Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is Wikipedia trustworthy?

First let me explain what Wikipedia is. It is billed as an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. The three articles found here, here, and here say much the same thing. They all say that Wikipedia is not a good source for completely true information. Wikipedia is able to be changed by any person or company. There are cases spoken about in the articles where Wal-mart, Diebold, Dow Chemical Plant, and politicians have changed entries about themselves to make the entries look better. This makes it very difficult to trust content from Wikipedia.

Doing searches on Google, Wikipedia is usually the first site that comes up. This is really a bad thing because most students will look at the first site first when doing research. If the content on the page is not reliable, the student will learn something that is not true or might only be partially true. I believe it is very important to remind students not to use Wikipedia as a source for research. If a teacher is going to permit the use of Wikipedia, it should be one of many sources instead of the only one.

I do not believe that Wikipedia should be considered a trusted source of information. It could be used as a starting place to find names or ideas about a topic that is then researched further, but should not be used as the only source of information. It is too easy for me to go into the post about Gone With The Wind, a book by Margaret Mitchell, and change the type of book, the heroine's name and any of the other character names. If a person had never read this book and came across the changes I had made, she might think that the heroine was Melanie and that Scarlett had married one of the Tarleton twins. I would not trust Wikipedia for this reason, it is simply too easy to change things to suit yourself. If you worked for a chemical company that contributed to Hitler's Germany, you could go to Wikipedia and change facts to make it look like that had never happened. It would not change history, but some researcher might believe your version of history instead of what is true.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Randy Pausch: Last Lecture

The first thing I picked up was two quotes. They were "We can not change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." and "The inspiration and the permission to dream is huge." These quotes caught me, and I wanted to make sure to share them here. The first one is so true. The things that happen to us are something that we might not be able to change or control, but we can control how we react to things. If something happens and we decide that we have failed and are never going to be able to get ahead, we probably won't. If something happens and we decide that this is only a small setback, we will use it as a stepping stone to get ahead. The second quote got me because being able to dream is vital to making things happen for you. If you can't dream, how do you know what you want to achieve? Going along with this quote was his comment of having specific dreams. It is important to be able to dream about being an elementary teacher, instead of just dreaming of teaching children. You need to know where your dream is leading you in order to get there.

I found his reference to brick walls to be very interesting and true. In my life I have had brick walls crop up in my path, but finding a way around them has been so important. He said that the walls are there to make you find out how bad you want whatever it is. If you want something bad enough, you will find out how to get around that wall. For me, this can be seen in my life today. I want to teach. In order to teach, I need a degree. To get a degree I had to go to school. The brick wall in my life on my path to my degree is my family. It is not easy to go to school, be a wife, and be a mother, but it is not impossible.

I also found that this lecture just held my attention. He made me really listen and I took so many things from this lecture. A few of the other things I got from this are as follows: fundamentals - without them nothing is going to work, a very bad place to be is where you screw up and nobody bothers to let you know it, wait and people will surprise you, think about the way you say things because there is a bad way and a good way to same the same thing, the way people perceive you is important, focus on others, and apologize when you mess up. Another quote I will take with me is "experience is what you get when you don't get what you expect". He also spoke on perspective. His story was about him complaining to his mother about a class he was taking. His mother just leaned over and reminded him that when his father was his age, he was fighting the Germans. This is perspective, and it makes you think.

The most emotional part of his lecture came in three parts for me. The first was his comment about Moses. He said that like Moses he would only see the Promise Land, not set foot in it, but that was OK because at least he would get to see it. He was talking about the legacy he was leaving in all the students he had taught and all the programs he had started and built. The second was when he brought out a cake for his wife's birthday. I admit to getting teary thinking about what she might have been thinking. This was part of his thinking of others and not yourself. In the midst of a lecture, cancer, and chemo he was still thinking of ways to make his wife smile. The last moment was when he asked if we had figured out that this lecture wasn't for us after all. It was really for his three children. I cried.

I know that we were supposed to blog on the teaching methods he advocated and used at MIT, but that is not really what I got out of listening to his lecture, so I could only blog on what I got out of it. The main thing was just keep trying, and never give up.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Best Of the Fischbowl

I chose to read the blog posted in November titled "Why Wireless". I found it very interesting, but a little scary at the same time. Scary because, as a parent, it is my job to keep my children safe. I know Fisch mentions that we should "have high expectations for our students, to educate them to behave ethically, responsibly and safely and then expect that they will do the right thing." However, to be realistic we must admit that children are curious and sometimes curiosity can result in dangerous things. I did not notice anything in the article that mentions any sort of parameters for where the students would be allowed to go or not go. There was nothing said in the post or in the comments about any kind of software, such as netnanny, to prevent students from viewing sites that are inappropriate. Assuming that students will act mature and police themselves is just asking for trouble, and as a teacher responsible for these students could we afford to make this assumption?

In a positive note, I think wireless with the right parameters could be a good thing. It would be helpful to students who might want to use lunch time to work on a research paper or project. It would be helpful to teachers who have to "float" from class to class to have access to the Internet during their planning period when they might have to hang out in the cafeteria. So much good could come out of this idea, IF the right safeguards were there.

Podcasts : Things I have Learned From Others

The first podcast I listened to was by Erica Sledge, Ashley Cleveland, and Shyane Fant. The title of this podcast is "Useful Web Sites For Elementary Teachers". One of the things I noticed right off is the amount of "ums" that were used. I know it is hard not to use this, but it really does not sound like you are prepared for your subject. I will try not to use any "filler" words and instead just pause to gather my thoughts. Another thing I noticed was that there really was no interaction between the three people talking. They each talked about the website that they found. I only noticed a few questions that were asked, mostly about the last website given. I think there needs to be some more interaction between the people involved. Even if you have a few questions written down, it makes the podcast flow better and seem more of an interview rather than just three people giving a report on three websites.

The second podcast that I listened to was by Theola Hines and Larrica Smith. The title of this podcast is "Facebook as an Educational Tool?" This podcast happened to be the first podcast from the Tuesday class. This one was more like a conversation between two people where one person knows the topic and the other asks questions about the topic. This is a better way, in my opinion, to do a podcast than the first one I listened to because it seems to have more information given about the topic. I did notice that Dr Strange interjected some comments into the conversation in the middle. Since it did seem as if the conversation was lagging, he may have thought it needed help to keep the conversation going.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is it OK for teachers to be technologically illiterate?

In this edition of The Fischbowl, Click Here, Karl Fisch takes the stand that all teachers should be technologically adept. He says that people should not be proud to say they do not understand computers, that instead they should be ashamed. The students we teach today are the future and we should be able to educate them in a manner that will benefit them in their future. He also mentions that some of the staff at his school seem to be complacent in their ignorance and not really willing to learn anything new which worries him.

This topic is an important one. It is evident that new things are happening in technology everyday and as teachers we should be up to date on things that our students need to know in order to realize their full potential. If we as teachers do not know something, we should be willing to do all we can to find out. I agree with Fisch when he says "In order to teach it, we have to do it." We can model for our students how to blog, how to email, how to video conference, etc. These are things that they need to know and we have to know in order to teach them. So what if we make a mistake? Do we think as teachers we have to be perfect, that we can't make a mistake or our students will laugh at us? It is absolutely ludicrous to let our fear of of what our students might think hold us back from learning new things, and teaching them. We expect our children, if we have any, to learn from our mistakes and not be doomed to repeat them. Why not expect our students to do the same?

Monday, February 9, 2009


Listening to the different Podcasts was very interesting. There are a couple of different ways that these Podcasts began. Some began with music, one with a very strange sound, and a few with people talking. Just listening to the intros made it apparent that you can begin your own podcast with any of these things or a combination of things.As I listened to the Podcasts, I noticed other differences. Some were done with only one person talking about a certain subject or subjects, others were a mix of men and women, some were all in one place while others had guests or speakers from other locations.

The topics were varied. I listened to one podcast that was all about the Apple Mac. This wasn't as interesting to me as I do not have a Mac. What I did find interesting was that during this particular Podcast, the speakers did mention the health of Steve Jobs, Apple's founder. It served to make the Podcast a little more personal for me. I enjoyed the beginning of the KidCast Podcast. The guy speaking, Dan, was telling us that he was sitting in front of his Christmas tree and about his vacation in Mexico. For me, it makes him more of a real person, not just a voice coming from my PC. One of the ones I wasn't the most impressed with was one where it seemed as if the two people talking were just talking on the phone. It seemed less professional to me. I know that Podcasts are not really professional, but I think they took informal too far with all the stories and jokes they told.

Having a website in connection with a Podcast is a good idea. I noticed that at the beginning of some of the Podcasts, a website was given. For people who are more visual, this might help them to focus more on what is being said. The one time I can think of that I would be able to concentrate on a Podcast without a website to help, being a visual learner myself, is in the car. This would be an excellent way to keep up on topics that interest you and help manage time wisely. Another Podcast had what sounded like might be a live chat that went with the podcast. I think this is a great idea. It would allow the listeners to ask questions in real time, much like a call in radio show. I think that this would also enable me to concentrate on the topic with few distractions.

I think that when you create a Podcast that involves people from other places, you have to be sure that the sound quality is good. I listened to one Podcast where the female sounded like she was in a tunnel. This was one thing that made it hard for me to listen to that podcast. The sound was very distracting for me. I think it is a really neat thing to be able to come together from different areas of the country or even different countries, but I believe it is important to the listeners that the sound be such that is doesn't cause distractions.