Sunday, October 28, 2012

Diigo, Google Reader, Flipboard...OH MY!!

On day 4, I've learned how to use various online tools that I hadn't been made familiar with previously. These tools include Diigo, Google Reader, and Flipboard. With the use of these tools, we can become more connected as learners to help prepare our students for the 21st century.

I began with Diigo, which is an interactive research tool that takes bookmarking webpages to an entirely new, advanced level. It's incredible, and my initial reaction was great disappointment that it hadn't been around during my undergraduate and graduate school days! I would have loved it. I found it to be much more user-friendly with my laptop and had issues using it with my iPad despite downloading several of the recommended apps. Using my laptop, I explored some of the Diigo tools and tried to familiarize myself with it as much as possible. I am planning on doing a few research projects with my Bio kids this year, and would like to have them use Diigo. If there are any AHS teachers reading this blog post that have used Diigo, I would love some feedback on its usefulness and user-friendliness with the students. I don't want to overwhelm them with technology tools, but find this one incredibly purposeful. Diigo is definitely something that will help them across various academic disciplines and levels.

Google Reader is also a new tool for me. You can use it to follow any webpage or blog that you would like to keep udpated with. However, with most blogs I follow, I already receive email notifications letting me know if there are any updates to the blog. I do like it as a means to filter out all of the information that is available on the web. Through Google Reader, you can focus on a few meaningful, specific sources that are updated recently. There is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming. Google Reader helps to diminish that.

The last tool, Flipboard, is amazing! I was able to download it to my iPad with no problem. You can chose any news that you would like to follow, and literally flip through it like a magazine. Plus, it syncs up with Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader with ease. It will be a great tool to get current science news, world news, and running news (my side job :-) ). I am excited to play away with it!

I didn't experience any "frustrations" necessarily, but all of these tools are going to take practice to become totally comfortable with them. That means I will need to use them regularly to be truly connected and gain the most from all that they have to offer. This is just one step forward in my quest to best prepare my students to become learners in the 21st century!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Twitterverse

With limited Twitter experience beyond my initial "tweets" of my Connected Journey blog posts, I believe I have a better understanding of the purpose of this social networking tool. My initial thoughts were that it was yet another Facebook or MySpace, and from my "hashtag" searches it is evident that to some it absolutely is. However, to others, it is a great tool of sharing and networking ideas and skills to anyone who has the interest. I think "#edchat" is great, and I have intentions of learning more about the Question Formulation Technique that Andrew Sams pulled up on his Twitter search with his demonstration video. I have sinced Googled this technique and plan on doing more research on it. I would love to use this type of strategy to help my students become better thinkers.

My struggle using Twitter was attempting to find decent "hashtag" searches beyond "edchat." The Twitter search would be much easier to navigate if it had a similar function as Google, that as you began typing in your search suggested links appear. I tried "#bio" and "#biology" and just found rants from frustrated college students. I tried "biologyteaching" and got nothing. I even tried "#biolearning" and got nothing. Those are just to name a few of the many hashtags I have tried to come up with over the past week. I think I've spent more time trying to think of hashtags than finding any meaningful information. However, I am not giving up! I want to master this Twitterverse, and have full intentions of further familiarizing myself with this potentially awesome tool. This is just the beginning!

Anyone reading this blog have suggested great "hashtags" to search? I would love to be able to use Twitter to expand my teaching/learning horizons, so I welcome all suggestions!

Friday, October 12, 2012

MP's "Stop Stealing Dreams" reflection

Three Legacies of Horace Mann # 9.
The purpose of public education when created by Horace Mann was to involve the common man and raise the standards of the culture. His curriculum was embedded in the value of empowering individuals to do something impactful for the greater good. He is quoted, "be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." Those are powerful words, and certainly very significant when considering Mann's intended purpose of public education. I truly believe it is the mission of most schools and teachers to have this kind of significant impact on our students. We want to encourage our students to wake up every morning with their own mission to do something significant for others and perhaps mankind as a whole. This is what we "want" to do, but is this what we are doing? Is pushing our students to study, study, study to earn a "5" on their AP exam really helping them win a victory for humanity? As our schools have become increasingly dependent on test data as a measure of student growth and achievement, are we pulling away from the embedded purpose of public education? When do we teach character development? How do we really teach our students to become effective thinkers and productive members of a democratic society? Are we just encouraging students to dive into their own bubbles to study, study, study to earn that "5" which shows how much knowledge they were able to cram into their heads? To ensure our students will leave our classrooms ashamed to die until they have won some victory for humanity, I believe it is our responsibility as educators to bridge the large gap created as educational policy encourages more and more high stakes testing.

Dreams are difficult to build and easy to destroy #19
Just reading the words "destroying dreams," makes me cringe. Our world and all of its creations would not exist without the ideas and innovations that were developed from dreams. To suggest that schools are removing the ability of individuals to dream is a scary notion. Without the proper support, dreams are destroyed well before they are ever created. Individuals need the foundation on which dreams are built, which come largely from family and teachers. By teaching students responsibity both for their actions AND their learning, the framework by which dreams develop is created. It's our jobs as educators to teach our students how to think. Students need to learn not just how to answer questions, but how to ask questions about answers and questions. It's through these questions that the spark necessary to ignite dreams and make those dreams a reality can happen. Students need to learn how to be responsive, and how to invite failure into their lives. Failure is an inevitable part to achieiving the goals that arise from any dream. To avoid "destroying dreams," it's necessary that students know how to be reflective and responsive when failure marks its way in the pathway of their dreams. In doing so, instead of extinguishing dreams failure may ignite dreams.

And yet we isolate students instead of connecting them #23
Most educators I speak with agree that we need to encourage are students to be more connected. The Internet is a powerful, amazing source of information that enables minds to spend less wasteful time memorizing facts and more meaningful time innovating. Our biggest concern is who are students will be coming across when they are connected. In attempt to protect our students, we discourage the use of social media in the classroom, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. We threaten to take away their devices when we catch them breaking these rules as an attempt to regulate their use. But, are we moving backwards in our connected world in doing so? Should we be encouraging our students to work collectively using these types of social media? How can be protect our students from things like cyber bullying , and who is to be held accountable if this kind of activity occurs during our class time or for a class assignment? If we want are students to be connected and gain their fullest learning potential from those connected experiences, is regulation obsolete? It has been proven again and again in the science community, through medical practices, in the field of education, etc. that working in isolation stifles growth. The real world is collaborative, so we should be encouraging collaboration in the classroom. So, the question is, how do we effectively promote student learning in this vast Internet age of unregulated connections?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Learning in a Connected World" reflection

I have to say I was quite intrigued, enlightened, and simultaneously frustrated as I listened to Will Richardson's presentation. He discussed the demand that lies on education to reform to meet the needs of our children in an exponentially changing world. Technology has changed the way we can obtain information, and teachers, like newspapers, are no longer the sole sources of accessible knowledge. However, the framework of our schools do not support this change, and Richardson suggests that we are doing an extreme disservice to our students, and ultimately society, by not adequately preparing them for the real world. The real world is not the same as it was 10 years ago, and surely will not be the same in the upcoming 10 years, so why are we spending all of this time preparing our students for a world that used to exist?

I certainly agree with certain aspects of Richardson's view point. There is an infinite amount of information that can be found online. Teachers are no longer the fountains of knowledge; the Internet is. With information being so easily accessible, we have the time and power to be more innovative and creative than ever before. The world has evolved, and will continue to evolve, so undoubtedly we need to alter our practices. But, how do we guide our students to access the information they need to develop the skills they will need for the 21st century with the vast, unlimited possibilities of the World Wide Web? 

Although I agree that reform in education is necessary,  I believe that he dismissed and discredited a great deal of things that are done in the classroom. I am a high school biology teacher. Although I teach basic concepts of biology, I teach thinking skills that go much deeper. I focus on teaching my students how to think critically. I teach them how to synthesize complex information and how to understand what they are learning in a holistic way. I teach them how to ask questions, to help them not just understand the content taught in my classroom but how to apply those skills in their everyday lives to become effective citizens of the world. Richardson generalized every modern classroom with
his "Story 1," implying teachers only require their students to attain low-level acquisition skills in the
classroom. That is far from what my colleagues and I expect from our students. 

With all of the information, people, and connections all over the Internet, students' need a great deal of guidance to know what to do with the Internet and how to use it as an appropriate tool. This guidance must come from the teacher. There is no supplement for the necessity of that interaction, which is important far more than just acquisition of content. The personal relationship that is between student and teacher is incredibly significant. In six years of teaching, I'm always amazed to hear students' tell me that I had a positive impact on their life. Khan Academy cannot offer this. The computer screen will always impose an interpersonal gap.

It will be very challenging to change our current teaching practices until educational policies, including high stakes testing which is only become more high stakes, enable us to. There are content standards that our students are expected to know, and the ratings of our schools (and soon us individually) are dependent on it. With that framework in place, it poses great challenges on us as educators/learners yearning to evolve our practices to help better prepare our students for the 21st century.

I want to improve my practices. I care a great deal about my students' learning, and I want them to be prepared for the world---and to make a difference in it. The time now is for me, and educators as a whole, to reflect on how we can overcome the hurdles of educational policy to do what's best for our students.