Posts Tagged ‘eci831’

Response to “The Machine is Changing Us”

December 14, 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 quoted 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?

Summary of personal learning

December 9, 2009

Check out my summary of what I feel I’ve learned throughout this class.

My first youtube video.  How did I do????

Also, if you’d like to have a look at my final project, check out the wiki that I created as a means of sharing resources with both colleagues and students.

Once again, let me know what you think!

Our home and socially connected land…

December 4, 2009

I found this article in the leader post talking about how Canada is the most socially connected nation in the world and thought it was fairly relevant to what we’ve been talking about.  Have a look.

Final Project Progress

November 12, 2009

So I’ve been putting a lot of work into this wiki lately and I’m actually really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. I wasn’t sandbagging at the start of this semester – I truly was technologically inept. It’s satisfying to look at this resource and know that 3 months ago I was pretty much ignorant of everything technological other than email, Microsoft Word and a bare bones PowerPoint. Over the past month or two I’ve constructed a website, created a calendar, embedded video, linked to a number of different sites, etc. I’ve found I’ve been very particular about this project. I never would have thought that I’d be worried about ensuring the headings all appear in the same font or that the music videos would be put in the order we study them in class. It has been a lot of work but I’ve dove in and I’m happy with the results.

Now for the background. I chose to switch to this project as I seem to constantly have a large number of students sick or away from class for tournaments, family trips or any number of other reasons and I’ve started to grow tired of frequently being asked to provide homework, worksheets,  etc.   I think this will be an outstanding tool to help students gain some independence and provide parents with more of an insight into what their child has been doing in my class. I may or may not have stretched the truth from time to time as a teenager myself, but now that parents can access due dates, resources, rubrics, etc., the ball is 100% in the students’ court.

Response to Bud the Teacher

November 11, 2009

EC&I 831 –Response to Bud the Teacher

This post was absolutely awesome.  I couldn’t agree more with his position and the rationale that he uses to back it up.  I loved his quote that states, “Students off task is not a technology problem – it’s a behavior problem”.  To me, this is completely obvious.  I would have been one of the students sitting in the back of the class trying to figure out any possible way to sidestep the safeguards simply as a means of personal amusement at a stodgy teacher’s expense.

At the risk of sharing too much information about my potentially delinquent high school past, I can remember when I was in high school and Discmans had just come out and were the latest craze.  Those who know me may agree that from time to time I can have attention issues, and in high school there were certain classes that caused this affliction to flare up more than others (how’s THAT for a smooth way of putting it?).

Music has always helped me concentrate and realizing that it was getting me nowhere to be the smart arse, I decided I’d listen to my Discman during the part of class designated for completing the assigned work.  For possibly the first time all semester, I was on task, getting my work done and not distracting others around me.  Rather than receiving praise for turning my attitude around, I had my Discman taken away from me for the remainder of the period as this was apparently not an appropriate venue to use such technology.  When I questioned Mrs. L as to why I couldn’t use this device if all of the lecturing had been completed and I was working on the assigned material, she had no response and simply informed me that she would be keeping my Discman for the rest of the week to teach me a few manners.

I couldn’t have been much older than 14 and I may not have been quite as eloquent as I am today, but I realized then and there that to this teacher, school was simply a means of socialization, not education.  I can’t say I learned whatever life skill Mrs. L may have been trying to instill in me that particular day, but I can say that I made her life a living hell for the remainder of the week that she kept my Discman and possibly the rest of the semester as well.  Oops.

This situation could have been used as a teachable moment to inform me of the etiquette of using such a tool.  If I had been off task and listening to music when I should have been paying attention to the content being presented in class, obviously my behavior would have needed to be corrected.  But to punish a student for taking the initiative to find a means to stay on track doesn’t make much sense to me.

This is the same way that I view the Facebook “pandemic” facing our schools today.  There are neon signs in our computer labs saying that Facebook, Youtube and gaming sites are not to be accessed on school computers.  Why?  Obviously if a student is changing his or her status or looking up the latest UFC knockouts when they should be listening to my ever-exciting spiel about how to conjugate verbs in the imparfait, action should be taken as this is an inappropriate use of instructional time.  But if students can use these tools as a means of accessing information that makes sense to them in a way that I can’t provide, or if a student simply has an interest in a certain area that may not be covered in a school curriculum and isn’t offensive in nature (I won’t get into that one after our class last night!), shouldn’t we foster this lust for knowledge?

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

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.