The virtual class held last Friday night gave me the opportunity to travel out of the country and still participate in class that evening. The technology worked smoothly and I thought the interaction, verbally, symbolically ( hand-clapping, smiling etc.) and textually was efficient. I appreciated watching class presentation videos. It was beneficial to be working on twitter together whilst switching back and forth from Blackboard Collaborate to twitter to gmail. Screen shots of our profs’ computer were a little choppy and seemed to cause some break-up of the audio sound. All-in-all the session was engaging. I was in London and the class started at 11 pm my time. I thought I would be falling asleep by the end of class (1 AM my time) but as a testament to the engaging nature of the class, actually stayed up after class was over to play with some of the new tech toys.

Here is what our “class” looked like:

Even more amazing to me is that all of the audio and visual elements of this class were recorded and available online at:

p.jnlp?psid=2011-07-08.1503.M.A44576B8E6859982F2910C032512FD.vcr&sid=voffice


Lack of planning drives me crazy. For many digital natives (like my own children), however, lack of planning is planning. Events are formulated on the fly. E-mail and even Facebook are too slow and antiquated for this type of “on the fly” networking. Texting is too limited. Tweeting works and now there are even more options. You feel like going to a movie? Wondering which of your friends are free to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant close by or go to a concert or a ball game?

Try usesalsa.com

Ever needed someone to eat with? Hang with? Rock out with? With a click of a button, you can let your Facebook friends know what you feel like doing, and see who else wants to. We even set up a group text for you that lasts as long as you need it. It’s never been easier.

Admittedly, I will probably continue to use my google calendar and plan weeks in advance but for my kids and their friends, this is how it is now done.


I thought that I did not have any  previous experience using digital storytelling in the classroom but realize that some of the podcasts I have been showing my class or referring them to are actually digital stories. I have used a lot of youtube videos to engage my students with a topic  When I connected the use of Riemann sums to the integral, or the idea of looking at a calculus problem a piece at a time I showed my class the video of  Michel Latito eating a bicycle and an airplane as an example.  )

I see a lot of further opportunities to use digital storytelling in a classroom. In addition to using it to introduce topics as I explained above, digital stories can be created by students to teach a topic to their classmates. Digital stories can also be accessed by media savvy students, ( I guess they are all media savvy….) to enhance their own learning. This, brings us to the issue of media literacy and education. How do I help students understand the validity of the media they are accessing?

 

 

I started reading Chapter 8 in Curriculum 21 regarding media literacy and concurred with many of the perspectives presented therein. However, as a math teacher, I was disappointed not to find more suggestions on teaching media literacy in the mathematics classroom. The suggestions were helpful for a discrete mathematics class but there was not anything specific for other math classes (geometry, trigonometry, calculus etc.).

Since I was reading at my computer, I decided to do a little searching on my own. There are lots of sites for educators relating math and media and each of these provide a springboard for a discussion with students. Again, most of the references to math in the media are related to statistics but, the use of any media in a lesson plan can be used to present the critical thinking skills that should be developed when evaluating and using media.

One of the sites that connects media and teaching that I am very excited about is the PBS website for educators.

PBS Teachers 9-12 Math

This site includes webinars to help teachers use digital media, STEM education resources, a library of theme-based widgets and tons of lesson plans and videos, and links to many more resources. A veritable gold mine!

Here is a great example of the positive use of media in education and an opportunity to discuss with students, within the context of a math lesson, the different questions one should ask when assessing media (authorship, purpose, target audience, methods, etc.).

For example, I found an engaging interview on the use of origami in the real world.

Origami Master

and,  a lesson plan with a circus video discussing the center of mass.

Center of Mass Lesson Plan

Each of these videos, used in a lesson can prompt a discussion of:  Who made the video? Why did they produce it? Who is the audience? What are the methods of communication? etc. Asking these question can be a way to encourage students to question what they see and hear in different digital media whether at school or in their personal lives.

The bottom line is that there are resources at our fingertips in every discipline that we can  and should use to teach our students about media literacy.


Just as I am acclimating to google tools and cloud computing, here comes another option: Apple’s new service. One of the differences is the ability it will provide to “synch” all of ones devices. I was excited to hear a show on NPR on Tuesday discussing the whole idea of cloud computing. Very timely (for me) and a good discussion. Check it out. Listen to the discussion or read the transcript at:

http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2011-06-14/shift-cloud-computing


Google collaboration tools opened a whole new world of possibilities for me. I see the potential to use google spreadsheets to link each students to their grades. (I think there is a way to do this. I guess I will find out). I teach at a private school and we do not have blackboard or other similar software. Google tools give me the opportunity to tailor communication with my students(google sites) and parents in the way that best suits me and helps them. Google docs allows me to keep all of my files stored on the cloud and access them from wherever I am. Collaborative documents is a powerful tool I can share with my students. I do a lot of cooperative group work in my class and google docs will give my students flexibility to cooperate on projects.

Helpful shortcuts for google spreadsheets at:

https://docs.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=181110

I am excited to continue to explore the potential in these tools!


According to Heidi Jacobs (Curriculum 21, Chapter 1), our current educational system was not designed for children. Schools were modeled after factories during the economic and industrial expansion taking place in the United States between 1897 and 1921. The structure of the school day, the number of instructional days, the subjects and number of hours in the school day were all applications of this factory model. How effective is this model? Will this structure work in today’s rapidly changing world? Was this ever an effective way to prepare our children for the future? Jacobs argues that we need to break away from the fierce grip of this model.

“Preparation for future work situations requires teaching learners to use their minds well ….”, (Tony Wagner, Curriculum 21, p. 11). Is this really a new approach? On the one hand it is different from the current, traditional (last 150 years), standardized education present in most schools today. On the other hand, isn’t it hearkening back to an era of classical education where children (granted, only select children) were taught to think, to debate, to question, to form strong opinions?

My daughter was preparing for an oral final for her American History class this week. Some of the questions she was reflecting on were the underlying principles of democracy and the  philosophies and writings that were foundational to the writing of the Constitution. Surely, these thoughts arose from people (ok,….men) who were able to use their minds well. 

So, yes, we need to put aside the myths that shape our visions of schools (the good old days are still good enough, we’re better off if we all think alike, and too much creativity is dangerous (Jacobs, pp. 15-17)).   We need to be willing to embrace new approaches and techniques in order to prepare ALL our children for the future. And, to do so, we must train our children to use their minds (an old idea).


 

What is the role of technology in education? After viewing “Did you know 4.0”, it was clear that technology is here to stay. It is not only a part of our lives but it is transforming the way people connect- and doing it at a mind-boggling rate. While the power offered by technology is exciting, the bottom line for me is that it is not a means unto itself but it is a tool. Its purpose as an educator) is to enhance and  aid learning. As a teacher I need to keep this ultimate purpose (learning) in mind. Learning and communication as I knew it as a high school student and even a year ago has changed and continues to change exponentially. The evolution continues.  I need to embrace technology and use it to enhance what happens in my classroom.