Monday, April 19, 2010

Podcasting, Webcasting, and Coursecasting

Podcasting, webcasting, and coursecasting have become quite popular on college campuses, and hopefully the craze picks up at the K-12 end soon. These course enhancements can be something as simple as an audio file or as detailed as a video production. These are quite useful tools to help students study or review lectures or presentations from class. They also benefit those that are absent or those of us in distance courses that can't always attend synchronous learning engagements. iPods have shown efficiency in my classroom by recording student reading fluency. Instead of reading in the classroom, they record on an iPod in a quiet place and I listen and grade later. It's pretty helpful for struggling readers too shy to read in front of classmates. I have also put powerpoint presentations or audio files on them to help students with tests. They are allowed to choose from a variety of resources in the classroom to aid them (cheat sheets, textbook, iPods) and hopefully improve their test scores. I also put this into effect for practicality reasons. How often are we in a position where we can't look up how to do something? I provide this sense of reality to my students and hope they take me up on the offer.

I, however, struggle with listening to just a podcast. I need video. I need visual stimulation. I attribute it to an undiagnosed case of ADHD. So video podcasts are the way for me. I also prefer to make these since I am typically making podcasts for math class. I could verbally tell students how to solve problems, but most need to see math visually.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Educational Blogging

When I hear the the word blog, I think of a diary or the livejournal I secretly kept in high school. It wasn't until two years ago that I recognized blogs being an educational tool appropriate for elementary school. I had a revolution and realized that blogs were an excellent way for students to publish and reflect on content knowledge. This could prove to me that they knew the information (or unfortunately didn't). It was a great way to engage students and their parents with material at home or at the library. At minimum, it would encourage them to work on material after school hours or during free time at school. Sadly, I was never able to implement this in my classroom but our science teacher was. Things would start out great at the beginning of the year, but it was difficult to maintain throughout the school year and students couldn't be penalized for not doing the work if it was assigned for homework since not all students have the internet. It became apparent that students were engaged for awhile because it was new and it was technology. However, the novelty wore off, the teacher became disengaged, and the blog postings went to Hell. Instead of reading about science content, I was reading about which Harry Potter character my students were or about the Reds team. I haven't looked back at blogging since that disappointing day, but writing my own blog has given me a fresh look and encouraged me to reexamine my feelings towards educational blogging.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mobile, Wireless, and Ubiquitous Learning

With mobile and wireless capabilities, learning is truly ubiquitous, granted everyone has access. The forums this week posed the question of using mobile technologies to take the place of calamity days for schools, something that I have discussed in detail with my classes. Most are interested in mobile learning (mainly via laptop) but not all have access to computers or internet. Until it is true that everyone has access to these technologies, I don't think K-12 schools can require online learning due to expense and it is doubtful that schools will be providing these technologies for students. Ohio's "online calamity day" sounds much more glamorous than it really is. I envisioned skype sessions, youtube vidoes, or at the minimum a discussion forum. This is far from the case and reading the proposed bill was quite disheartening. Lessons must be turned in for calamity days in September, and most calamity days are not used until December. This means the lessons will not be in sync with the content of the class, but hopefully will lead to more "big picture" lessons. It is a step in the right direction, Ohio, but not the giant one I was hoping for.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alternate Reality Learning: Massive Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Simulations

Second Life is scary for so many reasons. First off, your avatar can fly! I typically hate things that fly including, but not limited to, birds - especially geese and swans, mosquitoes, and bees. Secondly, the learning curve sounds horrendous, although I'm assured it is not as difficult as I have convinced myself. My time is precious and I have become accustomed to a "right now" way of life, not a "two hours from now" way of life. Thirdly, this is yet another thing that will keep me (and presumably others) from having human face-to-face contact, something that my social-butterfly-nature holds dearly. Last but not least, it costs money. I'm used to having everything on the internet be free.

However, despite my rants above, second life possesses a wonderous world of educational opportunity including live classrooms where you can learn second languages to classrooms offering role playing learning opportunities. I would like to learn more about second life and play in this virtual world, hopefully learning new things in the process.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Interactive and Collaborative Learning

Wow how things have changed! I remember sitting in rows, outlining the science chapter, answering questions in a notebook, and turning them in to be graded. It doesn't seem like there were many things done collaboratively when I was in school. In fact, I'm still not sure collaborative learning is a "mainstream" as I'd probably like to think that it is. Haven't people ever heard the coined phrase "two heads are better than one"? When I stop to ponder why people might veer away from collaborative learning, I think the biggest road block for most would be the noise that comes with it. I equate collaborative and interactive learning in my classroom with organized chaos and will be the first to say that I feel my students learn the most when they are loud and working together. It can be difficult to keep all students engaged all the time, so it can be very tiring for teachers to walk around continuously (especially since roughly 90% of one of my classes are all on intervention plans for focusing issues). However, if the lesson is engaging, interactivity can keep them all focused. I found this to be true when I had students constructing their own pots of out newspaper, filling them with dirt, and planting seeds for a garden they each planned. There were spills, of course, but every student could find the volume of one of the pots so we could make sure I had purchased enough potting soil. Collaborative and interactive learning sounds like it would be less work for a teacher, but it is quite the opposite.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Networks of Personalized Learning

With my coming trip to Guatemala and Costa Rica I thought it would be most helpful if I learned some key phrases in Spanish. After all, I'll really just need to know how to say "I'd like a beer", "Where is the bathroom?" and "I don't eat fish". Four years of French in high school isn't really helping out and I don't have a lot of time. After reading about Live Mocha in Dr. Bonk's book I decided to give it a test run recently. It's a good way to spend my lunch break at work. For those unfamiliar, Live Mocha is a language learning site that also involves a social aspect. You can be paired up with someone that speaks the language you wish to learn, practice your conversation in their language and also help someone trying to learn your native tongue. It is free, although a crash course will cost you. Interestingly enough, the article posted for this week's topic goes right along with my frustration of language learning in schools. Vocabulary is great, but good luck having an actual conversation with someone. I have downloaded an audiobook for my iPod to listen to in the car, but I really hope I can get some mad Spanish speaking skillz before I head down that way using Live Mocha. After all, I don't need to write an essay. I simply need to engage with the locals and immerse myself in the various cultures. I think the social feature of Live Mocha will prove rewarding. I've been studying flash cards for about a week now, and hope to engage someone in conversation in the next month!

If not, I may just be downloading Jibbigo for my iTouch. Would be an interesting way to have a conversation, that's for sure.

Monday, March 8, 2010

YouTube, TeacherTube, and the Future of Shared Online Video

I can't even begin to list the things I have learned using sites such as youtube and teachertube. Most recently I learned how to build a raised vegetable garden using the square foot gardening method. The book about square foot gardening is a solid 300 pages, and the information was synthesized into five minute clips! I ended up reading/skimming the book regardless but the videos were extremely helpful.

In the world of education youtube tends to get a bad rap because of the content and the fact that for the most part it isn't censored. I don't think you can access pornography on the site, but vulgar language is definitely there, not to mention countless inappropriate videos that students can have access to. However, youtube has an immense amount of educational videos with the above as an example. My students have used youtube in virtually every subject/content area this year. It does wonders for visual learners - and I have a lot that prefer this learning modality. If they tell me they forget how to find area or volume, it is only a few quick clicks away, same for any topic. I find it especially helpful when they ask me something I don't know, like a definition of the water cycle. We found a pretty catchy song for this earlier this year.

I believe so much in the future and power of online videos that I spent the first two weeks of school showing my students the fundamentals of Movie Maker and giving them ample time to explore and create a video on what it means to have good character. Since then many have taken the opportunity to use videos as a means of presenting projects in other classes or creating memories of class field trips. My plan was to have each student create one informational video to share, but that just hasn't happened this year. Perhaps after standardized tests are over :)