Thursday, November 20, 2014

Edublogger: The Value of Losing

I recently read a post by edublogger Elonga Hartjes in which she wrote about losing at sports can help children's emotional intelligence (you can find it here). She spoke on how kids' emotional intelligence can grow in a number of ways through losing, three of which are "managing one's own impulses, having empathy for others, and communicating effectively." Upon reading the whole post I felt that I could not agree more. As someone who grew up playing sports, I feel like I have had my fair share of learning experiences through losing at sports. Granted, I didn't lose all the time, but I didn't win all the time either.

The gist of Ms. Hartjes's post reminded me of something many of my coaches growing up said, "You learn more about yourself in a lose then you do in a win." It seems the sentiment of growing from a lose is pretty prevalent in the sporting world, but I am not so sure it is in education. Many students get upset with a bad test grade, but I don't know if they take the time to look in address where they went wrong in a more metacognitive sense, thus a student might not grow in emotional intelligence. Perhaps learning from failure is more prevalent in the sporting world because at every practice an athlete is doing the something. For example, a quarterback knows that tomorrow at practice and at the game on the weekend he is going to be throwing a football. He deals with the same content week in and week out. In this sense an athlete can focus in a more metacognitive nature because the only thing variable is how he or she reacts. A student however is presented with new content almost everyday. In this situation the content is constantly changing giving the student less mental breathing room to instinctively look back at their approach to the content as an athlete would. With this thinking I conclude by believing in the importance of metacognition for a student, something that has been stressed in my teacher training program.

So, with this being said I think about how we can bring this attitude more fully into the classroom. One could allow for retake tests or things of the nature, but does a retake test get to the crux of an issue on metacognition? I don't think it necessarily does. How would a teacher incorporate building metacognition into something like a test retake? Maybe the answer is to implement building metacognition into everyday teaching, but most of what I have learned on teaching metacognition deals with things like reading and writing. How can it be incorporated into losing in the classroom? These are the things I wonder.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tech in My Placement

When looking into the technology that is present at my placement I found a good amount of things that were available. There are three things though that are used the most in my experience thus far in my placement though. These are computers, laptops, and LCD projectors.

Every teacher at my school is given a Mac Book. It is not their's to keep, but they get to use it for pretty much whatever they want and can take it home at the end of the day. It is unlike when I was in high school. Back then, all the teachers in my school had a desktop computer in their classroom that was essentially theirs. I think the situation at my placement school is much better. With the Mac Books everything is streamlined for the teachers. Instead of having to do school work on a desktop which can't leave the school, teachers can do everything in one place. There are also old desktop Apple computers in some classes, but I have never seen one turned on.

Students have access to laptops as well. These are also Mac Books, but they can not leave the school with a student. They are brought into class when the teacher checks them out and then students can use them how the teacher wants them to. For Example, earlier this week my mentor teacher checked out a laptop cart so that students could write the bibliographies for research projects they have recently completed. In addition to the laptop carts there are also traditional computer labs at my placement. My mentor teacher and I have already taken our classes to the computer lab multiple times, and when we take them it is usually for research purposes. The students really seem to enjoy using both laptops and the computer lab too.

The third major piece of technology that is present at my placement is LCD projectors. I feel that without these the teaching process at my placement might be much more time consuming. I say this because the projectors are used for a majority of lessons in my classes. They allow for easy presentation of content and even provide an easy avenue for bell work because a picture or quote can go straight on the board. Without the projectors the teachers would have to do everything by hand on the board. This would be very hard for me because I am still learning how to write on a white board well. I am actively trying to get better especially because I am left handed. Projectors take a majority of this writing out of the equation though. Overall, technology present in my placement is a big help for day to day activity, and I am grateful for it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tech Tools in Use

In addition to some great presenters, in 504 we have been learning about some interesting tech tools that can be used in the classroom. Of the tools we learned about may be the most interesting to me. Padlet is a virtual board on the internet that you can post a variety of things to, and if you don't know about it it is worth checking out. A couple of weeks after I learned about Padlet I realized that my mentor teacher was planning on using Padlet in a history class herself too.

As a history teacher, I think Padlet could come in handy in a couple ways. One way is how my mentor teacher uses it. In a current history class, my mentor is having students gather a few articles from each month of 2014 to eventually be used to write a "year in" paper on the topic of their choosing. Padlet is utilized as the space where students will put all of the articles they find. Student Padlets can then be shared with my mentor teacher so she can observe their articles. So Padlet can be a unique way to gather sources. Another way a history teacher could use Padlet is to generate discussion. For example, a teacher could put up a news story for students to read and then the students could be made to comment on the story by posting text to the Padlet. The same could be done to analyze a historical picture, whether it be a painting or picture of a political rally. In general, a Padlet could also be used as a class website for a teacher. You could put maps, articles, formula charts, or poetry. Can you think of any other ways Padlet could be used as a teacher?

Another aspect of Padlet that I really like is the possible customization of it. You can put just about anything on it. You can change your background as well. It reminds me of all the time I spent in high school customizing my Myspace layout. Padlet, like a Myspace layout, can be a source of creativity for both the student and teacher. You can create something that you can be proud of aesthetically and academically. This could be a great source of engagement and motivation for a student.

Because a fresh Padlet is so bare-bones it may take some thinking at first, but Padlet has many possibilities. I think this is the strongest thing Padlet has going for it. It is really up to the owner of a Padlet to make it flourish.

504 Guest Presenter: David Theune

This semester we have had some awesome presenters in 504, we had Tom Ward and his use of video in the class room and Liz Kolb with an overview of BYOD/BYOT. However, I am going to blog about David Theune. David was the first presenter of the semester, but he interested me the most with his ideal of using audience in the classroom.

Use of audience in the classroom for David stemmed off the idea of rubrics. If anyone has been in school long enough they will understand what a rubric is. It can be the bane of an assignment or the lifeline that you hold onto to assure yourself you will get a good grade. I have experienced both emotions in the presence of a rubriced assignment. They would cause me stress when I felt they called for too much, but when I was too lost when trying to finish an assignment the rubric served as my blueprint. The idea of a rubric as a blueprint seemed to be where David decided that an audience should be in a classroom. He mentioned that whenever he gave a rubric that called for, say three similes in an essay, he would without fail get three similes, but never more. This is where the audience comes in. Instead of a rubric, David suggested implementing an audience. Instead of working towards the bottom line, students would then work to make sure that they looked good in front of an audience when presenting an assignment. Previously, this was not something I even thought about.

Sure, you could say that there is in a sense always an audience for an assignment. However, I think that with a rigid rubric most students wouldn't think about the audience, their classmates, for a presentation. They would instead be thinking about whether or not the teacher would notice that they hit every part of the rubric. In contrast though, by stressing the audience, be it classmates, parents, or the community at large, the student will then work towards making sure that they deliver quality work in front of the audience. Nobody wants to look bad in front of people. In the future I will definitely be willing to try such a thing in my classes.

My only reserve to such an idea would be students that would willingly not try hard to complete work in relation to content. What I mean by this is, what about the class clown that only wants to get up there to make his classmates laugh? Will he or she truly work towards content or will they just focus on the laughs?  Thinking to myself though, this is a situation in which implementing another audience besides classmates would come in handy. Would that same student be willing to crack wise if they had to do it in front of their parents? In the end an emphasis on the audience the assignment will meet is a quite engaging idea. One that perhaps could add a lot more motivation in a student to perform as well as they can.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Connections Across the Disciplines

Today I am going to talk about the Connections Across the Disciplines lesson plan of my classmates Sarah, Jesse, Wilbur, and Sara which they titled "BYOD-to-Discover-Tree-Species." After reading this lesson plan the first thing that stood out to me was the physical activity involved in the lesson. I commend this because, like my classmates said, it moves away from the traditional way that students would learn about biology. I don't remember doing anything like this in any of my science classes while I was in high school, and I think this caused me to be less interested in science then I could have been at the time. The only reservation I would have about going outside to observe different species in nature would be the access the school has to green spaces. During the summer at Scarlett Middle School we were fortunate enough to be very close to a forest, but an urban school would have a much harder time in finding an accessible green space. However, this could be remedied by setting up a field trip or by the teacher bringing in samples of species to class.

Another thing I thought was good about this lesson plan was the way that technology was implemented. First off, groups of students only need to use one phone with a built in camera which keeps in mind that some students my not have one. They also suggest an app that can be used to identify species. This is good because not only are the student learning about different species in nature but they are also learning how to use technology both for learning and in general. Learning how to use technology is important because moving forward society will most likely continue to use technology more and more, thus students will need to know how to use technology to optimally function in society.

As far as the progression of the lesson, I like how it starts with bellwork that puts students in the right frame of mind for what they will be doing in class. Furthermore, I think the mini-lesson starting with the broad question of what a species is is beneficial as well because it is a large open-ended question. However, the mini-lesson does not stray from what the point of the lesson is, to learn and identify tree species, because the next step focuses specifically on the parts of a tree.

Overall, I think this would be a good lesson. It made me think about ways that I could take a history class outside, or at least connect their surroundings to history. For example, I could take students on a field trip to a historical site so that they could interact with it. If this is not an option I could tell students of places that holds historical significance around town and have them visit it for homework and then research it further. The possibilities are nearly endless when you take learning outside of the classroom.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Organizing Your Online Life

Overall, I think the Organizing Your Online Life activity was very informative. For starters, I did not even know what EndNote and Blendspace even were. Between these two programs I think that Blendspace will be more useful. Through it you can create lesson plans online and send them to your students. I am all for anything that can help me make a better lesson. However, I am not sure of the practicality of it. Yes, it aides in creating lessons, but I am not sure if it is as productive as just doing a normal lesson in class with a PowerPoint. With Blendspace all the students would need a computer to really get the full effect of the program. But, if I wanted to have students complete a lesson over the weekend it would come in very handy.

EndNote can be useful as well, but it is used for organizing things and I already have a way to organize myself. Furthermore, EndNote has a lot going happening on the screen at one time and I do not really like the clutter of it. I do think that the ability to sync it with your phone through an app is very cool though.

In the end though I think the third program that was part of the activity, Google Drive, will be the most useful for me going forward as a teacher. The capability to share files on it with anyone as long as you have their email is huge, plus I can continue to use Microsoft Word because I can upload file to Google Drive too. I also really like all the different kinds of files you can make such as presentations and spreadsheets. Making presentations on Google Drive has been useful to me in the past. Especially when me and my presentation partners are editing the file because we can all edit it at the same time.

It was awesome learning about these different programs, and if I forget anything about them I can always refer to the handout that was given to me by my group.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Viking Quest

I read the James Paul Gee piece for class and found a new appreciation for video games and their teaching capabilities, even games that do not really stress factual information. After reading that I went to the BBC interactive game website and searched for a game to play while thinking about how it could help someone learn. I decided on Viking Quest. The premise of this game is to go on a journey to a monastery which you then raid for your chief in an effort to obtain a prize from him. It sounds simple, but there are many different choices that you have to make along the way.

First you have to decide if you want to take a loan to build your ship. Here  the gamer is being taught about monetary actions, something useful for nearly everyone in the world. There is also an aspect of geography in the game as you have to decide where to settle along with which sea route to take to the monastery. The game also shows how Vikings built ships and the possible crew members that would go on the journey with you. And before you leave on your journey you pray to the Viking gods so the gamer also learns a little about the Viking religion.  

Its fun because the game allows you to have the power to make most of the decisions for your journey. What is even better for learning though is that the game holds you accountable for your decisions too. For example, I actually lost the game because my raiding haul was too small and I burned down the monastery before I left. The chief sent me off to go work on a cod fishing boat as punishment too. I could have done much better in the game and next time I play I will have a better idea about how to go about a successful journey. 

In the end this game is very informational. It shows you historical and cultural aspects of the Vikings and it has you make life decisions such as how to use money. Probably not all games are as informational as Viking Quest because it is put together by the BBC, but after playing this game I can see more how video games can be a helpful learning tool for people.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Smarter Balanced

To begin, I like the idea that Smarter Balanced is working towards. It has some merit in finding ways to make sure that students are career and college ready. However, it does not take into account the social aspect of a student's education. After reading Dewey and through what I have learned in my other classes, by leaving out the social aspect of education you hurt the student in many regards moving into the future. It is great that Smarter Balanced wants to make sure students are ready for a job or college, but how can a student be successful in a job or college if they do not have the necessary social skills?

Also if this is the kind of standardized test that is for the future it brings up some issues, many of which were brought up in class today. For example, the fact that the test is on the computer can be a problem for some students. I was fortunate enough to have a few typing classes while in school, but if another student has not had these classes just articulating a quality answer in the time provided can be an issue. In turn I as a teacher can be evaluated on the scores from these tests. If a student can not type well enough to give a good answer is that fair? This reminds me somewhat of how people have brought forth the thought that some tests can be culturally biased towards the dominant culture of society. Say you have a student who's family recently immigrated from another country and that student has to be tested on their reading comprehension through a text about the US Civil War. They are not going to be able to do as well on this as native students simply because they have not been taught this content their whole life. The same goes for a student that does not have a computer at home yet is required to take a test that is done solely through the computer.

Another issue that compounds off the last one in a sense is how the test is laid out. There was a lot going on on the screen, and it was frustrating at times trying to navigate it all. Furthermore, the way questions were answered did not have a lot of continuity. Both of these coupled with the possibility that a student might not have regular access to a computer can make a test that much harder for a student. So, while finding a proper way to assess students comprehension is an important issue, I feel that it can be done better than how Smarter Balanced is currently trying.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I was very intrigued by what Dewey had to say. To me it felt like he was part of the MAC program in a sense. For one, Dewey was constantly bringing up the community in relation to the student in his My Pedagogic Creed. Dewey thought of school as part of the student's life in the community. He also thought that the student should in some ways be guided by the community. All of this talk of community fits in with what we have been learning in 649 about the framework of sustainability. This idea of the relating the student to the community also brings up the thought that education does not happen solely in school.

Dewey also wrote about how school life grows from home life. This relates to what we have been learning about in other classes in the sense that a student's parents involvement in their academic life is important. From what I gathered from Dewey, the home life of a student is basically the starting point of a child's educational process. Of course with time the educational system takes the bulk of a child's educational process, but it begins with the family and the importance of it is kept alive by the family. I say this because in our other classes we have learned of the importance of parent engagement in a student's academic career. If a parent is at home helping and encouraging their child's academic career the child will be better for it in most cases.

One final thing that stood out to me while I was reading Dewey was how he said that "school must represent present life." To me this brings up the thought that teachers have to find a way to present curriculum to students that will make it personally engaging. As a history teacher I can talk all day about a war, but I if do not show students how it is affecting them in the here and now it will most likely go over their head because it is not interesting.