Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Excitement vs. The Fear

Well, we have just one week and another school year begins; but it really never ended for most teachers.  Through courses like we have been taking for the past two months (online teaching certification), we have really had “school” on our mind all summer.  Summer definitely gives us the opportunity to evaluate and reflect on the past school year and the opportunity to recharge and re-energize us on news ideas or topics.  For me, all I have thought about is technology.  We were told last semester that students could bring and use in class phones, kindles, iPads, and laptops for 2012-13.  So this summer, I have been thinking predominately about when and how I am going to use these new technologies in my classroom this year. 
Frankly, I am constantly amazed at how innovative the internet has become.  I remember using my first TI-99-4A in my classroom back in the early 80’s.  I remember how excited I was when I got my first 5” floppy drive – no more cassettes with the obnoxious scratching sound as it loaded my data.  I remember the excitement of writing my first basic program which allowed me to test my students for their learning modality.  That excitement continues today as I discover new applications and programs which use more visual, sound and collaborative concepts.  I am especially excited about the BYOD (bring your own device) has become the standard for WAWM classrooms. 

However, my excitement also brings some worry – will I be able to “keep-up.”  As technology changes so quickly today, I fear missing or falling behind. More than ever, I need to maintain and surpass my natural desire to learn.  It is critical today for a teacher to not only maintain their content area; they must also be proficient in “how” they teach it.  Using technology to engage students is no longer an option it is a requirement.  I worry about falling behind.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Second Course: A Rocky Start

Steven Curtis Chapman in his song Pray sings “when you say ‘Amen’ just start up again.”  That is how I feel about these summer online endorsement courses; I just get done with one and I have to immediately start again with another one. Unfortunately my start has been rather rocky.  Literally, I went camping at Devil’s Lake state park and unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) had no access to the internet, or moodles, or blogs, or blackboards.  So, I am now behind and trying frantically to catch-up.

This weeks focus on the e-learning pedagogy seems to be in contrast to normal upper-level and adult education.  Pedagogy has long been associated with the concept of “telling” our kids what they have to know; whereas andragogy has always been our goal in older youth and adult education.  We want to have our students become “self-motivated” by the learning so they will want and desire to learn more.  It seems to be an oxymoron to say we are really discussing the pedagogy of andragogy, but in essence that is what we have been doing.  We have been discussing the requirements for creating an e-environment which will motivate our students to be intrinsically motivated to learn.  E-learning to be effective requires this internal motivation to be successful.  Students who have no motivation would find it hard to take on-line courses such as Waukesha’s Q program.  The balance of internal and external motivation is really the crutch for e-success.  The real discussion after setting the technology stage is knowing when to let go of the bike and let the student ride and possibly fall by themselves. 

 There is no real perfect pedagogy to learning anyway as all students are unique. The studies we read about are based upon a general consensus and very few kids are really “normal.”  As teachers we will still have to tweak and modify and prescription our student’s e-experiences in order to make them proficient and profitable. 

Well, that is all the ramblings I can do for now.  I have to read some of my cohort’s blogs.  Until next week…

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Course Conclusion -- Blog #3

Well, the first part of my teaching online endorsement course is almost over.  While I am not a novice at computers, internet or technology in general, I still found the course inviting and interesting.  It is always fun to hear how others either are or speculate how they will use technology in their classroom.  I have always been a proponent of classroom technology as long as it does not become the focus of the education.  I worked for a year at a school which embraced technology.  Even their name oozed innovation, Central City Cyber School.  The classrooms were equipped with smart boards, LCD projectors, credit card entry points, online cameras, a cyber library, and every student got a laptop.  AND there were no textbooks.  Mind you, it started that way over ten years ago. 

The innovation and use of technology at Cyber School was truly impressive.  However, after the first few years, they no longer allowed the students to take the laptops home as they were often lost, stolen, damaged or sold.  The school also had a hard time maintaining battery life for an entire day.  The technology was at an infant stage and the principal correctly emphasized that the technology was not the focus – student learning was and the technology was simply an optional tool toward a successful outcome. 

Today, technology has caught-up.  Lithium batteries will run up to 8 hours, laptops, hard drives, and cameras are cheap and smart phones with online storage and fast 4G access would overwhelm much of Cyber School’s original technology.   Today, the idea of “online” education is a reality as many districts across the country adopt online schools or have public WIFI throughout their campuses.  As the singers of the sixties lamented, “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”  Innovation and its use in the classroom is no longer limited to the classroom.  It is exciting to be at the brink of a new way to educate our nation.  I can’t wait to see what is coming next.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Course Post #2

Well, I have been gone for a week with 8 youth on a Mission trip in New Orleans. While trying to serve others, I could not get my mind off of all the homework I had to catch-up on when I got home. I finally think I'm almost caught up.

I got back just in time for last week’s on-line class. However, before I left, I worked in my small group discussing the prior class discussion and how we would apply this course to our classroom. I feel we all desire to use technology to benefit our student's learning, but fear that the learning curve of using the technology (especially for the parents) is of concern.

This week I completed my browser comparative. Frankly, I am not sold on any particular browser and have used all of them except Chrome. I will attack that browser before the end of summer. As I stated in one of my moodle responses, I still feel that the consistency of Microsoft's Internet Explorer makes it the mark for comparison. The product has always kept-up with internet changes and maintains a reasonable backwards compatibility. While maybe not as "glitzy" as some of its contemporaries, it continues to be the workhorse standard. So I find myself comfortable with it.

As for social bookmarking, I have been incorporating the concept for years as part of my classroom website I include and update URL's with video, audio and interactive websites which support my classroom lessons and assignments. I do like the ease of use Diiago offers, but also like the stronger integration I have developed on my own website. Unlike many teachers, I am proficient in HTML and keep-up with plug-ins and language variations so I can make my site fairly interactive. While I like the tightness and ownership I have in my own site, I may create a Diiago section so that students may add their own unit resources. It may be a “frame” attached within my own site; I can see significant potential there.

Finally, I just completed my collaborative essay with my group members. I have to honestly say it went very well and the end product is well written. I have done collaborative writing before using the group editing feature of word. The concept requires a certain maturity. Our group was successful because we equally had a vested interest, were mature enough to understand that our part was necessary for the success of the whole, and each of us executed our portion. The problem is with high school students, too often one person writes the essay and the others contribute very little. We need to teach our students “how to collaborate” before we can expect an amazing group outcome.

Oh well, that's all for now.