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A term in review… April 7, 2009

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So I am at the end of my tech exploration for my Masters course. It does not seem that long ago that I began this blog and course. I thought as one of my last posts I would briefly explore my successes and shortfalls. Notice that I do not say failures as it is my strong belief that I am not done with technology and exploring those things that did not work. I firmly believe that I have not failed with any technology. I believe that I have not successfully found where and when I can best use it. With more time and thought I believe everything that I tried can successfully be used. I simply must find the appropriate time. Simply adding technology into the class is not the solution. It must be thought out to be successfully integrated where all educational partners benefit from the experience.

Successes

Perhaps my biggest success has been my Classroom Blog. Here I have had many compliments from students and parents alike for this resource. Students find it useful to make reference to it for upcoming tests/assignments and for downloading misplaced study sheets/assignments. Parents have found it useful as a communication tool to talk with their sons/daughters regarding their educational experience

Google Docs has been a pleasant surprise as a resource for my Law 30 students. With group work and sharing of assignments forgotten thumb drives, blocked email, and locked lockers have been a troublesome problem over the past few years with the Law 30 Newspaper Manual. With Google Docs this barrier seems to have been removed. Each class there seems to be more and more students adopting its use (not only for my class but others as well).

Connecting to students. Technology has brought a new world to me that today’s students seem to be at home in. As students see me interacting with technology and using vocabulary that they are familiar with a new “respect” seems to be emerging for us. Though we are not connecting in the traditional “Web 2.0” world, it seems to be happening within the classroom. Is Web 2.0 simply a virtual landscape, or can it be on the physical realm as well?

Professional Learning Communities/Networks. Though I have not yet mastered social connecting tools such as Twitter, I have found a new life in sharing ideas, resources, and technology with others both virtually and in the physical setting. I am consistently talking technology and its various uses with my VP. We seem to compliment one another in our views on such topics, pushing one another to explore other ways in using technology that separately we have not thought of. Within our PLCs the Social Science department at Carpenter has struggled to find a common goal all year. Last PLC we discovered technology and I found myself as leading a sort of technological birth within the Social Science department. The department has embraced Blogs & Wikis as a technological tool to reach students/parents on a whole new level.

Comfort level. I find myself willing to take chances now with technology. Though I was a little comfortable before [this course], I rarely ever took chances or time to look for new innovative ways of using technology within the classroom. This class has done that. Instead of passively waiting to have someone show me a new technology, I am actively seeking it out.

Shortfalls

Twitter: I have yet to tap this resource fully as I have not had the time to explore it on any in-depth level. I have found some useful sites from it and feel that it has more to offer and in time it might.

Podcasting/Videos/VoiceThread: Both of these technologies intrigue me and I see much potential in using them as most students seem to be comfortable with these technologies. Perhaps using them to create “Historical Minutes” reviewing aspects of Canadian history (like CBC Heritage minutes) would be a fun process combining technology and studies. Podcasting and VoiceThreads could be used to give students a voice from the traditional written journal entries that I do in class. Definitely these reach out to those students (like me) that hate to express themselves in written word.

Student Blogs. I have attempted to use these in my Work Exploration course. With some students they have worked and for some they have not. The main reason for this seems to be a digital divide between town students and rural students. With more thought about how best to implement this I believe it could be a huge turning point to connect students to the online world.

Final Thoughts

With time and effort, when all the Masters craziness ends I believe technology and its use will carry on within the classroom. Its use is assured, just in what venue to best adapt it to is the remaining question. With my PLN and my comrades within the Community Based Masters course and my friends within EC & I 831 I think we will be there to support and push one another into Web 2.0 and beyond (Web 3.0). This has been a most positive adventure that has many returns associated with it.

It has begun… January 31, 2009

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Yesterday in my Work Exploration class I introduced the world of blogging to my six students.  As I have made reference to before I am doing this to stay connected with them during their work placement.  In my talks with other previous W.E. teachers they sometimes feel disconnected from their students when they are out in the field.  He likewise asked them to reflect upon a series of questions to hand in the week after their placement.  However this was hit and miss with who would remember to stop on by and drop them off because they get so used to not going to “class” when they don’t have to.

One thing I have enjoyed during this Masters program is the self-reflection I have done.  I think this should be an integral part of the W.E. program and something I have espoused over the last two days to the students.  So taking what the previous teacher did I hope technology, through blogging, will help increase the odds of these students to self-reflect.  His return rate was about 33% so I hope I can increase that.  After each week they are to blog about some of the aspects of their learning/job to share with myself and each other.  These questions are pre-set and they were given to the on Friday.  I have subscribed to them via Google Reader and one student has already written a comment about herself blogging.  Woohoo!  Hopefully this catches on.

It was an interesting experience on Friday as I led them through the setup of Blogger for each and every one of them.  Most were cool with the idea but there was one that was reticent about using it.  I could not help but think was this what I was like when I started.  Cautious about change, fearful of the unknown, uncomfortableness with technology.  I gave him some kind words of support and offered to just try it out and see what happens.  Once completing the sign up and setting up the Blog they began to explore and have some fun with add-ons.  One thing I did notice is even in the student that was not embracing it right away, which is fine with me, how comfortable with technology they all were.  Quite a different perspective from my own experiences with more mature students…lol.

I find it ironic how the wheel comes full circle with me (yes me) teaching technology.  Reminds me of a quote from a favourite film.  “When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.”

Teaching an old dog… January 13, 2009

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One of the largest changes I have seen in myself, since taking two undergraduate technology courses, is my willingness to try new things.  This week showcases two examples of this nicely.

  • Firstly this Blog.  I am familiar with blogging on many levels and have done a fair amount of blogging for various reasons (courses, general reflections, and school).  In this first assignment for this course we were asked to create a Blog that would be a running account of our experiences with technology.  I could have simply gone back to my standard (Blogger) account and recycle a previous Blog; however I chose to explore a new site (WordPress).  This simply act of trying something new is a large step for me as I tend to be a creature of habit.  However, where is the learning in that?  Just recycling thoughts is not new, it’s a way to remain stagnant.  This simple act exposes me to new challenges that will lead to growth.
  • The second event this week was trying out Windows Movie Maker.  Next week’s assignment is to create a movie about myself and post it online.  I have never ever opened this program before in my many years of using computers.  So I sat down Saturday morning, as Kevin and Sean were watching Power Rangers, and started tinkering around with it.  I can’t believe how much fun I had.  I explored inserting text, music, titles, etc.  It did not always work but it challenged me to problem solve why didn’t it.  Before I would have just given up and forgotten about it.  The video was cheesy but after showing it to my boys and playing around with the sound, making my voice slow and then fast (great for chipmunk voices), the boys were laughing hard.  This just encouraged me to play more.  I added in them singing after the credits.  What started off as a cheesy “this is a test” movie ended with a minute long song number from the boys that we have watched every day since.  Will this impact me as a teacher?  Yes.  I can see having fun with this relating to students on another level as ideas begin swimming around in my head.  I think more importantly I can have some fun with my boys and show them that not only can daddy learn, but maybe teach them some things too.