Thursday, March 11, 2010

Selecting Resources

When choosing websites and online resources for classes, a certain amount of preparation and personal judgement is required.

Under no circumstances should resources be presented to a class without the teacher having visited and screened the site for content and structure. Kathy Schrock has an ABC's of Website Evaluation on her website that can provide a good basis for website review. Her list is quite comprehensive and would certainly reflect an ideal resource. Practically, the classroom teacher will need to use personal judgement and weigh benefits against detractions.

Generally, the teacher needs to be aware of additional links, videos, and even advertisements that could be inappropriate for their students. Schools do have filters that block a large amount of inappropriate material, however, things always have a way of sneaking through. Obviously, the content needs to be appropriate and relevant for the lesson that is being explored.

Depending on the age and level of the class, students will percieve information very differently, so care needs to be taken to insure an appropriate response to the resources. For example, if you know that students are particularly sensitive to certain topics, that might not be one that you would want to explore in the less controlled environment of the Internet.

Personally, since I teach older and higher level students, I tend to have expectations of them similar to those of responsible adults. They understand the sometimes unpredictable and inaccurate nature of information that is gathered online. Our school does an exploration of website reliability in the Freshman Seminar class that all freshmen take, and all teachers encourage and model corroboration of information from multiple sources. So, website review has become a bit of the culture that the Internet and Web 2.0 has created, and it should be a consideration within the technology in the classroom.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yet to be

As we near the end of our adventures in EDU 533 (although, I'm not planning on wrapping this blog, for those of you who may be interested in continuing through my educational/instructional journey), there is one aspect of this whole thing that I feel has been kind of lacking.

Call it an enduring theme, call it a lasting skill, call it essential points, call it whatever you'd like to call it. I'm going to call it an educational philosophy, and I'm not entirely sure that it's been as much of a topic as I would have liked it to be in this course.

We are teachers (or we are going to be teachers). We teach kids. What are we going to teach them? "3rd grade" is the wrong answer. So is "english" or "science" or "math." In my classes, I teach my students how to think critically, solve problems, make decisions, and filter large quantities of information into usable pieces. I happen to teach those things through chemistry, but the chemistry is the least of what I teach. You may teach something else, and that's fabulous! Kids need us to teach them a lot of things. Very often, what we model proves to be one of the most influential forms of instruction. So...just think about it. You don't have to decide right away, but, please, think about what you're teaching.

As we work our way through this multitude of technological tools, I wanted to point out a statement that I remind myself and my colleagues of whenever it is appropriate: Long after they forget what you teach them, they remember how you treat them. The technology is cool, but it's not what we do. It is a tool to help us do what we do, and hopefully help us do what we do better.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Frontline: Digital Nation

After watching Frontline's Digital Nation, I had a few thoughts. For starters, I should confess that I was multitasking at the beginning of this video: texting, knitting, eating, and talking. However, the program quickly earned my complete attention, and there were a few points that I wanted to address. I'm choosing the topics that relate most immediately to children, as opposed to those that addressed the changing workplace for adults.

The bit that they did on multitasking I thought was particularly interesting. It didn't surprise me at all to see that people who tried to do many things at once were less than effective at those tasks. That old phrase "jack of all trades, master of none" has existed for a reason! It seems to be much more effective to do one thing, and do it well. Chances are that those things would get done faster, also. However, it also seems that this personal discipline and control to restrict oneself to one task is something that is difficult for today's emerging professionals to grasp. So really, the question for me, as a parent and educator, is how to appropriately integrate focus into this culture of distractedness, multitasking, and immediate gratification. As an aside, now I'm drinking coffee, watching the news, blogging, and wrangling a two-year-old.

I'm not sure if the natural progression of this multitasking culture led to the extensive gaming culture in South Korea, but I thought that it was sad and a bit foreboding to see what that situation has done to the youth of South Korea. I have known a number of students who have played online games and spent the majority of their time outside of school immersed in these worlds. I have also known some of those students who had a very difficult time managing themselves when they went off to college, and were unable to perform to their highest abilities. Although, that self-management is a difficult skill for many college students to achieve, regardless of gaming and online habits. Again, how do we help these students to manage themselves and their technology so that they realize that the technology is a tool to success, and not the indication of success itself?

With that thought in mind, I thought that the statements by the New York administrators that we needed to meet students where they were, indicating that the only way to engage students is through technology, is sadly pathetic and short-sighted. My initial reaction to those philosophies is that we are lowering expectations so that teachers and students can find successes, rather than insisting on balance. Please don't misunderstand me: I agree with the appropriate integration of technology into education. However, giving every middle-schooler a laptop and expecting them to focus in class is asinine. Moderation and responsibility has to be the key. I watched (and blogged about) a video earlier for this course that highlighted responsibility as a key topics for success in a Web 2.0 culture.

So, it would seem that modeling moderation and responsibility with technology is one way to help our children learn personal management. Beyond that, schools and parents have a daunting task ahead of them to teach young folks how to appropriately use tools for success and integrate technology effectively into their broadening horizons. I, certainly, don't have all the answers. But, I am eager to work towards a solution!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Obama Glog

So, President Obama came to my school on Tuesday afternoon for a Town Hall meeting and to talk about increasing jobs and strengthening small businesses. It was an incredible experience. Personally, I totally lucked out and was able to sit on stage with him and shake his hand as he entered. As part of the experience, we were asked to create a reflective piece for professional development. So, I took the opportunity to learn to use Glogster! I created a glog of images that I took during his visit, a little bit of text, an audio of the National Anthem, and a link to a video of his entire speech. I used the process of learning Glogster as my professional development, as this is a tool that I can use in my classroom for an alternative assessment. It was a hit! You should check it out. I'm pretty proud of it!

And, this is proof that I shared space with him. I'm the one alllll the way on the left with the black shirt and gray pants.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Twitter...

A good friend of mine who is no longer in the classroom (but absolutely SHOULD BE!!) sent me this article the other day as she was researching stuff for her new job as an educational consultant.

The article identifies how teachers can use Twitter for professional development and networking, like we've been doing in class. It gives a little bit more instruction as to how to go about finding networks of people with similar interests. And, it offers a degree of validity to the whole tweeting process.

And, if you're interested: I've been posting links to interesting tools in the sidebar over <--, so check those out too, if you'd like!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Educational Technology Tools

While pondering this post, I was concerned with what classified an "educational technology tool." Perhaps it's the scientist in me that wants to make sure that my definitions are clear before I embark upon a response. Regardless, I decided that anything that was available for free use on the Internet and enhanced a learning experience for students constituted an educational technology tool. While this may not be a correct definition, it worked for me, and it allowed me the freedom to investigate some of the things that I've used in the past in a bit more detail.

Since I teach high school chemistry, I try to integrate things into my continued learning that can benefit my students as well, so I set out to find stuff that would be good for my day students. There are countless sites out there that I have used in the past to supplement particular lessons and to offer support for specific challenges. So, here are a few of them:
  • eChem has an application that allows you to create and manipulate molecular structures. This particular one is from another teacher's personal class site. Very often these (teacher sites) have some AMAZING tried and true resources.
  • Mr. Guch (another teacher in the classroom) has compiled an incredible amount of information, tutorials, and resources for chemistry students and teachers.
  • Science Spot has resources for all levels and areas of science for mostly teachers.
  • There are like 80 billion Periodic Tables online, and they all have a lot of the same information (how many ways can you describe Calcium, really?), but this one is pretty neat and interactive and all that stuff.
  • And, if you've got a couple minutes and want to hug your inner science nerd, this is always fun. Click it, you know you want to. Everyone loves it.
So, while my tools may be more specifically geared towards my nerd-tacular world, you may find that there are many tools out there that focus on your specific area(s) of expertise! And, since we should all be teaching all of the areas all of the time, perhaps you can use some of my sites to help you integrate science into your teaching :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Equal Access

So, I feel like I'm kind of cheating on this one. While I was waiting for the link to follow Monday night's class on ustream, I was poking around profiles on Twitter. I stumbled upon a blog that our Fearless Leader (Dave) kept about a year ago. As I was perusing his writing, I read a post that he had written about equal access, and it really hit home for me. So, I feel like I'm kind of cheating because I really liked one of his phrases, and (although it's similar to one that I use in my classroom) I'm kind of sticking by that philosophy:

Equal access is about teaching them to drive, not buying them a car.

The reality of a classroom situation is that you see a student (along with 20-some others) for a fraction of their day. You can do everything in your power to make that fraction as productive, meaningful, engaging, valuable, and whatever-else-you'd-like-to-make-it as possible. But, when that child goes home, they are faced with a much stronger influence that you will not be able to control. And, equal access has to be about providing the same tools to all of your students, not providing the same goods, services, or situations.

It would be nice if every student had a functional laptop with Internet access and all that jazz, but it's not a reality. I'll hearken Maslow by saying that it'd be even better if every student had a warm bed to sleep in, hot water to shower with, breakfast each morning, and a hug on the way out the door, but that's not a reality either. So, equal access in education has to be about providing the same opportunities, and allowing and encouraging students to make the choices about what to do (if anything) with the opportunities that have been provided for them.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What can we gain through collaboration?

Short answer: everything!!

Collaboration is crucially important in education. From the time that you start any kind of teacher education program, you learn that reflection and collaboration are fabulously helpful in determining effecting lessons. Very often our peers are some of the best resources that are available. And, when those people are not immediately available (if you are the only 5th grade teacher in your building, for example) there are a wealth of resources available online. 

Personally, this is one aspect of my teaching experience that I wish were more elaborate. I became the veteran chemistry teacher in my district during my second year of teaching. I was faced with two brand new teachers straight from industry who needed as much help as I did. So, we all fumbled through and survived. These first years together, we worked very closely in order to coordinate the pace and content of our courses, and it was invaluable for all of us. Once we all became more self-sufficient, we all started to look to other resources to learn, and outside workshops became feasible. 
These workshops provided the opportunity to network with other teachers as well as the opportunity to bring ideas and materials back to our building. Now, with increasing budgetary issues in education all over the country, outside workshops are becoming more and more difficult to be a part of. However, the Internet provides countless ideas and resources, if you have the time to investigate and filter them. 
Basically, if you are able to look past your pride, ask for help, and work collaboratively with other teachers in your building, you will become a better teacher, and your students may have a better learning experience due to the change of pace or new ideas that you try with them.

K12 Online Conference: Web 2.0 Culture

As I revisit the K12 Online Conference this week, I do so slightly more optimistically. Although my school has serious budgetary issues, some that effect technology, I have become more hopeful that I can integrate some innovative features into my classroom that has one functional, albeit slow, computer and an LCD projector.

The topic that I chose to investigate this time is from the 2009 conference and was on Building a Web 2.0 Culture. Beginning points identified the democratization of information, the power of collaboration, and personal nature of the Web 2.0 environment as significant challenges to a traditional school and a traditional approach to education. It went on to identify that a Web 2.0 Culture is one that is rooted in a professional culture of trust, respect, and responsibility. The rest of the presentation provided examples of how these things can be fostered and integrated into classrooms to empower students to be successful in a Web 2.0 culture.

While I find most of these things energizing and encouraging, the reality of some classrooms (and students) is that these ideals are very difficult to attain. Difficult is not impossible, though, and one of the constant challenges of teaching is staying current and trying new things in order to reach students more appropriately and effectively. So, I'm game. I've even applied to a donor website to obtain some supplies for my classroom. We'll see if my application is approved and my materials are funded!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

K12Online Conference and EdTechTalk

While perusing the archives of the K12 Online Conference website and investigating the tracks from past conferences, I happened upon one 2006 video on Overcoming Obstacles. This PowerPoint presentation described one teacher's journey to a computer lab of 20 functioning computers.

This video was both encouraging and frustrating for me. While it explained familiar challenges, in terms of lack of functional equipment, it didn't explain why she wanted the computer lab, or what her plans were for the new setup. It was encouraging because it explained how she happened to create her own computer lab. She utilized a number of familiar resources and techniques, which made me feel like I could perhaps embark on a similar venture.

As I felt that I wanted more information on this topic, which is important to me, I turned to EdTechTalk. I found a Conversation, #57, that was held on December 19, 2009 about the "Haves and Have Nots of Education and Technology." After about 7 minutes of personal banter about their families, and another 7 minutes of moderately (but not completely) professional stories about technological experiences, the group FINALLY addressed the topic of their conversation. Once they got the the point, they had some moderately good things to say. They indicated that technology (like an iPod) is another tool that can be used in the classroom, like a sharpened pencil. They also identified the crucial nature of administrative support as it relates to the integration of particular aspects of technology in schools. It also seemed to imply that more technologically active administrators may be more supportive of teachers using more technology. After 20 minutes, one of the commentators indicated that in districts with limited technological resources, teachers need to find funding to procure computers for their classrooms. This discussion identified the lack of choice that many teachers and students have when considering integrating a computer into the learning experience.

This last chat is part of the reason that technology can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a benefit. It took this group nearly 15 minutes (1/4 of their broadcast) to get to the point! As is often the case with a information on the Internet, there is a lot of fluff that surrounds valid information. With this ETT conversation, I was so frustrated after listening to nearly 15 minutes of ridiculous banter that I wasn't as receptive to the viewpoints that were conveyed. This could easily be the case with a lot of efforts surrounding technology in learning, and careful attention must be paid so that time and resources are efficiently utilized.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Technology Reflections

What is the purpose of integrating technology into learning?
Why should we integrate technology into lessons?

When these two questions are considered, a couple of other questions come to mind: what is considered to be technology in a classroom, and what does it mean to integrate that technology? The answers to these questions can greatly effect responses to the essential questions that have been posed. For this response, I will consider "technology" to mean computers, although I do not think that is an appropriate representation of "technology" as it can be used in schools and learning. And, I will consider "integration" to be the use of that computer, although this can have a variety of meanings as well.

So, there are situations when computers are appropriate in lessons and learning and situations when they are not. Computers are a tool that can be used a number of ways, some of which are more effective than others. Because a majority of today's students have grown up with computers in their homes and have had access to the large amounts of information on demand, computers can be used to increase relevance for students in particular areas. Students have developed a respect (albeit periodically misplaced) for information gathered from the Internet, so a teacher who uses information gathered and presented on the Internet can be perceived to be more current or relevant. Additionally, because of the large amounts of information available online, the Internet can be a valuable resource for students to supplement and enhance their learning experiences in the classroom.

I guess that a greater purpose of integrating technology into learning is to use tools and resources that students are probably already familiar with to supplement experiences in class. Also, because of digital communication and technology, our worlds have become larger and more easily accessible, and teaching students how to effectively and appropriately integrate themselves into this community is important.

Generally, it seems to me that there are a number of opportunities where technology (in the form of a computer with Internet access) can be used in learning and lessons. However, practically, there are a number of limitations that can be encountered in the execution of this ideal. For example, in a public school setting, a computer lab that is stocked with enough fully functional computers with efficient Internet access is not often a reality due to budgetary constraints. Hopefully, we will learn how to work within these limitations so that we can effectively integrate appropriate technology to supplement and enhance student learning at all levels.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Hello. I'm Allison. I wear many hats.

Tonight I am wearing my student hat. When I wear my student hat, I'm a graduate student pursuing my Master's Degree in Education with a focus on curriculum and instruction. This is the second term that I've donned this cap, and I'm rather enjoying it. I hope to learn a lot that will help to supplement my teacher hat.

I've been wearing my teacher hat since 2001 and it's still one of my favorites to put on every day. I also wear safety goggles and a lab coat since I teach chemistry to high school students. I still like it and it makes me laugh every day. I love working with amazing people, and consider myself to be fabulously lucky to have landed a great job (that is not without challenges), and look forward to learning to do it better.

My other hats also help you understand me better: mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend are the most worn and therefore the most predominant. I'm looking forward to embarking on this journey, and hopefully you enjoy coming along!

For Those Who Can

This is a new blog that I've been asked to establish for a grad class that I'm taking. I'm supposed to be posting things about my professional journey to becoming a better teacher. So, hold on to your hats! I even joined Twitter. I know. So, find my professional banter there, too. I'm kronesa. Let's Tweet.

I've also learned about some cool new tools.

This is a cute thing that could make a fun t-shirt. Click it. You know you want to.

And, I want to open a backchannel in my classroom and in our faculty meetings. I can take it, can you?