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I recently watched the Frontline Show digital_nation and found the show to be very intriguing.  I understand that technology is changing quickly and that our world is changing quickly with it.  But many of the topics this video explored were things I was totally unaware of.  For example, I had never heard of “PC Bangs” (which are computer gaming rooms in South Korea), and never realized that people there (and elsewhere) are so addicted to gaming that it has affected their health, and that some people have actually died from gaming too long without taking breaks to eat and drink.  I also never realized that there are people who play games such as World of Warcraft for up to 20 hours per week.  These people can meet up at conferences, and meet those they say have become some of their best friends through the game, but that they have never actually met.  I never thought about the military pilots who fly drones in war zones from a technology room thousands of miles away, and who then drive home to have dinner with their families.  And I have never heard of Second Life, an immersive 3D online universe that many businesses are now using to host business meetings.  All of these things show how technology has changed our lives.  But we have yet to decide if we have changed for better or for worse.  Have we gone too far?  I am still deciding.  

One topic that was discussed is one I am fairly familiar with, and that I would like to explore more.  It is the idea of multitasking and using technology in the classroom.  One chapter in this video followed students at MIT who were constantly multitasking.  Many times they had multiple devices up and running while in class and while studying.  They claim that they are good at multitasking and that it would be unfair for professors to make them stop.  But some say that this constant connection makes students distracted and in need of constant stimulation.  Perhaps they are doing themselves a disservice by multitasking.  Can they really soak in as much information from a lecture while they are checking Facebook and replying to emails as they could if they were sitting with a notebook in front of them and listening only to the professor?  I have to think that by multitasking during class, there is something that is lost.  After all, classic psychology says that our brain cannot do two things at once, and that there is no such thing as multitasking.  I tend to agree.

I remember sitting in classes and being amazed that after making it through high school, where cell phones and laptops were strictly prohibited, that in college many students brought their laptops to class.  I would sit and watch as other students perused Facebook and their email during class, and sometimes even took notes on the class material.  I was eager to try it out for myself.  But when I did, I found that I could not pay attention to two things at once, and if I had my laptop in front of me, I was not paying as much attention and did not absorb as much knowledge in class.  Even if I did not have social media sites pulled up on my computer, I would find my mind wondering about random things, and I would look it up on the internet.  After all, why not, when I could get an instant answer and instant gratification.  Instead of paying attention to the lecture, my mind would wander to whatever popped up on my computer screen.  

Although I do think that technology has a place in the classroom, I think that it should be limited. Technology should be integrated at the teacher’s discretion, and used for course related activities only when it has a specific purpose and when the teacher allows it.  Having students sit through an entire class with laptops out for no apparent reason is not helpful in my point of view.  It is simply distracting.  

 

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Flipped Lesson

Here is my first flipped lesson!  It is for 5th graders and is a beginning lesson on perimeter and area.  First I created a google slides presentation, then used Screen-O-Matic to record my voice (and image).  I uploaded it into YouTube and did editing there!  Kids would be sent a google form quiz to complete after viewing the lesson.  This was actually pretty fun and easy to do!

 

Helpful Tweets!

I have only had a twitter account since I made one for my ED 554 class back in May.  In just a few short months, I have become hooked!  I have found so many helpful resources and sites from twitter that will help me become the best teacher I can.  Here are a few that I loved…

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This 4- Step Guide To Effective Lesson Planning guides teachers in thinking about which level of learning they wish to address in their lesson, what level of technology they will use, how the classroom will look, and how they will evaluate students.  It provides specific questions to ask yourself when planning a lesson.  It is really helpful to have this guide handy when writing lesson plans, especially for new teachers and for students (like myself)!  A good read- and it even provides an easy to understand infographic that explains the whole thing!

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 This is an awesome post entitled A letter to first-year teachers.  It has a list of reflective questions for teachers to ask themselves after finishing their first year of teaching.  It focuses on caring, communication, organization, attitude and personal habits.  It recognizes that every day likely did not go as expected, but that that is okay!  It emphasizes the importance of reflection so that teachers can improve from their first year.  This is definitely something I will bookmark to read after my first year of teaching!

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This article was really helpful since I just finished recording my first flipped lesson!  I was a little skeptical about the idea of making a flipped lesson at first, but I really enjoyed the process and it was easier than I thought!  This 6-step guide to flipping your classroom makes flipping easy!  It emphasizes starting small- with just one flipped lesson to start- and expanding on it as you are ready and able.  It reviews 6 easy steps to get started: plan, record, share, change, group, and regroup.  It has a very helpful infographic and even includes some great resources to help teachers flip!

Cell Phones in Class?!?

When I was in school, we were never allowed to use cell phones in class.  Back then, not everyone had a cell phone, and most phones did not have internet connection (wow- I am really aging myself here!)  Now, most kids have cell phones starting at very young ages, and these phones are basically mini computers.  Kids use them for everything- and so do adults!  A topic of recent debate is if students should be allowed to use phones in class as technology for learning.  I have been one who has voted no to this, since I could see kids sitting in the back of class texting or looking at inappropriate websites during class rather than being engaged in learning.  I recently read the article 5 Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones In Class and it has started to change my mind.  Students will have cell phones when they get out into the real world, so why not teach them how and when to use them properly?  This article compares the situation to Harry Potter, when a teacher tells the students

“Children, put away your wands. You won’t be needing them.” – Delores Umbridge

Of course they will be needing them!  Just like cell phones are to students now, wands were a constant life companion for the young wizards in Harry Potter.

The five reasons to allow cell phones presented in the article are are:

1.  If we are preparing our students for life after school, we should allow them to use the tools they will be using when they get there. 

2. In a time when schools are facing tightening budgets, using technology that is readily available is logical. 

3. Mobile devices are great for teaching 21st century skills.  Phones can enable kids to collaborate.

4.  Double standards are not OK. If teachers and administrators use their phones in school, students should be able to use them as well.

5.  We need to teach kids responsible ways to use technology.

I agree with all of the points above.  I think that if used properly, mobile phones could be used in the classroom to enable learning.  Kids will have cell phones when they get out of school, so why not teach them how to use them to better themselves and their work?

I still have some trouble with how this will be implemented.  Although most kids do have cell phones now, not all do.  So would the child without a phone or with a phone that is not as new be bullied because of this?  Also, some parents may be against having their kids use cell phones or may be concerned with kids using too much of the data on their plans, pushing their cell phone bills higher- how would the school respond to this?  Perhaps having ipads for children without phones may be a solution, but again they may be bullied for not having a phone.

I also still think that many kids may be distracted during class time if they have unrestricted use of their phones.  I think that it would be extremely important for cell phone use to be considered a privilege in the classroom and not a “right”, so that it can be taken away by the teacher if not being used properly, or if the phones were getting in the way of learning.  The teacher would need to set strict rules about what the cell phones are to be used for and when they are used.  They should not be used all day in every subject, but only for specific learning purposes.  Even still, this may be difficult to implement and may be one more distraction for the teacher to monitor.

This article presented wonderful information that made me see that cell phone use in class could be beneficial to student learning.  But I still have some reservations about actually implementing this.  So what do you think??  Vote below!

Let’s Dispel the Myth of the “Digital Native”

Many people currently believe that all students today are naturally tech-savvy and automatically know how to use all digital tools to support learning simply because they are “digital natives”. Along with this theory comes the “digital immigrants”, or the adults who did not grow up in such a technology rich world. The theory is that these “digital immigrants”, including parents and teachers, could never catch up to student skill levels. I must admit that I used to be one of the people who went along with this theory. After reading “The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations”, I have come to believe that this “digital native-immigrant” theory is a myth after all.

This article has many relevant facts about the current state of technology and how school aged children are using it today to support their schoolwork activities, to enable learning out of the classroom, and what their aspirations are for using it within new innovative learning environments. The facts show that we can no longer say that “one size fits all” for every digital native, and that not all students today view themselves as “tech-savvy.”  The major factors that seemed to contribute to how “tech savvy” a student is are gender and the students’ self assessment of their tech skills compared to their peers.

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It was very good to see that over two-thirds of parents said that they would purchase a mobile device for their child to use at school if it were allowed, and that many Title 1 schools are making a large effort to provide mobile devices for use both at school and at home.  This is very encouraging as a future teacher.  It is awesome that so many parents are willing to buy their children tech devices, but in order for tech to be fully incorporated in the classroom, all students must be able to access technology equally.  I do think that technology on personal mobile devices in schools would be helpful, but since many students seem to want to use social media for education, it is very important for teachers to make sure students are using technology in an appropriate manner and are providing rules for when to use technology and how to use it appropriately.  The article mentions that digital citizenship is becoming a highly valued skill for today’s students, and I totally agree.  I will be sure to talk with students in my classes about digital citizenship and their digital footprint at the very beginning of the year, and remind them of it’s importance throughout their learning.

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 After reading this article, I have come to believe that it is very important to provide students with many choices in terms of which technologies they choose to use for learning.  It was interesting to see that while girls outnumbered boys in using social media, boys were way more likely to use massively multi-player online games.  It is important that students use technology that they are interested in, so that they will be more engaged in their learning, and it will be easier for them to understand difficult concepts if the technology they are using to learn is interesting to them.   Learning can be more self-directed and more individualized in this way.  One way to do this is to incorporate project-based learning in the classroom.

It was also interesting that this article focused on the fact that despite the investments in developing students’ interest in STEM fields, all students, especially girls’, interest in this has not changed. I think that as an educator it is important to not be biased when we teach these subjects, and encourage girls and boys equally in these fields. It is important to provide positive feedback so that students (especially girls) may see themselves as “good” in these subjects, but also important that we do not force them into something that they are not interested in.

This article made me think that perhaps it would be good to conduct a student survey at the beginning of the school year in order to see how students see themselves on the “tech- spectrum” (if they are more tech-savvy or may need some extra help) as well as what technologies they prefer to use in their learning.  This way the teacher can gauge which technologies to use and how much assistance students will need.  It would also be interesting to have students present their favorite technologies for learning so that other students, as well as the teacher, could use this for better learning in the classroom.   This may also help to bridge the disconnect that this article found between the students’ vision of new innovative learning environments and their educators’ views.

After reading this article, I have found the “digital native-immigrant” theory to be a myth.  What do you think??

Why “Education is Broken”

I recently watched a very interesting TEDtalk by Chris Lehmann entitled “Education is Broken”.  He starts off by saying that we have all probably heard kids say that “High School Stinks”.  He says that the sad part is that this statement is not controversial.  Students have to do what they are told when they are told to do it over and over again.  They go from one class to another, without being given any reason why they are being taught the subject, other than teachers telling them they need to know it for college, or even worse, saying “because someone told me to teach it.”

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Chris says that our current system of education is broken. He says that the educational system was designed to create workers for an assembly line. Since then the world and jobs have changed, while unfortunately education has not.  I found it very interesting to think about the fact that our current educational system was created in a world on information scarcity, where kids needed to go to school to gain knowledge from the teacher.  Now we are in a world of information overload, and there is no longer a need for teachers to give students the information- rather, we need to make sure that kids can make sense of the information.  This goes along with what I have learned in all of my classes so far.  Rather than simply giving students information through lecture and having them reproduce answers on tests, it is much more helpful to teach them how to find useful information on their own and analyze that information so that it is helpful for them and can be applied to real life situations.  I agree that education needs to become more relevant to kids lives.

Chris Lehmann provides an idea of what he believes education can and should be.  He says that school should teach us how to learn and open our minds to critical thinking and new ideas.  I loved his idea that every class should provide a new lens with which to look at the world, not simply provide a small isolated pocket of information which must be memorized and possibly never used again.  This gives a reason for kids to study all different subjects, even if they do not plan to major in the particular subject.  It gives them a different way to look at the world.  He says that school should teach kids to be citizens rather than teaching them to be workers.  We should let kids know that their lives and the things they create matter NOW.  We should let them create real stuff and let them share it with a real audience (not just the teacher).  He says that when we encourage kids to change the world, high school doesn’t suck anymore.

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I feel that the overall theme Chris talks about is very relevant in education today.  I do think that this change in education will need to take place gradually, and that there is still a need for direct instruction in the classroom.  It is so important to make education more relevant to the real world and to let kids create and find information for themselves so that they can become productive citizens.