilized different avenues in their effort to build an identity within these media ecologies. In Hanging OutHorst(2009) explains three genres into which a person's activities online can fit, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out. I can honestly say that most of my current practices fit more into the genre of Hanging Out than any other. Hanging Out simply refers to those practices used for making and maintaining connections with others such as my use of Facebook to stay connected with family and friends. Any and all other online practices that I exhibit would have to fall under Geeking Out which requires a large an intense commitment or engagement with technology. My course work at UF has lead to these Geeking Out practices. Through my many experiences with the Geeking Out process, I have managed to pick up a few Messing Around habits. This blog would be an example because it is new territory. I am obviously a novice blogger, but I feel that through time this could become part of my Geeking Out routine. Hopefully none of you are gagging now…



Monday, March 8, 2010

Real-Life and Online Identities

It is amazing to think that twenty years ago, this thing we have come to know as the Internet, did not exist. Society was able to function without email, network servers, smart phones, social networking tools, etc. People were able to develop and maintain their personal identities mainly through face to face interactions and telephone conversations. Today, individuals, and businesses alike, have become so dependent upon the Internet that if it suddenly ceased to exist, mass pandemonium would certainly ensue. People now utilize the Internet to develop real-life and online personal identities that can either be cultivated to thrive independently of each other or coerced to become completely intertwined. Those who actively utilize the Internet and all of its fabulous affordances for both personal and professional affairs have an even more entangled identity.

Do these complex identities affect our perception of ourselves and others? I think this answer depends on the people involved. The perception I have of myself has been the driving force behind the creation of my real-life and online identities. Thanks to my intertwined identities, my self-perception does not change whether I'm dealing with people online or in person. However, the parts of my identity that I choose to reveal may change in regard to the medium being utilized. When I'm interacting with close friends and family in person or through Facebook and MySpace, I tend to be more of an extrovert. I take chances and openly express my opinions for my relationships with friends and family, whether fostered online, in person, or both, are more intimate and less threatening. Yet, when interacting with colleagues, during faculty meetings or through emails, and online classmates at UF, strictly through online interaction, I am more of an introvert. I take more precautions before expressing myself and constantly edit and re-edit items that will be published for public viewing. I do not want to give off the wrong impression about my beliefs, thoughts, values, etc. just because an email gave off the wrong "tone of voice" or I failed to fully develop an idea in an online discussion post.

This same concept seems to apply when it comes to my perception of others as well. For example, when meeting someone for the first time face to face I may take awhile to warm up. A few questions may be asked, and I might offer up some information about myself, but I take a guarded approach. This lasts until I feel more comfortable with the person and they have moved from being an acquaintance to a friend. The same is true when meeting new people online, such as my UF classmates. As mentioned above, I tend to be more introverted until a friendship has been established and I can then let my guard down and begin to take more risks as I would with family and close friends. Additionally, I sometimes base my perception of the people I meet online by their writing and quality of their work, because that may be all that is available. However, this may be the cause of my fear of and reluctance to publish online. I know how much another person's work influences my perception of them, therefore it is my assumption that they would look to my works as an influence on their perception of me.

Real-life and online identities can continue to develop and weave themselves together as technologies change and become more advanced. I have made it a personal challenge to allow my intertwined identity to continue to evolve as well.