Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Don't judge Facebook by its cover

We constantly hear the statistics about how Facebook has changed our social world in a stunningly short amount of time.  When I come home from a day's work, I log on to check my email and Facebook simultaneously in two separate tabs.  The spellcheck on my computer will now display a red squiggly line if I do not capitalize the word Facebook.  As much as Facebook has become a part of many people's lives, spanning different generations, there are still many people who look at Facebook as some sort of evil domain.  To me, you could view Facebook as a metaphor for integrating technology into today's classrooms: research shows us the endless ways technology will provide our students with a dynamic education, it is inevitably an integral part of our students' lives, yet there are still many people who view technology in schools as an area that should remain as uncharted territory.

While reading chapter 9 in Richardson's text, I found it interesting that he distinguished two main uses for Facebook: interest-based and friendship-based.  It is interesting to consider the underlying reasons why we use Facebook.  Students do use this networking site for interest-based interactions (i.e. when joining a group or "liking" a cause), "and in these "interest-based" interactions, they are connecting to peers and adults outside of their physical spaces, people who they don't know but with whom they share a passion" (Richardson, 2010, p.131).  The ability to connect and communicate with others both within the classroom and around the world is a 21st century skill that will allow students to collaborate with those who share the same passion and create new ideas.  With this being said, it seems as though Facebook is the most logical outlet to use for promoting these connections.

Richardson mentions the use of Facebook across classrooms in the US to be very scarce.  The stigmas that come along with Facebook are also difficult to erase.  However, I had to think of the implications I personally would face if I were to consider using Facebook in my classroom.  First, I think it would be necessary to dedicate at least two lessons or more to strictly go over the difference between using Facebook for personal reasons and using Facebook for educational purposes.  I feel as though students are going to have a hard time making this distinction.  The other thought that crossed my mind was, do I want to take a site that is typically used as a leisurely activity and turn it into a place where my students regard it as another spot to complete an assignment?  In other words, I don't think it is necessary to use Facebook in order to promote the 21st century skills described above.  We can teach our students how to "leverage for learning" through other Web 2.0 tools that will cover the same standards and elicit the same results (Richardson, 2010, p.133).  I feel that it would be difficult to take the social and friendship-based aspect of Facebook away from students and I don't know that I want to do that, especially when I know I can meet my goals through other resources.  At the same time, I could see showing students the ways Facebook can be used to connect to people with similar ideas. I think there needs to be a balance between letting students continue to use technology as a part of their personal lives and taking the skills they are unknowingly gaining from these interactions and using them to further their education in the classroom.

If you are interested in using Facebook in your classroom, this video has some pretty interesting ideas! Check it out!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What middle school could have been like?

This week I chose to tap into a subject area that, for me, was never one of my strong points.  The subject was often dry and taught primarily through lectures once I got to middle school.  After elementary school, the only distinct memories I have from the subject are writing position papers and writing definitions in extreme detail.  In elementary school I can remember being assigned multiple projects, which forced students to take a hands-on approach to understanding the subject material.  I will never forget the tri-fold I created about the state of Georgia in 3rd grade or the permanent burn my mom now has on her hand from helping me hot glue the model together.  What happened to that hands-on approach to Social Studies and History after elementary school, I will never know.  The subject became completely unengaging.  However, “the inclusion of technology may help make this subject more engaging, authentic, interactive, and relevant to the learners” (as cited in Schrum & Levin, 2009, p.71). The authors mention computer games like Carmen San Diego and SimsCity; both games that I loved to play as a child.  I never thought of these games as educational; they were simply fun.  I never played them in school and when I reflect on the reasons why I have to wonder how much of an effort my teachers put into finding out about our interests.  Or was it because they were not familiar with these types of games? Did they think because they were “games” they were not educational?  I think it would be interesting to interview a veteran teacher and get their perspective on the use of technology in the classroom.


            As I was reading through the different ideas for integrating technology in Schrum & Levin’s chapter on “Other Technology Tools to Consider” I often caught myself thinking, “Wow, that would be so cool!”  I was engaged with just reading about WebQuests and virtual field trips that I never knew existed.  The most surprising thing to read was finding out that WebQuests originated in the mid-90s.  It is now 2011 and this is the first time I have ever heard about a WebQuest.  It is disappointing to find out these technologies were available to my elementary and middle school teachers and never implemented into lessons.  Personally, if these digital tools were integrated into Social Studies lessons, I may have had a completely different opinion about the subject area. 
            Schrum and Levin again educate teachers on the ability to expand the classroom walls; a common theme that I think has been evident throughout all of our course readings on the needs of a 21st century classroom.  We have also discussed the unfortunate budget cuts that have hit our school districts and are making it difficult to fund educational workshops on implementing technology.  Yet,  “the cost [of WebQuests] is only the time it takes teachers to locate and design a lesson plan and a trip guide for their students” and a computer (Schrum & Levin, 2009).  This dedication of time can take a boring and ineffective lesson and make it an innovative, engaging, and significant lesson that asks students to critically analyze and develop higher order thinking skills.  It would be quite the transformation and I think it is definitely something to highly consider!  I know I will!
 Happy Spring Everyone! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Educating "our students" outside of the classroom

When it comes to learning about the intricate facets of 21st century technology, I was very excited coming into this week’s topic on privacy concerns.  One of the main reasons why I was so anxious to learn more about this topic was because I need to know how I can protect my students when implementing Web 2.0 tools into my classroom curriculum.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to ignore the heightened awareness surrounding cyberbullying amongst other risks that come with using the Internet.  In particular, the use of blogs and social networking sites can draw some attention for concern.  I have to agree with Schrum and Levin’s “educative and common-sense approach to the legal, safety, and ethical issues that school leaders and teachers need to consider when using technology and the Internet for teaching and learning” (2009).  Teachers need to model and discuss these “common-sense” practices for their students.  It would be foolish for teachers not to educate their students about privacy concerns when using technology, when in reality; students are using the Internet far more often outside of the classroom in comparison to its usage inside the classroom.  This form of education will allow students to directly connect what they are learning in school with the activities they participate in leisurely outside of school.  I think it comes naturally for teachers to actively model appropriate behavior and consistently enforce consequences when it comes to our students.  However, it is important not to forget some of our most influential and significant students outside of the classroom: our students’ parents. 

Many parents may be extremely weary of the use of technology in their child’s education.  They may feel as though the Internet is out there for the entire world to see and there is little monitoring that can be done to protect their son or daughter.  Some may find it unnecessary to use such tools as blogs, social networks, and wikis to supplement learning.  In their eyes their “old school” education provided them with all the necessary tools and knowledge for success.  I feel one of the most effective ways to suppress parent apprehension towards Web 2.0 tools comes at no surprise to many teachers—it begins with education.  A parent’s main concern, paralleling a teacher’s number one concern, is protecting the safety of their son or daughter.  We cannot blame parents for their worry.  However, if we want to be able to explore how big of an impact technology can play in our classroom then we need to educate our parents about how and why we are going to do this.  Many parents simply just aren’t aware.  It is the teacher’s obligation to educate parents through models of how technology can allow their child’s education to go beyond the classroom walls.  We need to present the material in a way that highlight’s the technologies’ ability to guide students to use their critical thinking skills.  Most importantly, we need to reassure parents that their child’s privacy is protected through demonstrating the ways in which the classroom teacher can monitor student work.  There must be a sense of trust established between the parents and the teacher.  I thought this YouTube video titled “No Parent Left Behind” was a great way to introduce parents to 21st century learning and its implications for today’s classroom.  A classroom teacher created the video.  It even directs parents to view the “Did You Know?” video.

We too, should look into providing parent workshops by reaching out to our school administrators or PTA.  These presentations can also shed light on school policies when it comes to inappropriate behavior when using technology.  Parents need to see that there would be consequences not only in the classroom but also, within the school at large.  Parents can also engage in a social networking site called “Digi Parent” where parents can collaborate with each other on learning about 21st century tools.  Participating in this type of social network would also give parents a taste of their son or daughter’s world.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Facing Reality

At first, I thought that blogging was a very new thing for me.  Then, I started to think about the "Xanga" days in middle school where my friends and I would write about anything and everything just to be able to write on our "Xanga" pages.  It was a step up from our plain, old diaries with the little locks that you actually needed a key to open.  Then we had the electronic pocket diaries that you could type in as well; but when we found out we could write in our journals and post it for the world to see, there was no comparison!  I can remember coming home from middle school everyday and the first thing I would do was go online and recap the school day.  Now that the tables are turned, it is amazing for me to think how much more I would have been engaged if say, we had to go home and write a poem describing the day's events on our "Xanga" page as a homework assignment.  Let's face it, we would have been competing to see who could finish the assignment first!

I feel as though the following video is like a compilation of the readings we have been reflecting on the first few weeks of the semester.  The thing that I like about this video is that it gives the audience the perspective of 21st century students directly from students.  It has been interesting to read about the differences in the ways in which students learn today comparable to years past.  I feel as though it has been made obvious that if we, as teachers, want to engage today's students in the classroom, we need to expand the classroom walls.  Technology is one of the most important ingredients in expanding these walls in addition to its ability to allow students to connect and collaborate not only with their teacher and classmates, but with teachers and students around the world.

As an aspiring elementary school teacher with a subject specialization in middle school English/Language Arts I think blogging can be a great outlet for students to practice and enhance their critical thinking, creativity, and writing skills.  I feel as though students currently view the Internet as a place that they can go to as a safe haven and for leisure.  With this being said, it may not be motivating for students to just type up their comparative essay onto a blog site instead of typing it up in Microsoft Word.  It would be unfair for us to consider this an incorporation of technology.  However, if blogging is linked to student interests and meeting curriculum standards at the same time, I think it could be a very interactive and successful tool for learning.

As stated in the article "Why We Blog," "Don, a technology consultant, called blogs "be-logs" because he felt blogging is used to "log your being"" (p.43).   I'd have to say I agree with this statement.  Online journals should be about personal experiences.  I could see myself using blogs as a place where my students can become book critics for their personal choice of literature or present a "reader's guide" to their choice of text.  I would like to use blogging to promote reading outside the classroom.  Students should feel as though what the read outside of the classroom is just as important as the novels they are reading inside the classroom.  Eventually, the class could set up a blog where students can compare and contrast curriculum text with text read for pleasure.