Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Twitter...tweet tweet!

In trying to learn Twitter, I have really had fun. I do find it difficult to "catch up" when I have been away for any length of time. I am trying to find more ways to check Twitter, like getting a phone that I can read and Tweet from! I have searched and followed a few different people and groups. The most interesting ones are the teachers. This is a neat way to get ideas and learn new things from others. The teachers I follow are people I would probably never have meet except through Twitter.

I have read different articles on the uses of Twitter. There have been a few that are very good and give detailed information.This one has an example of use in the classroom. The Horizon Project connects 5 classrooms by using Twitter. There are also a couple of articles on resources. I really liked the one titled "7 things you should know about Twitter". The article by The Wired Campus caught my attention because it mentions David Parry. He is an assistant professor of Emerging Media and Communications at UT Dallas. He, like Dr Strange, required his students to sigh up for Twitter and send messages each week. This Twitter thing seems to be everywhere!

I did read some articles on using Twitter, but I really learned how to use Twitter by doing. I have followed many different people and have a few that follow me. I have had conversations with others that I would not have meet except through Twitter. For me, learning is easier if I just do it. I love to read, and do so often, but sometimes the best way to learn something is to get in there and just do it. I explored the Twitter site and read the Help page. Dr. Strange put things on the class blog that I read, and comments from Mr. C. have also been helpful. I think everyone should give Twitter a try. It isn't for everyone, but it can be useful. You just have to try it and see where it might take you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

EDM 310 Podcasts

The podcasts that I listened to were as follows:
Using iTunes and Google Earth in Instruction,
Dominique, Heather, and Kathleen Present 3 Good Websites for Teaching Materials,
How Technology is Used in the College of Education,
The Pros and Cons of Wikipedia,
and the one I participated in, Websites for Elementary Teachers.

Listening to the podcasts I realized just how many times most everyone says "UMM" as a filler. I know from taking Public Speaking that a person should pause instead of using a filler word, but it is evidenced from listening to these podcasts that we d not pause. This can be distracting. Dr. Strange told us not to practice so that we would not sound rehearsed. I think some rehearsing would have been beneficial. It was hard for my group to find any time to rehearse, but I think we could have used at least one run through before taping. During a podcast like this, the participants want to sound as if they are having a conversation, and not like they are reading a script. I believe that you can practice talking about a topic and still sound like you are just talking to a group of people.

Each of these podcast participants seems to know their topic very well. It seems like they have done the research and are knowledgeable. It was very interesting to listen to people who are from different backgrounds and different ages. These podcasts were not done by traditional college students. These podcasts were created by students, some of whom were older than the norm, parents of younger and older children, students who also have jobs and other responsibilities, and other differences. This makes it more interesting to listen to the podcasts. The difference in the backgrounds does have bearing on the way the other participants present the information and their opinions. It also has bearing on how prepared some participants seem to be over the others.

I want to say that I enjoyed everyone's podcasts. I think that most of us had to do at least some research on the topic we choose as a group. Granted some may have done more than others, but I think in the end that all the groups came together. The quality of the podcasts shows that we can accomplish new things when we are given the tools to do so. Although some of us were very nervous, we all got through it and learned how to create something that we might take into our classrooms late. For this I have to thank Dr. Strange for making me, and probably most of us, step out of the comfort zone and into the unknown. He has taken us to a level of technology that we probably knew existed, but might not have known how to take it with us into our daily routine in a classroom.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Blogs in the Classroom

To begin I read all the blog posts of a student from another class. Her posts were informative, if sometimes a bit short. However, not everyone is as prolific a writer as I am! By reading her posts I was given a new perspective on the blog assignments. As time permits, I would like to read everyone's posts in all the classes. I had never posted to a blog before starting this class. I had never thought about using a blog with my class. Now I think it is a good idea that has many uses. For instance, with a blog you could blog homework assignments. Right now, the school my daughters attend has a site that the homework is posted on. Some teachers are better than others about posting everyday. Mobile County has a site where you can check your student's grades. Both of these things help a parent keep up with what is going on at school that is not dependent on the student. If a teacher posts the homework everyday, it will help the parents help their students. A post to a blog about what was done in class that day is a good idea. This could be especially effective when dealing with science experiments. A parent could read the blog, and then engage the student in conversation about what they did in class. This reinforces the lesson taught in school without seeming like homework. However, it would have to be more involved than a post that said "We looked at plants today."

One drawback to blogs is that a teacher might spend time blogging when she should be teaching. It does no good for a teacher to have a blog where she blogs about the day if she did not teach anything to the students. If a teacher spends all his time at the computer instead of interacting and teaching the students, he has turned from a teacher to a blogger, and as such should be out of the classroom. The only way a teacher should be in a class that where she blogs and spends all the time at the computer is if she is teaching a computer course, and that does not usually happen in an elementary school setting.

Back to the positive side of classroom blogs is that they are also a great way to teach new technology to the students. By using a class blog, you can teach students how to create a pod cast. Groups can pick a topic and not only blog about their topic, but make a pod cast on the topic, as well. This teaches the technology and teamwork at the same time. The students can be given a daily or weekly topic to blog on. As a teacher, I might have the students write on paper their blog entry and then randomly pick a few students per week to upload their entry to the blog. This could also be seen as a positive reinforcement for good writing. Learning to blog, create pod casts and video pod casts, twitter, etc will be beneficial to the students. It will help prepare them to be part of a bigger world where technology abounds.

Blogging in the classroom must not take the place of teaching. It would be easy to find pod casts of anything you want to teach the students, sit back, and let them watch the video. The technology is wonderful, but it can not replace a teacher. As easy as it might seem to do, using blogs and pod casts instead of teaching would be a very bad idea. Also overuse of the blogs and pod casts is a bad idea. We want the children to broaden their horizons, not contain themselves to a box with a screen. If the students are allowed to do assignments exclusively on the computer, much will be lost. The first thing that could be lost is handwriting skills. If you always type how can you learn to write? If all conversations with others are in blogs or on Twitter, how will a student learn to form personal, face-to-face relationships?

These are all things to consider, good and bad. Not everyone will agree with my assessment, but that's OK. If we were all the same the world would be a very boring place. After all is said and weighed out, I will still use blogging and other types of technology in the classroom. I will just be sure to use it in moderation.


This podcast was made available by Standford University, and featured Carol Dweck. She is a Professor of Psychology, and the author of the book "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success". She talks about a mindset of growth as opposed to a fixed mindset. The difference in the two being that with a growth mindset a person never quits learning. She spoke about students first. She said that there are many students who think their basic intelligence is just a fixed trait. They are the ones who decide whether or not to do something based on if they will look smart or not. Other students feel that they have an intelligence that they can develop and grow.
An 8 session workshop was developed and half the students received study skills and a growth mindset teaching. The other half of the study got all study skills. The students who received the growth mindset lessons were told brain is a muscle that gets stronger with use, and their grades improved. The other students had no change in their grades.

There were other groups that Dr. Dweck spoke of. One of these groups was race car drivers. She is currently researching to see if Race Car drivers can benefit from a growth mindset. The races last for hours and mistakes are made. The ability to learn from those mistakes will make a better race car driver. Another group of individuals is the individuals in the business world. In the business world flexibility is paramount and essential to success. It is important to admit mistakes and learn from them. She says that to be a good manager, you have to have a growth mindset.

This is a topic that I had not ever thought about. It makes sense that there would be two types of people or mindsets in people. Some people you see, you know that they are going to go far in life. You see them always studying, always learning, always reaching for the next level. There are also people who you wonder if they have the sense to come in out of the rain. They never seem to care about school, learning, or reaching for the next thing. They seem content to let life slide past, always watching instead of doing. I want to be the kind of teacher who motivates my students. I want to make learning fun and educational. I also hope to create a space where all students feel safe enough to ask and do, no matter what anyone else thinks about them. I was always told that there are no dumb questions. I want to pass that little bit of wisdom on to my students, as well as the knowledge that they are not "stuck" with the intelligence they currently possess, but that they can continue to learn their entire life. Don't forget, you brain is like a muscle. It will get stronger with repeated use!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Coral Reef

I choose to watch a NOVA episode on the coral reef. This was geared toward elementary level students. However, I found out things that I didn't know. There are thousands of species that live around the coral reef, both herbivores ad carnivores.Herbivores are most active during the day and must find hiding places to avoid the carnivores that come out to hunt at night. Did you know there is a fish called a squirrel fish? It does not resemble a squirrel, so I do not know why it is named this. Most are either red or orange, are covered with large scales and have prominent spines in their dorsal fins. When full grown they range in size from 5 inches up to 18 inches in length. They usually stay in groups. It's large eyes are helpful in seeing prey in the dark. The Atlantic Spade Fish, the Angel fish, the Parrot fish and the Blue Chromes fish are just a few others that live on the reef and are out by day.

Other fish live on and hunt the coral reef as well. Sea Urchins that feed on algae, the Porcupine fish which is a very common sight, solitary Octopus with suckers on it's arms that can taste what it is touching, and the tinafore which is bio-luminescent and looks a lot like a jellyfish. These animals come out at night and are gone with the first light.

This is only one of many videos that are available to teachers who can then use them in the classroom. I could see using this video to teach a lesson on fish for the younger elementary age. I could also use this video to teach a science lesson that teaches about the different animals and fish that are herbivores and carnivores. This video could also be used in a lesson on coral reefs and the danger most are in. Another lesson might be conservation and how the reef is home to so many different fish that it needs to be protected.

There are many lessons that could be taught with this one video, and there are a lot out there to choose from. I think that using these video podcasts is a wonderful way to keep children engaged in the learning process. Wouldn't it be more fun to watch an octopus changing itself to blend in with the rocks instead of looking a static picture in a book? Children learn better when they are engaged and interested. If I can keep a science class full of seven and eight years olds interested by showing them a video every Friday about the topic being studied, I will absolutely do it.