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.