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.

EC&I 831 – Technology’s Role in Formal Education

September 25, 2009

Technology is a fantastic tool that can add exciting and innovative twists to the traditional way we have “done school” for the past number of decades, centuries or however dramatic you would like this point to be.  I believe most of us share in this belief as we have all signed up for a class intended to make us aware of and comfortable with the different tools and opportunities provided to us by the digital world.  Times are changing and with school closures, multi-grade classrooms, structural innovation, etc., we need to take a hard look at changing the way we operate.  Although it is frightening for many of our colleagues who are accustomed to a traditional method of pedagogy, the fact is that today’s learners have grown up with technology, are comfortable with technology, and as much as we may or may not agree with it, this is not likely to change any time soon.

I would offer that although there are enormous opportunities associated with incorporating technology into the educational landscape, we do need to employ an air of caution when approaching the subject.  It would be easy for us to jump on board and make this the new backbone of our educational system but once again, I believe it is a resource to add to our repertoire, not the be-all and end-all that we entrust our youth’s learning to.

Our government has outlined literacy and numeracy as the top priorities for our province’s educational system.  We have placed more and more of an emphasis on these areas and although some may argue that this is of the highest importance in preparing our students for the “real world” (post-secondary education/training and then on to the work force), I would suggest that we have lost sight of some of the more important factors in developing children.  By making more time for math and language arts classes, we have stripped our students of valuable time spent in health and physical education, art and music, practical and applied arts, second language classes, etc.  Although these options are available to our students, our timetabling creates an either/or type situation. Few of us would consider reading, writing and arithmetic to be time wasted, but wouldn’t we want to encourage development of the whole child?

At the risk of getting off task and onto a tangent of the true goal of education, I would say that we are not simply trying to churn out the next generation of workers and consumers, but the next generation of well rounded citizens.  Technology, in all of its forms, is a fantastic tool to be implemented in any number of different situations, but I fear that we will be quick to turn all of our attention to the new, sexy way of doing things and forget about the value of the human relationship.

Although some may disagree, I believe that one of the more important aspects of the educational system lies within the socialization of our young people.  Our youth need to learn how to work with others in a shared environment.  They need to learn how to share space and do things they may not find important, engaging or fun all the time as this is generally how the world operates.  Although I love my profession immensely, there are a large number of tasks that we are required to perform that some may find ineffectual and tedious but we do them and move on.  I would imagine that most professions are in the same boat.

I suppose I could sum up my hopes for technology’s role in the new reality of formal education with one word: balance.  I think this will provide us with a tremendous capacity to engage students in a way that has not been seen before, but I also think we are faced with a large responsibility to ensure the relationships with students are not lost.

ECI831 – Reflection on Wesch’s “The Machine is (Changing) Us

September 22, 2009

As a generation X’er myself, I can relate to the frustration and boredom on the faces of the university students in Dr. Wesch’s class.  I can relate to this feeling of jumping through hoops – from coloring maps and pie charts to the numerous lesson plans that were required for our ever inspiring and useful EPS classes in university.  Our society demands education from its young people if they have any desire of attaining gainful employment, but refuses to invest the time, resources and effort needed to bring this system into the new reality.  Even though we are constantly being encouraged to take advantage of new initiatives like structural innovation and project-based learning, and there are many who do a fantastic job, a large number of educators continue to crack open the same lesson plans that have been used for the past X number of years.  If we aren’t prepared to continually evolve our practice and tailor our material to the varied interests of a particular class, how then can we expect students to engage in the exercise in a meaningful way?

But can this be blamed on the classroom teacher?  Classroom teachers have a large amount of responsibility already on their shoulders and with the added commitments of family life, extra-curricular activities, etc., it is unrealistic to expect all educators will put in the effort required to stay current and up to date.  Many of our government mandated curriculum documents are older than the students we teach.  I teach Core French and one of the units of study for a high school class (published in 1999) deals with creating a new game.  There is no mention of electronic devices such as an Xbox or PS3 or Wii, and the only mention of any sort of electronic gaming deals with “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”.  Although we may or may not agree with young people spending the majority of their time in front of a TV or computer screen, I think it is foolish to deny the role video games play in the lives of our students, especially when dealing with a unit based on the pass times of our youth.  Can we truly expect kids to buy in to such dated and out of touch information and do these documents provide us with material that could be deemed engaging or inspiring by our youth?

One quote that I found interesting was when Dr. Wesch cited Huxley’s fear that the truth will be drowned in irrelevance.  There is a high level of frustration amongst colleagues and this is evident to anyone who has spent time in core meetings, professional learning communities or whatever the buzzword may be for a particular school division.  The majority of time is spent “dialoguing” about administrative paperwork, setting literacy goals, the new advisory program, etc., but one thing that I have noticed is that discussions relating to best practice and how to engage students are seemingly being left by the wayside.  I understand and appreciate people’s concerns and frustrations with the inner workings of our profession, but I fear that we’re losing sight of our “truth” – creating valuable learning opportunities for our youth while instilling a lifelong passion for knowledge.

What I enjoyed in this video was how Dr. Wesch outlined the positive ways in which our youth is reaching out to be heard.  I have always had a hard time believing that kids today are flawed and just don’t want to learn and this video reinforced the idea that there is hope to change.  Are there challenges facing the educational system today?  Absolutely.  But there are also tremendous tools available to bridge the gap between stodgy curriculum and a generation of young people who have grown up with MSN, cell phones and facebook.  Why not try to incorporate these tools and get into the learners’ world rather than expecting them to come into ours?

Getting to know me

September 19, 2009

Hello everyone! I’m not exactly sure how to start this or really what to say as I have never really written, read or had much to do with blogs to this point in my life, but I’ve read over a few of the intros from others in the class and I’ll try my darndest to make myself sound as interesting as all of you. My name is Brian Gatin and I am in my 4th year of teaching. I am starting my first year at Thom Collegiate and I couldn’t be happier with my job. I am a Core French teacher and I truly love working with young people and instilling a passion for learning. This is my second year of graduate classes and I was brave/foolish enough to sign up for two classes this semester. I have really enjoyed this class so far and I hope it will provide me with a greater understanding of the digital world, not only for professional reasons, but to also be more aware of and proficient with the technology that has come to be such an integral part of our society. I have coached football for the past 8 years and as it is somewhat a passion for me, I am trying to incorporate this into this class as well. We have been struggling trying to communicate dates for practices or fund raising activities with all of our players, so I hope to use the knowledge gained from this class to set up a website or blog that will allow for easier communication between our coaching staff and players. I’ll keep you posted with how it turns out! I have a beautiful wife, Meghan, and an adorable daughter, Emilie, who is 3 and full of boundless energy. Speaking of which, I hope she will be waking up from her nap soon so I think we’ll go enjoy this beautiful weather we’ve been blessed with and take a walk over to the park. Have a great weekend everyone and until next time, over and out.

Getting to know me

September 19, 2009

Hello everyone! I’m not exactly sure how to start this or really what to say as I have never really written, read or had much to do with blogs to this point in my life, but I’ve read over a few of the intros from others in the class and I’ll try my darndest to make myself sound as interesting as all of you.

My name is Brian Gatin and I am in my 4th year of teaching. I am starting my first year at Thom Collegiate and I couldn’t be happier with my job. I am a Core French teacher and I truly love working with young people and instilling a passion for learning.

This is my second year of graduate classes and I was brave/foolish enough to sign up for two classes this semester. I have really enjoyed this class so far and I hope it will provide me with a greater understanding of the digital world, not only for professional reasons, but to also be more aware of and proficient with the technology that has come to be such an integral part of our society.

I have coached football for the past 8 years and as it is somewhat a passion for me, I am trying to incorporate this into this class as well. We have been struggling trying to communicate dates for practices or fund raising activities with all of our players, so I hope to use the knowledge gained from this class to set up a website or blog that will allow for easier communication between our coaching staff and players. I’ll keep you posted with how it turns out!

I have a beautiful wife, Meghan, and an adorable daughter, Emilie, who is 3 and full of boundless energy.

Speaking of which, I hope she will be waking up from her nap soon so I think we’ll go enjoy this beautiful weather we’ve been blessed with and take a walk over to the park.

Have a great weekend everyone and until next time, over and out.

Hello world!

September 9, 2009

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