EDM 310 Class Blog

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blog Post #13: Get to Know ALEX!

I love those odd, brainy people who give pieces of technology an acronym for a name. Especially one that is a proper name. Like KIT from Knight Rider.  And ALEX.
But....Who is ALEX? Where is ALEX from? What does ALEX do? Why do I even care?
Awesome ALEXVille Screen Capture

ALEX is new to the State of Alabama and its Department of Education.  ALEX stands for Alabama Learning Exchange.  Important assets of ALEX: Courses of Study, Web Links, Lesson Plans, Search engines, Personal Workspace, Professional Learning, Podcast Tresury, and Alexville.
Also, ALEX is so impressive that it was the recipient of the Digital Education Achievement Award two years in a row (2008-2009). The relevance of ALEX depends on what you are looking for.  It has pretty much everything but let's look at it's fine qualities.
It's color-coordinated! And each one of the components I listed above has its own picture/button to take you to its separate page and I found this to be so organized and easy to use.  This page is simple, clear, and uncluttered.
The Course of Study is useful because you can look up the subject you will be teaching, then the grade level, and everything you need to know is right before your eyes.  I was very relieved at this because I searched for Alabama Course of Study in the past and had to download it as a PDF, if I remember correctly.  ALEX has the course of study in a charted, easier to read form.  Thank God.
ALEX's Web Resources are also useful.  There are web resources like "Online Projects and Collaboration" for teachers, "Technology Funding" for Administrators, "Reference/Information Literacy" for students, as well as buttons to recommend or search for a web resource, among many other things.  There are lots of links under the web resources and these are just a few!
What about Lesson Plans? How about search by subject and grade level and see what you think. I think this could help with making sure that you're lesson plans are age appropriate; you can use theirs or compare your own alongside them just to double check.
ALEX's "Personal Workspace" allows you to create a username and login so that you can add lesson plans and teacher web pages that you can keep track of or save for later use.  You don't have to worry about bookmarks or anything; you can manage it all in this simple workspace.
Something I personally found to be very cool was the Podcast Treasury, Gallery 360.  It has podcasts on various content areas, lists top downloads, gives helpful links, and features an "Alabama Showcase".  Under the "links" section, I noticed that ALEX has a page on iTunes U!

How will ALEX help me in the future? What will ALEX mean to me as an educator?!
I especially liked that it was easy to navigate because this can save alot of time.  I can also not only use the lesson plans and supplement my own with them, but I can use the Personal Workspace to plan it all out.
I also love the Podcast Treasury.  It gave me so many ideas and I actually listened to one of them on "How to Write a Haiku" by Mrs. Hinds' Fourth Grade Class at Deer Valley Elementary.  It got me thinking about Podcasts for own students.  I then followed another link back on the Gallery 360 Alabama Podcast Treasury Page that informed me of the iChallenge Podcast Competition.  The theme is Bullying.  This actually took me back to my previous Blog Post #12 where one of the components was inspiring and motivating students.  I believe it is important to spark discussion and deep thinking on important subjects in students, especially teenagers so that they can decide their stance on something themselves before someone tells them what to think.  A subject like Bullying would be a good start since I think we would all agree that bullying is never ever a good thing.  I think it also happens more than we realize.  By getting kids to make a podcast about it, to really think on how it affects them, if they are doing this, and how they can stop the cycle of abuse, it could make a HUGE difference.  It could mean one less kid shoved in a locker, harrassed on Facebook, or teased because of their weight.  I think this is very important.
Now that I have stepped down off my soapbox, I would like to point out that ALEX's Gallery 360 has links to help with the production of a Podcast.  I could not only assign my students a Podcast, but the instructions are right in front of their noses, hard to miss.  They can follow the links "Create Your Own Podcast" and "How to Create a Podcast Submission" to get instructions on what ALEX might expect if they really wanted to win the contest.  I might also offer an incentive as their wonderful and supportive teacher. :)

I would also offer these videos to my students (and you of course) to inspire thoughts on the topic of bullying.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blog Post #14 Special Metaphor Assignment!

*Special Assigment to replace Blog Post #14* Posted on EDM310 Class Blog
Red Badge of Courage Metaphor

1. Why did you miss the metaphor in Tom Johnson's post, or, if you "hit the nail on the head", why do you think you understood the metaphor and why do you think that others in the class missed the metaphor?
2. What metaphors have you encountered since I asked you to create a log of them?
3. What other things can we do as educators to help our students to understand and to use metaphors?
4. Why do we use metaphors?

I think I missed the metaphor in Tom Johnson's post because I was interpreting it too literally. The thing is that we have so many things to read and post and comment on that a person could get burnt out and start just going through the motions. At times I am overwhlemed and the word "blog" becomes an obscene and offensive one! It's easy to get the mentality of "let me just get this over with" and not pay close attention. When you're smart and know alot of big words this burn-out can be easy to hide and no one may ever know just how sick of blogs you may be...
People use metaphors all the time. Sometimes you can't just outright say what you want to, and sometimes it's fun to see if people will pay close enough attention or are smart enough to get your hidden meaning. I have noticed that me and my friends use a lot of metaphors because someone once told one of us that "it's not gossiping if no names are named." This statement is almost completely false but we still do it satirically just for fun. For instance we call people we don't like to mention in public by random nicknames, like the things they have done to us (i.e. the air freshener thief) or even types of animals. My ex-boyfriend is known as "the donkey". Sometimes people even use metaphors to avoid hurting your feelings.

As an educator, I think it is important to convey a few things...
1) Metaphors are not always a good thing. I once had a friend who was very vague with everything he said to the point that half of it was complete nonsense to me. Make sure that your metaphor is a valid one and that it's not so far out in left field that no one will understand you.
2) To discern meaning through metaphors because people don't always say what they mean. I personally believe that in most instances in life, say what you mean and mean what you say. It may be better to hurt someone's feelings by telling the truth than by hiding something and hurting them worse later. That being said, there are some people that will never accept blame or guilt and using a metaphor could really soften the blow. You don't have to completely spell things out sometimes. Letting it be vague enough for them to interpret what you have to say however they want to see it might be doing them a favor, whether they see it that way or not.
3) That this is important because you can't always take someone for their word. If you can discern a metaphor, you can discern a lot of things. When you can see that someone means something entirely different than what they are actually saying, that raises a lot of important questions. Like...what are their real intentions?
4) Sometimes it's more creative to use hidden meaning. Some of the reasons we're still talking about writers from hundred of years ago today is because they are an enigma. Being able to look at a piece of text and discern hidden meaning can make you smarter and also a more patient or discerning reader.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Project 15: Book Trailer!

I plan on teaching English and thought that making a book trailer for something that my students might be interested in checking out at their school library would be an excellent idea! Here is my book trailer for the upcoming bestselling-novel-turned-blockbuster, Water For Elephants! I am definitely gonna have to see this movie because the book was awsome and they better not mess up this movie!!!

The song is "Time Won't Let Me Go" by The Bravery

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Progress Report on Final Project

For our Final Project, Project #16, my group members are Kristen Whitehurst and Chelsea Krail.  We have decided to come up  with our own blog about blogging! The idea is to feature "how-to's" for teachers and students just getting started with blogging by suggesting things they can add to enhance their blog and add to (and maintain) their Personal Learning Network.  We can add videos and whatnot that we have saved as projects for this class to show all that we have learned.  There will be posts on how to enhance your blog, and also on things to enhance your blog posts, like different assignments teachers can do.  We would also like for any seasoned professionals (like our very own Dr. Strange!) to comment on some of the posts to help out any teachers or students who are new to blogging.  This rapport can help jog old memories for the pro's and new ideas for those who are fresh to the experience! We have only added one post so far but here is the link!: Become a Digital Native!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blog Post #11

Kathy Cassidy's Class: Little Kids...Big Potential!
Mrs. Cassidy's Class uses their blog to communicate with other classrooms, educators, institutions, family and friends, and even within their class as well as their school. They are learning how to
It's so cute to hear them brag about the comments they have gotten from family (who are probably equally as proud), and even people they have never met. The feedback they get helps them to improve their writing and build their confidence. When you post a picture they drew on the walls of the classroom or in the school hallway, they may never hear the comments that are said about it. And when they get posted on the fridge at home, they stay there for a while before being put into a box and packed away. But when their work is posted directly to the blog, they can know what a good job they have done. They need to hear that. I think we all do. The things they post online will be there for them to look back at in the future and see how cute they were. :)
They are also learning not to post bad things. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all! So many people get into wars on facebook or post mean things on websites or blogs because they haven't been told this. There are stories on the news all the time about kids who harass, tease, or lie about other people on the internet and these actions leading to terrible things. An example needs to be set! Thank you, Mrs. Cassidy, for doing so. I can't say that because they are being taught this that they will refrain from libel but maybe if it is instilled in them this young, it will always be with them. Maybe they will think twice before hurting a fellow student's feelings or reputation. I'm not saying boys don't ever do this, but everyone knows that sometimes teenage girls can be very catty and mean to each other.
They are also learning about safety. People always tell you to use good judgement but they don't tell you how or what that is. This includes things like telling the students to use their first name, and not their last name. There is more to it than this but this is a good start. No one wants to tell them more than they need to know and spoil their innocence.
The webpage is really cool. I like that she has helpful sites for the students to access. If they need extra help with, say, math, she has easy to find resources for her youngsters to use to study or reinforce what they are learning.
Not only do they see what goes on their blog, but they are learning to make comparisons. They can compare their blog to others of their same age/grade! How cool is that? To see ways others enhance their blog, at such a young age?
They also have wikis on things like traditions, rituals, and the alphabet. They even make videos, Skype with other classrooms and even experts who otherwise they would never be exposed to. These things allow for a level of knowledge that is not limited to books, limited funds or resources, the confines of their community, etc. They can collaborate with and learn from whoever will reply back to their request and is willing to help out.
They are limited only by their imaginations! They can try being whoever they want!
They are also using Nintendo DS and the Nintendogs game. They already like playing with these portable game consoles and Nintendogs is an easy game on their level. They can practice reading and problem solving while learning to share. A fun game and a shiny toy all the kids want to play with! They learn to share and learn together. :)
StarWars Kindergarten Munchkins

Project #14 Teach Someone

Most people nowadays know how to make a PowerPoint Presentation.  Because Microsoft is king.
But Google Presentation is a very similar software offered by Google that allows you to not only create, but share, publish, or embed straight from your email.  This eliminates a few steps that can take anywhere from ten mins to an hour depending on your luck and internet connection. I thought this would be great knowledge to share.  So, if you have not mastered the art of Google Presentations, I would like to teach you a few basic helpful tips!

Here is my project:

The song is "Dayligh" by Matt & Kim and is also one of my favorites!
This is my presentation that I created as a model:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blog Post #12

As someone who is slightly obsessed with things being in their proper order, I cannot believe I am doing this.
No, really.
But I was laying around being completely unproductive in my pajamas eating wheaties when I decided I should probably do Blog Post #10 as it was currently unfinished due to my overflow of inspiration and creativity and genius, due to my ever-present and overwhelming A.D.D. The thought struck me that I could not resist.  I had been looking over the blog posts left for the semester a couple of days prior to this, and noticed that this Blog Post, #12, was one that was completely of my own design! You can imagine my fit of joy followed by a fit of self-loathing for being so darned indecisive. But, I digress.
I was inspired to add random but somehow related videos to Blog Post #10, and found such an array of enticing and inspiring choices that I could not pick just a couple and simply had to share them.  You're welcome.  :D
So, here is my assignment.  I won't take all day getting to it. For this assignment, we are to brainstorm an assignment that we feel is a good enough idea that Dr. Strange himself should have assigned it.  The things we have done and learned this semester have been wonderful, but as we are learning in this class, with technology, there is always more!  I like being able to think for myself, and would definitely let my own students do this.
The instructions for my assignment that I believe Dr. Strange should have suggested are as follows:
At this point in the semester and everyone's journey as a future educator, we should all be thinking about our philosophies as teachers.  We have watched some really great videos this semester and taken full advantage of YouTube.  I would like for you to create a YouTube playlist with videos that:
1). describe the kind of teacher you would like to be
2).show ways you can motivate your students
3). offer tips on classroom management.
4). offer tutorials on programs you have learned about in this class that you like so much you would like to use (podcast, iPods, PLN's, etc.)
5). are on topics related to your field of study; for example, if you are going to be an English Teacher, include videos about Shakespeare, poetry, novels, things of that nature.
6). describe what a good teacher is and what a bad teacher is
7). ways to improve modern education as we know it
8). have been used in other blog posts from this semester.  It could be a video you had to write about or one posted on the blog of a fellow classmate, teacher, or classroom's blog.
9). center around creativity.
10). advocate challenging, motivating, encouraging, and supporting students (but still maintaining professionalism)
Your YouTube Playlist needs to be published, and needs to be titled with your name, and EDM310 Blogpost.  You do not need to include all of these topics, but you need to include at least 5, and your playlist needs to have a MINIMUM of ten videos.  I would then like you to explain how these videos describe your teaching philosophy and relate to things you have learned in this class.  Also, what could you do with them in your teaching environment?

I even created my own playlist because good teachers teach by example. :)
In my playlist, there a few that are inspirational because, in a perfect classroom students actually have to think.    I want them to feel that inspiration, and know where to find it, what to do with it.  For example, what things inspire us most?  What things have come out of small sources of inspiration?
  I know this sounds a little too simple, but the video Think Different explains how those who dared to try new things, embrace new ideas, use their voice, etc. have made a difference and changed history.  I know it's a long shot, but someone needs to push kids and make them think, what if they were the next Steve Jobs or Einstein or Arnold Schwartzenegger the Governator, even?  You don't have to think big, just think different.
I believe the next few selections are about diversity, acceptance, inclusion, celebrating differences, and empathy.  Because, in the words of old school Sesame Street, we all sing with the same voice, the same song!   Though we may not notice our similarities, do we not all share our hope for humanity and invested interest in the common good?  To sum this up perfectly watch the super short video titled, disability means possibility.  I think this would be a great video to show to your class and then ask them to write briefly about how they could change their perception or their peers' perception of people who are different from us.
The next few videos are on creativity. This is very important to me because, by my very nature, I am a writer. I soak in new things and search for more new things constantly to talk about or write about.  The video Creativity to the Rescue examines what would happen if children were allowed to think about how the world around them could be and should be and not explicitly told this.  I would love to have an English classroom where students were encouraged to imagine themselves as characters and their own lives as autobiographies or bestsellers and think outside the box about what major plot point could happen next.  The assignment I am dying to give my students would be to re-imagine and re-write the ending of a famous story or novel.  Think of the possibilities!
This is what our students deserve!
I also added videos with tips on student teaching and that satire the daily activities in the classroom.  Who doesn't want to be prepared for what hoops and hurdles lie looming ahead?
Even with all the obstacles and red tape, I think that I can make my classroom entertaining.  Although I am the stereotypical English teacher in love with all things Jane Austen, obsessed with Victorian and also American literature, I am also creative at finding ways to make these things interesting.  The only way to accomplish this is to reach them on levels they know and understand.  The traditional practices of assigning readings and essays and book reports are in the past. Allowing them to find their own resources, form their own opinions, read educational blogs on related topics, and write in their own blog, would be much more effective, I believe.  Also, videos, podcasts, audio books, and things like that would also be great projects.  I just want everyone to love Mr. Darcy and Little Dorrit and Tom Sawyer as much as I do.  I also added videos on my favorite writers, like Charles Dickens and F. Scott Fitzgerald and many others.
 Visuals are a great help, in my opinion. Not everyone loves to read as much as I and some others do, maybe it takes getting them interested in the story and the characters, and then the words that paint that picture.  Modern technology can assist in the education and growth of our youth, and there is more out there available than videos.  I think they could be very useful when combined with blogs and podcasts and other things.Videos alone are  not an answer to our problems, but they can make us think: what other seemingly simple things can we employ to help us?  To keep the attention of our digital learners?

After spilling all of my thoughts, I leave you with this:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

You Can't Be My Teacher

C4k 4/3

Last week we had to read, comment on, and write about Mr. McClung's blog written back in May of 2009, in his first year of teaching, and this week our assignment was his current blog for his 8th grade class. Dr. Strange has found his blog to be exemplary enough that we are looking at it in great detail.  This is, in my opinion, a good idea because blogs like this are great tools with which to supplement our classrooms.  
I like that he uses his blog as a tool for educating his 8th grade history class but also, the reader feels included.  When you go to his blog, you don't feel like it is exclusively aimed at those involved with his class, his school, or his community.  He uses his blog to assist his students but also to show the different uses for a class blog to those thinking of following his example.
The way Mr. McClung's blog is set up is very user-friendly, which is important when keeping in mind that it is aimed for the use of 8th graders. Also their parents and family members are more likely to keep up with it to see what their students are learning because they can easily navigate the different posts and tabs, etc.  I also like that the posts are very visual and organized by date.  The images that accompany the posts are all striking and make the reader want to know more.  This seems like it would accomplish its job of keep 8th grade digital natives engaged and interested.  Another thing is that it is easy to keep up with.  Past assignments and posts can be easily filed to check back at later.  The tabs at the top of the page add easy accessibility to exactly what you are looking for without having to search or scroll all the way down the page.
The things that I know how to do with my own class blog are more limited than Mr. McClung's seems to be but I hope that by the end of the term I will be more advanced and will be thinking of even better uses. 
Things I do not know how to do with my blog:  The "drop shots" and the photo sharing programs, and I am also not that proficient at the html code thing but I am getting there and hope to one day have a very  impressive blog that I can one day use as a resume when it comes time for me to apply for a job as a teacher. :)
Mr. McClung's students make use of his blog to broadcast what they are learning.  They can post pictures, videos, etc. as evidence of their progress or they can publish their opinions, speak up about what they want to learn and speak out about how they feel about it. His students can also keep up with the comments they are receiving on his blog wall.
Not only can his students interact with his blog, but outsiders can as well.  I have heard of school websites that had an exclusive blog that users had to sign in to get to and was aimed at only those who were a part of that school district.  Mr. McClung's blog is one that is aimed at the rest of the world being available to his students to learn from.  Users can leave them a comment, donate, watch the videos, listen to the music his class is listening to, online chat with Mr. McClung about his class or their projects, and much more! It is easy to get involved and learn things that you can apply to your own blog. Parents can easily keep track of what their students have submitted and commented, and so can administrators, for grading purposes.  
His 8th grade blog differs from other blogs because he equally balances between assignments and extracurricular things like their projects with Susan G. Komen for the cure.  He also thanked our class for our participation and involvement with his blog! I actually felt like we were really involved! Thank you to Mr. McClung and your class for allowing us to be involved with your learning! 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blog Post #10

1. Morgan Bayda
Morgan Bayda is a teacher in Saskatchewan who writes openly about her philosophy on education and her experiences as a teacher. In her blog post she talks about Dan Brown and his decision to drop out of school because "his schooling was interfering with his education" and how this is a direct example of how schools in North America are still using the same "model of schooling" that was created long ago by the "dominant classes".
To start off, watching the video first sets one up to understand Morgan's arguments and laments.
I agree with the questions Dan Brown brings up like..
"What does it mean to receive an education?"
And his arguments like the one about the value of information are very thought provoking. Only kings were in possession of the holy chalice known as knowledge, a right peasants and those less elite were excluded from. Information, knowledge, and education were bargaining chips, assets that kept the less fortunate in the dark and under the crushing and degrading heel of the powerful and the enlightened. To hoard knowledge and information was to stay in power, in control, and on top of the world.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail's King Arthur and subjects

As time went on, the value of information progressively plummeted as it was made available to those of "lesser status", thus limiting the value of information even further.  Information went from being highly exclusive to simply being limited, available to those with enough resources to afford it.  Enter the internet and the advent of information changed radically.  Even the most remote and less connected of learners have access to information that can change their fate. The revolution that happened in information was when it became entirely free to everyone.  Education, however, has not seemed to have taken advantage of this, and, well, really has not changed.  Adopting a few new assets like Blackboard and SmartBoard alone are not the answer if students are still not engaged, interacting, communicating, interacting with their expanding world, and synthesizing this now free information.  Dan Brown talks about the "scribbling down" and "memorization" of facts that made up most of his college courses, then makes the statement that "society no longer cares about facts."  Facts are free! Anyone with a computer can find facts. "Education isn't about teaching facts" he says.  Well, I happen to agree.  I am tired of being bombarded with information that I have to download into my brain.  In a perfect world, education would consist of..
Media and Technological resources
And not facts.

The most real statement for me was when he said: "We are in the midst of a very real revolution, and if institutional education refuses to adapt to the information age, it will die, and it should die."

I never really thought about it, but, when studying history in the past, higher education was something attained by those with money and titles. An education was valuable because very few people were fortunate to have much of one. When you think about it, the institute of education is still based on the same principles of the past, and does not accommodate everyone. Morgan alludes to this by contrasting classrooms with relevant learning and those that do not make use of this.  Some things she advocates to facilitate learning I agree with, like:
class Nings
I have also found that digital forums like this and many others have changed the way I research.  Not only do I save time, but I am more open to researching and finding out new things and finding sources for assignments because I know I can find exactly what I am looking for.

2. Adventures in Pencil Integration: Don't Let Them Take the Pencils Home
As a future English teacher and lover of Literature, I compare things to literary terms.  I see the literary elements in the most surprising of things.  This, however, is not surprising.  One expects to find something akin to decent literature in a blog.  I thought that was sort of, well....the point.
Anyway, we have been learning about not only the use of technology in education, but much more than that! How lovely it is too finally see the contrast actually materialize.
Do you know what those are?
You hold them in your hand, connect them to paper, what comes out is not quite as exciting as a pen or a crayon?
BUT, thinking back to my younger days, they gave us pencils because they had erasers.  We had free range to experiment with our letters and numbers and 'rithmetic and such because whatever we got wrong we could start all over. I, however, used mine to go around the room erasing everything I could get my hands on because apparently that was more fun to me than the alphabet. So that eraser thing may or may not be the pencil's strong suit. Depending on whether the child has problems following instructions or not...
But, in educator John T. Spencer's blog , he talks about pencils. He gives his students pencils to take home and is met with arguments from almighty administration that range anywhere from the pencils negatively affecting test scores to the children's low-income status to how what the students do with these pencils can be accurately measured.  I like that Spencer not only does what he feels is right, but has the foresight and understanding of his students to know how to make counter-arguments to defend his philosophy.  He knows why he has chosen to do what he has, and doesn't let heat from faculty alter his view.  He also sees that just because no one knows what the students are using the pencils for at home (to play hangman, draw a masterpiece, write a story, to practice their bubbling for "drill-and-kill" tests), it is not standard anymore.  Just like kids aren't the score they make on a standardized test.  We should let them decide what simple things mean to them, how they can make use of them, what move to make next.  A pencil is a good start because what real loss can we experience with something that costs less than a quarter?  Think about all the creative minds that stand to gain from such basic freedom...