Steph's Blog

Educational Insight

Pearson’s Poptropica..finally I have some information December 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — stephb01 @ 1:09 am

For the first time I finally have some information about the phenomenon that is Poptropica. When I taught 3rd grade last year I noticed soooo many students had accounts and wanted to play it all the time. I had no clue what in the world it was until I finally relented and let a student log on. From there I saw them create characters and travel through various worlds as everything from Romans to pirates. The appeal from what I gathered was the same appeal I have to Warcraft. You create your own character and travel through various places to unlock things. I had also started to notice that my colleagues were all for letting students play the game. Some deemed it scholarly in that the students were playing in worlds that were similar to historical  places. Being the gamer and teacher that I am, I thought to myself “You’ve got to be kidding me. They’re learning nothing from this. This is a more social thing than learning thing.”

Then I found this article on the OLDaily blog: “Underneath Pearson’s Poptropica”. First of all I was surprised that the maker of the game was the same company that brings us all such joy with manuals and textbooks. The post stated the one thing I was already figuring:

“The biggest reason Poptropica is popular in public school – DET have not yet banned it – its accessible. Kids are playing it.”

The key is “DET have not banned it”. In the case of many schools, there isn’t a formal technology curriculum and it’s up to most classroom teachers to deliver instruction. Many decide that since this game appears to just have so much technology; it’s ok for students to log on and play it the entire computer lab time. The article went on from there to discuss the lack of educational value in the game. Also, it was interesting that the author addressed the social gaming aspect of it. Players are able to play with friends and chat with them. I caution my students heavily about this sort of thing since they are merely 9 or 10 years old. If they know for sure it is their friend, then it is acceptable to play with them. However, if you do not know the person do not speak to them as if you do and for now just don’t speak really to anyone that you don’t already know. I plan on sharing this post with teachers at my school because they need to know this game is not as valuable as they make it out to be.

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Is it relevant anymore? December 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — stephb01 @ 10:12 pm

I found a blog about called “On Connectivism” by Leigh Blackall. In the post Blackall discusses that education is disconnected culture. She wrote that we should be looking at the practices of marketing because they seem to be immersed in culture and keep people’s attention. Blackall also looked at some of the most used sites for information like Wikipedia and found no voices for education. I found her statement about education to be very true:

“There have been a long and barren relationship between education and popular culture for over a century now.”

I have to agree becaue I feel like when I teach it isn’t connecting because it doesn’t relate to their life outside of the classroom. Not to mention, we teach subjects disconnected when in the real world everything goes together. I may teach how to follow a recipe during reading block, how to measure ingredients during math, and what happens when you mix ingredients in science, but never actually do all those things at once like one would in reality. Then there’s the use of technology and gadgets. The children love them, but we don’t use them…granted it can be rather expensive, but still the simplest of things could make the biggest difference. I almost feel like in education we shun popluar culture.

Blackall goes on in the article to make another key point about the disconnect education has from society:

“is what I am doing even relevant anymore? what is my new relationship to this culture – if it becomes dominant in my society?” Journalism has asked itself, the entertainment industry has asked itself, the retail sector has itself, the government arena is asking itself, why not the education sector? So far, too few of us are asking these questions, fewer still are exploring answers.

I wonder every day if what I’m doing is relevant. We’re suppose to be preparing these children for their future. In the world right now the use of technology is booming like crazy, but my district has no formal computer class for students to participate in. Therefore, I feel like some of them will grow up to be brilliant individuals, but life is going to be harder on them since their preparation for life left out a major tool. I don’t understand why a teacher can complain that cursive needs to be taught from 3rd grade through 5th grade and suddenly we teach cursive 3rd through 5th, but I say “Hey they need to know how to type well, to.” and everyone looks at me like I’m an idiot. Writing in cursive is not as relevant to them as it was to us. I feel like we prepare students for their future using the ways we were prepared for our own and we have got to stop that because they deserve to be prepared in ways that benefit them. I think it all starts with getting on board and using the tools available to put ourselves into the culture. At some point, people would catch on and education would have the chance to mean something again.

 

Pretty Much The Best Blog I’ve Ever Read! December 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — stephb01 @ 11:37 pm

I have read blogs and blogs and more blogs, even before this class. However, this one to me personally was the best one I’ve come across. It doesn’t really discuss using tools and taking classes or teaching really…just the reality of how our new found ways of technology to communicate impacts humanity. The blog is called “Are online social networks a net gain for humanity?” by Gardner Campbell. I suggest that everyone read it.

In the post, Gardner talks about how he was asked to give his insight about a blog that was posted praising the massacre at Ft. Hood. His response:

“My answer in the interview was that the question about online social networks was really a question about civilization. Whenever people communicate or collaborate, the potential for good or ill is magnified. The Internet magnifies the magnification exponentially, yes, and the difference in degree may yield a difference in kind, but at bottom we’re still dealing with people and culture and communication.”

Pretty powerful answer if you ask me. Before the internet one would have to stay up late to watch the news, listen to the radio, or read it in the newspaper the following day. Now, the news is told as the story unfolds and everyone has a story, an opinion, or conspiracy.

Gardner goes on to discuss the second time he was asked about the increasing amount of communication out there. I thought the question this time around was really great. It was:

“Is it a good thing that with these tools we expose so much more of ourselves to so many more folks? Who knows?”

Gardner’s answer..even better. He talks about how many people believe we are going to end up being a “global village”. We will go back to knowing everything about everyone just as people in a village or even small town do. The he quotes John Donne who said:

“..in Paradise we will be like books in a library “lying open to each other,” reading each other into being in a kind of infinite fellowship.”

How interesting is that? At the same time, we’re somewhat there with the use of social networking. We can blog our thoughts for others to read that we don’t know, but probably share the same beliefs as. On things like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace we have the ability to keep in touch no matter where in the world we are. Some may ask “Why not just pick up the phone and call?” Well, my answer is: I don’t always have to time to call. I don’t know if the other person is busy or home or anything else. By using these sites I can send messages, comment on photos, and sort of be a part of their life.

My most favorite thing of the entire post  is at the very end in bold lettering (I’m not emotional, but I am very close to a lot of people in my life..so this brought tears to my eyes):

“But I’m also optimistic because we experience so little of each other in a lifetime. Even with loved ones, we have very little time and opportunity for deep communion. If there’s a way to transcend time and space and the busyness of each day and know each other in greater depth, breadth, or both, I’m willing to give that a try and see where it leads.”

We should feel thankful to have the communications we have. There are of course those who use it for the wrong reasons, but when you look at the bigger picture you can see that it has brought most of us closer together. The businessman who has to leave his family for a meeting in another state can video conference with his kids and tell them goodnight. The solider in the middle of a war zone can walk in a tent and look on a screen to see his wife and newborn baby that he wasn’t there for the birth of and they can see him. He can also talk to them. Other soldiers can go in and see their families and friends. It means a lot. Not everyone had that opportunity nor does everyone have that opportunity now. We can work together on a global level to cure diseases with little constraint on time. There will always be chaos in this world, but maybe with even better technology communication we can try to contain it and enjoy the good people in the world more.

 

If you gotta create it, then why not make money from it? November 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — stephb01 @ 10:44 pm

OlDaily posted an interesting article in the NY Times titled “Selling Lesson Plans Online, Raises Cash and Questions” about the growing business of teachers selling their lesson  plans online. I am somewhat familiar with this business because I do have a Scholastic account and often find some resources on Teachers Pay Teachers that I want to use. Personally, if someone has already created a resource or lesson that is similar to what I have in mind, then why should I have to reinvent the wheel. I don’t see any harm in teachers making extra money off of things they create and use with their own classes.

The article from the Times stated from Robert N. Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

“To the extent that school district resources are used, then I think it’s fair to ask whether the district should share in the proceeds,”

Seriously? Districts should get a share of the proceeds? I’m not sure what their district provides, but in so many cases if a teacher has to create a certain lesson it’s because the district either hasn’t provided the resources or the resources are horrible. I do in a sense see their point if the teacher is using materials that were purchased with school funds, but still I know when I go looking it’s because of the thousands of dollars in basals and materials I have it doesn’t always match core content.

Another statement was given as well in regards to selling lessons:

“Teachers swapping ideas with one another, that’s a great thing,” he said. “But somebody asking 75 cents for a word puzzle reduces the power of the learning community and is ultimately destructive to the profession.”

In my opinion there is a difference in swapping ideas and literally giving someone your lesson and resources. I do think .75 cents for a word search is rather ridiculous considering you can make your own at Puzzlemaker on Discovery Education. However, it isn’t about the word searches and puzzles for most teachers. There are many teachers who want to buy good quality units or resources because they may not know exactly how to approach a subject. I don’t think it takes the creativity out of the teacher rather it gives the teacher time to extend on the lesson or prepare for another lesson that might be more difficult. I use other peoples’ PowerPoints all the time. There are districts that have our entire Trophies reading series online complete with Vocab. PowerPoint, SmartNotebook fill-in the blank, Spelling words, and games. Of course I use it and it’s free!

Overall, we can share in ways now that benefit not just our students, but us as well. Given all the testing and other insignificant petty things that go with teaching it’s nice to just find something to use without having to put a great deal of time in to creating it.

 

Amazing to Normal November 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — stephb01 @ 8:11 pm

There was a great article I came across on the Cool Cat Teacher Blog titled “From Amazing to Normal”. In the post,  Vicki Davis responds to the following comment made by Chris Beltcher, another blogger. The post stated:

“It’s time to stop being so “amazed” at things that are just part of the technological and cultural landscape of life in the 21st century.  It’s not “amazing” that computers can edit video, manage numbers or manipulate digital images. It’s not “amazing” that mobile phones can stream live video or GPS your current position.  It’s not “amazing” that you can make phone calls to the other side of the planet at no cost…”

Upon reading this myself, I was agreeing with Beltcher because I’m somewhat of a techno geek versus the rest of the teachers I work with. I get AMAZED by their amazement of things. When several of them received a projector, Smart Airliner, document camera, and voice magnifier, it was as if they had been given the most amazing things ever. I had already been spoiled with these things my first year teaching in Arizona. Actually, when I returned to Kentucky and only had an overhead projector I wanted to cry because I wasn’t really sure how to teach with it. This year I gained back all my equipment, but it wasn’t amazing to me..it was all the tools I needed to teach. So, I can definitely understand his point. There are some things that need to make the transition from “amazing” to just a part of life. 

After stating the post from his blog, Vicki Davis wrote her own response. It was after reading hers that I realized why the amazement exists and why it is vital. Davis discussed that the amazement is a good thing because people are willing to try something new and you have to start somewhere. She even mentions being amazed by her own iTouch because she didn’t always have one. I’m personally amazed by my iPhone because everything I need to do online I’m pretty much able to do on there, plus talk, and listen to music. I also get amazed at what MySpace and Facebook has brought to the world. When I lived away from home those two sites made me feel a little better. I even found my cousin from Michigan on MySpace that I had not spoken to since I was like 10! It is hard for me to even think of my life before I had an account on those sites.

There was one thing that stood out to me in the entire post because I feel like it explains exactly why people tend to come to me for guidance with their amazing tools aside from the fact I am well-trained to use them:

“And yet, we have to temper how we feel with the reality that a lot of good people in education out there are really just now starting to begin to understand these tools and patience and helpfulness when they are ready is a great asset in our desire for change.”

When I train my fellow teachers, I am very patient because I know they will give up it I’m not. It has been a long and difficult road for several of the veteran teachers, but I think they’ve finally gotten the hang of it. I’m always there for them and willing to help them use whatever it is they want to use.  Being able to get everyone on board with these tools is a goal I have because I know it will lead to them wanting to push for more verses begging for less. Our kids need it. It’s their future.

 

Final Project November 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — stephb01 @ 4:40 pm

I think I’m in the same boat as several of my classmates for the final project..not sure what to do. I do have one idea, but I’m not sure if it is what I need:

What? Tutorial on Setting up the main tools for a distance education class. (blog, ‘gator, and possibly TappedIn)

Who is it for? Future students of this class or other distance classes.

How? I plan on using Microsoft word to create the tutorials for each tool. The tutorial will be broken down into sections. Also, I have considered using PowerPoint to create the tutorials.

Why? So, students will have the opportunity to get at least the initial set-up over with and  then be able to spend more time exploring/learning the new tool.

How will you know if it is working? Here is where I am kind of stuck because this would be used for future students. The only thing I can think of is if I give the information to someone who may not be taking a distance course and see if they can follow the tutorials successfully to set-up all the tools. I think it would be especially great to have teachers at my school at least set up a TappedIn account.

I’m open to suggestions on this.

 

Distance Ed. Research Synopsis

Filed under: Uncategorized — stephb01 @ 5:21 am

I wasn’t really sure what I would want to research in distance education, but then I began thinking about how many different ways a course can be set up. So, I would want to research what is the most effective set-up for a distance learning course? Would it be using something like blackboard, secondlife, blogs, etc. I would study this by having students participate in all three settings and then compare their achievement, thoughts, and so on.