Archive for October, 2009

Eluminate for the rural Core French “classroom”

October 22, 2009

What an awesome way to ensure programming is available to all students regardless of where they live!   

Rural students talk about learning French online

Now this is a digital story that tells us a lot about what’s going on in a classroom!

October 22, 2009

I’m not sure how comfortable some of you may be in our country’s second official language, but being a French teacher myself, I found this interesting.  The title of this clip on youtube was titled Alberta’s Core French program revealed.  The student is attempting to sing O Canada in both French and English.  The English part is fine but the French could maybe use a little work!  Check it out.

Brutal rendition of O Canada – Alberta’s Core French program revealed

Digital storytelling

October 18, 2009

I really enjoyed this week’s class.  It was interesting to peruse all of the tools that seemed to have a very practical application for both my personal and professional life.  On a personal level, no more lame-o Christmas cards this year – I’m going to try to go digital!

What I really enjoyed about the idea of digital storytelling is that this gives a voice to people who may or may not feel comfortable expressing themselves through other means.  Any time we can open up more lines of communication to allow people an avenue to share thoughts, opinions, interests, etc. in a variety of different ways, it allows us to express ourselves in different ways which is always a good thing.

With regards to the transition from oral storytelling to written and now to digital, I think it is a natural progression.  We’ve come a long way from cave drawings and clay figurines, but at some point even that would have been seen as the new and innovative thing to do.  Humans are always going to try to find new and different means of expression and it is not surprising that this has moved into the digital dimension.  What is surprising is that we haven’t heard more about some of these applications that really are awesome.

I’m guessing that this wasn’t presented just to show people the cool new tools that they can use to cut back on scrapbooking costs or create movies of our kids’ dance recitals.  As this class is aimed at providing educators with the necessary know-how to incorporate technology into our practice, the application of these types of projects into schools is a fantastic opportunity.  Rather than forcing students who might not be comfortable with the traditional pen and paper or even class presentations in front of their peers to maintain the status quo, this could provide another avenue to display comprehension of or engagement with materials presented in a class setting.  And why limit this to the students?  Educators can make use of these tools to present material as well!

Educational Blogging

October 8, 2009

I’m not sure that my opinion of educational blogging has changed all that much after having read this post.  I still think it is an outstanding tool to add to a repertoire that will aid immensely in all areas of personal responses.  An excellent example of this would be a year-end professional reflection.  If concerns related to privacy issues could be mitigated, this could present an opportunity to open up greater lines of communication amongst all levels of the educational system.  I work in a school with a large staff.  As our profession is in a constant state of flux and we don’t know what may happen from one hour to the next, it is unrealistic to expect an administer to have the time to read over 75+ lengthy reflections, come up with some sort of relevant guidance, and then block off an entire week to sit down with each teacher for a face to face that usually turns into a chat about how things are going or how the football team/drama production/etc. is shaping up for next year.

Obviously people become irritated when they feel their time is wasted or that they are being made to jump through hoops.  By using a blog or some other sort of electronic medium, administrators will possess the means to respond to each of the reflections without the time constraints of a face to face meeting.  There will undoubtedly be many staff members who would still prefer a face to face meeting to discuss certain issues or concerns they may have, and that is fine, but for those who don’t need the personal contact, this will both save time and negate feelings of not being heard.

In terms of classroom use, I think this presents numerous opportunities to allow students to connect with teachers, peers and even other students they may or may not already know.  The most obvious example that comes to mind would be using blogging as a journaling tool.  In my English classes, students are constantly asked to record their thoughts pertaining to certain issues, texts, etc. and it is a constant battle to respond to these in a timely manner.  Blogging would be an outstanding means of bolstering this communication and also minimizing the pile of papers sitting on a desk! 

I teach predominantly Core French classes and I have been trying to set up an online penpal type of situation with a high school in Québec.  Originally I had thought that emails would be the method of communication, but I now believe that blogging may be more of a valuable experience.  Rather than forcing students to write to one person who they may or may not share common interests with, blogging would allow students to create their own networks and reach out to those who they may share something in common with.  We’ll see how it goes!

Connectivism

October 6, 2009

Connectivism… alright, where to begin?  I found this to be a difficult session.  I struggled to maintain focus and although I understand the concepts that were presented, getting my mind wrapped around the subject matter this week seemed to be somewhat more labored.  It might be because it was fairly heavy material or it might be a result of taking 2 grad classes, teaching two new subjects from what I’m used to and coaching football while trying to maintain a healthy marriage and family.  Who knows? 

Upon first reading this week’s questions, I felt frustrated as I really don’t know what my opinions are related to these issues.  The fact is that although I am becoming increasingly more comfortable incorporating technology into my personal approach to education, I still feel that I’m not versed in the subject enough to offer an educated response.  I have been attending all of the eluminate sessions, I have been doing all of the readings, blogging and trying my best to keep up with all of my colleagues’ blogs, but have I truly been practicing connectivism myself?  

I am still struggling with the concept of connecting with all of the members of this network as I find it frustrating at times to try and tune out the noise from what is truly being said in our online sessions.  The point has already been made by a number of colleagues, but I find the chatter (some very helpful and some very off topic) to be distracting.  This past week’s session was a very good example of this.  As the material being presented was fairly dense, I paid little attention to the chat and focused on the presentation.  I’m not sure how connected I truly was.  Did I experience the true value of connectivism by simply watching a presentation online? 

As far as the implications of this for education, I think it is essential that I, as well as the rest of our profession, become literate in this regard.  Although I don’t think we should base our entire educational system around the digital world, we can’t continue to stick our heads in the mud and pretend that technology isn’t a reality in the lives of our youth.  As much as I may find it to be a humbling experience to realize that I have a lot to learn if I have any hope of staying connected/becoming connected with my students, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a trained professional to step out of his or her comfort zone in an effort to stay up to date in his or her craft.  Medicine, law, engineering and most every other profession requires its members to stay on top of the latest innovations and ensure best practice, so it is fair to expect the same out of education. 

With that being said, we need the backing of our society to invest the time and resources into this as well.  Facilities will need to be upgraded.  Teachers will need to be properly trained – the typical one-day PD session during school start-up will not suffice.  Perhaps we could even think about mandating student teachers to take a “computers in the classroom” course in place of one of the always useful EPS classes we were all made to endure. 

Once trained, there is no question that our teaching strategies will be much different in an online network rather than in a traditional classroom, but, much like Allison mentions in her blog relating to the same matter, I am ignorant of what this will look like as I have nothing to base my opinion on.  My only experience in this field has come from the four classes we have had together.  My gut feeling however is that unlike some traditional high school courses, where students are required to take certain classes that they perhaps might not care for and a teacher may need to try and coax the student to open up to the content, teaching students in an established network of similar interests would allow educators to truly dive into the course material and teach for deeper understanding. 

This brings up the next issue which deals with the changing priorities of skills that need to be developed in this type of setting.  Once again, as I am still somewhat of a neophyte in this domain, my opinion is purely based on speculation, but it would seem to me that if learners are placed in an environment where they have any nature of information available at their fingertips, instruction dealing with ethics and responsible use of technology would be the most obvious skill that I would hope my child would be provided with.  It is great for students to be given the ability and freedom to network and align themselves with others of similar interests, but students would also need to be made aware of the potential risks associated with sharing too much information – both with people who may not be a part of their network for the best reasons, as well as how some information posted on the web in a foolish moment may come back later to haunt them. 

As far as where we’d turn for guidance, the first idea that popped into my mind was, “How about an eluminate session?”  It seems there is already a large network of people who are passionate, knowledgeable and more than willing to share their expertise.  Consultants and IT people at the provincial and school division level might need to be hired or those who are already in place may have to assume a more visible role and provide the support and guidance required to ensure these resources are being properly implemented and used.