Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Tonight in our EIT web conference on Adobe Connect, we were sharing our reactions about using social networking tools. Almost everyone has heard of or has used Facebook, and that social network was not featured in our class discussion, but we did compare the functions of Twitter and Blogger. Both of these Web 2.0 applications are used for social networking and communication, in that users can share information, thoughts and opinions with others who may be interested in the same topics. In our conversation about using both Twitter and Blogger over the past few weeks (and I came out favoring Twitter), I started to think about how these applications and their design/sharing style might appeal to some more than others.
I remember when I first joined Twitter. Nobody followed me for the first month, except for a few pity "follows" because I started following them. I didn't really understand the function of Twitter until I started talking to a couple of my friends about it. I have a good friend, Mr. Derek Grote (Twitter handle @mrgeduventures) who explained that he used Twitter to make connections in areas of professional development. He explained hashtags to me, and I thought "okay, I'm an aspiring English teacher, I'll search things like 'writing' 'education' 'technology' 'schools'" and started to make some connections there. By the time I got to EIT this fall, I was pretty familiar with the uses of Twitter. Or so I thought.
Twitter is a timeline, a record of thoughts, conversations, utterances, and shares that is always moving. Keeping posts under 140 characters, though some may grumble about it, actually makes the sharing easier. I prefer using Twitter to share links, thoughts and ideas because I am spontaneous, and I like to get my thoughts out quickly, before they jump away from me. With a single Tweet, I can share ideas with my followers, and with hashtags, I can share them with others too. Because Twitter moves so quickly, I have been introduced to TONS of new information, all rather concise and to the point (those 140 characters'll getcha). I prefer viewing my Twitterfeed on Tweetdeck rather than searching the net for blogs.
Don't get me wrong, obviously I appreciate and support the unique web application that is blogging, and I love my little Bloggy (though I neglect her sometimes). Blogger gives the opportunity to share thoughts and opinions about anything with anyone, and that's pretty cool. I mean, I don't necessarily know if anyone reads my blog regularly, but it's nice to know that I can blog regardless of whether I have 10 followers or 10,000. Blogging takes time though, because one is writing for a public post, and I am more likely to take time to organize my thoughts, and turn into a super-perfectionist, and that often slows me down. A favorite English professor of mine once told me to turn down the brightness on my computer monitor to black so I couldn't see what I wrote. "That way, you'll write the truth." I think he meant what's actually inside my head, instead of a neatly tied bundle of ideas. So sometimes I find Blogger harder to express myself on, because I feel less candid and more inclined to edit, edit, edit. Which is good, and you should edit anything you're placing in the public domain. But that doesn't really help me express myself on the go.
I think it would be interesting to offer use of either (or both) of these social networking applications to students in my classes, with the assumption that they would be approved by the administration and parents of course. Some teachers are using Twitter to engage students and keep them accountable, as in the case of these high schoolers at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, MN.
Other teachers are using blogs, wikis, and other platforms to allow students to share ideas and thoughts, as well as comment and question, on topics being discussed within the classroom. My sister's AP English class did this last year, using Googlesites to talk about different pieces of classic literature. Nate Pruett, an English teacher at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School, uses the Google Blogger to share updates with his AP class, as well as receive questions, comments, and other feedback. Check out Mr. Pruett's AP Blog
So I wonder which students would prefer? Sharing thoughts via Twitter, or Blogger? Would some students prefer the spontaneity of Twitter, being about to Tweet a thought or question now and then, with hashtags to alert the teacher and the rest of the class? Or would some rather use Blogger, and organize their thoughts into a longer, more detailed blog post? Would a lot of little Tweets equate to one complete blog post? I hope the district I get hired in will allow students access to both of these tools, because I am anxious to see how my students would react.
As far as being active in the blogosphere, as well as the Twitter feed, these past few weeks, I have got to say that, although I felt overwhelmed at first (there are SO many things I could click and read!), I've gotten my PLN on iGoogle established and am breezing through the blogs. I think blogging can also be a very reflective tool, because I have come to understand myself better as a writer and an educator through doing my posts.
I'd love to continue waxing on the joys of social networking tools, but it is 9:30pm, and I've got a tutoring lesson left to perfect, some audio to clip, and 5 chapters of Class Warfare: Besieged Schools, Bewildered Parents, Betrayed Kids, and the Attack on Excellence by J. Martin Rochester left to read tonight. So I'll be going now, but please, share your thoughts on Twitter vs. Blogger. Who will be victorious?
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
What is a 21st century classroom? To understand, we must first understand what characterizes the 21st century. We must also look at what new skills are being emphasized in schools and society today. In an ever-changing world, such as the one we currently inhabit, there is the constant need to be prepared for whatever happens. Therefore, students today must adopt and apply these new skills in the classroom and in their every day lives. 21st century education embraces 21st century skills in combination with new forms of technology, and today’s media-centered digital learners. The goal of 21st century education is to prepare our children to become global citizens, capable of interacting and innovating to preserve our free institutions for a better tomorrow.
According to 21stcenturyschools.com, 21st century skills include the following:
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
Agility and Adaptability
Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
Effective Oral and Written Communication
Accessing and Analyzing Information
Curiosity and Imagination
These skills help develop the “whole child” in their learning, instead of simply focusing on lower-order thinking skills like identification and recall. What’s more, these skills encourage the pursuit of a global citizenship, preparing individuals for interaction, communication, collaboration, and innovation with others across the world. In addition to these skills, the use of technology and its accompanying tools will assist in further connecting our children with their futures.
The 21st century classroom looks very different than the 20th century or “traditional” classroom. Take a look at these two classes:
What differences do you see? Aside, of course, from the nun at the front of the classroom, and the black and white grain of the first photo, you might note some stark contrasts. First of all, notice the way that students are arranged in the first photo (circa. 1950s, a Catholic school classroom). Where is the instructor standing, and what are they doing? This a “classic” classroom, where teachers lectured to students, and everyone sat in their own little desk, with their own little textbooks, taking notes and staring straight ahead. Rigidity, along with memorization of facts and passive communication between teacher and student were the norm.
Now look at the second classroom. Note that instead of neat rows of desks, there are circle tables with multiple students seated. The instructor isn’t standing at the front of the classroom, as a “sage on the stage,” demanding the students’ complete attention for an endless lecture. In fact, I can’t even discern where the teacher stands in the second class. So many students are gathered together, seemingly collaborating, working with computers and programs and immersed in their work. Active learning and outcome based assessment are present in this classroom.
The second classroom is an example of 21st century education at Clemson University. The Holtzendorff Teaching with Technology Experimental Classroom at Clemson, also known as the “sandbox classroom” was converted from an indoor swimming pool, and is now home to some pioneering technology and pedagogical practices. Originally dedicated on December 18, 2007, the classroom features a new philosophy of teaching and learning, very characteristic of 21st century education. “The classroom is called a sandbox because instructors and their students are exploring the use of technology in teaching and learning with an adventurous and curious spirit similar to that of children who explore and learn about their world in a sandbox. Interactivity, spontaneity, and collaboration are encouraged in this sandbox,” (Polowczuk). This reminded me very much of the research being done by Mitch Resnick and the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.
He suggests that learning must be drafted to mimic that of kindergarten discovery, because it is the best form of learning. New technology supports this type of learning, which is why it is becoming more prominent in the classroom.
To give a comparison of 20th and 21st century education, I present a video by 21stEducator:
The biggest differences between 20th century and 21st century classrooms also appear in the inclusion of technology and multimedia in classrooms to enrich and provide a platform for learning. Although many of our "digital natives" have been used to using the Internet, electronic media, digital images and other devices strictly for entertainment, these tools can be utilized to promote media literacy in the classroom as well! Web 2.0 and the increasing popularity and functionality of social media are coming together to create massive potential for use in the classroom. Dr. Michael Wesch attests to how Web 2.0 applications and their respective medias are breaking ground for bringing media literacy into the classroom, and supporting 21st century skills and education in general. View his presentation An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube, where he discusses the importance of such social communication tools as Twitter, Jott, Diigo, YouTube, TeacherTube, and more.
You might ask now, will all of our classrooms end up looking like the "sandbox" at Clemson? There is all this talk of classrooms going 1:1, will every school truly benefit from the 21st century philosophy? The important thing to remember is that there cannot be a strict "department store model" for the 21st century classroom. Of course classrooms will need to incorporate technology. Globalization is one of the most prominent characteristics of the technologically-enriched classroom. The world is no longer a round, spinning place (ok, it still is, physically speaking) but communication and collaboration-wise, the world is now flat. Hey, there's a great book you can read to learn more about that concept (The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman)! Now our classrooms are becoming flat too, and with our new capabilities, students here in the U.S. can communicate and share ideas with students from China, India, Australia, really anywhere they have an Internet link and access to some type of social media or collaboration tool (like Skype, Adobe Connect, or Wetoku). Students and teachers can use epals to communicate and chat with other students and teachers from anywhere in the world! The global potential inside 21st century classrooms is powerful, and will be a key element in building connections for the future of the next generation.
So the differences between 20th century and 21st century learning are numerous. You might even say that they are so extremely different that we can't possibly be moving in the right direction, because everything is going so fast! But if you really look at our world today, with the way things are changing, in climate, political issues, social and welfare concerns, global communications, international relations, and more. 21st century education is "bold, it breaks the mold. It is flexible, creative, challenging, and complex. It addresses a rapidly changing world filled with fantastic new problems as well as exciting new possibilities" (21stcenturyschools.com). And I think that we are on exactly the right track. In changing the face and function of our classrooms, if we go about implementing technology the correct way, with support and real reasons for including it, instead of using it as a "quick fix," we will be preparing students for the continually changing future.
What will 22nd century classrooms look like then? It seems like our schools are changing every day, or at least reform is being demanded and planned. But what does this mean for students? I think the digital natives will thrive in the 21st century classroom, because it has been designed for them. In the words of Ian Jukes, an educator and Futurist "We need to prepare our children for THEIR future, not OUR past." I couldn't agree more Mr. Jukes. Readers, what do YOU think?
Monday, September 19, 2011
“You won’t know you’re a good swimmer unless you get in the water.” Vicki Davis uses this analogy to describe students interacting with tools on the Net. As she mentions in her latest post Kids don’t just automatically “know” how to use the web and everything it offers because they are in the generation of digital natives. Sure, they have a great advantage because they live in a world where technology is in more households in America than it ever has been before. But “there is a whole world of experience out there that students will not get just on Facebook and in email,” Davis says. Some don’t even have these things at home, and are only about to use technology’s tools in school. Because of this, students need access to collaborative technology so that they can have the chance to interact with peers, with the public, to share their ideas through blogs, wikis, and websites so that they are ready to get out and interact with the world around
them! Sharing can be such a great way for students to learn, and become more confident about the knowledge they have gained.
Davis talks about schools extending the technology use for students beyond just being in the classroom. Some schools delete students’ progress and “wipe” the digital slates every year, barring the chances for students to keep their digital creations. Davis uses dropbox in her classes so that students can take anything they create, whether it is a blog, wiki, video, webpage, or some other form of digital media, with them. Davis wants her students to extend their learning beyond the classroom, and take their creations with them as they graduate from her class. What is the good of creating something a student can only use and share in school?
For students who are just starting to form identities, understand themselves and those around them, and find their places in the world, the opportunities to create without fear, and to understand the rules of creative technology in today’s world, is extremely important. I know that lots of students today use programs and websites online to create and express their ideas, opinions, and to experiment with different forms of media that they would not normally be exposed to. And that is just amazing. Helping students to understand that they can have a “place” on the Net, to be entirely their own, created and controlled by themselves alone, is a pretty powerful feeling. I’d like to do what Davis is doing, encouraging her students to create, yet understand privacy, editing, and performing at their very best. How can someone learn if they aren’t given the chance to do so in their own, original way? What kinds of tools could be introduced to students to really help them start making something “their own” and sharing it with others?
One great way for anyone to share creative content, while still maintaining authorship and credit, is with a sharing website such as Creative Commons. Here, creators (from individual creators to large companies) can submit their work and select different licenses to keep copyrights, but also allow certain uses of their creations, depending on what they choose. They can also donate work to be included in the public domain. There are a lot of different institutions that use Creative Commons, including Google, Flickr, MIT's OpenCourseWare, Public Library of Science, and Wikipedia. What do you think about students looking to Creative Commons licensed work in their projects in school? How could knowing about this type of licensing motivate students to pursue their digital creations into the future?
Really, I think students should be able to feel like they are always moving toward creative infinity....in the classroom and beyond!
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
But I had a Runza for the first time ever, which, if you didn't already know, is a little doughy bread pocket filled with combinations of beef or pork, onions, sauerkraut, and seasonings. They are apparently very popular in Nebraska According to the Runza franchise, they were brought to the United States by the Volga German immigrants back in the 1800s. The franchise started up in 1949. Take a look at exactly what I'm talking about here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runza_Restaurants.
I didn't think they were that great, but after being bombarded with suggestions that "You HAVE to try them!" from my Nebraska relatives, and now my significant other, I gave in. My advice: throw on a little Heinz ketchup and you've got yourself some drive-thru goodness that could challenge the burger.
It is good to be back in Iowa though, and to get on with the week. As I get more time, I will be updating more regularly, especially since my Emerging Instructional Technologies class is going to be blogging too. I hope everyone had a splendid Labor Day!